Friday, 17 December 2021

La Gomera

Not a bad view really.
Back in the Canary Islands then, it has been a little while, but I'd returned to the UK to spend time with friends and family, and I'm planning on being in England for Christmas, so I fancied heading somewhere warm for a few weeks before then.  My first stop was Tenerife, once again, and nothing sufficiently exciting to write about happened there, but now I am heading for a new island, a short ferry ride takes me to La Gomera, a new place for me - I am still managing to get some travelling done, even in the new age of Covid.  An interesting place this, clearly much less tourism-focused than Tenerife, it still looks very Spanish, no restaurants offering English food or karaoke here!  I find my apartment up some steep stairs to one side of the little capital, San Sebastián, it has an awesome view over the town to the surrounding hills and out to sea, very nice.

Well, nice that there is a guard rail at least.
I am of course planning on doing some walking here, and it is a very good place to do it.  I start with a long circular route, firstly heading uphill towards the centre of the island, including a somewhat scary section of path halfway up a cliff - there is at least a substantially built handrail.  Interesting place this, it is very windy, very hilly, and as I make my way up the slopes I encounter sheep, patches of thistles and even grouse - it is almost as if a small piece of Scotland has somehow been transported to just off the coast of Africa.  Back downhill, and I walk a decent section of the coastal path that goes all the way round the island - must come back and do the whole thing some day.  After a day relaxing and taking in the sights of San Sebastián - not a lot of it to be honest though there is a five hundred year old tower - I walk up again, heading for the highest point of the island.  This is Alto de Garajonay, at 1,485 metres it is a lot smaller than El Teide on Tenerife (which is a very impressive sight from here), but still a decent mountain.  I follow a familiar route up, although I take a road shortcut to avoid that section along the cliff, then rather than turning off keep climbing.  Now the terrain becomes less arid, as on Tenerife the higher ground is a lot greener, although here the forest keeps going right to the top, which I gather 'enjoys' fog for much of the year so yes, I am climbing up into a mountain in a cloud, once again it feels rather Scottish.  All very pleasant though, lovely to be walking through laurel and pine trees, and if there is no view from the top, there is still the achievement.  It's a long way though, past 3 o'clock at the top so I need to hurry back down, but in fact I get a bit delayed - there is an old hermitage along the route which now has an attached picnic and barbecue area, some locals are having a bit of a party and insist on me joining them for beer, rum and some very interesting local cheese.  I can't possibly refuse, and while it does mean I walk the last couple of kilometres back to town by the light of my phone's torch, it isn't a huge problem.

El Teide looming on the horizon.
I imagine after reading some parts of this blog you might think that some of my crazy adventures are hard to beat.  But not so!  It turns out I've come to La Gomera at an opportune moment, as even more crazy people are about to set off on a thoroughly insane voyage, specifically they are going to row from here, across the Atlantic ocean, to Antigua.  This will apparently involve spending between one and three months on a tiny rowing boat with no toilet, working to a schedule of two hours rowing then two hours sleep, twenty-four hours a day for the whole trip.  I am in awe at the magnificent madness of these people!  I have many questions, but while the various teams - most boats have a crew of four, although there are also threes, pairs, and even a couple doing it solo - throng the few restaurants and bars of San Sebastián each night, I don't pluck up the courage to approach any of them.  I do at least go and take a look at the boats as they are preparing them, then on the day they set off I find a nice spot by the harbour to watch them all go.  Not long after that it is time to get my own boat back to Tenerife - fortunately mine has engines!  Well, this was all good fun, I can see myself returning here.  That circular route has to be done..

