I usually write up a quick summary of my TGO Challenge experience soon after the event. Time has flown since I arrived home but I think I can rummage up a few fading memories to give an overall impression of this year’s crossing.
This year was my tenth crossing and I admit that I’d been quite nervous whilst planning it. I wanted everything to go well and for there to be little chance of me not completing the walk. I, therefore, planned a route which was maybe a little shorter than usual [I suspect that an Oban start gives the opportunity of a shorter crossing] and I had several Foul Weather Alternatives which I was more than happy to use even if the weather was glorious – which it was for the first couple of days.
This year’s crossing seemed a lot easier than previous ones and I think the weather probably played a big part in that. Yes, I had quite a lot of drizzle but it never really developed into persistent heavy rain. I noticed that I seemed to relax once the sun had been replaced with rain and I was back in my Challenge comfort zone.
There were a couple of days when I wore myself out but nowhere near as bad as other years when I’ve been completely exhausted. I think I’ve matured as a walker since my first TGO Challenge in 2006 and now know a couple of simple but important tips:- don’t rush …. and eat often.
Food was a worry during my planning. In order to cover new ground and avoid visiting places I’d already been too, I had few resupply stops in the first week. If they had let me down then I’d have been eking out some oatcakes and soup for a few days. As it turned out, I ate well. My (1st) Monday and Friday hotels not only fed me a huge breakfast but made me an ample packed lunch which augmented my food supplies for the next few days. Although the hotel meals were good and welcome, my favourite meal of the whole fortnight was leek and potato soup, in my tent, with a stale bread roll mushed up in it. Hot, tasty and filling and just what I needed.
I had no accommodation booked for the second week so camped for 5 consecutive days from the Saturday to Wednesday – which included a campsite on the Monday. I would usually look for a bed or room after 3 or 4 days of wildcamping but the weather was so good I had no need to seek a bit of shelter and dry all of my clothes. Something I had failed to anticipate was that I’d have nowhere to charge my mobile phone but I found that pubs and cafes were quite happy for me to charge it while I was giving them my custom.
I didn’t have much company this year and only bumped into my first Challenger on the second Wednesday but I was following various people on Twitter and, despite walking on my own, felt like part of the Challenge family.
My finish didn’t go quite to plan as I’d not checked the bus times back to Montrose and had to walk an extra 6 or 7 miles from the South end of Lunan Bay all the way to the Park Hotel – thus eating into the time that I’d planned to relax and chat to people before the dinner… but booking a room at the hotel meant there wasn’t really any rush even though I didn’t get there until after 5pm.
So…. what now for this Ten Timer? Part of me says that I ought to take a break from the event. I’ve been looking at long distance trails to do instead – like Offa’s Dyke, or Cape Wrath, or maybe Hadrian’s Wall. I’d also like to give something back to the event, so maybe I’ll be serving tea at Tarfside next year? But there’s also the chance that I just won’t be able to resist filling in the application form in September’s The Great Outdoors magazine. We’ll see.