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Thread: Pirates of the Portage

  1. #1
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    Default Pirates of the Portage

    Or Cam Loch to the Sea with canoes, but not necessarily in them.


    O’er the hills and o’er the bogs
    With whisky, wine and lots of logs
    We heave and haul canoes all day
    Over the hills to where they'll float

    There was skulduggery afoot at New Year. Fuelled by grog, some members of the Crew had got drunk and accidentally scrawled a line on a map, seemingly randomly across the landscape of The Far North. A plot was plotted, but those Pirates and Crew not present were, for a while, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead of them….

    Once again, sit ye down for a tale of derring-do in the wild lands north of The Wall, for the Pirates have been a Portaging. And the fleet had grown. For this adventure, Captains Tobey, Alex and Ben had called out for more staff. The Narrator had trawled through his deep and murky past to drag up a couple of old sea dogs, Ableseamen Portage Pete and No-good Nigel. The master stroke, though, was for each of them to bring a Teenager, FarTooAbleSeamen Nick and Matt. For Teenagers are very useful on a Pirate Expedition.

    In the Far Far North, lies a land of magnificent steep mountains standing proud over a wild land studded with sparkling lochs. Inverpolly is its name. On the wild west coast of this magical land, a smuggler’s cove was rumoured to contain treasure. To get there, an Expedition would need to be mounted, for it was many miles of water and empty land from the roadhead at Cam Loch to the boulders and sand of Garvie Bay.






    The Beginning – Into the Wilderness

    A tortuous journey north ensued, and an Expedition Outfitter, Tamarack Outdoors, was assaulted for various sharp things, flappy tarp things and round-flat-things-for-cooking-on, as an alternative to the dreaded Motorway Services. With wagons heavily loaded, the Expedition gathered in the frontier town of Inverness, before heading north into the wilderness. Eventually, they found the right bit of water. And what a spot to start from. As they desperately shoved and squeezed gear, logs, ballast and even people into their craft, and arranged for most wagons to be moved to an obscure point in the middle of nowhere, ahead of them a mighty mountain pointed its twin summits heavenwards out of the pale brown lands of Assynt. Suilven, that magical hill, would be their constant companion in the early days of their odyssey.






    As always, the Weather Gods would decide their fate. For now, the Rain God was resting, and the Sun god happily shining, but the Wind God was getting angry already. They moved onwards down a small, meandering river, only being blown sideways into the banks occasionally.









    Suddenly they reached the open expanse of Cam Loch, and here waited the Wind God. Their target tonight was a sandy beach at the far end of the loch, but though the wind was behind them, already white caps were forming on the waves.






    They were happy though, their Adventure finally underway, and the surroundings were magnificent.









    A battle ensued, for though the wind was behind them, Wind God and Water God rarely acted together, and when the wind blew a canoe’s stern one way, a second later a wave might push it the other, or just push it harder. The Narrator found his canoe only wanted to go sideways, whatever he did with ballast, so took a zig zagging approach and hid behind a small island to make his turns. Soon, they rounded a headland, and into the shelter of a lovely bay.






    The first of numerous Weather discussions began. Whilst the conditions were just about navigable, ahead the length of the loch meant that the fetch was growing, and waves could be seen breaking on the next headland. They pondered camping here, after all they’d already put in a good 45 minutes work, but that would have meant a rough bivi on the beach with no guaranteed escape tomorrow, when the winds were due to rise. Onwards they went, chasing downwind across the bay, grabbing shelter at the far side.






    Here a Scouting Party was despatched by the Captains. The next headland stuck out into the wind. Waves were crashing against it, even this Pirate Fleet thought twice, for once round the point, escape would be hard.

    Whilst the Plot was being hatched, the logs of navigators who had been before them were consulted, especially those of a man known only as Moosehead. Here was the start of an escape plan, for that esteemed adventurer told tales of a Keyhole Cove just along the shore. And so that’s where they went. On foot. Dragging canoes, custard and corn beef, amongst other essentials such as ballast and logs. This would prove to be the first of many, many portages over the days ahead. Each would comprise a canoe drag/carry, and probably two return trips for bags.









    Keyhole Cove was reached, and it offered at least a little shelter from the cutting wind. There was, though, little in the way of flat ground, and Captains Alex and Ben chose to simply sleep with their Crew under a flapping sheet. The Narrator found a sneaky, if very windy, flatish spot on the shore alongside Captain Tobey’s quarters, whilst the rest of the Crew and The Teenagers did their best in the tussocks.






    Now, on an Expedition, each member of the Crew is expected to take their turn in the kitchen, and the new Crew were to be put on test. Tonight, Ableseaman Pete and FarTooAbleSeaman Nick would be trying to impress their companions. Their kitchen comprised of….a rock.






    Much chopping began and a little later on the Expedition members were treated to a magnificent feast of Pulled Pork rolls, carrots and broccoli and, with a little help from Ableseawoman Liz, treacle sponge and real custard. Yes, this expedition carries cartons of custard with it. And there was plenty left…









    Not for the last time, it was a pretty early night. Particularly for those sleeping on a tussock. Which was all of them.





    Paddled: 4km
    Portaged: 0.6km, (effective 3km with 3 trips each average)

    (Continued)
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  2. #2
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    Default The Second Day – Escape Over the Hills

    They woke to the noise of an angry Wind God. Hoping to continue on to the end of the loch, from where they planned a little stroll with canoes and bags, and bags, and some bags, to the shores of Loch Veyatie, the Captains wisely realised that there would be no paddling today. Instead, there would be bacon, and then some walking.






    For the first time, the Shield of Power was brought into use, a magic talisman that seemingly never runs out of bacon to supply it.









    As they ate, though, they were aware that if they were to move today, there was only one way out. Up.






    That wandering voyageur, Moosehead, had described a route here “from keyhole to keyhole”. That would be their starting point, but his description also told of poor camping on the far side, so some scouting ahead might help their options. For now, then, they would heave and haul and head for the high land.









    Now for these portages, the Expedition doesn’t always follow the lightweight trend. For always, read ever. Not only did they have seven craft to portage, but each member of the Crew, and the Captains too, would have to return for at least a couple of loads of bags. Also, the terrain they always choose is not good for carrying canoes on shoulders, with knee deep bogs, tussocks and very strong winds. So, they drag their canoes.






    Soon there were canoes, bags, Pirates and Crew scattered all over the moors. Each leg would be of a few hundred metres to an obvious point, where they would gather and collapse once everything was there. Bringing Teenagers had proved to be a master stroke, for they are quick and strong, and easily bribed with food.


















    As they climbed hundreds of feet above the loch behind them, they needed to make a decision. Straight on was the shortest route, but to a camp that sounded poor and exposed. The Expeditions charts suggested an alternative route to the west, twice as long, might finish in a spot sheltered from the south easterly winds. Ableseaman Darren was sent onwards to scout the route ahead. When he returned, he confirmed what they knew was probably true – the longer route would be the one they would take. Onwards they toiled, drag, carry, carry, drag, carry, carry. Here, the fittest of the Crew, Ableseaman Pete, observed to the Narrator that “I’m not sure this is sustainable”. The Narrator giggled to himself and patted his favourite bag of logs.

