Monday 18 September 2023

Pieman's 18th TGO Challenge 2023


Oban Harbour
It is written that amongst the wise, repetitive implementation of the same , or similar plans expecting a different result. but merely encountering the same result repeated, but yet doing it again, and yet again, is a sign of madness.

And so, having been let down by Northern Rail on Durham Station by a train that refused to move and was overtaken, at some speed by the train I was supposed to catch was the first sign that doing the same thing again (that is to say, relying on a train service to get me where I am supposed to be at the time I am supposed to be there) was just the first incident from which I ought to learn. Northern Rail have done it before and, I expect, will do it again. But, by running about like an eejit at Waverley station and Glasgow Queen Street, I eventually managed to arrive at Oban at, close enough, the time I was supposed to be there.

Glen Lonan ( nice, innit)

I've started from Oban before - but this time, I did something different. I walked to Taynuilt with Kate, a first timer from the far North who somehow knew JJ. Everybody knows JJ, though, so maybe no surprise. I had a light pack, so I could keep up with her youthful pace. And the reason I had a light pack was because I had a train ticket from Taynuilt back to Oban. We parted in Taynuilt and I returned to Spoons where they fed and watered me and didn't make jokes about the kilt.

Glen Etive

Loch Drizzlybum aka Loch Dochart

This plan had worked well. In the morning, Spoons fed me a huge breakfast which I couldn't quite manage and Scotrail whisked me back to Taynuilt where I plodded off up Glen Etive, turning Right at Glen Kinglas. I walked some of the time with Rolf, an anglophile European and was passed by Lindy and we met some others too. There were four of us camping at the head of Glen Kinglas. It rained. Then it rained some more, followed closely by a damp spell. This is not particularly unusual. In the morning I bashed on to the West Highland Way and followed it South surreptitiously, hiding behind tussocks or pretending to tie my bootlaces if it looked back. I arrived at Tyndrum where I had a bed in a hotel, busy with West Highland Wayfarers and some TGO challengers who didn't want to talk to me. So I repaired to a pub where I allowed some bikers the chance to worship the ground that was still stuck to my boots when they learned that I was 78 years old and had taken three days to walk from Oban when they'd done it in 40 minutes. I'm not actually 78 by the way, but why spoil a good story and the chance of free beer?


Another discreet camp next to Loch Tay

The previous three pictures are completely in the wrong order by the way.

So orf I jolly well went down the west Highland Way again and then at Auchtertyre, I heaved myself up the glen to the North, getting a bit lost for a while and then, after passing easily through the Gleann a Chlachain Mountain woodland, where it chucked it down in a big way, I passed over the bealach into Glen Lochay. This goes to Killin, after a bit of discreet camping next to a very nice beck burn. I allowed myself to be exploited a bit in Killin to the tune of a nice lunch and some tea , before joining the Rob Roy Way and completely missing the turn off I was supposed to turn off at and walking all the way down the road to Ardeonaig where I found a lovely camping spot next to the loch, just below a roadside sign which said "No Camping". I considered that this probably didn't apply to me and in any case I was hidden from the road and there wasn't much traffic anyway.

Glen Tilt

Sign near Mar Lodge

International TGO ers snooze break

Aberfeldy came and went and provided food and a camp site and the Rob Roy Way continued without incident or accident to Pitlochry where I became slightly mislaid on the High Street, ultimately fullfilling my gastronomic desires and the purchase of fresh supplies of rough whisky. I took the path through the Pass of Jimmy Krankie through to Blair Atholl where I didn't like the food and the service was rubbish. The Pass, though was fandabbydozy. As was Glen Tilt. Gloen Tilt was heavily populated by TGO challengers and cyclists and just some of the time, I walked alone. I camped with four others at Bynack Lodge - a ruined hunting lodge and a fandabby (don't start that again) cracking place to camp. And in the morning and bits of the afternoon, I wandered through to Braemar and the campsite and the cafe and the pub.

Ballater was a long way next and somewhere during this stage, I met up with Jo, a Japanese chap with shin splints and (?Mark) , an American without shin splints. He was a Monty Python fan, so we got on. The King was out at Balmoral and Ballater was better than Braemar, providing scoff, beer, shelter and a breakfast and nobody mentioned the kilt.

