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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pieman’s Great Outdoors Challenge – The Gentle Perfume of Socks

glen feshie

Another brief sojourn in the sleeping bag. I had a mere eleven and a half hours of snooze time. I suspect that this is Not Enough and have resolved to be less active during sleepy time. Maybe, tomorrow night, I could experiment with staying up till half seven. I porridged and left the Falls of Roy in the general direction of Luib-Chonnel bothy, the site of last night’s party wot I missed. (this is the story of my life, starting at the age of 14, when the Wormwell’s parents, several doors up the street, went to Morecambe and left the teenage Wormwells to fend for themselves. As the party up the street got into gear (They started playing Troggs records) I played “California dreamin’” loudly with the arm of the dansette up so it repeated over and again. This is a mistake for anybody feeling a bit depressed by the way. The tensions in the harmonies make you feel worse and the only resort I could find was  to find a sharp knife and circumcise a banana. This puzzled my Mum somewhat but she never mentioned it even though, from time to time, in a quiet moment, when the adverts were on, she may have started to hesitantly broach the subject once or twice. It’s still taboo in the Knipe household.

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This is the road to Luib-Chonnel. As you can see, the weather has perked up a bit.

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And this is Luib-Chonnel bothy. From this distance you could just start to detect the perfume of socks, fire and stale port. I wasn’t bothered about missing the bloody party. Oh no….. Hah! As you can see, a party at Luib-Chonnel is unlikely to disturb the neighbours. I plodded on to Shesgnan – a private an locked – and plush bothy with a…

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leprechaun strapped to a tree. I believe he was probably waiting to be interrogated. He doesn’t know what’s coming to him, poor wee chappie.

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And then – after more plodding, I got to Melgarve. This was occupied by a pair of Challengers. We had The Challenge Conversation. This consists of observations on the weather, exaggerations about the depth of snow,  starting places, finishing places, details of the stay at whatever hostel it was..and so on. Challengers always have a ready-made list of subjects for a chat, specially having not met any others since last Saturday afternoon.

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For those intent on Laggan, after Melgarve comes the longest stretch of road plodding In The World. I noted several nice camping spots and a fairly mucky one at Laggan bridge (pic above taken from the bridge – as you can see, the weather has got a bit grumpy again) I passed and re-passed a group of lads who looked like TGO Challengers, but who were distant and unfriendly and I suspected that they might have been trying very hard to get to wherever it was before the shambling white-bearded sock-scented tramp that eventually turned up at the Monadhliath Hotel  Monarch Hotel at Laggan. I was ushered in. There was a fairly steep entry fee, which I paid..when suddenly

i'm the slim, handsome one

I heard the unmistakeable tones of Andy Walker emanating from one of the rooms. It was the Lambert/Sloman/Walker party. We had dinners and a minor booze-up and left in the morning, full of full breakfast, they went one way and I went another.  The four lads from the Laggan road kept themselves to themselves, apart from the very Scottish one who made remarks about TGO challenge being for gay white bearded old men. I’m not sure if anybody else noticed this. Several other challengers were in the hotel as well that night. Look, I have a really bad memory for names, see…? I can’t be expected to remember everybody’s name wot I met. I can barely remember my own name most of the time…

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I headed for Glen Banchor. This walk starts with a stupidly dangerous bit of road-walking and then, just before you  get mown down by a coach full of grannies, a track heads off up the glen. Its a beautiful glen and has a bothy in it. Inside the bothy today, were a Spaniard and an Austrian lass. They were on a walk to Iona from Findhorn and had lit a fire which they were hugging whilst cooking a fine selection of fresh vegetables including onions and garlic. I mean, who takes proper food like this on a backpacking trip , eh? [koff] I had hot chocolate. We had a very long chat. Their journey was obviously spiritually inspired and I hope they weren’t disappointed by the touristy Iona when they finally arrived (I’m assuming they’ve got there by now) They seem to have had plans to walk to Spain after this. I did warn them that the Bay of Biscay could be tricky when in spate.

I arrived, eventually, at Newtonmore and got into Ali and Sue’s bunkhouse which Dawn had already booked and paid for. I distributed her parcel, as per instructions, stole her porridge, despatched maps back to pie towers, washed socks and shreddies, dried boots, showered, and went off to the boozer for steak pie, guinness and watching professional darts on the telly with the locals and some navvies from the Beauly-Denny line which is being built up the road.

Sue and Ali’s bunkhouse is a very fine establishment, I have to say. Just a tip for anybody looking for a comfy bed in Newtonmore – and specially for  future TGO challengers.  Website here

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In the morning the  specially early-opened cafe provided a good value and quite large full Scottish and orf I went for the Feshie, meeting an Irish lad at Ruthven barracks on the way.

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Glen Feshie was not on my route. I’d decided to go there due to the weather forecast which was for high winds and driving drizzle. My high-level route from the top of the Minigaig would be no fun in this and, my original foul weather alternative was unappealing due to it’s roughness. So – it had to be Feshie – Braemar – Callater – Kilbo, a route I’ve never done before with anybody from Liverpool (honestly) and which would put me back on route in a few days.

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I stopped for tea at Ruigh-aiteachain bothy which was occupied by a bunch of challengers including the dog Reuben’s bloggerdad James (backpackingbongos) Boulter but pressed on after an hour or so with my Irish pal and a couple from Dundee, as far as the mid-upper glen where we came across a tented village of Challengers, including many old friends. So that was it for the day. There was whisky and chat and the night eventually turned a bit wet and windy.  I was persuaded that my original route including Glen Shee was quite an easy option from there. I changed the route again, but couldn’t tell Control as there was no signal. Several people knew where I was going, though. Hopefully, somebody would get to me before the blowflies should anything go wrong.

This was now the end of Day 8. 119 miles covered so far. No physical damage (apart from multiple spots from insect bites) (and a slightly sore bum) (and a hint of trench foot)

The Glen Feshie camping spot was no place for an innocent Australian girl, though.



Alan R said...

We were in Betty’s Tea Room in Newtonmore the previous day. We were mistaken for challengers and given (Paid for) a very nice breakfast at 8.30am. Which was great considering she didn’t open until 10.30am.
The pleasures of a challenge. Although we did get told off for being late. Ho hum.

Dawn said...

That road down to Laggan is an awful plod. You certainly did a wise move going via Glen Frshie.

Laura said...

A very fine episode indeed - good reading! Surely we'll get to the curry soon........

Mike Knipe said...

Alan - Top notch breakfast so it was. It got me right up the Feshie. (Now I read that back......)
Dawn - The road to Laggan is truly horrid.. Who's idea was that?
Laura - All good curries come to them wot waits. In the meantime, have some pickles...

chrissiedixie said...

The idea of this challenge is definitely starting to look appealing again. Roll on retirement - after all you have to be a certain age to be in it, right....????????
(James must have had a special dispensation.)