DAY FIVE: TUESDAY. DRUMNADROCHIT TO DALBEG
Two days. Two days walking across one of Scotland's fabulous empty quarters. However, as you'll see later, it is no longer empty.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's Tuesday morning and the good weather has disappeared. It's an early start from our hotel and we march smartly to Temple Pier with the lovely John Woolston to catch the early boat across Loch Ness.
|CROSSING LOCH NESS (1)|
|CROSSING LOCH NESS (2)|
|CROSSING LOCH NESS (3)|
Gordon Menzies has been running this service for Challengers since before time began and he still skips nimbly from boat to rocky pier. We really should invite Gordon as our guest to the Dinner at the Park Hotel.
|A CHALLENGE LEGEND: GORDON MENZIES|
As you'll see from the maps below [click to enlarge them, or right-click to open them in another tab or window so you can refer to them should you so desire] today is a biggish day. Getting on for twenty miles with over three thousand feet of ascent, and with a chunk taken out of the day for the boat trip. By the time we have got our things together, shaken hands with departing Challengers it is nigh on nine o'clock. Thirty kilometers: That's about ten hours including stops. That'll be arriving at Dalbeg around seven in the evening...
I squint at the map, and suggest we slice a quarter of an hour from our day by taking the loch road to
Forres Foyers (thank you, Louise!) and rejoin our route there. Phil gives one of his Gallic shrugs. His family came over with William the Conqueror, you know.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
And what a startlingly good decision this is. At
Forres Foyers we stop for a good half hour for coffee and ice creams, and a final inspection of the porcelain. What's half an hour here and there?
Forres FOYERS (!) to Bailebeag the tiny road slips through some achingly beautiful scenery. Silvered lochans glimpsed between ancient pines, and long-abandoned rowing boats slowly crumpling into the lush flora below. Views snatched of the Monadh Liath looming massively above, blurring into the leaden sky. Homesteads tucked into sheltered corners. Everywhere is peaceful.
And then, we arrive at the entrance to the Corriegarth Wind Farm.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
For six miles we walk uphill into the Monadh Liath: Six miles on a newly constructed heavy gravel road, wide enough for large trucks to pass each other. Six miles with the wind whipping loose dust upwards. As electricians, construction workers, crane men and engineers pass us in their site vehicles, our clothing takes on the colour of the road. Over to our right, below us on the other side of the burn, there are more roads and large construction compounds. I've worked on some pretty large construction projects in my life, and this is up there with the big ones.
How has this come about? Surely "Green Energy" can only be a good thing, right?. I'm afraid not. "Green energy" can never be a good thing if it destroys what it purports to be saving. Alec Salmond and his band of ignorant SNP blackshirts are totally responsible for this destruction. As his own advisors at the University of Aberdeen have told him, building wind farms on peat soils is unlikely to save any CO2 emissions at all. But that was not the reason Salmond and his Scottish Nazi Party decided to fuck the Monadh Liath.
No. They decided to do this because they believed that post-independence from the hated Westminster Tory Scum, Scotland would be selling electricity to the English, with the English paying double the market rate for it through subsidies levied on their own electricity bills and the Scottish Government trousering the Corporation tax from the profits and the not inconsiderable Business Rates from all the wind farms. What was there not to like? Absolutely zero investment required with guaranteed returns, with the hated English consumers paying for everything!
The next eight pictures show the result of Salmond's Greed. Only today, Salmond is talking about Tony Blair being tried for war crimes in Scotland. Surely, this cock-sure, fat little gobshite should first be tarred & feathered and tied to the topmost turbine in the Corriegarth Wind Farm, preferably at the summit of the Corbett, Carn na Saobhaidhe and left to rot. The midges will feast on his purulent flesh, driving him even further insane, if that is possible. Then, and only then will we consider Blair's fate. Hopefully, if there is justice in this world, Chilcott will point out that man's lies on Wednesday. It was Blair and his Energy Secretary Ed Miliband who set into law the farming of wind subsides. Let the Scots have him. A bit like Capone being done for tax evasion. They can have Miliband for free.
|2000 FEET UP IN THE MONADHLIATH MOUNTAINS|
|WAR OF THE WORLDS?|
|THE CONTRACTORS' OFFICES COMPOUND IS OFF TO THE LEFT|
|THIS GIVES AN IDEA OF THE SCALE OF THESE THINGS. LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE VEHICLES BACK LEFT|
|TOO WINDY FOR ANY LIFTS TODAY|
|ON THE WAY UP CARN NA SAOBHAIDHE, LOOKING BACK DOWN TO JUST A SMALL PART OF A HUGE INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE|
In all, there will be twenty three turbines on massive steel towers totally destroying this landscape. This is an area frequented by Golden Eagles. Indeed, only on the next estate Sigrid Rausing has been doing her level best to provide the wherewithal for eagles and other raptors to thrive. And now, for what? To be chopped into broken pieces.
