|And We're Off|
I was vaguely amused by the Virgin Rail poster I saw on the platform as I waited for my train on Penrith station. It said "Do not carry more luggage onto the train than you can comfortably carry". It raised a wry smile from me as I hefted my pack in to the carriage. A good motto for planning for the Challenge.
Glasgow Queen Street. I had never met a real Challenger before. All the ones I knew were cyber space acquaintances, fellow tweeters or bloggers who revealed their characters and views in 140 character bite size chunks. I headed in to the bar and found Messrs Lambert, Walker and Sloman drinking tea. They kindly welcomed my intrusion so I wasn't Billy No Mates. I follow Alan and Andrew on Twitter. They were exactly as expected. That's good. I didn't know Phil, but he exuded quiet confidence and experience. The station filled with rucksacks, and old friends reunited. I stood on the fringes, glad to get into my reserved seat rather than crashing other people's conversations.
The lovely Vicky Allen and her aunt Barbara were sitting behind me in the carriage. This was a good thing. A fellow Challenger kept coming to speak to me. He was experienced. He had done the crossing once before and was full of advice for me. My route sounded dodgy. I shouldn't camp by that loch - the wind whistled down the valley at hurricane force and my tent wouldn't survive. The ferry to Inverie only held 3 or 4 people and I wouldn't get a place on it if I hadn't booked. And best of all, he asked me whether I had waterproofs with me. Well, even I didn't think I looked that dim. As he left, Vicky simply whispered "He doesn't know what he's talking about. Ignore him". I tried and I think the waterproofs comment helped. I have been climbing mountains for over 40 years now and I like to think that this, and the compulsory units in meteorology I did as part of my degree had given me a hint that Scotland could be a tad rainy.
Fort William. The two empty seats opposite me filled with Dutch father and son, Charles and David. David turned out to be this year's youngest Challenger. What thoroughly nice chaps. I liked them immediately, but couldn't get Chaz and Dave, the Cockney pub singing duet out of my mind, despite the fact that my new companions were the very opposite, and I had to resist the urge to say "gercha" at them. A week later David would show remarkable peace of mind on the evening when Charles, David, James Boulter and myself were viciously assaulted in an unprovoked attack by a duck in the Fife Arms in Braemar. That little episode will feature in a future post.
|Mallaig Harbour - The Night Before The Off|
Mallaig. Checked in to my B and B. Great fish and chips. The haddock can't have been dead more than a few hours. Walked down to the waterfront and looked out to the Western Isles. I couldn't believe the magical beauty of the scene looking over towards Rhum, Eigg and the distant Cuillins. I had never been here before. I would have to come back.
|I wish I had a better camera but none could do justice to this view|
Bed. Ready, steady....