Sleepover On Kinder

We’re extremely lucky to live where we do. In as little as 3.4 miles from our front door, we can reach an idyllic little spot on the slopes of Kinder, for an easy night out. Of course if you wish, you can make the journey there and back as circuitous and as long as you want, turning it into a much bigger venture, but Pebbles and I just fancied a quick sleepover.

It was pretty hot, so it was a good chance for Pebbles to try out her Swamp Cooler Vest underneath her panniers. It worked well.

Last time I camped by this ruin I was completely on my own and I have to say that despite being a lovely spot, once it had gone dark it seemed to take on quite a spooky atmosphere. I was sure it’d be fine this time though, with Pebbles to scare off anything lurking in the shadows.

But at around midnight, when Pebbles suddenly woke me up with a menacing growl routine, aimed at something outside the tent, she put me right on edge. Clearly unable to settle again, she needed to go out and check what was going on. I finally gave in and went out with her for a bit of a prowl around. The sky was dark and star filled, and I could clearly count 4 planes lining up for landing at Manchester Airport.

Pebbles, however,  wasn’t interested in the beauty of the night. She just wanted to stand – rigidly staring at something in the vicinity of the big tree near us.

So, still feeling less than totally relaxed, we returned to the tent. Thankfully, after a few minutes on Twitter – complete with both ghost and crazed maniac jokes from friends who were still up and awake back in normal reality land – I found myself chilled, laughing and ready to sleep again.

The rest of the night passed peacefully and we awoke to a scorcher of a morning.

 

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TGOC 2017 Video

I’ve made a short video from some of my TGOC photos. If you fancy watching it, it’s thirteen minutes long and the music is by King Creosote.

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TGOC2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part Five

Day Thirteen – 21.1 miles

Mark and I both have the same plan for the finish, to take the Deeside Way from Ballater to Aberdeen. He plans to do it over three days though, and I want to take two days.

Looking at my map the route is all marked, apart from the section between Aboyne and Kincardine O’Neil. Unless there’s some waymarking on this stretch, I’m assuming that you have to go down the road here.

I’m ready quite early and end up setting off before Mark.

It’s very quiet.

It’s very pleasant. The occasional commuter cycles by.

For most of this morning, I’m walking through a distinctly rural area.

Sadly, I see some remnants still not sorted, from the floods a couple of years ago.

 

I’m starting to understand why I’ve heard that the Deeside Way makes a very pleasant ending to the Challenge.

It runs parallel to the A93 for a while, but I don’t really notice it, there’s too much greenery around. I come off the track briefly for a mid morning break at Dinnet. I notice our van parked up – Geoff’s obviously gone for a walk from here with the dogs!

I don’t go in, but buy an ice cream from a nearby cafe.

Continuing on my way, I have Second Lunch next to a gliding club, then eventually reach Aboyne.

 

As I suspected, when I pop out onto the road in the town, all waymarking for the route just stops. I’ve nothing marked here on my map either, so I try and find what looks like a bit of a route through on the south side of the A93. This doesn’t work – a housing estate has been built there now. So, in the absence of anything more obvious, I assume you’re expected to go down the road.

This doesn’t work either. It’s far too busy and after being nearly squished several times, I retrace my steps and plan a route along some minor roads and tracks to the north of the A93 – a bit of a long way round, but hopefully safer.

I can hardly believe it then, when almost as soon as I’ve turned off onto one of the ‘yellow’ roads, I suddenly pick up waymarks again, on what looks like a brand new section of trail! Back onto a pleasant track, through some woods and I’m soon safely on the outskirts of Kincardine O’Neil.

A sudden heavy downpour has me reaching for my waterproofs and as I pass the local church, I spy Mark sitting in the porch, having a break. I go in and join him. We inevitably have a bit of a discussion about the difficulty of finding the route out of Aboyne. He also had a bit of difficulty, but looking at his map, he obviously has a newer version than me, as part of this section is marked on his.

I’m aware that Rich Flint is also on the trail, a few miles behind us – Geoff having already sent me a text earlier to say that Rich was drinking tea and eating cake with him in the van. I send Rich a message then, to warn him about the route problems here, just in case he has an older edition of the map like me.

And it transpires that John Boy is around, too! I get a message from him saying he’s currently having scones and tea a few miles in front of us, at Potarch. It’s almost busy!

Mark and I carry on together now. We discover that we’re both aiming for the same camping spot tonight, so with the wonders of modern technology I screen grab our intended camping spot from Viewranger and message it to Rich, in case he wants to join us there later.