Insane rowing people from Switzerland.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Uttaradit to Pitsanulok by Kayak : 3

There really were a lot of birds.
Day five, my kayak adventure is drawing to a close, this is probably for the best as I feel pretty exhausted and struggle to get out of bed.  Actually I think it is mostly the effects of the sun, it is odd, cycling for many hours in this country doesn't seem to be much of a problem for me, but after a few days on the river even my face is feeling sore - I think as and when I do this again I will bring a hat!  Well, today at least is another short trip, only fifteen kilometres again, this is good.  The river is maybe flowing a little faster below the dam, it certainly seems narrower and a little different in character, trees line the banks, a mixture of roots and driftwood piled up against them at the water's edge.  The boat is still OK, I think it is pretty tough and I'm unlikely to get a puncture, which is good as if I did I think I'd have to try to get a taxi, or maybe just leave the kayak and walk.  But no, I keep paddling and enjoying the view, and an amusing stretch where dogs run along the bank barking at me.  Can't catch me out here guys.  Of course it doesn't take long to reach my destination for the day, I actually managed to book this place online, supposedly a 'homestay' it turns out to be another resort/motel, very similar to the last few days.  This one is on a pretty busy, major road, I don't fancy walking along it in the hope of finding a restaurant, but there is a mini mart opposite, I am able to buy a phone charger to replace the one I left behind a couple of days back, and beer of course, but for food I am going to have to slum it with a pot noodle style affair - at least in Thailand it is going to be fairly tasty.  Proper food tomorrow, provided I can manage the final stretch that is.

Giant Krathong!
Last day on the river!  I make a relatively early start, given the need to lug the boat over a kilometre from the homestay to the river, then the time taken to pump it up.  I could do without the walking I must say, a trip where most of the accommodation was actually on the riverside would be good.  Well, seems like there is a decent current anyway and I get moving, fish leap out of the water around me, all very pleasant.  Then for a long stretch, an amazing number of birds surround me, nesting in the trees and wheeling in corkscrew shaped flocks overhead, most impressive.  Some more exciting wildlife too, I spot a couple of massive lizards, monitors I think, basking on the bank, sadly they disappear before I can get the camera out.  I'm getting pretty close to Pitsanunlok now, though the river winds back and forth so it is still a fair way to paddle, but bridges get more common and there are more temples too.  It is coming up to Loy Krathong, the November festival of lights, lanterns, and stuff floating on the river - many temples have a large flower made of paper floating on the river.  I pass through the fairly industrial looking north of the city, then past some typically massive Thai government buildings, and a number of most impressive temples before reaching the end of the route, success!  An actual hotel in Pitsanulok, it is nice if empty - seems like here they are still in full Covid panic mode, Loy Krathong is happening but is reduced to an open air market with various festive lights, no sky lanterns or fireworks, and no beer.  I can't find a bar, and I struggle to even find a restaurant but manage in the end.  I do succeed in buying a train ticket, no need to show my vaccination certificate even!

I succeeded!
So, a good night's sleep and some breakfast, then I'm off to the train station.  The bag with the kayak in it remains very heavy, but it isn't far, and there is no problem with the train - in fact it is rather luxurious, I even get an airline style lunch.  The train isn't exactly fast, but nonetheless takes me back along the six day kayak route in around an hour.  And the car is still where I left it all good, and not too long to drive back to Chiang Mai.  So, this all worked then, good to have a proper adventure, it has been too long.  It was all pretty good fun too - nice to travel in a new way, and get a different perspective on the landscape.  For sure, I wasn't exactly going through any kind of wilderness, and it has to be said that the view from the kayak didn't change much - no getting to the top of a hill after all.  Definitely worth doing though - they kayak will return at some point I am sure.

Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Uttaradit to Pitsanulok by Kayak : 2

A muddy stop.
I can't say I'm feeling at my best, waking up for the second day of my kayak adventure.  My arms actually feel OK, but a day under the blazing Thai sun has given me a bit of sunburn on my legs... for kayaking I have gone with an outfit consisting of a lightweight t-shirt, beach shoes and swim shorts, all seems sensible but it does leave a lot of leg on show.  Well, not many Thais on the river to be scared by all that hairy flesh at least.  And, my hosts are, typically, happy to drive me first to 7-11 to buy some sun cream, and then back to the bridge I left the river at yesterday.  Onwards then!  This is my longest day of the trip, some 33 kilometres, well, the river seems maybe a little bit narrower and faster flowing, this is good.  Not so many pipes blocking my way either, still plenty of fish farms and of course I pass temples, and a lot of greenery of course, plus various types of water birds, including some huge ones attracted by the fish farms, I think.  Not all the fish is farmed though, I do pass a few Thais on little boats, casting nets, and plenty of guys sat on the bank with rods too.

