DAY 3: Somewhere-on-the-A9 to Dunbeath – 13.7 miles
So yesterday, I started my day filled with such enthusiasm (plus 6 eggs and one tin of beans!!!) as Kat dropped me back to the black mounds of peat on the A9, so I could pick up from where I left off the day before. After two nights at Kat & Fiona’s, with two good days walking under my belt and my route now decided, I was certainly ready to march on south. I think my bubble burst within the first 20 minutes however, when realisation dawned that every day from now on, well at least until Fort William when my mum and sister come to join me, every step will be weighed down by the pack on my back. Which isn’t heavy for someone carrying all their provisions for 10 weeks, but for little weakling me… I realised it is going to be the difference between enjoying the walk, and simply tolerating it. Anyway I carried that thought for a while… and then the wind picked up.
The A9 is pretty desolate anyway – hence all the wind farms – but suddenly the wind was becoming way more than simple background noise; dropping the temperature considerably and making my nose start to drip like a tap! Well they do say music is the answer… and I normally love marching along to a bit of funky house but till now I had been so caught up in the scenery, I hadn’t bothered. So whilst the wind was taking my mind off my heavy backpack, I hoped the music would make me forget the wind that was now lashing from every angle. Unfortunately due to lack of signal, I was unable to listen to most tunes in my vast catalogue so had to make do with the few that have already downloaded. Which actually worked out OK, as belting out London Grammar at the very top of my lungs into the ongoing wind was actually very cathartic… even if I did scare the sheep!!!
But all good things and when the rain finally arrived, around the time that Siri starting interrupting my singing at every available opportunity, (think the strong winds were confusing him!) I suddenly found myself with nothing to distract me from all that Mother Nature was now unleashing so I simply had to go with it. But that wasn’t even the worst of it… To me being able to take a ten minute break every now and then – to step out of the wind and rain giving your body a chance to rejuvenate – would have made all the bad stuff much more bearable. I’d already discovered there are no pubs, cafes, petrol stations or even bus stops in this part of the world to break up your journey, I was now realising there aren’t even any old buildings, door ways, decent trees… not even one bloody rock to be able to crawl under for some protection. It would seem once you’re out… your OUT! And standing still to take a breather is not an option either as you simply get too cold. So continuing to move really is the only respite… from walking!?!
I finally arrived at the coast and turned right onto the main A99 (the road that I would have been on if I’d simply walked south from JoG) however the weather did not let up, in fact it started to get worse. After 4 and half hours of continual walking I was finally just outside Dunbeath – the tiny village with a campsite where I planned to pitch my little bivi tent for the night. When suddenly out of the thick icy fog which had also now started to descend, an tea room suddenly appeared as if by magic. Regardless of being so close to my final destination, the lure of a hot drink was too much so I took my soggy self in to enjoy the best mug of tea and scone/cream/jam I’d ever had. I was in there no longer than 15 minutes but by now visibility outside was so poor that I had to wear by head torch the last 500 meters into Dunbeath just to make sure I got there in once piece! Rhonda the lovely lady at the Inver Caravan Park took one look at me and said “you’ll be wanting our B&B then…” I didn’t have the strength to argue and at £31.50 for the night plus a huge breakfast in the morning, it was definitely money well spent!