The night in Glen Feshie was probably fairly blustery. I have no idea. I seem to have been sufficiently unconscious not to notice anything at all. It had been a late night – probably half eight or nine and I was almost the last to leave (there are individuals even more relaxed than me about setting off in the morning)
I soon caught up with the couple from Dundee and there were lots of other challengers around the Chally corridor that is the Feshie-Geldie way to Braemar. But the fleshpots of Braemar were not for me. I had a Cunning Plan. A plan involving dressing up as a woman of the night, six pounds of turnips in a bag, a dead badger and heading up the Bynack to the Tilt. Actually just heading up to the Tilt. Not really all that cunning, I suppose, now I think about it.
First, I had to cross The Bridge of Death. The words “Bridge of Death, by the way, should be announced in a slightly lunatic squeaky voice – like a mad villain, perhaps with a little laugh afterwards. The Bridge of Death is where Son #1 (my only son) almost fell off into the viciously churning water far below after tripping over a tree root. This is when I discovered that he knew far more and worse swear words than me. Ever since then , in the Knipe household, this location has been known as “The Bridge of death”. We crossed without incident and plodded Eastwards. Bit of an anti-climax, really…
Once at the confluence with the Allt a-nt Seilich, I took the numbingly refreshing paddle across the Geldie and headed to Bynack lodge where I lunched (again) I was joined by a lad with the most manic spaniel pup you’ve ever seen. It was all over the place. The dog’s food bag was bigger than mine, and I’m not notorious for skimping on the scoff. The chap carries extra diabetic stuff for the dog for when it eventually runs out of steam. They don’t pace themselves don’t yer dogs.
I headed for Glen Tilt in worsening weather. Cyclists came the other way. Lots of cyclists. Everybody was very friendly. Eventually I got to the Falls of Tarf where I stayed but briefly to have a look and take a pic. I was now back on the original route and without all that much fuss. The cunning plan had worked quite well and no badgers were harmed in the implementation.
I retraced a bit up Glen Tilt and found a lumpy spot in the middle of some shielings where the path to Fealar Lodge crosses the Tilt. Camping on top of a lump maybe wasn’t such a good idea, but the slashing rain that had developed had the potential, I thought, to fill the flat bits here with puddles. A puddle in your tent can ruin your night. (Just a tip, there, for tyro backpackers) On the other had, fighting your way back uphill several times in a night can be disturbing to the nocturnal relaxations.
Several cyclists hurtled Southwards. One, a girl, in front, giggling and laughing, and pursued by several handsome, muscly types in wrap-around shades and expensive suntans, looked suspiciously like K. I got the impression that she wasn’t riding quite as fast as she could……
In the morning the Tilt was running too deep and fast to cross, but it had stopped raining. I had another brew and had a long discussion with a large black slug during which we became firm friends and I was persuaded to join his campaign against the use of beer traps in allotments. I was amazed to hear that Mr Slug had never heard of lettuce. I suggested that he wasn’t missing much.
After a while The Tilt relented enough to let me across with a shin-deep and a bit teetery and very cold shuffle. I headed for Fealar Lodge where I met The Dog Who Lives There. I’d met this canine once before and he’d accompanied me for several miles on a previous TGO challenge. On that occasion he’d been determined to bring me small groups of sheep. As we crossed another horizon, he suddenly decided to go home and ran off without so much as a “tara”. Today, he seemed to have lost the ability to get over the gate and amused himself by taunting the dogs in the kennels by jumping up and down and running about barking in front of their pens. I last saw him shaking a stick. If I’d stayed, I could have had a playmate for hours and hours…. Manic beast. Bless ‘im.
Heading Eastwards, I had to navigate briefly due to the thick clag. This was my first and last bit of actual navigation on the challenge. I had six jelly babies and twelve orange chocolate-drops in celebration. Navigation in this case involved taking a bearing into the clag. The mist slowly cleared, though a few minutes later to reveal an audience of red deer. They watched me cross the first bealach. They didn’t seem too bothered about running away.
The mist was clearing and slowly lifting and I thought that for the first time on the trip that the breeze felt a bit warm. A path developed towards the bealach below Carn an Righ and I started to meet day walkers. I said “hello” a lot, and, occasionally, “hiya”. Many of the walkers were in the hotel later waiting for their bus. They must have had a long walk starting and returning to Glen Shee. The path here is appalling by the way – sloppy and slippery and unpleasant. I must report it to the County Council….
Soon, or at least, eventually, I arrived at Loch nan Eun – an ideal spot for a brew and a snooze in the warm sun… Eh, wha…? Warm sun…?
All the clouds suddenly cleared and the prospect down Gleann Taitneach with a public bar waiting at it’s end was both beautiful and inviting. I paused only once to drink from a burn and be bitten on my eyebrow by an ant (I suspect an ant anyway)…..
Looking back up Gleann Taitneach just before two pints of cold cider.
In Glen Shee, I checked out the hostel. It had no vacancies. So I went to the hotel. This was already occupied by a couple of Challengers. I was warned that the hotel wasn’t operating at full efficiency (to say the least). It was pretty much empty but hadn’t been cleaned etc. since a big running event the day before. I asked for a bed and got it, but had to wait for it to be cleaned. they forgot to put soap in the shower, though. But the food was good. A few more challengers and challenge “followers” arrived and we had a convivial night, even though the barman got bored at ten o’clock and sloped off, to be replaced by somebody, I think, from the kitchen. The hotel seems to be slowly falling to bits. The food was really good, though.
I believe we’re now up to 146 statute miles.