Tuesday, October 16, 2007

West Highland Way (Part Ten).

It was turning out to be a dirty night, I never really noticed the weather turn, it came from nowhere like a bad mood. I knew from looking at my list of campsites earlier that they allowed camping here, what I wasn’t sure of was where to get permission. I stood in the twilight and steadily falling rain, a shiver ran down my spine as I looked through the window at the people eating their dinners, I wasn’t at all sure about walking in on them but I had to do something so I made for the door at the same time I noticed a sign on the stone wall which read ‘Climbers Bar’, an arrow directing me around the end of the building away from the suits eating dinner, ‘Climbers Bar’ sounded more like my sort of place.

As I entered the bar I could hear someone playing the blues. In one corner sat a man who looked to be in his twenties. Behind the bar stood a bonny Scots lassie who spoke with an equally bonnie Scots accent when I asked for a pitch which as it turned out was free and a pint of beer which was I forget how much. I looked around taking stock as she pulled the pint. The furnishings were basic, floor coverings that would take heavy climbing boots without complaint. The walls were covered with photographs of climbing visitors past. The one that caught my eye was one of Sean Connery. I was told later that he earned his place on the wall by paying the establishment a visit whilst filming ‘The Highlander’.

I was sitting at one of the tables studying tomorrow’s route on my map when the man in the corner introduced himself as John. He then went on to explain that he had come up from London to do some climbing, he expressed disappointment at how quiet the bar was. I didn’t disagree, but in my heart I was quite pleased to have the place to ourselves. I hate crowded bars, I hate crowds. As it was I got some what comfy so I decided to give myself a treat and ordered some food, looking at the menu I chose to have chips, sausage and beans. John was kind enough to buy me another beer to go with it. Whilst devouring my feast, and to me it was a feast, for the past four days I’d been living morning and evening on freeze dried food from packets supplemented with 5 chocolate digestive biscuits for my lunch with a break for a ‘Mars Bar’ at 4pm. This has been my routine on all my long walks. It might not seem so good to you but it works, I don’t feel hungry, it’s simple to prepare, light and gives me the energy I need. As I was saying, I was part way through my meal when in walked another man. He looked to be in his thirties and frightening in appearance. He was well build with shoulder length blonde hair. Without meaning to be unkind he was scruffy, probably much the same as I was after four days on the trail, he looked like a cowboy without the big hat. He was obviously a walker and so that alone told me there was not really much to fear as I’ve yet to meet a bad one, its as the song says,

“There ain’t no one out to get you,
Because they’ve got to walk in their own shoes”.

The wild places are a great leveller of men, you can’t afford to be mean to anyone because you don’t know when you might need a friend and out there you can’t pick and choose. I discovered later that his name was John too and he was from Glasgow. He went and sat on a stool by the bar and waited patiently for the barmaid who by now had left the hubbub of the climbers bar. I was sitting studying the last remains of my banquet wondering whether it would be greedy of me to order a sweet to follow when the second John expressed a disappointment at the quietness of the climbers bar… I decided against the sweet and was about to leave when in walked the barmaid. The second John ordered his beer and asked if me and the other John would join him. I wanted too but I really needed to get my tent pitched. Thankfully I’d put it up that many times by now that I could do it with my eyes closed so I wasn’t really expecting any problems as long as the ground was something like decent. I left thanking him for his kind offer saying that I might return later. I knew as soon as I walked out in to the cold night air that I would return. The cold chill of winter was blowing up from Glen Coe. I hurriedly pitched my tent close to another one and returned shivering to the warmth and stories of the climbers bar.

On entering the second John was up from his seat in a flash and was ordering me a beer. He, like me was a walker rather than a climber but unlike me was not walking a definite path, he was more of a drifter going where the fancy took him and finishing when he felt like going home, his only tie being to get home in time for work on Monday morning. He had started his walk at Spean Bridge although I wasn’t sure of this at the time as he pronounced it as ‘Spin Brigg’. As I didn’t want to show my ignorance I made no attempt to enlighten myself on this matter which was something I was to regret later on that week. Judging by his description of his walk and a bothy he used somewhere in the Glen Nevis area I think we must have taken the same route between Fort William and Spean Bridge and three days later I would have been glad of his experience with regard to river crossings and the location of the bothy he used.

The only other person to enter the bar that night was the chef of the house, apart from his flaming red hair and bad limp he was a replica of Billy Connolly and the opposite of me. After the second John had made the introductions Brian the chef bought us all a beer. It was easy to see John and Brian as friends, which by their chatter obviously were. I imagined that in their younger days they were leather clad tearaways riding their motorcycles to the brink and back just for the hell of it. Brian now took centre stage and before long was asking the barmaid to change the music, I don’t think Brian was one for singing the blues, he wanted something loud and heavy, apparently he liked his music like his women! Unfortunately and much to his disgust the barmaid couldn’t satisfy his wish so he left the bar vowing to return with some real music. This he did in no more than five minutes. The wind in Glen Coe has the effect of making one quick about their business. The rest of the evening turned in to an Alice Cooper appreciation evening. What Brian didn’t know about Alice Cooped wasn’t worth knowing. It was also getting to the point where if someone went to the bathroom instead of them walking around the tables and chairs the rest of the party who were sitting would move them out of the way thus proving a clear passage. Despite this I felt I should offer to pay my round. From what I remember that beer went down listening to the first john tell us tales about spitting camels and disgusting monkeys, he was a zoo keeper at London Zoo.

That night I went to sleep on a cushion of alcohol and slept the sleep of the dead.


Blogger Merle said...

Hi Bob ~~ Well, that was a bit different ~ some company and beer and
the warmth of the bar. It must have been very cold there. And you have been where Sean Connery has been!!
I wonder how bright you felt next morning for the next day's walk.
Thanks for your comment ~~ the sweets are a problem as I have diabetes and can only eat 1 or 2 occasionally. We are starting to see signs of Halloween here too. Take care,
Regards, Merle.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi again Bob ~~ Thanks for your message. I can eat a few sweets on
occasion and can give the rest away.
I sure would like to have your expertise in my garden in exchange for home cooking and some sweets ~~ but I don't think Vicki would agree
to that. Take care, Regards, Merle.

3:46 AM  
Blogger Jeanette said...

Gday Bob,
A Good meal and a few beers under the belt, I bet you slept well. It sounds so cold I shivered at the wind, I think you would need a few beers or a couple of stiff whiskey's to help you sleep out there in the cold,,,, BRRRRRrr.
Pleased you liked the photo's Bob
I dont think they make Men like "Weary" anymore..

11:09 AM  

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