Author Topic: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail  (Read 7431 times)


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #15 on: 18:18:40, 18/09/19 »
Magnificent, rugged country (Zen looks like a wild wolf in some of the photos - except for his collar - what a handsome boy) and a great write-up. I like the meandering approach to walking myself  :) .


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #16 on: 22:31:36, 17/07/20 »

Day Five

“He who walks, lives longer
Walks away from problems, walks to find answers
Sharpens the memory, slowness quickens the mind
Blood pressure falls, euphoric highs
Immune system strengthened
Inhaling life, exhaling smiles”

Nothing like a pandemic and isolating at home to awaken you to what’s really important in life …. Walking in Scottish Highlands, so let’s not waste any time and get back there …  O0

I woke to a window view of dozens of deer chomping on the grass outside the B&B and Ian, to real coffee and a cooked breakfast – equally delightful, he proclaimed.
With dew dripping from the fauna and dampness perforating the air, we circled round the Loch point following a dirt track into a wee wood, with poignant tips for river crossings ahead ringing in Ian’s ears from the B&B owner.
Ian was toying with me.. each time we came to a split in the path, he tossed a coin to decide which one to go down – route finding by luck, whatever next.
The trail fords Allt a'Coire Reidh river (wide but slow, even in rain) next to a small deer stalking hut that can be used for sleeping if needed (not locked, with one bench).
Welcome dry feet and a track gave me the chance for a chat…
“As we’ve had a few mishaps and not wishing anything else bad, Ian, but for a bit of fun, would you like to know my anti-wish list as well … with the aim of crossing off as few as possible
"Hmm, let’s hear it . ."

“Get lost
Fall and injury ourselves
Cannot make a decent fire”
“...Come on Zen, sounds like ‘take the [censored] out of me’ list - that’s 100% crossed at the mo!”

“Hear me out..
Posted parcel not be delivered”
- Ooh Ian, you did remember to post a couple? – not too many shops round here!”
“Yeah, lots of treats for me, ha ha!”  :)

“Stuck in a bog - who’ll be the first?
Lose your phone / phone malfunction
Rain everyday & Highland’s special - horizontal rain
Tent leak
Soaking sleeping bag
Fall sick
“though fat chance of that, Zen.. no sun”   :(
Turn back due to impassable river”
“… almost on the last one”

“Broken rib”
“No, Zen, not that again!”   :-[
“I’ll never forget the pain on your face when you sneezed… “   :'(
“Arr Zen – remember those you had in Spanish Pyrenees!”   :'(
“How could I not. Not sure what was worse, the pain or the embarrassment of wearing those ridiculous boots you made out of polystyrene foam sheets!
“We both picked ourselves up and finished the treks though”
“How about … Run out of food”
“Oh no, Ian please no, horror upon horrors!   :(
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all, I’ll have nightmares now about no food!
At least it’ll focus our mind on keeping safe!”

“It hasn’t rained today…yet, so I’d say 3 crosses so far …
Let’s keep it just 3!
How many have we ticked off your wish-list …?”
Freedom forests, Fresh streams and rivers, Remote hut stay & a wild camp alongside a river”
“one more with ‘Ace views’ …here’s another”

Near a deep stalking hut, Allt a'Coire Reidh river was thankfully low. Given the luxury of dry feet, I was surprised Ian waded straight through.. must be worse up ahead.. oh, so right he was…

I cheerily trotted along the track until Ian, gestured off it, upwards steeply to Forcan Ridge and we revelled in the boggy world of the true Highlands. This was majestic.
I swear, the colossal quantity of water in the saturated earth defied the laws of physics..
As we contoured around Sgurr n Sgine edging upwards to Bealach Coire Mhalagain, I thought I will have developed webbed feet before we make it.

