Monday, 21 June 2010

21.6.10 ~ Total Raised

We are currently in the process of gathering everything together so we can let you know the final total raised for The Fungal Research Trust.

As soon as we have all the information we will let everyone know..... Watch this space!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

10th June 2010 ~ Kinlochleven to Fort William

Day 5 of 5!!!

Whoa! The final day!!! We've had such a great time, and met so many wonderful people along the way, that in some ways it's a bit sad that it has come to an end!!
This morning we were up by 7.00 a.m., had our bags packed and were down at breakfast by 8.00 a.m. We slept well last night, not surprising considering the latter part of yesterday's walk. For those of you reading this, who actually did the walk from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven, you will know what we mean ~ and we don't mean "Devils Staircase"!! Photocall this morning was at 8.45 a.m., slightly earlier than normal but we were eager to get started. Quite a few of us, who were doing the West Highland Way, had stayed the night at the Tigh Na Cheo Guest House. There was our Dutch friend and also David and Dorothee from Hamburg, and Vicky, who hails from Bo'ness (Michelle's home town) and her friend. Vicky recognised Michelle and I from an article on Steph and the West Highland Way, which featured in the Bo'ness Journal two weeks ago. She also knew Colin, Michelle's dad. Small world meeting up with her in the Tailrace Inn in Kinlochleven.

After our 'official photograph' we set off from the Guest House with David and Dorothee for the half mile walk to our starting point. The final stretch ahead of us today was 14 miles. A relatively short day in comparison to previous days. The sun was out and a warm day was forecast! We knew when there was a downhill into Kinlochleven the day before, there most likely would be a climb out of Kinlochleven to begin today ~ guess what, there was!!! And it was quite a climb, right at the start, which certainly got us 'warmed up'! The climb, through the trees, offered shade from the sun though. However, once out into the open hills the sun was fairly hot for so early in the day. The walk over the hills was undulating and walking was pleasurable. I don't think you could ever tire of the views, they are fantastic. We met so many people enroute today. Along the way we met John & Christopher from Glasgow. They were doing the West Highland Way for the Cot Death Charity in memory of John's brother. We also met Gary and David from Airdrie who had stopped for a break. As we passed they said they would be checking out our blog when they got home. Thank you guys! We also met our Dutch friend too who had stopped for a 'coffee break'. We took his photograph and left him to have his coffee in peace. Susan and Dawn were the next ones we met and we walked with them until we reached the final stage of the walk which takes you through heavy woodland. They stopped briefly and so we continued on through the trees enjoying the respite from the sun. The views, as we approached Fort William and Ben Nevis, with the clear blue sky, can only be described as "spectacular". The last mile and a half was along the main road into Fort William where you come to the official "West Highland Way Finish" sign. Colin and Marian were there sporting their "Steph T-Shirts" along with Arthur. Arthur presented Michelle and I with medals in recognition of our achievement in walking the 96 miles! We completed the West Highland Way at 1.45 p.m. today (Thursday 10/06/10) and what a wonderful feeling it was! Blister free and injury free too which was a massive bonus!! A surprise for me were my friends Danny and Susan Duncan from Nairn (my hometown) who had come along to congratulate us on completion of the walk. An unexpected and truly lovely gesture. After taking lots of photographs, proof that we'd achieved our goal, we set off into Fort William to get our W.H.W. Passport stamped officially for the last time. We headed to the Grog and Gruel Pub in the High Street where our passport was stamped and we received our certificates! A brilliant feeling.

Michelle and I had decided beforehand that we would head back home after the walk and unfortunately weren't therefore going to be able to meet up with our fellow W.H.W. friends for drinks later in the day. If any of you are reading this, we hope you all made it to the finish and enjoyed your celebratory drink at the end. Well deserved all of you!!

Although the reason for Michelle and I undertaking this venture was a sad reason I'm sure Steph will be delighted with the awareness and money that has been raised for "Aspergillus". Thank you to everyone for making the West Highland Way the amazing experience it was for us in memory of Steph ~ A beautiful young girl in every sense of the word, inside and out!

P.S. Please keep watching the 'Steph Smith Appeal' page as we hope to have all the photographs taken on our 'journey' from Milngavie to Fort William on the blog over the next couple of weeks!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

9th June 2010 ~ Bridge of Orchy - Kinlochleven

Day 4 of 5!!!

