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19: Kinlochewe Forest
This is the first day of my planned three-day tour in Wester Ross. I had a nice route in mind, but after my cross-country experience I have toned down my plans a bit torwards something more realistic. Basically I'm just going to walk and see where I'll get. After breakfast, a quick check of the backpack (the third one, because I double-checked everything last night), and I shove the mighty 85 liter pack into the 90 liter luggage roll I bought for the occasion. I ride the same route as yesterday to Kinlochewe because it turns out to be the fastest one (did I mention that wonderful stretch of A890? Needless to say, it goes down even faster this time ;-)). Incheril, near Kinlochewe, has the parking where the trails start, so I park my bike there, remove the backpack from the roll and replace it with my riding gear, put on all the walking stuff, and take off along the trail towards Letterewe. The bike is not really locked, just the contact key removed, and the luggage roll is just loosely strapped to the bike, but I'm somehow certain that I'll find everything back exactly as I left it the day after tomorrow. In the Highlands, you don't need a lot of locks.
Near the waterfall where the trail splits into one continuing to Letterewe and one going north to Lochan Fada I take a first break. I'm sweating and panting, and my shoulders hurt from the pack. After a short rest I'm feeling well, and I take the trail north. It will lead me to an inaccessible geocache which happened to be placed in the area I planned walking in, so it is my main target for today. The trail goes up and down, roughly following the stream. At first, I was afraid that all the up-and-down would cost me too much energy, but I soon find out that both directions strain completely different muscle groups so the variation actually helps - when I ascend, the 'descent muscles' can relax a bit, and vice versa. At the waterfall, I met two gentlemen who were on their way to Letterewe, but it looks like this trail is all to myself. In fact, I will not see another soul for the coming days..
As usual, the geocache sits on a high point, so I need to ascend through the heavy terrain in order to reach it. As I expected, with the backpack on this is even more a challenge than the backpack-less strolling around I did near Sligachan. Near the cache I take a break and enjoy the view over the lochan and the surrounding hills. It is simply incredible to sit on a hill-top, look as far as the eye can see, and not see any single sign of human presence - no buildings, no people, no cables or antennas, simply just nature itself. Earlier along the trail I had to step over a cadaver - to me, that's a true sign that Nature is allowed her ways in the area, certainly in comparison with the careful wildlife management in what they call 'national parks' in the Netherlands.
I decide to pack up and take a longer rest later, because the trail is going eastwards and I want to go west along the lochan. The idea is to pick up the trail there that goes from the lochan to Letterewe estate. So, I'm in for a cross-country workout and the small climb up to the cache wasn't exaclty forecasting a walk in the park.
As I expected, it's hard. Very hard. To the trail it is maybe 5km but you cannot go in a straight line, I have to move up and down to follow reasonable paths to the terrain all the time. Most of the route is traversing the slops, so my ankles and feet start to hurt from having to support the weight while being knicked. Still, it is a sort of adventure and the landscape and quietness make more than up. After some time, I hide behind a rock and make my first camp coffee. The lovely smell of coffee boiling over propane gas helps me forgetting about all the bits of my body that now seriously start to hurt, and after half an hour I'm on my way again. I'm constantly checking my progress using map and compass, and it is slower than I would like. All the little detours take time and energy, and by now I'm seriously getting tired. When I study the map again, I suddenly see a shortcut that gives me three advantages at once: it will bring me to what seems to be a possible camp site near Loch Garbhaig, it will take me up only to 400m instead of the 500m of the trail, and finally staying away from the trail will likely mean less chance of meeting someone - I really want to enjoy this all alone..
My map reading skills are good or I am lucky, but the shortcut works out. Near the loch is some flat grassy ground, most of it saoking wet but I manage to find a 2x2m bit which is just enough to hold the tent. Quickly I setup the tent, make everything in order for the night, and walk down to the lakeshore to get some water and enjoy my reward for today's hike - a cigar, a sip of Talisker, and the knowledge that I'm the only human being camping at this 2km long lake.
After hydrating my dried dinner and actually enjoying it, I crouch into my sleeping bag and after reading a bit, well-deserved sleep follows. As it starts to rain that night I wake up multiple times from the noise it makes on the tent, but still I manage to take in a good night's rest.
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