    Eventually they reached the summit of the hill they were crossing, and collapsed for a long, relaxed lunch. The Narrator’s guitar even came out, and Captain Tobey gave us a rendition of the theme from a documentary on dinosaurs he has seen, Jurassic Park.






    A long, flat plateau gave some boggy relief, followed quickly by a descent.






    “Hooray, downhill”, was quickly followed by “bloody hell this is a bit steep”. Hopes of an easy slide of laden canoes were replaced by the reality of handling them over tricky slopes whilst stumbling around holding bits of ropes.












    By now, seven hours had passed since leaving their morning camp. At last, some water came into sight. A small nameless lochan lay in their path. Easily bypassed, but, the idea of relief from dragging a canoe for even just a few minutes was enough to tempt them. It also seemed perfectly possible that nobody had ever paddled this nameless lochan before, so Ableseaman Darren grabbed his chance.






    Unfortunately, the far side was shallow, and rather muddy. So AS Darren was shipwrecked just yards from shore. The Captains despatched a rescue party, equipped with lines, and then the rest of the Crew followed across, and were hauled in the few feet.









    This nameless lochan lay just 300 metres from the windy shores of Loch Veyatie. As they pondered one final leg of hauling, the Captains realised they were stood on a flat bit. Normally, it would be bog, but this season, the whole of the Highlands were as dry as tinder. With the evening coming on fast, they pitched camp.






    Whilst there was a flat bit for tents, the living room was a little tussocky. That night it was the Narrator’s turn to cook, his Chinese chicken once again, with noodles, a surprising amount of vegetables, and prawn crackers. A tarp formed the kitchen, a brand new one the Narrator had bought just 2 days before. This lasted 3 minutes before one of the anchors ripped through the fabric in only moderate winds.






    Still, they were safe, and though the camp was indeed a little bleak once the sun was gone, they were warm and fed. And the ballast was going down.
    Little did LessThanAbleseaman Nigel know what was to come. As he retired towards his tent, walking round his canoe, placed there to shelter his home from the wind, he forgot that there was a muddy lochan out there in the dark. So, that lochan is now named as Lochan nan Niall, for that is the Gaelic word for Nigel. Or daft bugger.


    Paddled: 0.1km
    Portaged: 2km (effective 8.5km), 85m ascent and 85m descent

    (Continued...on, and on, and on...)
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  3. #3
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    Default The Third Day – Battered by the Wind

    After a day of such hardship, the Expedition was not looking for a long day. The Wind God agreed, as down on the loch his wind was indeed impressive, telling them they could have a lie in.






    So, a potter around camp was the first job for the Narrator, after fetching a pail of water from the loch.












    On his return, Nigel was found to be washing his trousers, for some reason…






    As time was most definitely not pressing, breakfast commenced in the rebuilt kitchen – dropped for the night









    Here, for Health and Safety reasons, we need to declare a Close Call. During breakfast, a spark escaped from the Expeditions firebox, and suddenly a tussock was alight. Just as suddenly, so was another one. And another. Fortunately, there were ample pans to hand, and water nearby and no damage was done. It was sobering to see how quickly it spread in the unseasonably dry tussock grass.

    The Captains announced that today would mostly be a day of doing little. The Expedition headed for the beach to look at options, and to fill up with water, for the Narrator’s pail had been used for firefighting purposes. Here, FarTooAbleSeaman Nick applied clever devices to the loch water to ensure its cleanliness. The old hands just sat about.









    The Captains kindly carried most of the water back to camp, 300m inland, whilst the Crew went on a mission to check out a little bay, scouted by Ableseawoman Lynne. As they wandered, an ambush occurred! A baby Dragon leapt out of the grass and attacked them.






    Having escaped from the Dragon, they found a lovely beautiful bay, gently curving beneath a hillside that kept it sheltered from the wind. All the Crew thought it was preferable to their current flammable tussock camp, complete with constant downdraft, all they needed to do was market it to the Captains and Ableseaman Rob, who remained in camp. To this end, the Narrator used his magic device to capture an image of the bay.






    So, the Captains agreed, and they would move camp. Just 400 metres or so, across more tussocks and a modest bog, and they would have a lovely beach camp. At this point, most of the Crew realised their legs weren’t working properly. Yesterday’s efforts had been considerable. Wind aside, though, what a wonderful place to be, and they had all the time in the world to move their home.









    All agreed, this was a far better place than The Camp of the Flaming Tussocks.









    The Captains did some work to improve the camp, before burying each other.












    Meanwhile, it was Ableseawoman Lynne’s turn in the Galley, helped by Liz. Spicy sausage pasta was the dish of the day.









    As you can see, cargo included a couple of large containers of ballast.






    FarTooAbleSeaman Matt took his turn at the washing up. There were no leftovers on this trip with Teenagers on board.






    As the sun went down over the hills in front of them, Ableseawoman Liz took her turn at the stove, and produced an outstanding Soda Bread with melted camembert to dip it in.


















    An excellent end to a day of, mostly, rest. Apart from a 400m portage, and having to crawl back to the tents overstuffed with food once again.
    We had also been highly entertained by the sight, and loud, banging sound, of Ableseaman Nigel’s canoe blowing and rolling down the beach. Fortunately, Tuffstuff is exactly that, barely a scratch on her.
    Tomorrow, if the weather were calm it would be an early start.











    Paddled: 0km
    Portaged: 0.4km (effective 2km)


    (Continued....oh yes...)
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  4. #4
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    Default The Fourth Day – Afloat at Last.

    Somebody was stomping around on the beach. Crunch, crunch. The Narrator opened his curtains and peered out the window. He found himself looking at an almost flat loch, and Ableseawoman Liz muttering things like “we should go now”. For today was a big day, and there was an opportunity to move from Veyatie towards the shores of magical Loch Sionasgaig. Their original plan had been to navigate down to Fionn Loch first, but having lost a day here due to wind, the Expedition decided to take a short cut instead. And anyway, there might actually have been a sustained period of paddling that way, heaven forbid!

    Surprisingly, the Crew were quickly roused, and within only a number of hours, were ready to paddle. BEFORE breakfast!






    At last, the fleet was afloat again, paddling on a grey loch through simply magnificent wild scenery. Crossing the loch, there was still enough wind to keep them on their toes, and they sheltered behind a series of little points on the far side as they headed west.















    Already, the chop was getting up, but they were nearly at their initial destination in just 40 minutes, turning in from Loch Veyatie to that amazing wild inlet that is Loch a’ Mhadail.















    Unlike on their adventure four years before, when coming the other way, they could not float over the lovely little sand bar this time but instead, had to line the canoes.












    Onwards into the furthest part of this remote loch, they fought a sudden wind that whistled down from the mountains around, not caring that it was supposed to be blowing from completely the opposite direction. That’s how the Wind God plays.









    Just an hour after setting off, their paddling was over for the day and they hadn’t yet had breakfast. The Wind God was angry at their escape, and they were glad that they had no more paddling to do in the conditions that now arose. Instead, a short portage to do, just a mile or so. It was even mostly downhill. Four years earlier, it had taken them 6 hours or so to cover this ground in the other direction, maybe this time they would be quicker. They portaged up the initial hill from the loch, and there broke their fast amongst a sprawling heap of bags and boats, their route into the wilds ahead of them down a small valley, not a drop of water in sight.















