Once again Pauline and I have been back "on the road" with our talk tour, having enjoyed five weeks off. Despite the gap we were word perfect in our performances. This was a fun section of the tour, over on the west coast of Scotland. We had two nights back to back to do, first of which was on the Isle of Mull. It was fun having to get a ferry out to the island from Oban. A mini adventure.
The second night found us back in Oban on the mainland, performing to a small audience. Small but perfectly formed, as they roared with laughter in all the right places. A wander through the quiet town centre after the show, in search of what has become an after-show tradition, chips (fries to my American readers), we watched the last of the ferries coming home for the night. Oban is such an idyllic little west coast town, bustling with holiday makers and people coming and going from many of the Hebridean islands. A gateway to the islands.
As we have done after all our shows, we made the most of being away by answering the call of the wild and heading out into the mountains. This time we based ourself about 35 miles east of Oban at a small village called Tyndrum, and trekked off west into the mountains on a glorious day.
Far up ahead, at the end of the valley, is the impressive massif of Ben Lui, almost 4,000ft. With its craggy fingers of ridges stretching out in all directions, it is an impressive and foreboding sight. This was not to be our destination this day though. We were headed to a mountain just south east, called Beinn Dubhchraig, itself a Munro (mountains over 3,000 feet) at 3188ft.
The lower slopes were lush with head-high ferns (or was it bracken?) and the path was boggy. Everywhere wild flowers were in bloom. We had an easy river crossing to do at one point and then it was a great quality path toward the summit on a glorious blue-sky day. In the heat it was a slow final ascent as the ground became steeper, and we topped out late afternoon.
Despite its beauty, this time of year Scotland is plagued with a tiny biting insect, a cousin of the mosquito, called a midge. They gather in their thousands to devour your blood whenever you stand still, making campimg at this time of year unbearable. So we decided to camp just 150ft below the summit, beside two small lochans for the night, to escape them. They don't have ahead for heights!
As the night wore on the fine weather of the day gave way to rolling fog, smothering the top, and transported out little campsite into an isolated world of its own. As I sat there making my dinner on my little roaring stove, watching Pauline exploring the pools of water for evolving tadpoles, I felt so relaxed and happy. It was so much fun being up there, away from everyone and everything.
By day break the next day the heavens had well and truly opened, and our descent was in heavy rain. The landscape was quite different, and the gentle waters of yesterday were now raging torrents. We reached the point of crossing the day before but now the river was several feet deep and boiling with white water. For one insane moment we contemplated trying to cross it, but the first rule of river crossing is, if there's a safer alternative, don't cross. Just under two miles north, following a tributary, there was a bridge marked on the map, so we headed for this and a safe crossing.
This week we're off to do our 9th show, again in the Highlands, just outside Aviemore, at the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre, called Glenmore Lodge. Then we'll be back into the mountains for two days, this time on our mountain bikes.