|The Kintyre Way|
By Colin Walford
Route: Bedroom to Kitchen
Date: Some weeks later
Distance: 21ft (17m)
Well, my feet have healed. In fact, they are so obviously pink and healthy now, that I feel like a bit of a wimp when I read back on my observations of three months ago. It is hard to recall the discomforts that I had faithfully recorded at the time.
It hadn't been that bad, had it?
I do remember, about six weeks after we had all returned to our respective homes, that one morning in the shower I had watched with quiet amazement, as thick crusts of skin disengaged themselves from my heels in a peeling-back motion. I was left with what looked like pieces of naan bread dangling from my feet, so had pulled them away and flushed them down the toilet. The skin underneath had been soft and vulnerable-looking and I realised that I was back to square one. If I go walking next year, which is a strong possibility, I'm going to tackle whatever trail I choose using feet which will have soles possessing all the durability and toughness of a softly-boiled egg.
It doesn't help that, during the eleven months between each hiking holiday, I choose to wear soft, moccasin-like shoes which pamper and caress my feet. I am then surprised and offended that they behave in a shocked manner before falling apart, when I insist on strapping them inside big old walking boots, with their concrete liners and inflexible contours.
Bod tells me that the answer is to wear my boots throughout the year; anytime I pop into town to do some shopping, when I'm gardening, whilst in bed. He wears heavy boots at work and suggested that this was why he wasn't afflicted with the lacerated feet.
All of my blisters and bruises, earned so painfully on The Kintyre Way, have faded both in physicality and memory. The only clue evident that my feet were put through their paces is a toe nail which went black overnight. I went to bed with a perfectly clear nail (4th toe, right foot) and woke up in the morning with one which was purple-black, though curiously painless. It is still there now, slowly rising up my digit as it grows out.
So had it been that bad? My memory banks are sceptical, but it is when I watch the video footage that I took at the time that I once more start to appreciate what it had all been about. It seems that memory has the gratifying gift of blurring unpleasant things, possibly so that we don't wake screaming in the night. Hard, factual evidence on film tells it differently. So, yes, it was that bloody bad!
After Dean had taken what was left of us home, we had met up with Mark. He had enjoyed a brief but satisfying foray to Gigha and was up for celebrating our achievement and the end of the holiday generally. Therefore, it was a sorry party that emerged from Mark's car, looking like a group of cripples searching for Lourdes, and shambled into The Hunting Lodge hotel. We had drawn quite a few curious looks from the people assembled in each room. I had passed a group of fairly elderly folk and had advised the women not to ask why I was limping and walking with bow-legged care. They had assured me they wouldn't. We had collapsed onto comfortable chairs and three of us had drunk alcohol quickly, with the hope that it would act as a rather pleasant anaesthetic. A man
had played an accordion with admirable skill and drawn an admiring crowd, particularly a group of clapping Canadians. Then a lady had tried to accompany him on a recorder, putting in a performance on a par with somebody's 8 year old niece. The smiling and applauding group were reduced to a bank of strained but polite faces within two tunes. The canny owner of the lodge had tried, with practised confidence, to sell my brother a glass of whiskey for eight pounds. Mark had had none of it, so our host had then produced a cheaper glass at four pounds a hit. Mark had agreed, but only if he could have a free taste first. The owner had hesitated, but knew when he had
met his match so had acquiesced with a rueful smile and a gleam in his eye.
Mark ended up drinking too much to legally drive, so we had got ourselves a taxi back home and next day Mark had managed to cadge a lift off a friend of his, who was coincidently staying at Muasdale at the same time as us. It was then time to say goodbye to our apartment, Jura, to Muasdale and to the Kintyre Peninsula. We had packed with the usual chaos and confusion attached to such occasions, though at a much slower pace as we all shuffled about and clung onto furniture. Then we had made the long journey back to England; me back to Bristol, Bod dropped off in Southport and Mark and Jo to Birmingham.
If this is the part of the text for reflection, what can I say? I could say that my cousin Jo has a hyperactive bladder and a definite flair for narcolepsy. I could voice my suspicions that my friend Bod may be an android, or a secret member of the SAS, or that he has had all of his pain receptors removed on the NHS, and I could tell you that my brother Mark is still awaiting skin grafts on his heel and discovered a little known state of enmity which seems to exist between Kintyre and the island of Arran (the latter of which he visited and innocently revealed to a barman there that he was staying on Kintyre).
But what I really learned was that the Kintyre Peninsula is a magnificent mainland island, with remote and wonderful scenery and a walk which just happens to be there to try and show this off in its entirety. It can be a bastard of a walk, mind. It is harder going than the West Highland Way, perhaps because it is so young and raw. Without doubt, there are faults and parts of The Way should be addressed and altered, but it is a very rewarding walk nonetheless and I would recommend that you give it a go if you're into this sort of thing. It will challenge you and reward you in equal measure and you'll find out how tough your feet are and how you react when the going
gets hard. I'd like to know how it walks in about twenty year's time. Perhaps I'll make the effort to find out, though at sixty years of age I'll probably be using a stair-lift just to get myself off to bed each night.
The Kintyre website has a 'role of honour' for walkers who have completed the route. I put mine, Bod's and Jo's names up there and the date we completed The Way. In actual fact, I made a mistake with Bod's date and the record shows that he completed the walk a month after Jo and I. Ironic, really, when you consider the pace he set himself and how far ahead of all of us he was at times. This role of honour list contains the names of people who have done this route in 4 days and I think I'm right in saying that one group of head cases completed the lot in 72 hours. Good luck to them, they obviously have more about them than I have. It was enough that we finished and did
so in 6 days.
I value my stop and stare moments.