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Monday, 30 May 2011

The 2011 Challenge, Prologue: getting to the start (13)

Thursday 12 May 2011. I woke up in my tent with a terrible pain in my lower back, having slept awkwardly or something. Not quite sure what ... but I was scarcely able to re-pack my rucksack and seriously began to wonder whether my Challenge was over before I'd even started. After breakfast I took a couple of painkillers, and hoped that I'd be able to sleep it off. Then I set off for Acharacle again.

Walking entirely by road this time, I had to turn down three offers of lifts between the Singing Sands and Acharacle!

Arriving in Acharacle, I took this photo. Now I know that facilities can be somewhat rudimentary in the more remote parts of the Highlands, but it did occur to me that this was maybe taking things to extremes. I mean, if it weren't for the helpful label painted on the road, I would never have recognised these trees for what they really are. Would you?

A little way beyond the shelter was a bench where I sat for a while and, before long, Bill Roberts (the ulitmate legend of the Challenge, about to embark on his thirtieth crossing) came by and we chatted for a while. He was camping somewhere down by the loch. I was stopping for the night at the hotel. So after a bit of a natter we parted and I wandered on to the hotel where I took lunch at the bar and then had an easy afternoon, greeting other Challengers as they arrived.

Now, I remember the hotel (twenty five years ago) having an impressive restaurant which turned out the most amazing, hearty Highland fare. I am afraid to say, however, that it is no longer quite such an exquisite culinary experience to eat there. I ordered rack of lamb, which hadn't been French trimmed and had, as a consequence, been somewhat overcooked to render the fat. The resulting grey, chewy chunk of meat was a dreadful waste of a fine, tender cut of meat. Breakfast wasn't much better either. I ordered a kipper, which had also been overcooked and was much like eating cardboard. (Although, to be fair, at least they had kippers on the menu, unlike my hotel overlooking Loch Fyne in Ardrishaig!)

Talk over breakfast amongst the challengers centred around who was going over Beinn Resipole and who was not. Andy Howell had been given a cunning route through the forest, which doesn't appear on the maps, to avoid having to do too much road walking. He invited others to join him; but I decided to stick with opening few kilometres of roads.

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