(One of Ian’s favourite photos)
Up and over for the next 4 hours of trudging through pathless boggy terrain, Ian’s expression relaxed, and confidence beamed. Strange as there was no remote trail at all. Here was where he finally realised there was no point beating yourself up if you cannot find the path, just make your own way in the right direction. Enlightenment & heightened enjoyment personified.
My lost boy is finally found!   :)

At the spectacular pass, one of highest on the trail, with views of the Forcan Ridge, and monros -Sgurr na Sgine and Sgurr na Forcan we had not one, but two surprises – another human, the first one we had met whilst walking (others were at the bothies & tourists at Glenfinnan) & some snow – yay.
Whilst I ran for cool down, back massage in the snow, Ian grabbed her to take a photo, which she reluctantly did and then rapidly disappeared, leaving Ian’s long-awaited desire for a human conversation blowing away in the wind.

Walking with wet feet was sufferable but sitting with them rapidly freezing was less so. Our well-earned break was short lived.
My paws are built for Highlands, whereas shoe choice is a bit of dilemma for Ian – go with trail shoes or high-sided fully sealed waterproof boots? – You can try waterproof boots, plastic bags, gaiters, remove shoes & socks for river crossings, but believe me, on the Trail, your feet will still get soaked!
Ian went for trail shoes (Inov8) – at least they let the water run out (especially with the holes in his) and dry quickly. Several quick drying socks are a must. A dry pair to change into at the end of a day – oh, looking at Ian’s expression, a pure luxury.

We tackled a line of stones along a trail of sorts amongst them before gasping at the gorgeous views below.
With me zooming ahead along the ridge to get a wider view, Ian, halted me in my tracks, yelling ‘por alla’ and his hand gesturing down into the swampy nirvana.

Can you spot me?

Thankful to robust knees, we descended like two kids gleefully running for ice-cream, to follow the river, Allt Undalain, menacingly growing, expanding, gathering pace, knowing that we’ll have to cross at some point.

When joining another swelling river at the foot of the glen, Ian’s eagerness to cross was pushed into action and we ventured gingerly across.
More ‘Zen’ tips for river crossing:
Check flow by throwing a stick in,
Always know your entry and exit point, away from steep banks, before getting in.
Undo backpack waist strap.
Consider taking one arm out - if you fall your heavy backpack will not force you down under the water but can be easily be ditched or used as a buoyancy aide.
Keep your footwear on – better grip than bare feet plus it avoids an injury on the rocks.
Wade (don’t jump) in
Use poles/sticks to test depth ahead.
Cross, facing up stream, and side-step across, bracing yourself using your stronger upper leg muscles against the river attempting to take your legs away.
Slowly cross with small steps. Never cross your feet over.
Watch out and avoid rapids, white water, forest furniture – branches, tree trunks

Which is all great when the river is knee height to Ian, but not so fab for little, short me.
I had to do the ‘hero-swim’ – always best naked!

“The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing”  John Muir

“Zen, perfect doggy-paddle!”
At least I wouldn’t need a jet powered cold water hosing down.

Final river crossing tip – If it’s fast moving and deep, do not cross and either wait until the level drops or look to cross upstream where there’s usually less water, or dare I say it, hope for a swinging suspension bridge!
An easy trail led to civilisation - Shiel Bridge and Fish Trail Lodge – Yay, we picked up our first posted packets of goodies (one each), a private room and a pub meal with a soft carpet to sprawl out on and dream of more of the same, ticking off my wishes.

 Fish Tail Lodge

« Last Edit: 23:07:00, 17/07/20 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #17 on: 07:56:47, 18/07/20 »
Wonderful stuff - good to hear from you, Zen - I hope that you have been looking after Ian. ;)

I'll add to your river crossing tips for humans - take your boots and socks off, then put your boots back on to cross the river - that way at least the socks stay dry!
« Last Edit: 08:02:50, 18/07/20 by richardh1905 »
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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #18 on: 19:48:21, 18/07/20 »

Thanks Richard. Keeping the socks dry would probably make them smell less as well. Always a bonus with Ian  :D

Day Six
‘Don’t plan everything, you’ll want to leave room for some unexpected madness, just enough to make things exciting, but not too crazy’

