Walking is a daunting task for a lazy city slicker like me but the summer of 2014 was all about challenging the status quo. When you move from a city like Delhi that’s packed to the neck with 20 million people into the wide open spaces of Scotland, only whiskey can keep you indoors. The most mental undertaking was deciding to hike the West Highland Way which spans about 100 miles from my then home Glasgow to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain. I decided to go at it alone in the spirit of adventure. Eat that, Man vs. Wild.
The madness started at Milngavie (pronounced mull-guy; don’t ask why) passed through Mugdock Country Park, skipped along the shores of Loch Lomond and headed to Ben Lomond, crossed Rannoch Moor to get to the head of Glencoe, climbed the Devil’s Staircase, descended to the Loch Leven before entering Glen Nevis and finally approached Fort William to finish at Ben Nevis. Phew!
Before you I start telling you again: one noteworthy mention along the way was the Glengoyne Distillery where they make un-peated malt whiskey. Glengoyne distills in the highlands but ages the drink in the lowlands, where the whiskey takes on the charm of the barrels in which it ages. That’s a stroke of marketing genius right there. It’s consistently considered one of the most beautiful distilleries of Scotland and I can’t argue with that assessment. Plus they hooked me up for a tasting session so cheers to them for being kind to a weary traveler. Slanj!
Met all kinds of people on the trail; mostly walkers, a few certifiably insane cyclists and even a runner! Those with balls of steel actually run the entire Way and the record time thus far for going the ultra-distance was 15 hours! The Highlanders don’t mess around when it comes to beating the Way.
About 45 miles in and the roughest part of the Way was finally here. The path made tortuous routes with many ups and downs and my limbs hated me but the view was worth a million sprains.But every minute of every single day, the beautiful view of Munros (mountains that are over 3000 ft high), the creeks, the rolling hills, highland cows and feral goats, and the friendliest smiles and cheeky banter withfellow hikers never dies down. By nightfall I would unpack at a camp site on some days, and on the other days there wouldn’t be a another soul for miles, so the best you can do is spray on some bug-repellant cream and set up tent literally in the middle of nowhere. But therein lays the charm.
Hiking about 7-8 hours a day, covering anywhere between 11-20 miles, I finally made it to the base of Ben Nevis by Day 6. All that was left now was to climb the mammoth. As a newbie, I didn’t dare to stray from the safe (albeit longer) path on ascend. About 4 million hours of trudging uphill, the mind wandered into thoughts of what-the-hell-was-I-thinking and I-love-my-mom-so-much and this is it, I’m going to die here and nobody will find my body (which I later learned was far from the truth because literally tens of thousands attempt this feat every year so at the very least, my body would find its way out of here).
And then, out of nowhere, came the summit.
A view so stunning, I was half expecting Monty Python to ride out from behind a munro with Daniel Craig to high-five Harry Potter. The highlands are why postcards will never go out of style.
I would’ve cried if I had any water left in my body. But beating this beast was easily one of the greatest most fulfilling feelings.
So after 6 days and 154kms of walking, several hours were spent in the horizontal position, followed by doing somefoul laundry and taking the best shower of my life. Curiously, you’re not aware of the mild aches and sprains and scratches until you’re surrounded by 4 walls.
And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
–Priyanka Rajan, Glasgow