The Last Day – Escape!

We’re back tree planting again but at a new location higher up in the mountains. It’s no more than half an hour’s walk to get to the small exclosure, but it’s wet and rough as usual.  I’m in a team with Simon and Alan and we get on quickly – 100 trees by lunch time. I can now claim to  have planted more trees than anyone else, but of course I have my team mates to thank for that – they are doing all the really hard work.

“We must share the credit” I tell them. “One hundred trees. That’s 33.33 recurring each.” The ninety-nine were easy but splitting the last one in three was really tricky!

We are the last back to the lunch area  way down the mountain where there are some rocks to sit on. Perhaps it’s not such a good idea taking pictures of people eating – sorry, but these are the only ones I have for the last day!

I eat my lunch too quickly and bellyache sets in. Hah! Serves you right you might say.

There’s not much more to do though and soon we are back in the mini bus bumping off down the track. The ache is worse. It’s not indigestion but IBS, my old enemy: pain triggered by some kind of psychological stress. Pills don’t work. All I can do is get back to the van and rest.

At last we are back to the car park where the track begins but Dom pulls up the van and gets out.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re going for a walk.”

“WHAT? Oh, no!”

“Don’t you want to come to the viewpoint?”

“No I do not! I’ll stay here and wait. How long will you be.”

“Only 20 minutes.”

Of course it’s longer than that and my stress levels are not improving. Nigel, Graham and Alan return, but there’s no sign of the others.

“What are they doing?” I ask

Graham looks sheepish.

“Oh, you know” he makes a circular gesture, “the spiritual moment.”

“Ah, the hippie bollocks!” I groan.

Eventually we get back. I rest, but am not much better. It’s our last night as a group so I take what remains of my small stock of whiskey, but once again I get it wrong. Only a few of them join me and the harsh spirit (it’s a blended cheapo) does nothing to sooth my belly. The food is excellent, but we have to wait a long time for it, so I do my slide show from the laptop (MS Surface Pro 6) The response is very good and I begin to feel better. Since I plan to leave very early in the morning, I get up to say my goodbyes.

“Can you stay for another 20 minutes?” Dom asks.

He gathers us into a “Closing Circle” and tells us about the highlights of his week, not much of which I hear. We are then asked to share our thoughts and I go first with praise for him and Rachel.

“She’s propped me up more than once I don’t mind admitting. Yes, I’d like to share that.”

The others have much more to say and Bob even sings a song with what sounds like 10 verses, so I imagine it is about each of us – amazing talent. All I get from watching their faces is the expressions, and every one of them seems very positive. Clearly I’ve missed something, but I doubt it was ever in my grasp.

With a hug for Rachel and handshakes all round my send off is a very friendly one.

At this point I should be feeling a great sense of relief, but no. I’m still uptight and sleep badly. A quick cup of tea at 4:30 and by 5:00 I am off rumbling up the track. Two hours later I have my breakfast in the car park at Drumnadrochit and at 9 I am in Fort William.Isn’t that a lovely view! Oh the sheer happiness of wandering round an M&S food store: all that lovely food carefully packaged and presented.  Fort William is a sort of Frontier Post. It serves Mull and the Small Isles and the hinterland of Loch Ness. At the Loch Ness end there is a new “Retail Park” with M&S, Home Bargains and Aldi. More than one of the garages have LPG so I topped up the gas tank – 14 litres in 3 weeks.

Only now do I realise how stressed I have been in Glen Affric. Now at last I am totally relaxed. Bliss! *

It’s three hundred and fifty miles from Athnamulloch to Silverdale on Morecambe Bay. I arrive at RSPB Leighton Moss in late afternoon. It’s a place both Thelma and I visit regularly. We both love the whole area: Lancaster, Silverdale and Arnside. Unfortunately there had been heavy flooding and there was not much to see, but I did get this nice picture of a Little Egret. 

Well before dark I booked in at Gibraltar Farm campsite, just a mile away.  I finish half a bottle of Merlot before 7 and greatly enjoy a 3-large-egg omelette with crispy bacon and salad, plus a pudding in a throw-away plastic pot with a sticky plastic label holding it together. It’s a Raspberry Eton Mess Dessert by M&S.

The next day I waste hours trying to get to one of the hides on the reserve before 9:30 when the visitor centre opens. It’s hopeless – at least 6 inches of water in parts of the tracks. I give up and set off south, arriving home tired but happy in mid afternoon.

* (In case you are wondering: I usually hate places like this!)

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