Thursday, 20 September 2007

Onward, the Sailors Roar ...

We spent our first evening at Glen Brittle settling in to our new home, cooking pasta 'n' sauce over our wee gas stove, eating chocolate brownies from Tesco, and cramming 5 women into a 2 person tent with guitar, sleeping bags, pillows and a bottle of Glenkinchie. This proved less than comfortable, but we brooked it with good humour and had a few tunes, a few drams, and a lot of chuckling. Anyway, whether it was the long drive, the fresh air, or eagerness to begin our next challenge, we were all ready to turn in at the ridiculous hour of 10.30, so off went Koios and Janus to their tent, Phid to hers - with Baffie for company - and Fisher and I remained in the 'party tent' with Bridie.

The first thing I noticed was that, with only 2 people in our tent, the temperature dropped from tolerably mild to dingleberry-freezing within the space of a sombre minute. The second thing I noticed was that my 2 season sleeping bag was not equipped to deal with a distinctly autumnal night in the north west of Scotland. The third thing I noticed was how utterly beautiful the stars were, the Milky Way a fine spray across the night sky, and while I gloried in their unparalleled magnificence I was also conscious of just how cold the night was going to be without cloud cover to retain any of the day's warmth. With a slight feeling of trepidation, I bundled myself up as comfortably as possible in my mummy-style sleeping bag and closed tired eyes.

Sleep was, to put it mildly, elusive. A mummy-style sleeping bag may well be snug, but it doesn't allow room for movement - especially if you are somewhat biffa-esque, like myself. Couple that with the creeping cold, the slow deflation of our luxury air mattress and the urgent need to pee every three hours (which drove me so close to soiling myself for the added warmth it isn't even funny) and you have an excellent notion of how I passed my night. There was also the added factor that I wasn't the only one having peeing troubles, as all our bladders shrank to half their sizes in the cold, and if I wasn't woken by my own urgent call, I was likely to be roused from fitful slumber by the frantic unzipping of a neighbouring tent.

All in all, it was pretty miserable. I woke for the last time feeling sick and mournful, then roused myself for a morning trip to the shower block where I abluted and floundered back, fully in the grips of PT. Recognising it was almost certainly a product of cold and lack of sleep, I returned to my sleeping bag and blocked out the world. The weather was truly disgraceful: cold, wet, windy and grey. Plans for a long-ish walk around the headland were put on hold as the camp bustled around me, getting itself breakfast and trying to shelter from the filth. Unable to sleep, I instead took mental refuge in The Year's Midnight - a book I found in a charity shop in Dufftown, by Alex Benzie, which is proving to be rather splendid.

At eleven o'clock, as promised, the sound of a car bumping over the campsite track reached my ears and Spartan arrived. Huzzah! Unfortunately I was in a bit of a blue funk at this stage and decided not to show my pasty face until I could get a bloody hold of myself, woman, and act like a human being. Eventually Fisher appeared to tell me that plans for a walk had been scrapped owing to the weather, and a trip to the Talisker distillery was on the cards instead. This news I greeted with some relief, and was sufficiently recovered to jump into Keith with everyone else and set off for a day of alternative entertainment.

Talisker is one of my favourite wide-sale single malts, but I had no real desire to see round yet another distillery, or to start drinking early in the morning - but I was very happy to see Spar, Koios and Janus take up the opportunity, while Phid, Fisher and I waited for them in The Old Inn nearby. This proved to be the first of many trips to this charming wee place, where we shivered next to the fire until slowly feeling warmth return to our limbs, played a game of pool, and I read my book. When the others rejoined us, laden down with bottles, we partook of a pleasant lunch (I had peppery but tasty soup), and then re-evaluated the day. We still weren't in any hurry to take a long walk in the driving rain, but after a few more games of pool we decided we really ought to get out in the fresh air.

The walk we chose was near our campsite, and boasted the name of Fairy Pools. In actual fact it was a dull, midly pretty wander along a semi-forested track with the occasional small waterfall on the way. We took an hour over it, got very wet, and then headed down to the camp to let Spar set up his tent, and to visit the camp shop before it closed. Fisher and I bought ourselves two more sleeping bags, for added warmth, and I snagged a pair of woolly gloves. How I laughed at the sight of factor 15 sun cream rattling about at the bottom of my bag.

Once the tent was erected and the shop stripped of all things warm, we decided there was time yet for another walk. The man at the shop, who looked very like an axe murderer but who spoke with the gentle friendliness of a camp counsellor, told me about a beautiful 30 foot waterfall, not a ten minute walk from the nearby Memorial Hall. It seemed a perfect way to negate our laziness, so off we went, leaving Fisher behind to prepare supper and potter about in the tents. Unfortunately, although the walk promised much, the thick fog which descended as we ascended completely obscured all but the vaguest glimpse of the impressive fall. Nevertheless, it did build an appetite for supper - so back we went to be greeted by Fisher and a bubbling pan of yet more pasta. This was eaten in the shelter of Keith's interior with much joviality, and afterwards we returned to the estimable Old Inn for warmth, a few drinks, and much playing of cards.

That night, we slept in 2 sleeping bags each. The sky remained cloudy, and although the rain remained persistent throughout, I managed to keep command of my faculties and sleep the night through, waking refreshed and merry ... with a bladder so full it ached!