Today was tough. I slept in a bit too late as I wanted to be on the road by 8 but my body and mind would have been completely content to stay in bed all day (must stil be the shock after yesterday’s activity). I didn’t get out of Wick and underway until at least 09:30 a.m. To top it all off it was pissing it down, but I suppse that was to be expected, after all it is Scotland, and not everyday was going to be a Day 1.
Alternatively, today was a good day to put my ‘weatherproof’ gear to the test. The ‘big orange beast’, aka my Kathmandu gortex jacket, held up remarkably well. No condensation on the inside lining after a heavy downpour and the adjustable brimmed hood kept the rain off of my face and didn’t impede vision of the traffic. Although I do have a pair of waterproof trousers I thought I’d see how my Craghopper interchangeable pant/shorts preformed. Although they got damp after a shower they completely dried when the rain stopped and the wind whipped up. Not bad at all.
One thing I am very disappointed in are my boots. Expensive hiking boots that, despite my efforts in breaking them in, are relentless with still no give whatsoever. After the first 11 miles today I could no longer walk in them, even with an additional supporting insole inside. The pain in my toes and balls of my feet was excrutiating. All I brought along with me as an alternative were my ‘Vibram Five Fingers’ trekking shoes. They would have to do and fortunately the pain in my knees went away almost instantly after switching footwear and the muscles were able to stretch out. But alas, they are impractical and not waterproof. So the search for new shoes starts now. Bloody things!
Walking along the A99 is a bit of an artform and a science. You can’t listen to music because you constantly need to listen out for approaching cars and also cars coming from behind you. The shoulder is so narrow and vehicles are, for the most part, very obliging to give you space, but if another car is driving in the opposite direction you have to jump over hedges, fences, ridges or hug barbed wire posts and sheer face rock walls. As if walking 24 miles today wasn’t enough.
The things I learned today is that there are a million ways to tie hiking boots yet still I can’t find the right method for me; never look a bull straight in the eyes when you’ve got a bright red bag strapped to your back (bless you electric fence); sheep are morons; goats are cool; and Famous Grouse in your morning coffee is a great ‘pick me up’.
The photo ‘featured’ on this blog entry is in Lybster. I went out of my way about a mile to visit the town center and harbour. Not much going on, but with today’s very brief sunshine spell it provided a rather stunning setting. A far cry from the rest of the day with bleak grey skies with a lot more farms and sheep.
At 6 pm it was still pissing it down and getting dark so I had to find either an old abandoned barn or cottage, of which there are plenty, to pitch a tent behind, OR a B&B. I wasn’t in love with the idea of setting up camp in the rain, but luckily I was able to squeeze another second of battery power out of my phone which showed a joint caravan/camping site with B&B 3 miles from my current position on Google maps. To cut this very long story short I arrived at the site precisely the same time as a LEJOG’er (Land’s End to John O’Groats walker) approached from the other side. I did try to say hello to him, being a fellow End-to-Ender, but the Philistine completely ignored me and promplty asked the landlady for a B&B room but only if there was dinner included because ‘”he was burning 5000 calories and only consuming 2000 lately, and he couldn’t possibly survive another night without eating a well-balanced meal”. Meanwhile the landlord whispered to me they only had one room left so I slammed my card down before this princess could make up his mind…. AND the camping site was full n’all! You can see I’m now turning into a ruthless, hardcore survivalist, can’t you?
I see mountains ahead of me !!! But not to worry as they still have fully working BT phone boxes in the blinkimg middle of nowhere lest I need emergency services.