Readers have been quite patient and/or drifting away as me and The Lad had our two weeks of jollies walking across Scotland. I'm not going to write a blow-by-blow account at this stage, but might save that till the time when it might be more useful - when people are considering applying and needing a bit of insight into what it's all about. Instead, a brief overview is offered here with just a dozen pics out of the 238 I took - mainly, and a bit oddly , all a bit on the slant.
But never mind.
We began well with all trains and planes turning up on time and in the right places. And then we had a nice curry with chapattis in Inverness and stunned the local boozers by winning the Thursday quiz. As we are both English, we weren't allowed to claim any kind of prize. It seems that the locals weren't very up-to-date on current affairs. This is not surprising as they're in the pub all the time and whilst the TV is on, the volume is turned down. It always is turned down in a pub, innit?
We began at Strathcarron, a little way inland for a coast to coast walk and we wandered Eastwards, meeting Phil Werner and Claire heading Westwards on the Cape Wrath Trail. Oddly enough, he recognised me somehow. During the crossing we met lots of challengers - mainly in the form of Bernie who turned up ahead of us or behind us or, sometimes alongside us. He's done 23 challenges - I was on my 15th and The Lad was doing his 4th. That's a lot of miles and several t-shirts.
So, on the first day we did just 10 miles - I like to start with a shortish day. Our camping spot was occupied by another challenger but we found another spot on a little platform by a burn and settled in for a very cold and frosty night.
We gave up the idea of a high level route due to snow showers and what appeared to be extensive snow high up - other challengers made the same decision. We weren't equipped for snow/ice so we initially took our low-level route which took us through to Cannich where huuuuge amounts of calories were taken in the form of 2 dinners, a breakfast and a fair dose of beer.
The next day we crossed Loch Ness by Gordon Menzies ferry and hit the Monadliath Mountains where we got temporarily lost due to windfarm roads not being on the map. The sun beat down mercilessly. The son walked quickly ahead, equally mercilessly. We got to Kincraig, which appears to be a bit of a desert for wayfarers and had to walk 2 miles to get some food. John Donohue advised on the Gaelic name for a teatowel which was not only wrong but was a potential cause of conflict when expressed to a gaelic speaker enquiring sarcastically about the clan to which our kilts belonged. (I wanted to reply "Glen Teatowel" but had to resort to "Glen Ribblesdale") This sometimes brought a bit of a stunned or puzzled reaction as they tried to work out where Ribblesdale was. (It's between Airedale and Lonsdale!)
As we pressed Eastwards into the Cairngorms, this issue seemed to become less important. The sun shone till we'd crossed Cairngorm itself and descended by Loch Avon (a spectacularly beautiful spot of which pics will not be published at this point as a bit of a tease). But in the morning, at the Hutchinson Memorial Hut, the weather broke and it rained or showered for the remaining time.
Taking another foul weather alternative put us half a day ahead and we ended up by the Water of Unich (just after spotting an eagle at close quarters). During that night it rained and rained and the waters rose till we eventually had to move and at 4:00 am , dawn broke, and so did we, arriving at Tarfiside at 9:00 am just in time for breakfast. A close-run thing, we felt.
The remaining was a simple road-walk to Haughs of Benholm where we were treated to a nice cuppa and a chat from a challenger's Mum who lived there.
And that was that - just short of 200 miles and a lovely tan and some very skeggy socks. The wearing of the kilt means that skeggy undies are not an issue. It seems there were some 9 kilted men on the chally this time. This is an increase of 6 from last year and is something to be encouraged, I feel....
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