It doesn’t have to take two days to get to Oban; It can easily be done in one, but that would be missing the point, wouldn’t it? This is an adventure, you see, and adventures need to start with epic journeys, squid fights, an escape from burning wreckage and being stuck in a large cooking pot with bare-breasted savages dancing about with spears.
And that is just not going to happen if you rush headlong to your start point in one day.
And that’s how I found myself snoozing in the warm sunshine on a London park bench in Russell Square, having woken up to some light snoring. The natives seemed restless, scurrying across this little oasis in small gangs armed with briefcases and brollies, giving my bench a wide berth. Some were particularly attractive, and I dreamed of a hot & steamy death. There might have been silk ropes, oils and alcohol involved: It’s all a bit hazy now.
But, in one bound I was free, and so made my escape northwards (you’ll hear a lot about “north” in the next week or so) to Tavistock Square, where, hoping for sage advice, I communed with that nice Mr Ghandi. He mumbled something about avoiding alcohol, women and squid-fights. With a slightly fuzzy head after a really lovely late lunch with an old girlfriend, I decided to carry on with the trek north.
Next stop was the Euston Tap, which had been recommended to me some time ago, by that inveterate lush, Randy Howell, as a good joint for real ales.
Well, credit where credit’s due: This jewel-case did in fact carry a few gems and I recall trying ‘Buxton Moor Top’ before the spiral staircase to the upper deck defeated both me and my rucksack’s further vertical progress.
There was nothing for it but to head in a northerly direction once more, and so with my loins re-girded, I struck out for the Bree Louise, to meet up with two sleeper trains’ of Challengers. Phil, Andy & I were on the 11:50pm to Glasgow, but there was also the 9:15 to Fort William & Inverness to meet up with as well. And here are some of the Challengers for both those trains.
[PICTURES COURTESY OF JOHN]
At some point in the evening, strong hallucinogenic drugs were shared out. Mad’n’Bad blamed me. I blamed Jane. If that’s what nicotine does to your brain I’ll nip out now and buy twenty massive Havana's.
The 11:50 sleeper isn’t a great ride. As soon as your head hits the pillow, the uniformed storm-trooper is bashing your door down with a cup of luke-warm coffee and two fingers of shortcake. It’s a very rude, early awakening which has none of the charms of the longer, more relaxed service of the 9:15.
However, it does take you north, to Glasgow.
Queen Street Station slowly filled with society’s ne’er-do-wells, all sporting impossibly heavy rucksacks and a disgustingly healthy cleanliness, that would inevitably dissolve into a quagmirey mess of tick bites and body odour in a matter of days. One chap was sporting the very latest in technical bin-liners and he assured the curious onlookers that it was bomb-proof, barbed wire proof and up to the job. We never saw the garment again…
Our train trundled into Oban and we were soon in our room at the Youth Hostel, looking over to Mull:
There was the small matter of one member of our party, who shall remain nameless, disporting himself at the window as two young ladies passed by below. We shall draw a veil over the incident and it won’t be mentioned again. What happens on the Challenge stays on the Challenge. After a small gratuity was paid, the girls agreed not to take the matter any further.
The other members of our party concentrated their efforts on the scenic splendours of the evening:
Lord Elpus was chucked into the Power Shower, (set on “stun”) and his sins were flayed from his miserable debauched flesh.
We all slept nervously in our bunks, with Andy dreaming of footless pregnant women and Phil had mad axe-men smashing down our bedroom door.