Evening entertainment on the West Highland Way
Depending on your walking speed and the distance you manage to cover each day on the West Highland Way, you could end up with several hours of downtime in the evenings. If you're near a pub or restaurant, you might spend your evening chilling in the warmth with a pint and you may even engage in some social chatter with other fellow hikers. If you're staying in hotels or BnBs you may even have a television.
However, if you're camping with no electricity or you're too tired to socialise with strangers, what do you do? You don't want to go to bed at 7pm, that's boring! Instead, we've put together a list of ideas that will keep you entertained and will take your mind off of your sore, aching body.
Build a fire
Scotland is very damp and the wood you find is likely to be really wet. This activity could keep you entertained for at least an hour.
First, you'd need to search for dry kindling and dry wood, then you'd need to sit patiently for ages trying to get it to light. You might even find yourself some moss to dry out and use for your next fire.
We spent an hour trying to get this fire started. When I say we, I mean Chris. He was very persistent. I wandered up and down the beach looking for wood and taking photographs.
Once the fire was going, it lasted for another couple of hours and gave us something to stare at. Staring into fires is really mesmerising. We even boiled some water over it and made pine needle tea. It was very wholesome!
Read a book
If you don't have one already, get yourself a Kindle. Ideally one with a built-in light so you can continue reading once it gets dark. Otherwise, you can do what we did and wear a head torch to read. The great thing about e-book readers is that they can store hundreds of books, they're very light to carry in your backpack, and they have a really long battery life. A fully charged Kindle should last for the whole of the West Highland Way as you'll only be reading in the evenings.
I don't particularly like reading books about hiking whilst I'm on a hiking trip myself; I usually read those several months before to get inspiration. I prefer to read novels to give my mind a break from all the walking.
Some of the most enjoyable books we've read about walking and hiking would have to be:
Play a card game
One pack of cards can be used for hundreds of different games if you can remember all the rules. Alternatively, you could buy a book about card games and download this to your Kindle so you can read the rules and learn as you go. If you're solo hiking your game options will be limited to Solitare and... Solitare? Playing cards alone isn't very interesting, so this suggestion might not be for you. If hiking in a pair or group you'll have a whole variety of games to learn! Some of our favourites include Rummy, Knock-out Whist and Shithead (great game! here are the rules according to Wikipedia).
Try a role-playing game
By this I mean Dungeons & Dragons or Numenera, both great fun and can be played with as little as two people. I realise that this can sound geeky to some people, but don't knock it til you've tried it! It's also a really lightweight game because all you need are the character sheets, dice and pens. You can then have the rule books downloaded onto your Kindles.
If playing with just two people, one of you will be the Dungeon/Game Master leaving only one person to make all the decisions during the game. Some of the battles are a bit unfair for just one player alone, so we tend to have the Dungeon Master play a character as well, but they aren't able to make conscious decisions and follow the orders of the other player. If you aren't so keen on the fighting, Numenera is more focused on exploring and learning about things in a weird fantasy land. I prefer Numenera; it's a lot simpler and you can be more creative in how you use objects.
Listen to a Podcast
There are so many good Podcasts available for free, on just about any topic you can imagine. Download a few to your phone or MP3 player before you start your hike, so you can listen to them as you walk or when you rest at the end of the day. I've listened to a great series called Serial, about a guy convicted of murder in the US, which discusses all the evidence in detail and raises some very interesting questions about the legal system. Recently we've been listening to a podcast series called Cults and another series by Joe Rogan, which explores all sorts of topics, called the Joe Rogan Experience.
Why not try finding some wood and having a go at carving it? Whittling requires a small enough knife with a sharp blade to shave and carve with precision. Pocket knives are usually fine. I bought Chris an Opinel knife for his birthday; these are perfect whittling knives and have beautiful wooden handles. Most people seem to start off by making spoons, knives or tent pegs. If you want to try something a little more elaborate, you could try whittling a duck, tree or flower. The possibilities are endless! So far Chris has made us some tent pegs and a couple of wonky knives. I guess practice makes perfect...
There are several opportunities to take a dip along the West Highland Way, including the lovely Loch Lomond. Be warned though, the water is absolutely freezing! I couldn't even paddle in the Loch, but Chris threw himself in and swam for a few seconds. There are some really nice rivers to dip in too, but these are much shallower. The water is very fresh, but watch out for warnings about blue algae in Loch Lomond as this can be toxic.
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