Our Travel blog
21 September - 6 October
At the beginning of our season here on Mull the land was dry, the air warm and hazy and the hazards while out walking were minimal. Now, after a summer of rain rambling has become an adventure fraught with risks and perils, mostly of the wet and squelchy kind. Such was our recent experience hiking through Glenforsa to Beinn Talaidh, a prominent mountain at the heart of the island. The route took us along 2 miles of track that was pleasant enough for a walk but with every step our destination became more menacing. True to form the local guide book suggested that its assent would be suitable for an afternoon stroll with granny and a couple of toddlers. In fact the ‘nose’ of Beinn Talaidh appeared almost vertical to our eyes and the carpet of cloud so confidently predicted to depart by early afternoon sat on top like a sulking child sent to sit on the stairs to think about what they said about Aunt Doris’s wig.
We ploughed on towards the bothy at the foot of the climb up but after a tussle with a raging torrent of white water rapids, or gentle burn if you were reading the same guide book as us, we decided to strike out instead for the lower hills. We chose some that marked one side of the glen we’d walked along, the intention being to cut down a handy slope to meet the track about half way back. We soon found ourselves struggling up a hill of springy reeds and crossing swamps on ‘stepping stone’ tufts of grasses and woody plants that may be a wild herb or some endangered species of local flora. If it is then it may be considerably more endangered since our trek – sorry.
We made heavy work of the lower climb but as the slope grew steeper so the ground became firmer and we reached the peak, took in the view and plunged on. To afford some shelter from the breeze we followed an animal track below the ridge that slowly but surely descended towards the glen. Faced with a boggy patch with me leading the way across I heard a shriek accompanied by a watery squelch and muffled swearing from Alison. I took a moment to compose myself before turning around and sploshing to her aid, some 6th sense telling me that a huge grin wouldn’t brighten her day at that precise moment.
Restored to the vertical and with only a few muddy patches to show for her intimate acquaintance with the hill we trampled on, splish-splashing through quagmires and springy grasses for maybe 400 yards or so, when a high decibel verbal assault on the frailties of the Scottish landscape from behind me was brought to an abrupt burbling halt by some wet sucking noises, followed by hearty swearing. By the time I reached her Alison was upright again but distinctly slimier than she’d been last time I saw her. To add to the drama she stood in a position only normally possible after years of ballet training or using some kind of medieval torture device. “Hello precious”, I ventured “you know, brown suits you…” I won’t trouble you here with her response but it cleared the hillside of sheep. A good heave-ho and a muddy hug later and we were on our way again.
Progress was slow but downhill, resting on the bracken covered bumps marking safer ground before plunging on over the unforgiving terrain. Eventually we were within yards of the track but found our route tantalisingly out of reach across not 1 but 2 streams of filthy gurgling viciousness. I leapt over the first and turned to help my mud encrusted beloved but instead found her striding through with a look that defied any act of God or nature to do its damnedest to stop her. It wasn’t exactly the Red Sea but nature knew when to concede and so with nothing more than mucky boots she hopped over the second ditch, up onto the trail, scattered a herd of Highland cows and strode off up the track. I caught up and gently turned her around to face the correct way and by the time we reached the car we were laughing about it.
It’s usually me who suffers mishaps of this nature. I’ve walked in arid conditions where the only trace of moisture was in the water bottle in my backpack. I’d ford rivers whose beds were just cracked earth and dead vegetation and still come home muddy. I’d slide down embankments on my posterior and unwittingly amuse the locals as I wandered through villages with skid marks from the nape of my neck to my ankles. I once walked into a hedge while reading the map, only to have half of it fall into my baked potato in a café later on. I assume it was waiting in my hat for a suitable time to ambush me for maximum embarrassment and the amusement of my fellow diners. So I sympathise with Alison wholeheartedly.
Our experiences haven’t put us off walking; indeed we have explored quite a bit recently, from a beach bonfire with friends while an eerie sea mist ebbed and flowed around the bay to Aros Castle, and several points in-between. I’ve uploaded some pictures that follow this entry that you, dear sweet reader, are welcome to view at your leisure.
At the moment the soundtrack to our days is the bellowing of the red deer stags. The stags roar to display dominance and gather together a harem of hinds. They’ll rut with their antlers to see off interlopers while they ‘service’ between 30 and 40 hinds, to borrow a phrase from a rather polite source I found online. It all sounds jolly musky and masculine, two prize specimens battling for mating rights in a cloud of testosterone. An illusion that was rather dispelled by the roaring stag we interrupted on our way to work who gave us a camp shrug and trotted, pranced really, off in the manner of a My Little Pony dressage competitor at a Pride gymkhana. Being light on their feet is an impressive attribute of deer, who can wander through woodlands with barely a sound, whereas in my efforts to take pictures of them I trample through as if the entire undergrowth is made of crumpled bubble wrap.
As I write this I realise that we have just 2 weeks left on Mull, but happily we’ll be here for the Mull Rally, Dark Duart and quite possibly some other shenanigans so expect at least one further instalment. Now, if you’ll excuse me it’s been nearly 2 weeks since Alison’s encounter with Scotland’s muddy hills and I think she’s nearly finished in the shower.
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