Imagine planning a day trip to experience the funicular train raid, but getting stuck in a snow storm. “I’m disappointed that we were not air-lifted today”, someone in the group quipped while we were boarding the train back to Aberdeen at Inverness. Everyone laughed heartily on that comment, and there was no sign of any disappointment, even though the two-day trip was cut short. Instead of disappointment, there was a sense of accomplishment of experiencing something of a lifetime. Our plan was to start on day one from Aberdeen and reach Aviemore by noon. Spend the rest of the day exploring Aviemore town, roaming. And on the second day, take the bus up to Cairngorms mountain base station, then take the unique funicular rail to the peak. Then depending on one’s skill level go skiing, snow walking or just loiter around playing in the snow. After that, come down to Aviemore and catch the 4.30 train back to Aberdeen. But plan remained as plan and except for reaching Aviemore on time on day one, nothing went as per the plan.
One of the challenges when travelling in a group is to make everyone arrive on time. And if that’s a cold January morning, it is much bigger challenge. Surprisingly all of us were 15 minute before the train departure time at Aberdeen rail station. (Probably our first clue about what to expect on the next two days!). Just as we settled down, the train started rolling towards Inverness – our first stop. We changed train to Aviemore at Inverness, and the scenery outside the window gradually started turning white (just the frost around Inverness) as the train rolled on westwards. We got down at Aviemore and there, snow welcomed us. Without wasting time, we head out to catch up some lunch and decide on the plan next. While we were stuffing ourselves, the nature had its own plan. It started snowing heavily (our second clue) and the only thing we could manage was to head towards the Youth Hostel like a herd of sheep – with heads down. For the rest of the afternoon and evening, we were confined to four walls of the youth hostel – watching the snow out of the window, and we temporarily converted the youth hostel’s dining room as a place for some games.
Next day morning looked promising with a bit of clear skies and no snow showers. We got ready quickly and there we were waiting for the bus to take us to the base station of Cairngorms mountains. We waited in the cold huddled in the lone bus shelter, as the scheduled time of bus passed by. 20 minutes later we go to know from a couple of guys who were also waiting for the bus that if it gets this much delayed, that means there will be no bus. We quickly hailed two taxis to takes to our destination to the mountains. Half an hour later, we were excited at the prospect of honing our skiing skills at the peak, but only to be welcomed by howling wind and plenty of snow. We were in for more disappointment as we learnt that the funicular train was cancelled due to heavy gale up to speeds of 80 mile per hour at the peak. Not to be completely disappointed, we had our share of fun playing snowball, getting hit & wet. Tired and completely numb, as we huddled around the fire to get warmed inside Cas Bar, we were in for another twist. Folks at the base station announced that they will be closing down and evacuating the station due to heavy gale picking up. With no means of transport to go back – no bus and taxis not coming back due to bad weather – we were completely stranded! As we took shelter from heavy snow and wind, moods varied in the group.
With 3 kids along with 14 adults, the situation was quite tense. But thanks to the wonderful people of Cas Bar, they asked us to wait so that they can arrange to carry in their and other visitors cars. Kids and ladies went first and fifteen minutes later the last five of us got into the last vehicle going down to Aviemore. The snow storm was severe (though it may be quite common for those people of Scotland, it looked severe for us from the tropical countries). Visibility was very low due to wind and snow. It was white everywhere, and totally difficult to make out where is road. It took us close to an hour to cover a distance of 19 KMs to reach Aviemore. As we got down from the vehicle and looked back at the Cairngorms mountain, it looked as if it was a different mountain than the one we saw in the morning. The storm had completely changed the appearance of the mountain. When the group met again at the Aviemore train station, tension had long gone from everyone’s faces, and there was a sense of accomplishment. With plans cut-short, we decided to take an earlier train instead. But there was more to the twists – all trains going towards Inverness were cancelled for the day due to gale and snow storm. But fortunately, roads were open, and we hailed the same two taxis that took us to the base station in the morning to drop us to Inverness.
We went there for a train ride, but to experience the snow storm. We returned home half day early with nothing much going as per the plan. But with wonderful experience and plenty of stories to narrate for many days. Hope, I get to go back to Aviemore and Cairngorm mountain again and get to ride the funicular train.