It was around 6am when I woke up and it took me a second to recognise my unfamiliar surroundings, I thought about dozing but the hard floor encouraged me to get up and get ready for the day. Whilst getting ready, I managed to slice my finger open, it wasn’t a large cut but it was deep… to the bone! It was actually a rather traumatic experience, casually heading into the surrounding flora to pee (sadly no such facilities in the bothy) I manage to slice my finger open, which wouldn’t stop bleeding, I was swarmed by midgies – clouds of the little buggers in my face, and then it started to rain… heavily! Not a fantastic start to the day.
Back inside, it was clear that Callum’s morning was rivalling mine. As I was trying to bandage my finger up (the best I could with limited supplies) Callum had managed to disturb a tick nest and was absolutely covered in them. They were tiny (compared to our huge Lake District ticks!) but there were hundreds of them, more and more appearing as he tried ot remove them all. Life outdoors is all very wonderful when the conditions are right, but sometimes things just go wrong and you have to laugh – we actually laughed pretty hard about the ridiculousness our bad luck at the time.
So after overcoming disaster (not being melodramatic at all) we were ready to leave, bags and waterproofs on we departed our idyllic location to return the way we had come. It was a grey morning and the rain came in waves. The plants and shrubs we had thought nothing of the previous day were drenched, soaking us with every brush through them. It is times like these that you appreciate decent waterproofs, however due to how warm it was and the sporadic nature of the rain we decided to not bother with our jackets, knowing we would be getting changed back at the van anyway.
As we ambled across the coastline, the rain died off and there was a slight breeze – unfortunately not enough to keep the midges at bay as every time we stopped a cloud would gather. We walked and talked eating up the miles, up and down, this way and that, over the rocks and streams, under crags and trees – the terrain the same as the day before but no less interesting. The hordes of dragonflies had been replaced with slugs, which we nimbly avoided as we followed our route home.
About half way back the clouds broke up completely and the sun came out, within no time at all it had become a completely different day. The water shone blue, reflecting the bright sky. The light shining on the Crowlin Islands highlighted the details of their rocky terrain. It was a stunning morning and our eyes were glued to the scenery around us. As we neared our starting point, the small village visible ahead, we came across a small heard of sheep, an attractive herdy mix breed among some others. They were inquisitive but rather bolshie, coming over to check us out, only to stamp their feet and threaten to head-butt us – very amusing, however neither of us fancied being attacked by rogue sheep so we decided not to linger for too long.
Getting away from the herd – with our lives barely intact – the terrain had softened back into more level ground with clumps of long grass. We had slowed our pace by this point, enjoying the sunshine and eventually found ourselves crossing the bridge over the brook and making our way past the handful of houses. The last stretch of road between us and the van disappeared in no time and we were pleased to get back, we unpacked our stuff, got changed and had some porridge, leaving us ready to carry on with our day. Our drive took us back through Applecross, whilst walking we had decided that if the food van was open we would stop in and buy an ice cream. We ended up sat on the rocks by the water, the tide now being in, enjoying a homemade ice cream each and chatting about where to head next!
Moving on we were heading back over the Bealach Na Ba pass, the weather was still grey but considerably better than our journey a couple of days prior, this time we got to enjoy the full experience of the road! Just wide enough and crumbling at the edges, you can see where they have had to build up the side of the road with concrete to make sure that it doesn’t fall away completely. The ascent from this side is more gradual than the other, the road meanders steadily upwards, a couple of sharper turns and some tight squeezes past other vehicles and you hit the highest point. Coming back down, the road descends dramatically towards the bottom of the valley and Loch Kishorn. The hair pin bends in the road meant we were able to drive slowly enough to fully enjoy the scenery – the mountains stood impressively tall, foreboding, looming over the valley and our tiny road. Their sheer faces were pockmarked and harsh looking in the fleeting sunshine, the layers in the rock accentuated by the green grass growing on each of the flatter sections. The valley bottom was a mix of greens and browns, strewn with rocks and with the solitary river snaking its way down to the Loch… so awesome!
We made a few small stops on the way, by Loch Carron and then Kyle of Lochalshe, before having a drive around Plockton, not really knowing what was there we thought we might have been able to find a good spot for the van. Unfortunately it is a busy wee place, it was very pretty and had a sweet buzz about it, but too populated to spend the night and we had to rethink. We ended up heading back up the Mam Ratagan Pass, this time stopping part way up to find a tucked away spot with a killer view!
We positioned the van for perfect van door views; we looked across to the 5 sisters, an impressive cluster of peaks rising steeply out of Loch Duich, the body of water which lies dutifully at their feet. The bank falling away from where we had parked was covered in swathes of tall pink wildflowers, as tall as me and swaying amiably in the breeze – we didn’t notice the soft hum until we got out the car, signalling that countless bees were also enjoying the flowers. The clouds gathered and dispersed throughout the evening, allowing a constant soft light to fall on the surrounding peaks, the rolling clouds creating equally soft shadows gliding across their surface and the array of greens and blues altering with the ever changing light. It would be impossible to tire of the view we had, and no matter what I was doing my eyes were constantly drawn to it.
We cooked a hearty pasta meal on the Brewkit (awesome piece of kit!) and enjoyed it to the sound of the breeze and the buzz, with a wee mouse scuttling in and out the flora, to and from the entrance of its burrow to entertain us. I decided to traipse through the wildflowers for a short way, down the bank to see if there was anything of interest, sadly the small track came to an end pretty quickly in a small clearing, where I found several wild raspberry plants, covered in fruit – I took a couple of ripe ones back for us to eat. The evening was spent much like the rest, reading, writing and getting the map out to plan our route for the next couple of days, until (almost like clockwork) the wind died down and the midgies rose up. We had just enough time to put everything in the van and hop in before getting eaten alive!
It was another relaxing evening with an awe-inspiring view, which eventually faded into darkness as nightfall came, the perfect sign for us to tuck in and get some sleep.