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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Day Four: Sunday 24th July aprx 65km + unexpected detour

Today we set off from our nicely manicured camping spot. We got some funny looks from the golfers but no one seemed to mind. We had camped off to the side and were in nobody's way. Maybe it was because we were in the rough that the golfers didn't want to confront us as it would have meant that they were admitting the possibility of needing the space we were on. Positive thinking would keep them on the green!

After a big breakfast eating as much food as we could stomach, we repacked our daybags with the essentials we would need for the trip and headed to the hotel to drop off the trailer. This was it. From this moment on we were free of the trailer and could pick up the pace a little. The distance to be covered was less than the previous days and so not too daunting either.

We headed out to Kingussie and were surprised at how close it was. We could have easily kept going and arrived the night before but it didn't really matter. The guide did suggest that we should have camped at Glen Feshie which was well into the forest beyond Kingussie but we were not at all worried about making up the distance. After all, we had no trailer. We were free!

A couple of mild climbs through the trees and some nice fast tracks, over several footbridges and towards Feshiebridge. Again the weather was on our side having been sunny and dry for the whole trip so far. There were a few walkers out in the glen and many seemed to be taken by Sven's GoPro helmet camera. Having such an odd looking thing on your helmet wakes people smile and wave. Lovely!

Heading into Rothiemurcus Forest is wasn't long before Sven was singing about how much he was enjoying the ride. Through the trees, rooty singletrack, smooth forest track, winding landrover tracks, the ride was varied and fun and much faster than with a trailer. Again, as we rounded the edge of Loch Morlich Sven was grinning ear to ear. It gave me a sense of relief that the trailer hadn't dampened his spirits.

Maybe Sven was also in higher spirits because we were passing the Reindeer Centre. I was excited as we were passing Glenmore Lodge, Scotland's national outdoor centre. Sven was less than impressed with the 'Norwegian Lodge' near the Reindeer Centre which he felt did not resemble a Norwegian lodge at all. I was disappointed as I expected Glenmore Lodge to being a bustling outdoor centre full of various bodies with tales of adventures. I also hoped that they would have a bike maintenance workshop being Scotland's leading mountain bike leader training centre. No such luck! I was faced with a modern looking building and a straight-talking receptionist. Not even a cafe on sight!

So, back down to the visitor centre we cycled. We both ate our sandwiches and enjoyed a cuppa and I managed to get a little bit of charge in my phone with a little help from the nice man in the gift shop. We spent longer than expected at the visitor centre partly because of the welcome sunshine but also partly as the ghastly photographs from Oslo had made it on to the newspapers. It was a pretty solemn time after that as the images fired up a lot of sadness as the events became clearer. I was glad to finally get on the bike again. Usually being on the bike somehow blocks all the stresses and clears the head but we found ourselves discussing Norway for a little while longer. I really felt for how helpless Sven must have found being so far away.

After a rocky but gentle climb we stopped at a bothy. This was my chance to show Sven the Scottish bothies. From what he has told me about the Norwegian cabins, our bothies are, let's say, a little bit basic. However, still basic, Ryvoan Bothy is still one of the more luxurious complete with a metal fire surround & raised sleeping area.

We met a helpful fellow cyclist who knew the route we were taking. He helpfully plotted out our route on the OS map and told us what to look out for. Our excitement for cutting out a few kms and having ago at fording the River Nethy maybe distracted from the instructions that we had been given. It wasn't long before we were slowly climbing the rocky road then the heathery paths, then just bog to the top of Geal Charn, 821m. Oops, after two hours we found ourselves facing deep into the Cairngorms with not a trace of civilization. It didn't take us long to get back down the way we came. In fact, the fast and rocky downhill was worth the hike up. The lack of energy over the remaining miles was not worth the detour!

Eventually we arrived at the Youth Hostel in Tomintoul, caked in mud and aching. Sven had to push me up the last off-road climb. At 9:00pm we were worried that we were not going to eat. We hadn't made it to a shop to buy food and the local lads reckoned that the pub stopped serving food at 9. Luckily the guy on duty at the hostel kindly phoned the pub and while they kept the kitchen open we were whisked down in the car. Haggis, oatcakes, beef, Yorkshire puddings, veg, potatoes, gravy, extra chips and more chips were lubricated with a nice cold pint and we dried our shoes by the fire. This felt like a well deserved taste of being human again. Gone were the days of wild mountain men. From there it was off to bed following a brief chat with fellow hostel guest Ian, the gold panning lorry driver from Aberdeen.


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