A 13 hour coach ride was all that we needed to transport ourselves from the urban metropolis of London to the Scottish wilderness. After cups of tea and overpriced cheese toasties in a Scottish town, we embarked on our trip across the Cairngorms. 10 minutes into the hike and we were already missing the feeling of walking on flat ground. Adjusting to the weight of the bags on our back and the fact we couldn’t just go for a cheeky shop in Tesco’s express if we forgot something, we started to enjoy the peace and natural beauty of being away from civilisation. Finding a spot to camp (which was on a mountain side, forcing us to sleep vertically) we started cooking our delicious and nutritious cheese and mushroom pasta from a packet. Forcing the pasta downs our throats, we gazed onto the Scottish hills as three deer passed in the distance. It is said that the most beautiful places are often the most dangerous. As with the Cairngorms beauty there is a excruciating compromise: midges. As the sun fell in the sky, tribes of the evil creatures emerged from the ground and swarmed us completely, entering our noses, ears, mouths and even pasta. Our bodies were completely bitten as the midge repellent proved to be utterly useless.
The aftermath of the night before became clear once we awoke as we saw the midge graveyard the inside of our tents had become. We set off early in high hopes that the expedition couldn’t get worst. It was only up from there, literally, up the huge sides of the valley that formed the Lairig Ghru Once we reached the opening of the valley the reality of the challenge dawned on us. What we thought would be a scenic walk by a river turned into hours of clambering over boulders due to all the landslides that had previously occurred. However, morale remained high with Beyoncé playing in the background.
On this treacherous hike we came across a lovely French man, who would later become our room mate. He informed us of a bothy near where we had planned to camp. The prospects of being able to sleep on flat ground, safe from the grouse and midges of Scotland excited us beyond belief as we desperately tried to keep pace with him in order to find the bothy. We continued our trek through the valley and eventually reached a small area of flat ground right next to the astounding Cairngorms Mountains, where we settled for lunch. Lunch with a view is an understatement! In hope of finally reaching the bothy we powered through three hours of walking without any breaks.
When we eventually laid eyes on the Devil’s Point Bothy in the distance we thought our eyes were being deceived, it had to be a mirage. Upon reaching it there was a rainbow, which you can see in one of the images, stretching across the valley. By this point we didn’t even blink at the swarm of midges surrounding us we were just so in awe of the landscape.
That night we set up camp in the bothy along with the French man we had met on the way and indulged in a hot chocolate which was definitely deserved.
We woke up on day three well rested and eager to begin the walk. After our breakfast, consisting of the strangest granola mix and a quick wash in the stream, we set off. Day three consisted mainly of walking apart from an eventful lunch break in which our swim in a river was interrupted by a cloud of hungry midges.
Apart from this we walked several hours reaching a beautiful waterfall where we decided to set up camp nearby. Having learnt from the previous days we knew to set up our tents early to avoid the midge feast and to eat our planned lunches as dinner inside our tents. This worked out to be a very effective plan and saved us a few bites!
Having woken up from possibly one of the most peaceful nights yet, incomparable to our thirteen hour coach journey, we were both excited and sad to be finishing the challenge. Due to a couple of set backs we knew time was tight in order get on our coach home so we engulfed a breakfast consisting of packaged Dal and mushroom risotto. Although we were on flat ground for the remainder of our walk our aches and pains made the couple of kilometres we had left no easy mission. With a cut down on breaks we relied on each others company to get us through until suddenly the town of Blair Athol was visible from the corner of our eyes. We all broke out into a sprint, or as close as you can get carrying 6 kilogram back packs. We were on our way home and although the prospect of our long coach journey did nothing but fill us with dread we were so proud with what we had achieved. We rewarded ourselves with a large fish a chips each as we got ready to embark on our coach home to Victoria.