Leaving Tarfside was quite difficult, partly as it was such an idyllic place to be, partly because there were more eggs on offer. If anyone sees me go near an egg before July 2017 please kick me.
We set off walking on the road and it was surprisingly pleasant, the sun shone birds sang and the air was full of beauty and cliches. We followed the river for many miles, buzzards, red squirrels, and lots of (sadly, post spawning, dead or dying) salmon. Such is life.
Before entering Edzell we were lucky enough to enjoy the delights of The Blue Door. We were greeted by a gyrating river, deep smooth gorges and gushing waters. Quite lovely.
And so to Edzell and beer. Shite beer. A 70 Shillings and a Guinness, both tasted as bad, infact identical. Abandon ship!
So we found the lovely Tuck Inn, full of walkers and a lot of chips and fine fried things, ice cream and cakes. Calories intake excellent. If you like that sort of thing.
The next four miles weren’t very nice. Firstly through chicken and cow factories where you grow and kill beasts in pretty vile conditions, stinking of shit and death for miles around them (depending on the wind direction) it’s easy to see why these hell holes are hidden away. I encounter a few when running in north York, the smell is unmistakeable. You don’t see what is inside but you know, if you even think about it, that’s its fucking vile.
The green fields around the death factories contained debris and the odd cow so ill, scrawny and scarred by the bars of their pens that you wonder more what goes on in there. Or you don’t think about it as it’s easier that way. The sign on the way out said this was a “Specially Selected Scottish Farm: Quality Meat”; I’d hate to go near a sub-quality farm.
Next the joys of armed forces camps and straight roads with fast cars and wagons, almost universally courteous, giving us a wide birth. Our camp site had the most stunningly soft grass to sleep on, level like a bowling green. Unfortunately the dual carriageway 100 metres away prevented any sleep.
Our friend the horse
Apologies for the Carling
We woke of sound mind… as ever, heading east to Water of Lee/River Lee/Glen Lee/Loch Lee and then on the track to Tarfside that runs north of Hill of Rowan and past an impressive memorial.
We were re-entering civilisation, the last of any wilderness gone, inevitable mixed feelings of a great walk and discovery coming to an end filling us. Yet this was somehow halted by tremendous hospitality and the warmest of welcomes at Tarfside where we had bacon butties, egg butties, cakes, tea and best of all a shower.
We also met a few characters including Kurvy Pev and the The Swimmer; I also need to confess that there were only two tins of beer left. Of course I snapped them up. Alas they were Carling.
Oh yes, Nick broke the disabled seat in the shower, built for substantial weights, but not Nick’s it appears.
It was a fantastic if not noisy camp. It had been a while since we shared a dawn chorus with lowland birds. My they can sing. A lovely place to camp though, and at any time – the estate maintains the fields and toilet block and allows free camping and free use of the facilities which is generous. There does seem to be a lot of community activity and pride in this remote part of Scotland, it was very noticeable, running from the free campsite to restoration appeals to activity groups. Long may it last!
We of course imbibed, but gently, and chatted with the good doctors as they talked about shin splints and blisters and took the piss out of our cuben fibre fetish. The night ended with me stuffing earplugs in my ears as once the birds stopped Nick started and his renditions of The Forest (a good song murdered) and Somewhere Over The Rainbow (an appalling song made worse, indeed massacred) were the last things I heard this night.
We found a (formerly) helium filled pink balloon just after having decided to get rid of our litre of whisky. We did a good job as the next day there was only 200ml left. Just after we’d started to imbibe we found our deflated pink friend and the night seemed to spiral into madness and I can’t remember going to bed but apparently it was around 8.25pm.
The highlight (or lowlight) was the total incineration of my sandals but I think the video reveals all along with this photo. I am repentant.
Sadly the highlight (or lowlight of the next day was soon to be upon us as Nick was crying out aloud for help. He was lost in the bothy in the dark, around 60cm from where he had fallen from his bench. It reminded me of George’s whisky fuelled cries for help after leaving his tent for a pee and being unable to find his way back released similar blood curdling screams.
Today I’m wondering why my sack is bulging so much.
Then I realised I’m carrying:
– A 500g Christmas Cake
– 500g of ground coffee
– Two 500ml bottles of single malt
– A tin of beans, contents c400g I think A
– A block of cheese
That’s at least 2.5kg of stuff that could be emptied which is quite a bulge let me tell you.
Anyway we left Braemar in glorious sunshine and followed a B road until we turned off for Lochcallator Lodge where we found a welcome greeting and the post alcoholic fallout of quite a big party. Offered whisky at 10.30am we elected to flee. And flee we did into the mountains, climbing the highest on our walk and being treated to glorious lighting, the clouds and sun playing games all afternoon. It was my third trip up Lochnagar (and Nick’s first) and by far the best, just because I could see further than my arm end, and it was beautiful. We took quite a few (obviously crap) photos.
We met a few people along the day most memorable being Tim (and Nick again 🙂 in the bothy). Actually the most interesting and encouraging were a couple from 14 miles of Lochnagar who are in their 10th crossing, and he is a vetter. Pathetically we can’t remember their names but they came across as interested in us as well as having integrity and being evangelists for the Walk and the Outdoors in general.
