Miss Whiplash telephones Phil in the morning. She's anxious to catch us before we depart into the wilds.
"Phil! I just had to let you know: Ed Davey has lost his seat!"
Whooping with joy, that this mad fuckwit has got his comeuppance ~ so there is now a chance to rid Scotland of the threat of more wind turbines ~ the condemned men eat a hearty breakfast. We eat until we can eat no more. In fact, I need a lie down. And one more cup of coffee. Okay - I'll have another round of toast as well. Pass the marmalade. Ta.
Look at the picture below: What a wonderful day! The Conservatives have quite unexpectedly spanked Labour in yesterday's General Election and Alec Salmond is not going to be "King-maker;" in fact he's going to have no power whatsoever! Glory Be! And the sun is beating down outside! All is well with our world.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: VIEW OF RATAGAN FROM KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL|
We stagger downstairs under the weight of rucsacks with four days of food on board, pay the bill and sign the Register to show that we have started the 2015 TGO Challenge. But everyone seems to have already signed and gone! They must have sprung from their blocks like sprinters in a hundred yard dash!
We stroll down to the Atlantic Ocean. If you look carefully at the next picture, you can witness the gigantic waves smashing with foam and fury onto the beach. I have a safety-line at the ready in case Phil is washed out to sea.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: LORD ELPUS, SHIEL BRIDGE|
It has taken us a couple of days to get to Shiel Bridge, most of it fast asleep in our bunks on the Sleeper from Euston and with some gentle snoozing on the morning bus from Inverness. However, It is now time to gently stretch the sinews and ease ourselves into our holiday. The morning's walk looks like this:
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: THE MORNING'S WALK TO THE WATERSHED|
It's a six mile wander up Gleann Lichd to the house, for a rest and a bite to eat, and then a gentle pull up to the watershed for a late lunch. But this is not any old watershed. No Sir! It is Scotland's Bloody Great Big Watershed! In the morning, all the water we encounter will be heading off west, to the Wild Atlantic. Yet, in the afternoon, any water we find will be heading in the same general direction as us ~ East, to the North Sea. Hereabouts, the watershed is incredibly close to the coast!
Stick with us kid. Watch and learn.
So we saunter off, our start on this year's adventure a barely imperceptible turn to the north as we take the old coast road, avoiding the busy road while we still can. Good Lord! As soon as we reach the main road we are assailed by swarms (oh - apparently I can't use "swarms" as the Thought Police deem it a derogatory term. Guardianistas link the word to animals...) of the Great Unwashed, otherwise known as our fellow Challengers. The thing is, they are all sparkly clean ~ ie, unrecognisable ~ and it is only when one chap is passing us going the other way (in the 'wrong' direction) that I realise I didn't say 'Hello' to Richard Flint. Sorry Rich!
We find ourselves bowling along, all too quickly, I might add, with all manner of lovely clean people, all intent on walking, lemming-like, to the east coast.
And at this furious pace, we reach our first refuelling stop. Back in 1999 Miss Whiplash had walked the Challenge with us. I might still have the crumpled old Black & White photo of her in my wallet somewhere. For old time's sake, Phil takes up a similar pose as his wife had done some sixteen years earlier, but with slightly less leg on show.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: MR LAMBERT 2015|
What's this? I've found it, and given it a good ironing.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: MRS LAMBERT 1999 "THE ESSO SIGN MEANS HAPPY MOTORING..."|
Still plagued by herds of Challengers, we pass by Morvich campsite and peel off left, joined by Mike, to sit in the sunshine licking cooling ice-creams and generally peeling off layers of clothing. Mike knows his way around Scotland - this is his tenth TGO Challenge; He knows the value of a steady start. Never pass a tea shop. Never refuse an ice-cream.
