Friends, collies, cattle grid pups,
The phone calls that had been exchanged, between the spot 400 metres from my parking place where we had a faint signal (just off the road at Bridge of Orchy, ), and our caravan in Ullswater, were sorrowful and full of pathos. The old girl was giving out, her back legs no longer working at all, or reviving just a little. Caring duties had become wearing duties and our absence had added an additional strain to the small domestic unit. After that call, me and B had a long chin wag, reaching a decision to go home a day early, after our walk the next day.
Thus it was, thinking of the old girl, that we set off to Beinn Mhanach with our hearts in our boots making for v. v. v heavy feet, causing the inspirational celebratory of yesterdays achievement to metamorphose into Mrs Plod. It was a long, long walk in of nearly two hours duration, through the beautiful Auch Gleann, with not many metres of ascent along the way. Thankfully, on a day forecast to be v. v. v hot, an early start had given us a head start and shade thrown down by the hills kept us cool.
As we came to the hydro works, and our route took off north up the steep-sided, pathless flank of ‘The Mountain of the Monks’, the sun in splendour announced itself in blazing shades of gold, at just the wrong time. Thus, the usual huffing and puffing serenade was today punctuated with much panting and pausing, which even I was joining in. The quick steep hop up for speedy Gonzales, who had written one of our guide books, was given quite a different description in which the words: shattered, sprawling and, bitten off more than I can chew, decorated the page. However, and with good grace, Mr Sun put his hat back on and this little gesture gave us a bit of respite. We fought our way up hill by way of meandering Zig Zaggs that eventually got us to an easier gradient, just below the top.
On our way up the focus had largely been taken up with the lack of progress made by B’s plodding feet. Then, at the summit, all was transformed. A 360o vista displayed the Southern Highlands in a panorama that spoke straight to the soul. This contrast refreshed mind and spirit so that, thoughts of ditching the whole project were miraculously vanished from the radar, no more than 45 minutes after being planted there. Drama and Queen are a two words that passed through my mind at this time, for some reason.
Soaking up the views, and the inevitably bit with the camera, delayed our departure but, finally, the long drive home penetrated our thoughts and we turned to face the slog down the big hill and long walk back to my van.
If zig, zagging was a means of easing the gradient on the way up, all it served to achieve on the way down was dizziness and total confusion. One minute we were heading west in the direction of the fence we had crossed on our way up and the next we were going a long way east in exactly the opposite direction from where my van was parked. I became more than a bit disturbed by this loss of direction, thinking that perhaps my person’s brain had been pickled by the sun and the effort, or perhaps the bottles that make her very happy, which populate my van. Then, thankfully, just in the nick of time, some fellow hikers sitting by the fence called over, in a hail fellow well met sort of greeting. Happily, B waved and trooped over, back on a westward trajectory. More of that incomprehensible Munro dialect that I had witnessed yesterday took place over the next ten minutes or so but, I was so pleased with these humans I remembered my manners and even got praise and treats from them, for my good behaviour, much to the disgust of the canine in their pack.
This diversion seemed to have cleared B’s brain because, after this, we set off straight down hill and were soon back on the track, starting the long walk back to my van. With the object of today’s adventure achieved and the 52nd Munro firmly in the bag, we began to visualise the lovely surprise that David would get when he saw me; I would brighten up his day.
Not too far from the end of our walk, while crossing a cattle grid, we encountered the strangest thing. A chubby little lamb had fallen through the grid and couldn’t work out an escape route, a thing that was beyond our combined grey matter too, even though I’m a big-brained Border Collie. We set our hopes on finding someone at home – a farmer type – in the cottages that were now in sight. Before then though we were able to flag down a passing vehicle and a shepherd was at the wheel. Twenty minutes later the truck passed again and a big thumbs up signalled success. We were so happy that we had rescued little Larry from his frightening ordeal.
I had meant, during the journey home, to keep a wary eye on B ensuring she didn’t go in for any of that dozing thing she often does when in the car with David. However, with the best will in the world, I did a bit of that dozing thing myself. Well, to be absolutely truthful, it was more of an out for the count, REM sleep, sort of dozing. I only came too when I was woken because it was everyone’s bedtime and I was in my garden at home. I’m sure I must have had some open eye time, to get a bit of dinner down me but, imagine this, I don’t remember; I was robbed.
Now there are no more Munros for Ben, until the old girl is the pot of gold where rainbow bridge ends 😦
Love Ben xx