Charles Harmer from Thames Ditton, Surrey
Is it possible to not see anyone for a whole day in the crowded UK? Not seeing another human, or any evidence of a person. Knowing there is unlikely to be another soul within a few miles. A soulless day. It’s not a planned event, but it happened on my Challenge.
I’d headed east from the A9 near Drumochter to the derelict Sronphadruig Lodge, and then north for a few miles on a path before turning east up a glen to camp. The following day, I saw no one at all. I cannot think of another time in my life when I’ve gone without meeting another human being for that length of time.
The path soon disappeared, and it was wilderness of peat haggs, tussocks and heather to the Minigaig path at the head of Glen Bruar. There was more bog until I joined Tarf Water, not an easy river to follow as it meanders sluggishly, banked out by cliffs and surrounded by heather and peat hags.
A strong wind and intermittent rain enlivened the journey and occasional rays of sun lifted my spirits. And, finally, the Tarf Hotel – a bothy of some reputation. I imagined that when I arrived there would be a fire lit. I could dry out and have some engaging chat with fellow adventurers. This was not to be. The dripping bothy welcomed me with shelter only. If you want a fire here, you must bring your own fuel.
So, I spent the night alone in the bothy without heating, with the wind continuous and rain periodically lashing at the windows. But the next day the walking seemed easier. There were paths and tracks on the way east to Fealar Lodge, where I saw a cyclist in the distance. After 48 hours, my perfect solitude was ended!
Did I feel lonely? Surprisingly, not at all. There was far too much to plan and do; wondering how soft the peat will be, hauling myself over a rise, scraping through clumps of heather, taking waterproofs off, putting waterproofs on again, checking the weather. There was plenty to do. After all, it was a Challenge!