Under a railway bridge - I will come back over this.
Ah, but this is hard work, whether because I am out of condition, or whether because I'm unused to propelling myself with my arms I'm not sure.  My GPS will tell me how fast I am going, seems like around six kilometres per hour, though if I really go for it I can push it up to seven.  Of course I do need to stop paddling sometimes, either just to swig water or to take a break, although today actually getting off the river is tricky, the banks are mainly steep slopes of mud and trying to clamber up them would not be terribly pleasant.  The temples tend to have a little jetty that I can moor up to and climb up, which is nice, but after doing this once I don't see another for some hours.  Nothing for it but to keep going, and hard though it is I manage to do the distance again, feeling very tired though.  I drag the boat up a steep slope, do my best to wash the mud off myself using the water I'd never got the chance to empty out of the kayak, and then carry the very heavy, wet kayak and bag to tonight's resort.  As is going to be a theme, it is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but a short walk and I find a little store that will sell me beer, and even a restaurant.  They provide me with 'moo ga-ta' - literally 'pan pig', it is I think a Japanese style DIY barbeque that has recently become very popular here.  To be honest, I could do without the trouble of having to cook my own food, but nonetheless there is much needed protein to be had.  I am not going to make a late night of it tonight...

One of the various resorts/motels I stayed in.
I get some coffee at the resort at least, then back the short distance to the river for day three of the adventure.  A short day today, only fifteen kilometres, I need it!  My arms continue to work, but the heat is punishing, wasn't the cool season supposed to have started by now?  It is easy enough anyway, still no weirs, seems my careful examination of satellite views of the route was worth it.  People on bridges, or working on the fish farms, wave at me - I don't really have the energy for much of a conversation though, 'hello' has to suffice.  The sun cream seems to be saving my legs from getting any worse, I still feel a bit broken though and have acquired a blister on my thumb from the constant paddling, well, I can shift my grip a bit so it is OK.  It doesn't take long to reach today's destination, although there are vertical banks seven feet or so high where I want to get out of the water, but only 500 metres further on is one of the every present pumping stations, I am able to get the boat up the bank there.  A bunch of Thai guys are working on the pipes leading from the pump, obviously they are somewhat bemused by my presence... again I say hi and keep moving, up to the road where I can pack the kayak up, listening as they discuss the crazy foreigner - 'he paddled a boat' - 'the boat is in the bag'.  So, a slightly further walk to another resort in the middle of nowhere than planned, but it is manageable, turns out to be a very nice place with my own little cabin, good to arrive early and have a much needed lay down.  Come evening I do have to walk a mile to get to a restaurant (more larb!), but I can live with this...

