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Friday, 17 June 2016

TGO Challenge 2016: Transitioning

It takes nineteen hours to travel from my front door to a hotel on the north west coast of Scotland. With each passing hour there is a subtle shedding of an urban life in Southeast England. 

CLOUDBURST, THE M4 HEADING INTO LONDON FROM THE TOP OF A BUS 

In torrential rain, I travel a congested computer-controlled urban motorway. I'm aware of overhead gantries, tarmacadam, crash barriers, trucks and cars. People are invisible. Then there are the huge monoliths of the city - temples to retail, and buses & taxis. There are people on pavements but the predominant impression is of colossal urban mass. Pedestrians are abstract figures.

KENSINGTON

A stroll from Hyde Park, up Piccadilly, Shaftesbury Avenue and though gentle Bloomsbury invites contact at street level with tourists from the world over, the very well-heeled and then the manicured modern-day students. All seem happy, most are smiling, but eye contact is rare. Yet none are more happy than this Challenger, laden down with a rucksack, heading for the Bree Louise, Euston, for a pie and a few pints, to meet up with old friends. 

BREE LOUISE, EUSTON: RAY & PHIL

BREE LOUISE, EUSTON: GORDON

Leaving the pub perilously close to the Caledonian Sleeper's departure time, we scramble aboard, dump our packs in our berth and head to the bar. All the seats are taken but at the far end of the carriage we are invited by a very smiley chap to sample Tomatin whisky. Six bottles of whisky. It is to be a long night. 

TOMATIN WHISKY TASTING ON THE CALEDONIAN SLEEPER

Halfway through we leave the crush of the bar and find seats with Vic & Nic Slawski, and Thom Sandberg from Minneapolis, USA.

THOM SANDBERG & PHIL

Thom has come prepared for the Challenge; His jacket's red silk lining is actually a map of the world, featuring Minneapolis and his route across Scotland. However, there is a problem; Thom's boots are in Oxford. He could well be the first Challenger to stroll across Scotland in his sneakers.

THOM MAY WELL BE WALKING ACROSS SCOTLAND IN THESE SHOES...

Somewhere in the proceedings we lose count, and when finally the excellent free Tomatin stops flowing we resort to buying our whisky. 

The early morning bus ride from Inverness to Dornie is hellish. My scalp hurts and Phil complains of a mysteriously injured leg. The friendly staff at our hotel sort out soft drinks, and after an alfresco gentle lunch we retire for a recovering afternoon snooze and cups of restorative tea.

5:00 AM VIEW FROM OUR DORNIE HOTEL BEDROOM WINDOW

This is our view from the hotel at 5:00am the next morning. A soft mackerel sky, a sea loch and complete silence. The contrast between the first and last images of this post could not be more complete.

20 comments:

  1. Bodes well for the next instalments. You obviously survived.

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    1. The thing is... Both Phil and I had intended to have a very moderate time on the Sleeper, but as Phil tried to explain to Miss Whiplash "But it was all free..." followed by "But it was all FREE!"
      Yes, we survived, but it was a close run thing.

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  2. Excellent start Al. Can you keep it going?

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    1. You see, the thing is...

      I like leaving the write up for a couple of weeks to let the Challenge 'settle' so I can pick the better moments to write about. It's so easy to pen "I turned left at the stile and headed up the hill" but I don't want to read that crap in later years when I re-read my blog, and I'm sure the congregation don't don't want to read it at any time. But there's the snag - leaving it two weeks and all the memorable bits blur together. Perhaps I should leave it for a year, when magically it all seems to be more in focus?

      I took loads of pictures this year (quite a few not included on the pictures I published in the last post) to act as a memory jogger. Phil & I always pool pictures as well, so with a bit of luck it should all come back...

      Then, of course, there's the blogging mojo, which at time this year buggered off for a few stretches.

      Hey ho!
      Cheers Al.
      :-)

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  3. I agree with JJ, Alan and Gibson. Very nicely written Alan.

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  4. I need to start on mine, if I can find the motivation.
    Nut TBH, I still haven't completed last years.

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    1. My mojo is back - I've a cunning plan for the next post.
      :-)
      Come on man! We want to hear the story about how you broke poor Martin!

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  5. As it happens I've been trying to write about our trip to Rum and our day on the Rum Cuillin but I can't do that special experience justice. So rather than write some plodding drivel, I've decided not to post at all. Maybe a few pics.

    Keep up this excellent writing Alan.

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    1. I'm really looking forward to your post, Sir!
      :-)
      go on - string a few words together - I enjoy your blog.

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  6. Brilliant stuff, Alan. Humourous, informative and entertaining. Tbh I have been putting off reading any TGO reports as I have just applied for my first and do not wish to become over-excited before the confirmation letter/email hits my rug/eyeballs. Alas I cannot help myself 😀 Atleast I have refrained from plotting any prospective routes... Looking forward to reading the second installment.
    Cheers.

    Elton

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    1. Elton,you're a poppet. Thank you.
      Now then: I would start thinking about routes immediately, Sir. Your first crossing is very special indeed and it will take you quite a while to sort yourself a route that you will find challenging, doable in rotten weather, and sociable. 'Sociable' is important for your first one!

      All my posts for my 2016 Challenge are done, except for the gear appraisal. I don't usually do a post about gear, but this year I am making an exception.

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  7. Well, somewhat belatedly I have decided to catch up on my blog reading backlog. I'm starting on yours, Alan, as I need to know what I have let myself in for in 2017. It's ok. I'm feeling strong today. I can take it!!!

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    1. Just you be careful with that left leg, Sir.
      Neither Phil nor I have a left leg to spare.

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  8. An excellent start, sir. I do hop ethey catch that irksome little fella who comes into the berths of sleeping passengers at night and hits them over the head with a hammer ...

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    1. That irksome little chap didn't stop at belting us over the head. Read on, Sir and see what befell Lord Elpus!

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