Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Surprise!!

A wedding is being held in out hotel in about four days time. This is going to be a big wedding, involving local politicians, military, business people, and other dignitaries. As part of the preparations a marquee is being constructed in the hotel courtyard, occupying the entire courtyard, and  about three stories high. During the period we have been in the hotel, there have been multiple sightings of the bridal party, or some relatives grouping associated with the bridal party, scurrying about the hotel at all sorts of different times. So when I came down in the morning and saw the pictured table in the dining room, I naturally assumed that it was something to do with the wedding.

It was only when I entered the dining room a little later, with Erica, our tour leader, that I realised that this was something prepared by the hotel to celebrate my birthday. They had been notified by Erica, who had all the details from our passports and had come up with the above decoration. The centre of the table consisted of small presents from some of the members of the party - nothing that could not be put together when people are travelling, but very touching for the thought that had gone into them. Erica then asked the hotel to make a cake, which they did, delivering the cake just before we were due to en-bus in order to travel on. After a brief cake cutting ceremony, the cake was cut up into portions and loaded into boxes for consumption on the bus. The hotel also chipped in with a present - a perspex memento of the Bodhi tree stupa.

Anyway there were some discussions in the group about age, birthdays and the like, which lead to the second substantial surprise of the day. One of the women in the group and I found that we had attended the same (small) primary school at the same time, though one year apart. Discussion about this reminded  both of us of memories from those days - now of course a very long time ago. We had not been at the same infants school, as the primary school had feeders from a number of (even smaller) infants schools - me from a three class infants class, her from an even smaller local school.

Once onto the bus, with cake duly eaten, we set off for Patna. The drive to Patna was not surprising, but the traffic in Patna was nearly as bad as any I've seen anywhere in the world, including the infamous traffic jams on Beijing's many ring roads. Erika had arranged for a representative of the Indian tour company she had used to guide us through the traffic of Patna; to take us onto a restaurant to get a meal before catching the train; to arrange for porters for our luggage to take it to the station; guiding us to the platform for our train; and finally waiting with us to ensure we got onto the right train when it eventually turned up about an hour and a half late. This all seemed a bit over the top, but as the hours went on, it became clear what a necessity all this was. I have negotiated on my own railway systems in three countries that do not have a latin script for their writing - Chinese, Thai and Russian - but I am not sure I could have negotiated the railway system here. There appeared to be no display boards with information about the trains; what writing there was seemed to be only permanent notices and only in Hindi; the announcements which were nominally in Hindi (I assume) and English, were inaudible in both languages; it appeared as though the platform kept changing; and our transfer guide was obtaining information by continually phoning a control tower some distance away from the station; and the station was absolutely heaving with people everywhere.

Eventually we caught our train and sorted out our berths, and so to bed and a journey that would end about midday the following day. We then were picked up by jeeps to be taken on to Gangtok. Total journey time ended up being about 30 hours. A tiring journey, taking us to much more interesting terrain.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day out not at Vulture Peak

We set off to Vulture Peak in the bus. The journey was through Bodh Gaya, Bodh, and other towns, all of which were extremely congested, with narrow town streets. The journey thus took a time, though the impression was that it was not a vast distance. 

The three places we were going to visit were Vulture Peak, the Sattapanni caves, and the Bamboo Grove. When we got there, it was clear it was going to be a hot day, that Vulture Peak was accessible by cable car or on foot, that the cave only by foot, and in terms of relevance, the caves were more interesting. As a result, the group universally opted to do the caves first, and follow these up with the other sites. So, after a little preparation, we started off up the hill - a climb of 2-300m with steps all the way up. Among other things, I was using the assent to assess my level of fitness and stamina ready for the Himalayan trekking I intend to do in July/August. I was not surprised, but was a little disturbed to find that these were poorer than I thought, even though I had thought them bad. At the same time, I was getting comments from the others in the group about my racing ahead  so much faster than the rest could manage.

