The last day, eh?
So then. What are we expecting? Having abandoned poor Brechin (she’ll get over it) there was nothing for it but to head off to the coast. But first, us gurls have to look our best if we are to march into civilisation & the Park Hotel, so it was a hot shower, and a shave. Last night, Phil had kindly done a bit of washing, so there was a clean base layer, pants and socks. We would be okay now if we were to be run over crossing the A90, which is always likely given the incredible speeds the Scottish commuters drive at just to get to work.
TGO 2013: DAY 14 – CLICK TO ENLARGE
It was surprisingly nippy and there was one of those “steady, now, that was a bit rough” winds that pushed and pulled at you. Walloping showers suddenly sprang at you and then just as quickly as they had arrived, they galloped off again.
On the way to Marykirk we were passed by a column of three walkers, barely two strides apart, arms, legs (& poles!) in perfect unison. The leader was grim faced and not up for any convivial banter as they had obviously a very important rendezvous planned. All were sporting a similar uniform and the poles clicking & clacking obviously imparted that tiny bit of extra speed to help them meet their dreadful deadline.
I’m afraid Phil & I just burst into giggles as they gradually pulled away from our leisurely amble, the stabbing pains from their inevitable blisters probably gave them added masochistic thrills. The Challenge is made up of all sorts, so my evil twin promptly nick-named them “the Allsorts.”
Before too long, we were at the top of the cliff at St Cyrus, with the wind tearing at our jackets.
ST CYRUS: WINDY CLIFF TOP
I always like to pause a little here and take it all in. Thinking back, our start at Oban seemed like a year ago. The Upper Feshie, months and Lochnagar certainly over a week. Time spent ambling across Scotland slows to walking pace and all the crappy things that seem to fill your life before, have now all fallen away and are just about forgotten.
In a week or so’s time I would be checking in to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford for a kidney transplant, given to me by my incredibly brave brother, Dave. So all the crap I’ve had to deal with in terms of my health and not getting getting on with my life will soon be sloughed off and I can finally look forward to starting again and sorting a few things out.
THE NORTH SEA – CLICK TO ENLARGE
So, mind settled, I strolled off down the cliff-path to the wonderful beach, and, best of all the sun finally came out with some real warmth.
PATH DOWN THE CLIFF – CLICK TO ENLARGE
This year was Phil’s walk, really. It was his tenth crossing and so he had planned an absolute beauty of a route, which despite the dreadful weather of the first few days, we had largely stuck to. We had had some magnificent mountain days in blizzards, sunshine, cloud and rain but best of all we had had a brilliant time.
TEN-TIMER PHIL, ST CYRUS & THE NORTH SEA – CLICK TO ENLARGE
And here’s Andy, who had been great fun all the way across, and had waited patiently as Phil & I brought up the rear at our usual plod. I don’t really see the point of rushing across at break-neck speed – you miss the birds, leverets and otters that way - and Andy adjusted his pace accordingly and I hope had a great time too.
EIGHT-TIMER ANDY, (HOLDING HIS TUMMY IN) ST CYRUS – CLICK TO ENLARGE
And here we are all together – Ooh! we seem to be in matching colour-ways – but don’t worry, none of us had any blisters and as you can see we are all grinning like idiots. And we hadn’t “poled” our way along the roads to the coast, either.
THE TEMPERANCE TRIO, ST CYRUS. 36 CHALLENGES BETWEEN US – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Vicky & Toby met us on the beach. I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing them again on the Challenge. It sounds like they had done a cracking route and had had a great time. They certainly joined in at every available opportunity. A fun-loving, great couple.
VICKY & TOBY, ST CYRUS. GREAT FIRST TIMERS – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Then it was the yearly struggle back up the cliff to the halfway bench for the celebratory beer and Swiss roll. It was at the start of the climb that we spotted the notice saying that the cliff path was shut due to weather damage. Funny really, considering some of the hairy paths we had taken over the last two weeks. To a man, every single Challenger ignored these daft warnings.
ANDY'S PIC; CELEBRATORY BEER & SWISS ROLL, ST CYRUS CLIFF – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Tea and scones at the cafe, followed by the bus journey into Montrose, and then signing the finishing register in the Kinnaird Room at the Park Hotel. Shake hands with JM, thank him for his herculean efforts to arrange yet another successful event. T-shirts, certificates, badges, buffs and socks handed out and then a nice cup of tea and biscuits.
Oh, alright then – just the one pint before we set off for the campsite – which turned into a few. Meeting up with old friends Philip & Martin and countless others too numerous to mention. I hope you won’t mind if I have missed you out. It’s a riot of good humour, relief that it was all over, tinged with sadness that it was all over, tall tales and laughter.
Then off to put up the tents and a final spruce-up to make ready for the dinner in the evening. This was a big occasion, as Phil was getting his plaque for completing ten crossings, as was Norma, so we had to be on best behaviour.
Just prior to Phil marching up to get his plaque, Andy read out his wonderful poem that he had delivered at Stan & Bill’s. It went down a storm.
ANDY READING HIS CHALLENGE POEM, DINNER, PARK HOTEL, JM LOOKING ON
Here’s Norma getting hers, and
NORMA RECEIVES HER TEN-TIMER'S PLAQUE
Here’s Phil, getting his. Two lovely people who over the years have enriched the experience of countless Challengers who had met them on their walks.
PHIL RECEIVES HIS TEN TIMER'S PLAQUE FROM DANIEL
Sorry about the glare in the photo, but for some insane reason Rab thought it was vital that a really excellent summer base layer should have a great big shouty, fluorescent material stuck on it to ruin the photographs, to add to their heinous crime of selling fleeces designed to strangle the wearer.
Note to Rab: Think harder about this stuff. Take it for a walk before sticking it on the shop shelves.
So that was it for another year. All that remained now was the long trip back home, and a week catching up with some sleep.
Many thanks must go to Phil & Andy for a wonderful walk with two really lovely blokes.
THE SMALL PRINT: No Scousers were named or shamed in the writing of this blog. If you do find any mention of any part, smell or suggestion of Scouser herein, please write to JM c/o Challenge Control and report it immediately. However, I do warn you, the retribution from me & Mike will be swift and terrible, and on here.
That’s a promise.