Nevis – Day 2

by vpundir | July 8th, 2008

It’s already 10 am by the time I wake up, although one can’t tell by looking out through the hostel’s window; it’s still relatively dark outside. Lovely Scottish weather, I think to myself and get ready, which doesn’t take much time as the hostel is quiet and almost empty. As I am putting on my shoes the receptionist comes around; he’s doing his morning rounds and tells me that it is 10.40 and that the check out time is 10 am.

“I’m just about done here”


It is very cloudy and there’s a continuous drizzle. So I leave my bag, including my laptop, camera and phone, with the hostel receptionist. I take the jacket with me, hoping that it will protect me from the impending downpour.

I didn’t get anything to eat last night, so am pretty hungry, and walk to the cosy restaurant down the street. As I do so, I realize that the pain in my calves has aggravated, giving me a lumbering walk.

As it turns out, the restaurant is closed on Mondays. Hmm…I lumber back to the little shop next door to the hostel, and buy the only bar of chocolate that they have left. I also buy a half litre bottle of water; it should be enough in this cool weather, and besides I can fit it in the inside pocket of my jacket.

Somehow not nearly as many people seem to be climbing up the Ben today, which, of course, is no surprise, given the weather conditions.

I still don’t enjoy the stairs, but take comfort in the fact that I know exactly when they will end.

By the time I reach midway, it is raining cats and dogs and I am drenched. My jacket, which is technically my brother’s jacket, which was supposed to save me from the rain is evidently not water-proof and becomes an additional load of water-soaking cotton-wool. Additionally, I am wearing old baggy denim trousers which are large enough to hold two of me, and having soaked in the rain, they aren’t exactly light. So, it’s getting harder, and I’m thanking my stars that I didn’t bring my backpack today. Although there are very few people on the mountain today, I meet quite a few that are turning back.

About half an hour from the summit, I sit down to take a rest, panting profusely. A Spanish family that I overtook several minutes ago catches up with me. I must look pretty pitiful, for the head of the family asks me if I would like to have some water. I accept gratefully and gulp down a mouthful. I’m alive again! Then there are no stops till the top.

While I had spent quite a while at the summit yesterday, today I decide to start my descent within 5 minutes. It’s still raining heavily, and the strong cold wind is making my wet bandana feel like it’s slicing through my skull.

For a while, every step counts. At one point, I have a very brief giddy spell between two steps. I know I must descend quickly and get out of the high winds and pouring rain. So I hurry down the path as fast as I dare; the path is loose gravel made even more slippery by the rains, and don’t want to get injured in the practice match and be disqualified from the final.

After what seems a long, long time, I finally reach the snow patch. Like yesterday, I slide down on my bums, paddling with my feet. Unlike yesterday, though, upon reaching the base of my snow-slide, I pick up a handful of the snow and shove it into my mouth. I remember having read somewhere that the snow won’t harm you if you let it melt in your mouth, and that’s exactly what I do. For the second time in the day, water has revived me. So I figure it’s possible to get dehydrated even in cold and wet weather such as this. And I figure that that’s what’s been happening to me.

I diligently keep going down. While the slopes are all wet and there are puddles on the path, the incessant rain has finally stopped. I feel less battered, but quite tired. I think I need more water.

“I hope you have a change of clothes down there,” says a voice behind me. I turn around to see a kindly, bearded, old gentleman in mountaineering gear.

“Yeah! But right now I am more concerned about finding the spring…need some water.”


So he offered me water from his backpack, and I took a sip. Third lifeline of the day.

Withing 10 minutes, I reach the little waterfall. So I climb up the rocks and drink from the cool, pure flow.

That’s all I need. But the Gods seem to like me. They make the wet slippery terrain fall behind me, and make the sun shine on the remaining descent route.

On the way down I pass by a trio of boy scouts – aged around 10, 13, and 14 respectively – asking if they are doing alright. They seem to be just glad to be back, as am I. The youngest one expected some sort of a concessions stand at the top; like me, they haven’t even had breakfast. So I give the little guy my chocolate bar as I know it was the last bar at the only shop for miles.

Back at the hostel, I have to wait for 10 minutes or so before the receptionist appears. I collect my backpack from him and request him to call a cab. Next, I
find the restroom and change into dry tshirt and shorts. I wear my shoes again, but without socks.

Soon the taxi arrives and takes me to Morrison’s/ station. Since my bus is at 7.10pm, and it’s just 4.4.40 right now, I decide to wait at the Morrison’s Cafe. Good thing too, as I am really hungry.

At the cafe, I find a corner table where I can plug in my laptop, and take my shoes off and keep them to dry in the light of the setting but still warm sun.

I gorge down a cheese mushroom omelet and tomato soup as soon as they are brought to me, and promptly get another tomato soup, beans on toast and mint tea.

The Slovakian waitress thinks I am from somewhere in the Caribbean, which I guess would explain the long hair and the bandana. The bandana! Hmmm…time to take that off.

As I am working on my nice mint tea, and an Excel spreadsheet, a moustached man comes over and tells me that I can’t plug in my laptop in the store’s electric socket. I think he is joking till he takes away the waiter in the corner and explains him that they can’t let me plug in my computer as otherwise I’d never leave.

What an idiot! The cafe is mostly empty, so there’s no real reason he should want me to leave. In any case, if he wanted me to leave, my shoes could have been an easier target. Anyhow, his burning up doesn’t matter to me – I have enough battery in the laptop to last me a couple of hours, and I decide that I’ll go down heavy on him if he comes after my shoes. Fortunately or unfortunately, he doesn’t.

At about 5 minutes to 7, I pick up a plastic bag from one of the tills to put my shoes, and walk down to the bus station. The bus departs at the appointed time.

When the bus stops for a toilet and smoking break, I take the opportunity to get some fresh air, and step out of the bus, still barefeet.

“Can you walk like that in the city?” asks a guy.

“Not really. It’s just that my shoes got wet on the mountain today.”

“Oh, yeah, I can understand that. You climbed Ben Nevis, eh? Once the strong winds flattened out my tent there.”

After a moment, he asks, “So, are you from Peru?”

He obviously drew inspiration from a Cordillera de Los Andes Peru tshirt, a gift from a Peruvian friend, which I am wearing. That said, I’ve never seen a Peruvian guy wear a tshirt that says Peru (we are not talking about sports jerseys).

“No, from India.”

“Wow! So this must be like a molehill for you.”

“Well, it’ small compared to the peaks in the Himalayas, but it’s not as if I’ve climbed all the ones in the Himalayas, so…” I smile.

In Glasgow, I show the driver my mobile ticket and he tells me that it was for yesterday. What? I check the text message and realize that he is right. Just goes to show how thoroughly I planned this trip.

“For £15 I could fix you up,” the driver offers.

“Well, I have £10”, I open my wallet, “and some coins.” I say, pulling out 3-4 pound coins.

“£10 is fine.”

And so I reach London in the morning, barefeet and all.

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