We haven’t been out for a walk in the hills since February. Not since our night to remember at the Fife Arms in Braemar. When we drove out into the country to collect our new kitten a couple of weeks ago that was the first time we’d been inside a car since March. I honestly thought I’d be racing back out to the countryside as soon as restrictions were lifted but somehow it didn’t happen. I have become content to lounge around at home on weekends, reading the newspaper, cooking, and gardening. That’s not to say I don’t think we all need a walk in the hills from time to time; we do and today I got terrific walk up Craigendarroch in Ballater.
We booked a car-club car to get to Ballater and I booked the hydrogen vehicle which I’ve been keen to try. The one downside with this car is that the hydrogen fuel station is not open on weekends so there was a risk I’d book it and find the fuel tank nearly empty. I decided to take a risk and book it anyway. Yes, I like to live life on the edge. Luckily for us the fuel tank was almost full and even better, we don’t pay any mileage to use the hydrogen car.
It’s a Toyota Mirai: a very slick car with a low centre of gravity and an aerodymanic frame. It hugged the road and cornered superbly. I never felt we’d end up cartwheeling down a country road on tight corners. It has a lot of oopmh, even in eco mode. It’s also very comfortable inside with plenty of leg room and a flash touch-screen dashboard.
That’s my bike behind the car in the photo above. I cycled to the car, chained up my bike while we went to Ballater, then cycled home again after returning the car this afternoon.
The kids thought it was pretty cool.
I don’t deny that I was a little bit worried that we might spontaneously explode. I did high school chemistry and I know how highly combustible hydrogen is. But once I was in the car it felt very safe. It’s remarkably similar to an electric car to use and just has a power button – there’s no key. Refuelling it is another matter though. I’m not sure how many fuelling stations there are around the country and you have to watch a “how-to” video first so there’s a bit of a learning curve there. According to Toyota’s website refuelling takes 3-5 minutes and the car has a range of up to 342 miles (550km). I’m not sure how much the fuel costs but there’s no charge for car-club members. The car produces no emissions at all. The only byproduct is water. It works by taking oxygen from the air through vents on the front of the vehicle. This oxygen reacts with the hydrogen contained in the fuel tank to produce electricity. If you’re interested you can read more on the Toyota website.
Ballater was very busy. Busier than I’ve ever seen it. I suspect it’s full of British tourists having staycations rather than overseas holidays. The public toilets are open in the village but it’s one person in at a time and there was a queue when we were there. It was tricky to obey the 2m distance rule walking around the village. They haven’t removed any parking spaces to extend the width of the pavements – they really need to do this like other places have done. Fortunately we met very few people walking up Craigendarroch.
There were many berry bushes like this with blue-coloured berries. I think these are blaeberries which are a native European blueberry but I was too chicken to try without knowing for sure. Can anyone confirm? There were so many of them! How wonderful if they are to be able to pick wild blueberries on a hike.
I got a jumping shot from the top.
We walked up with some friends we haven’t seen for several months so it was extra fantastic.
I had my hair cut this morning for the first time in a long time. It was quite uneven because I had cut it myself during lockdown. I was impressed with how the hair salon has adapted. My temperature was taken before I could go in. I had to apply hand sanitiser and wear a mask the whole time and all the staff had either masks or perspex shields over their faces. We really should have been doing all these things back in March.
There’s a nice view of Ballater from the top.