It was sunny when we left Kinbreack bothy. Jim Taylor left before us; the tents outside were long gone.
We climbed a while, then descended on the north side of the River Kingie. We entered the woods and it started to rain lightly. The trees are all planted and so close together it would be impossible to get through them without a path. We were on dirt road–two ruts and a grassy hump in the middle. We passed Jim Taylor in the woods.
We continued on many miles to Hotel Tomdoun, a hostelry whose closure several years ago is much regretted by many Challengers. It is on a hillside with a great open view of the river and the glen. There was still some furniture inside. An official notice on the door said that people with property inside should collect it by a date in January of this year.
My original plan was to camp on the hotel lawn (or “garden” as they say here), but I was worried about the 18-20 mile day coming up so decided to go a mile or so farther. Alan said there was a flat spot near a bridge ahead where he’d seen people camping. They were going on about five miles to keep on plan, although Colin did not seem wild about the idea.
I did find an acceptable spot in the floodplain at the foot of the bridge near a pile of brush and a fire ring. I felt a little sorry to see them go on. But the Challenge is for solitude and chance encounters, so I didn’t want to attach myself to any group too much.
This turned out to be a good choice, as the next morning–a clear one, although I believe it had rained a little overnight–I looked up and saw Jim standing on the road above, about to cross the bridge.
I asked him if he wanted some tea, and to my surprise he accepted. I had just filled my thermos (a hopeless indulgence in the eyes of many fellow walkers) so I came right up.
He sat down on his pack and I reintroduced myself. He seemed in a far more talkative mood than the night I had met him. He’d spent the night on the hotel grounds. He mentioned stopping at a farm at some point to talk to people there; he said he had a kinship with farmers. And that got us started.
I had the presence of mind to pull out my phone and start videotaping. I wasn’t sure the sound would be audible, but it was fine. You can even hear the ducks and seagulls flying overhead. I interviewed him for 24 minutes. But unfortunately I can’t find a way to put any of the video on this site. The previous post is the highlights of it.
He moved on and I had breakfast and broke camp.
The walk was bucolic and agricultural. I passed lots of fields with ewes and lambs, houses and farm buildings but, surprisingly, no farmers and residents. I did, however, meet Alistair (or perhaps its Alisdair), an Englishman who was walking alone. After a while we overtook Jim Taylor. He was taking a break. I took one too and Alistair moved on.
We were entering a forestry preserve where long-haired, long-horned Caledonian cattle roamed freely, part of a plan to restore the land, at least somewhat, to its primordial state where large herbivores browsed the undergrowth and kept everything in balance. I took off alone and soon encountered a herd of them, about half standing or lying on the road. They looked like what I imagined aurochs looked like.
It was hard to guess how aggressive they might be. But they didn’t move as I approached, so ceded them the road, getting one foot wet jumping over a little stream onto a boggy bank. Going up the hill I looked back and saw Jim walking right by them.
I was actually off course, having crossed the foot of Loch Garry onto the south shore instead of proceeding on the north. What I took was the way the traffic was going (namely Jim and the person who passed us) and was, in any case, less of a thoroughfare than the north shore.
I trudged on down a hard unpaved road, flat, not very interesting but painful on the feet. Much of it was through eighth-growth woods. I finally got to a place where I thought I was going to have to go onto the paved road. But then I noticed a path parallel to both the road and a stream.
I took it and it was delightful, reminiscent of the lower-elevation parts of the Long Trail in Vermont, lots of moss-covered hardwoods and a few flowering plants along the path. There were many trees with big burls.
I passed two women and a dog and eventually came to a section where one could look up and see back yards. I climbed up to the road very close to where I had hoped–Invergarry Hotel. I cooked up (after a fashion) my lunch of pasta carbonara and had a pint from the bar, both earned, I thought.