Scottish C2C Attempt Report

Having never found asking for help easy, standing in front of a total stranger's house at 6am expecting to be let in, was a big stretch. When the door thankfully opened and I explained I needed to come in to get warm. The seconds of doubt, in the bleary eyed young ladies face, felt like hours. " I'll just have to ask my husband" she said, and when he appeared his face read " You have got to be kidding me!".

The night before I had camped in a wood, en-route, after a good days walk and 3 days into my trip. All was looking good, covering nearly 50 miles in 2.5 days walking and my timing strategy putting me in a perfect position for crossing the Cairngorms in good weather. Whilst cosy in my sleeping bag, I went through the usual routines and put on hot water for porridge, then mixed and placed it to one side to cook and nodded off.

Waking up some time later, my whole world had turned upside down. My water container had leaked soaking my sleeping bag and clothes and I had rolled over onto the porridge, which was now everywhere. Dizzy and shivering uncontrollable, I crawled outside to change into dry clothing and could hardly stand. Staggering like a drunken fool, I came to rest abruptly against a tree and confusingly absorbed the scene ahead. Swathes of mist hung over distant pools and trees emerged from 
swirling clouds, like frozen disco dancers. A frost had descended and covered the area with its white claws which set firmly into my body with a chilling eagerness.

Back inside I lay for hours breathing rapidly with a gurgling rattle and shivering constantly. I was scared and feared for my life. The night passed achingly slowly and a mental switch into survival mode kicked in, " This is bad, I need help." I thought. In the distance were several buildings and maybe their owners would let me in to warm up. It was 4 am and the earliest I could think of waking somebody was 6 am. I lay clinging on to life, or so it felt at the time, for another hour and then had to move. Packing all my kit, apart from tent and food, for I could not bear the weight, I hobbled towards help. The buildings looked new and uninhabited with no cars around, my heart sank. I paused and heard the roar of a central heating boiler flue, which luckily issued forth life giving warmth at waist level. I huddled around this oasis of heat for another hour before it spluttered out, then walked apprehensively to the next building where the young couple now had incredibly let me in.

My guilt deepened as they explained that they had been out the night before, as it was one of the few weekends they didn't have the kids, and had left the car at the pub. My thanks go out whole heartily to these people who, against all odds, welcomed a bedraggled stranger into their home in the early hours of the morning. Their selfless kindness, plus a nice cup of tea and toast, restored my spirits and faith in human compassion and I will never forget it.

A taxi was called which took me to a GP, who after several prods and pokes, announced I had better check into hospital as I had suspected pneumonia. Once there, half a day of tests and monitoring saw me released with confirmed pneumonia in the left lung, medication and precautionary advise not to carry on.

So back at home and on the mend I am obviously gutted that this happened after so much planning and preparation. I have built a house of cards with these ventures and one small mistake or mishap could mean failure. An annoyingly similar event happened during my Welsh C2C when I rolled onto the bite valve of my water bladder. The 
result was no more than a wetting and a nuisance but not wanting a repeat of this episode, I changed the valve for an on/off version. On this occasion I mustn't have turned this off fully and the consequences were unfortunately more serious.
On reflection, I also believe that the infection was pre-existing as it came on so quickly. If there had either been no frost or no water leak maybe I could have continued, we'll never know. Some things you can plan for and some things you just have to take on the chin.

I guess if it wasn't so hard it wouldn't be so appealing. All I know is, that it is a small excursion on the path to success and I will not be daunted or dismayed by it. It will still be there next year and I will be fitter, stronger and more informed.

Thank you for following my adventures and may be you'll catch me later in the year for an Irish C2C attempt.

Footnote on my preoccupation with pigeons.

It has been noted that mobile communications during my trip were on occasion, pigeon orientated.
This is not unsubstantiated and it pleases me to include my musings on this subject.

Discussing  my venture with friends, the topic of diet and lack of fresh meat came up and it was suggested that pigeon would be a good and plentiful source. Having never killed any living thing for food, apart from fish, this naturally was in the forefront of my thoughts.
To this end, I manufactured a lightweight carbon catapult attachment for my walking pole and with this optimistically planned to bag pigeon and maybe rabbit.
A week or so prior to leaving, a friend and I were heading to the coast for a days kite surfing and I sadly hit and killed a pigeon. Shortly afterwards my car broke down with an undiagnosable engine fault and this caused much banter between us, and the pigeon was hailed to be THE PIGEON OF DOOM.

Further reinforcement of my obsession came about after remembering the story of the Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, where calamity befalls a ships crew, who interpret their fate to be a direct result of the shooting of an albatross. I quote - "God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends, that plague thee thus!-- Why look'st thou so?"--With my cross-bow I shot the ALBATROSS. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

So did the presence and incessant cooing of these feathered harbingers of doom during my trip bring  about my bad luck? I don't think so, but it amuses me greatly to ponder on such fantastical ideas.