Sunday, March 18, 2007

Day 55 : Inverness to Alness

Saturday 10th March 2007

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Distance Walked: 29.4 miles
Start Time: 8:47
End Time: 17:36
Elapsed Time: 8:49
Weather: Sunshine and showers. Grey later.
Distance walked so far: 1080.4 miles

I know little of magic but, crossing the Kessock Bridge out of Inverness, I see the first road sign to John o’Groats (120 miles!) as a huge bold rainbow arcs across the sky, and it feels just about as perfect as anything is ever going to be. A fairytale. Of course, the pummelling wind nearly dumps me into the Beauly Firth below but, clinging on, I stagger down to follow the road as it hugs the shoreline of the Firth from North Kessock.

Walking into a headwind is a bit of a nightmare, and the road here is totally exposed. The air sweeps down from the mountains, along the expanse of water and into the face. Still, the sun is out and creates interesting silhouettes which I admire as I struggle on. More than anything, it’s a relief to have a change of scenery, a different kind of environment. The smell of the sea is enervating. No change is as good as a rest, but this is definitely a welcome change.

It doesn’t last long. Cutting inland between farms and fields, I pass villages of shire horses and Highland cows before joining the A862 as it heads towards Dingwall, at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth. This is where they bring the huge oil rigs for a holiday, but I can’t see any today. It’s not holiday season so this would be a logical place to stop for the night, but, of course, I carry on walking.

My feet start to break.

Nineteen miles seems to be the usual point at which the discomfort turns to pain, regardless of terrain, but nineteen miles of unforgiving tarmac is guaranteed to hobble. Every step of the next ten miles becomes an interesting exercise in sensation management. Eventually I pass through Evanton (where a note scribbled on the door of the Police Station says “Do Not Disturb”) and onto the road to Alness which, it seems, is extremely popular with boy racers, keen to use me as target practice as they scream up and down in their low-slung, rumbling lumps of crap. I’m itching for a fight, then, as one of them pulls up alongside.

“Do you need a lift into town pal?” he says, Scottishly
“No thanks mate. I’m walking to John o’Groats so that would ruin everything”
“Man alive!” he coughs, exhaling plumes of smoke “Good luck pal!”, and off he screeches.

Nice of him to ask though. Maybe Alness is not a reflection of its car-owning youths, I ponder. Wishful thinking. It is a nasty little place. The Support Crew had secured a room in the Station Hotel, a drab depressing place which, on a Saturday night, plays host to a throbbing disco for the bristling locals. It was Launceston all over again. Finally, at midnight, the bass ceases, the bedroom stops shaking and the drunks fade into the streets, obscenities spilling through the darkness.

Signs in the town centre proclaim that Alness is a recent winner of the “Britain In Bloom” competition. This I can understand. Flowers thrive in shit, and this place is full of it.

Song of the day:

Sigur Ros

Hopping into puddles /
Completely drenched /
Soaked /
With no boots on /
And I get nosebleed /
But I always get up


Anonymous said...

Your remarks regarding Alness are very offensive. Was quite interested in your story until I read this part.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

great post. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you hear that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.