And so it begins! Finally all the planning and anticipation had come to an end and I was off to get the sleeper from Euston to Inverness. Alan Sloman had bagged a table at the Bree Louise near Euston station as a meeting point for the many Challengers heading north that evening. Many of the usual suspects were there.
Most of us were catching the early sleeper, so we left the pub before 9 o’clock. After dumping my pack in the sleeper cabin, I made my way to the dining lounge car, where Mr Sloman was ensconced. Jeremy was feigning interest in Alan’s conversational repartee.
Earlier there had been much merriment when it transpired that Jeremy had left his maps behind in the pub. He was only reunited with them by some quick thinking by another Challenger who ran down the platform and banged on the carriage window, waving Jeremy’s maps furiously.
Further amusement was supplied by Ray’s inability to locate his coffee cup with a milk sachet. None of us laughed (much). I retired to my berth at a relatively sensible hour. I can’t vouch for some of the others.
We arrived at Inverness on time. Ray, Andy and Jeremy posed for a quick photo, before it was off to the bus station to have second breakfast. Alan, Andy and Phil were off to Shiel Bridge via bus. At the bus station, we bumped into Laura before we all had a scoff in the cafe. Alan, Andy and Phil boarded the bus leaving Ray and I to have some more breakfast, before we went back to the station via Craigdon Mountain Sports, so I could get a gas canister.
There were quite a few Challengers taking the midday train to Kyle of Lochalsh. I sat with Emma, Ray and Skippy. Emma was starting at Dornie and our routes coincided for the first two days, so we had arranged to walk together. The journey whizzed by as we chatted. Various other Challengers popped by to say hello, including Sue Banfield with some chocolate caramel shortbread. Well, you’ve got to keep your strength up!
Ray and Skippy got off at Strathcarron, where they were starting. We went all the way through to Kyle, where I had booked a taxi to take Emma and me to the Dornie Hotel.
After a potter about, we went back to the hotel. After a well-earned bath (!), I went down to the bar, where Emma and I met with Ian Cotterill (Challenge photographer extraordinaire). Beverages and food were consumed before an early night to prepare for the next day’s exertions.