Today: 19.4 miles
Total so far: 1629.7 miles
Percentage Completed: 96.7%
(Click map to enlarge)
The observant amongst you will notice that for such a whopping mileage, the percentage of the walk completed has only risen marginally.
More Flow Country
This is because I have been doing some mathematics. Not a favourite subject amongst the readership I am sure, but one that needed addressing. As the walk has progressed some days have been longer than planned (finding a better route on a track, or avoiding a series of streams on a very wet day) and some shorter (not feeling very well, so taking a foul weather alternative route for the day.) These changes needed addressing in the final mileage - which started out at an estimated 1663 miles and now looks likely to be 1686 miles, so the percentage completed figure needed to be altered. And so it has been.
This means that I have 3.3% of the walk left to do! Ooh Er, Missus!
Well, as I pontificated yesterday, I thought today could be an 'interesting' day, and so it turned out to be.
The Flow Country can best be described underfoot as a lot of foam rubber floating on a bed of water. Actually, it is a classic blanket bog, fuelled fantastically by rain. And last night it rained all night and carried on raining today. I thank the Lord that it has been dry up here for a while or I do not think I would ever have made it today.
I packed a soggy tent quite early as I knew the day could be tricky and set off up the first rise. I say “rise” as “hill” would be far too grand a description.
The hole in the one boot became evident after the first ten minutes but it didn't matter as before a quarter of an hour had passed I had two bootfuls of peaty water.
I had chosen a route that in hindsight seems completely bonkers. I had drawn lines around the 'blue bog' on the OS maps and plotted a route between them - trackless through Caithness Blanket Bog... In total I only had seven miles of this - but what a seven miles! I will never, ever, forget them - not for the horror of the effort, but for the sheer wilderness experience it provided. Having said all that, there were cut drainage ditches I crossed throughout the seven miles, but heaven knows what it would have been like before the ditches were cut.
To the south of me, mini volcano-like hills reared from the moor and all around me the RSPB had been cutting down the ill-conceived forests planted by celebrity tax-dodgers (ooh! political!) to restore the Flow Country to its natural water-balance, leaving a landscape almost impossible to pitch a tent upon. The water courses were rare and the ground suitable for an easy pitch even more so. In the end I opted for a lake shore pitch, stamping the tent pegs well below view to get the faintest of purchases some 5km further on than planned, just to find somewhere to pitch Wanda.
Yet More Flow Country!
My companion tonight was a rowing boat moored alongside my tent. I was not sure if it would have been drier inside the boat or beneath my tent on the floating bog.
Pasta Bolognese for supper, followed by cheese and biscuits and some strong Colombian coffee. I slept, utterly exhausted.