The caves and their immediate surroundings, which is where the first Buddhist council was held, must have changed over the years. The caves are very small, and the only real place to meet is the small plateau in front of them. In modern times there just isn't enough ground to hold any size of gathering. 

The picture above may include the Bamboo Grove, as I was not sure exactly where it lay when I took the photo. It does show something I haven't seen before - a Jain temple.

On our return to the valley most people went onto the Bamboo Grove, but nobody was motivated to go up Vulture Peak. Just too hot and tired after going up the peak with the caves.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Place of enlightenment

Mahabodhi Temple
Bodh Gaya is the location of the Bohdi tree under which Buddha attained elightenment. As a consequence, temples of all varieties of Buddhist have sprung up around the temple celebrating the enlightenment. The major ones seem to the Thai Theravada monastery and the Tibetan Kagyu monastery. The Kagyu site also includes a huge prayer hall which is used for the annual Monlam prayer festival which is held annually at the Tibetan New Year. At this time of year the hall is a totally empty, echoing building capable of holding about 10,000. In addition to the major sites all of the following are represented (and probably many more that I did not see): Burmese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Korean, and Vietnamese.

The temple area itself is very peaceful area, and although there were a fair number of people there, there was no sense of crowding, even round the Bohdi tree. Here the entire space was taken up by sleeping /meditation mats occupied by those spending a period of time there.

Outside the temple complex there was some, but surprisingly little, religious tourism tat. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Onwards to Bihar


Today was a travel day. We arranged our luggage in the lobby of the hotel; porters materialised and started the procession through the alleys and passage ways from the ghat to the road. Then along the road, still in procession, to the coach. We had said goodbye to Ani Dolkar yesterday, and today we said a temporary goodbye to Egle, who was flying across India to attend a friend's wedding, and then will be rejoining us in a few days time. 

Then it was off to Bodh Gaya through the centre of Bodh. Lunch time provided its own share of interest. The truck stop we arrived at was on the opposite side of the road from which we were travelling with a concrete barrier between the lanes. No problem - onto the next junction and turn around to get to the pit stop. After a good meal, and lots of soft drinks, it was time to start our travels again. So off we went down the wrong side of the carriage way until we reached the junction where we had previously turned round. All parties, including oncoming traffic that was going the correct way, regarded this as normal practice. 

Arriving late at Bodh Gaya and went to explore the local area. One way from the hotel was the bustling centre of Bodh Gaya, while the other direction tailed off into a very poor looking area edging from the town into a rural area.  It was very apparent that Bihar was, as I had gathered, a very poor state, largely agricultural, and with a very high crime rate because of the poverty.


Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Ghats of the Ganges


Erika, our group leader, spent all day at the Institute trying unsuccessfully to arrange an audience with the Karmarpa. The rest of us spent the day walking along the Ghats, or shopping, or visiting silk factories.

One of our party did cause a religious dispute, interfering with the national religion, whilst out walking along the ghats. She inadvertently stood on a marked out cricket pitch that some of the locals were going to play on. Big mistake.

A small group of us visited the burning ghat where we were guided by a very knowledgeable Hindu who worked there as a guide one morning a week to benefit his own karma by raising charity money to buy the wood for cremation for those destitute people who arrive at the ghat and wait there to die, hoping that they will be cremated. He was excellent at his task of extracting money, and did make it clear that the money was going to these charity cases.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Calm waiting


We returned to the Institute in time for the audience with Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Again there was time spent waiting in the gardens before we went in to see him, but again it is a haven of calm and peace. Eventually we had our audience which was impressive. Khenchen Thrangu has been the Karmarpa's teacher and has taught very many of the most senior Buddhist figures. After this we enjoyed the calm and beauty once again.

The monastic and permanent lay community were being calm in a very hurried way preparing for the arrival of the Karmarpa in the late afternoon. Their tasks were manifold, but did include altering the garlands of marigolds that had been placed on the hedges by making them into heart shapes; drawing out welcoming pictures on the paved paths; and lining up all the smallest monks in order of height from near full grown down to miniscule.

