Our first really wet day on the trail serves to remind us how lucky we’ve been with the weather so far. Considerately, the rain waits until we’ve broken camp and donned our waterproofs before it lets rip. Then it settles in for the day; low cloud hanging in the glen and obscuring the mountain tops. The absence of views makes me realise how important they are to my enjoyment of the trail.
To add to the joy, we have to walk a stretch along a tarmac road (with no verges to escape the traffic) followed by the worst track we’ve encountered the whole trip, which rises at a ludicrously steep angle through felled forest that is now more of a quagmire. At the top, we join a new road, freshly hewn through the vanishing forest to transport the timber. We stop briefly to make coffee to warm ourselves up – Morris is shivering so much, Jeff puts him inside his jacket. As we trudge on, soaked through, my heel, unaccustomed to so much hard-surface walking, starts to hurt.
The idea of taking a rest day lodges stubbornly in my brain. We have not had a day off on this hike yet, and temptingly, we’re just a few miles from the village of Kinlochewe, whose modest facilities might not sound much to you – a shop, a cafe, a hotel/bar, a B&B! – but are certainly enough to get excited about on the CWT. It sounds like the perfect place for some R&R, Jeff and I agree.
When we’re welcomed into the Whistlestop Cafe – dripping rucksacks, drenched dog and all – we know we’ve made the right decision. While we tuck into some hot food, the owner even calls the B&B for us, to see if they have space. They can’t take us tonight, but the campsite wardens are at the next table and they assure us we can camp with them tonight and then check in to the B&B tomorrow. It feels as if everyone is on our side. And then to top it all, Morris gets brought a sausage on a plate!
When we’ve pitched the tent, we wash and tumble-dry practically everything we own while our boots and rucksacks hang in the drying room (Morris is in wonderment that such places exist and is very reluctant to leave). We head to the pub in a strange concoction of available clothing.
The next day, we leave the campsite with everything bone dry. It’s a rare treat, but an even bigger one is yet to come at the B&B: in a hot shower, with a fresh towel waiting, I wash my hair. It feels wondrous.
Taking a rest day now seems so necessary and obvious that I can hardly believe we hadn’t thought of it before. While making full use of the room’s hospitality tray, we pore over the map, with the luxury of plenty of space and light to review our route. Then (perhaps a little weirdly) we go for a walk.
At the hotel bar that night (where I can’t help flicking around my clean, shiny hair like someone from a Pantene advert) the landlord informs us that one of his guests is walking the CWT – would it be OK if he introduces us?
We are delighted to meet our first fellow CWTer. Daniel, an American, is equally pleased and we compare notes and routes, adventures and misadventures before bidding farewell and strolling back to the B&B, full of fresh enthusiasm and energy, and ever-so-slightly pissed.