We had already walked 9 km of today's planned 23 km. We continued to 1 km beyond the Linn of Dee, then as we weren't sure whether we could get past Mar Lodge we turned around and went past Inverey to reach Victoria Bridge and finish as planned. 15 km for the 'day'.
Time 4 hours 45 mins including 1 hour 10 mins stops.
No of new Challengers seen: 1
No of parasitic Challengers seen: 1
No of Challengers in Braemar: Lots
After a cold but cosy night it was good to feel the sun hit the tent at 7 am. It had been exceedingly quiet, with just the occasional chirp of a bird breaking the silence once the asthmatic deer had wandered off last night.
We enjoyed the luxury of a lie in, knowing that it was an easy morning's stroll to Braemar.
By the time we left camp at about 9 am the bright sun had been obscured by an obstinate wet cloud.
Waterproofs were deployed for most of the hour's stroll to Linn of Dee.
By then it was sunny enough for photos of the deep gorge.
There's a memorial stone here to Gwyn Gatenby and Katie Todd, who sadly drowned here 'accidentally' on 16 October 1927.
Having got cold feet about our planned route past Mar Lodge, our revised plan took us past magnificent specimens of inedible Gyromitra esculenta to Victoria Bridge by road. This had two bonuses. Firstly we enjoyed the sight of a red squirrel outside Muir Cottage, then Derek and Pat Hopkins joined us for a while until we left the road.
Inverey SYHA - in its final throes before closure
Time for a brew. We were joined by some chatty Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award kids from St Leonards, then by The Dutchman who had Jeff Rowe in tow. More about him later.
After lightening our loads by offloading lots of excess nuts (to Jeff in particular), we headed off into some beautiful woodland - see picture - this was the Morrone Birkwood National Nature Reserve, apparently the best British example of Downy Birch woodland with Juniper. It's as it would have been just after the last Ice Age.
So it can't be far now!
We descended through more woods to a road to join a chap with a massive rucksack. Surely not a Challenger?
'Where have you come from?' was the probing question.
'Morrone' the unrevealing reply.
'Didn't you see me land? he asked.
All was revealed - a hungry paraglider who had flown in for lunch.
Then we reached the café, meeting lots more Challengers, including Alan Sloman, who is also blogging his way across [NOT!], and his mate Lord Elphus (aka Phil).
But first I must thank WD and Dawn for rescuing my valuables bag from the excellent fish and chip shop, and apologise to them for eating the last huge haddock before they arrived!
More on gear:
Aquagear Water Filter - easy to use, we have used it for drinking water in places where the water source was lower down. Could easily have managed without it as all our water seemed excellent anyway.
Trekmates cheap (£15) gaiters - they don't stay up and as with all Trekmates gaiters the elastic comes untucked easily and catches in the boots. Bin on return home! (Binned at North Water Bridge, actually.)
Blackberry Curve 8320 - suits my one-fingered typing. Don't know how the blog appears - will find out on return! Zoom on camera appears to have broken. (It seems to have worked very well.)
Next day: Day 11
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