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Bob Andrews

Eyes, Pies And Sighs (loch Shiel And Area)

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Eyes, Pies and Sighs<br>
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(A trip down Loch Shiel, Loch Moidart coast and Loch Nan Uamh)<br>
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This years May trip was again instigated by Gordon Summers and saw seven paddlers meeting up at the Glenfinnan Hotel where we left our cars. The hotel asks for details of the trip and asks for a donation to a charity.<br>
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Once the boats were loaded and for Dave, constructed as he was paddling a Pakboat we set off at about 1600 to paddle for a short time before landing for our first camp. The short journey helped to ensure those who travelled through the night could get some early shuteye and it was a chance to ensure we had everything for the trip.<br>
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The plan was to paddle down Loch Shiel, into Loch Moidart and finish near Arisaig. Most of this was accomplished but the get out for reasons, which will become clear, was changed.<br>
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The first night’s camp showed we had all the kit needed and we woke to a cloudy day – the forecast for the Sunday was not good but the rest of the week showed promise. After last years continuous battle with the elements we were due for some better weather.<br>
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Stuart started the day with a skinny dip in the loch, the rest of us made do with brushing our teeth. <br>
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As the morning wore on the wind picked up – unfortunately in our face and we crossed the loch a few times to gain what protection we could from the hills. At lunchtime the rain arrived and a tarp was erected to give some shelter.<br>
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Should we stay or should we move on? Move on we did. Those of us paddling doubles did not have too bad a time but those paddling solo had a slog. We eventually found a small beach just north of the Polloch River and hunkered down for the night. The rain eased but we took two hours to make a decent fire with sodden wood all around but succeed we did.<br>
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The following morning the sky was blue and the wind had eased and this was the setting for the rest of the week. Today we were planning to paddle into Loch Moidart hopefully on a high tide to avoid the big rapid, which forms when the River Shiel empties into Loch Moidart. We explored the River Polloch as far as we could paddle upstream before the river became too shallow and returned to Loch Shiel.<br>
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Our lunch spot was within sight of the burial ground on Eilean Fhianain ,which we explored after filling the inner man. If one has to be buried anywhere then this must be one of the best places with splendid views back to the mountains or on down the loch.<br>
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Our next target was Acharacle where Steve knew of a pie shop! <br>
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During the day both Mark and Dave were suffering from eye problems no doubt not helped by Sundays paddle into a headwind and rain. Luckily at the village as well as the pie shop – recommended - there was a doctor’s surgery. Dave was diagnosed with mild conjunctivitis but Mark had something more serious and was advised not to paddle any further and to ensure that he kept his eye clean. We left Mark at the Shiel Bridge with a few bags and off he went to find a B&amp;B and with some mobile numbers to try and stay in touch. <br>
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Stuart was his paddling double and with the boat re-trimmed we set off down the picturesque River Shiel, hoping that we would make the entrance into Loch Moidart before the rapid formed. Brilliant judgement, some may say luck, found us in Loch Moidart without hardly a ripple beneath or boats.<br>
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We now needed to find a bivvy for the night. We paddled past castle Tiarum whose causeway was well covered.<br>
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We found a small island which adjoined Shona Beag. This was perfection and it even had a swing!<br>
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During the night the wind had picked up and we had to decide how to proceed for the next day. Following Mark’s enforced departure we had another problem as Stuart would be finishing today to meet his sister at a convenient road to ensure he caught the sleeper from Fort William to London!<br>
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Thankfully a family of holidaymakers in a cottage opposite the castle agreed to store the canoe until the end of the week when we hoped we might have a plan for collecting it!<br>
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Stuart’s date with his sister was to happen about 1700 and so we dec ided to stay local and had a good day paddling down the South Channel to the sea where Dave knew of a good beach for lunch. <br>
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We then headed back to our island by a slightly different route where we saw numerous seals and also a weird sight of water shooting up from the sand, which apparently came from clams.<br>
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The journey back to our island was again hard work for the solos but John and I had an easier time paddling doubles.<br>
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Stuart was united with his sister and the boat stored, leaving numbers reduced to five.<br>
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On Wednesday we set off to paddle to the sea along the North Channel on the north side of Shola Beag, Eilean Shona and the mainland of Moidart.<br>
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Our morning coffee break was had on an amazing coral beach with blue sea and blue sky and bright yellow primroses growing over the cliffs.<br>
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Our next target was to be Glenuig, which meant a coastal paddle with little chance for an escape route. However the conditions were kind and made even better when we came across some young otters playing in the water and not that bothered about our presence.<br>
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We reached Glenuig for lunch and a welcome coffee at the pub. Unfortunately the community shop was shut that day. We also met up with Mark whose eye was improving and he had been able to recover his car from Glenfinnan but still unable to paddle and wild camp.<br>
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We had a conflab and realised that because of the unavoidable delays we would not be able to make Arisaig and therefore re-jigged our plans to finish somewhere in Loch Nan Uamh. We found another great bivvy site on a white beach with a grass shelf. I decided to opt for the beach – checking to see how far the tide would come in before erecting the tent. We went to bed after an excellent sunset and some chilly skinny-dipping.<br>
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Thursday saw us paddling part way into Loch Ailort and then westward along the coast for our last bivvy night. <br>
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This last site was not as easy to find as others but we persevered and found a site not far from the Arisaig House Hotel. With the chance of meeting civilisation the next day some of us took the chance to use the spare water to have a half decent wash AND shave. With failing batteries we managed to text Mark with our intended egress and hoped that he would receive it.<br>
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The short trip to the get out was eastwards into a head wind but no problems were encountered and we were soon unloading boats for the last time and thankfully Mark soon turned up to take Steve to Glenfinnan for his car.<br>
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We all shook hands and set off south for our various homes having enjoyed a stunning trip.<br>
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I have mentioned the eyes and pies. The sighs came from the scenery of the mountains, lochs, sea and wildlife.<br>
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Bob Andrews
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