Cannich to Errogie
(16.5 miles/711 metres ascent)
TGO Challenge 2009 - Part 3
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Day four dawned a little early--at 0415--when I woke up feeling the call of nature. I produced my Whizz and answered it, and then settled down to read until 0500. After that I slept until 0600, and then woke and read again until 0630. I snoozed again until 0650, and at that stage I made a cup of tea, having run out of hot chocolate pending my re-supply at the hostel later in the day.
It was another beautiful morning, sunny and warm, and I heard people waking up and beginning to get moving from about 0600.
Packing proceeded in the usual desultory fashion, but eventually I had my things together by just after 0830. I was keen to get across to the little shop next to the Slaters Arms because I wanted to post a couple of maps home and stock up on breakfast and snacky thingies, having left my vast supply of best home-made GORP in the kitchen back at Chez Peewiglet due to a lack of space in the rucksack at the last moment.
Streapadair and I had hoped that our paths might cross at some stage along the route, though, and it had occurred to me earlier that he might actually be on the campsite at Cannich. I'd spotted a bloke in a tent quite close to mine who I thought might be him. I'd been planning to approach and ask, but unfortunately the bloke had disappeared and so, unwilling to let what might be my only chance of meeting Streapadair slip past, I decided to go and have a drink at the little cafe overlooking the campsite and wait for him to return.
Tent that turned out not to be Streapadair's
I alerted Doug, who was still packing, to my plan, and heaved the rucksack over to the cafe. Inside I found Terry Leyland tucking into something extremely yummy, and for a moment I was tempted to have a nice cake to go with my drink, in the charming Italian style :) I eventually decided against it, though, and settled back to enjoy a mug of very nice latte instead.
It began to seem that the bloke was never going to return to his tent. Suddenly, though, I saw him entering the building, and when he turned out not to be Scottish I realised it wasn't the chap I was after. Foiled! (To make things worse, I discovered when I got home that Streapadair *had* been at Cannich after all, so I really had missed him! I very much hope we can meet up on a Challenge in the future.)
Anyway, at that stage I wandered back to join forces with Doug, and together we made our way to the Spar shop. The shop turned out to be a bit of a treasure trove, and I managed to find camera batteries, little fudges, muesli bars and licquorice whirls. Yum!
As I was searching the shelves John Manning came in. It turned out that one or more of his maps had blown away, and one of his poles had snapped. Eek! John replaced his map as I continued to scour the shelves for scrummy stuff I might be able to force into the already groaning pockets of my Atmos, and--appetite temporarily satiated--I was just making my way to the door when it suddenly occurred to me to ask whether they sold MP3 headphones: just on the off-chance, as it didn't seem at all likely. Tragically, mine had died the previous day, and I wasn't sure how on earth I was going to be able to make it to Montrose without music or audiobooks.
The young bloke behind the counter looked thoughtful for a moment, but suddenly he nipped across to the back of the shop and returned with a tiny battery driven radio. It was only £1.99, and it came with a pair of cheap headphones. Okay, so they weren't exactly Sennheiser, but they worked! And I was extremely grateful to the most excellent young man for his lateral thinking ♥ Maybe this goes to show that there truly is no such thing as a stupid question :)
Clutching my purchases to my heart, I made my way out and began to stuff them into the rucksack. Doug had waited for me, which was kind, and a few minutes later we set off together towards Drumnadrochit at about 10am.
We were pretty soon established on the road...
A road... *g*
...and along the way we passed a very pretty little church--St Ninian's in Glen Urquhart.
St. Ninian's, Glen Urquhart
I spotted a window and took advantage of the opportunity to try a window piccy...
...and I very much admired the peaceful looking graveyard. What a very lovely place to be buried.
Further along we passed some lovely flowering bushes at the roadside, with a beautiful view to the river (or maybe it was Loch Meiklie) beyond...
...and some very contented looking creatures grazing in a field.
Happy creatures, grazing
Death is never far away, though, and as we walked on I found a poor little dead chaffinch on the grass.
Poor wee chaffinch
There was new life too, though, bursting through in the form of a profusion of spring flowers at the side of the road.
