City of London Academy and Graveney School 2018

Oluwaseun Onile-ere, Michael Pham

Sweat through Scotland

Their story, in their words….

An early morning and collectively 9 hours of near-consecutive train travel along ScotRail and VirginTrain tracks had led us conveniently to our Hotel in Banavie. We looked at eachother in disbelief at our luck, securing our lodging and unpacking, before engaging in monopoly, paper-basketball, pre-prepared snacks, the shower and, ultimately, our mattresses. “This seems pretty easy”, we naively believed, nustling into our sheets.

Tuesday’s trek proved otherwise.

After scrutinous packing and scrubbing our teeth we embarked – only to realise we had missed our train to the start of the trail. Undeterred, we decided to add extra miles to our quest by walking down to the marker at Fort Williams, making our way back from whence we came!

Before long we had covered a considerable distance, passing through an agonisingly long stretch of pebble road and collapsing onto a patch of grass for our lunch break, but our rising level of fatigue clearly evidenced our inexperience and error in alloting time to our journey. Michael’s heavy shoes bit ravenously into the side of his feet with every step. Soon it was dark, and a mere 30 minutes later it was pitch black.

Luckily, we managed to get a brief secondary drive down a straight road to our hostel from a kind man. Thanking our lucky stars, we gathered our belongings and collapsed into our beds, just happy we weren’t sleeping on a bed of grass….

After recieving excellent hospitality and an English breakfast at the Great Glen Albyn Lodge, we set of down the trail, somewhat giddy from the adrenaline of last night, but hopeful regarding what was to come. Though tiring to say the least we were rewarded after hours of activity with an epic view from atop a mountain, overlooking the Loch Ness! A selection of Instagramable photos later we were back on the trail.

Through winding paths and steep slopes, we made it to a seemingly never-ending path through the woods. As the sky darkened, we feared we would find ourselves stranded in the forest, (probably trampled by an obnoxious deer as we lay shivering in it’s territory). More concerning undoubtedly was the blood-chilling sensation that SOMETHING was scaling the forest floor, scuttling eagerly towards it’s supper. This fear was amplified by the, sudden eruption of a nearby bush, which kept us ‘motivated’ for lack of a better term. Nevertheless – in a sweaty panic – we entered our hostel seconds before night fell upon the forest, waking our understanding roomates in the process, before unpacking, showering and resting.

Thursday morning came, and with it we left (after a pit-stop at the breakfast aisle of course) finding ourselves back on the very same path to Invermoriston we had sped through so desperately yesterday. Though idyllic prior to our spilt along either the low or high route, a hellish array of ascents awaited us both, with Seun’s face visibly blemished with swolen bites, courtesy of the midges and flies of GGW. They would torment him for the remainder of the journey.

There is no doubt to be had in saying the remainder of that day was an exhaustive affair, but it was (almost actually) a walk in the park when compared to our earlier traumas. Even still, dazed, delirious and done with walking we stumbled into our stay at Drummnadrohit. We kept ourselves awake long enough to shower and sleep, rocked unconscious by the flirtatious French messages being sent between our now lovey-dovey roomates.

This was it. Salvation. Victory. Freedom.

Well…not yet.

Up to a particularly early start, we headed heads held-high towards Inverness, discussing dreamily back and forth about how good it would feel to finally put our feet up. At home. Inside.
I won’t bore our readers with the details, but we made it back after an anxious trek towards a (rather ambiguous) sign congratulating us on our near death experience. A night of uncomfortable (but cost efficient) napping on a packed night coach and a few bus transitions later we had said our goodbyes and made a vow to never leave the comfort of the city – and it’s dreary blackened clouds – again…

In all seriousness, Sweat Through Scotland was a Struggle. In fact, to say it was a ‘struggle’ would be to seriously undervalue the strenuous mental and physical exercise thrown at us repeatedly over the course of our 3 1/2 days of continual trekking in Scotland – however, we can both adamantly say that it was one of the best journeys of our life, both figuratively and literally.

As with many profound experiences, the trials and tribulations of the Great Glen are now memories that will last a lifetime, and our completion of the trail is a testament to abilities we doubted having, countlessly throughout the trek. Never have we done anything even remotely close to the magnitude of the GGW, and thus we feel we have no excuse to shy away from similar challenges and possible adventures, when they rear their head!

To all budding explorers: the Great Glen Way is a Great (and fairly exhausting) Place to Start!