Another visit to the last porcelain for four days, and now we amble slowly on our way. Well, Phil & I amble, but Mike has legs up to his armpits and finds it difficult to keep down to our pace and eventually leaves us.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: MIKE STRIDES OUT.|
I'll let the pictures do the talking for a while. I'll catch up with you later.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: GLEANN LICHD|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE (QUITE WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO DEFEATS ME!) A GENERAL VIEW OF PHIL'S GINORMOUS RUCKSACK|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL'S PICTURE, BALCONY PATH, COIRE GRANNDA|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL, LEISURELY SAUNTERING|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: THERE'LL BE CHALLENGERS UP THERE|
Yes. There were a few Challengers up there in the snow, having a jolly time!
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: NOT YET AT THE WATERSHED|
We played tag with brothers Roger and Peter for most of the day. You'll see them in quite a few of today's pictures. Lovely smiley blokes.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: THAT'S THE WATERSHED AHEAD|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: SITTING ASTRIDE THE WATERSHED|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL, SHOWING THE WORLD SOME LEG|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: SO IT HADN'T BEEN THE WATERSHED AFTER ALL!|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: YES! I WAS AT THE WATERSHED! HONEST!|
After eventually crossing the watershed, we had a celebratory picnic. It will be another year before we can do this again. The day is wonderful and neither of us is wheezing like an old horse. I ask Phil if we have Miss Whiplash to thank for our tip-top condition. He mumbles something through a mouthful of petits fours that I can't quite make out as his face turns purple.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: IT'S ALL DOWNHILL IN THE AFTERNOON|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL, CAMBAN BOTHY|
We stop for a brew in Camban, which has had a significant make-over since our last visit sixteen years ago. The central in-house drainage ditch has been filled. There are now sleeping platforms and rooflights. The large boulders that were the chairs have been pinched. You have to nail stuff down these days.
I try to make inroads on my enormous food bag. I'm now a cuppa soup lighter. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: RUIN, FIONNGLEANN. THE BUILDING ISN'T LOOKING TOO GOOD EITHER|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL'S PICTURE - LOOKING BACK TO CAMBAN|
Make mental note. Never have my photo taken wearing that hat. Or contre-jour. And not stoney-faced. In fact, Just Don't.
And so we stroll down to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel. The place is heaving with sun-kissed Challengers. Parking my car in the dustbins I recall Police Squad!
"My name is Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant, Police Squad. There'd been a recent wave of gorgeous fashion models found naked and unconscious in laundromats on the West Side. Unfortunately, I was assigned to investigate holdups of neighborhood credit unions. I was across town doing my laundry when I got the call on the double killing. It took me twenty minutes to get there. My boss was already on the scene."
We sidle into the sun-soaked kitchen-diner, park our behinds on some comfy chairs and prepare for a snooze. Just about to nod in the warm and friendly fug when we're told there is tea! And cake! And more cake! The lovely (Dutch?) Youth Hostel Warden has been busy baking. We are in ecstasy. After an hour or so of slothful happiness, we stir our stumps, slip on our boots, retie our laces, and head off into the Great Outdoors. Phil nips back for his rucsack, and we set off once again
|THE BESTEST YOUTH HOSTEL WARDEN, EVER! GLEN AFFRIC YH.|
It's now early evening and strolling down the track is a delight. With about a mile to go we realise with horror that some blighters have pinched our proposed camp-spot! This will not do! We can see them, plain as a pike-staff, cavorting about on OUR camp site! We take a good Paddington Bear-like stare at the map. There's nothing for it. We'll have to stay here.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: EARLY EVENING, GLEN AFFRIC|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PERFECTLY PITCHED|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL WATCHING 'CORRIE'' ON HIS SATMUPPET.|
Dinner, a few snifters and Phil catches up with this evening's Coronation Street on his SatMuppet GPS Gadget thingy.
A quiet word to any aspiring Challengers. THIS is how your first day should be spent. Take it easy. It's not a race. Ease yourself in to the walk with treats and fancies.
And remember the names of the bastards who pinch your camping spots.