Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Long and Winding Road Walk - Lewis

Last August I made a three day hike on Lewis, a walk that started at Morsgail (see the Ardveg Walk tab). I left the area by hiking out from Ardveg up the Hamanavay track to the public road at Uig. The plan was I'd call my wife to come pick me up when I reached the road, and she would drive over to get me from the self catering house we were staying at in Valtos, six miles from where the Hamanavay track meets the road. (See Valtos Cottage Self Catering).

The cottage has an amazing view to the north over Loch Roag and the island of Pabay Mor.

But I made a serious mistake. I had not checked if there was mobile phone coverage in Uig. And when I reached the road above the white sands of Uig Beach, around 8pm, I powered up the phone only to find there was no signal. I'd told my wife if she did not hear from me I'd decided to spend another night under the stars. But I was out of food, and sore from 20 miles of bog-hopping and the long climb up the Hamanavay track. And so a soak in a tub and a beer sounded better than another night in the tent. There was nothing to do but start walking the road to Valtos, thinking that at some point either the phone would get a signal, or I could hitch a ride. 

After 10 minutes of walking I passed the Abhainn Dearg distillery. Unfortunately it was closed, so I'd find no refreshment there. I continued on, checking my phone every now and then only to find there was still no signal. A mile later I passed the turn-off to Ardroil Beach. It would have been a great place to camp, and in hindsight I should have done that, but the thought of a bath and beer kept me going. Only two cars had passed by so far; the drivers must have been tourists - they didn't stop when I stuck my thumb out.

After another half hour it was getting dark. Having covered some 20 miles so far that day my legs were giving out. So when I reached the road that comes up from Loch Stacavat I turned right and followed it a ways until I saw a field that looked like a good spot to camp. The field was gated. I could not open the gate, so I climbed it and found a spot to pitch the tent out on the moorland.

I was dead-tired, asleep in no time. Up at 6am I started walking again. An hour's walk took me to the Uig shop. I was hoping to use their land-line phone, but they were closed. More walking led past the Uig Community Centre and into the entrance of Glen Valtos; the largest glacial meltwater channel in the Outer Hebrides.

I still had three miles to go to reach the cottage in Valtos village where my wife was comfortably sleeping. There was still no phone signal, and as it was early, there had been no cars on the road yet. What I didn't know at the time was that a possible environmental disaster was happening that very moment; an oil rig had broke its tow-rope and had just grounded on Dalmore Beach. And so someone was out on the road early, driving up to Dalmore to help out. I saw them approach from behind, stuck out my thumb, and they gave me a ride to the Valtos turnoff. (Thanks Ian!)

Afoot again, at the Valtos turnoff, a look at the phone showed still no service. There was nothing to do but keep walking. Forty-five minutes later, a hundred yards from home, the phone finally got a signal. I called my wife to tell her I was almost there, and she met me on the road with a cold carton of Ribena. A drink never tasted so good. Lesson learned: don't ever count on getting a phone signal while hiking in the islands, even in areas that are populated.

1 comment:

  1. David & Margaret GartsideFebruary 17, 2017 at 1:54 AM

    Lovely read again Marc. Unfortunately our long distance walking days are over, but still good to recall past adventures and to vicariously enjoy yours. Best wishes,