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Saturday, 29 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013: Day 14: To the North Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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, ST CYRUS

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

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

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

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

ANDY READING HIS CHALLENGE POEM, DINNER, PARK HOTEL, JM LOOKING ON

Here’s Norma getting hers, and

NORMA RECEIVES HER TEN-TIMER'S PLAQUE

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

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.

43 comments:

  1. Congratulations on another successful crossing. I've really enjoyed reading your posts :-) Hopefully see you on next year's event.!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Alsiatir. Very kind of you.
      :-)
      I'll be applying, so fingers crossed. You'll have a guaranteed place of course.
      No news yet, then?.... Love to Lynsey

      Delete
  2. Well done on completing yet another crossing - in not the easiest of conditions.....that's your condition and that of the weather.
    An excellent write-up, although I wouldn't have expected anything less. I almost felt I was in Scotland too.....oh, hang on a minute!
    Anyroadup, see you soon for that beer!
    JJ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll look forward to that beer, young man!

      I'm going to have a few days up in the Dales seeing Rick & Lyndsey in a few weeks time - I'll give you a buzz to let you know when.

      Delete
  3. Very realistic Mr S. Cum ed, soft boy ey?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very kind.
      :-)
      You'll have to translate the last sentence into Berkshire though.
      Cheers Mike.

      Delete
  4. Very well done Alan, well, all of you of course.

    Your trip made the goosebumps come out as I remembered with you the highs and lows of a grand adventure through our wild spaces and places.

    Many congratulations and very best wishes for that kidney thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Adam.
      I've enjoyed writing it up as it brought back all the good bits and even the struggley bits seemed a little better.
      The kidney is doing really well and my brother is healing up nicely too. All very good news.
      :-)

      Delete
  5. Two words: absolutely brilliant. I think I'll go back and start again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ta, Gibson

      It's easy to write up something that is so much fun.
      When you've got your knee sorted, you two should give the Challenge a go, you know.
      :-)

      Delete
    2. Hi Alan - When my knee is fixed we have a trip planned which allows us to simply walk out of the house, cross the Ochils and head northwards, diverting to Skye for a very special excursion before continuing to the north coast.

      We did toy with the idea of applying for the Challenge and, if successful, including it in our plans before resuming our walk - just as you did on your LEJOG. However, that would mean applying for the Challenge long before I even have surgery, let alone know the outcome, so I doubt that option will be on the cards. I have a route planned just in case though!

      Delete
    3. That sounds like a splendid plan. The far north west is utterly frabjous and taking in Skye makes it a dream trip. Enjoy - The Challenge can be done the following year after your knee is totally sorted.

      I'm already thinking about routes for next year. I reckon I can now start planning a nice hilly route - there are some ridges that I have been putting off because of my health.

      I've also got the Pyrenees & Corsica in my sights for next year as well. The world is my lobster, Rodney!
      :-)

      Delete
    4. I think I preferred it when you called once called me Louise :-)

      Delete
    5. Oops! I've just realised that you are probably referring to Rodney's Oyster House.

      Delete
    6. Actually, it was Del boy talking to his brother, in Only Fools & Horses.
      :-)

      Delete
  6. As Louise said - Brilliant! Fantastic write-up, as always.

    I've thoroughly enjoyed reading all your posts - and then comparing them with Andy's. Interesting to note the difference in style and, often, content. :-)

    So...what are you going to turn your hand to next? Perhaps an episodic account of your subsequent trip in early June, with full colour pics. (Hopefully there were no scousers in hospital?)

    Norma

    (Thanks for the kind remarks BTW)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wot? You don't want to see the video of the operation, then?

      I'm hurt.
      :-)

      The difference in content between Andy and my accounts can be put down squarely to the fact that Andy is usually on a different planet. He lives in a wonderful world inside that head of his. He's had MRI scans, you know, to see where the problems lie.
      :-)

      Delete
    2. I have taken that on board, and will shortly complete my final day, including that battle with the Klingon invasion fleet, that we fought of and saved the planet, just after the Den of Morphie. Spirited you didn't remember it. :-)

      Delete
    3. What happens on the Challenge stays on the Challenge.

      I won't talk about "Tie me to a tree and call me Brenda" then.
      :-)

      Delete
    4. That was tie Brenda to the tree and call me ????
      I forget now.
      Was that at NWB?

