That was an achievement, not just scaling the Mordor like steps and paths up the face of Corrie Fee, laden with rucksack, laden with kit, laden with thoughts.
Just getting there, just getting to Scotland was a task.
The time had come for the trip away up the road, to take in a few days on The Cateran Trail, a 60 odd mile circular route in Angus and Perthshire that took in the Cairngorms National Park and some wild camping in Glen Doll and Glen Clova. The Cateran Trail named after the reiver Caterans that came across to the fertile Eastern Glens and rob the cattle and crops under the cloak of night. It followed the trails and paths that these Caterans took to carry out their nefarious deeds, spilling blood and destroying what they couldn’t carry. Buoyed up by theses tales, we were looking forward to getting on the trail.
We had decided against flying, air fares are pricey and you were limited to the amount of kit that you can take, no gas allowed, it would have to be sourced up there, that can be a task on its own, even before a boot has hit the trail. Driving, not really practical for our trip this time, as we were walking, the logistics of leaving the car and getting back to it would be too constrictive. As well as doing the majority of the Cateran, we wanted to get into the Cairngorms and get some higher altitude wild camping done. It was decided that we would travel by train. The tickets were slightly more reasonable than flying and the journey time was quicker than driving, surely a win win, right?
Um, no, not a win win.
To be honest, not even close…cue dramatic music…
We got to Norwich station early, eager to get the journey done and stride out on the trail for a few miles in the early evening, pitch up a wild camp and get into the swing of things of being off grid for a few days.
Thats where it started to go a bit wrong.
I’m a bit of an over thinker (those that know me, know that its more than just a bit) I wanted to get to the station early, to be in the right frame of mind, to set myself up mentally for the journey that lay ahead. Every possible permutation of issue and problem to do with the journey had been duly thought over, fretted over and mulled over for good measure. I had allowed myself a treat, I wasn’t going to worry about this journey, it wasn’t going to be easy, it certainly wasn’t going to be easy, but I was going to give it my all. I was in a good place, it felt good, really good to feel like this, I just wanted to be up the road, on the trail, free.
I looked at the departure board, cancelled, our train was cancelled. This would have put me into a spiral, I would have gotten very anxious about how we were going to get to Scotland and it would have made me feel sick. For a split second there was the dry heave of anxiety trying to claw its way from my gut to my head…
I slammed the door shut on that.
You’re not going to win today you fuck.
Instead of flapping and getting worked up, I wanted to solve the issue, I wanted to find a solution, it was ok, the next train was delayed, but was still going to get us to Peterborough in time to make the connection to Edinburgh, the planets were aligning to get us there. The lads I was travelling with, Al and Doug, are two laid back people, I worry and fret enough for the three of us. They carried on sipping their lava like coffee, whereas I was off like a whippet to the information office to see how we could move forward and start the journey to Edinburgh. I listened to what the man in front of me was being told, then it came over the tannoy that the delayed train had now been cancelled. This was testing me now, I could feel the dry heave come back and spread through my body, this would then turned to anger, as I disliked the situation and for me to cope I would get shouty and generally be unpleasant (like a moody teen, its not trait I’m proud of).
From where this sense of calm had come from, I wan’t sure, but I wasn’t going to question it, go with it, ride this wave of zen. The chap behind the counter could see that I was about to ask a question, he asked me to wait for a couple of minutes. I did, he came back to me, I explained that we needed to get to Peterborough. The train to Liverpool Street was going to make an unscheduled stop at Stowmarket so that those that were going to Peterborough could get there. This was music to my ears, Smiling I thanked the chap for the information and went to get Al and Doug, who were still trying to sip their lava like coffee.
We were on our way, we were getting closer to the start of the trail.
The train from Stowmarket was delayed, we had stood with the rucksacks from Norwich and now had to do the same to Peterborough. I was still feeling quite zen about the situation, this though was being tested.
We missed our train to Edinburgh by twenty minutes because of the delay at Stowmarket. Another wait, another cup of lava like coffee. Thought to myself that perhaps I should lay off the old caffeine, whilst it’s beverage that I really enjoy and I consume a lot of, it has the potential to become a cup of anxiety if I’m not in the right frame of mind. This journey was rapidly affecting my frame of mind. Before that could take hold, the next train to Edinburgh came to a halt at the platform edge.
The rucksacks were thrown into the train carriage, what joy! We were going to have to stand, stand we did, all the way to Darlington. The clickety click of the movement of the train was quite melodic and was making us sleepy, have you tried sleeping standing up? It’s quite an odd sensation, granted I was able to lean against the bags for support, but I managed a micro sleep of some description. Hardly enough to sate the fatigue of travelling, in fact it made me feel more tired, I do find it odd when that happens. This musing passed into mild elation as we were able to get seats at Darlington and reclined in relative comfort, the journey became less arduous.
The train got us into Edinburgh, now for the final leg of the journey, onward to Montrose. The station at Waverley is massive, it felt like we were walking for miles in order to get to the right platform for the train, to complete our journey, or at least this portion of it.
Buoyed up by seeing the train for Montrose and by luck we had literally a few minutes to get on board…
Only to be told by the platform guard that we would be unable to get tickets on the train, they would have to be purchased before boarding, in order to get through the barriers.
Now, normally this wouldn’t be an issue (to be honest, it wasn’t really an issue in this case, its just that the driver had been seen getting onboard and the engine started and I was getting a wee bit fractious, it had been a long day and every part of the journey had been elevated to ball ache status) With now literally seconds to go before the train starting pulling out of the station, following a slapstick comedy of fumbling hands, incorrectly keyed in pin codes, waiting what appeared to be an actual aeon, the tickets spewed forth in a glacial manner. sprinting to the barrier, we were granted access, as the announcement stated the next train (our train) was about to leave the platform (the one we were running down) to Montrose. Running with fully laden rucksacks isn’t the most pleasant pastime, it did however wake up the legs after a few hours of relative inactivity, we hopped aboard as the doors closed, we had made it by the skin of our teeth.
At last! at last, a part of the adventure was going our way. Thats when the dynamic of the pretty terrible journey changed. We were chuckling, sipping whisky from hip flasks, chatting, we were enjoying the jaunt, we were feeling good. Only another ninety minutes and we would be able to get our boots onto the trail.
The seven hour trip had become nearly twelve hours.
It had taken a long time,
But we were here,
We were in Scotland, in Montrose, in my sisters car, off to the start of the Cateran Trail.
Even with the delay we would be able to get out on the path and stride out for a mile or three. This was good.