Anyway, grinning like the Cheshire Cat I popped down to the Co-op and bought a sandwich for my lunch. Good move, as over the coming days I was to became profoundly bored with trail mix and cereal bars. Then back to the B and B. Full Scottish. Re-sort pack (again). Up to the West Highland Hotel to sign out at 9.10am, meaning my Challenge formally started with a sit down, as I then had to wait until Bruce Watts weighed anchor at 10.15pm.
|Mike Knipe contemplates a 45 minute boat trip before he can get to the pub|
As a whole big bunch of Challengers waited for Bruce’s boat it started to rain lightly and intermittently. Wanting not to risk having wet clothing earlier than necessary, I pulled on cag and overtrousers. These were to remain on until I was finally in my tent several hours later. I spotted a ULA Catalyst pack on another Challenger, and thus I met “Reuben’s Dad”, James Boulter, for the first time outside cyber space. I have a bad habit of “knowing” if I like someone instantly, and I did. Thoroughly nice guy. Also on the boat was another person known, until then, only through the medium of wireless and fibre optics (although us country dwellers should be so lucky to ever get fibre optics). This was Superdawg’s Dad, Mike Knipe, him of the driest sense of humour outside the Sahara. And our new Dutch friends, Chaz and Dave were there too.
45 minutes later we arrived at Inverie to the organised chaos of packs being removed from the hold (I am making this up as I go along, as the hold was just a blue tarpaulin on the deck) and passed up on to the bustling quayside. Ok, this wasn’t Rotterdam but there was a bit of bustle. Whilst James and I faffed around taking photos and getting our Pacer Poles out, Mike Knipe and various other old hands headed off at a speed of knots. Not to walk, of course, but to get to the bar of the pub in Inverie before a queue built up. That was my last view of Mike on the Challenge.
I walked with James for the first 45 minutes or so until our routes diverged. I then headed off the LR track to get my first minor taste (I was only in it for 15 minutes) of Scottish bog as I cut across to Gleann Meadall and then started the gentle climb up to the col at the top of the Glen. I walked this section alone, although I was aware of Chaz and Dave someway behind me. The rain came on properly and its intensity increased steadily. There were a group of Challengers resting at the Col when I arrived. I believe some had left their packs there and had just “popped up” a nearby hill.
I had no intentions at any time on this Challenge of doing anything like that on my walk. I had one aspiration and one aspiration only. To get to the east coast. Hills could wait for another time and another crossing. Later in the Challenge, by the time I reached Braemar, this aspiration had actually turned into a specific, well thought out and simple strategy, which I shall elaborate on in a later post for anyone sad enough still to be reading by then.
The path down to Sourlies was far easier than I had anticipated; less steep than the impression I had gained from previous Challengers. I walked across the bog and salt marshes, admiring a few grazing deer, with two others – I think it was Matt Little and Ian Somerville and the tide was low enough to allow us to walk round to the bothy on the beach and so avoid a final stiff pull up over the headland.
There is some lovely turf for camping on just before the bothy. I decided to avoid this and save later arrivals the horror of my snoring by going on just beyond the bothy to a smaller patch of turf near a stream. The Akto was up by 4.45pm. The rain hammered down. I hunkered down in the warmth of my tent and sleeping bag and brewed up. Dave and Chaz went passed (should that be past?) at 5.30pm planning to walk to a bothy beyond Glen Dessarry (I later heard they walked until 11.00pm).
After my first dehydrated meal of the walk I thought that was me for the day. Then I looked out of my tent. The stream was well up. The tide was in and the loch was high. Pools of water were developing all around my tent. I packed most of my stuff in case I had to bail out. The rain continued. At 8.00pm I was taking the tent down and moving to the turf the other side of the bothy which was on slightly higher ground. Ian’s Duomid had been near mine. He decided to risk staying put. I had half an hour by the fire in the bothy before bed back in the tent. Ian was moving his Duomid in the dark at 11.00pm as the rain kept falling….
|After the move: this was a far drier spot|