Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Weather or Not...

OK, I KNOW I wasn't going to mention the subject, but it's hard to avoid, as it affects just about everything we do.

The principal benefit of heavy rain is that it drowns the midges, so it's not all bad. Yesterday saw 58 mm (not that I'm becoming obsessed or anything) the last time that happened was January 11th!

The THOUGHT of getting going in the rain is generally worse than the reality (just). It's good for mental discipline: packing up a wet tent, getting rained on all day, and then unpeeling it, still sopping, is not the most fun I have ever had without laughing.

Occasionally a little voice fantasizes about going home: after all, we've been a VERY long way, it would be so nice to get home, it's not fair on the ponies, blah de blah...

And then - something happens, or I meet someone special, or see something extraordinary, and I'm reminded of why I'm doing this, and know that if I'd wimped out because of a 'wee droppie rain' I'd have missed that.

In all fairness, the ponies don't seem to particularly mind - they eat and sleep just the same. At least they're clean! So we squelch on, gently rotting. I do have a foot problem developing - I think it's trench foot, as experienced by soldiers in WW1 on the Somme with permanently wet feet.

There have had to be route changes, as I've mentioned already: rivers are dramatically swollen here on the west.

So it was by rainy chance that I ended up at Brenfield, home of Argyll Trail Riding. A great place, full of enthusiastic trail riders (staff and clients) and excellent riding all around.

A big box for the boys with yummy haylage, and a bed in the bunkhouse for me, sharing with competitors taking part in the National Championships of Le Trec, which happened to be on. Sounds like a great sport - I'm definitely keen to have a go! (WELL I'M NOT - Doogs).

From the welcome haven of Brenfield we rode on a track over the hill to Ardrishaig, where we rode along the Crinan Canal. Well, the towpath anyway.

This was a new experience for us - and simply gorgeous. The boys enjoyed it too (NO BLOODY HILLS FOR ONCE - Doogs) although uncharacteristically both whipped round and ran for it when a BOAT appeared! By the time we got to Cairnbaan though, they were both getting thoroughly nautical and demanding yellow wellies.

At Cairnbaan Locks a small problem: only a tiny gateway to squeeze through, far too narrow for the laden Doogs(& probably the unladen Doogs, too...)

There was a wider gateway though, with a cast iron gate padlocked to a stone gatepost. I asked the lock-keeper if he had a key? "erm, not sure", he said, fumbling with a giant keyring with about 50 keys on it.

None of them fitted (by this time the boys had dozed off.) The lock-keeper called over a mate, who repeated the procedure with HIS giant bunch of keys (by which time I had dozed off too.)

Just then, an ancient mariner came hobbling down the street. "Hey Hughie," shouts the lock-keeper, " do you know where there's a key for this gate?"

With a sigh, the old salt tottered over to the gate and lifted the chain OVER the stone gatepost, swinging it open wide. He hirpled off without a word while the rest of us just looked at one another... and burst out laughing, waking Doogs and Yeoman up. We were off again!

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