Monday, June 1, 2009


Another night up in the mountains at the usual spot. Wow what a difference. The vegetation has just exploded and all the rhododendrons are out and the ferns, so many ferns, are just perfect with their young, light green fronds. And with the beautiful white bark of young silver birch and the stunted waist-high hornbeams and the laburnum and rowan it really was a riot of colours and smells and perfumes and textures.

On the walk down to the burn there was a strong smell like honeysuckle a lot of the way but we couldn’t figure out where it came from but that mixed together with trodden grass and damp moss and heather would really have been worth bottling.

The weather on Sunday wasn’t that great but well suited as usual to the place and it let us set up camp and eat before the clouds started rolling in. The place was inhabited by ptarmigan which occasionally as we sat and ate our supper and for no reason, shot out from behind rocks to fly noisily over the immediate horizon defecating profusely.

Riccardo brought a flask of grappa which was very welcome and we just sat round the fire chatting and sipping after I had had some fudge flavoured hot chocolate which was absolutely disgusting.

The clouds started rolling in but weather gods were smiling because about ten thirty we crawled into the tents and five minutes later all hell was let loose. Five minutes earlier and we would have been drenched. It was a terrific rain storm, with wind and hurled rain and the temperature plummeted to 4°C within an hour. I had the dog with me which ended up sleeping under the fly sheet trying most of the night to get in the tent with me. Actually this was the first night in this tent that was actually comfortable. I managed to pitch it on a level on thick, deep grass with only one rock worth speaking of near my left knee and all in all I must have slept most of the night. I always sleep with the fly sheet open and this time propped it open with my trekking pole so the dog could sleep under it and at one point I woke up and looked out and there was the most terrific fog imaginable compounded by the hurtling rain. You literally couldn’t see the wall of the sheiling in the lee of which we had pitched the tents and which was only 8 feet away. The noise on the tent was somehow a little unnerving. A ‘should I perhaps not be here’ sort of rain. But the next morning dawned soon enough with an amazing, fantastic doubly wow pink sky. It would have been amazing (somebody find me a synonym please) to jig about holding up various objects to see how pink they would go. Even the dog was pink, but the sleeping bag was warm and comfortable and the air cold on my face so I just imagined doing that instead. After ten minutes or so the pink faded to a dull orange and then returned to grey only to explode again with even more pinkness five minutes later. Despite red sky in the morning etc. the morning turned out beautiful with blue skies and hot sun and we went off hunting for rock carvings down on a rock outcrop below the camp. As usual there was no path and we had to battle through sweet smelling waist high vegetation (wow, what hardship!!) covering slippery moss covered rocks. No carvings were found but it was worth the trip just to be in the pathless middle of such beauty.

I’ve been hunting for ages to find a description of the smell of the moorland here and I think I have come up with it: it’s a bit like sweet wood smoke smelt at a distance, that sort of illusive smell that is occasionally strong but usually almost imperceptible. It came to me because it reminded me of my great aunt who had the post office at Makerstoun in the Scottish borders and you would always know you were there because there was this precise smell every time you approached the house and in the house too as you wandered through the post office into the kitchen. Maybe she burned mountain plants. A wonderfully evocative smell.

Back at the camp we were treated to a display from two ravens who shot low over our heads peaking and diving and flying upside down all the time cawing joyously. I’m sure they enjoy themselves. Mind you, with all that space to fly about in, who wouldn’t.

Unfortunately the clouds started to build up and get browner and denser and heavier and more and more menacing so after packing up in hot sunshine we set of back to the car.

Just near the car and right next to the road there were a couple of tents next to a huge sparklingly clean jeep with two friendly but hi-tech guys and two girls who arrived as we were picking the dog up bodily to get it in the car. Though I find this sort of camping in this sort of environment a little, shall we say, odd, I am very glad of it. Like cities it leaves more space for those of us who don’t mind a little inconvenience to reach our little bits of paradise.

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