Lesser stitchwort (?)
Dandelion with bee
Forget me not
We passed a hugely shaggy highland coo sharing a field with a curious horse. The horse came over for a chat and a wee snack of luscious grass from behind the fence.
Eventually we began to approach the point at which Doug planned to head south into the woods, in order to pick up the woodland paths that lead to Drumnadrochit. I'd have joined him there had I not needed to continue along the road to the Bearnoch Country Centre, the hostel to which I'd sent a parcel. There was a bunch of Challengers at the junction, but since by now I was in a fervour of anticipation for Drumnadrochit I didn't stay to chat, but simply said goodbye to Doug for the time being and dashed on along the road.
As I walked I listened to my MP3 player for the first time since the Challenge had begun. I'd forgotten to swap the old, broken headphones for the new ones, but I didn't want to stop and rummage around in my pack and so I made do with audio in just one ear and, consequently, only half of the recorded sound.
As I walked, I recorded something for Bobs to pass the time. It was about 1215 when I left Doug, and I hoped to do 3-4 miles an hour and get to Drum not much afer 1415. I'd never been there before, but I'd heard tell of coffee shops and cafes, and I was very much looking forward to a bit of lounging around in the sunshine before making my way down to the ferry for the evening crossing.
I got to the hostel in good time and the friendly bloke handed over my parcel. He offered me the use of a room in which to take it to pieces, and so, as fast as I could, I got out the new maps and food and drinks and dumped the packaging from my new little radio in the empty box. I didn't need the radio, and the bloke had said his children might like it, so I left it on the table and went back outside to carry on towards Drum.
The new headphones worked well--they were a little crackly, but I was delighted to be able to hear both 'sides' of the audio again, and besides... I hoped it might be possible to buy a better set in Aviemore :)
I dashed on along the road, singing along to things I'd not heard for ages. There were lots of lovely things to see beside the road, to make up for the fact that I wasn't in the woods...
and eventually I arrived there just after 2pm.
Whoohooo -- at last!
I immediately spotted a bunch of people sitting outside what looked like a coffee shop on the other side of the road, and also a smaller group of people outside a pub. I naturally hoped that I might find some friends at the pub, since I felt that the morning's walk had made a serious dent in the carbo-loading that Doug and I had so assiduously pursued the night before. Happily, the first person I saw on drawing up outside the little grocery shop was Colin Ibbotson, whom I'd not seen since Gerry's hostel at Craig. He told me that he, Andy and Kate were having lunch and a pint at a table outside the pub, and so I said I'd see them over there as soon as I'd stocked up on some additional goodies.
The shop was another source of all sorts of interesting things, but this time I had to be more careful as there was really very little room left in my pack. I found a couple of cheese & onion pasties in the cooler section, though, and had to surpress a squeal of delight at the sight of them, since they're my favourite backpacking lunches but I've never found them in Scotland before. I dropped them both into my basket and pressed on, and as I made my way round the shop I added a few flapjacks and three postcards. I was a little surprised to learn that the total came to £7.82, and I almost fell to the floor in a swoon to discover that my pasties cost £1.98 each! They were such a treat, though, that I kept them, and after tucking them extremely carefully into my pack I made my way over to the pub.
There I found Andy, Kate and Colin, as promised, and was also pleased to meet a first time Challenger, Phil Turner: the youngest British Challenger on the walk :)
Kate, Andy, Colin and Phil
They'd all had something to eat but I settled down happily with a pint of Nessie Mash and began to enjoy the sunshine, and the respite from the rapid trog along the road. Several hours of happy relaxation now stretched before me, because the evening ferry wasn't due to leave until some time after 5pm. We all chatted away about this and that, and I remembered to write my postcards and even--uncharacteristically--to post them!
Drum is only a small place, but it's a very welcome haven for Challengers, footsore and weather-beaten from the first few days of the walk.
Eventually it struck me that it would be a good idea to get something to eat, and so I wandered into the small shop adjoining the pub in search of sustenance and another pint of Nessie Mash.