    Here the Narrator accidentally fed the Ravens, proud residents of these mountains, with Hoops. They seemingly followed him for the whole day, hoping for more.

    This portage had been their hardest on that previous adventure. This time, it seemed fairly ordinary. Yes it was slightly down hill, but knowing the route, and having both Captains and especially Teenagers helping to haul the loads, it seemed a little easier. Almost fun! Maybe that was just The Narrator.


















    Again, they would stop and gather, and distribute many miniature packets of chocolate Portage Eggs amongst them, each Crew member most generous with their own snacks. Or was it simply a competition to lighten their own load!















    It took them nearly as long as last time. Eventually though, a small loch came into sight and, tucked away behind a little hill, the ruins of Clais. Here they had once breakfasted, tonight they would feast and stay.

    Setting camp up was by now a task done quickly, this time taking advantage of a wonderful windproof gable end to form their dining and drinking room.






    Underneath, all was, if not warm, dry. And contentment at getting another portage done. Nearly, for there was still a last leg to the lochan, and a hop over to Sionasgaig.









    Tonight it was curry night! Ableseawoman Liz the chef. Washed down, of course, with wine and then whisky. There may have been a bannock, the Narrator has lost track. Despite the fact he cooked it.









    Four days in, the Expedition was camped in the heart of the wilderness, miles from any road or house. Their thoughts were only of the trip, and of the land around them, and though they did not know what tomorrow would bring, and where they would be, they were happy. Such is the feeling when travelling in such magical lands, time moves at a different pace, the journey may be hard at times, but it is a journey of exploration, of the land and of oneself. These moments of pondering in shelter, between days of travelling through the most magnificent scenery these islands can bring, shared with companions, are probably the most special of all. Even when sat in a drafty ruin.


    Paddled: 3.6km
    Portaged: 1.5km (effective 7.5km), 15m ascent, 60m descent


    (Still going)
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  5. #5
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    Default The Fifth Day – the Escape

    Today they needed an escape. Again, the Sun God was happy in his sky, but the Wind God was a persistent bugger. After the long portage the day before, they decided against an early start, but hoped to get onto Loch Sionasgaig and find a camp there, perhaps even on Tick Island, Eilean Mor. Eventually, bacon happened, on the Shield of Power.









    The Expedition’s thoughts went to the day ahead. The Wind God will still spouting forth, but they had a suspicion they were in a spot where the wind was funnelled towards the loch. Perhaps the Big Loch of Sionasgaig wouldn’t be too bad. A reccy was required, so Ableseamen Darren, Pete and the Narrator went for a wander over the hills above Lochan Clais, to get a view of the loch, and to see if any other potential camp spots were visible.






    The wind was clearly strong in the big bay to the north of the short portage from Lochan Claise. As they watched, a strange sight occurred. Two bouncing inflatables were fighting their way eastwards, just dots in the jumbled water.






    So that option was not looking good. A poor area of ground would mean they could camp by the shore, ready for a quick get away if the opportunity arose, but it was not appealing.

    The view, though, was incredible. In all directions, the amazing insular mountains of Assynt and Inverpolly rose straight out of the brown lands, themselves studded with sparkling water.









    And then they noticed the calm bit. And the fact that, if they crossed Lochan Claise and portaged, again, about half a kilometre, they should be able to launch into a sheltered bit of the loch. What lay beyond was a bit of an unknown, but all the loch they could see in that direction was calmer than the bit to the north. They thought of moving to Tick Island, but there was a risk they would then be trapped there. Instead, they considered heading south to the head of Sionasgaig, where ultimately they hoped to go. It was time to get moving.

    Hastily returning to Ruin Camp, they found that fortunately most of the Crew had already decided moving was likely and had started getting everything packed. The excitement was rising, they might even get some paddling in today. On calm water!

    A short portage was needed, ditch hopping down to the lochan. Lochan Claise then became known as Loch of the 5 Paddle Strokes, as this was about all they each needed – a couple to get going, 1 long one simply to steer whilst the wind took them the 400m or so from end to end, before a couple of big heaves got the bows far enough up the boggy landing to be able to step out. For once, they could thank the Wind God for his help.









    Then, for a change from all this paddling, they had a nice 500m portage to do, mostly flat. This was actually slightly damp underfoot, unlike most of the landscape this year.






    FarTooAbleseaman Matt proved his worth once again, helpfully teaching Captain Ben how to use Blue Smarties to add warpaint to his face.






    The bay they had found was lovely, a beautiful curve trapping the Sun God’s rays. The water was calm, though they could see that further out there was still some wind. They expected that around the corner they would get a strong head wind, but their hearts were now set on reaching the head of Loch Sionasgaig tonight. Suddenly, the beach was a hive of activity, then everybody dived for cover as FarTooAbleSeaman Matt exposed his armpit.









    Captain Alex led the first ship afloat, drifting contentedly in the bay whilst the rest of the Crew took faffing to their usual levels.






    Soon, the rest of the fleet were afloat, and revelling in the feeling of paddling on calm water surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery in these isles.





















    The Wind God, though, was still watching them. As they approached a headland, it was clear that beyond, he still ruled the waves. They sheltered for a minute, before choosing an inland route and a brief drag over shallows to bypass the end of the headland.









    Ahead, lay a bit of a battle. The Wind God had seen them, and sent a teasing headwind to test them. The waves were all perfectly manageable, instead he wanted to see them work for their puddings. Plenty of which were still being carried. With more custard.

    Ableseaman Nigel deployed a Teenager to power ahead. Hopping from sheltered bay to sheltered bay, the Expedition made their way towards the distant beach at the head of the loch.


















    Somehow, the Narrator found himself at the landing point first. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the end of their day, they’d only done one portage so far. Time for another one.









    Fortunately, this portage was even shorter than that this of the morning. Though the Narrator forgot to put his boots on until after he’d carried them across, and returned, struggling in flimsy boating footwear with a dodgy knee. When they reached a lovely little sandy cove on wild Lochan Gainmheich, they found the Wind God’s ire was growing. Quickly they set off, just one more paddle to go and hopefully they would find somewhere to shelter for the next two nights.









    A brief respite was found in the narrows that form the entrance to Loch an Doire Dhuibh, whilst the hills watched their progress all around them.












    There was one last battle to win. Across the loch, a sheltered little cove looked like a possible camp, if there was any flat ground. To get there, though, they had wind and wave to face, crossing at an angle to diminish the effect of the waves on canoes full of custard. And corn beef, have I mentioned the corn beef? And potatoes? They chose their angle, and headed out into the gale. The Captains took control of their craft.















    As they approached the little cove, the Wind God was beaten. A headland protected it and, joyously, there was flat ground, a beach, and a lovely woodland clinging to the slopes behind. This was one of those magical places in the wilderness, an oasis of calm and astonishing beauty. Here they would be at home, here they would rest for a day.






