Day 2 - Sunday 22/10/06 16miles
Drymen to Rowardennan
We awoke to a glorious morning, bright and sunny with cloud hanging in strips halfway down the hillsides. Everywhere was wet after the night’s rain and the calm damp air did nothing to dry the tent out. We fried sausage and bacon butties for breakfast which fueled us well and lightened the load we carried, slightly. Both of these were important because we had to climb Conic Hill today and had a hard day ahead. The plan was to walk 11 miles to a Camping and caravan Club site, leaving a 17 mile stretch the day after. Unusually, the weather was dry; very unusual as it turned out. We packed the wet tent and all the extra weight that came with it and set off for the day, making a detour into Drymen to stock up on chocolate supplies. After Drymen, the path runs through Garadhban Forrest which has been unenthusiastically described in some guides.
|| Logging had thoughtfully taken place in advance of our arrival to give us a great first view of the enormous Loch Lomond.
Just how enormous the Loch is would only be revealed in foot-aching detail over the next two days and until then we enjoyed the views with nagging concern that the path we were on was leading to a steep hill.
The WHW took us puffing through the Pass of Balmaha, 1000feet up over Conic Hill and down into Balmaha town itself. Conic Hill provided an ideal spot to stop for lunch where we had a fantastic view of Loch Lomond. Helen thought her Mum and Dad would love it as the view was even better than the one of Derwent water from Cat Bells. Conic Hill was very busy with Sunday afternoon trippers wandering around everywhere.
Restoration of the footpath down into Balmaha caused widespread erosion as walkers avoided the restored path made from slippy round boulders cunningly sloped at all angles and set and such irregular intervals that you are prevented from getting into any stride. It must take many years of practice to produce such an unattractive unusable path. The Highland cattle we passed on the way were oblivious to the delights of the path and happily rested their hooves in knee deep mud while the hoards of trippers enthusiastically clicked cameras at them.
Balmaha was a lovely little village so we stopped for a glass of pop and a pint in "The Oak Tree Inn," a Way-side pub and bought a note pad from the worst stocked shop in the world for a meager £1:60. Chris rubbed salt into the wound by point out that he’d had just bought one at home for only 40p, but we wanted one to record a log of the walk. Our path climbed a little out of Balmaha before following the Lochside closely.
We had been warned that this was the worst part of the whole walk and people had often given up because of it. It was certainly OK initially and we wondered what the fuss was about. Half an hour before dusk we completed the eleven miles to the Camping and Caravanning Club site which had a great location, right on the side of the loch and offered other attractions such as hot showers and running water. To its detriment, it was also at the start of a seventeen mile leg of the walk along the infamous lochside. We had discussed this en route and decided to push on four and a half miles further, realizing that we would need to navigate and walk using head torches in the dark. The path switched between lochside and roadside and by the time it was dark went temptingly past the comfortable looking Rowadenan Hotel. Helen helped us carry on; the Way leaving the road once more along a track in the direction of the youth hostel. After another mile we realized we’d missed the youth hostel turn off and doubled back for five minutes to find it. This was another comfortable looking building and its website boasted great views of the Loch. It was full so we regained the WHW path and camped rough in a small woodland clearing.
By eight o’clock, we started putting the tent up and dinner cooking, using water from a nearby stream. Chris jumped as a firework rocket was set off from the youth hostel grounds and exploded, unexpectedly and violently breaking the calm silence of the night. After that, all we heard was an owl hunting in the woods and Mark’s continuous chatter. He was the only one of us not tired despite carrying his fair share of the equipment. We have often joked in the past that he must be fitted with Duracell batteries because he doesn’t run out of energy and this time was no different. Chatter, chatter chatter all the way.
When Mark asked "Mum, where are you sore?" she replied "it would be easier to tell you the places that didn’t hurt!" The few minor blisters we had were at their finest by this evening and combined with tired feet caused us to hobble about. A good night’s sleep and a couple of plasters from the blister kit repaired the damage. After this, our feet, legs and backs were more comfortable as they toughened to become accustomed to walk’s wear and tear.