In front of the Naresuan Dam.
Day four, another long one, but I can do this, I maybe feel a bit stronger?  The kayak moves forward quickly enough anyway, the river remains very flat, plenty of curves as it meanders its way through the great flood plains of central Thailand.  There doesn't seem to be much habitation around here, the river banks are mainly just greenery, lots of trees, lots of floating plants, some of which must be edible as I see people in boats harvesting them.  Some of these plants seem kind of itinerant, I see swathes of them along the banks, but often also floating islands, some more or less motionless, some slowly floating along with the current.  Seems like the base of each stem has a little bubble of bouyant gas keeping them afloat, interesting.  Well, good to have stuff to look at, this is all good fun I must say, nice that I never have to go up a hill, or worry about getting lost.  And still no weirs!  Although as I get towards the end of the day, it is time to face the one obstacle I knew was coming, the Naresuan Dam - why yes, it is indeed named for the famous King, he who fought on the back of an elephant.  In the event it isn't a problem, easy to get the kayak out of the water on one side, carry it a short way and then back down again.  One tiny problem, as I paddle away I realise the floor of my inflatable boat is no longer as inflated as it might be, oops.  A puncture?  Well, it doesn't really seem to affect performance at all, the seat, and the all important sides of the kayak are still OK.  I make the remaining three kilometres of paddling without trouble, and as it turns out, I must have accidentally opened the valve while taking my bag out of the boat back at the dam, so it should be fine.  Yes it is a kilometre or so to the resort, and of course it is in the middle of nowhere but no problem.  The staff are very concerned when I walk out to look for food - 'but there are dogs'.  More scared of me than I am of them I am sure.  Well, there is a small cluster of buildings not too far off, I find a minimart with beer and other essentials easily enough, but no restaurants, hmm.  Am I going to have to dine on crisps tonight?  I finally spot somewhere that is maybe a restaurant - it does have an 'open' sign - but they tell me, no, it is an ice cream parlour, OK.  But then the guy says, do you want to eat what I am eating?  Sure I do!  I sit down and drink one of my beers and sure enough, a feast of curried fish, rice, various sausages and of course a fried egg appears - this is actually better than the last couple of restaurants, and he refuses to charge me for anything except some ice cream.  Have to love this country.

Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Uttaradit to Pitsanulok by Kayak : 1

My very pleasant hotel in Uttaradit.
Proper adventure time again!  Albeit a short one... I fear that in the age of Covid, trying any sort of trip lasting more than a week or two is asking for trouble, and in any case I have places to be fairly shortly.  Nonetheless, my recent cycle trip was fun, good to get out of the house and all, and so I'm heading a little further afield - still in Thailand, but I am going to risk actually going to different provinces.  And, this time I'm not cycling, oh no - it is time for the revenge of the kayak!

Yeah, my last attempt at a long kayak trip here didn't work, I failed to allow for how slow the thing is, and more importantly how many weirs there were on the river near Chiang Mai.  So this time, rather than starting near home I have a route planned along the Nan River (prounced 'naan'), between Uttaradit and Pitsanulok.  Yes I have been to these places before.  I'm not going to do more than thirty kilometres or so per day, and as far as I can tell there is just a single weir (actually a substantial dam) on the entire route, fingers crossed.  Easy then!  Well, there are logistical issues.  While both cities are on the train line between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, no trains from Chiang Mai to Uttaradit show up on the booking website I usually use.  Maybe not running because of Covid?  In any case... while I can see 'resorts' - probably more like motels - on the map at each place I want to stay, they are also not bookable online.  So - I opt for driving from Chiang Mai to Uttaradit, staying a couple of nights there, and using the free day to drive a little way south, visiting each of the first four places I'm looking to stay at.  They are indeed all open, and seem perfectly pleasant, all good.

About to make a start.
I will have to hope the car will be OK in a car park in Uttaradit for five or six days.  And another worry is that I can't even manage to book a train back from Pitsanulok to Uttaradit... I know there are trains going through these places, I can hear them from my (charming) hotel, so whatever, it's an adventure!  I will try the station when I get there, if not maybe a bus, or if worst comes to worse it is only 100km, a taxi won't be that much.  Uttaradit, much like Chiang Mai, is technically under some sort of Covid lockdown, no alcohol to be served, etc.  In practice this seems to mean that an open bar is maybe a little bit harder to find, and you have to drink your beer out of a coffee cup - this is, of course, Thailand.  In fact I find a nice little place by the river, while scoping out a spot to set off in the kayak.  There is larb tort (deep fried spicy minced pork), it is good.

I am doing it!
Anyway... the kayaking.  Will I fail again?  Well, I get going OK, the Nan is a pretty big river here, although surprisingly it does seem to lose elevation slightly at times, it sure isn't white water but there are some fairly substantial waves, all good fun and it is moving me along.  I pass interesting stuff, many fish farms, also lots of floating bottles pulling on pieces of string - marking the presence of some kind of crustacean trap I assume.  Also lots of tapering sticks, looking like fishing rods in fact, poking out of the water and wiggling in the current.  They don't have any line on them so not sure what that is about.  There are no weirs!  In fact, the worst obstacles I face are where somebody has set up a tethered barge pumping water out of the river, often the pipe carrying the water blocks most of the way, but I can get round - the rope holding the barge in place isn't much of a barrier.  They seem to generally be using the water to manufacture concrete, I think.

