A week today, I’ll be in Knoydart for my first TGO Challenge – a coast to coast walk across Scotland where participants plan their own route. I’m walking solo from Mallaig to Aberdeen. I plan to blog about it but not in real time – I’m too old to type any more than a tweet on a phone.
Reading the blogs of other Challengers I feel somewhat inadequate. Lots of people take the time to list all the gear that they are taking, some people dehydrate what sounds like delicious meals, post on food parcels to selected stops and (perish the thought) even do some training. I was full of good intentions but as you can see from the date of my last blog post, these have been unfulfilled,
My training consisted of a walk in the Lakes last week in which I navigated our select group of cloud computing researchers down the wrong valley (why change the habit of a lifetime) and my food organisation was a trip to Sainsbury’s yesterday afternoon. I claim that my lack of food parcels etc. is all to do with principled support for local Highland businesses but, in truth, it’s just that I spend too much time reading books and blogs to get round to doing this. Tomorrow it’s a trip to Tiso to buy some last minute bits and pieces but I doubt if I’ll get round to making a list of all the stuff I’m taking. Actually, I’m still not sure what I’m taking or where it all is but I’m hoping I’ll find it before next Thursday when I leave for Mallaig.
I did get organised enough to buy a train ticket. Remarkably, it was cheaper to buy a ticket from Edinburgh to Mallaig than from Glasgow, although you end up on exactly the same train. I imagine there’s an algorithm somewhere setting these prices as surely a human would see the idiocy in this.
As for the walk itself – the whole point of the exercise -Friday can’t come soon enough. For me, it’s about revisiting areas of Scotland that I haven’t been to for many years, it’s about photography, it’s about sitting in the sun (and walking in the rain), camping in the wilds, west coast sunsets (hopefully), talking to like-minded folks, enjoying feeling dry after getting wet, pints in the pub, hot chocolate and malt whisky, and a whole host of other things. My friend and ex-colleague from Lancaster, Alan Dix, is walking around Wales and using himself as a living lab for mobile technologies – a fascinating experiment. But I’m getting away from technology for a while and plan only to switch my phone on for an occasional call home (and maybe to use the GPS when I get lost).
I sometimes reflect on what it is I like about getting outside and walking around. I certainly don’t think deep thoughts about work, the world, my place in it and how to solve its problems and I don’t go in much for introspection about my own life. In fact, I don’t really think about much at all – except sometimes an angle for a photograph. Although this is a bit Zen for a pragmatic Scottish engineer, maybe it is about ‘being’ rather than thinking – just absorbing the sights, smells and sounds of the weather and the landscape. Scotland in May is wonderful, even when it rains and I’m sure this is going to be an unforgettable experience – hopefully in a good way.