Consecutive nights in a bed do wonders to recharge your energy levels. We exuberantly left with a spring in our steps.
We had shared the lodge with a couple of local Munro baggers, who had all gone high tech with gadgets hanging off their backpackers.
Maybe through cost, lack of technical know-how or wish to travel light, Ian had opted for just the paper map/compass navigation way, which is commendable… if you know how to read & use one!
“Courage is knowing it might hurt but doing it anyway.
Stupidity is the same.
And that’s why life is hard”
“Wow, Zen, so brave of you to follow me!”
“I was thinking how idiotic!”

Fortunately, navigation was straightforward with trails through Dorusdain Wood. Freedom to run and explore.  :)

Large herds of roe deer accompanied us on both sides, steepily over Bealach na Sroine to the hugely impressive Falls of Glomach (UK’s largest drop falls, over 100m).

Warnings galore spoke of tricky, slippery awkward treacherous trails along-side the steep sided gorge, above the river, Allt a’Glomach.
Due care was taken.
Having negotiated the worst, we rested for lunch.

Upon crossing a boulder strewn river cascading from the left, I was wandering ahead and came across a strange precipice, with a dusty near vertical drop of 2 or so metres. I peered over the edge to the path below. This was unusually difficult for the Cape Wrath Trail, challenging, but not impossible.

Ian had this idea of unhooking his backpack and climbing down face against the earth, using the exposed rocks for supports. I could see that I would have to edge myself down and make a jump for it. I could do it.
I eagerly gazed down from above as Ian, half way, lowered his backpack and dropped it…and we watched in slow motion, the bag bounce, roll over, gather pace, swerve round the rocks, dodge the trees and disappear over the edge, swallowed up by the river ravaged gorge.
Our bag … gone!  :'(
Our casita … gone!  :'(
Our food … gone!  :'(
Our adventure … gone!  :'(   :'(
“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges”
“To be calm is the highest achievement of the self”
a Zen proverb, though not mine.
For all his failings, Ian’s greatest strengths is his calmness. I do not know how he does it, but I am so thankful.
I was trembling. Ian slipped, cutting his knees, dusted himself off and guided me along the previously hidden, now obvious, much easier route down and just said, “at least we are fine, that’s all that matters”.
I’d have cried, but laughed when Ian then said, ‘Bet that wasn’t on your anti-wish list!’
Let’s consider the situation:
Ian, donned in wet trail shoes & socks, shorts, three thin clothing layers and a lightweight waterproof coat, emptied his pockets - half a granola bar, Harvey’s Cape Wrath Trail map, a few tissues, Cape Wrath guidebook and an old iphone with 75% battery rapidly reducing and me.
It was cloudy with no immediate threat of rain. The time - 2.15pm and at least 5 hours back to Shiel Bridge.
Harvey map shows: Further along the Trail, a 4x4 dirt road going East past a couple of lodges, with no guarantee of anyone home, then North onto a boggy trail to the day’s planned destination, an isolated bothy – Maol-bhuidhe, or, the 4x4 dirt road heading West but doesn’t show where to.
So, no injuries for Ian or me no family or friends in Scotland, no one visibly around, no money, very little food, no dog food, plenty of rivers, but no bottle, no adequate warm clothing, no shelter, and a poor map of the area.
Ian wanted me to pause the trip report here, as we all love cliff-hangers, and ask you for options on what to do next….
Though, you know I wouldn’t be writing this if we hadn’t survived.
I kept quiet but thought that it was a touch ironic that Ian’d spent hours packing his bag with carefully chosen items, preparing for every possible scenario, except the one about losing his bag full of all that precious gear.
Whilst the immediate situation was not dangerous, it was important to keep a level head, control your breathing - deep slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, reducing your heart rate and controlling your body’s adrenaline and endorphin production and conserving energy.