The last few miles pass quickly with Mark to chat to. Geoff is in the car park when we get there. Mark pitches his tent outside and joins us for a meal. An hour or so later, Rich turns up. He pitches too, then Geoff cooks him some dinner. We have a Challenge Party.

 

Day Fourteen – 20 miles

Rich is planning on taking the Deeside Way all the way to Aberdeen today, Mark is going as far as Peterculter and I want to get all the way to the coast as well. To make it easier for Geoff – who’s meeting me at the beach – I decide to leave the Way at Crathes and pick some quiet roads up across to Newtonhill, instead.

I’ve got about 20 miles to do again, so I set off early-ish. It’s obviously going to be a hot one, but the first few miles are in shade.

 

I leave the Way behind properly at Crathes and start walking down the B9077, and the heat is becoming quite intense. The road is also unbelievably busy, both cars and wagons skimming past me. I’m not happy. In fact, I’m pretty scared.

A couple more miles and I turn off onto the smaller roads. These are much quieter and I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’ve not gone too far when to my amazement, Geoff appears, driving towards me. He stops. He’s been driving on my route down to the coast to wait for me, and has been totally thwarted by a new road/motorway that is being built. The roads I’m planning on walking down are closed.

Suddenly, I feel totally weary. Suddenly, I don’t care if I junk the whole thing. I ring control and speak to Judith. She chivies me on, she won’t let me junk it. I can get taken back to where I left the Deeside Way at Crathes, and start again for the afternoon.

So, that’s what I do. And as I start again where I left off on the Way a few hours back, and see Mark coming towards me, I begin to think this is meant to be. And as we round a corner a couple of minutes later and come across Rich again, I’m sure it’s meant to be.

But I’ve lost miles and I’ve lost time, so there’s no way I’ll make the coast now today. I decide to stop at Peterculter for the night, like Mark is doing.

The three of us carry on together, enjoying each other’s company. It’s early evening by the time we reach Peterculter and I’m not feeling brilliant. It’s been hot, I’m not sure I’ve eaten enough and I’m tired.

Day Fifteen – 8.7 miles

A good night’s sleep and I feel determined again. I set off about 8:30 – I’ve not many miles to go, but Geoff has to then drive me to Montrose to make sure I sign out before 5pm.

Shortly after setting off, the Deeside Way has to cross this new bypass. A Pelican Crossing is in operation here…

An hour or so down the way, I sit down for a break and can hardly believe my eyes when I once more see Mark coming down the trail towards me. We team up again.

We’re into the centre of Aberdeen, in Duthie Park, before we know it. The trail is surrounded by greenery all the way in, so we hardly notice being in the city.

A cafe stop is had and then we set off for the headland. Mark is aiming for Girdle Ness Lighthouse, I’m aiming for a different car park, further round.

It’s another hot day. Crossing the River Dee, I get a phone call from Geoff.

‘You won’t believe this, but the car park where we’ve arranged to meet is a construction site and the beach is all fenced off.’

You couldn’t make it up.

We arrange to meet at another car park on the other side of the headland…

And finally, I’m there. I quite like the bustling port backdrop to the photos. My dad was in the Merchant Navy, my Grandad ran away to sea when he was young and I’m related to Grace Darling. I’ve always felt a kind of affinity to ships and the sea.

Euphoria hasn’t quite set in yet, but I do feel a bit pleased with myself.

We can’t waste time though. A quick lunch, Geoff drives me to Montrose and I end up having the infamous pleasure of being the very last person to sign out.

 

 

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TGOC2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part Four

Day Ten – 14.9 miles

I have a shuffle about of plans. My feet are still not perfect, but they’re improving. In an ideal world, I would now have a couple of days’ rest to sort them out properly but I haven’t got that option on the Challenge. And successfully finishing the Challenge is now uppermost in my mind. It’s more important, in fact, than any route choice I make.

My original plan for the next two days takes me over Bynack More and onto Cock Bridge. I decide to alter this for something I assume will be easier walking underfoot, maximising the healing potential for my feet. It will mean a lot of road walking on the second day, but that doesn’t bother me – the flat surface of tarmac is currently more comfortable than a rocky path.

I set off from Loch Morlich then, initially heading for Nethy Bridge.

I’ve actually done this route before, many years ago. It’s very pleasant, passing An Lochan Uaine and Ryvoan Bothy, before heading into the Abernethy Forest.