Then it was the arrival of the Karmarpa - first of all the clearing of all the laypeople from the grounds of the Institute, leaving only monks and nuns to welcome him.  The laity lined the road outside. The band assembled. The Indian Army security team came around, followed by the intelligence types providing a security cordon of their own and finally the security detail of monks. Then after much waiting came the arrival. A couple of security cars, the band in full flow, then some of the entourage vehicles and the the Karmarpa followed by more vehicles. I cannot imagine that anyone caught any glimpse of him before he was into the temple and his apartments. I certainly did not. It did mean a lot to be there for a great many people.

Then it was time to return to the hotel (the last part on foot this time) and so to close.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Peace and Frenetic Activity

 
Because it had been suggested that the Karmarpa was to arrive the following day, we decided to go straight to Sarnarth and the Vajravidya Institute, to find out what the arrangements might be on the following days. The monastery, temple and associated learning facilities - this is a major Buddhist academic site, teaching from 5 year olds to post-doctoral students - is very large, but an oasis of peace and beauty quite distinct from the hustle and bustle of its surroundings.Formal gardens with monks, nuns, and lay people, gliding round the place, while our tour leaders went off to find out what might be arranged. 

Sitting in the gardens was enough - as one of our party said - there is no where where I would rather be than here at this moment. A true summary.

Erika, the tour organizer, and Ken, our tour leader, came back and were able to tell us that an audience had been arranged with Kenchen Thangu Rinpoche for the following morning. The Karmarpa was arriving at four pm the following day and that it was possible that an audience might be arranged.

Fairly late in the day we set off to go to our hotel. The bus journey was fairly uneventful, though on very crowded roads. That is it was uneventful until we got close to the hotel. The bus driver the told us we had to disembark, carry all our luggage down the steps of a ghat and load ourselves and our luggage onto a super (!?!) power boat, to complete our journey on the Ganges.

(The explanation for this, which only came the following day, was that streets are so narrow and congested near the hotel that there is no possibility of vehicular traffic; for a somewhat wider zone traffic if forbidden; and for a wider zone still, by the time we got there, traffic is congestion was so acute that there was no possibility of a large bus getting through.

We got onto the Ganges eventually where the knowledge I have of boats proved to be a handicap. I was sitting at the rear of the boat, and could see the propeller shaft, which had no stern gland, or anything like one. This meant that every revolution of the propeller put more water into the boat. By the time we landed I reckon the boat had taken on two more inches of water than when we started.

I can only describe the Ganghes and Varanesi in cliche - a seething mass of activity with thousands of people doing their thing - usually in the noisiest, most flamboyant way possible.

And bed beckoned once more.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Flight from Winter


2015-02-25 Tuesday

I had judged my coal consumption pretty well,as I completely ran ou t of coal the day before my flight to India. This meant that the stove went out in the early afternoon. As a result when I got up on the 17th, the roof of my boat was a flourish of ice and frost patterns. Quite impressive. Then of course, once I started travelling, everything was enclosed and generally too hot for me - a taxi, the train, the underground, Heathrow Terminal 4. All in all, a demonstation of the distance between winter and the layers of protection we put in place for ourselves.

When I got to Heathrow, I realised that I had not previously been to T4 - all my previous flights had been out of T3. As always, I got there with bags of time to spare, so among other things, I went up to the observation deck and spent a little time looking at plane preparation and the lights of Heathrow. A pretty sight.

Then collected at Delhi airport for transfer to the hotel. Sorted out an ATM that worked with my currency cards - only the forth one I tried.

