Sunday 9 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013 Day 11: Pet Shop Boy

Soon after this was taken I popped in for tea and cake

My route across Scotland was always intended to be relatively low level and straightforward.  But sitting in the Fife Arms in Braemar on the Sunday evening I had realised that all along I had had a very straightforward strategy for the Challenge.  It had been in my sub-conscious, but sitting with James, Chaz, Dave, Vicky and Toby it suddenly hit me what I was up to.  It was not very original.  This strategy had first been articulated in 1993 by one of the most sophisticated and talented set of rock musicians that the 20th Century ever produced ie the legends that were, indeed still are, the Pet Shop Boys.  These two kings of backpacking (well queens of camping about anyway) articulated by way of words and music what I had been doing and would continue doing.  With one vital exception.  They were 180 degrees out in their thinking.  You may recall their melodic crooning of these lyrics:

“Together, we will go our way

“Together we will leave someday…

“Together we will make our plans

“Go West, life is peaceful there

“Go West, in the open air

“Go West, where the skies are blue

“Go West, this is what we're gonna do

“Go West”.

And that was it.  Except I was going east to where the skies would be blue. In as straight a line as possible. The only diversion from east would be if a hill got in the way. Then I would go round it.  Other than that it was Go East.  In a straight line. Shortest distance between two points and all that.  Go around any hills. Stop when waves hit toes.

And so on Day 11 of my walk I headed east.  Well I did after a minor altercation with a man who was “serving”, and I use that term loosely in this context, behind the Post Office counter in the Co-op in Braemar.  If Scotland has an award for the rudest shop assistant in the country then this man ought to be entered.  He would romp to victory. Indeed, I suspect he would win the award for the rudest man in Scotland without too much effort, if such a competition were ever  to be run.  The altercation would have been far worse but it was a nice morning and I didn't want to spoil it.

Caledonian pine forest on Balmoral Estate

Majestic site near majestic castle

The Dee near Balmoral
So east it was to Ballater via Balmoral.  After a short stretch on the road, the way to Balmoral was a joy.  The sun was out much of the time as I walked through the Caledonian pine forests beyond the Invercauld Bridge, passed large herds of red deer near Garbh Allt Shiel, and on to the castle.  And you have to hand it to Her Maj.  She lets tourists wander on the lawn, and the tea shop was actually open and serving.  I was so impressed I bought a post card showing Prince Charles in full highland regalia and wondered at the mind of the man who will one day be our King.  It was then along minor roads towards Ballater. It seemed further than it actually was.  I cut off through woods and crossed the Dee by a rickety suspension bridge at Polhollick.  Soon after, a road sign told me Ballater was 1 mile away.  I left the road again in favour of a path by the Dee.  And let me tell you I walked for another 45 minutes from there by the river and the Golf Course to get to the camp site, so it was either the slowest or the longest mile in history.

6 miles? Two hours? Wishful thinking

Not a bad camp site.  A fabulous evening in the good company of lots of Challengers including Graham, Colin Crawford and John Wright in the Alexandra Hotel which served up a cracking meal. 
Akto City, Ballater


  1. And a very sensible plan it was too for your first crossing.
    The most important thing is to get across.

    I have to ask - what happened at the Post Office?

  2. Yes you've set the ball rolling now can't leave us in limbo tales from the post office please!!!!!

  3. Ah! those Scottish mile posts. They are everywhere. Whenever you see one then double the distance, it usually is.
    We had a situation recently where we were walking to Blair Atholl. Blair Atholl signposted was 3 miles, then after walking for 10 minutes came to another that said Blair Atholl 4 miles. And we were going in the right direction.

  4. Thanks for the comments Alan and Alan and Lost Again

    The PO story involved a viscious attack on a Challenger ie me who had the temerity to stand in a busy shop wanting to spend money. I was pushed out of the way with a metal cash box without so much as a by your leave, and then went through an entire transaction involving weighing a parcel and the purchase of stamps without a single word being spoken by said shop assistant, who communicated with grunts, angry pointing, tuts, and harumphs, whilst all the time muttering to himself. But perhaps I am just over sensitive.

    Scottish miles are indeed unlike those elswhere. I blame the Romans for not getting this far north to sort it all out.

  5. I'm afraid you've met another type of Challenge legend.....a grumpy old git indeed! I always take great delight in chatting to him in as bright, cheerful and breezy a manner as possible: asking how he is, how nice it is to see him again etc. It must wind him up terribly!

    As for that mile into Ballater, I did it last year. Took me bloody ages too!


  6. JJ Ahhh. I thought that he might be some type of living legend. I wish I had the guts to be so openly rude. Life would be so much more fun. I frequently offend people, but only inadvertantly :).

  7. I reckon he used to work in Strathcarron post office.
    Check out my 2010 or 2011 start. I cannot remember which. He was a grumpy bugger to. Must be the weather. ;-)