Dominique Drewe Martin from Ballater, Aberdeenshire
This was my first Challenge, and I was so excited. The prospect of two weeks off in May, child-free, work-free, when all I had I think about was walking and camping.
I. Could. Not. Wait! Taking the full 15 days (I was on holiday after all), I planned to walk from Dornie in the west to Dunnottar Castle in the east – around 200 miles in total.
I confess I had pre-walk concerns. Would people judge my large pack? Would solo camping be scary? If I joined someone for part of the walk, would I be too slow?
All this was pushed to the back of my mind as I stepped off the bus and the rain began right on cue. The following day was the hardest, getting used to the weight of the bag, how it sat, what order things came out and went back in.
It soon became my friend, though, my life support system. It felt so liberating to carry everything I needed and know I needed nothing more.
Averaging about 15 miles a day, and walking through glens that hadn’t seen many people in a long time, was equally liberating. I loved walking solo, feeling my own way, pushing on when I wanted to but stopping earlier if the opportunity arose.
How could anyone pass up a bothy with a rocking chair, on a glorious sunny evening, with an amazing view?
My pre-walk concerns were completely dashed. My pack was just ‘a pack’. With the others I walked with, there was no pressure to go faster or slower. And the people – oh, the people: so instantly friendly, every conversation laced with shared experience and understanding.
I loved the cocoon I made myself in my tent each night, walking to the stream to collect water, firing up the stove, putting my tent up, sorting out gear, listening to rain on the tent, going at my own pace and looking back at where I’d been, finding awesome cafes, seeing no one for three days and then coming across a throng of fellow travellers at a bothy.
The Challenge was an amazing experience. I could have easily turned around at the end and walked back again.