    Soon, camp was made, and the Expedition were relaxing. Apart from Ableseaman Nigel and FarTooAbleSeaman Matt, whose turn it was to do dinner. The camp was utterly idyllic, a place for Captains to play, and Crew to collapse.





















    Nigel decided that the large quantity of mushrooms he had somehow dragged across hills for five days, needed a little wash before they were sacrificed. Some of them saw their chance to escape. Most were hastily rounded up, but one lone little fungus headed out on a lonely voyage. The Narrator, for one, hopes he made it.















    As the hills turned red, and the sun descended behind the flanks of Stac Pollaidh, they feasted on “Mal’s Spag Bol”, franchised out to Ableseaman Nigel. Apparently, there are more vegetables in a Nigel Bol, something that came as no surprise to those who know the Narrator well.


















    Dinner filled them to bursting, and then they were tasked with another challenge. Pudding. Ginger sponge and real custard. Boy those bags were going to be lighter now! The moon rose and they sat outside, no need for tarps tonight in their sheltered oasis.















    The perfect end to a long and satisfying day. The Expedition had escaped from the windswept ruin, crossed bogs, paddled a fabulous hill-surrounded loch under bright sunshine, and fought the Wind God to find this safe haven under the arms of the mountain of Cul Beag. And they had whisky.






    Paddled: 4.1km
    Portaged: 1km (effective 5km), 10m ascent, 12m descent


    (Nearly half way! Ish...)
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  6. #6
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    Default The Sixth Day – a Day in Heaven

    A day of rest. No need to get up early, no need to move at all. Yet nobody had told the Narrator’s bladder or tummy that news, and as he lay in his pit, gazing out to the summit of Cul Mor, the pressure built until he had no choice but movement.






    There are, thankfully, no photos of the early part of the day.

    One by one, the Captains and Crew unzipped their tents, and wandered off in search of solitude, before returning for a long, lazy breakfast. Some members had daft ideas of going up hills today, but the Narrator made it clear he was going nowhere that involved use of his dodgy knees and in the end only the elder Teenager fancied a run up a hill.


    The rest of the Expedition simply hung around camp, drank tea or real coffee, and ate stuff. This was a wonderful start to the day.









    Captain Tobey and Ableseawoman Lynne made a fabulous bannock that rose nearly as high as Stac Pollaidh.












    Before he hit the hills, FarTooAbleSeaman Matt invented the Cheesy Matt Wrap, a clever folded concoction that benefited from being fried lightly in the fat of ten dozen rashers of bacon.







    The rest of the day was one of those truly special ones. Though the Wind God was clearly still playing out on the outer loch and the hills, he couldn’t reach them in their sheltered Pirate Cove. Here they rested, played and relaxed. Most even went “swimming”, vying for the shortest time spent in the freezing cold water that could actually be called a swim. The canoes had a well-deserved rest for their sore bottoms from all that dragging.


















    Ableseaman Rob was talking to himself again. Ableseaman Darren made a Christmas tree, getting his religious festivals mixed up.















    Once the initial feeding frenzy had passed, the Pirates took rod and line onto the rocks and tried their luck. Soon enough, they caught something. Something big, and heavy. Aha, a rock! Combined tactics were required to free the line with a directional pull from a canoe.
















    Ableseaman Liz found a little solitude.






    Later, the Narrator hit the water, followed quickly by the Pirates, solo paddling their craft having given the Crew time off. A fabulous hour of boat fun followed, with Captain Ben playing Bumper Boats with the Narrator, and much spinning and dancing of canoes. Much of it was even deliberate! Watching from far above were Ableseapeople Lynne and Darren, who confirmed it was a balletic dance of joy. Or something like that.









    The Captains spotted something on the little island at the entrance to the Pirate Cove. Quickly, they headed over to find out what the shining things might be.















    Eggs! For the Captains had forgotten that it was Easter Thursday.






    Later, the Narrator took his guitar onto Easter (Egg) Island, joined by Captain Tobey for a solo performance of Jurassic Park, and a few of the usual folky songs, as the other Captains gathered there too. One of the best times and places the Narrator can remember for a little music.


    Meanwhile, some of the stranger members of the Crew seemed to think that the filthy clothes most of them were wearing by now needed a wash. Or was this some sort of flagged message, a plea for help perhaps?









    With breakfast merging into elevenses merging into lunch merging into afternoon tea, most of the Crew could hardly move. The Captains, though, were off. It was time for the annual Easter Egg hunt. FarTooAbleSeaman Nick was not going to let his relative maturity stop him from running around looking for chocolate.


    [url=https://flic.kr/p/255CmnV]





















    FarTooAbleSeaman Matt had clearly spotted the Hunt, from the Mountain far above, after a successful ascent of Cul Beag, for suddenly he came rushing into camp. Even one who nearly isn’t a Teenager anymore, isn’t above a little bit of egg hunting.









    By now, the Narrator could do little more than grunt, so much food had he eaten. However, the Captains were still keen, and once again launched their fleet. It was great to see them confidently taking out the canoes, even though they had stolen the Narrator’s canoe. Eventually, he stole Ableseaman Nigel’s and joined them again.



























    Meanwhile, the Engineer, Ableseaman Rob, couldn’t resist making something useful. Theoretically anyway, nobody actually saw them being used, far too nice for that sort of thing.






    Now, there is a tradition that Ableseawoman Lynne will carry tins of corn beef and a bag of potatoes across every portage she can, before cooking them on the last night. This year, though, the Expedition let her off the final, big, portage and allowed her to cook in the wonderful kitchen beneath the hills. Somehow, the Expedition even found somewhere in their stomachs to put it. Followed by some more ginger sponge and the last of the custard. And then some cheese and oatcakes washed down with a dram. They also finished the ballast. Yes, that is how serious they were about tomorrow’s climb over the hills towards Loch Lurgainn – they wouldn’t even have any red ballast with them. However, they had a plan to replenish it…






    The evening was just as special as the day had been. The Narrator cannot remember another better day, spent in the wilderness beneath majestic hills, where fun was had on the water, and the best company you could imagine was enjoyed. To top it all, a black throated diver landed out on the loch, its haunting cries the perfect soundtrack to a perfect day of rest.

    Tomorrow would be a little different.























    Paddled: 0km
    Portaged: 0km


    (Yep, there's more...)
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    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  7. #7
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    Default The Seventh Day – Over the Hills

    Back in the distant, murky, past of an evening under a tarp fuelled by wine and whisky at New Year, there was one section of the Expedition’s potential route that was a complete unknown. It would be good to say it was a “voyage into the unknown”, but the term “voyage” would be entirely redundant. For today, the Captains would lead the Crew uphill and over bog, for 2km of hill stood between them and their next loch, Lurgainn. Even that legend of Wilderness Travel, Moosehead, had not done this route. The Narrator also had a slight mad glint in his eye, for he had spotted that there was a wee Lochan on the summit of the hill, and he wanted a picture of canoes on it.


    As the Crew readied themselves, their eyes were drawn towards the wooded slopes behind the camp. Most of them knew bits of these from their wanderings with shovelling implements, and it was going to be a steep start to the day.






