I pitched up watching the cloud formations changing as the sun set. The colours were incredible and every time I looked back they had changed again.
The walk to Balintore was a long boring 15 miles, mostly along roads and as the day developed, it got warmer and warmer. I stopped for some lunch and refilled my drinking bladder before moving on, at last back on the coast.
I'll not bother telling you the full story about the mermaid... some old tosh about a fisherman called Donal that found her and took her home. They had loads of kids but one day she found her tail in the loft so went back to the sea !!! I think perhaps Donal rather enjoyed his home brew or perhaps he grew some very magic mushrooms in his garden !!!
I knew from my map that there was a campsite up on the other side of the headland so I was determined to get there so I could get a shower. It had been a warm day, I did stop on a deserted beach for half an hour and stripped to my birthday suit, I lay down on the smooth warm rocks with my feet in the water to give my pants and socks chance to dry out in the sun. I'll leave that vision for you to ponder, for a worthy donation to the MCF I might even send you a full photo for you to pin up on your bedroom wall... 😬😘
Or perhaps for an even bigger donation, I won't... 🤩
As I approached Rockfield a big hairy dog ran up to me and greeted me. The owner apologised when I got nearer and invited me to join him for a cold beer. Believe me, or believe me not, I did actually thank him and declined his kind offer, I only had a mile or so to push until I reached the campsite and having already walked 18.5 miles, I feared that if I sat down, I'd not be able to get up again and carry on. Anyway, Dickie was most persistent and insisted that I sit while he nipped off to the fridge and promptly returned with two ice cold beers. While sitting in the sun with my boots and socks off, sipping the cold beer, I learned that Dickie's wife Suzanne had been a captain in the education corps and many years ago she had taught junior soldiers in The Royal Engineers while serving down in Dover. We joked about how that wouldn't have been too much of a challenge, imagine trying to teach junior soldiers in the artillery !!! Now that would be a challenge when you can't stop them eating the crayons... 🥴
In short time, another beer was being poured and these lovely people offered me the use of their caravan for the night. It got better, a clean towel was provided and I was shown to the shower room so I could scrub up before Suzanne laid on a magnificent feast of salmon, steak and lamb chops with all the trimmings, all washed down with a rather nice bottle of red wine. The conversation over dinner was wide and varied and by 10pm we were all ready to hit the sack. Just before I turned in, Dickie suggested that perhaps in the morning, I might like to join him for a fly in his plane !!! It would be an early start though... seriously ??? A fly in his plane !!!
I slept like a baby and at 5.30 I woke with a start to what I thought was Dickie knocking on the door of the caravan. Mumbling to myself, "bloody hell, he's taking the piss isn't he", it's 5.30am, I shouted that I'd be right with him... there was no answer and it was then I realised, it wasn't him knocking on the door, it was a pair a seagulls tripping the light fandango on the roof of the caravan !!! Noisy buggers, I turned over and promptly slipped into a coma... the next thing I knew, it really was Dickie knocking on the door at 7.30, he had brought me over a pot of fresh coffee... I swear, this man is a saint. In no time at all, I was dressed, had my clean big boy pants on, the roof was down on the merc and we were going flying !!!
Was I excited ? Naaa, I was positively drooling and wetting my clean big boy pants... 🤩
I was slightly alarmed when I was fitted with a life jacket rather than a parachute but in seconds we were airborn and flying up and down this beautiful coastline. I would be lying if I said I didn't take a few deep breaths when we were bounced about with the turbulence and I did lose a little bit more man wee when Dickies side window blew open !!! 😰 I thought the bloody wing had dropped off !!!
If you look closely, you can see the caravan I was sleeping in parked outside Dickie and Suzanne's house, if you look very closely you can see Suzanne standing on the deck waving to us while Dickie waved back with the wings of the plane. He was very trusting allowing me to perform a few basic manoeuvres, the barrel roll wasn't too complicated and the loop the loop was a doddle !!! Okay, I turned left, turned right and went up and down a bit !!! 😅
What an amazing experience, Dickie performed a text book landing, he clearly is a very experienced pilot, we put his toy back to bed and we returned to his house. It was gone 2.30pm when we got back, Dickie had to drive into Inverness to see their son Laurence so he suggested that I chill out in the sun for a few hours and that I should stay for another night in the caravan and get a fresh start the following morning. Obviously I protested for a few seconds but he was very insistent. Suzanne rustled us up another fantastic meal and we put the world to rights over a couple of beers.
Much to Dickie's relief, I moved on the following morning, I had stumbled into the lives of these lovely people and left the richer for the experience. Thank you to both Dickie and Suzanne for their unbelievable hospitality, generous beyond belief. I left feeling I'd made two amazing new friends. 🥰😍