Sir Dave at Edzell 

Nobody mention the kilt
Following the successful scoffing of a Full Scottish in Ballater, I followed the Deeside Way for a bit, teaming up at some point with Emma and we walked into Glen Tanar to be interrogated by the Ranger. I'm afraid I might have been forced to admit to being a member of the County Durham Peoples Liberation Front , or possibly the Front foir the Liberation of the People of County Durham (actually, I am a secret member of the Ramblers Association) and I was forced to take an oath that I would not disturb the local Very Randy Capercaillie who could get quite vicious, apparently. So I changed tthe route to coincide with Emma's, which went to a  locked bothy with two Yorkshiremen camping outside. Apparently, when they were little they lived in a cardboard box in't middle o't road which they had to lick clean with their tongues every morning before working 28 hours down t'pit. Anyway it was windy and nobody made any kilt-based remarks.

The came Tarfside. In a previous year, I had almost walked out of the hostel at Tarfside when there was an anti-kilt pile-on  during which skirt-wearing men's masculinity was challenged. I expected the same and, my plan was not to stay there anyway - mainly because of the pile-on, I would say. I went in anyway and was met with "Oooh look its that man in a frock again  gigggle giggle hehehehehe". No names, no pack drill, but expected. Its childish stuff, but I found that in Scotland, its not all that unusual to encounter the kilt on a man and most people I met, including yoofs, who you have thought the most likely to take the mickey, were very complementary. Its just the odd eeeejit, and it's very very annoying. and I walked straight out again and marched off down Glen Esk, to find a lovely spot by the river and leaving me with only a short day the next morning....

....Which was to Edzell, where it was steaming hot and the pub was closed. Eventually it filled up with TGO challengers, including Sir Dave, the beaver. Its a long  and heart-warming story which I guess has been told elsewhere.

The walk finished at St Cyrus, where the pub was open and nobody said anything bad about the kilt.

The final pic, below is Sir Dave receiving his accolades at the Challenge dinner.

Thursday 7 September 2023

Goodbye to LTD. Welcome to Ringo

Unfortunately Blogger's functionality is getting worse, which is a big shame for this particular post. Anyway, I will try to soldier on and see what is produced in the end. The preview suggets that the pictures are all over the place and one has randomly disappeared.

Fans of LTD (Lucky The Dog) may well be upset that he had to be euthanised in July. I noticed, sometime in June that he was getting lethargic and just after a routine visit to the vet he was collapsing and fitting. Various medicines were tried and, in the end some steroids returned him to normality for a few weeks. But the fits began again and he became very fragile and unable to walk very far.

We had a final wild camp to Druridge Bay but in the morning he was clearly struggling to walk back to the car. 

After more fits, he made the final journey to the vet.

LTD had been my dog since August 2014. He'd bagged more than 1000 hills and been on many backpacking trips. He specially enjoyed the bits of camping that involved snuggling in his woofbag and not really doing much else until it was time to pack up and go - and he was often a bit reluctant to leave his bed.

He was a friendly dog, except to other dogs, who sometimes got too close. And he hated water and would walk around puddles. There was never any chance of him swimming other than by accident. Apart from attacking other dogs, he was no bother at all.

And then came Ringo. Ringo is a border collie and  a failed farm dog. He came from a farm in South Tynedale, just a bit North of Alston. I don't know why he failed. He's very playful and inquisitive and we're slowly forming a team. At the moment his walking on a lead is hard work but he's very friendly, even to other dogs, which is a Good Thing and a nice change.

One of us will die first. The nature of these things is that, if you have a dog, and you get attached to the pooch, that almost inevitably the dog will be the first to go and that you will grieve. Grief is the tax to be paid on love. I'm beginning to believe that it isn't a negative emotion at all, no matter how uncomfortable it is at the time. 

I hope that, in time, I will grieve for Ringo, although at my advanced age, there's a chance that it will be the other way around. Maybe we can both slip into dotage together and neither of us will be capable of recognising that one of us has gone.

Or perhaps we will be rewarded by the honour of being the subject of somebody's grief.

In the meantime, Ringo has had 3 tent nights, bagged 24 hills , and walked a couple of hundred miles with me. I think we'd best try to get on with stuff whilst we can.