Tuesday, 17 June 2014

TGO Challenge Day 9: New Depths of Depravity

Saturday 17 May: 8.1 kilometres walked, 187 metres climbed. 2 hours 30 minutes

Weather: Fair

Packing up at Mar Lodge

Route Day 9

It being a very short day into Braemar, I  made a leisurely start, having several brews in my tent and on the lawn before the off, whilst John Sanderson had another flier, heading off like Roger Bannister on speed about 30 minutes or so before me.

I left other Challengers on the lawn, also packing away in a leisurely fashion in these majestic surroundings, crossed Victoria Bridge and set off along the road.  To my surprise, as I approached the place where the track leaves the road to climb through the forest to the small hill and viewpoint of Tomintoul, who should I see but Johnboy standing by the gate.
Marion and Graeme, David and Margaret
 “Hi”, says Johnboy, “you going up to the viewpoint?”

“I am indeedy. Thought you’d be in Braemar by now”, says I.

“Nah. I have just done a nice little circular route in the forest”, he replied. “Very pleasant.  Very pleasant indeed. Just what I needed, a circular walk back to the road. Very pleasant. You got a GPS with you?”

“I have indeedy”.

“Good. Get it out would you. I’ll follow”.

Now I couldn’t for the life of me make out what this was all about, but I did as I was asked and we had a lovely walk up through the wood, then across to Tomintoul and down to the fleshpot that is Braemar in Challenge week.

 John and I were out of whisky. We both had nalgene hip flasks from Backpacking Light which held about half a bottle. We decided to go into partnership to replenish. There was a mild disagreement about what should go in it.  John wanted a very nice, but expensive, malt.  I was worried that Keith might be in Braemar and might get hold of my flask again, so I was all for a bottle of some blended stuff that was on sale for £6.49 a bottle.  We eventually split the difference and went for Famous Grouse. It was now about 10.30 in the morning. We stood on the pavement outside the offy, decanting our purchase into our hip flasks. We discovered that they held less than half a bottle each. What could two men such as us do? We stood on the pavement slugging back the remaining contents of the bottle, watched by some elderly ladies who, to their credit, were giggling rather than tutting. I took the bottle back into the shop to ask the chap behind the counter to recycle it. He agreed, then pointed out that there was still some left.  He unscrewed the top and polished it off.

John at Tomintoul, just before he heard I wasn't prepared to slash out on malt whisky
It was then what is for many a typical Braemar day.  Pigging out in the Old Bakery on bacon rolls or all day breakfasts and free tea.  Popping in and out of the Fife Arms.  Chatting to fellow Challengers.  Sorting out in the B and B.  Generally enjoying life.

A group of us agreed to eat in the quite refined surroundings of the bistro called The Gathering Place. The food was pretty good.  So was the company – Hugh, Barbara, Ian and three or four others (sorry about the lack of names). I sat next to someone who shall have to remain nameless. For the purpose of what follows I shall call him Fred. Someone mentioned ticks and Lyme’s Disease. Fred listened attentively and with concern. "What do they look like?”, he wanted to know. Suddenly he rolled his trouser leg up and examined it closely. Then he let out a yelp. “Tick”, I’ve got a tick on my leg”, he shouted at the top of his voice. He levered his bare leg up onto the table between the wine glasses and plates. “I’m going to get Lyme’s Disease”, he yelled. “Get it out someone, get it out”. Other diners shuffled. I muttered. Fred carried on in this way for a few more minutes. Ian Somerville finally silenced him with the following statement, which perfectly demonstrated the sympathy of Challengers to their fellow men. “It’s ok, Fred. I know about these things. The worst symptoms of Lyme’s Disease take 20 years to develop. So at your age you’ll be dead long before then”.  Nice one Ian.

