The yellow of the rape has been replaced by the less vibrant yellow of fields of daffodils. It looks like a fine crop.
Not a Challenger in sight until we reach Elgin, where more heavy rucksacks appear.
Bright yellow gorse flashes past, stunningly beautiful against the deep blue sky. Pigeons and crows peck the freshly ploughed fields. Cherry blossom and bright white blackthorn provide a welcome contrast with the predominant yellows.
Reaching Inverness, gravitating to the café a number of Challengers exchange greetings. We are suddenly in the company of hallowed names:
Colin Tock - in his breeches and red socks, looking more than ever like Walter Poucher without the perfume;
Fowkes and Towers clans feature here
the Towers twins from Settle - still going strong at 75;
Bernard and Margaret Fowkes, on their 16th crossing - Bernard is this year's oldest male Challenger, he is 80 in June;
Moray Allan and David Lynch, very jolly chaps on just their second crossing;
Markus Petter, from Austria, who is going to spend a couple of days in Applecross before reaching his starting point.
Geoff Reed, on his 5th crossing after a 10 year gap. The airline he travelled up on gave him a bottle of champagne on arrival at Inverness. He was already carrying 18 kilos. So he drank it. All of it. Geoff likes a drink. He retired yesterday.
Nearly everyone we have met seems to like a drink actually...
Nallo Lady had time to make an unscheduled distribution of CCS (Chocolate Caramel Shortbread) to this fine band of people before we boarded the Kyle train.
Passing lagoons with eider ducks, our transport now determinedly tried to leave the east coast. Buzzards and other birds of prey hovered hungrily above new born lambs.
But we steadily lost our new found friends as they disembarked at Achnasheen and all stations to Kyle.
Then we were alone again, with only the cuckoos and Bob Phillips for company.
Compared with three weeks ago everything is very green, and free from its white blanket. Primroses line the hedgerows.
The Cuillins shimmer in the heat as we take the short bus journey to Kintail Lodge Hotel to bag a bed for the night.
A lazy afternoon ensues.
Then Denis Pidgeon arrives. He is writing a book about his escapades with another blogger, Alan Sloman.
Blogs are allergic to Pidgeons!
But we did escape briefly to capture the Kintail Lodge Hotel in the evening light, before a fine sunset, marred only by the total absence of any cloud.
Next day: Day 1
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