    There was only one thing for it. To get started. The first target was to escape the woodland, for then they hoped the trickiest bit would be over. Though the Sun God will always be welcome, today he would make it hot work, and creams and hats were donned, and clothing discarded, before they set off.






    Heaving and hauling in teams, both Captains and Crew put all their weight into getting the canoes to their first resting point, weaving between trees and logs. This was the steepest portage they had ever done. Despite aches and pains from their week’s efforts though, they were pleased that it didn’t take as long as they thought to get to a perfect viewpoint above the woods, where they could gather the canoes and set off back down for the first round of bags.









    First round of bags was followed by a second. Though the number of bags was considerably less than before, and the ballast all gone, the terrain meant less could be carried on each trip during this first leg. However, the Narrator was almost jumping with joy, for his beloved Bag of Logs, which magically refilled itself every time he tried to burn the contents each night, was finally empty. Onwards they toiled, one step at a time, as the slope gradually lessened. Soon, they felt they were high above the lochs, truly “canoeing” in the sky!















    As they left behind the initial steep slope, a long fence line formed another obstacle. A gap tempted them to cross, for the ascent seemed much easier on the other side, though some were tempted by the path to the left that might make for an easier carry. In the end, they chose to stay together as a Team, for the canoes would not be able to be dragged along that trail, and they did not want to split the Expedition.















    The Narrator cannot remember how many Portage Legs were needed to approach the summit of the hill, but it was many. Despite the toil, though, most spirits were high. Nobody knew why, but this was fun! Or maybe its just the way the Narrator thinks. Or doesn’t. And probably Lynne too. Hopefully some of the others too, or that pair might have been buried under a handy tussock far from home.


















    Suddenly, just before spirits started to decline (at least the Narrator pretends it was before), Lochan Fhionnlaidh came into sight. What a fabulous location, perched on the shoulder of the hill between mighty Cul Beag, and spectacular Stac Pollaidh. Lunch was declared.






    OK, the Expedition could have simply dragged around this shallow, rock filled lochan. The Narrator, though, was having none of it, sending out canoe after canoe into the shallow water just so he could get photos, as they were spotted by the Wind God and blown all over the place as they couldn’t easily get their paddles in in the shallow water.















    Another lochan had been paddled, maybe for the first time. On the far side of it, the fence needed to be crossed again, before finally, they could start their descent.










    At last they had reached the summit of this mountain pass. However, they were a long way from the Loch below, and time was pressing, for the ascent had taken nearly 6 hours. The Narrator had detected a little bit of frustration as he faffed about with his picture machine, when others wanted to press on quickly. What lay ahead, they did not know, but if it was as “technical” a lower as that on their first long portage, it could take many hours.






    It wasn’t, and it didn’t. Amazingly, a path ahead followed a shallow, friendly gully, at a nice gentle angle. Which was mostly lined with soft grass and tussocks. They could slide their canoes under easy control. In fact, they could slide their canoes fully laden, a fact the Narrator didn’t pick up on until halfway down his first leg.






    Joyously they descended the gully, like some Fairground Ride dropping straight to the loch below. As they slid down, looking slightly mad, they were overtaken by a wandering lady and her kids, the first people they had met for a whole week. Apparently, the progress of their Biblical Migration was quite the topic of conversation on the top of Cul Beag.





















    In barely an hour, they approached the loch below, after a short crossing of a road. A road!!! The Crew struggled to comprehend the feeling of walking on terrain that didn’t fight back, swallowing boots or throwing knees off at stupid angles. And then, they were on the beach.









    But their day was not yet over. For here there was no obvious camp, and though it was now 4 o’clock, they hoped to continue to find a magical spot to rest and recuperate. Here The Narrator will reveal their masterplan. For, just a mile along the loch, stood three wagons, stuffed with food, logs and, of course, red ballast. And also Canoe Wheels, for a use for which you will need to be patient. Now, though, they could paddle. And the Wind God wasn’t even that angry, just teasing them a little with, inevitably, a headwind.









    And what a magnificent place to paddle, after hours hauling over the rugged landscape of Inverpolly. Though the Narrator’s dodgy knee wasn’t so impressed. Nor was his “good” knee, to be honest.






    Faster than they expected, the Expedition reached the beach, near which the Wagons stood. They had contemplated stopping here for a night, but they knew that, at the end of Loch Lurgainn, one of their special camps lay waiting, a place where they had spent 3 wonderful nights the previous year. If they could reach that today, they could spend 2 nights there and still have a chance of completing their quest.






    With ballast, food, wheels and logs fetched, they launched once more. FarTooAbleSeaman Nick used an alternative technique, one which, had it been tried by an of the older Crew, should have ended in disaster.






    Though their day was nearly over, they still had an hour or more of paddling to reach their beach. They zig-zagged out through islands, hiding from the Wind God as best they could.









    Once past the islands, it was a bit of a fight. There was nothing for it but to head out into the headwind, working along the southern shore of the loch. A tiny island gave a little respite, before the tempting sands of their destination motivated them for the final leg.















    They had arrived, at their home for the next two nights, after the longest day many of them had ever faced. 7 hours of portaging, then 2 hours of hard paddling. They were proud of what they had achieved. And what a location it was that they had reached.









    Soon, camp was made, and Ableseawoman Liz stepped up to make that night’s meal, an excellent veggy chilli. Followed by a bannock, or something, the Narrator cannot remember now!

    As the evening light turned the landscape to gold, and the Pirates pillaged on the beach, they were content.












    Paddled: 5.2km
    Portaged: 2km (effective 10km), 100m ascent, 120m descent


    (And more, and more, and more...)
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

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  8. #8
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    Default The Eighth Day – at Home in the Wilds

    This time they really deserved a day of rest. With bodies aching, the Crew gathered slowly around the fire. Here they could have a proper fire. Sadly, previous visitors had left a small fire circle, though at least it was clean and tidy. They would use this, but then re-cover it before they left. Now, though, it was time to start the required rounds of calorie replacements.






    Ableseaman Rob had whittled a “Spurtle”, for use with porridge.









    The Captains started work on a bathing pool for the Expedition. However, as there seemed to be no plan to heat it, the Crew declined.









    Today, there would be a sad splitting of the Expedition. For FarTooAbleSeaman Matt, and Ableseaman Nige, had to depart to their Wagon and start on the long road south. At lunchtime, it was time for them to leave, but not before a Team Photo. Whilst the Expedition was not yet over, without their help, they would never have got as far as they already were, poised for one final push to the finish on the morrow.






    Off they went, soon becoming just a distant spot in the vast landscape of the Far North West.









    The remaining Crew and Captains spent the rest of the time doing little things, whittling, baking, strumming, digging, wood collecting and eating. Especially eating.
























    The Narrator whittled with his new toy, a proper Bushcrafty Knife. He was quite pleased with the result, so far. Perhaps one day he will finish it.






    That evening, Ableseaman Pete and the Narrator lashed together a meal of leftover ingredients and some stuff from the Wagons, giving it the delicate name of Tuna Pasta Slop. It was surprisingly good.

    As the dusk fell, a final moment of utter contentedness. For the first time in over a week, they were presented with a loch of pure stillness, a mirror on which they could float idly, just drifting or playing, surrounded by the ancient hills.


