Hard to believe how quickly the days have passed and that we're now on our second to last day of the West Highland Way! Last night we were in the Bunk House at Bridge of Orchy. It was good and adequate for our needs. It had a laundry and drying room, showers and a kitchen/common room. However, as the Bunk House was full, we didn't sleep too well last night as we could hear people coming in and out of the building at various points throughout the night. Mind you, probably people heard Michelle and I too, as we were rather late in getting back to our room after updating the blog which we had to do in the hotel which is attached to the bunk house. We ended up talking to a group of guys from Cumbernauld, who are also doing the West Highland Way. We were exchanging stories and remedies for blisters, as you do. Thankfully, Michelle and I have managed to remain blister free but unfortunately these guys hadn't. I must thank them very kindly for giving us a donation to the "Steph Smith Appeal". Thank you guys ~ so generous of you. We hope you do well and manage to finish the course!! Don't give in!!!

Michelle and I were both awake early and up by 7.00 a.m. Breakfast at 8.00 a.m. and on the road by 9.10 a.m. Colin and Marian, thoughtful as ever, were there to capture our departure from Bridge of Orchy. The temperature was a bit cooler but although overcast it remained dry with only a bit of a head wind. We really have been lucky, so far, with the weather. Hope I'm not tempting fate for tomorrow by saying that!!! The first part of today's walk was uphill into woodland before opening up into open moorland. The scenery was great and walking conditions were pleasant. We could see walkers ahead of us, and behind us, and there appeared to be far more walkers today than we have seen all week. We spoke to Susan (from Stirling) and Dawn (from Glasgow) today. We've met them a couple of times and after catching up with them at Kingshouse Hotel we walked a few miles with them. Jordan (from Wakefield) and Conrin (from Stourbridge, West Midlands), whom we met on the first day, joined us and Susan and Dawn and we all walked together for a few miles. The chat made the time pass a bit quicker and we covered quite a few miles before Michelle and I stopped to refuel and left them to walk on. Of course, Michelle took photographs of everyone, for the blog, before allowing them to continue on their way. Hopefully we'll be able to upload all the photgraphs and have them on the blog at the end. So if you've been targeted for a photograph by Michelle keep watching the blog!!

The last part of the walk, over Devils Staircase, wasn't as bad as we had expected it to be. I think that's because we had heard so many stories about it being very difficult and so were actually ok with that part. What we did find hard were the 4+ miles coming down off the hill into Kinlochleven. The downhills, and this was a steep one, are very hard on the knees and it seemed an never ending road to get to Kinlochleven. On our way down the hill we met John & Ola from North Wales. When they saw our T-shirts they asked us a about the 'Aspergillus' charity and very kindly gave us a donation.

We did arrive safely at 5.20 p.m. and the sun was shining. Most definitely a "Feel Good Factor"! Tonight's accommodation is at "Tigh Na Cheo" Guest House. A beautiful Guest House and the owners George and Nicola are very friendly and have made us so welcome. The rooms are immaculate and we both would highly recommend this Guest House.

By 7.00 p.m. we were showered and ready to head out for something to eat at "The Tailrace Inn". This is the place where we needed to get our "West Highland Way Passport" stamped so we headed there for dinner. Good food and good atmosphere. We met a few of our fellow walkers whilst there. All of us quite excited that we were approaching the last day!!

Off to bed now as we need to be prepared for the final day!!!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

8th June 2010 ~ Inverarnan - Bridge of Orchy

Day Three of Five!

Michelle and I both slept well and were up as soon as the alarm went off at 7.00 a.m. In fact we were first over for breakfast!! As soon as breakfast was over we made our packed lunches and packed our bags ready for the off. We set off at 9.00 a.m. and our mileage for today was 20 miles. Slightly less than yesterday. Colin took our photograph before we left the campsite. Proof that we were enjoying the experience!! The temperature today was much cooler than yesterday but at least it was still dry.