And so to bed, having left winter behind me.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Signs of my times



I finished painting my boat, and with help from Gordon, got as far as including anti-slip paint on the gunwales; and from Ros, got a start on the decorative painting with experiments on heavy duty anti slip. The sign-writer called in today and in the space of one hour did the name on both sides, and the number on both sides. The results are shown above, and I am really delighted with them.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Four Workspaces and a Boat


For the last two and a half weeks I have been in the new wet dock of the Aylesbury Canal Society, painting my boat. While I knew that this was going to be a large job, I underestimated the scale completely. I have been painting continuously for about seven hours a day for my stay in the dock, and it looks as if it is going to be another week before I am done. The amount of time painting is in addition to preparation time, and little things like sleeping, eating, shopping, and so on. While I have been working I have been making full use of all the facilities (except heating) and these pictures show the four workspaces, and bits of my boat being painted. Above is my tools table, below my consumables cupboard.



Bits of the boat taken off the boat to be painted - hatches and doors.


More bits, plus some the bits taken off the boat to enable me to paint it.


And an interim stage of a portion of my boat.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Man in Black (Boat)



My  boat went back in the water yesterday. The pictures show the new 'stealthed' version. I can now avoid all the many speed radars on the inland waterways system. At one point in my journey I was looking down the length of a completely black boat; and realised that I was wearing a black hat, anorak, gloves, waterproof trousers, and (mostly) black boots. I have started travelling back to Aylesbury, and have got as far as Long Buckby. While travelling conditions have been fair, I am having to put in some long hours as I reckon the trip will take seven days of about seven hours per day to get back.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Temporary accommodation

Over the last week I have not been able to live on the boat because I am having major work done on it as preparation for external painting. The work to be done constitutes grit blasting the upper hull, and then coating it with an epoxy two part primer, which gives a diamond hard finish, that will give me at least six months to do the actual painting. In addition the boat needs preparing for the work - removing hatches, and external fixtures, protecting the inside of the boat with a double layer of protective material, and ultimately blacking the hull, including the bottom, which is the first time that has been done. While this work is being done, the boat is not habitable, so I have been staying in a hotel in Market Harborough.

This is the first time I have been in Market Harborough, and it is a very pleasant market town of about 25K population. The centre has been traffic calmed in a very subtle and suitable way; the buildings appears largely original - including the inn I am staying at, and one more, that are original coaching inns; and there has been much use of the local creamy yellow stone. The main church in the centre, which has a towered spire, also has timekeeping instruments on the faces of the tower - a clock plus a sundial.

Whilst I have been here I have also picked up my Tai Ji, going back to the class I used to attend, and have had three sessions there. This has proved interesting and given me much pause for thought.

So being in temporary accommodation has had a big upside. Tomorrow, I should be picking the boat up and starting off on the fairly arduous journey back to Aylesbury, before the winter stoppage program kicks in.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Tames of Northamptonshire

When cruising on the canals I have gone through the stretch from Milton Keynes to Rugby very often, but I have done very little walking in this area. So yesterday I decided to remedy this. I set off for a walk carrying my camera as usual. It proved to be very pleasant but very difficult to capture any landscape images, as the landscape is quite open, and (visually) fairly uniform. The walk, though it was about 10 1/2 miles, was not exactly challenging, nor presented much difficulty in navigation, even on a 1:50000 map, rather than my preferred 1:25000. The shires countryside - Northants, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire - do have quiet attractions, most notably little villages tucked away in folds in the landscape, that have been there for centuries, and which always come as surprising delights. However, it is not comparable for serious walking, to the Heights of the Himalayas, nor even the Wilds of Scotland; but rather it is the Tames of Northamptonshire.

Monday, 18 August 2014

There's no accounting for folks


If I travel any distance on the canal system from my current moorings I have to leave the Aylesbury Arm. At the top of the arm is a two chamber staircase lock. This means, in normal operation, the bottom chamber will be either full, or empty (empty meaning the water level is at the lower, exit level). Also in normal operation, the top chamber will always be either full, or half empty (meaning the water is at the level of the full bottom chamber). This has always been the case every time I have gone through this system.

Until yesterday, that is. I arrived at the bottom of the staircase, and went to ensure it was setup for me to go up. To operate a staircase, the top chamber needs to be full, and the bottom empty. I was gobsmacked to find that the bottom chamber was empty, but so was the top one. It was not just half empty, but had a water level equal to the lower level of the lower chamber. This does beg the question "How on earth did anyone manage to get the lock into this state?"

