Having waited for the Kingussie Post Office to open at 9.00am to send a few bits and pieces home, I set off on the first of what were to be two fabulozy days on the Challenge. Possibly the best two. Weather, walk, scenery, fitness and company all combined in a happy coincidence of happiness. Leaving the village you soon come to the ruins of the Ruthven Barracks. At this point, just in front of me, were two rucksacks walking. I joke not. There were two massive rucksacks walking slowly along the road all by themselves. Clearly Challenger rucksacks, they appeared unaccompanied by their Challenger owners as they slowly made their way up the slight incline towards Tromie Bridge. I assumed they had wandered off when the door of a B and B had been carelessly left open. I hoped they were micro-chipped so they could be returned to their owners when picked up by the stray rucksack catcher from the Council. At this point I stopped to put on my waterproofs (I always carry waterproofs whilst walking across Scotland because I am very experienced in the carrying of waterproofs in places which have a climate where water regularly falls from the sky. If you wonder what I am now taking, you may want to refer back to my earlier post TGOC 2013 Day Minus 1:Do I really look that stupid?). As it happened this was the last rain, such as it was, until Saturday lunchtime, and it was now only Thursday so this was the start of Scotland’s driest spell since records began.
I caught the rucksacks up. “Heading up Glen Feshie?”, called I, to the leading rucksack. “Yes we are, but don’t follow us as we will be walking slowly” called the leading rucksack in a female voice. It seemed bizarre that a rucksack could talk, but even stranger, it had an American accent. And this was my introduction to the legendary Phyllis and Lou from Maryland in the US of A. Both octogenarians, they were on their umpteenth Challenge. Both are tiny so they were completely dwarfed by their packs. Their gutsiness is in inverse proportion to their height. And both of them oozed loveliness and positivity. Our paths were to cross a number of times over the next two days.
|Towards Glen Feshie|
Over the next hour or so I met and walked for short distances with a number of other great Challengers. Matt Little again, a really good guy; Bob Cartwright and his two companions, Bob wearing the most expensive black bin liner in the history of bin liners, which was doubling as a wind shirt. I gave Bob some feedback about his company “Backpacking Light”. This was along the lines of “brilliant customer service, wish the range was greater because I could then buy all my stuff from you” and also Richard (sorry I didn’t get his second name), who I walked with for much of the morning.
|A happy bunny on a nice strong bridge over the Feshie|
And so it was through a lovely forest or two in the sun, and then into Glen Feshie which was just perfect. Lunch by a delightful stream of the babbling brook variety. A brief stop at the bothy. Held a conversation there, at cross purposes, with Chris Leach, which almost led to me making a bad decision. I explained to him that I planned to camp further up the Glen, and would head for Mar Lodge on the following day. “Why not stop here?” he asked. “Because then I would have to walk 32 or 33 tomorrow and that’s further than I would like” I replied. “Nah”, says he “it’s only just over 19 from here”. We argued slightly about this, with Chris insisting his vetter had said it was 19. My route plan clearly showed 30 plus.
I was tempted as the bothy looked rather good. Then I cottoned on what the issue was. Chris was talking imperial; I was talking metric. 19 miles is just over 30km. Glad I stuck to my guns. It was good to do a few more km today to even out the distances over the two days.
|Glen Feshie beyond the bothy|
|Lazy afternoon at a brill camp spot|
I was even gladder as I walked up the lovely glen for a few more km as I came to a brilliant camp spot near the river. It was only 3.00pm ish and I had planned to go slightly further, but the sun was out, and a brew beckoned, so the Akto was up and I had a lazy few hours drinking tea, cooking, eating Snickers ie Marathons, chatting to passing Challengers, and doing the numerous similarly important tasks that you can tackle when your pace of life is just perfect. Two rucksacks hoved into view, Phyllis and Lou again, heading for the old pony hut some way further up the glen. Graham and Marian arrived to camp and so did Karen and Lawrence from Holland. And it was all just brilliant.
|Looking down to the Akto before the late arrivals - I wandered up a bit higher to take this picture because I was feeling good!|