bert timmermans saskia van der loo
The next morning it poured again. We decided we'd wait until it was over so as not to have to start out in rain, but as 10 o'clock was approaching, there was no improvement, so we got in the car and Peter started off for Ord, assuring us that he could bloody well tell when it was going to clear up better than any of the useless bunch at the MO and that this was such a time and that by the time we'd get to Ord the sun would shine. When we got to Ord, the rain had stopped and the sun shone. The road leading into Ord is great, but it's only when you skirt the coastline north of Ord that the full beauty of Loch Eishort and its waterfall-laden northern shore comes into view (picture).
The guidelines said "stay high", which is what we did. After having ploughed through the bracken down towards a small bay, we crossed a fence with one goal: high, in order to avoid, in as far as possible, wet underfoot and tick-laden ferns (I've never encountered a tick in my entire life, while my girlfriend seems to have exactly the right pheromones to attract the tiny bloodbeasts). Today was going to be fairly straightforward, but just beyond the steep rocky top of Sgiath-bhein an Uird, there was something of a respectful burn to be crossed and whether we'd be able to do so depended on how high up we'd be. Of course one can always move up or down, but the valley floor remark holds for river banks as well (in fact, it's about the essence of the whole of the moors). But one can be saved, not through the Christ, but through birchwood (picture). Birch groves can be a bit moist, but provide soft but solid mossy ground, something of an unheard of luxury. But it got even better. Once we had negotiated our way across two little burns, we were able to climb a bit further almost to where the rocky outcrop of Sgiath-bheinn met the bog (picture). The sun shone and the birchwood got less dense and lo & behold: one was able to sit! Not being able to sit down without severely wetting your butt is one of the pains of moorwalking. At times you start seeing visions of beautifully ergonomically shaped rocks gently fitting their polished smooth edges around your pelvis.
But a birch grove can be much more, and this was such a grove, open to anything the mind needs to see, so laden with a mystic density that you can almost hear the sylfe's chuckle spread from ear to ear with nothing but a crisp clear morning sky to muffle the sound into a mere whisper, an undertow of sensation. Hermann Hesse once wrote that the mystic is but a philosopher who cannot separate his thought from the images, and is therefore more strongly bound by the limits of his imagination. With all due respect, but bear with me on this one. Imagine a scarcely noticeable flow of water, a spring between the bog and the rock, breathing the air for but a few hundred yards, then to gradually sink into a deep, splitting the rock, leading to a small meadow a shadowy green amongst the rock. There is a hole in the wall of the rock, throbbing with the activity of small insects. As the water enters the hole, there is a drop, and nothing left to be heard or seen. The pointlessness of this water forming a burn only to disappear into its abyss but a few minutes later struck me as particularly chilling and fascinating, like looking at something which was not quite meant to be seen at all. The fact that a mass of granite with shimmering quartzite specks shooting shards of light towers above you in all its monolithic watchfulness does help the inner eye somewhat, of course. A bit further we took a break in this peaceful spot (picture).
Spirits lifted, we set out to cross the "big burn"... and descended. An idea of an exquisite badness, since ground suddenly was muddy, squelchy, or just plainly overflown, with heaps of roots sticking their slimy corpuses in our way. Of course, we had to walk up again, right back to about the height from which we'd descended. The riverbank was slippery, the river swollen with water from the nightly showers, and blessed with a crossing place which more or less exactly failed to exist (picture). To cut things short, we dragged stones to the river until we were able to get across, and ploughed on through the heather, gradually descending to the shoreline, crossing some of those mysterious fences set not on solid ground, but in what looks like water on first and on second sight, something we had gotten to recognise as a local architectural delicacy. Passing below the ruins of the cleared village of Morsaig, we hoped for otter, but alas the slimy budgers kept themselves well hidden.
When we got to the outskirts of Drumfearn (not that the place qualifies as anything more than an outskirt itself), rain started to come down - a foreboding of the night to come. It let up soon enough, and the area inland from Drumfearn is of an astonishing beauty, especially with the purple heather flowering among the green and brown autumn bog - but now we got to the fun part. Firstly, Drumfearn is not the end. You still have 5 miles of tarmac road to walk to Drumfearn road end, where the phone is. That's because, secondly, "Drumfearn road end" is not, as one might expect, the end of the road at Drumfearn, but the place where the road from Drumfearn meets the main road to Broadford. There, in the middle of the bleedin' butthole of absolutely nowhere stands the phone booth (picture). Thirdly, the phone in the booth is as dead as a pickled herring.
Fortunately, a very amiable family happened to pass by. What's more, they did so in a car and they knew our next B&B, Earsary, at Broadford (well, actually in the hamlet of Harrapool to be exact), so hardly half an hour later I was in the car with the landlady to the supermarket and my girlfriend was phoning Julie to get our baggage transferred. A bit tired, I forgot to buy loads of stuff, meaning I had to go back through the pouring rain later on. In revenge, I bought so much food that I went to sleep with something of an indigestion. The room was supercomfortable, but the only thing we did was eat & sleep, while outside, an huge storm raged over Skye.
on the third day we walked from Heaste to Torrin, along Loch Eishort's north shore
weather on this day (midnight before the walk) : 850hPa temperature / pressure