Monday, 9 July 2012

TGO Challenge 2012 – Cannich to Drumnadrochit to Aultnagoire

Today's walking was straight-forward – after the blitz of winds that nature unleashed on the surrounding glen and mountains, I emerged from my tent early again. Packed up, not a peep from the other challengers, I was ready to go. I bade my pitch farewell.

Cannich to Drum' road
Koos Schevellis had recommended a route away from the road for me for at least part of the day. The Glenurquhart Forest Trail is a quaint diversion from an otherwise droll road walk. I was thankful that my alcohol intake had allowed me to remember the in and out points for the trail.

I remember the sun shining down, and forming a rainbow for me through the morning's clouds. I began singing, really loud. I had cracked day 4 on my first challenge. A day that I had dreaded not reaching. I feared that the gremlins would have set in and done their best to convince me to chuck in the towel – bad weather, blisters, injury, aches and pains, negative notions. None of these things
materialised. In fact I was in my element.
Rainbow over the Enrick
First was a few verses of Amazing Grace, at the top of my voice. Then my own words to the same tune. John Denver made an appearance for a couple of songs too – Sunshine on My Shoulders and (Caledonian) Rocky Mountain High began spewing from my lungs. Tears popped into the back of my eyes and made their way forth, trickling down my cheeks before dripping to the ground. Tears of joy, elation.
Always time for a brew...
I scoffed a lazy brunch of Family-size Mattesons' Smoked Sausage with Primula and Tortilas – four I think. Loch Meikle was basking below and the sun was still shining through the intermittent showers. The rain stayed off me for the most part of my stroll. It really only set about soaking me about 20 minutes outside of Drumnadrochit itself.

As I arrived in Drum', I took shelter under some trees just outside of some houses just by the Town sign. It poured, and poured. I waited no longer and strolled quickly now, into the Town centre.

When I got to the main street I was outwardly drenched, but my waterproofs had kept the worst of the water on the right side of the fabric. I dropped my pack outside the Fiddlers CafĂ© and went in for refreshment. Tea, for two with sugar – lots of it... a bottle of lucozade, followed by another pot of tea and then a fizzy lemon pop. I had already eaten, so didn't get any more food. I shared a conversation with a local artist – a southerner who was now domiciled in the Highlands, not far from Drum'.
We never exchanged names but she questioned me about my travels so far and showed a spectator's enthusiasm for the challenge. She left me then, to make phone calls home, to Challenge Control, and to Gordon Menzies, the skipper of the MV Morag mo Chridhe. I was due to cross on his boat to Inverfairigaig later that day.

The weather had improved for a while so I dove outside and took a stroll. I didn't spot any other challengers as it was still early so I took up residence on the floor outside the telephone box by the local store. Off came my shoes and socks and I lent back on my rucksack in the sunshine and closed my eyes.
Drum, and the phone box
Davids - Pickles and Wishart arrived and stirred me to my feet. I welcomed them and we chatted for a while spotting new challengers arriving as we chatted. A former challenger arrived and quizzed us on current challengers, scouring Dave Wishart's list for recognisable names.

Too many challengers to remember showed up, including my new pal Tony Bennett who I later learned would pull out from his challenge at Drumnadrochit. It would be a shame not to bump into him again. I had been told that Mick & Gayle (read their blog here) had asked after me so I hoped to see them before crossing the loch. Dave, Dave and I set off for one last cuppa and lo, there they were. Mick and Gayle, the intrepid and perpetually walking couple were sat refuelling in one of the tea-rooms. I have to admit to being a little starstruck. This odd feeling quickly subsided as we chatted and became friends. I think it was here that I caught up with Louise Evans again, this time with John Jocys but I can't remember exactly.

After more convivial exchanges and a resupply at the local store Dave, Dave and I hopped onto Morag (and motored out across the most famous Loch in the world – Loch Ness. As we left the western shore, I saw a landmark leave me behind. Day 4 and Drumnadrochit – done.

I was sat at the back of the boat, and promptly the other challengers started looking back at me. No, they were looking past me. I pivoted and looked behind just as 3 mallards came in to land – on Morag herself!

Shap McDonnell took a shine to the drake so I took a quick snap for his album. You'll agree it is a quacker.

L to R - ANON, Mick, Andy(?), Piedro, Biaggio aboard MV Morag mo Chridhe

L to R - David (Wishart), Alan (?), Keith, Mick, Gayle, Gordon also aboard.

Shap McDonnell & David W

David Pickles

L to R - Jemima, Daffy, Shap.  Look at that smile - lovely man, that Daffy.

Urquhart Castle - centre frame

Jemima and Daffy, again.

Drumnadrochit away from sight now, a milestone passed.
The bouldered, rocky pier at Inverfairigaig welcomed us to Loch Ness's eastern shore and the steep and unrelenting road walk up to Aultnagoire lay before us. Some would walk on, past the croft. I would not. I had booked to camp in the grounds and take a dinner and breakfast with the Sutherlands. As I was soon to discover, I wasn't to be alone. It was here I met more folk who would become friends. It was here that I met with wonderful hospitality. Tea and Cake in seemingly unlimited supply was thrust upon us as we passed through the door.
Mick, Alan, David P, Andy - Mick, Gayle, Shap, Byron behind - I think
The trickle of challengers became a stream once Morag had returned. Those whom I can remember are:

  • Sandy and Carol – a lovelier couple it would be difficult to meet
  • Bryan Waddington – a fellow first-timer
  • John Jocys – a challenge regular (later to provide much entertainment)
  • Louise Evans – a challenge trembler (and a lovely, lovely individual)
  • Mike, Alan & Andy – a band of three very likeable Scots
  • Denis Pidgeon – another challenge regular, with tennents in hand
  • Shap McDonnell – a hiking man with the best smile I have seen
  • David Pickles – diamond bobby off Dartmoor
  • David Wishart – chatty, friendly and funny comrade from the North-east (of England)
  • Byron (insert surname here)
  • Keith (insert surname here)
  • Andy Howell – I didn't get the change to speak to Andy here, but later I would
  • Biaggio Pellegrini and his pal Piedro
  • Koos Schellevis - all friendly in that very Dutch kind of way
  • Mick and Gayle – expert producers of fine, dehydrated fayre and purveyors of great walking wisdom
  • FINALLY - The Sutherlands – our hosts
    • Mrs Janet
    • Mr Alex
    • Miss X (I'm a little ashamed to have forgotten the Sutherlands' daughter's name – she was lovely).
There were more, I know it. I just cannot remember everyone.

We ate our fill, and although the conversation wasn't lively it was interesting and friendly. More and more food was offered and we even managed to squirrel some over to Bryan. He was so well behaved sat in the corner of the dining room. He deserved something!

My notes of this evening are so scant I am a bit annoyed – my memories are faded too. I know I had a nice evening. I chatted, but exactly to whom, and precisely about what I can't recall. The midges arrived, not in great number, but they arrived. I retired to my tent dreaming of breakfast and the Monadhliath.