It was a super meal. We popped over to the Fife Arms later. Regrettably I only managed the briefest of chats with Alan, Andy, Phil, Croydon, Louise, Laura, and Mike Knipe and didn’t see Vicky and Toby Grace at all.  I should have stayed longer, but I just couldn’t take the heady pace, especially as there appeared to be a large lady pole dancer being projected on to the big screens above the bar. So I went back to my B and B to get shut eye. Long day tomorrow!

Looking down to the Dee Valley from Tomintoul


  1. I'm not too proud to admit that with years of navigational experience from Cape Wrath to Cape Horn....I got lost on the trees outside Braemar !! It took me less time to find my way out of Hampton Court Maze that find my way (or not as it happens) through that labyrinth. Dave and Memory Map to the rescue. Employing the services of a guide on the TGO, how will I ever live it down.

    1. It was a very understandable error, John. I did far worse last year as I sailed passed the turning off the road and was almost in Braemar before I spotted it.

  2. I spent last week on Islay and paid a visit to the Bunnahabhain distillery in order to completely cleanse my system of the said Famous Grouse. It took quite a volume to completely remove all trace and replace with a fine malt.

    1. Sounds good, John. I hope you bought several bottles. My birthday is in August....

  3. John I don't know why you associated with folk who ruin a good hip flask by pouring famous grouse into it. You should have stuck to your guns and gone for the malt. Good to hear that you had the antidote recently.

    1. The manufacturers employed 'intelligent design'. The flask holds 35 cl of single malt, but shrinks when you try and force a blend into it.

    2. It's not that good a hip flask, Alan. Anyway, that's a bit rich coming from a man who uses meths.

  4. There you go, doing it again...
    "Plumbing the depths of depravity..."
    Okay - there were pole dancers and "Fred" was table dancing. Think yourselves lucky it was just his leg he flopped on the table.

    1. Arghhh. You have just conjured up a terrible image, Alan. But if we are in to Sid James style humour I can tell you that the next post will involve a soldier who claims to be a virgin boasting about his sausage in the bothy at the Shielin of Mark.

  5. On the Sat I was followed through the Morone Birdwood, by a large gaggle of people.
    It is possible to get lost 1st time in.
    Now'T wrong with Famous Grouse. Some people are just Malt Snobs. Or maybe they are wealthy.
    And I will not comment on Fred's Tick fiasco...
    But not everyone was amused or so I was told.
    Happy days.
    Off with dogs now....

  6. Hi Andy

    I never used the word "lost". Johnboy, I am sure, was never lost as such. He just didn't go where he had intended. That's quite different.

    I also don't think he is a malt snob - to be fair the stuff at £6.49 might have been best put to use in Alen Rayner's meths stove.

  7. Good point.
    I wandered around a bit first time in there. The Birkwood (love how my phone corrects half of what I type in to different words.... NOT).
    I once misguidedly bought some Coop Brandy in Braemar.
    Tried drinking it. Nope! Mixed it.. Yuck.
    Didn't want to pour it down the drain in case I caused an ecological disaster.
    Could have sold it as a potential for germ warfare, it was that good.
    Oops GCHQ will be reading this now.

    1. Hi Andy. Coop brandy probably burns cleanly in an alcohol stove, though, and will be cheaper than meths I guess.

  8. Now David I'm really enjoying your account of the TGO, probably the funniest I have read, you have even converted me to Primula Cheese Spread, not just for the taste but I love the precision of the expiry date, however I cannot forgive you for choosing Famous Grouse over a fine malt. Depths of depravity sums it up!

    1. Thanks Paul. I bask in your complement. I got back into Primula this Challenge after a 30 year lay off. I may soon start experimenting with some real food on backpacking trips rather than the dehydrated meals, though. It is only the washing up that puts me off.

    2. Had a Fuizon chicken jalfrezi on my camp on Saturday, best dehydrated meal Ive tried

    3. Hi Paul

      Yes I have had some great Fuzion meals - but two dreadful ones with large chunks of inedible chicken gristle so I am a bit wary.