 

 

It’s too early for First Lunch, so I don’t call in at the bothy. Last time I was here, there was snow down and a herd of reindeer pottering about. No such luck today.

The forest is quiet and peaceful, and I find a spot in here for First Lunch.

 

About 20 years ago, I stayed in a hotel in Nethy Bridge when I was doing a Winter Skills course, but I’d forgotten what a pretty village it is. It also has a shop – which is open – and I buy some more Dairylea Dunkers (the Bread Stick variety this time) and the obligatory can of Coke, and have Second Lunch.

Picking up the minor road which crosses to the A939, I continue on a few more miles. I’m surprised at how pleasant and quiet this road is. Good views and reasonable grass verges, too.

I pass a few B&Bs on the outskirts of Nethy Bridge and there are several spots (complete with small streams) further up on the road where I can pitch a tent quite happily. I don’t object though, when Crowther B&B services turns up. And it seems just a bit daft to pitch the tent outside the van…

Day Eleven – 17.4 miles

Geoff is panicking. He’s worrying about my Road Day. In contrast, the thought of it isn’t bothering me at all. I tell him I’ll be fine.

In fact, the A939 is nowhere near as busy as you might expect and there is once again easy grass verge walking for much of the way. The weather is fresh and dry, and the views are far ranging.

 

I’m happy, content and singing.

Shortly after Bridge of Brown, I find a nice track which cuts a corner off.

 

A couple of miles before Tomintoul, I find a footpath which takes me into the town, avoiding the main road.

 

Yesterday, James told me that Tomintoul has loads of good eating places so I’m looking forward to a nice lunch. As I enter this ribbon development though, it has all the appearance of some deserted town out of a Spaghetti Western.

I’m hungry now and it feels like the town goes on forever, but all of a sudden it opens out and The Old Fire Station Tea Room comes into view.

Lunch is delicious.

I speak to Geoff on the phone. He is still worrying. There is an alternative to the road which I can take from here – along the side of the River Avon to Inchrory, and then the track to Cock Bridge. It looks good, but taking that route would make the distance for today 24 miles, instead of just over 17. I don’t want to walk that far today.

So, I continue on my merry way. The sun has come out and there’s a pleasing breeze. I now have to climb over the pass at Lecht. I’m not a fan of the look of ski resorts in the summer, but nevertheless, still feel good when I reach the top. I call in for an ice cold Coke, then a German couple who’ve cycled up ask me to take their photo in front of the sign.

 

From here, it’s not far to Cock Bridge. I’ve had a Good Day. With hindsight (a wonderful thing) I reckon my feet would have been fine on my original route over Bynack More. But for now, I’ve got a real buzz knowing that I’ve just walked nearly 18 miles today, and not had a single problem with my toes.

Day Twelve – 13.3 miles

I’m now back on my planned route and heading for Ballater. It’s promising to be a hot day.

Following the Old Miltary Road today, involves more tracks and paths than tarmac. It’s delightful.

 

 

Another Good Day. I see no one walking at all, until another Challenger rolls up while I’m eating Umpteenth Lunch, only a couple of miles out of Ballater. This is Mark. We have a short chat and agree to meet up again later – we’re both spending the night at Ballater Campsite.

 

Geoff and the dogs are waiting for me at the site. And shortly after I arrive, Mark turns up. He pitches near us, and joins us for afternoon tea and cakes. Very civilised!

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TGOC2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part Three

Day Eight – 10.1 miles

I have a very luxurious night at Newtonmore and sleep really well. Aiming to set off around 9am, I prepare my feet for the day in my new sock liners.

They won’t be a miracle cure today, but they feel lovely and I know the blisters will now stand a chance of starting to heal.

I’ve only a short day planned and the weather is once again dry and sunny. First off, I mooch along to Kingussie. There’s a cycle path all the way, so I don’t have to dodge the traffic.

I am already forming a plan for First Lunch. I’m going to raid the Co-Op in Kingussie and then sit in the park in the sunshine for a break. As I come out of the shop, I hear a cheery shout.

‘Hey, Chrissie! We’re looking for somewhere good for breakfast, have you found anywhere?’

It’s Rupert, who I shared a room with in Fort Augustus.

‘No, I’ve just bought some stuff to eat in the park. Good luck!’

I drink my Coke and eat a whole packet of Jaffa Cake Bars, in the sunshine.

Setting off again, I meet another guy. Apologies, but I can’t remember his name. We walk, and chat, together for about half an hour, before heading off in different directions.