One of many 'view from the kayak' shots.
Well, I keep going, although this is hard work - I have to keep paddling or the boat really doesn't seem to move much - after the first ten kilometres or so the river is pretty flat.  And to be honest my arm muscles are not the largest - maybe I can build some by doing this eh?  But, I keep going, the scenery is lovely, and it is nice not to have to carry my pack, or worry about dogs.  I keep checking the GPS, I am definitely getting there - I do make a couple of stops, not least turning the boat over now and again to let water pour out is a good idea.  And by 5pm, I make it!  OK, I could do without the kilometer walk carrying the kayak in its bag, but my 'resort' is very nice... of course one problem with the kayak, it is useless for getting me to a shop, restaurant, or whatever else this place (called 'Tron' I think) has.  Well, I walk half an hour and find somewhere to sell me a Pad Thai and a bottle of beer, then friendly locals spot me and insist on driving me first to somewhere I can buy supplies and more beer to take back, and then to the resort.  I am the only foreigner they've ever seen here, they tell me!

Photos to go with this post can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Even more Thai Cycling

On the beach in Phuket.
Hey, I am travelling again!  A bit anyway.  Thanks to Covid-19, much of the world has remained closed off for all of this year, and foreign travel has been very difficult, although of course I should put this in perspective - my not being able to visit new countries is a lot better than getting sick or dying, as sadly many people have.  Still, I have managed to get back to Thailand, which for all of the grumbling I hear from expats has opened back up faster than any other country in Asia.  When I arrive the rules say tourists can only avoid quarantine by staying in Phuket for at least a couple of weeks, which is hardly a hardship, there are beaches, the usual temples and other tourist attractions, and some rather nice walking through the jungles.  Domestic travel within Thailand is still quite restricted, in the end I get away from Phuket via a long, long minivan trip to Bangkok, then after a night in a hotel, another long overland trip, the train up to Chiang Mai.  Despite now being fully vaccinated, I need to get various Covid tests along the way, and of course, this being Thailand, obtain all manner of documents.  It sure is nice to finally return to my house, it has been a while.

The farm I stayed at in Phrao.
So, I should do some sort of trip and write about it, yeah?  Well, there are still restrictions on travelling between provinces, in theory this involves filling in online forms in Thai, although I suspect many people aren't bothering and indeed I drive to neighbouring Lamphun a few times without difficulty.  But, Chiang Mai province is a big place, and I succeed in planning out a decent cycle trip that doesn't cross a provincial border.  First day is a shortish ride north along the river Ping, interesting to see that you don't need to get far away from the city in this direction before the river becomes rather narrower and faster flowing.  I stay the night in a resort, it is very pleasant although pretty quiet, the restaurant is shut though it's easy enough to find another a short ride away.  More serious riding the next day, to begin with a long stretch along a fairly major road, but then I turn right, into the mountains, I'm off the beaten track now.  Where previously I was passing luxury resorts and the expensive houses of Chiang Mai civil servant types, now I pass through hill tribe villages with houses built from bamboo.  And of course I'm going up, destination for today is Phrao, a town set in a small area of flat plain surrounded by hills, there's really no way to get there without climbing.  Well, I manage it, though I fear I am a little out of condition and unsurprisingly have to push the bike at times.