    Before bedtime, the Narrator had a performance to make. Over the last portage, he had been inspired to put words to music, and a song was made. “Over the Hills to Where They Float” would be the theme for their adventure.






    Their last evening in the wilds had been another memorable one.

    Paddled: 0km
    Portaged: 0km


    (Nearly there...)
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  9. #9
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    Default The Ninth Day – To the Sea, the Sea!

    The Narrator woke, excited. For today, they would try to reach the sea, at the Treasure Cove of Garvie Bay. Before them lay a day of short paddles and short portages, before a final trek would take them to the wild shoreline and, hopefully, Treasure.

    The weather was calm, the Wind God, perhaps tired after a week of effort, was also having a lie in. Mists clung to the hills, showing a different mood of this dramatic landscape.









    They swept the camp clean before they left, and did their best to cover the fire pit they had found on their arrival, in the hope that nature would reclaim it.






    First, a short paddle took them to the outlet of the loch, to which the bags had been portaged directly. The conditions were astonishing.


















    As the sun broke through, they paddled the small loch that separates Lurgainn from Loch Bad a’ Ghaill, a brief but spectacular paddle on Loch Bad na h-Achlaise in perfect conditions. So far, the day had been easy.


















    The shortest portage of the trip took them to Loch Bad a’ Ghaill, just 30 yards perhaps, yet it was tricky, clambering over rocks.









    As the Expedition headed out onto Loch Bad a’ Ghaill, they were leaving behind the hills that had been their companions for nearly 10 days. Ahead, the landscape was flatter, bleaker. A breeze made sure they knew that the Wind God was still watching. They crossed the loch, heading for a small beach at the far end. Here they would begin another portage, but this one a little different.


















    Here they hauled what seemed like their whole world, up to the road. For the next portage would involve Canoe Wheels. Thankfully, for every one of the Crew was more tired than they could remember, carrying injuries, and wanting the end.















    Ableseaman Rob had no trolley so was able to keep the portage purists happy by carrying his canoe properly, none of this dragging or rolling. Ahead lay 1km of flat or downhill road to reach their last loch, past fragrant gorse glad in gold.















    A steep drop took them down to Loch Osgaig, but not before The Narrator noticed that, by piling lots of other bags into his canoe, he’d fried the axles on his magic Canoe Wheels. A windy beach marked the departure point for their final voyage, as they stumbled, knackered into their canoes for one last time.






    The Wind God was there, but he chose to let them pass with just a modest side wards gale and a few easy waves, perhaps even he was impressed with their efforts to get to this windswept place.









    Suddenly, they spotted their landing point, and turned downwind to crash heavily onto a load of hidden rocks by the shore. Fortunately, they weren’t quite wrecked. Well the canoes weren’t, the Crew were utterly shattered! They were nearly there.















    Cleverly, they had magically arranged for one of the Wagons to be moved from its previous staging place, to a layby in the middle of nowhere. Across the road, a wild moorland headed down to the coast, and, just half a mile away, the sea! Abandoning boats and bags, they stumbled and struggled towards their goal, whilst to the east, the hills they had passed through were laid out on the horizon.












    The land dropped away, and there it was. Garvie Bay, rumoured home to the Treasure they hunted. They fell down a steep slope, or nearly did, before clambering, stiff limbed, over rocks slippery with sea weed.









    The Captains headed off in search of Treasure, soon finding their reward.









    The Crew collapsed and applied chocolate and whisky to their aches and pains. The Narrator gave a second rendition of Over the Hills to Where They Float, to celebrate finishing the adventure of their lives.









    They’d only gone and done it. Cam Loch to the Sea. A huge achievement for Captains and Crew, pioneering a route across the Highlands in search of treasure. They’d faced moor and mountain, loch and bog, and come out on top. The Narrator was very proud of what they had done, but even prouder of the team they had become. This was such a special trip, hugely challenging physically, massively rewarding spiritually.

    Now to head for hot showers and piles, and piles of food. They had calories to replace.




    Over the hills to where they’ll float
    G C
    Here's 40 dry bags and a pan
    G D
    For Pirates who volunteer to come
    G C
    Take corn beef and custard and the odd canoe
    G D
    Over the hills to where they'll float


    Chorus
    G C
    O’er the hills and o’er the bogs
    G D
    With whisky, wine and lots of logs
    G C
    We heave and haul canoes all day
    G D
    Over the hills to where they'll float


    Past mountain, lochs and loads of rocks
    We struggle and stumble like knackered old crocs
    Through heather filled with a million ticks
    Over the hills to where they'll float.

    Chorus

    And when we finally reach a loch
    The wind will blow us to a stop
    So once again we'll lift our boats
    Over the hills to where they'll float

    Chorus

    We don't know why we choose these routes,
    Paddling is enough for normal folk
    But why just paddle when you can drag canoes
    Over the hills to where they'll float

    Chorus Twice








    The End
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 9th-May-2019 at 01:10 PM.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  10. #10
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    Default Information

    The plan

    This was by far the biggest adventure The Pirates have attempted. If I’m honest, I didn’t really expect us to achieve it, and would have been content just to reach Lurgainn. By placing vehicles there, we both had a resupply point and kept our flexibility open, for it was a simple job to run a vehicle to the end once we reached them. If the worst had happened, one of us could have walked out to the start or our resupply point, and moved cars within striking distance of Boat Bay on Sionasgaig if we only got that far.
    Wind was a massive factor in this trip, and forced a change in the route and timings. We had originally wanted to go from the end of Cam Loch over to Veyatie further west, then spend some time on Fionn Loch, one of our favourite areas. We’d then portage from there via Na Tri Lochan to Sionasgaig and a stay on Tick Island. However, we had to go for a shorter, more direct route for it simply wasn’t safe to paddle on the big lochs for a lot of the first half of the week. In the end, we found a magical site up beneath Cul Mor and Cul Beag which more than made up for missing out on Fionn Loch and Tick Island camps.

    The actual route, for those who use OS Maps - the Fly Through is fun:https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/...-to-Garvie-Bay

    And on Paddle Points: http://www.paddlepoints.net/PaddlePo...p?PP=963&r=949 See, it doesn’t look so mad without contours!


    Some stats:

    We paddled 13 lochs, and there were 11 portages, plus the odd little wade in narrow bits.
    Total distance was about 32 km. Paddling was 22km, portaging 10km. However, the true story there is the ACTUAL distance an average Pirate had to portage – this was 5 x the distance on the map, so 50km of heaving and hauling. Under 9 hours were spent paddling on the journey, though there were a few pleasant hours of recreation as well as this. But not many. Closer to 30 hours were spent portaging. Cleverly, the trip was slightly downhill, but they still climbed roughly 250m and descended over 350m.


    Pirates

    This time, the kids, and the teenagers, contributed hugely to the trip, taking their turn at carrying loads and hauling canoes. They rose to the challenge superbly, even seeming to enjoy it, especially when racing Uncle Mal in a pulk hauling dash. As always, there was actually plenty of time for them to enjoy playing in and around camp, which is, I’m sure, the main reason they love these adventures. Bringing teenagers was a stroke of genius, they have so much energy, though considerably added to the amount of food we needed!

