Waking to the sonorous snores from tent city, I was keen on getting my first coffee brewed and taking a moment to be at one with the natural world outside my door before launching into the routines of the day. It’s strange how something as alien as wild camping quickly develops its own rhythms. Listening to the gentle burble of the river beside me, the morning seeped into my bones and into the quiet places that I called contentment.
We had a packing scheme worked out and silently flowed into this with the prize of an hotel breakfast beckoning. Ok, ok, so this was wild camping’s little sister – it was just a bit wild; I mean we had to pee in the grass sometime in the moonlit night and I still had done no more than splash water on the bits that mattered – and yet there was hot breakfast, sitting in a real chair!
It’s strange how something as alien as wild camping quickly develops its own rhythms. Listening to the gentle burble of the river beside me, the morning seeped into my bones and into the quiet places that I called contentment.
I had gone to bed with the dread of camping in my heart and the reason? The previous evening we had left our tent to get dinner and returned to find all the zips undone. Had we left it like that? Had the visiting stag party, complete with a bagpiper, played a prank on the absent campers? Had someone else tried their luck to find something worth stealing? We discussed the possibilities endlessly but our only conclusion was that we would never know.
“But that’s why I hate camping! No locks, no privacy, no showers!” I told my partner petulantly, having decided, on seeing the open zips, that I would lie awake all night worrying about a break in or someone pulling my tent down.
Having slept all night, coffee inside me, breakfast from the Kings House Hotel, we set off under cerulean skies along the West Highland Way, heading for Kinlochleven. The path climbs steadily to begin with but once you reach the road, it veers skywards at an unrelenting gradient up the aptly named Devil’s Staircase. Red faced and sweaty, we rested at a babbling brook, only to watch cyclists spin past with a smile and a wave. Followed by trail runners flying down the loose rocky trail.
Undaunted, we strode determinedly on, swapping places with the mountain bikers and walkers as each found their moment of exhaustion.
The view from the ridge was breathtaking, looking down over Glen Coe and the mighty Buchallie Etive Moor. And from the other side, we looked back to the valley we had come from. Ahead, Ben Nevis rose in the distance, clouds, as usual covering its peak.
Over the ridge, the path trends downhill and it was with great relief after a stiff climb. But downs, in the end, can be as hard as the ups and toes crushed in the caps of boots and blisters swelling, it was with great relief that we arrived in Kinlockleven after 13 km. We headed to the north end of the village to MacDonald’s Hotel – I had been promised, yet again, that we would find a bed, hot showers, fluffy duvets.
There was no rooms. But space at a campsite.
For the third night, we put up our tent.