Riding the dirt track was worth it for the views.
Phrao is, of course, not much of a place.  I do have a really lovely place to stay, on a working farm with views over the paddy fields to the nearby hills.  I won't get dinner there, and I think that even without Covid, I wouldn't find a bar open in Phrao.  I do find pizza - of a sort, here they have decided that mayonnaise would be a good substitute for that weird 'tomato' stuff the foreigners use.  Well it has calories.  I get more of them the next day, traditional Thai breakfast is a sort of rice porridge with bits of pork in it, there is also a lot of fruit, and some interesting, gelatinous things baked in banana leaves, I think they are essentially rice, but there is also some sort of nut in there, quite tasty.  It all provides power for the day's ride anyway, a lovely one today, firstly over the flat terrain surrounding Phrao, and then along a small river into a gorge, heading up into more hills of course.  It is actually easy enough going, this is the main route back to Chiang Mai though there isn't much traffic, and it is a beautiful road to ride along.  I'm not following the main route the whole way though, rather I have a 'scenic short cut' planned - what can possibly go wrong?

Crossing the bridge at Mae Kuang.
Well at first the new road is lovely, more or less flat and through a conservation area, I'm riding through forests with none of the roadside shacks and piles of rubbish that sadly disfigure much of Thailand.  There are signs warning me of monkeys crossing the road, though I don't see one.  This route should be taking me towards the substantial Mae Kuang reservoir so I'm expecting to start going downhill, and sure enough I do, very steeply.  And then up again, and up, and down - seems I am in very hilly country now, this is hard work, and on quite a few of the slopes the road diminishes to a mere gravel track, I am glad my brakes are in good shape!  A fair bit of pushing ensues, but it's OK, and I'm rewarded by glimpses through the trees of the reservoir itself some way below.  One last long, steep descent and I'm rather surprised to find a large and impressive suspension bridge, connecting what are essentially dirt tracks on either side.  A good place to take a few photos, the reservoir is certainly very scenic.  All downhill from now, and not much further, I have a resort booked in the rather hi-so region nearby - again, no luck at the resort restaurant but I find a rather nice Italian place not far away - home made ravioli and tiramisu!  From here it is a very short fourth day of riding back home, I'm there for midday in fact - time for a rest!

Photos to go with this trip can be found here.

Friday, 18 June 2021

More Munros : Isle of Mull

Munros this section :
Ben More (Isle of Mull)

MV Isle of Mull preparing to head back to the mainland.
Nearly at the end of the trip, and I'm due a rest again - walking today is limited to the few kilometres from the campsite back to Oban, where I do a bit of shopping before boarding a ferry.  I am off to the isle of Mull, location of one of the most isolated Munros, Ben More.  I hear quite a few people make this their last Munro, well, last of this particular trip will do for me.  The ferry is surprisingly large, maybe not as big as those you see on the English Channel, but it has multiple decks, and a bar where I spend the forty-five minute crossing, and why not.  Once on the island I have a very short walk to my campsite, where I really don't have much to do other than pitch the tent, well, good to have that rest.  There is very little here other than the ferry terminal, campsite, a shop and of thank goodness a pub - beer and surprisingly enough a burger ensue.

The last summit of the trip - Ben More.
So - the last hill of the trip, it is pretty much on the other side of what is not a large island, I walk for twenty km or so on quiet roads, it is windy and drizzling with rain, well, almost over.  Once onto trail it proves to be one of the wettest, boggiest trails I've ever seen, leading up to a pass from which there is a path up the mountain, I walk a little way up that before dumping my pack and continuing.  From here, Scotland throws pretty much everything at me, there is some astonishingly strong wind, heavy rain, and a scarily steep scramble over boulders and scree.  I am very glad I don't have to lug my pack up here, but even so it is a trial, all for another cairn inside a cloud of course.  Back down, going the other way from the pass the terrain is more of that 'worst ever bog', it is a struggle to find somewhere to camp, it's well past 8pm by the time I find a spot, well, it is time taken out of the next day I guess - and indeed it is a simple road walk, albeit with a surprising amount of traffic, back to the same campsite.  This time at the pub, I add to my lifetime tally of 'things eaten on pizza that probably do not belong there' - specifically, haggis and black pudding.  Well, I eat it.  And then spend most of the next two days on a series of trains and buses returning to England.
One last chance to wild camp.
So, a good trip.  I am approaching half the Munros done now, so some sort of achievement, but mainly it was just really nice to get out into the wild, do some proper walking, get in shape and have some time to myself.  I think I got pretty lucky with the weather, and if there were a lot of midges sometimes, well, I survived.  I am sure I'll return for maybe a couple more trips to finish the Munros off - though there is also a day around Strathyre do be done at some point, as I failed to do two of the planned hills this time.  Partly me being a bit out of shape, but also I really need to remember to go through my route beforehand and work out how much climbing there is each day!  One other thing that was nice was to do a little bit of the West Highland Way - it looks like a lovely walk, without much climbing, and I got the feeling there was a real hiking community going on there, nice.  Definitely one to do one day... it also made me somewhat nostalgic, watching the novice hikers with giant packs full of unnecessary stuff brought back memories of my first Pennine Way trip - a long time ago now.

