The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 27 May 2011

Day 10 - Stables of Lee to Tarfside

Monday 23 May (0735-1005)
Distance: 9 miles
Weather: Wet and windy

It was a day that was entirely about the weather.

As a complete contrast to the wind speeds when we had gone to bed, at 2am all was completely calm and the skies were clear. The calm before the storm?

At 6am the rain was coming down and without even looking outside it didn't feel like there was going to be any value in delaying our departure. Whereas often we will wait to see if the weather improves, on this occasion we knew that waiting was only going to give us worse conditions.

We did count our blessings as we made our way down the track an hour and a half later. At least the wind was on our backs; the area was very pretty even though marred by rain; and we didn't have far to go. A hundred yards later we had to review that list. We hadn't changed direction, but suddenly the wind and rain was coming head-on.

With heads down, we marched along without even pausing for our customary faffs. There was no way that I was removing my layers of gloves unless absolutely necessary, and the camera had been carefully double bagged (pity I didn't do the same with the phone; in fact just sealing the single bag it was in would have been a smart move!). The only time we stopped was when we reached the car park 3 miles before Tarfside, where an information board is housed under a bit of a shelter. Stopping there required us to stand in a big puddle, but it gave us shelter for a few minutes for second breakfast.

The path from there to Tarfside features pedestrian gates with latches that have been fitted so tightly that they can't be opened, but it's a pleasant little walk behind the Hill of Rowan. Admittedly, we did abandon any idea of my intended detour up to the hill-top monument. We'll save that for another year.

Two and a half hours after setting off, with our thoughts with those who had much further to come, we arrived at St Dronstans, where I wasted no time in stripping off my wet stuff and going to enquire about a bed. We were in luck. At just gone 10am we bagged the last twin bunk-room (and, as it went, the penultimate room). We hadn't relished the thought of camping in the expected conditions.

Sitting drinking tea and eating cake, more and more people came in. There weren't many tales to be told for the first couple of hours (except by the girl who had been picked off her feet by the wind the previous afternoon and had a coming-together with a rock; she was sporting quite a black eye and a dressing). The walk in had been wet and breezy, but nothing wildly out of the ordinary. True to the forecast though, as the day wore on the windspeed increased and increased and increased. More and more people poured into the hostel in increasing states of tiredness and wetness.

With the place full to bursting (and no-one was turned away), the baked potatoes were just about to be put in the oven for the three evening meal sittings, when the power went out. It remained out for the whole of the rest of the time we were there. Top marks went to the volunteers who man the hostel for the TGOC for coping admirably in such adverse conditions and still managing to get everyone fed (and with a smile too).

Just before bed-time a health and safety announcement was made. The hostel has beds for 12 Challengers. There were 54 people staying that night (a number quoted by the lady in charge of taking the money, and she should know), and with no power there were increased risks. Even though the rooms were mostly only 6'x8', I think every one had a extra person, then there were the bodies in the conference room, the living room, the kitchen and the corridors.

It was certainly a memorable night, with bodies everywhere and wet gear hanging from every available place you could possibly hang stuff.

I had expected noise to go on into the night with so many people, but with the lack of electricity there were only a couple of options when darkness came: go to the Masons for a drink or go to bed. Most people seemed to go for the latter option and by just gone 10pm all was quiet (at least until the snoring started!).

Click here for TGOC Day 11

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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