There I found a delicious free-range egg sandwich, and also--joy of joys--a fresh baguette and some small plastic tubs of Nutella. I'd taken a loaf to eat with my saucisson, having very much enjoyed the combination for lunch whilst walking in France, Spain and Corsica in the course of the last few years, but it was almost finished, and I hadn't been sure where I might be able to get another nice one. The baguette was perfect, though, and I'd actually been fantasising about small pots of Nutella a couple of days earlier, as, with bread, they make the nicest backpacking breakfast I know of. I certainly hadn't expected to find them in Drumnadrochit!
Eventually it was after 4pm, and we decided to wander over to the ferry to get into the queue.
Colin and Kate
In fact we were lucky enough to get an early trip across, as Gordon Menzies already had almost a full complement and so he invited us in and off we set.
The journey across Loch Ness was wonderful, in the bright sunshine and surrounded by smiling faces.
Bill and Colin
I love boat journeys, and if anything I'd have preferred to ride right at the front to get the most out of any bouncing that was going on. The water was calm, though, and I didn't notice any wind.
Contented Challengers soak up the sun and views
Gordon had a video playing on a screen inside the little cabin, with all sorts of information about the infamous Nessie. I stared uneasily about for a while after watching it, but I saw no sign of any monsters. More's the pity.
On the way over we passed the impressive Castle Urquhart...
...and not long after that we drew up in the little harbour at Inverfarigaig.
Arriving at Inverfarigaig
There was a chance to stand on the side of the boat in order to help pull it in--exciting!--and then we all lent a hand to get the packs off, and disembarked. Gordon returned to Drum for the next batch of Challengers...
Gordon Menzies returning to Drum for the next batch
...and we all hoisted our packs and set off for our various destinations.
I'd heard tales of a wonderfully welcoming couple at Errogie who were happy to allow Challengers to put up tents on their land, and I knew from earlier conversation with Andy and Kate that they were heading that way. It turned out that Colin and Phil were going there too, and so we all set off together. I dropped back a bit to inspect some of the flowers in the tall banks at the side of the road, and to record something for Bob.
Phil, Kate, Andy & Colin en route to Errogie
There were some particularly beautiful primroses, with lovely crinkled edges to their petals...
...and there was also a profusion of wood sorrell. My mother introduced me to the leaves when I was a small child, telling me that she and her friends and cousins used to eat them in Ireland when they were children, enjoying the sour taste. To me they taste like sour apples.
Wood sorrell--pretty flowers and delicious leaves
Along the road we joined up with Morpeth and John, who were also aiming for Errogie, and at about 6 o'clock or so we arrived there, to be greeted by Mrs Sutherland with the warmest of welcomes, backed up by a huge pot of tea, mugs of coffee and a large plate of biscuits. Fantastic, and thank you very much indeed to Mr and Mrs Sutherland!
The evening was still and sunny, and after putting up our tents we sat around chatting with Mrs Sutherland for a while, and then we drifted back to the field to cook dinner and inspect each other's kit.
There was a great deal of interest in Colin's ultra-lightweight camping gear, which included a tarp of his own design...
Colin's amazing tarp
...as well as several highly desirable (and desired) items of ultra-light down clothing.
Colin in his down clothing
Colin had also made a most sophisticated-looking pot cozy and lid from a piece of foam camping mat, and in due course I'll be having a go at making one like that for my own little Kettley thing.
Eventually, though, I stopped drooling at other people's kit and settled down to make something to eat. I wasn't terribly hungry after my sandwich at lunchtime and some biccies an hour or so earlier, and therefore I settled for two packets of wild mushroom soup with some bread, and a mug of pastis.
Boiling water for soup
As we were making dinner we were joined by three further Challengers, in the form of Ali Ogden, Sue Oxley and Steve Smith. I was delighted to see Ali again, not having seen her since 2006, and delighted also to meet Sue (whose picture I'd seen in Ali's 2007 writeup) and Steve. They got their tents up pretty quickly, and as the sun went down we all retired to our tents to sleep.
I got out my book and read for a while, but, as usually happens these days in the tent, I found myself drifting off almost immediately, and so after a short time I gave up, switched off my head torch and went to sleep.
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