Monday, 16 September 2013

Across Scotland by Mountain Bike - The Full Story: Day 4

Day 4: Glen Feshie, Geldie Burn, Linn of Dee, Braemar (19 miles)

The day didn't start especially well.  The rain had diminished to a drizzle but the midges hadn't tired of being irritating.  Encased head to foot in thick clothing, gloves and head nets and doused in Smidge, we ventured out of the tents and packed up camp.

We'd barely got going when I fluffed a gear change or thought I had, and then again and then came to a stop.  Looking down, the chain appeared to be bent double and caught in something.  It looked broken. I got off to check the damage and was relieved to find that it was just a broken spoke that had poked itself through one of the links causing the chain to twist up.  With the spoke and chain untangled, things looked much less serious. I've broken spokes on other bikes and it has always been possible to bend the wire a few times, to weaken it and then break it off at the rim.  Not this one.  The metal refused to fatigue.  I got the tool kit out of the big yellow bag and tried to cut through the spoke with a lightweight, TrekMates multi-tool.  The jaws of the multi-tool's cutters locked themselves round the spoke wire and wouldn't release.  The moral of this is don't waste your money on cheap tools.  The situation wasn't helped by the fuzzy vision I had through the midge net and trying to work in gloves.  I tried bending the spoke some more.  It still didn't break but the multi-tool let go.  Abandoning the idea of breaking it off, I just wrapped it round another spoke a couple of times. Job sorted.  I don't know why I didn't just do that in the first place.

Higher up Glen Feshie
Start of day 4, take 2.  We were back on our way.  After a night of rain, the ground was soft but we made steady progress to the Allt Eindart, our first river crossing of the day.  This was too rocky to ride so we separated the bikes and trailers and carried everything across on foot.

Crossing the Allt Eindart, Glen Feshie

I'd expected to make a bit of a loop up to the Eidart Bridge (aka Bridge of Death by some) but the Eidart's water levels were low despite the previous nights rain and we were able to push the bikes and trailers across the river at the ford.

Fording the R. Eidart
From here the route follows the River Feshie as an increasingly pleasant grassy track, which after about a km arrives at another ford.  At least it does if you want to go somewhere other than Braemar.  Switching on the GPS, something I should have done 10 minutes earlier, I confirmed our position and checked the map.  The shortest distance to where we wanted to be, was 500m along a bearing onto the summit of Cnapan Mor (893m, for those who like to know that sort of thing.)  It took about half an hour to push through a mixture of tussocky heather and long grass, skirting round the worst of the boggy stuff.

Off piste bikepacking

Any time we had saved in not going up to the Eidart Bridge had been taken back by this little navigational anomaly.  Once back on track, there followed 2.5 miles of quite difficult terrain: boggy, rocky singletrack with several small streams to cross.  If you've walked this way, you'll know what I mean.   We finally stopped going up, crossed the watershed and leaving Glen Feshie behind us, dropped down towards the Geldie Burn.

Across the watershed and the end of the single track

It was good to reach the Land Rover track.  It had taken us 4 hours to cover 5.25 miles.  We could probably have walked it faster!  The next 14 miles to Braemar were considerably easier and we rode those in 2 hours, including a lunch stop near the ford across to Bynack Lodge and another rest by the road near Inverie, to watch butterflies in a meadow.

Land Rover track alongside the Geldie Burn

There is now a sign outside here which says
"National Trust for Scotland - a place for everyone.  Do not enter"
We crossed White Bridge without stopping, passed a couple of backpackers trying to set fire to the forest and paused at the Linn of Dee to look at the water.
Linn  of Dee
River Dee after Inverey, looking west

Linn  of Quoich
Entering Braemar, we headed straight for Taste.., it being the first place offering light refreshments when approaching from the west.
displaying three magic words: coffee, cake, open
It's always an awkward moment when you come off the hill and you haven't washed for two days and you walk into a café where all the other customers are... how best to describe this?  Well, just not sweaty and mud splattered.
Hilary went off  in search of soap and water and I ordered the menu.  Let's just say we have different priorities.  By the time she got back to the table I was alternately slurping tea and juice and gnawing the edge of the table, waiting for the food to arrive.  I must have been quite an unsettling sight.
An hour later and lightly refreshed, we left Taste.. to rebuild their business and went to check into the campsite.  Tents erected, we showered, rinsed out our muddy and phew, oh so smelly gear, which we left in the drying room, and then strolled into the village to continue foraging in the cafes and pubs of Braemar.  We began at the Hungry Highlander, notable for its "curry's pizzas", where we had some disappointing samosas and excellent onion bhajis, before heading to the Fife Arms for beer and a somewhat disappointing steak pie and chips, finally finishing off with an OK ice cream from the china shop (or whatever it is - that place just down from the gear shop.)
Replete, if not a little bloated, we headed back to the tents with the prospect of an easy day to Ballater (and tea with the Queen) tomorrow.

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