The sun was beating down, we’d been walking for hours, I was hot and sweaty – and the sign on the tree said “Rock Pool”. Irresistible.
We dumped out packs and climbed down the steep bank to a gentle waterfall which fed in to deep pools of brown peaty water. The somersaulting clegs were an incentive to get submerged fast and it was glorious; cool and soothing for my ravaged shoulders, slippery rocks to slither over and space to stretch down to feel for footholds on the stony bottom. I was a water nymph, in my head at least!
The trail passed by the manicured grass and gravel of Gobernuisgach Lodge, a remnant of the privileged Victorian approach to the Highlands; incongruous precision in the midst of wilderness.
The track from Gober climbed up to the remains of Dun Dornaigil broch, a fabulous example of the type of dwelling used by Scotland’s earliest settlers.We looked around then plodded on in the heat and sheltered for a while in the rare shade of a cattle shed, oblivious to the dried cow dung around us. How quickly standards drop
I’m now an authority on the bloodsucking cleg, or horse fly. Their official name is Tabanidae and they’re also known as breeze flies, deer flies, gadflies, or zimbs. In some areas of Canada, they’re called bull dog flies or stouts. And in Australia some species are known as “March flies”. And they’re all more vicious than they look..
And later, just as we were getting tired and hungry, the idyllic camping spot came in to focus; it was beside a river, the ground was flat, the grass short, and as open to a breeze as anywhere around.
But the tents were barely up and supper cooking than the wind died and – without warning – hoards of midges descended in impenetrable clouds. We clutched our pans of half-cooked food and ran for cover.
Calling it a horror movie doesn’t do it justice. I lay in the stifling heat, listening to them lunging themselves at the mesh fabric and the outer tent walls, and staring at the thick mass of miniature wings that filled every inch of the “porch”.
I had no water. I needed the loo. And I wanted to brush my teeth. But if I unzipped the flap millions of tormentors would invade. So I fell asleep instead and woke at midnight. This time I knew I had no choice.
I prepared as well as I could, but they were thick and heavy on my face, I breathed them in and choked on them, spluttering and coughing. I had the most uncomfortable pee of my life then ran back to the tent, threw myself in and zipped it up again then almost cried when the beam of my torch showed I had thousands of them for company.
My swollen cleg bites were painful. I was thirsty. Midge bites itched in new, unbearable places. A few metres away I could hear Noreen snoring gently in her tent. But for me it was going to be a long night.