Inevitably, the start of each day now gets further and further from our base of operations and as such we have to get up earlier and set out earlier. The journey to the start point, the Sligachan Hotel took us about 40 minutes, but I was still ready to go by 07:50, setting out into a beautiful morning – yes, I know, another one – it’s getting tedious isn’t it?
Apart from Day Three, each day has been increasingly better than the last so far, and today proved to be another in that vein.
If yesterday’s track beside Loch Sligachan had become an instant new favourite path, then todays track down Glen Sligachan was an immediate candidate for “Stuart’s Favourite Path Award 2012”. It’s brilliant, especially in the morning light I was walking in today. The path is stony and rocky, a little boggy in places, and cut by dozens of tiny streams and some much bigger ones. It’s overlooked by huge mountains on all sides; rugged, towering and the most mountain-like mountains I’ve ever walked beneath.
To the right is Sgurr nan Gillean, complex, broken and craggy and (I think) the location for the scene in Highlander where Macleod and Ramirez are sparring high above the valley below. To the left is the immense bulk of the double topped Glamaig. Ahead and to the left is Marsco, with an inviting ramp of an aspect that is begging to be climbed, but not today I’m afraid.
The main problem with the path lies in keeping your feet and not stumbling all ver the place as you gape at your surroundings.
Before long I could see the valley bending away to the left, around the back of Marsco. I passed two small lochs on the right apparently both named Lochan Dubha according to the map. About this point I came to what I had been calling “The Decision Cairn”. Go left for the easier path down to Camasunary or go right for Loch Coruisk and the Bad Step. I’d already made the decision, so it was easy to keep left at this point. The path to the right climbs up and over and drops down the other side of the hill to the loch.
The path left stays mostly flat, dropping down if anything and the views improved as the valley opened up. On the left now was Blaven; huge, towering and impossibly steep, also impossible to photograph with the sun sitting directly above it. On my right was the first of two large lochs (Loch an Athain) perfectly flat and mirror smooth in the still morning air.
Ever since leaving the hotel I’d been following at least one and possibly two sets of footprints. I was hard to gauge how long they’d been there, but I expected it was a couple of very early starters, ahead of me on the path. The only trace of them was wet boot prints on rocks as they’d splashed through the burns, but even though there were long straight sections of paths where i could see a good distance ahead, I’d not seen them. I now found them. Apparently, the cold of the night had prevented the boot prints from drying out, as these two had spent the night at the side of the loch, in one of the most spectacular wild camps.
I didn’t pass close enough to talk, but I waved a greeting to one of the guys washing his kettle in the loch, and he waved back. I got some semi-arty photographs of the loch and the reflections of the surrounding mountains in the mirror of its surface.
The section between Loch an Athain and the second, much larger Loch na Creitheach would be quite muddy and troublesome in wet conditions, but it wasn’t too bad today. I managed to skip round the worst of the mud and step over many of the boggy sections. There were a lot of bike tracks in the wet sections, which surprised me, I thought it would be too rugged to get a bike down here.
Beyond Loch na Creitheach the path gets boggy again as it wanders down to the rather incongruous large house in Camasunary Bay. I went ankle deep here into a wet sludgey puddle, the worst dunking so far, and simply due to me not paying attention to my feet. The bay is wonderful, peaceful and almost completely covered in plastic litter debris, it’s shameful and quite startling to see.
I arrived just behind a large party of Dutch walkers who had come along the 4WD track over Am Mam from Kirkibost. We chatted for a short while about our respective plans and about the incredible weather (it’s not just a British disease, talking about the weather to strangers). They were all incredibly friendly and interested to know about my “top to bottom” walk and I described it.
They were equally as dismayed about the amount of litter on the ground. I initially thought it must be generated by the people who had been using the house and the bothy, which is situated further round the bay. But it quickly became clear that this was littering on an industrial scale. There’s no way a thousand backpackers could generate this much waste, not even over 10 years. This waste was coming from passing ships.
You think about any bouyant waste product, and it was here. Plastic made up the bulk of it, thousands and thousands of plastic bottle, containers, crates, huge drums, ropes, lines and nets, shoes and much, much worse. Shampoo bottles! I must have seen 500 shampoo bottle in the mile or so of shore I walked along that day. I never realised sailors have such ‘ealthy lookin’ ‘air as David Ginola used to say. Head and Shoulders is the preferred brand.
I said my goodbyes to the Dutch and left them to laze on one of the cleaner grassy sections, eating lunch and exploring the litter strewn beach. I followed the very narrow path as it climbed up the slope above the rocky coast. The views behind were stunning, but I had to concentrate on my footing, as this is a potentially dangerous section of path. A huge drop to the right, sometimes screened by trees, but more often not, threatened to plunge me to the rocks below. The route notes say that walkers have called from here, and I could believe it.
I passed a couple more families, including a French couple will four kids, all too young to be walking a path like this. The youngest was strapped to the back of the mother in a sort of makeshift papous made from a coat.
After dropping down to the beach and then negotiating another dodgy section of path I arrived in Elgol. I stopped into the shop and enjoyed a short break, two Feast lollies, two cans of Irn Bru and a bottle of water to top up my Platypus. The shop is great, but under threat, so please drop in and buy something and have a chat to the wonderful lady who runs it.
The remainder of the day was on the road, apart from a short diversion to bag a trig point. And I arrived, foot sore and knackered at Kirkibost, where I found Rog waiting for me.
We retired to the Isles Inn and had another great meal and another fun evening in front of the roaring fire in the croft. The only downside is the amount of smoke the fire seems to pump into the living room, I think the chimney must be blocked!