Since it has been so long since my last blog, I’m going to rattle out two in quick succession to make up for it, and to keep you all informed with my comings and goings over the last few weeks.
It all starts on 20 October with my first day of holiday. As I help Kerri with the Gap Year programme, I joined in on the Gap Year’s trip to Fort William. The aim: to see some interesting tourist sites and stop for photos on a journey from Ardeonaig to Fort Bill and then home via the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum.
Our first stop was Kilchurn Castle on the road to Oban. It is unfortunately a ruin, but much more than just a shell of a building. There is still some clear and visible detail inside, structures and info boards to help you visualise what life would have been like living there.
From here, we drove up Glen Orchy admiring the river in the bottom of the Glen. I tried to move down a slab of rock to take a picture. The picture didn’t come out well and I accidentally sat on some sopping wet moss and therefore ended up with a wet bum! Journeying on, we stopped at all the big touristy laybys on the way up to and across Rannoch Moor, and then we came to the Glencoe end of the Moor and stopped to see a piddly little waterfall and the Three Sisters.
The next stop was the Glencoe Lochan. It. Was. Stunning. I’ll let the picture do the talking.
From here it was just into Fort William for a wander around the shops and to see Neptune’s staircase – a series of locks at the start of the Caledonian canal. We cruised back down the road to Tyndrum for dinner, a venison burger for me and fish and chips for everyone else. I slept well that night, and it was good to have a deliberately touristy day and take time to stop and admire the scenery throughout the day.
On the Saturday, Sam and I were being guinea pigs for a lady working towards her Level 4 canoe coaching qualification. Basically a day playing in boats with some quality teaching and learning.
Sunday was Mountain Rescue training. We were out navigating near a local loch with a dam at one end, and some great ground features to find all around the area. I was imparting some of my knowledge to two of the chaps in the team, and there were three other sets of three wandering around too.
Just as we were heading back to the vehicles at 2pm we received a call-out! Off we go. Phil, Nat and myself headed to the stores in the Landy and gathered equipment and the zoomed to where we were needed.
All this time we had the blue lights flashing and occasionally the siren. Despite being a marked-up vehicle with lights and noise, I was amazed at how many other drivers on the road didn’t know how to respond to an emergency vehicle and get out of the way appropriately!
Once on scene ,we had to drive a few kilometres up a rough track as high up the hill as we could. Now with extra team members on board and a paramedic, I squeezed into the boot with the equipment for my lift up. It was an interesting experience. Needless to say when we were stood down, as the helicopter had saved the day, I blagged a ride back down the hill with the gamekeeper in his eight-wheeled all terrain vehicle! Much more comfortable.
After washing the team’s Landy down, I headed up the road to Nethybridge and the first and largest centre of the Abernethy Trust. I was booked in here for four days holiday. Whilst here I took myself out on a bike ride into the Cairngorms. A few miles into my ride I turned a corner and was met by this crowd.
They didn’t seem bothered at all by my presence, probably because they are taken round to all sorts of Christmas markets and therefore used to people fussing over them. Once I had put my camera down, I took out my sarnies in a plastic bag. One of the reindeer came to investigate. It was smaller than I expected and super cute, but it still had big spikey things on its head, so I acted cool and let it do its thing. It soon trotted off to join his mates in a hilarious and gangly fashion.
The other days were quieter and more relaxed until Thursday. Thursday was traveling home day, but Matt F and his wife happened to be staying in Aviemore, on holiday too. Matt is a good friend that I met on summer camp a few years ago. He left his wife to enjoy a spa day and we popped up to the ski centre car park to go for a quick blast to Ben Macdui and Cairngorm. It was quick: we were out for only four hours and forty-five minutes. What helped was the lack of snow. Every other time I have done this walk there has been snow on the ground, slowing progress and forcing us to navigate with map and compass, this time though was a breeze.
The cloud did come down a bit, but rather than detract from the experience, it added to it. Matt and I both commented on the fact that it looked like quite a lunar sort of landscape up the top in the mist.
Rain started to fall out of the clouds on our way down from the summit of Cairngorm, so we picked up speed, but we still had to change into dry everything once back at the car.
I dropped Matt off at his B ‘n’ B and headed for Stirling. I got there in time, despite the traffic, to see Doug Scott talk about his nine-day crawl down the Ogre with two broken legs! What a guy, and a great lecture with some amazing pictures.
After a weekend of work, Phil, Jess and I travelled up to Nethybridge for a two-day powerboat course. This was two days of manoeuvring various craft at low and high speeds, around and near obstacles, rescuing other boats and man-over-board drills.
The first day was superbly calm and there was snow on the mountains, but ridiculously cold at lower levels too. When you’re zooming about, with no real physical effort on your part, you have to dress up warm. The second day was warmer but windier.
All in all I had a great time blatting about in boats: anything with an engine is fun, right? We all passed, which was nice. The reason we need this qualification is to act as a safety boat when we have a sailing session at Ardeonaig. I can’t wait until the first sailing session rolls around.
Coming up soon will be my first winter outing and some river trip stories. Stay tuned.