Thread: The campfire
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Old 14-01-2016, 04:13 PM   #41
old_stag
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Something Outside the tent is growling part 2.

After I finished the Great Glen Way I stayed in Inverness for a couple of nights. There's a campsite within 30 minutes walk of the city centre so everything was handy enough.
I got the bus out to Ben Wyvis and climbed it, getting the train back. But my feet were itchy for more trail time. It didn't feel right to be staying at the same place two nights in a row.
The day after Ben Wyvis I got the train from Inverness north to Lairg. The plan was to stay in Lairg for a night and then hike to the north coast doing Ben Klibreck on the way.
Lairg is small but almost perfectly formed. It has a campsite at the top of the main street, with a diner attached that does great trail food like baked potatoes, scrambled eggs and all the things you hanker for when you are forcing noodles down your throat when wild camping.
There's also a hotel with a bar. I spent the evening there talking with staff and locals and was briefed on the best way to get up Ben Klibreck. There was a post bus at 10 the next morning that would take me to the Crask Inn where I could stay the night before climbing the hill.
At around quarter to one the next afternoon I left Lairg after having a 'brunch' of chips and tea at a cafe. I seemed to have a slightly sore head and all plans of getting a post bus were dashed. But hey it had been a good night.
One last thing about Lairg. If you ever go there by public transport, the train station is a forty-five minute walk from the village along a race-track with no pavement on either side. Take care!
So I set off northwards, for a 13 mile walk to the Crask Inn, along a single track road with the boggy moors of Sutherland on either side.
My plan was I wouldn't hitchhike but if a car stopped for me I would take a lift. Nobody stopped.
I got to the Crask Inn and the kind owners let me put my tent up in their front garden and wouldn't take any camping fee from me. I had a lovely evening there. It really is one of the last true inns in Scotland, if not the last and with the owners retiring soon it will be sadly missed.


So anyway on with the story and hurry up and get to the growly monster bit...
I pushed on north the next morning and found Ben Klibreck to be a bit daunting at first. It was shrouded in cloud down to about 500 metres.
I climbed up slowly and after following a scary traverse path enjoyed climbing up through the broken stones to the summit where little birds flitted around me. The only living things I was to see all the way up or down.
As I came down the hill the cloud started to clear and I could see north to the last range of mountains before the coast.


I continued northwards, the village of Altnaharra was about 8 miles up the road and I got there just as the local hotel started doing food, which was lucky as I was hungry and needed a pint.
I asked the landlady if there was anywhere local I could camp and she said "Just follow the road, up the hill, keep on going, a bit more, are you away yet? , just a few miles more, and you can camp there."
Well it wasn't quite that bad, but I guess she didn't want me camping in the village and I didn't want to bother anyone anyway.
I ended up about a mile and a half north in some rough pasture, near the road along Loch Naver.
Well I say rough pasture. It had a fence along the road side with a space where a gate could go and there were a few grassy bits in between all the lumpy grass things. I decided to pitch my tent in a nice grassy spot, that turned out to be the where the local bog monster liked to come to scream and roar in the moonlight.
Once again the midges plagued me. 2015 wasn't a bad year up until the very mild and warm September when they attacked with vigour, furiously making up for all those hikers and tourists they hadn't bitten earlier on in the year when it was cold and pissing down.
I had eaten a veggie lasagne in the hotel so I didn't need food and several billion midges were having a festival in the apron of my tent anyway.
In my haste to pitch the tent in their midst I had thrown down my walking poles on the other side of the tent from the opening and if something like, oh I don't know, maybe a massive and bad monster came along at night, I would have nothing to defend myself with, unless I rigged up my camping stove like some kind of McGyver like flamethrower.
So it got dark pretty quickly and exhausted I settled down for the night and drifted off to sleep.
ROOAAR ROOAAR ROOAR
Fooking hell what was that?
Something incredibly large was outside the tent. Cthulu maybe? I was exhausted and anything seemed possible.
ROOOAAR ROOAR
I lay there and thought. It's okay it will go away soon.
ROOAR ! ROOAAAR !
This went on for quite sometime. I had zipped up my sleeping bag and pulled my hat over my head but this disguise as a pile of smelly old hiking gear didn't seem to work.
I began to try and work out what it was. I thought it's okay it's probably only an enraged red deer stag. A really big one. But a little voice in my head kept saying, "It's a bull and you are going to die !"
I decided to pull myself together. I sat up , put on my headtorch and shouted "Get tae fuck!"
which as it turns out was a bad idea.
ROOAR ! ROOAR! FOOKIN ROOAAR!
I got dressed hurriedly. Looked at the camping gas cannister, thought about the end of Jaws and thought, nah.
Still the thing roared on. I wanted to get out the tent and chase it away, but maybe seeing a human form suddenly would panic it and I would get gored.
With my poles on the other side of the tent I didn't know what to do.
Funnily enough in the midst of all this, the thing that stopped me from going out was the midge rock concert in the apron of my tent. My head torch was driving them nuts and they were trying to chew their way into my bit of the tent. I had already ceded the apron to them and now they wanted it all!
The roaring continued and I decided on the best course of action.
I was going to read my book until it went away.
So there I was , reading 'Wild' by Jay Griffith, which I heartily recommend whilst this behemoth outside screamed at the moon.
I don't know when I fell asleep. The monster kept roaring for hours but gradually seemed to be inching away. In the morning the world seemed a normal place. Midges, grassy lumps, me , my tent, but the monster was gone.
That was the last time I wild camped. I moved on northwards to the coast.
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"I know corries in Argyll that whisper silken to the wind with juicy grasses. Corries where the deer love to prance deep in the cool dew and the beasts of far-off woods come in bands at their seasons and together rejoice." from John Splendid by Neil Munro
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