|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
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|
|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|