All posts by Pete

Day Thirteen: Twelve miles, mostly downhill.

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Our friend the horse

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Apologies for theĀ 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.

Day Twelve: A Scary Man, The Pink Balloon, and The Sacrifice (Alternatively: Smelly Shoes and Far Far Too Much Whisky)

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.

Day Eleven: Two Portions of Beans

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 šŸ™‚ 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).

Day Ten: Difficult to Describe a Lazy 9 Mile Day After a Lazy Zero Mile Day

One of those days where we walked and talked with Mr and Mrs Karrimor who were interested and interesting and seemed genuinely fine people.

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.

Day Nine: The Creative Process of Being Crap (and the art of more inconsistent title capitalisation).

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.

    We will post some later but in the meantime here are 3 sketches:
    1. A bird

    2. Our campsite 

    3. The river

    Day Eight: The Lairig Ghru and the start of The Smell

    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.

    Day Seven: An Easy Ten Miles, The Doctor a Lot of Cake and a Lot of Beer..

    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. 

    Day Six: You don’t want to go up there, deep pools and danger, boulders and multiple river crossings….

    We lay in bed listening to it pissing down, after a night of it pissing down, neither of us wanting to acknowledge being awake, but at 8 we realised we had a ton of miles to do. Actually 18, most of it trackless, some of it on super shiny Estate roads made so that rich fat people didn’t have to put any effort into killing deer and getting to remote places like Coignafearn Lodge to pull the trigger. This estate is turning this part of the highlands into a road network. But they also have good points so I’ll try and be balanced later…
    So we left at 9 and trogged til 11.30 until our first coffee, at Dalbeg, perhaps the best poop site so far. Maybe the second best with hindsight.
    Anyway the morning sort of went: walk bog fog bog fog, watershed walk… but it was beautiful, so many rivers and Rapids and waterfalls and colours. Up Elrick Burn, up trackless glens to watersheds and down the other side, until we reached a truly magnificent new bothy that I think the Estate built. It’s a hexagonal type of thing with a massive wood burning stove in the middle, wooden floors walls and ceilings, and tables and chairs and lots of wood. A magnificently generous thing of the Estate to do. So this is where my politics of the landscape get confused. I guess that the fat people happy to pay for killing dear have paid for this, and that’s quite a thing. Does it justify the roads? No, not in my opinion, but at least they give back. Many don’t and the giving is appreciated. UPDATE: it isn’t a bothy after all but a lodge for trigger happy folk to sup whisky in and get warm; the bothy is the crumbling shed next door!

    Oh yes we also had a rather exciting river crossing, our first. We did it good.
    I forgot to say that on the way to the magnificent bothy we took a wrong turn they followed a strong looking specimen who turned out to be Strider Nick. Nick is the youngest walker doing the walk and at 23 he seems assured fit and capable. Nick and I were none of these at 23.
    Then we met The Prophet of Doom. What a wanker. He filled us with fear about the pathless Glen ahead, stating its dangers all too clearly, and stating our target to be 5 hours away. The map looked good, the glen showing no cliffs/steep drops/multiple crossings and deep pools full of boulders… and so it was, pleasant and safe. We even saw two golden eagles and lots of dear in the deep mist and gloom, which was quite a lovely yet isolating element to travel through.
    Anyway if we see the Prophet of Doom again we will tell him he is a tosser.
    After 18 miles we hit another older but well equipped Estate bothy and we’re grateful for a roaring fire and a place to dry out and enjoy the evening.

    Aviemore tomorrow, 10 miles to go until more beer and clothes washing. We smell.

    Day Five: Questions for the Doctor

    Today was a day of two halves. We woke and spent time, too much time, playing in the canyons with our cameras. I’m sure that they will all be crap.So we never got walking until midday… hmmm. We soon encountered a massive dam and reservoir. This was funky. Oh and there were lots of strange flying insect thingies. 
    Then we hit a dam road and made some haste. Slow but hasty. Then we left the road and followed a fine stream and then at its interjunction we met Dave and Kerry, who were good company. Kerry is into metal and Dave lost his mate Hefty Geoffty who sadly twisted his knee around Glen Affric, and courtesy of mountain rescue is no longer doing the walk with Dave. We wish Geoff well. And hope to meet Dave and Kerry in Aviemore. For beer, and some metal. And some of Nick’s dance floor moves.
    We left Kerry at the abandoned mansion, Stronlairig Lodge, a massive 3 storey beast of a building.
    We also thought of some questions for The Doctor as we went up the seemingly endless Glen Markie
    Q1: if you exercise a lot do you use more of the food you eat and thus produce less poo?
    Q2: Nick and I have opposite diets, he’s all meat, I’m all vegetables: how does that work?
    Q3: is it yawning or is it feeling hungry that is a sign of being thirsty?
    It also rained a lot today, but not proper Scottish rain, more a fey relative. BUT WE ARE NOT COMPLAINING! We’ve been so lucky, 5 days of walking, half a day of kagool action.
    Tonight’s camp is only 12.5 miles from the start and the poorest camp we’ve had, but still acceptable, below what looks like an abandoned bothy, no doors or windows but with rotting tables and chairs, and past the fork of two streams. We chatted betwixt tents before medication kicked in.