After a full Scottish breakfast, proper scoff and beer the night before, clean socks, aired boots and chemichalised armpits, we set off in high dudgeon just as far as KIngussie where, a tea-room being open, we had to call in. Not passing a tea-room is one of the rules. Several other TGO challengers were in there too, some scoffing huge and delicious-looking breakfasts. This kind of reIaxed attitude to the TGO may well be one of the main attributes for a successful crossing. I also replenished some of the food suppy, although my still-kippered Big Bag hadn’t really shrunk all that much from Day 1 and now there was veen more porridge inside it. And I bought a little stove to fit my other (Primus) gas supply. Now I had two stoves and a competely separate stand-by cooking system, including two spoons (yes, that’s one spoon and another spoon). Can’t be too careful. Safety first. Anything could happen.
We plodded past Ruthven and into Glen Tromie which was all very easy walking and increasingly beautiful. As we lunched, we heckled some TGO-ers paddling the river. And then we passed on up the glen till we got fed-up and pitched about a kilometre short of our target, which was supposed to be just about where the Minigaig starts going uphill a bit more seriously. Happily, and unusually, our selected site was the best. Normally, what happens is that you pass several really nice camping spots, get fed-up/tired/grumpy etc and pitch the tent on a lumpy, stony or squishy bit covered in rabbit-poo only to find a really really nice place 50 metres upstream the very next morning. A mental note taken at the time for future reference is never ever used.
The night was cold and clear and starry for the twenty minutes it actually went a bit dark and in the morning there was a smear of ice on the tents. But it’s warm and sunny and the tents dry out quickly.
I decide to change the route and , due to the hot and sunny weather and a sudden attack of River Feshie Lassitude ( a debilitating condition caused by excess breakfast), we launch ourselves into our Foul Weather Alternative. Not only does this have fewer contourts than the proper route, but it’s also five miles shorter. I did think I vaguely heard something about rain from about 4:00 pm in the afternoon, and getting ourselves wet before entering the posh bits of Braemar would be so last year, so I thought it only sensible.
So we set off up a bit of a nick in the hills and popped over the bealach to the upper reaches of the River Feshie. On the way, in a rare moment of energy and positive-thinking caused by the consumption of an infected jelly baby ( a red one), I bagged Meall an Uillt Chreagach (Round Hill of the Self-Catering Chalet), breaking my tradition of never climbing anything I can’t pronounce.
Dropping into Feshiedale, we crossed and recrossed the infant river, stopping only occasionally for soup and chocolate and hop-scotching with a couple who had camped nearby the night before.
A short Pennine-like bog-trot brought us to the headwaters of the River Geldie where more challengers were met coming over from the Feshie. As it began raining (see – I said it would rain, innit?), we pitched our tents near the fords leading to Geldie Lodge. A wet night followed where I worried only fitfully about the river filling up and washing away one or more of my stoves.
In the morning, we completed our march through Geldiedale and entered Braemar with only a short visit to Mar Lodge where it seemed they didn’t want Challengers to be seen by anybody of substance and where the custard creams had run out. However the cafe’s and bars of Braemar fulfilled almost all of my bodily needs. Nobody mentioned Kylie, which was a bit of a relief. I did manage to leave the place the very next morning with somebody else’s underpants in my bag. This was the result of bleary-eyedness whilst collecting my drying laundry on the campsite and not as a result of any kind of night of passion. If anybody has lost a pair of black icebreakers, let me know and I’ll post them back to you. Apologies for this mistake. I’ve not worn them and, whilst they did appear to be reasonably clean, they’ve been washed again, which is how I discovered them. I also found a dead tick in my sleeping bag, for which I blame my beta-blockers, or , possibly the Ace inhibitors. This is not the first time this has happened. I may be toxic to biting insects and spiders and serves ‘em right anyway. I won’t mention the pink bra or, indeed, the suspenders.
And thus, the section was completed by a short ramble up Cluniedale and into Callaterdale for a night of carousing, merriment, song and dog food at Achallater Lodge. The dog food was a mistake. Somebody put a huge dish of it in front of me and I grabbed some, a bit hungrily. It was a bit salty, but not unpleasant. On the other hand there was the Callater beer, whisky, chilli-con-carne, cheese and oatcakes bacon butty, tea, coffee, good company and superb hospitality. Having failed to buy any decent contributory scotch in Braemar due to TGO challengers having bought it all, we both left a small but decent donation towards the upkeep of the lodge. We camped outside. I slept well. Kylie failed to turn up.