‘Smile, breath and go slowly’
But what about ‘Fight or Flight?’ - a surge of adrenaline, your heartbeat quickened, you begin breathing faster, and your entire body becomes tense and ready to take action …
Hardly, surprisingly then when Ian glimpsed his backpack floating way down below in the gorge’s rapids he spontaneously sprinted down the hill to catch it, cut it off and dream of recovering his expensively assembled kit … and my food of course!
I wasn’t hanging about and eagerly pursued him.
To ‘fight’ would be to make every effort, regardless of danger, to get the backpack and continue with our adventure.
I feared the newspaper headlines, you know the ones, ‘Man & Dog airlifted from gorge by Mountain Rescue whilst looking for backpack!’
Wasted effort? Well not quite, even though there was no sign of the backpack, we bumped into a Dutch Biology teacher having his lunch.
He gave Ian £20, but even better, he was heading West, along the 4x4 road and had a map showing a route back to civilisation, albeit 3-4 hours away. We gladly joined him.
Relief – Ian was in ‘flight’ mode!
‘Fight or Flight?’ – I suppose you don’t really know the answer until you’re in a survival situation.
I thought we were out of the woods – We had to take evasive action and take a wide birth around the hairy Highland cattle protecting their young ones.
Out of the blue, a small car came from behind. Ian flagged it down and regaled our lost bag escapade. Sarah, a fellow trail runner and doggie owner (a hyperactive spaniel in the back) was off into town and agreed to give Ian & me a lift to Kyle of Lochalsh.
Sarah, a gem of a saint, took out £50, paid for the soon departing train to Inverness (lucky as only 2 or 3 a day) and gave Ian the change, and promised to look for the backpack tomorrow.
In silence, we sat together, Ian’s arm cuddling me, as the train sped through the spectacular Highlands, past Achnasheen, where we would have been tomorrow. The tears gradually weld up in his eyes, finally dawning on him, we were leaving the Highlands & our adventure was over, Ian croaked, “We’ll come back, I promise Zen”
And we did!   :smitten:
That was May 2018, and in May 2019 we came back!
First, I will fill in the gaps – Ian’s phone battery died on the train. The police at Inverness Station let him use their phone to call his brother who paid for a B&B. We couldn’t prove we had a train ticket to Brighton, so he also purchased our train home, though Virgin did refund it later.[/font][/color][/font]
Strange new times - when was the last time you took a train without a mobile phone?  The journey was 8hrs, Inverness to Kings Cross and 1hr 20mins to Brighton.
Miraculous! Precariously stranded in the gorge, Sarah found and retrieved our backpack!  :angel:
Her dog rewarded with all my packets of food and fav trekking snacks. Well earned!  O0
All kit, sentimental and expensive items, dried, washed and posted back.  :)
Amazingly the only casualties were our casita & SLR camera (photos survived), which were on the outside of the backpack.
Begs the question: Should we have stayed in the Highlands, searched for and retrieved the bag and continued on the Trail?
No, with no food, nowhere to stay that night and to continue the trek without a tent, would have been fool-hardy!

nos vemos muy pronto  :-*
« Last Edit: 20:08:52, 18/07/20 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #19 on: 21:18:12, 18/07/20 »
What a disaster! Glad you got home safely, and looking forward to hearing what happened when you went back to the trail.


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #20 on: 22:47:45, 18/07/20 »
Wow, so easily done.
Can't wait for the next instalment.


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #21 on: 23:52:06, 18/07/20 »
Flippin' Nora!


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #22 on: 13:50:53, 19/07/20 »
Day Seven – The Return
“The comeback is always stronger than the setback!”
Fitter, revigorated, older & more determined – definitely. Wiser – hmm, I hope so!
So what was new. Well, Ian had replaced the camera with another cheap one, and the tent with a more expensive one. Good to see he’d got his priorities right.
Unbelievably, he still had the same trail shoes with the holes stitched up by a cobbler in the souks in Marrakech.   :D
“Ian, one year on, have you embraced the technological trekking age at all?”
“Yeah, I’ve got this app on my phone that shows details of all the paths and trails by using GPS, it worked fab in Morocco”
”Is that the one where the paths disappeared when you were on the Mt Toubkal Circuit without signal as you’d forgotten to download the next section?”
“Err, yeah, but I’ve got the whole of Scotland on the phone”
“Ian, but the wildest, hardest to navigate sections of The Cape Wrath Trail are pathless!”
“Arr. I’ve still got the guidebook, maps and compass”
I wasn’t feeling reassured!