Pottering on in the sunshine, I stop for Second Lunch on the edge of the forest, before picking up the track to take me to Uath Lochan.

My destination for the night is reached mid afternoon. It’s rather pleasant and I find a great spot for the tent right next to the water.

 

I filter all the water I need for the night, and settle down to a brew or two before evening.

A handful of people wander around the loch – it’s obviously a nice ‘after-work-wind-down’ spot I reckon, but it’s nevertheless still peaceful. I have a good night’s sleep.

Day Nine – 13.5 miles

It rains overnight and is still raining when I wake. I’m glad of my standard routine of collecting all the water I need on an evening, so I don’t have to faff getting any more for breakfast.

I’m sure a sopping wet fly sheet adds about a kilogram of weight to your rucksack!

A route is planned through the forest to take me to Loch Morlich, where I’m meeting up with Geoff and the dogs.

About half a mile down one of the tracks though, I find my way barred by a huge, fallen tree.

It looks problematic but I determine to try and crawl through the branches. Once I get up close though, I can see there’s maybe 3 or 4 more huge, downed trees across the track after this one. Accidental, or on purpose? Not really having a choice, I backtrack, look at the map, and give in. If I go round on the road, it’ll be nearly a mile shorter than my planned route anyway.

I hit a bit of a low point. Everyone’s allowed a low point occasionally.

Trail Magic does exist, though. Just as I round a bend, having eaten First Lunch, a couple of backpackers appear. After my encounter with John Boy the other day, I realise that they probably are Challengers, even though we’re walking in opposite directions.

We stop for a chat. They should be going through the Lairig Ghru, but with the weather being inclement, have plumped for Glen Feshie instead. Hence their southerly route today. And a bit more chat, reveals that one of the guys is a Boxer Nut like me and is using his Challenge as a vehicle for raising money for Boxer Rescue. Coincidence or what!

This all cheers me up enormously, and keeps me going for the rest of the day.

And what a welcome I get at Loch Morlich! Hubby and dogs all greet me as if I’ve been away for months.

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TGOC2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part Two

Day Four – zero miles

Morag’s Lodge in Fort Augustus is a great hostel. Not only are Colin and Dave staying here as well, I meet up with Challengers I already know – JJ and Andy Walker – and a whole load I’ve never met before. The place also does a good breakfast and evening meal.

But my feet need a rest and some serious tlc. I have two big blisters on each foot – on my little toes and the ones next to them. I’m competitive, stubborn and I like to win (ask Geoff…) so I’m not about to let them get the better of me, but nevertheless, I need a plan.

First off, I book another night at the hostel. I have a day in hand, so I can cope with this. Then Colin comes up with a brilliant suggestion. Three days down the line I’m booked in at Newtonmore Hostel. Why don’t I order some toe socks over the internet and have them delivered there? And why didn’t I think of that myself? No sooner said than done, and I have something really exciting to look forward to!

I’m not the only one here today. Andy Walker is on a day off – but only because he’s a day ahead already – and another Challenger is spending the day catching the bus to Inverness and back, to buy some new boots.

So, I potter about. I empty the Chemist of Compeed, eat lunch at the local outdoor cafe and bump into more friends – Mike Knipe and his son, James. They appear to be buying whisky and wine, and pouring it into their water bottles…..???

 

I pamper my feet and sort a regime for getting through the next few days. This involves antiseptic wipes, Savlon and Gehwol on an evening, then antiseptic wipes and Compeed on a morning.

And somehow, a large block of chocolate marzipan finds its way into my possession.

 

Day Five – 5.6 miles

A good breakfast and I set off for Newtonmore. I’m allowing myself three days for this, going over the Corrieyairick Pass.

The weather is pleasant enough as I pick the track up, but gets breezier the higher I get. Looking back occasionally, there are good views of Loch Ness.

I’m expecting pylons shadowing the route – they’re marked on my map. But in reality, these old pylons have been removed and replaced with another set paralleling the track, several hundred yards away.

Once again, I’m on my own. I don’t mind at all, I sing all the time when there’s no one around! I don’t have a huge repertoire so there’s a bit of repetition (unless it’s Christmas time, when I know oodles of Carols all the way through…) but I keep a watchful eye out so I can stop as soon as I see anyone.

The wind strength increases. It’s nothing horrendous, but enough to notice it. The clouds are darkening, too. I’m thinking that Blackburn Bothy might be a nice spot for lunch.