Then today, I went for a stroll round the junction, crossing each of the arms of the junction. When I arrived at the staircase, a boat was trying to go down it. The operator had never done a staircase lock before, and was finding it very difficult to understand. Looking at the lock, I could understand his confusion. The top lock was full (in a normal fashion), but the bottom chamber was also half full. In this position it was impossible to operate it without first restoring it to a normal state. Again the same question - how had it been got into this state?

So fundamental questions of physics - how are people managing to coerce a mechanical system, designed to manage water over a gradient, and lift boats through a distance of (estimated) 4 metres, to end in a state that is extremely difficult to understand. (I can come up with a plausible scenario to explain the first of these examples, but not the second).

My brain hurts.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Chilterns

Radio controlled glider over  Beacon Hill, Ivinghoe
Some time ago a friend asked me why I travel so far when I have the Chilterns on my doorstep. Well, after today, and a three hour walk in the Chilterns, I can now answer this question.

While the Chilterns are close, it still takes over half an hours driving to get there. as the road network is basically old estate roads, which don't deal with today's volumes of traffic well. I originally tried to do this walk on Saturday - big mistake. It's August; very good weather; school holidays; a weekend, and, because of the driving, getting to the start point at 10:30 meant that the all the car parks were full; there were hundreds of people about, and I just turned round and came back. Today, while still August, good weather, and school holidays, there were only half a dozen cars in the car park. The first section of my walk was comparatively deserted, with only a couple of people on it.

However, the entire walk was in a landscape that has been changed, managed, maintained, and manicured by humans for over 6000 years, and can hardly be called a natural landscape now. The entire walk was on well way marked paths; all the paths are clear, and well maintained, even to the extend of steps down on slopes. However, while there are hills in the area, including the one from which the photo was taken, they are not very steep - I reckon I climbed about 240 metres in all. So all in all, pretty easy walking; pretty easy navigation; and (especially on Beacon Hill) scores of people out on the route. Most of the walking was on chalk, which while not as hard on the feet as granite, it is still a lot tougher than peat. So pleasant enough but not what I would call proper walking.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

What is this?

Any idea what this is?
I saw this on one of my walks in the area round Marsden. I have no idea what it was, and it is difficult to be sure of its size. If I had to guess, I'd say it was about four feet across and on a pole, going down into an unseen dip, about six to ten feet high.

When I did the Kintyre Way with Ani Sherab and Phen it was extremely enjoyable, but it was not what I had originally planned to do. My original idea had been to do the walk solo, and use it in part to assess my current level of walking, navigation, and other skills needed for hill walking. So I decided to go off to the Peak District for a couple of days, to do these odds and ends.

Some of the lessons I have learned, from both this couple of days, and the Kintyre Way.
I'm not as young as I used to be.
I'm not as fit as I used to be.
I'm not as fast as I used to be.
My navigation skills need a little bit of refreshing - I managed to make one minor mistake in my navigation, which was perfectly OK in the situation, but in different circumstances could have been significant.
Going up hill is hard work - doubly so in direct sunshine all day, on the hottest day of my year so far.
My own stamina and speed is the limiting factor on my walking - as it is for boating. A walk of 21.5km and 770m climbing was beyond me since it would have taken me more than 8 1/2 hours - and I wasn't prepared to do that, so terminated it at a point where I had some choices as to where I went. By contrast on the following day a walk of 15.5km and 425m rise was a doddle.
I should do only one thing at a time. If I am primarily walking, take the minimum photographic gear possible, and store the camera away except when I stop deliberately to take photos; contrariwise, if I am primarily taking photos, then I should walk the minimum necessary to get to where I am taking photos; should have my gear packed away until I am on site; and should have the minimum amount of gear necessary for whatever photo opportunity I am exploiting.