    Food and drink.

    As always, we eat properly. Ridiculously so at times. We take it in turns to cook fresh food from fresh ingredients, though as the week progresses, we switch to dehydrated ingredients that this year Liz kindly prepared. And the corn beef. We cook lots. There is never any left. Breakfast is often bacon, sometime pancakes. Only on mornings we must move early and quickly do we resort to cereal or porridge. Lunches are the individuals choice, this year a few of us had things like soups and supernoodles as well as wraps and cheese/ham. We then eat all sorts of other snacks and endless supplies of Portage Eggs. However, we need them. My wrist gadget watch Garmin thing reckons that on some days I was burning 4-5000 calories, compared to around 2000 at rest and 3000 on a typical day when I do some sport or other activity. I lost weight. Briefly!

    Custard. We genuinely did carry both cartons of Ambrosia custard for 3 meals for 12 people across the first few portages. And sponge for them to go with. The corn beef and potatoes that Lynne carries every year is now a tradition and running joke. The custard is now, too, I reckon.
    Ballast. Of course, exclusively red this year. And 3 decent malts. Maybe some gin, hidden in Lynne’s Barrel Bar.
    Tea and coffee are plentiful. Real coffee, of course, using my little GSI Java Drip filter usually.

    Wild Camping

    The sites we found were mixed, but all were made comfortable by having the option of a tarp as a group shelter. Here the group could huddle, and the companionship of the tarp is not to be underestimated! Here, teams are formed.
    Water was mostly taken from lochs, and mostly boiled or filtered. Some of us didn’t bother where we could take from further out in the loch, I certainly just drank it with no ill effect.
    We cooked almost entirely on fireboxes, apart from boiling water for brews on Jetboils/gas stoves. This is part of the trip for us, insane though it sounds to carry wood into the wilds, for there is very little at most camps. It just adds to our experience. Here though, a big word of warning. We had a close call with the fire at Tussock Camp, as the land is incredibly dry. Despite being off the ground, a spark or ember escaped, and it was only the fact we had water and big pans nearby that stopped it spreading dangerously. This year the fire risk is high, and it is very important to consider where you have them and if they are appropriate. Do not leave a fire unattended, even for a moment. Also, if you do have a ground fire, you must ensure there is no trace of it once you leave. If you don’t know techniques to do this, learn them, or don’t have a fire.
    Folding army style shovels stand in camp ready for use. We each carry our own little kit, mine comprises loo roll, hand gel and a lighter. Subject to the above fire warning, I burn my paper before burying it, but always douse it thoroughly by natural means! Other sometimes bring paper back to the fire if it is going.


    Accommodation

    Some of us stayed in Inverness SYHA hostel, which is a bargain at £19 a night for non-members in a dorm.
    On our return from 8 nights in the wilderness, we headed for Sands campsite at Gairloch.
    http://www.sandscaravanandcamping.co.uk/
    An odd choice, you might think, as it was 2 hours away from our finish point. However, it has a superb Barn Café, well restaurant, who were most obliging and incredibly friendly as we piled in just before their last orders and enjoyed a superb and memorable meal to celebrate the end of our trip. Highly recommended, as it was when we last visited 4 years before. We were very glad we made the effort to rush to get there, get showered, and pile in just in time.


    Thanks

    To Moosehead, Graham, who’s routes in this wild land both inspire and inform.

    To the patient reader, if you’re still with me

    To the Pirates, and the Crew.
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 30th-July-2019 at 10:47 PM.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  11. #11
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    And now, I'm off for a weekend with the Pirates! Thanks for reading.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  12. #12
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    A magnificent blog of a truly mad adventure; hats off to you all
    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

  13. #13
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    Oh Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I've started but not finished - I need some peace and quiet to enjoy this blog to the full - love it!

  14. #14
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    Wonderful tale with some fantastic photos to accompany your beautifully written ‘narration’....I keep thing of you narrating War of the Worlds or Journey to the Centre of the Earth....I digress.
    Having followed all the Pirate blogs I appreciate the way babes have grown into almost young men in front of my eyes....well done to all the parents.
    Lastly, can I buy your excess Portage Eggs.....I feel Hippo could do with more encouragement at times!
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  15. #15
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    Madness, and you keep going back for more.

    Good job too as we love your expeditions. Well narrated sir.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  16. #16
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    I must be getting old! I'm knackered just reading that account of your adventure, I'm sure I've done easier assault courses...
    That was a great read, and the photos as usual made it come to life. Strangely enough I've just read this comment in a magazine...Quote: " with three quarters of British kids now spending less time outdoors than prison inmates, youngsters have never led more protected lives...." end quote.
    Whoever wrote that obviously never met the Pirates...

  17. #17
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    Hi

    its an odd one this ...

    i look at it and admire the account, the trip and it’s ethos and respect the company. It really is top stuff and that cannot be denied.

    if I’m honest though, the landscape is both stunning and for some reason, feels more or less moonscape to me. I like barren but I miss trees I guess and I certainly wonder about the resulting need to carrying wood, though I know why it was done.

    I probably ended up with the portage idiocy (to some) vicariously from the origins of these trips and was then infected via “Grey disease”, so I even get that as part of it. Just not feeling this location myself and it hurts to think of people voluntarily carrying spuds and liquid custard over that stuff. Mal would use the “absurdity of it all” phrase, I have others for it.

    I’ll probably get my head bitten off for saying it mind, but I’m happy to discuss that anytime and reserve a right to be honest.

    Having been a major pain on it, I can’t help but admire all concerned on the whole thing, i do know you’ll have had a great trip that is harder to leave than to do and I can’t think of a better way to bring kids up year on year.

    Well done to all
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  18. #18
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    You have surpassed even your high standard.
    Just one thing, shouldn’t the third line of the chorus be “We heave and haul all day our boats” to make it rhyme?


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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    Those who can count and those who can't.

  19. #19
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    Bloody superb, Mal. I read the whole blog in one sitting - that's how much I enjoyed your marvellous account of such an utterly bonkers expedition :-)
    The mind boggles at the exhaustive planning which clearly went into it and what a satisfying achievement to keep 21st century kids entertained so very far out of the comfort zone of the average youth. It's just a shame that you didn't offer sufficient ritual sacrifice to the Wind God in advance!
    Respect to you all.

    PS - somewhat agree with Hemlock's lyric adjustment. I suggest you head back up there to the exact spot and re-record immediately ;-)

  20. #20
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    Outstanding!.....Inspirational!....and somewhat Unique!

    Whilst I'm now sat here dribbling into my porridge at 5 am...Mal, you really do need to give up your day job 'soonest' and pursue a career where your talents seen so far will info & entertain a vast audience....

    MB

  21. #21
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    Well done!
    Read this in the local library,sniggering and earning peculiar looks,brilliant photography!
    Tally ho

  22. #22
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    A wonderful write up Mal of an awesome trip. This was a fantastic adventure and as you said, all of us became a team.

    I was definitely a knackered old croc when I got home!


    Your photos are fab and really capture our journey.

    Great soundtrack too.

