There were sudden freaky-rainy-gravel-chucking-squally things in the night, but Trinnie and Oook shrugged them off with aplomb; hardly breaking step as they snored & snuffled gently together through the long night. These girls are perfect partners for a chap out in the wilds.
I soon had a warming fire going in the bothy and then, and only then, would Mr Walker surface and be polite company. He had been singing along to an interminable Cliff Richard medley, tucked up in his HexPeak. I lit the fire out of desperation when he started on Abba.
If the midges are out for the Challenge, they will eat Andy alive, as midges really hate Cliff Richard.
Miserably, all good things come to an end, so we trudged out of the lovely warm bothy in reasonable shape, out into the Scottish weather, heading for Aviemore’s pleasure-domes.
There was no bloody sign of this Man-Made-Global-Warming: It was still decidedly chilly, with low cloud and sheets of drizzle wrapped in a batter of stiff breeze that’d shrink your head to the skull-bone as soon as lifting your cap. We abandoned our high stravaig along the watershed. It would have been a miserable affair and this was a trip of warm fluffy kittens and happiness. We’d have no misery here! So we set off once again, down the broadening bottom of the Dulnain.
JENNIFER JUNIPER, SITTING VERY STILL ALONG THE BROADENING DULNAIN
The Dulnain changes around these parts from a vigorous tomboy to quite a leggy girl with a glint in her eye. I would imagine her to be quite a handful in a storm but fortunately there’s a sturdy bridge a short hop below the next bothy downstream, Bothy number (you’ve guessed it already, haven’t you; we only have intelligent readers in this congregation) Four, sometimes known as the ‘Red Bothy.’
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First we have to sample the delights of this magnificent oasis.
BOTHY NUMBER FOUR, THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Supplies were low and so rations were shared and a short break to read of past passers-by in the bothy book, was enjoyed. This place is the Grand Central Station of the Monadh Liath; There cannot be many who have enjoyed these fabulous hills who did not stop here for a last quiet break before the noisome clash of Aviemore.
I’ve heard walkers complain of the dreadful trudge up the Burma Road, but, given time to savour the views it can be a wonderful stroll. Please don’t rush to the top in a lather; Look out and back for the views – they fill your head with loveliness.
CAGGAN, FROM BURMA ROAD – CLICK TO ENLARGE
On the stroll up, we witnessed the heartless destruction of a fen trap; three gigantic burly men heaved rocks at it until the trap was sprung and bent way out of shape. Good for them! Some furry little blighter with jolly big teeth will live to fight another day. We were not going to argue the legalities of the occasion with them, such was their colossal size and aggressive demeanour.
ANOTHER MISTY-MOISTY VIEW OVER THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE
I’ve often heard the hills of the Monadh Liath described in disparaging tones, but I always find them wonderfully approachable; they are curvy long-limbed beauties that afford fabulous views from their shoulders. The walking along the tops can be tough at times, but for the most part, if you pick a good line, you are treading short alpine mosses and shattered stones. Perfect for backpacking in fine weather. Unfortunately, today was cold and grim with strong gusty winds, so we admired Geal-charn Mor from below.
Here are two gigantic burly men I happened to bump into on the way down from the Burma Road. That’s the Cairngorms behind them, all wrapped in clag and mystery.
TWO GIGANTIC BURLY MEN
After a bit of a road-bash, we made Pleasurama Central, otherwise known as the Aviemore Youth Hostel. This is a fascinating emporium: On its plus side, it has a wonderful drying room, lovely staff and it serves beer. It is warm and the common areas are spacious and comfortable. The showers are okay, with just a bit of mouldy ceiling to give the shabby-chic hostel effect.
On the downside, the rooms are tiny, there is no-where near enough hanging space, storage space for gear, no place to keep your specs when you’re sleeping and just the one feeble central light. Why are there no individual bunk lights? This is a fairly modern hostel; it really needs to be looked at from their customers’ perspective and sorted out. It’s no surprise to me that hostels are struggling if they are getting the basics so wrong. The room felt cramped and poorly designed.
Later on that evening, I was force-fed a Scottish delicacy – the deep-fried Mars bar, with ice cream. I now understand why the Scots are such a healthy nation. Full of vitamins, nutrition and fibre. They’ll need all of that to keep their winters at bay.