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Friday, 1 June 2012

The 2012 Challenge, Day 4: Off Map and On Road (7)

It's a long old slog up the hill on the road from Gairlochy to the Commando Memorial, but there were beautiful views of Ben Nevis capped in snow to keep our minds off the sheer bloody toil of it all. And then, after the memorial, it was downhill all the way.

We reached the Aonach Mor hotel at about 6 and went into the bar for a pint or two of cider. I also decided to order a meal - a nice, rare ribeye steak. I was a little worried about whether I could join the sleeper at Spean Bridge with a ticket from Corrour ... and indeed, I was concerned that it might not even stop at Spean Bridge unless there was somebody with a ticket from Spean Bridge waiting to get on. So I figured it would be best to try to get to Fort William. The train could hardly fail to stop there, because it starts there. And of course, the ticket office would be able to sort me out for my excess fare. I didn't know when the train left Fort William, but from the time of its departure from Corrour I figured it was probably around 8.30 (this would be a bit earlier than the Northbound working leaves Euston, but I figured this was as it should be because it probably takes more time to reassemble a train than to break it into separate sections for Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William). So I thought if I booked a taxi for 7.30 to take me to Fort William that'd be fine ... and if I asked it to meet me at Spean Bridge station, then as soon as the sleeper returned me to Spean Bridge station on Thursday I could resume walking where I'd left off.

The barmaid was most helpful, and found me the number of a local taxi. I rang and asked if he could pick me up from Spean Bridge station at 7.30? He couldn't ... but he could do 7.45 if that was any use to me? I told him that'd be fine and settled down to enjoy my steak which had just arrived. I cut it in half and took a good look ... not a sign of pink flesh anywhere. So I sent it back! However, the barmaid soon returned saying that had been their last ribeye! They could do me sirloin instead ... but I wasn't really feeling like sirloin, so I said I'd settle for the overdone ribeye. It was, at least, edible.

The barmaid now saved me from an absolutely ENORMOUS embarrassment ... she told me that the sleeper ALWAYS stops at Spean Bridge, whether they're expecting anyone or not (unlike Roybridge and Tulloch, where you have to ask them to stop the train for you); and then she looked up its time at Spean Bridge. And it was MUCH earlier than I thought ... about 7.50 pm, in fact! So if I had caught a taxi to Fort William at 7.45, or even at 7.30 ... I would have missed it for sure!!!! So I rang the taxi and told him I didn't need to be picked up after all, I finished my cider, and at about 7.15 I strolled down to Spean Bridge station to catch my train to London and my Union AGM.

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