Monday 30 September 2019

Knipe and Knipe TGO Challenge 2019 - Some More Days

 In-tent entertainment supplies were now dangerously low and it was imperative that we get to Sainsbury's or Asda or whatever it is in Aviemore as a matter of supreme importance

We left Bernie, or Bernie left us, I can't remember which, on a bright blue morning which turned out to be even hotter than the previous day and we pushed up a track into the hills and cleverly chose a line of grouse butts to take us up on to a hill (the logic being that grouse shooters hate to walk anywhere and there'd likely be a track even though no such thing was marked on the map. This proved to be the case and we were soon through the rough bits and on to short montane stuff which is incredibly easy to walk on. Also, the contours had stopped, so it was pretty level too. This was almost more fun than a  midnight visit from Kylie, which, of course , never happens. (I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky)

 And so we passed easily over Carn Coire na h-Easgain and dropped down to the River Dulnain which we paddled across and settled down to brew up. We'd spotted Bernie taking a path a bit further North. Who knows where he was heading? Maybe we'd never see him again.....

 A bit later we chanced on the Feithlinn bothy - a lovely spot unmentioned in any guides to bothies as far as I can see. We got out of the sun for a bit then pressed on sweatily . eventually passing through the grounds of Leault Farm where we were interrogated about the provenance of our frocks  kilts. I declared mine to be Glen Ribblesdale. The dog assistant (for that's what he seemed to be, Leault being a place for showing off the skills of sheepdogs) - looked puzzled for a bit, clearly trying to work out which Hebridean Island had a Glen Ribblesdale.  We asked Control for the Gaelic for "teatowel" and, armed with this knowledge, we were ready for the next kilt-based demonstration of the Scots ability to be racist, as long as they're being racist with a Saxon. (I'm an Angle actually, a Right Angle)

 And so we passed through a tunnel into Kincraig, which appeared to be closed. So we booked ourselves in at an unmanned hotel and wandered off to Loch Insh where, on the way,  we discovered Bernie and went for dinner with him.

 In the morning we booked out of the unmanned hotel and, in yet more hoy weather, tramped off to Aviemore for a huge breakfast and some shopping, followed by a lovely, relaxed wander through Rothiemurchus Forest, stopping not very briefly at the Cairngorm Club Footbridge to consume pies, butties and bottles of beer. This TGO Challenge was certainly turning out to be hard work.

 And then we found Bernie yet again, brewing up by the burn before we left for Loch Morlich and the Glenmore campsite, which turned out to be noisy. People were shouting at a tent and being told by the tent to go away (words to that effect) This comes as a bit of a culture shock after all that wild camping, or even the more crowded camping in places where Challengers gather and snore the evening away.

 Glenmore does have a bar, though and a café with red squirrels doing squirrel stuff next to the café tables. And it's an easy plod into the Cairngorms from here - our destination for tomorrow. There's a radio signal too, but this is unnecessary because there's a bar, obviously.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Knipe's TGO Challenge 2019 - another few days

 OK So it isn't JJ's tenth Challenge next year. So, no snogs for JJ. then. Also - JJ's tenth was my excuse for completely discharging any involvement by me in route design or logistics, thereby distancing myself from anything at all which might go wrong. But clearly, JJ's revelation in the comments on the previous blog post mean that I might have to get more involved.  A light touch is probably called for though, as befits a veteran like me wot can just let the less experienced team members learn the lessons which require to be learned. Innit? [Koff] I'll be keeping an eye on things just for safety reasons, obviously.

 Meanwhile, back in Strathfarrar, The Lad had adopted quite a few new pets. Most of these were wandering about on his legs and , for some reason, they didn't like me at all. I was tickless, in fact. As well as dateless, clueless and trouserless. We progressed up over the hill into Glen Cannich , where, after a substantial and very warm trek we arrived in time for a late and substantial lunch at the pub, after which we wandered (read "staggered") over to the campsite where there were lots of challengers putting up tents.

 We returned later on for another go at the food and beer at the hotel and retired to bed tired but cheerful quite a bit later on. Tonight, I wasn't too bothered about the radio not working as I was too emotional to concentrate on trying to tune it in.
In the morning, we shopped, breakfasted at the campsite café and plodded off on a road walk up the A834 (not much fun), then forest roads to Drumnadrochit where the sun was hot and where there were multiple challengers sitting outside a pub and chip van. So we joined them. We had a few hours to go before we had to catch Mr Menzie's ferry to Inverfarigaig on the far side of Loch Ness.

 It had been the pattern so far on this walk to keep coming across the same TGO challengers. They just kept turning up. In particular, we seemed to be on the same routes as Bernie on his 23rd Challenge (I have checked this fact this time by the way) and Willem Fox on his 6th, along with his partners Hinne and a small fox.....  We camped several times very close to Bernie and it became hard to tell who was following whom - but the pattern continued almost to the end of the walk.

