After a Wednesday 30th rest day, I began Thursday the 1st of December with a late startle as I hopped up past 07:30 to quickly shower, pack my bag and eat some Bran Flakes.
After Euan kindly dropped me back to where he’d picked me up the Monday before, at Sloy Power Station, I tackled the last 5KM of the brutal potential-Scottish-walker-squishing roads and arrived to pavement salvation in Tarbet.
I was walking the ‘Lomond Way’ today and there was an almost continual presence of a Dual-Carriageway cars buzzing by me, however, between the crash and fade of exhaust and rolling rubber, there were some 10 Kilometers of sudden solitude when I deviated down to the recently demoted old road – once the main way 25 years or so ago.
I’d actually taken the bus from Tarbet to Fort William almost 3 weeks to the day, and it was a sudden unexpected feeling of triumph that engulfed me…
I’D BLOOMIN’ WALKED BACK.
This called for a celebration!
Coffee and kettle crisps, son!
Just after Luss – pretty much my halfway point between Tarbet and Balloch – I was wandering along the pavement when I heard a slight raise of a voice behind me. I swiveled to see a beautiful girl on a push bike come by me, and with a ‘Hello!’, she passed me and was on her way.
I thought it was just another friendly moment of greeting with a passing stranger, but, when I surfaced over the crest of a small hill. she had stopped some 10 meters from the opening and was looking my way.
It turns out Silvia Pintili was to be my first walking partner!
From the outskirts of Luss to our split at the center of Balloch, we walked 3 hours along the Loch side, 15KM into the dwindling twilight through to the beginnings of the night.
Silvia is a 28-year-old passionate traveler, who can work anywhere with internet, adores to rock climb and happened to be on a spontaneous 1 week adventure exploring Scotland!
As we wandered the sprawling pavements, with passing headlights blazing our way ahead, we connected our Social media and she talked of the beauty of her home, from the wild Carpathian mountains, with their wolves and brown bears, to the enchanting aura of the capital, Bucharest, to the madness of the Black Sea summer parties!
I’d had an idea of what was ahead of me from internet searches and map reading, but to have a native explain her experience coloured a much more authentic imagination of Eastern Europe that created awesome anticipation.
As we arrived in Balloch and reached our point of separating ways, I felt a twinge of sadness that our exchange was coming to an end, but all was tippity-dory after a goodbye cuddle and vows to meet again – either in Bucharest, the Black Sea or perhaps atop a mountain village in Slovenia – the Universe works in mysterious ways! 😉
As we turned and began upon our own paths again, I popped over to McDonald’s to grab myself a well earned coffee and as I was ordering I spotted a 99p cookie and just had to have one – now this might seem insignificant, but the fact that that cookie was actually only a display one and that there were none left in stock meant I waited longer than usual at the counter – long enough to suddenly hear A most familiar smooth-rumbling, Canadian-accented voice of Craig Feeney appear to my right!
Craig is my wonderful friend, Patrick Feeney’s dad – and to meet him here was an incredible coincidence!
Craig had made me aware of the inspiring book, ‘A Time of Gifts’, by Patrick Leigh Fermor, an Author who, in 1933-34 walked from London to the Black Sea following the Rhine and the Danube, and, although I had already conjured up the idea beforehand, his influence certainly reinforced my doubts as to whether walking Europe was remotely possible or not.
– So it was an almighty pleasure to meet him some 500 Kilometers into the very journey he had had such an affect on! – Oh, and he bought me an orange juice and a fillet o’ fish meal as we sat and spoke of my wanderings so far.
Craig is a true Mariner and is an elegant teacher of the ways of the sea – he was commissioned to teach a course near Balloch and had popped in for a munch and a coffee, and, despite him having to leave too soon to collect one of his family at 6:30pm, it was an absolute joy to meet him again, right before I begin my trek into lands further and further removed from my homeland – he was a burst of encouragement to seize the day and jump into the unknown!
Although there’s been moments before, and, I’m certain, moments to be in the future, Silvia and Craig have created two of the most meaningful moments of this project both in their delightfully unique ways.
I want to say thank you to them both and to all else who have so far made me discover the true kindness and love that we humans can all share.
Silvia made me realise that strangers really are just friends waiting to happen – and Craig made me remember how important that connection truly is.
Have a wonderful life, folks.