There are some hugely attractive locations in this country, and it is a long time since I walked to enjoy them.
Marsden garden

Friday, 20 June 2014

Midsummer Day's Eve

We walked down from the B&B to Southend, and then the tiny bit of the Kintyre Way from the road at Southend to the small headland where the Way actually finishes. A few pictures and Ani Sherab and I went to wait for the bus to Campbeltown, while Phen decided to walk back to the town, to meet up with Maryna, and not to come on the rib ride we have organised.
When we got to the information bureau in town, we learnt that the proposed trip had proved popular, with eleven people booked up for it, so I did not have to cough up the guarantee I had offered. Off we went, out of the harbour, past Sanda, towards the Mull of Kintyre, though not into the race there, which did look very fierce. Then back, via the seal shores, to Sanda and round it, with all its birdlife - puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots, gulls, terns, and more. I did manage to grab some photos - here - while travelling in a lumpy rib at speed. 

Then it was back to the harbour, to meet up with Phen who arrived in town about 1/2 hour after the end of the trip. We met up with Maryna, revisited the Indian restaurant, and returned to the B&B. Then off to bed to get up in time to be walking down to the harbour by 06:30 to catch the only ferry in the week that stops at Arran from Campbeltown. The others got of at Arran, in order to travel onto a party and/or Holy Island, while I carried on to Ardrossan, in order to drive down to a motel in Carlisle, before completing the journey.

A fabulous 11 days or so. My interest in walking has been reawakened in a major way.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Walkers and wimps

Ireland beyond a Kintyre Way waymarker
Between the three of us, we seem to have two pairs of problematic feet, and one duff hand, plus one pair of legs just getting into gear. Just before negotiating the pipeline on Tuesday, a horse fly (my least favourite type of sentient being) stung the back of my hand. This morning it is not in very good condition, and had been getting worse up to last night, since it happened. Neither Ani Sherab nor I feel capable of doing the section described in the route from Machinhanish to Southend. This is the longest and toughest section of the route, and the route notes suggest that it will take 8 to 10 hours. As we have already been walking at a pace that adds about 30% to the estimated times, and at best we would be walking even slower than this; it does not seem feasible. Add in the fact that on this section it looks as if one either does this section or does something else - there are no options to shortcut the route as there were on other sections - and that Phen was raring to do this final section - we decided to do different things today.

Phen started off walking to do the final section down to Southend. Meanwhile the "we're wimps and proud of it" section caught a bus back to Campbeltown to visit the tourist information office we had seen at the end of the quays there. This was intended to find out information about walks on the Mull of Kintyre, and whether there were alternatives we might investigate; it was also intended to find out about medical services for my hand. By this time it was starting to improve so I did not think it necessary to even find out information about services, but I was overruled by stubbornness even greater than my own. What we did find out was that it was possible to take a rib ride that would enable us to fulfill some of the objectives of the various walks on the Mull of Kintyre - to see the iconic lighthouse, and to see Ireland. This was not a run that the rib normally does, so I had to guarantee that I would pay for up to four places on the boat if it proved not to be attractive to other tourists. We booked this up for tomorrow, got a map of the town, with medical facilities marked on it, and then checked out the ferry terminal and the aquadome/library before making our way to the bus down to Southend.

We arrived at Southend which contained (we thought) the final marker for the Kintyre Way. Later investigation showed that in fact it continued for about 1/4 mile on to a little headland. What it also gave was a marvelous view of Northern Island - only about 10-20 miles away at this point. We walked gently northwards up the last two or three miles of the Kintyre Way to the accommodation we had booked. Phen turned up triumphant about 1/2 hour later. The B&B did not provide an evening meal, but were happy to run us back to Southend to the only pub; and instruct us to request a lift back from the pubs landlord when we wished to return. We duly did this so getting a decent evening meal without additional walking.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Golfers and bird watchers

Today started misty, and remained misty for the duration of our walk, which was a short one, although completely on the road. Passed Campbeltown Airport on the way, which is unusually long. Also passed a farm specialising in Holstein cattle breeding. and a house with bonds (brick laying patterns) unlike any I have ever seen before. When we arrived at Machinhanish we found it mostly the golf course, golf club, and golfing hotel. 

