Fort William

Scotland sucks, and I say that in the same way one might say “Vampires suck.” Most of the insects up here, it seems, live for the sole purpose of tracking me down and drinking my blood, or at least biting me. And there are a lot of insects. The bar I had dinner in last night (quite literally the only building for miles) apparently had a midge (think tiny mosquitos) catching machine, and they had the fruits of its labor on display in a glass jar. Picture one of those gallon-sized plastic milk jugs. Now empty the milk out of it. Now fill it – that’s right, fill it! – with tiny insects, and you’ll have the amount of midges this machine captured in FOUR DAYS.

Fortunately the midges are only really active at night, but the scottish biting flies are there to pick up the slack during the day. I don’t know what these creatures are actually called so I named them based on what they do. If I could make things burst into flame at will I would quite happily dedicate the rest of my life to the eradication of this stupid species. I don’t care what other things depend on them in the food chain. In fact, those animals deserve to die as well because they’re obviously not doing their job.

Anyway, the past five days have been an epic struggle between man and tiny flying insect set against a backdrop of lochs, mountains, woods and the occasional pub. Today was probably the most difficult, both insect-wise and otherwise. The incessant insect attacks, combined with a trail that has been liberally coated with small rocks of perfect ankle-twisting shape and diameter (I like to think they were gleefully scattered on the trail by some psychopath bedecked in plaid), were a recipe for disaster. I was lucky to escape with only a few close calls.

Besides blood, Scotland also sucks money from your wallet. For the past five days out of Glasgow I’ve been following the West Highland Way, which is a mix of old railway lines, drovers trails, and military roads which spans about 95 miles. Most of the way is pretty remote, more so the further north you go, and so frequently you’ll find yourself at the only pub/inn/building for more than seven miles. These places are well aware that they are your only hope, and the prices reflect that. I swear I can see the bartenders fighting the urge to steeple their fingers and laugh diabolically as I hand them my money.

From Fort William it’s 66 miles to Inverness, and from Inverness it’s something like 117 miles to John O’Groats. I’m on the home stretch now!

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8 Responses

  1. I do not miss those little guys. But I bet they miss me and the sustenance I provided. Edinburgh is awesome and I hope you get to spend enough time there to enjoy it. I also cooked my parents a full english breakfast this morning and they liked. no black pudding though.

  2. Alex – It must be a good feeling to know you’re getting within days of your final hiking destination. What a huge achievement! Good luck, stay healthy and enjoy!

  3. Alex – Millions of screaming, 14 year old girls contest that Vampires do not such, and, in fact, are totally hot.

  4. Maybe you could offer the vampires clamato juice as a peace offering?

    I hope you’ve seen that South Park episode.

  5. Hmm. No posts in 4 days while walking alongside Loch Ness….

  6. I just noticed that you’re writing from “Fort William,” and it occurs to me that, given the proper time and inclination, you could make your own fort, and name it after yourself (which is an often overlooked benefit of fort making.) Even better, however, is that, in the future, whatever town sprouts up around your fort is obligated to name itself “Fort Alex.” Now you have both a fort and a town, double whammy!

  7. OK, So I happen to know that you are no where near Fort William any more…..It’s July 6th and I belive you are nearing the end of your goal. I want you to know how impressed I am that you stuck with it. I know there must have been times when you wanted to chuck it all..but you didn’t! That is quite an accomplishment…you’ve done what many wouldn’t even entertain. Make sure you get some pictures of yourself at the end of your odyssey.
    Proud to say that I’m your Mum.!

  8. Yes, do take some pictures of yourself at John O’Groats, and while you’re at it, for reference, take some close up shots of the walking shoes you wore. I’d, personally, like to see what nearly 1100 miles has done to them. :-)

    It’s been quite a treat to follow you these past couple of months, and I, too, am really proud of you. It’s been a terrific display of muster and devotion on your part and a superb personal achievement that, no doubt, means a lot to you and all of us, but I suspect will also be something you should very definitely highlight on your CV or resumé.

    The only possible downside that I could possibly see from all of this would be that if I ever run out of gas and have to face the idea of walking to the nearest gas station a couple of miles away, or summmoning help, I’ll feel embarassed and a complete “wimp” to call you for a lift!

    Bravo, Alex!!!

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