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  • Chris Jones

Day 99 & 100. Mon & Tues, 4,5th July. Cape Wrath to Scourie.

There was a visitor book in the Bothy so having exhausted the conversation with John and there not being a telly to watch, I read through the entries of the many people that had visited over the past year. There were a number of entries mentioning the dear that come down from the hills to feed on the meadow around the Bothy, often late at night so I figured we'd be asleep so would miss the show. However, just after 9pm, I happened to get up and look out of the window.... Wow, what a sight, the dear were literally running down the hills to get at the grass and the flowers, there had been a lot of rain over the past few days so I suppose it would have been a great feed for them.

We tried to count them but it was impossible, they wouldn't bloody stand still, after a few attempts we agreed that by about 10.30pm, there were probably over 70 dear surrounding the Bothy on all sides, a magnificent sight and I was so glad John was there to share it with me.

It was a few days later, I got chatting to a chap from London who was cycling around the coast, he had stayed in the same Bothy 3 nights after us and didn't see any dear. He did however, go out for a little walk around the Bothy in the evening and when he got back after only half an hour, he was horrified to see that he was covered in ticks... 🫣 they were all up his legs, his chest and his back, some had already started burrowing into his arse cheeks and the pouch he carries his marbles in !!! 😬😫 fortunately for us, it was still chucking it down with rain the night we were there so we stayed in, cuddled up around a couple of candles we found in a cupboard... Ticks are clearly one of the issues caused by the dear but reading a leaflet written by the John Muir Trust, there are apparently over a million dear in the Highlands and they are causing havoc. They eat everything, if they get in, nothing has a chance to grow as they clear it up. They are also causing more and more road traffic accidents as there are more of them grazing around populated areas. They are a real problem. So, if you've a good eye for a shot, they are encouraging people to become marksmen and head on up here to shoot as many as you want. You can carve off the prime cuts if you want and leave the rest where it fell in the hills, no need to bring the carcass down... talking to folk as I pass through, this is clearly a very big political issue and one they can't get their heads around to solve, other than to waste loads of money sending helicopters up to count them, just to prove they've got a problem that they can't sort out... food kitchens kicking off all over the place, too many young men out of work and venison being one of the most healthy pieces of meat you can eat, I'm not sure it should be this big a problem to solve... 🤔

Anyway, a good nights sleep and our kit nicely dried out, when I managed to drag him out of his pit !!! John and I walked the remaining 5 miles up to Cape Wrath, just in time for a brew in the cafe before John paid the fair and jumped into one of the minibuses to head back down the track, over the water and back to Durness to collect his van. After a lovely plate of macaroni cheese on toast, I set off, alone again, to navigate my way back down the the west side of the Cape.

I was right to be apprehensive, no roads, paths and no habitation, keeping as close as I dare to the sea, using my OS map, I had to navigate to Sandwood Bay and then down to Sheigra. This was by far the most challenging day so far, savage scrambles, bogs, rivers and treacherous cliff edges, with the certain knowledge that if I was to fall and injure myself, I would be found of course but I had no way of knowing when, this is a baron landscape.

After walking right up to the edge of this cliff, I carefully climbed down, got across the river and scrambled up the other side. Looking back, I was blowing like a fat bloke that had just walked across a valley, sweating like a Scoucer on a spelling test and thinking, surely this can only get easier... please... it did for half an hour and then the same again, this was a killer. Eventually, I got to Sandwood bay and was elated to see the beach appear over the hill, in my excitement, I never gave the tide a second thought so cracked on down, my map showing it was all down hill from 182 meters to the sea.

To my horror, when I got down onto the beach, that protruding rock face on the beach was completely submerged in water, the tide was coming in, not going out... with no time to waste, I stripped off my boots and socks and tied them to the top of my pack, rolled up my shorts as high as I could and unfastened my rucksack belt, just incase this next move went wrong and I'd have to slip out of my Bergan before it drowned me. The water was clear so I could see the sand but the waves were coming in fast so I was getting pushed up against the cliff then sucked back out, in seconds the water was up to my nipples, my rucksack riding high up my back trying to push my face into the water, thankfully, a few more steps and I was round the edge of the cliff and and each incoming wave was pushing me onto the beach... I fell onto the sand, soaked but relieved but also bloody angry with myself... that was a stupid choice which could have gone wrong very quickly. Knowing that there was a river coming down onto the beach a bit further up, I staggered on and crossed it, only up to my knees so an easy wade accross and as soon as I was over, fortunately the beach was deserted and the sun was shining so within a few seconds, I was dancing about in the buff trying to dry off, waving my pants and socks around my head in a vain attempt to tumble dry them... photos available for a good donation to the MCF !!!

You stupid boy Jones.... 🥵

Off the beach and a trudge through the sand dunes, a further 3 miles up the path and I nearly cried when I crested a hill to see a white van sitting by the roadside. I couldn't tell if it was John as it was still too far away. For the first time all day, my phone came back into signal but no missed calls from John so with every step for the next half an hour, I just prayed it was him. As I got within range, a door opened and a bloke got out and waved, I still couldn't see clearly if it was him, whether that was the distance or the tears in my eyes, you chose. I fell into his van, we drove just around the corner where he had already reccee'd a decent place to camp and while I attempted to sort my life out, John cracked us a cold beer and fired up the BBQ, what a bloke... if he wasn't such an old ugly bugger, I could have kissed him, in all honestly, I'd probably have slept with him, only in a very manly way of course, to preserve body heat and survive this brutal wilderness they Scottishland....

Booney, you're a diamond mate, I don't care what anyone else says about you, I love you to bits and if you didn't talk so much shit, I would marry you.... 🥰😍 I was worried about tackling this particular stretch on my own and I'm so gratefull you happened to turn up, just at the right time... like I said, you're a real diamond, I know you were once a member of the Round Table, you'd make a fantastic Freemason my friend. 😉🤝

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