Please forgive me if I come across as an angry man, but I hope you agree, we have a lot to be angry about here.
After clambering over the untroubled very top of Carn na Saobhaidhe, peace breaks out once again, as we head east into the very centre of this glorious landscape.
|AND RELAX. LOOKING EAST FROM CARN NA SAOBHAIDHE. GLORIOUS|
It is difficult to express the enormous sense of relief I feel as this huge place rapidly engulfs the pair of us and we take a rest as soon as we reach the first gurgling caochan.
Here the wind, rain and hills are everything.
|COLLECTING THE CAOCHAN|
|CAMP AT DALBEG|
Dalbeg is a fabulous spot. After a long day, a day of two wildly contrasting sets of emotions, this place offers peace and a quiet calm.
|LOOKING UPSTREAM, DALBEG|
DAY SIX: WEDNESDAY: DALBEG TO KINGUSSIE
On the second map, you'll find a section labeled as "UTTERLY FABULOUS" and that's what I shall write about.
It's wet. Happily, it's not hosing it down and so the weather suits the landscape perfectly. The reds, oranges and luminous emeralds of the bogs are not to be bleached by sunlight and now these colours sing in the moist air. The climbs up to the plateaux is not a horrid sweaty affair, and is taken calmly. A complete joy, as the wind freshens with height gained. Phil & I have been this way before, at different times, and both of us wanted to revisit this place to see if it is still as magical as we both remembered.
And it is.
|THE START OF "UTTERLY FABULOUS" (SEE MAP ABOVE)|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 2|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 3|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 4|
|PHIL'S PICTURE (OBVIOUSLY...) UTTERLY FABULOUS 5|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 6|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 7 (C/O PHIL)|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 8|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 9: COLLECTING THE DOWNSTREAM CAOCHAN|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 10: NO - NOT PHIL... STILL RAINING|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 11: STILL RAINING|
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 12: MAGNIFICENT PEAT|
Coming to the far end of this delightful peat-filled cleft in the hills is tinged with sadness; It feels as though we should turn around and walk back to do it once again.
|UTTERLY FABULOUS 13. THE DISTANT DULNAIN|
|UF 14: AN AIRY PERCH BEFORE A TRICKY CLAMBER DOWN|
|UF 15: LOOKING BACK: WE CLAMBERED DOWN THAT.|
As you all know, I'm not that good with heights, and I found the clamber down the gorge quite tricky in a couple of places, resorting to chucking my poles down and sliding ungracefully down several feet on my arse, grabbing at awkwardly placed boulders to slow my descent. The same as the last time I came this way...
I carried a packet of beef flavoured rice and a sachet of Szechuan sauce all the way from Dornie, six days earlier and as we start cooking in the Dulnain bothy, John arrives. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, but with lunch and the hip flasks two hours fly past at an alarmingly happy rate.
I mean. Chairs. Tables. Indoors. Why wouldn't it?
|LUNCH AT DULNAIN No. 1|
Eventually, way past the intended time, we grudgingly shoulder our bags and set off up the track that would lead us up, past Freaky Dean (climbed a few years back by both of us, separately) and then down to our destination, Kingussie.
It was on the clamber up that we three stopped dead in our tracks as John spotted an eagle overhead. Please excuse the rather blurred grabbed shot of the beast. This was the highlight of my day. As well, of course, as the Utterly Fabulous section, and Phil losing his map and being about to set off back down to the very bottom of the hill to retrieve it when he noticed something lumpy around his ankles in his overtrousers.
|YES!!! IT IS.|
|LOOKING BACK DOWN TO OUR LUNCH SPOT|
|LOOKING DOWN TO SPEYSIDE & THE CAIRNGORMS|
The walk to Kingussie is fortuitously mostly downhill and as we arrive, we leave John, to slide into deep baths, followed by epicurean feasting and drinking on a pleasurable scale known hitherto only by the Gods.
|TRASHING THE HOTEL BEDROOM|
The Cross at Kingussie. Go on. Spoil yourself.