Day 2 – Drymen to Rowardennan
We woke up on the second morning to clear skies, bright sunshine, and a spectacular view over Loch Lomond. I was really looking forward to the day’s walk until i remembered that we didn’t have any water. We attempted to eat some cereal bars for breakfast, as we were unable to cook anything – but you can imagine how we managed with nothing to wash it down! We still had a can of beer left, which I wanted to drink, but Andy warned that this would just make us more dehydrated in the long run.
We packed up and set off around 7am and hoped we wouldn’t have to go for too long without a drink. We passed a few other tents which showed no signs of life yet, so we knew we were ahead of everyone else for the day. I just can’t sleep outside in the sunlight though, as soon as it’s light then I’m awake.
“I eventually thought, ‘fuck it’ and decided to open the beer”
We’d been walking for over an hour and were beginning to get really thirsty when we heard the sound of a running stream. We were soon disappointed though when we realised that the water was down a deep chasm where we couldn’t reach. This happened two or three times, so I eventually thought, ‘fuck it’ and decided to open the beer. I think this was probably my first ever 8am beer, and it tasted divine!
We eventually found a stream to replenish our supplies – it was a slight yellow colour, but we just assumed that it was peat or minerals, and hoped it wasn’t sheep shit!
We were just in time with the water too, as we were about to start the long climb up Conic Hill. It was really tough carrying our equipment on our backs, and I began to get really tired. I’m sorry to say that I threw a little tantrum near the top of the hill and sat down and refused to go any further. But after 5 minutes I was fine again! – we just called this my little ‘moment’ and it wouldn’t be the last one that either of us would have.
“It’s moments like this that make me proud to be Scottish”
When we got to the top of the hill I soon forgot how sore I was, as the views over Loch Lomond were simply breathtaking. It’s moments like this that make me proud to be Scottish, as I can’t think of any other country in the world that’s as beautiful. (Slovenia is a close second for me).
We began the descent down into Balmaha, which was much easier than going up! I’ve never understood the people who say coming down is the hardest part of climbing – no it’s not!!
We started to pass a few people on their way up, who were out for an early morning stroll. They were shocked when we said that we’d come from the outskirts of Drymen that morning, as it was still not much later than 9am.
The sun was really starting to beat down, even though it was still so early, and both of us were sweating again. We stopped for 5 minutes in a wooded area as Andy was struggling with the descent, although I was managing OK.
We finally made it to Balmaha and went straight to the water to dip our feet in – one of the best feelings in the world! It was even better when a little group of ducklings paddled up to us, so we sat and watched them for ten minutes before heading to the Oak Tree Inn for some food and drinks.
“This was probably my least favourite section of the whole way”
We bought a couple of bottles of Crabbies Ginger Beer from the shop next door before continuing on the way. The next section between Balmaha and Rowardennan was extremely long and dreary – lots of unneccessary ups and downs and round abouts which was very tiresome with a heavy pack on your back. This was probably my least favourite section of the whole way.
We decided to stop on a nice area of beach for a quick cup-o-soup as I hadn’t really eaten much earlier. As soon as we sat down though we were completely swarmed by midges. Normally I don’t really bother with them too much, but Andy hates them and so it was his turn to have a little ‘moment.’ He went storming away to sit in the car-park while I finished my soup on the beach alone.
The path continued to Rowardennan with lots of steep climbs through the trees where there was unfortunately loads of clegs (horseflies) lurking. Anyone who has ever been bitten will know how painful it is! We decided just to walk the last two miles on the road to avoid the clegs, and also to avoid the unnecessary detours that the path seemed to be making.
We finally reached the hotel at Rowardennan and managed to literally drag ourselves into the bar for a beer. We were completely shattered – in my opinion day 2 was the hardest part of the whole way – probably because your body is still adapting, unless you regularly walk 14 miles in a day. I wonder if we’d gone back and tried day 2 again at the end it would probably seem like a piece of cake!
Reluctantly, we left the pub and continued on our way. Our aim was to head for a wild camping site just past the youth hostel. It was the only spot for miles around due to the camping ban in that area of Loch Lomond. The alternative was to keep going to the Rowchoish bothy which was probably another 4 miles away.
Once we reached the wild campsite though we decided against it straight away – it was right next to a river, and surrounded by overhanging trees = midge hell!!! After Andy’s little moment on the beach earlier we thought it best to try and avoid midges wherever possible.
We didn’t fancy a further 4 mile trek, so decided to check the youth hostel to see if there were any rooms available. There were a few spaces left in the dorms, so I got put into a communal ladies room, and Andy was put in with the men. We were lucky to get anything at all though without booking in advance.
“The water was so cold it took my breath away”
We just dumped our bags, got changed into swimwear and ran straight into the loch. The water was so cold it took my breath away, but it felt great after being so sweaty all day. We only swam for a few minutes as the surface of the loch was covered in insects, so we just headed back inside for a shower and some food.
Got talking to a Glaswegian guy who had walked all the way from Milngavie that morning, which was 26 miles (42 kilometres). We thought he either must be some sort of superhero, or completely crazy!! Plus he’d accidentally picked up his brother’s shoes which were two sizes too small.
He was heading on for Tyndrum the following day, and was aiming to complete the whole 97 miles in the long-weekend that he’d taken off work. What a guy!! We never saw him again after that so we’ve no idea whether he made it or not. We wished him the best of luck though.
Also got talking to one of the girls from my dorm who I’d recognised from one of the previous stops. She was on day 60-something of an 80 day trek from Lands End to John o’Groats, which is the full length of the UK – so she was even crazier than the first guy! This was her third time doing the West Highland Way, so Andy and I were well impressed.
We sat around in the communal lounge area until late, before heading back to our separate dorms. I had trouble sleeping that night for someone snoring really loud!