We returned in style O0 
Definitely a trip licking your lips with anticipation!

Then the same train (from the year before) back to Kyle of Lochalsh, a more enjoyable journey.
There wasn’t a bus for more than an hour and Ian wasn’t convinced the driver would let us on anyway, so we hitched.
The sun was out and we were beaming.  :)
A couple of kms of pleasant roadside walking and two hitched lifts to Dornie and we lunched at the medieval Eilean Doan Castle. It was 2pm.

“What is lost has returned to me, what is far away is near me today.”
A truly fitting spectacle to recommence the trek.
A locally known overgrown longish trail led us through a narrow pass and sharply down to deserted houses and eventually over River Elchaig to a dirt road.

“Ian, this feels familiar. I’m sure that Highland calf back there recognised me!”
The same 4x4 road we had walked with the Dutchman, but heading East, back to The Cape Wrath Trail. I felt at home.
“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”

As we approached the trail that met the 4x4 track, the one from Falls of Glomach. Ian sat on a rock gazing up the gorge, as if in quiet prayer to say thanks.
“Zen, there is nothing more pleasing that returning to a place where you have endured hardship. I’ve been dreaming of this moment since we left"
With the sun high, but noticeably dropping, in a single footstep we renewed our acquaintance with the Cape Wrath Trail and continued our adventure to enlightenment, err, Cape Wrath Lighthouse.
The evening sun, shone on the hills, the loch and warmed our faces as we strolled past a couple of Lodges, surrounded by herds of quite inquisitive deer. We veered North onto a grassy trail…

“So Zen, what have you been up to over that last year”
“Well, you remember that guy who said ‘Not everyone who meanders is lost’”
“John Muir”
“Yeah, I’ve reading about him & I think him and me share an affinity with the hills”
“Cool, do you have any inspiration quotes for our renewed adventure?”

“I only went out for a walk, finally stayed out till sundown, for going out, I found was really going in” 
Very appropriate as through the sunset, we glimpsed our day’s glorious resting place, the stunningly isolated, recently refurbished wooden ‘interior-designed’ bothy, decorated with candle lanterns – Maol-bhuidhe.

We had left Brighton at 6pm last night and arrived a year later!
« Last Edit: 13:59:56, 19/07/20 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #23 on: 14:17:13, 19/07/20 »
Good to see the start of your report on the next stage of your trek.
I'm surprised that you decided to take that Ian bloke with you again, seems a liability to me.


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #24 on: 20:21:58, 19/07/20 »
Good to see the start of your report on the next stage of your trek.
I'm surprised that you decided to take that Ian bloke with you again, seems a liability to me.


Bit of an epic you had there, Zen. Particularly like the first photo on day 6.
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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #25 on: 10:55:24, 26/07/20 »
Good to see the start of your report on the next stage of your trek.
I'm surprised that you decided to take that Ian bloke with you again, seems a liability to me.

Believe me Ridge, I asked around, but no takers.
I suppose I'm stuck with Ian  :P
Good luck on your next adventure
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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #26 on: 12:19:53, 26/07/20 »
Nice! I recognise most of the places on the photos. But I had it so much easier, because it was exceptionally dry when I hiked the CWT last year. I kept my feet dry on the entire walk! (I'm not lying). Even crossing the Carnach River (bridge still missing) the water never came above the edge of my boots.

Along the Falls of Glomach was a bit tricky I recall, but I never had to climb down the way you did when you lost your pack, so I guess you took the wrong path there.

