Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Road to Elsewhere

The snow that has been falling elsewhere in Britain finally hit Inverness today. We are located on a fairly sheltered part of the Moray Firth and tend to miss out on a lot of the extreme weather that happens elsewhere.

It was “elsewhere” that worried me last weekend. It was a long weekend, so we had booked into a hotel somewhere along the River Dee. It was a quiet village not that far from Balmoral Castle. Getting there was a concern. I had printed off a map from the AA Route planner. I was informed that it would take me about two and a half hours to get there and the red line on the map wasn’t exactly a straight line. What the instructions failed to tell me was about the steep hills and hair-pin bends. Going down seemed to be steeper than going up, so I wasn’t looking forward to the journey back.

A friend of mine had been out that way, maybe not so far out that way, a while ago when it was snowing. These roads are not the kind of roads that snowploughs tend to clear. The road with all its snow had proved impossible to drive up the way – so he turned the car around and reversed up the hill.

So…here I was, in a hotel in a small village, with a couple of very steep hills between me and home. I wouldn’t say that I am a confident driver. I was praying fervently for a snow free weekend because the idea of perhaps reversing up a steep hill if it was very snowy was beyond my capabilities. I envisioned us leaving the car parked in front of the hotel until spring and taking a taxi to the nearest train station!

As it turned out, there was no snow. We drove past the Lecht ski centre and caught glimpses of very determined skiers coming down the slopes on slush.

We had a different kind of hazard to negotiate – pheasants. It was the end of the hunting season and they were flaunting their stuff. One little fellow stood in the middle of the road and struck up a pose. Had he been able to talk I am sure he would have said, “Dig out the camera, lassie. Take a picture. You won’t find a better specimen than me.” I wasn’t about to pander to his aim to be the February sweetheart of the game bird calendar. Did he not know that this was a single track road with passing places and hair-pin bends and a 20% uphill gradient? He was certainly a game bird. I tried to drive around him – an impossible feat on a single track road.

There was a lorry coming down the hill, the pheasant was still posing in the middle of the road and there was no passing place in sight. The pheasant sauntered off the road and the lorry and I danced close to the camber to pass each other.

Arriving at the top of the hill, we pulled into a passing place to take a photo. It was very windy. The passenger door was impossible to open. I was buffeted about as I tried to take a photo. It’s good job I never joined the Weightwatcher class in the New Year!

Once over the top, the road snaked down the way – single track with hair-pin bends and passing places with a 20% downhill gradient. There was one pheasant corpse on the road home. Obviously he had struck up a similar pose to the previous pheasant and the vehicle hadn’t stopped.

If you ever watch something like golf, sometimes before the man hits his tee shot, there is an overview of the next hole. The camera, in a helicopter I presume, flies over the fairway and up to the green pointing out where the bunkers are. You know what is coming.

Had there been something similar – a camera in a helicopter flying over the hills and pointing out the single track road, the hair-pin bends, the passing places and the posing pheasants I am not sure if I would have not found another, easier way home. I would have counted myself as not really competent to tackle to road. Throw in some snow and ask me to reverse up the road – no way would I have attempted it.

Even without the pheasants, I thought I couldn’t do it.

It is amazing what you think you can’t do – but you can really if you just get on with it.

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