It is, and it’s very pleasant inside.

 

No sooner do I get lunch out, than the rain starts. Nasty, horizontal stuff, lashing the windows. Five minutes later, and three sopping wet guys burst through the doors. Challengers, of course, friendly greetings are exchanged and two of them immediately sit down and start tending to their feet. One of them is rubbing Vick all over his….

The third guy makes some tea, offering me some as well. It would be rude not to! Discussions follow. Do they stay the night here, or push on over the Pass? In the end they push on, but by now my mind’s made up. It’s cozy and dry in here.

Making myself at home, it’s not long before another guy turns up. This is Patrick, on his umpteenth Challenge. He comes in having already made the decision to stay the night and do the Pass tomorrow. I make him a brew while he sorts his stuff.

Conversation flows easily and  we pass a very pleasant evening. 9pm is plenty late enough for both of us for bedtime, and Patrick makes us both a hot chocolate to set us up for the night. What a gent.

 

Day 6 – 11.8 miles

Setting off this morning, Patrick and I are happy with our decision to cross the Pass today. Sunny and just slightly breezy, the weather is much nicer than yesterday.

We’ve both slept well – only disturbed by mice a couple of times – and breakfast is a very civilised affair in the bothy.

We start off walking together, but our paces don’t match at all, so we’re soon well separated out. Patrick is very quick on the flat, but then I overtake him as I’m much faster once the climbing starts.

It’s pretty much ‘up’ all the way for the next four miles to the summit, and the pylons start closing in.

 

The wind isn’t particularly strong, but it’s pretty Arctic with the wind chill and I feel the need to zip everything up and cover any exposed skin.

 

The descent down the other side is totally different. Lots of switchbacks, it takes me quickly down into the corrie itself, and then a very gentle slope, finally ending up alongside the River Spey.

I stop for a long break at Melgarve Bothy.

Just as I’m thinking of setting off again, Patrick catches up with me. We have a good chat, and he says he’s decided to spend the night here. I need to go further though, as I don’t want to be walking 20 miles into Newtonmore tomorrow. We’re both booked into the Hostel tomorrow night, so will no doubt meet up there again, if not on the way.

So, I continue on to Garva Bridge, where I am totally amazed to be the only tent there. Another very peaceful night!

 

Day Seven – 14.6 miles

I wake at about 3am, shivering. There’s ice on the tent, so no wonder I’m cold. I put another layer on, plus my Prism trousers (which I’ve brought with me just for clear, cold nights like this) and go back to sleep.

Waking again at around 7am, it’s clear it’s actually going to be a gorgeous day.

Clear, cold nights seem to be the one thing that produce an awful lot of condensation in the Enan. Even the inner is drenched and the foot of my sleeping bag is also damp. I surface slowly, allowing the sun to come up properly and start drying stuff out. By the time I’n ready for the off, my bag and the tent inner are fine, but the fly is still wet. Once again, I split the tent to pack it.

It really is one of those Good To Be Alive days. The temperature is just perfect for walking in, and the views are far reaching and gorgeous. The ‘track’ is now tarmac, but I really don’t mind that. It’s flat and smooth, and quite easy on the blisters, to be honest.

I see a load of deer scampering across the road at one point. You’ll have to look very carefully to spot them in the photo mind, never seem to get them on film successfully!

Enjoying my usual private sing along, I round a bend and spy a guy up ahead, walking towards me. Time to be quiet again! Carrying a large rucksack, he’s obviously out for a backpack, but can’t be a Challenger, he’s going in the wrong direction.

He greets me and asks if I’m a Challenger. I look at him and answer by asking him if he’s John Sanderson. Of course he is, he looks just like his avi. He’s going in the wrong direction because he’s one of those Super Challengers who do a million miles a day and go all over the place. We have a lovely chat for a few minutes, then continue on our respective ways. Another unexpected little meeting that is making the Challenge so enjoyable for me.

 

I gradually eat up the miles into Newtonmore, the journey only marred slightly by the traffic on the last few miles of road.

 

 

Patrick is already at the Hostel when I get there. Having not slept so well, he’d got up early and set off at about 5am, passing my tent on his way, while I was still fast asleep.

And since I’m turning up at Newtonmore a day later than I originally planned, there’s no room left for me in the actual Hostel. Shame. I am given a private room in the house – with a BATH! – instead. I just about manage….

 

 

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TGOC 2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part One

The Wise Man appears as if from nowhere, out of the sunlight, and speaks.