We seemed to be setting off at the same time as many of the other walkers and along the first few miles got chatting to quite a few. A German couple, whom we spoke too, were doing the walk in 8 days. The gentleman said "Some people are doing it in 5 days ~ They're crazy". When we said that's what we were doing he said "Oh, you must be one of those crazy people!" We next met up with Isobel and Lorna from Dumfries. They're doing the West Highland Way to raise funds for the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund in memory of Karen's dad who passed away last year. We walked a few miles with them before branching off on our own. We then met two guys who are from Yorkshire and the Midlands. We met them on our first day and as they walk roughly at the same pace as us, have met up with them at various points along the route. We caught up with them today and walked with them for a few miles too.

The terrain today was through woodland again, to begin with, and was quite undulating. I say undulating but it actually had some steep climbs in it! Just before Tyndrum the terrain levels off and makes the walk very pleasant, especially with the temperature being that bit cooler. We arrived in Tyndrum, ready for lunch and stopped at the picnic benches beside the village store. The rain had begun so we didn't sit around too long. It was certainly getting much cooler and we decided to put on the long trousers and waterproofs. See, we came prepared for all eventualities!! The next part of the walk from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy was over landrover track. Colin and Marian had stopped in a lay-by, enroute, and could see us approaching. We couldn't get to them, although Michelle tried (but that's another story, lol!!) but they managed to take a few photographs of us from the distance. The remainder of the track was undulating and easier than the morning had been. We made good time and arrived at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel at 3.45 p.m. It was great getting in that little bit earlier than yesterday as we got time to unwind ~ and update the blog! Internet access at the hotel, brilliant!! Colin and Marian are staying in the hotel but we are staying in the Bunk House next door.
The four of us had dinner together which was lovely and relaxing. After dinner we finished updating the blog and attended to a few texts before heading to bed.

We are still feeling good and despondency has not set in, yet!! Keeping our focus on Steph, I think, will not let either of us give in, no matter what! So far the experience has been brilliant, hard work but fantastic.

7.6.10 ~ Balmaha - Inverarnan

Day 2 of 5!!
After a great nights sleep Michelle and I were refreshed and ready to tackle what lay ahead for today. The heavy rain from yesterday had stopped during the night and although the ground was very wet it certainly didn't dampen our spirits. Michelle's parents, Colin & Marian, are accompanying us on our 'West Highland way' experience as our 'bag carriers'. They very kindly volunteered and we didn't say 'No'. For those of you not familiar with the West Highland Way, there are companies who offer this service to walkers at a nominal cost. Basically, your bag is picked up from you B & B, or wherever you are staying, in the morning and transported to your next desatination ahead of your arrival in the evening. Brilliant idea, as you only need to carry a day pack with your food and waterproofs. However, our day rucksacks are almost as heavy as our overnight bags!! Well, we need to be prepared for all eventualities and believe me we are!!!! The trip will have cost Colin and Marian more than we would have paid a company to transport our bags but they're enjoying being part of the experirence too. They are even wearing "Steph" T-Shirts!!!!
My brother John arrived in Balmaha last night (Sunday) as he's going to join us for today's part of the walk. His role is "pace setter" and "morale booster". And I think we may need it for today!A welcome break for Michelle from my chat, which she is having to endure for 5 days!!! Chris, if your following mum's blog, I'm fine and whilst Michelle is having to contend with me just now, your turn is looming!! Looking forward to seeing Bev and yourself later in the week. That's my reward for completing the 'West Highland Way'. In the accommodation where John was staying overnight, two guys said to John are you with the "Two Pink Ladies". This title has follwed us ever since!! Better than the "Two Fat Ladies"!!!!

Today we set off from Bay Cottage just after 9.00 a.m. Weather conditions were perfect. Dry and cool. Our distance for today was 21.5 miles! The walk begun on the main road out of Balmaha for approximately 1 mile before heading into woodland and immediately into a gradual climb. There were a few climbs and with each downhill we just knew it would be followed by an uphill ~ and it was! We arrived in Rowardennan, along with the midgies, who were out in force. Our Avon 'Skin So Soft' worked a treat and we would highly recommend this. As the midgies were bad we decided not to stop too long and headed off in the direction of Rowardennan Hostel. The path, for the next part of the walk, was mostly landrover track through a forest. The trees shielded us from the sun and made the walking very pleasant. We met a group of schoolchildren, on an outing, and admired the distance that the children were covering. Whilst walking along John noticed a pink 'star shaped' balloon down by the water and decided, as it matched our pink T-shirts, that he would retrieve it for Michelle to attach to her backpack. It was a bit of a scramble downhill to get it and bring it back up. The balloon is now strapped to her rucksack and survived the day. Enroute to Inversnaid we met Ian Reith, from Dundee. Ian is Michelle's friend Jenn's dad. He had started at Inversnaid, walked in to meet us, then walked back with us to Inversnaid. If you are reading this Ian ~ Thank you for taking the time to support us. So kind of you and very much appreciated. Lovely to meet you.