      And the stomach no longer needs holding in.
      Thanks to the 'Sloman Blog Therapy course of grotesque embarrassment'
      that I enrolled in last year, I am now completely cured.

      Delete
    5. Did I ever mention that "that" photograph was photoshopped?
      ;-)

      Well done though fella!

      Delete
  7. i,ve had a great time reading your blog and andys blog . i have come to realise that reading both blogs is like doing jury service . there is your version and then there is andys version and somewhere in between is is the truth . but who cares they are both brilliant blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very kind, Chris.

      If you read the comments immediately above yours you can see the problem.

      We've tried medication but in the end we found Guinness to be the best solution. It brings up an interesting philosophical question: "What is truth?"
      :-)

      With jury service the bloke in the dock stands a chance of being free again. That doesn't happen if you're mates with Lord Elpus and Mad'n'Bad Andy. They are always there.
      In a good way.

      :-)

      Delete
    2. I think you will find that the truth lies somewhere else completely. :-)

      Delete
  8. Alan, Andy. Mes Deux Raconteurs!

    You can only do your tenth once, although, as Andy notes, I did contemplate withdrawing half a mile from the coast so as to keep re-applying for my tenth (and a free pass)in perpetuity.

    In retrospect, I should have done. The three accompanying places could have been auctioned on eBay each year to supplement my meagre pension.

    But then I wouldn't have such brill companions as I did this year. Ta chaps, and thanks for such excellent write ups.

    Just ten weeks Monday before the 2014 application form appears in the September mag, and it all kicks off.

    Like deja vu - all over again ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can always change your mind about not doing it next year, you know.
      I have ten weeks to work on you, then.
      :-)

      Delete
    2. 'Course, it's actually the October mag that comes out in September. The publishing calendar always confuses me. We might be in Scotland during challenge time, but I will not be challenging myself as Miss W & I will be on holiday.

      I forgo a "proper holiday" this May at my peril. This morning my attention was drawn to an article in the paper saying that the UK has the highest number of 'whiplash injuries' in the EU.

      I have been warned.

      Delete
    3. Your holiday with Miss Whiplash could always be two weeks strolling across Scotland. It's high-time for her triumphant return.

      I'll work on her.
      :-)

      Delete
  9. Quote: "I'll work on her."

    Ha ha. You really DO like a challenge, don't you? If Miss W straps a pack on her back next May, then the era of porcine aviation will truly have arrived.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There must have been a huge porky fly-past in 1998, then...
      :-)

      Delete
  10. A cracking good read.

    Not sure about the comment about Andy,s belly
    "EIGHT-TIMER ANDY, (HOLDING HIS TUMMY IN) ST CYRUS – CLICK TO ENLARGE"

    Hope to see you next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers, Sandy
      :-)
      I thought no one had spotted that - Well, Andy hadn't for sure!

      Glad to hear you'll be on next year!
      Alan

      Delete
  11. Just got round to reading the final thrilling installments, Alan.

    Yet again a Master pensman at work.

    I'll be nipping over to Andy's soon to check that he was aware of which walk he was on :-) That's if he's reached St Cyrus yet?

    You'll have JM on your back too - write out 100 times: "I must not finish at St Cyrus" :-)

    Still, I can talk - 3 out of 4 there: and the 4th was Montrose: "I must not....................................

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very kind, Sir
      :-)
      I haven't always finished at St Cyrus. I've also finished at Montrose (twice), Tangle Ha, Nether Warburton, Catterline and Castle Bay, along with the twelve finishes at St Cyrus.

      I promised Uncle Roger, after ten finishes at St Cyrus, that I would try other places, which is why there are six other places in the list.

      Then JM took over, so I reverted to St Cyrus. The thing is, St Cyrus is just plain gorgeous.

      Delete
  12. Well done Alan
    Pass the Guinness, please!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ta, Martin.

      It looks like we all have settled weather for a while. Good luck, Cauterets is a lovely spot for a break.
      :-)

      Delete
  13. Well I have had to re-read a couple of times but I finally made it to the North Sea. Well done Alan, Great fun. You never did mention if Andy managed to erm empty his intestinal tract! Or is he saving it until next year.
    Good to meet you all on the Minigaig. Smashing night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very kind, Al

      Actually, I did mention it, at the start of Day 3 DAY 3

      Thanks again for your Minigaig adventure - i just wish I had been in better shape to enjoy it a little more fully.
      :-)

      Delete

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