Anyway it’s interesting how the mood changes as you leave a place; leaving Braemar, getting away from the limited but still strangling elements of modern life, we soon found the calm that being in the hypnotic walking mode again… We will contemplate strategies for returning to reality so that we don’t forget the calm that walking brings and don’t get lost in the forest of modern life. Who said Modern Life was Rubbish?
The bothy on Loch Muick that the Queen kindly let’s folk use resembled an alternative Dante’s description of hell: dark, dank, smelly and full of people with post party blues, siping whisky, the mood dragged down by some truly dire 80s alternative metal music played on a phone. We guessed it was Reo Speedwagon. We left and camped in the Queens garden.
Oh I had beans for breakfast and then dinner. With whisky (dinner only).
A stroll to Braemar and guess who? Pongo was on a day off and a joy to meet as was Simon and we partook in far too much food beer and whisky.
But we dearly (noted Graham, when we get good decent reception I’ll spellcheck!) will miss Pongo, and hope to see her again, if not smell her from afar.
Because we skipped a camp on Devils Point and carried onto to Derry Lodge we are a bit ahead of ourselves. It’s maybe 8/9 miles to Braemar and we are booked into a hotel there tomorrow night. So we have 9 miles to do in two days. Two smelly men could get into a lot of trouble in this situation so we yare currently (10.21am, Saturday 21st May) considering our options inside our tents with coffee listening to very heavy rainfall. Our options are:
1. Stay here and rest, explore the forests with cameras and partake, departing tomorrow morning, or
2. Stay here until we are bored then go to Braemar this afternoon but then what will we do tomorrow?
So option 1 is currently the winner and we can see how creative we can be with our cameras. We are good at this, or at least we are good at thinking we are good with our cameras. The results, on careful post session analysis, usually reveal very quickly that we are crap. So maybe we are just good at enjoying the creative process of being crap? Or is it being good at enjoying being craply creative?
List of Accomplishments achieved today before midday:
1. I reinforced my leatherman leather case with superglue at the potential tear points
2. I reinforced my Lee filter holder where the screw had gone AWOL, a delicate task that employed three bulldog clips and superglue
3. I glued my Lee filter holder to the floor of the tent
4. I polished my filter
5. I polished it some more
6. Made 2 coffees
7. Stayed in bed til past midday
8. Nick partook and floated from 10.11am to noon+
9. We learnt that lying in the tent looking at the river is very therapeutic
10. I glued my leatherman case to my mattress
11. Nick spent an hour looking at photographs of his dog.
12. Nick fixed his clogged up bong with alcohol hand wash and was immensely pleased with the the results.
1. Still in bed at 12.39, pissing down outside
2. We went out around 2pm and were crap but we did enjoy it a lot.
3. Will we sleep tonight?
4. Really good day taking photos; all shit obviously.
5. 17.30: both of us partaking, I’ve a lovely Islay. Nick has a clean pipe.
2. Our campsite
A sort of lazy start, a lot of faffing (no names mentioned) and a departure from Aviemore around 10.15. A warm and sad farewell to the Doctor (aka Mule) and on we sped. We were good today. Boom. Ish. A lovely day, rain and high winds were due later and we decided not to do the ridge and camp on Devils Point, and instead decided to do the 18 or so miles from Aviemore to Derry Lodge. Which we did and we are now both partaking in our tents by the river feeling happy that we have only 10 miles to do over 2 days. We’ve not had a rest day so may spend tomorrow here. Regardless there is no need to get up in the morning so I think I’ll have another whisky and surpass my 250ml allowance tonight.
But one thing we have both noticed is that we are both starting to get hikers odour, I think it doesn’t kick in until a certain number of nights in the same sleeping bag and a certain mileage in the same shoes, but the impact of this combination of wet hot then wet stewed feet is significant. There may be other odours too. It will be interesting to see how the world reacts when we re-enter. I think when we do lunch in Edinburgh a week today the restaurant may be unwelcoming.
Now some of you won’t like my inconsistent use of capitals in blog titles but when you’ve had a few (plastic) glasses of whisky and are writing on your phone in the tent you sometimes can’t be arsed.
Like the beasts of steamy discipline that we are we set the alarm for 7, got up at 7.45 and started walking at 8.30, along the Glen over the top from the Red Bothy and into Aviemore via the Burma Road (not sure why it’s called that but the views were glorious) feeling disproportionately shagged for a mere 10 miles. We passed some lovely pigs too. Spotty ones.
On Platform One we met the good Doctor who had travelled from York and that was a very very joyous reunion for all three of us I think.
We washed clothes bathed drank beer and are a lot of cakes; the whole night was one of aceness, lots of walkers together talking gear routes and shite and quaffing a lot of beer. Anyway our rest day wasn’t really a restful one. But we met Pongo and Dave and those were our most joyous re-encounters, as we felt a good rapport, warmth, and respect for those two. And Nick but I’ve been accused of fancying him. Which I don’t. But I would if I was a woman or gay. But I’m neither.