 After crossing Loch Ness we made for the steading at Allt na Goire, a couple of steamy miles up the road. Here was another large group of challengers in their tents. Some had booked a meal whereas we hadn't, being a few miles ahead of ourselves.  But we got copious tea on arrival and a warm welcome. And we had our own food supply, having shopped, beered and chipped at Drumnadrochit. My rum supply had been replaced by cheap whisky and thus, as the radio was not working at all, my in-tent entertainment was fixed for the night - a lovely, clear and starlit one as it happened.

 And in the morning; a hot morning which had to become hotter, we launched into the Monadhliath Mountains - getting a bit lost in the unmapped tracks of the wind farms. We lunched and brewed with Bernie and left him for a bit, only for him to catch up in the broad and beautiful dale of the River Findhorn, where we camped together near the river a mile or so down the glen. There was no radio signal here and instead of white noise, I listened to the burn nearby.

 So far we were still a bit ahead of where we were supposed to be according to our route plan and we were going at a rate of 17 or 18 miles a day, which was all very fine. The weather was getting hotter. This, I think was my longest spell of hot  and dry weather on a TGO challenge, out of the fourteen previous ones.  We were 72 miles and 5 days into the walk. That's quite a gentle pace as it happens. Sometimes on a TGO I worry a bit that we're not making enough progress. This sometimes makes me get up and set off walking stupidly early, which means finishing early or ahead of schedule after which I calm down a bit.  So far, it's always turned out right in the end. Each time I learn another lesson. 2019's lesson was that my radio was too heavy for this kind of thing and not much use unless I could speak Bulgarian or Cantonese on shortwave.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Knipe and Knipe's TGO Challenge 2019 - Kilts Over Scotland !st 2 days

Its that time of year when people are applying for next year's TGO Challenge - I know this because I've just applied and, if successful and everything goes to plan, next year's team will be JJ, Margaret (aka Beryl) and Me. We've not gone into any detail about routes etc. except that it will be JJ's tenth crossing and that's a special one where you get a bottle of plonk and a snog off the editor of TGO magazine. I was lucky to have Cameron McNeish on my tenth. Not carnally, just a manly embrace, a meeting of beards in fact all pure and clean - we never intertwined.... 
With this fact in mind (the timing thingy) I thought I'd commit an act of blatent reader recruitment by posting an account of Me and The Lad's kilted crossing of Caledonia 2019 as an example of the sort of thing that can go wrong.

 This post is only about the first two days - there being lots of pictures and I have to edit them and shrink them a bit and it's an effort, see? So, to spread it out I thought I'd write the account in easy-to-absorb chunks, specially for those with short where was  I.... something about attention spans.

 Anyway, we began our crossing at Inverness Travelodge and got an early(ish) train to Strathcarron, thus neatly avoiding any issues about the small number of available beds at Strathcarron whilst taking advantage of a huge and cheap buffet breakfast in Inverness. A few other challengers had had similar ideas

 So, eventually, we set off in an approximate Easterly direction. For those navigationally challenged , the East Coast of Scotland, which was to be our ultimate destination is, almost by definition, in an Easterly direction from the West Coast. Try to remember this key fact if you're intending to apply, you may need to demonstrate this piece of knowledge to your vetter.

 No great excitements happened during the forst day. We bashed Eastwards to Bendronaig Lodge, meeting a couple of other challengers on the way and famiss blogger Philip Werner going West (on the Cape Wrath Trail). Lunch was had at Bendronaig out of the snowy showers and nithering wind, and then we progressed a bit further, camping just a bit West of  Loch Calavie by the Allt an Ban - a few hundred metres beyond our target spot which had been pinched by somebody else. We'd done about 10 miles. I like to do shortish distances on the first couple of days of a TGO Challenge. Happily, I discovered a sigg bottle almost full of rum in my pack, which formed the night's in-tent entertainment since there was no signal on my little radio.

 I should point out at this point that me and The Lad, as members of Clan Ribblesdale, were entitled to wear frocks, or, as they're called higher up towards the arctic, beyond Hadrian's Wall and even further than Kielder Reservoir, "Kilts"  This is by way of explanation of the figure who appears in some of the pictures. It's The Lad. He walks faster than me. Everybody walks faster than me, though.

 It had been a cold night, the tents well iced in the morning, and the cold theme continued during the next day with more squally snow showers - but, late in the afternoon, after we'd crossed a bealach or pass (or hause if you're in the Lake District) - the sun came out and it all turned quite pretty.

 And so, we passed into Strathfarrer, a green and sunny and beautiful dale - a bit wild in appearance, but actually quite tamed with hydro schemes and sheep.  We found a spot  a little further on than planned and camped with some ticks. I got none, The Lad was infested.

Night fell, as well as it can in Scotland in May, which is not really very well, and my little radio played some white noise  whilst I entertained myself with another third of the rum.  Yo ho ho and keelhaul the mizzen whilst I belay this scurvy dog. The effect on dialect can be the main  problem with rum........ just a tip... 
Today's health and safety advice concerns not drinking the rum until after you've finished cooking and brewing up and don't put your towel on the roof of the tent to dry cos it will blow away and you won't be able to find it in the morning and when you do it will be frozen stiff.