Friday, 5 May 2017

Easter Surf n' Turf

The Isle of Mull behind us

As usual I’d left it too long between kayaking outings. So long in fact I was decidedly wobbly setting off but happily I soon settled into it again. With both our fitness levels for kayaking being a bit of an unknown as well as that of Damian, a kayaker from Durham who was joining us for a couple of days of paddling we played it safe and set out from Connel, hugging the shoreline as we travelled westwards past Dunstaffnage Castle and past the marine science centre heading towards Oban. Every so often we would stop to practice various skills and gradually they came back to me. It was a chilly breezy day interspersed with some very heavy bursts of rain which although wasn’t ideal for the picnic lunch suiting in amongst the yellow spring primroses in the castle grounds, was ideal for practicing some technical skills, crossing eddies, adjusting the skeg, turning on sixpence to make tight turns around buoys and boats moored along the coastline for example. 
Setting off. Sunshine plus grey clouds looming

Lessons in technique
Connel bridge in the background

Lunch stop!
Lunch in the rain
As usual it was great to experience the landscape from the water and all the wildlife that can be found while you potter along the water’s edge. The weather wasn’t so bad that it was uncomfortably cold and while the wind was strong enough to be a bit of a challenge it was not so strong that the day’s excursion had felt like a battle and, on the plus side, we had paddled out against the wind and so the journey back to Connel felt relatively effortless. In some ways that’s harder, the boat feels less stable as you are swept along by the racing tide.
Heading back to Connel in super-quick time

Easter weekend. Well into springtime huh? Well someone had forgotten to tell the weather gods as overnight the wind had picked up significantly and was becoming a force 5 in areas. A joint decision was made to abandon any further kayaking plans for that day which was disappointing but on the plus side I was pretty achy across the shoulders, obviously I need to up the gym work, and so in some ways a wee rest day was welcome. I have been going to something similar to a yoga class which is called “Body Balance” and it focusses on flexibility and core strength and I think I noticed a slight difference in that I didn’t seem to need quite so much back support. As we made our way round to Tyndrum via Glencoe we watched what the weather was doing. Had we been justified in abandoning our paddling plans? It was hard to tell. It was certainly colder today, at times the wind was whipping the inland stretches of water into white horses and at other times the wind seemed non-existent. I guess strong gusts of wind and their unpredictability would have been much harder to contend with than a consistent strong breeze.

Misty mountains
The rain was falling as snow higher up.
The following night was spent in Tyndrum and plans were made for a long run up a nearby mountain but the “spring weather” continued and we awoke to rain coming down in stair rods and the hills cloaked in a thick clag. No big hills were going to be climbed today that was for sure.
The decision was made for a wee excursion to run a stretch of the West Highland way from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy and back and expecting the worst weather-wise we set off clad in full waterproof body cover – only to be removing the layers 5 minutes later. It really wasn’t THAT cold and besides the rain had stopped.  Or at least abated to a light drizzle.
Slightly over dressed
The West Highland Way
Curious cows

The view into Auch Gleann with the steep slopes of Beinn Dorain towering above is one of the most spectacular parts of the West Highland Way and today it was even more spectacular with swirling mists and white tips to the mountains as what had been falling as heavy rain earlier that morning had been falling as snow higher up. For running though the conditions were fine, just a slight head wind as we turned back to Tyndrum and there were certainly plenty of other runners and walkers on the path. Simon had pushed on ahead which suited me (he has this mega annoying habit of running 3 yards ahead at all times and then expecting me to be able to hear everything he says) so it’s fair to say I was a little surprised to turn to see him running to catch me up just after crossing the bridge at the mouth of Auch Gleann. And I’m the one who is supposed to be rubbish at navigation. How can you get lost on the West Highland Way? Its waymarked.
At the turnaround point at Bridge of Orchy

Where did he appear from??
As we drove back eastwards the weather improved significantly until we stopped in Crieff which was bathed in glorious sunshine. Typical!

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