Photos to go with this trip can be found here.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

More Munros : Tyndrum to Oban

Munros this section :
Ben Challum
Beinn Heasgarnich
Creag Mhor (Glen Lochay)
Beinn Mhanach
Beinn a' Chreachain
Beinn Achaladair
Beinn an Dothaidh
Beinn Dorain
Beinn Eunaich
Beinn a' Chochuill
Stob Diamh
Ben Cruachan

Saying hello to the Gruffalo.
Tyndrum is an odd sort of place, there are two giant hotels, a few roadside cafes, but not many houses.  There is a small patch of woodland with a carved Gruffalo, which is something.  Back to the West Highland Way - it has been nice to do a bit of this, I must come and do the whole thing some time.  Before long though I have to leave it, up the long path to Ben Challum, and I'm a bit worried by the rest of the day, the plan has some gravel track, and lots of random pathless wilderness.  Well, it turns out OK, a good route up Beinn Heasgarnich, looks like this would normally be very boggy, but with so much sun it's nice and dry.  It feels very out of the way here, there are no people, and my high and windy campsite feels pretty isolated.

One last sunny summit - Beinn Heasgarnich.
The tent survives a windy night, I pack it up and head straight up a Munro, the first of four today, mostly without trails between them in what feels far from civilisation, but my route is good, I even manage to take a shortcut in the afternoon, this is good on a long day.  It rains on me up on Beinn a' Chreachain but I cope, then the summit of Beinn Achaladair is so windy I can't set up the camera on its little tripod, selfie it is then.  Once again my camp spot is high and windy, but I think the tent can take it.

The next day I wake up to find the tent is inside a cloud, it is unsurprisingly wet and cold.  Ah well, can't have nice weather the whole trip... at least, my tendon is feeling better, good thing as it is straight up Beinn an Dothaidh, a crazy steep climb, in yet more gale force wind.  From there I climb down to a saddle and make a packless ascent of Beinn Dorain, then further down for a pub lunch, yay, haggis and neeps.  The rest of the day is supposed to be flat unpaved roads, so easy going, sadly a long section is actually a line of bog through trees, then there's some no-trail bog I hadn't noticed, not much fun in the rain.

A sight for sore eyes - the Taynuilt Inn.
Next morning I make an early start, 7am, it looks like a long day.  To begin, straight up Beinn Eunaich, on trail but brutally steep, up to a summit in a cloud of course.  The next two Munros aren't so bad, but the day's fourth, Ben Cruachan, is a monster, the high point of a long ridge of up and down bouldering, then of course I have a long, long descent.  It is enlivened somewhat as I pass a film crew setting up for a new Star Trek movie, there are futuristic gun emplacements, and also a replica of the arched Queen Victoria monument I passed back in 2019, interesting.  It's 8pm by the time I reach Taynuilt, thank goodness I have a bed at a guesthouse, and why yes, there is a nearby pub for beer and burger.

The last day of this leg involves an short, easy if windy walk to Oban, on a minor road through pleasant Glen Lonan.  Oban proves to be a very busy tourist town, lots of the pubs are full, but I do find beer, and indeed an excellent curry, just a shame about the long walk back to the campsite.

Photos to go with this post can be found here.