‘Your first time?’

I nod.

‘Be prepared to alter your plans.’

And as fast as he’s appeared, he’s gone, into the shadows.

Prophetic.

Day One – 12.9 miles

I wake with a migraine. Brilliant. I’ve actually been worrying about this, so that’s probably why it’s happened. I start the day with doses of cocodamol and ibuprofen, and try and ignore it.

Signing out at about 9:15am, I realise I’m already much later than many! No rush though, I set off in blue skies. The day promises to be hot.

My route along Gleann Lichd opens out and I start bumping into people. A quick chat here and there, and before I know it, I’m climbing past the waterfalls and up into Glen Affric.

Everywhere I look, there are views to lift the spirits. I stop for a break, take on more water and chill for a while.

Moving on, the ground starts to level out as I approach Camban Bothy.

A popular place for a break, I bump into several people, including John Woolston. Most set off again before me, but that’s fine. I’m happiest going at my own speed.

The weather is holding up well. I continue on and before I know it, Alltbeithe Youth Hostel comes into sight. I’ve heard they do scones. And tea.

 

Inside the hostel I join John again, and we both partake of home made scones and jam, before I move a bit further on to pitch for the night.

A lovely, quiet pitch with just a few tents to see in the distance. I’m still struggling with my migraine though, which is now making me quite nauseous. I make my dinner and find I can’t eat it. It’s my favourite too, macaroni cheese. Thank goodness for Complan. I make up some cold – it tastes like strawberry milk shake and that goes down easily.

Day Two – 13.5 miles

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve slept well. The migraine is also fading fast. I do marvel though, at my own stupidity at not having brought my toe sock liners. These socks were a miracle discovery of mine a couple of years ago, successfully stopping all the blisters I used to get on my little toes, which fold underneath the next-door toes. I’ve become a bit blase of late, as I don’t need them on short walks, but normally always use them backpacking and on longer routes. My little toes are already starting to feel sore after one day. I try taping them up for today.

The weather this morning is overcast, but not raining. Breakfast is enjoyed – porridge with strawberry bits – and I set off. I’m aiming for somewhere near Plodda Falls this afternoon.

The Glen is very quiet. I see no-one till after I’ve turned off for Cougie. And the Cougie turning is a surprise. Last year, it was a little path heading off uphill, but this year the whole area has been turned into a construction site, with a path diversion in place.

Easy to follow mind, I sit and have some lunch amidst all the chaos (I am very hungry) then move on, soon passing another guy on his own break. A quick chat, then off again, wandering along a much nicer, grassy track for most of the rest of the way.

Again, not a soul in sight. Very peaceful!

But by the time I hit a touch of civilisation again, I’m ready for tea and toast, and a chat with three other challengers with the same idea. My little toes are also starting to get very sore this afternoon. Obviously taping them has not been mega successful.

 

Delicious! Migraine and nausea now all gone, I am enjoying my food again today.

Moving on, I manage to pitch for the night in the vicinity of Plodda Falls. Another quiet spot, not another soul anywhere around.

 

Day Three – 16.9 miles

It rained overnight, and it’s still raining while I breakfast and sort myself for the day – including putting more tape on my sore toes.

The fly sheet is sopping, so I split the tent before packing in order to keep the inner dry, and set off with full waterproofs on.

It’s a long slog today, climbing up to about 550m before dropping down to Torgyle Bridge, and then up and over another ridge before reaching Fort Augustus. It’s about 9 miles over the first section and I want to get it out of the way before lunchtime.

Although it’s a good track it still feels wild and remote, and the weather matches it. Alternating between wild, windy and dry, or wild, windy and heavy rain, it’s certainly atmospheric!

 

As I finally drop down to near the road at Torgyle Bridge, I bump into Morecambe and Wise – sorry, Colin and Dave – having their lunch. I’m enjoying these unplanned meetings with other Challengers. A couple of retired policemen, with Scottish accents so broad I have to concentrate to understand them, they persuade me that they know the best way to Fort Augustus from here. My toes are now very, very sore, so it sounds like a good idea to team up.

All I can say is, that after scaling a 7 foot fence and ploughing through the undergrowth under a line of new electricity pylons, it’s a good job they’re funny. We have a good laugh and it takes my mind off my feet for a while.

I reckon we probably make a sorry sight when we finally drop into Fort Augustus. I’m limping, Colin has very achy shoulders and Dave has a painful back.

Morag’s Lodge beckons us all for the night.

 

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