The other attractions here were the wildlife (pictures here), the beach, and the Machinhanish Sea Bird Observatory (MSBO). The observatory is an extremely well sorted out, and contains some of the pictures taken here. These are superb photos. I bought a copy of their 20th anniversary DVD containing a very large number of their photos. The wildlife and beauty of the beach and shoreline could keep me happy for a very long time, even with the golfing fanaticism evident. This was also the place where THE two quotes (here and here) of the trip were heard.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Hobbling on

Tibetan Buddhist nun fearlessly tests out bridge with very low weight limit.
Our reconsideration of routes yesterday led us to skip the coastal section, which the route notes suggest may be impossible during very high tides, and the next couple of sections to Saddell. Instead we caught a bus to Saddell, and started from there. This meant we saw some of the very steep sections of road from inside a bus rather than by pounding them on foot.

Once we reached Saddell, there are options as to the route to take.  There is a  alternative section of the Kintyre Way going up Saddell Glen. The main route, which we opted to take leads up through a forested area. There was nobody else on this section and it was pretty good going. It leads eventually to the head of Lussa Loch which is a man made reservoir. We stopped here and decided to choose between various alternative routes when we had walked the length of the loch and reached one of the junctions in the route there. We had already chosen not to try the very long extension to Bellochantuy. This effectively adds one day onto the main route. We thought it likely that we would choose the shorter, and slightly easier, alternative route for the end of the day. Blisters and foot and leg ache were beginning to show themselves in Ani Sherab and myself, but Phen was starting to charge, fueled by copious amounts of coffee at both breakfast, and supplied in a flask by the various B&B establishments en-route.

Down the length of the loch, to find that Phen had continued on - we hoped straight on down the main route to Campbeltown, though we had no way of knowing which way he had gone. It was abundantly clear by this time that Ani Sherab and I needed to take the shorter option and so we set off down the appropriate path. Our route, not route marked like the main line of the Way, had one really awkward navigation point: we had to leave the path to follow a pipe line down to a second, then over the second one (by the bridge portrayed above) before traversing across to another path. The route by the pipelines was through a very wet (after seven days of hot, dry weather) small valley, with the pipeline on supports above us. This was difficult to negotiate, and was by far the wettest point of the Way so far. It also raised some slight concern: if Phen had come this way, without a map, there was no way he could have been aware of this section of the route. He would have continued on into a network of trails and forestry paths. By this time, after some hours of walking, we had seen three other people and two border collies since leaving the bus.

The final section back to the road and bus at Peniver was very difficult because Ani Sherab's blisters had become very painful indeed, and could only walk very slowly. I was walking slowly, but did not have the same degree of difficulty with my feet. We managed to catch the 17:10 bus to Campbeltown and ended up in the centre of the town around half past.

Ani Sherab and I were in the middle of Campbeltown, with, as far as we knew, about a half hour walk to the B&B. In the light of the state of our feet, and our disinclination to walk back and forth, we decided to have a meal at the Indian restaurant we could see. I phoned the B&B to inform them that we would be arriving round about 20:00. Then it got a little confused. My phone call was answered by the man of the house; I said that we had a reservation and would be arriving a little later. He appeared uncertain about my booking, and called his wife, putting the phone down while he did so; I then heard Phen's voice saying that he was one of three people booked in for the night. Then my phone call was terminated.  It turned out that he had rung the door bell at the exact moment that I had phoned. Things were further complicated by the fact that the owner had misrecorded the booking - she had it recorded for July rather than June. She was very relieved that we were going to be some time getting there, as it gave her time to prepare the rooms. She got her husband to run Phen down to the Indian, and pick up our luggage. We had an enjoyable meal and then went to the B&B to find everything sorted out and as planned. Phen had both gone straight on at the decision point, as we had hoped, and had been walking fast enough that after some searching for the B&B he arrived coincident with my calling them. All's well that end's well.