I enjoyed reading your report! :) Looking forward to the rest!
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Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #27 on: 12:24:20, 26/07/20 »
Day Eight

‘Fresh air, yes, just fresh unequivocally un-polluted pure fresh air. Anywhere else, is, well, not.
Filling our lungs to our heart’s content, only to let it all out, so we can gorge once more on the feast.’
No matter how beautiful being inside the bothy was, it had nothing on breakfast, outside in the sun - A new experience! The luscious greens of the hills and sparkling blues of the loch…The Highlands were alight.

Indecision – I do not need this worry. Ian let on that his map guided him North and then East skirted round Beinn Dronaig in front of us, (see photo at end of yesterday), whilst his guidebook directed us West, then North.
I was relieved he chose one option and decided not to go straight over the top.
“Why West Ian?”
“No trails for a while – I fancied a bit of a pathless yomp through the heather & bogs – I’ve missed it!
“Me too, a bit. I challenge you then – get us on that trail”
Our first river Lub Chruinn was negotiated with ease and we were soon gaining height, not through a necessity, more of a desire to enjoy the wonderful views from a higher perspective. It was good to be back in the wilds.
Ian loves contouring hills. A challenge on the eye, to find the perfect angle to circumnavigate the hill, ascending without wasting too much energy to have the best line for the forthcoming descent. He also believes, contouring higher avoid the bogs – Wrong!

Plodding along in no real hurry, Ian announced “Zen, we should be hitting the start of that trial about now…and here it is!”
Beginners luck! Spawny devil!  >:D

We descended & popped into for a nosy around the estate bothy – Bendronaig Lodge, equipped with electricity, flushing water & a wood burner. Place was deserted with no real evidence of anyone staying recently.
On a 4x4 track we headed West, rather than east to Strathcarron. Ian was keen to spend as much time in the wilderness and try to avoid town/villages unless necessary. More importantly the only place to sleep, Strathcarron Hotel isn’t dog friendly, so why bother!
On meeting the other path descending from round Beinn Dronaig we veered North…instantly filling me with relief – we’re heading in the right direction,

"Hey, you said no suspension bridges, especially ones like this"  :knuppel2:

We took the river, very refreshing.

We sauntered passed a gorgeous Loch

and onto a trail which petered out as we climbed between rocks and boulders hap-hazardously strewn up to Bealach Bhearnais.
“Ian, bet you cannot find the new path on the other side of the pass"
To be honest, I didn’t really care, this was glorious freedom wandering in the wilderness, but at least it got Ian’s mind on where we were heading!
Incredibly, we strolled effortlessly onto a faint trail as it appeared without altering our stride.
How does he do it? 2 out 2! Another fluke.

Approaching a river, disappointingly the wire bridge had been removed, as Ian would’ve had a go, and fallen in the river for sure, which would have been hilarious. He got his feet wet crossing anyway.
The afternoon sun beams were disappearing from the surrounding hills, as we followed an unusual gravel path, Ian surveyed the inviting grassy banks of Allt a Chonasis for the most idealic of camps. There were many choice spots.
Surprisingly, Ian opted for one on the other side of the river, giving him one last dodgy river crossing, and risking wet feet first thing tomorrow. It was sumptuous and a fitting location for our first time camping in our new tent - more like a space dome/tardis as it feels more spacious inside due to the abundance of light than it looks. It was a thing of beauty, surpassed only by our surroundings.

Licking your lips (or nose) time for lunch  O0

“Everybody needs beauty, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike”
« Last Edit: 12:34:00, 26/07/20 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #28 on: 12:54:20, 26/07/20 »
Wonderful stuff, Zen - I've been following your route on OS maps - glad to see that you are keeping Ian on the right track!
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Re: Mad Dog and an Englishman Go Wild – Cape Wrath Trail
« Reply #29 on: 13:24:47, 26/07/20 »
Your new casita looks quite palatial, Zen - room to sit up without bending your ears.
Ian is certainly doing well with the navigation this time - so far ;)
So many paths yet to walk, so little time left