The beach base
A month has passed since I last sat down to write something for my blog. I have thought about writing something often to update you all with my comings and goings, my adventures and challenges, but, I just never did. It’s been a funny sort of month, plenty going on, some extremely exciting and highly anticipated events and other drag you down things. I’ve felt a little overwhelmed and not my usual chirpy and excited self, but I’m determined to change that.
It all starts the day after my last blog as I drop my car off for its MOT in Aberfeldy. It failed and was needing several things done to it to make it roadworthy again. Enough that it was too expensive for me to give the garage the go ahead. A week and a half later I collected my tired old motor and we skulked home to sit around for a while. I ordered all the bits it will need and put my feet up to wait for them to arrive as I started a week of holiday.
I had been planning a multi-day solo canoe expedition, whilst I had some time off, and was hoping to go and explore somewhere new, but with the car out of action my options were massively more limited!
Very fortunately I live and work on the edge of the 17 mile long Loch Tay. After church on Easter Sunday I was invited by Dave W and a few of the Ardeonaig crew to join them for a coffee in the local coffee shop. It was lovely to have a “normal” Sunday activity to do, just hanging out with friends and chatting away over a hot cup of caffeine!
Once I was back at home, I gathered some bits and pieces, ready for my trip, and made my way to the harbour. It was a gloriously sunny day, flat calm and begging for a canoe adventure.
My plan was to paddle to Kenmore, where there is an island one can camp on, and paddle back the next day.
If this weather was good, then tomorrow was due to be equally exciting. The winds were due to pick up from the East and would help me on my journey all the way home.
Ben More and Stob Binnein
The Lawers Range
As I left the harbour, it was like I was paddling on a mirror. I had set off later in the day and was starting to feel peckish so I cracked out the brie, baguette and tomatoes for lunch.
I grazed as I cruised down towards Kenmore. With the air so still, I could hear people on the shore from a few hundred metres away! Near the end of my journey I was joined by two feathered friends. They were quite hungry and even scoffed down some brie.
They just wanted some of my French stick!
After four hours of bimbling down the Loch I reached my destination and home for the night. The island has the remains of a castle on it with some impressively high walls still standing and covered in ivy. Apart from some honking geese, I had the place to myself. I had a good night’s sleep, and woke the next day to a shepherd’s warning.
The wind stayed calm… until I took to the water at about 10, when it started to pick up. The forecast was for it to reach force six with gusts of seven. With a makeshift sail made from a group shelter and stretched over a pole and a paddle, I rocketed back towards Ardeonaig and shaved an hour and twenty minutes off of my previous day’s journey time!
It will be a while before I’m out in winds that strong again, certainly travelling anywhere other than downwind.
The weather raged on for Tuesday and Wednesday with some fresh snowfall. No car parts had arrived. It was good to have a couple of days of not much to do but relax, but I was keen to be doing something at the same time.
That something came as the weather forecast for Thursday looked like a corker. Without automobile it would have to be a local hill. Creag Uchdag is reasonably high and interesting and almost visible from my front door. I went with fast and light, carrying the least I could get away with and made quick progress up the hillside.
With snow on the ground and the sun beaming down from the sky, it was a sunglasses on all day kinda day. I even got sunburnt.
The higher I walked, the deeper some of the snow drifts became and I occasionally found myself hip deep in snow and flailing around to free myself from the cold leg trap.
With the fresh snow and the wind, the snow had formed in to all sorts of wonderful patterns and shapes. These wave-like features have a name: sastrugi. Whilst it sounds like a variety of pasta it is actually a really fun word to say and have in your vocabulary!
Rime ice build up on the summit trig-point
Creag Uchdag is 36 metres shy of Munro status and as such doesn’t see as much traffic from walkers and peak baggers, but it is still an incredible day out with some extraordinary views and well worth the effort, especially on a winter’s day.
On my ascent, I thought I had seen some avalanche debris in some of the gulleys and so I chose my route down carefully. As the ground was becoming less serious I looked back and was surprised to see an avalanche debris field on a shallow slope. I didn’t go and investigate but just admired it from afar before making my way back to the centre.
Friday was a day I had been looking forward to for a while. The Musson and Edge clans from Newcastleton and the Petrie clan from Milnathort were coming to visit for the weekend. Six adults and seven children were going to be arriving shortly after midday. These families are such good friends that they are more like family than friends, and to have them all come and visit and for me to show them my home and take them on adventures was immensely exciting. I only wished they were coming for longer.
Once everyone had arrived, we walked to the local woods, played games,
climbed on rocks and had a good run around to burn off some energy before driving up to the centre to check in. Being catered for was a huge help and time saver but meal times where still manic with two small children and a few bigger ones, then there’s the adults!
We never went hungry though as the kitchen produced some particularly fine meals and cake galore. Once the kids were in bed the adults crashed out in the lounge.
We made a plan for the next day: a trip on the powerboat, a picnic on the beach, a campfire and exploring the Lochside. Whilst the littlest of the group were having their morning nap, I took the rest of the youngsters on the low ropes course.
With the toddlers now awake and everything we might need in bags (except the teabags, I forgot those) we piled into a minibus and drove down to the harbour. I shuttled people and bags across to the old village of Lawers where there is a lovely gravel beach.
Lee snapped this picture of me whilst piloting our RIB
Whilst I wanted to take everyone out on the RIB and blat around the Loch, this activity had to happen this weekend as it was my Christmas present to Jude. He handed over the voucher to me with such joy in his face and it was so nice to see the level of excitement when we “powered up” to start our journey across to the beach.
Exploring old Lawers
Derek got a fire going whilst I made the shuttle run for the others.
Once we were all there the lunch boxes made an appearance and everyone tucked in to the variety of sandwiches Anne and I had made that morning. With food consumed the kids were quite happy keeping themselves occupied with treasure hunting whilst the adults sat around the fire enjoying some fresh air, freedom and grown up conversation.
After a few hours of play and relaxation, it was time to head home for tea and medals, in particular tea!
The next day we spent the morning at Weem Woods before everyone went their separate ways for the week ahead. I had the use of a minibus so that I could get home, which was handy.
Some of the youngsters joined me in the minibus as it was such an exciting vehicle for them; loads of room for everyone and everything. We had a five-minute walk to get to the spot I was thinking of, which turned out to be more like 10-15 minutes, but once we were there everyone was happy. The spot was a little muddier than I remember it being but still dry enough. After lunch Lee helped me to set up some ropes for the youngsters to try their hand at abseiling and climbing.
Jude aced the climbing
The kids were clearly enjoying it, but their tiredness from an active weekend was showing through as they were arguing over whose turn it was next! Fortunately the parents were there to keep them in check. Everyone had their fair share of climbing and so we packed up and walked back to the car park. Lee and Matt had a meeting scheduled in Aberfeldy so whilst they did that the rest of us went to the park for a couple of hours. When Lee and Matt returned I said goodbye to everyone and waved them off before heading home myself.
Phew. A long, tiring and exhausting weekend. Would I change it for the world? No way. I’d have a weekend with those guys every weekend if I could. I was so grateful that they were all able to come to visit me, especially with my car down and out for the count.
There is so much here to keep you occupied and entertained. Friends to drive you, Lochs to paddle on and local hills to climb, that even when you are stranded with no car, you are by no means stuck with nothing to do. The next week I was on a canoe course, but I’ll tell you about that next time. As for me, right now, I’m off to try to fix my car!