After leaving Ian at Inversanid we set off on the last leg to Inverarnan. This was a tough part of the walk as the terrain was, in parts, quite difficult. Caution was necessary as underfoot the ground was extremely uneven. With John leading the way and following in his footsteps we managed to cover this tricky part of the course without any injury. The last two miles after coming off the hill weren't too bad but the marker saying it was 2 miles to Beinglas Farmhouse and Campsite where we were staying felt, like many others did, that it was a bit inaccurate, It felt more like 3-4 miles. At the end of the day that last few miles were challenging.!! Michelle's mum, Marian, walked in and joined us for the last mile back to the campsite. We made it and arrived at Beinglas Farm at 6.00 p.m. A long tiring day!!

Our accommodation, a chalet, was brilliant. Extremely clean, warm and had everything we needed. A beautiful campsite with shop, restaurant and excellent facilites. Most definitely would return here. John was due to catch his bus back to Glasgow at 6.40 p.m. so no time for him to hang around as he needed to catch his train from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

We ate at the restaurant on the campsite and had a lovely meal. No late nights though and soon after finishing dinner we headed back to the chalet and to bed. The end of day two!!!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

6th June 2010 ~ Milngavie - Balmaha

Well we survived the first day and arrived smiling in Balmaha at 4.00 p.m. this afternoon!

The day started at 9.00 a.m. in Milngavie. We started on schedule, as planned. For those of you who know me (Liz) I know you'll be impressed with my time-keeping, Some things, like good wine, DO improve with age!!!! We had our photographs taken at the start and were issued with our West Highland Way "Log Book". The Log Book gets stamped at various points throughout the walk and acts as proof that you have completed the course. A good idea and a lovely keepsake!! As we may never repeat this experience again we were keen to have proof that we had done it, at least once!!

The weather was exceptionally kind to us. Dry and warm but not too hot, thankfully. A relatively good start for us as the first part of the walk is not too challenging. We felt we were doing great until we spoke to a gentleman who is walking from Lands End to John O Groats. Made us feel quite humble as he soldiered on on his own. He asked if he could take our photograph before going on his way. He was travelling as far as Balmaha and we met him in The Oak Tree Inn, where we decided to have our evening meal. Great food and good service. Would recommend this venue. We met a few people on our way ~ two guys who were our pace setters ~ we kept them in our sights and at various points overtook them and vice versa. There was a group of 3 women who were in training for the forthcoming "Moonwalk", an australian couple, living in Edinburgh, who decided to experience the West Highland Way by camping. There was a lovely family at the top of Conic Hill who asked us where we had walked from and we engaged in a small conversation with them before carrying on the descent into Balmaha. We gave details of the blog to all those whom we met and if you happen to be reading this, It was lovely to meet you all!
Our accommodation for tonight, Bay Cottage B & B, is great. We received a warm welcome from Liz Bates who laid on home baking and a much needed cuppa, Unfortunately, due to the heavy rain that started as we arrived in Balmaha, we decided not to use the "hot tub" that is provided. Lovely idea though!! Would definitely recommend Bay Cottage.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

West Highland Way ~ 6th - 10th June 2010

For anyone who wants to follow our route for the next 5 days, this is where we'll be and when....

6th June 2010 ~ 18.5 miles
Milngavie - Balmaha

7th June 2010 ~ 21.5 miles
Balmaha - Inverarnan

8th June 2010 ~ 20 miles
Inverarnan - Bridge of Orchy

9th June 2010 ~ 21 miles
Bridge of Orchy - Kinlochleven

10th June 2010 ~ 14 miles
Kinlochleven - Fort William