    Looking forward to the next trip. I imagine Rob will not miss the next planning meeting!

    Cheers,

    Lynne
    All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    Hi

    its an odd one this ...

    i look at it and admire the account, the trip and it’s ethos and respect the company. It really is top stuff and that cannot be denied.

    if I’m honest though, the landscape is both stunning and for some reason, feels more or less moonscape to me. I like barren but I miss trees I guess and I certainly wonder about the resulting need to carrying wood, though I know why it was done.

    I probably ended up with the portage idiocy (to some) vicariously from the origins of these trips and was then infected via “Grey disease”, so I even get that as part of it. Just not feeling this location myself and it hurts to think of people voluntarily carrying spuds and liquid custard over that stuff. Mal would use the “absurdity of it all” phrase, I have others for it.

    I’ll probably get my head bitten off for saying it mind, but I’m happy to discuss that anytime and reserve a right to be honest.

    Having been a major pain on it, I can’t help but admire all concerned on the whole thing, i do know you’ll have had a great trip that is harder to leave than to do and I can’t think of a better way to bring kids up year on year.

    Well done to all

    Mark - thank you for being honest. I love your comments. I wanted to hear honestly what people thought.

    Your name was mentioned several times during our trip, usually about the food. I don't mind saying that we did laugh at ourselves, a lot, during the portages and we knew people would think we were bonkers. We too had other words to describe carrying corned beef, potatoes and custard etc, etc over the hills. And the logs! But we do it because we can and we like the time spent in camp cooking, eating well and sitting by the fire.

    To me, Inverpolly is a stunning landscape. When I climb the mountains and see the views and rock formations, I could imagine being on the moon. I admit the lack of trees does make it seem a little bleak and there is a distinct lack of bird song and wild life in some places. Anyway, it wouldn't do for us all to like the same places, the wilderness would be full of people!

    I must get round to buying a food dehydrator.

    Cheers, Lynne
    All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost

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    How were the ticks?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    How were the ticks?
    There were hundreds of tiny ticks that seemed to be attracted to Ben's bag but we just brushed them off. I think as a group we had to remove 7 ticks. Tobey had the most with 3.
    All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne View Post
    There were hundreds of tiny ticks that seemed to be attracted to Ben's bag but we just brushed them off. I think as a group we had to remove 7 ticks. Tobey had the most with 3.
    Thanks. They are a nuisance but also quite a serious concern. It looked like the weather meant everyone remained well covered up and I think that always helps.

    For an expedition to be a true adventure the joy needs to be retrospective

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne View Post
    There were hundreds of tiny ticks that seemed to be attracted to Ben's bag but we just brushed them off. I think as a group we had to remove 7 ticks. Tobey had the most with 3.
    Do you use the little plastic crow-bar thingies or some other method ?

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    Thanks for all the positive reactions. This was such a big challenge for us, its great that other people are interested, even if its in a "look at those daft idiots walking canoes up mountains" way


    Quote Originally Posted by tim View Post
    A magnificent blog of a truly mad adventure; hats off to you all
    Cheers Tim.


    Quote Originally Posted by AdrianO View Post
    Oh Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I've started but not finished - I need some peace and quiet to enjoy this blog to the full - love it!
    Hope you enjoyed the rest mate!


    Quote Originally Posted by Patterdale Paddler View Post
    Wonderful tale with some fantastic photos to accompany your beautifully written ‘narration’....I keep thing of you narrating War of the Worlds or Journey to the Centre of the Earth....I digress.
    Having followed all the Pirate blogs I appreciate the way babes have grown into almost young men in front of my eyes....well done to all the parents.
    Lastly, can I buy your excess Portage Eggs.....I feel Hippo could do with more encouragement at times!
    Err, there might have been a lot of Portage Eggs, but all but a few were consumed...you'll have to buy your own. As for Jules Verne or H.G.Wells, there were some moments when I thought it was more Monty Python if I'm honest!!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al. View Post
    Madness, and you keep going back for more.

    Good job too as we love your expeditions. Well narrated sir.
    Cheers Al. Good 'un, this one.


    Quote Originally Posted by saxonaxe View Post
    I must be getting old! I'm knackered just reading that account of your adventure, I'm sure I've done easier assault courses...
    That was a great read, and the photos as usual made it come to life. Strangely enough I've just read this comment in a magazine...Quote: " with three quarters of British kids now spending less time outdoors than prison inmates, youngsters have never led more protected lives...." end quote.
    Whoever wrote that obviously never met the Pirates...
    Thanks mate. These kids certainly know how to make the most of time outside, its very hard to get them to stop digging, burying, whittling or wrestling and they got away with some rather late nights! Proud of how much they achieved, and how much effort they put in to helping the portages, not just having fun.


    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    Hi

    its an odd one this ...

    i look at it and admire the account, the trip and it’s ethos and respect the company. It really is top stuff and that cannot be denied.

    if I’m honest though, the landscape is both stunning and for some reason, feels more or less moonscape to me. I like barren but I miss trees I guess and I certainly wonder about the resulting need to carrying wood, though I know why it was done.

    I probably ended up with the portage idiocy (to some) vicariously from the origins of these trips and was then infected via “Grey disease”, so I even get that as part of it. Just not feeling this location myself and it hurts to think of people voluntarily carrying spuds and liquid custard over that stuff. Mal would use the “absurdity of it all” phrase, I have others for it.

    I’ll probably get my head bitten off for saying it mind, but I’m happy to discuss that anytime and reserve a right to be honest.

    Having been a major pain on it, I can’t help but admire all concerned on the whole thing, i do know you’ll have had a great trip that is harder to leave than to do and I can’t think of a better way to bring kids up year on year.

    Well done to all
    You've spent too much time in gorges looking at towering limestone cliffs mate

    Actually, you're not wrong in some ways. Yet for me, these lands are very, very special, and quite remarkable. I was pondering you're answer, so looked back through the photos, and actually I can really see where you're coming from. I don't think they capture the landscape that well, actually. The Pirates of Inverpolly blog, from 4 years back, took us up Suilven, and the photos from above probably gave a better feel for how I feel about the area, a wild land studded with lochs, looked over by these unique steep mountains that rise up out of the moorlands, e.g. this one:






    The first half of this trip, though, was much more across wild, empty hillsides, tussock grass or (fortunately) dry bogs. If the sun hadn't been out, they could well have felt very bleak indeed. However, when you're out there, your eyes are constantly drawn to the mountains, there's something about the way they just rise abruptly out of the land. The last few days are quite different, and here I think we were paddling and hauling in some of the most beautiful countryside I know of. I've always said Assynt and Inverpolly are up there with the most stunning and beautiful country in the world, not just the UK, and I stand by that one. The best bits were the lovely woodlands, small though they are, where we spent 2 days each at Split Rock camp and Lurgainn Beach Camp.

    Actually, the best thing about the landscape is probably that there's nobody else there, in Britain, and you can go for a whole week without speaking to another person. I guess that show the route choice up as being eccentric at the very least though!

    As for the custard carrying, that is a new upgrade to the trip, but you will know in your heart that it is a necessary one for a trip involving myself, having been on the receiving end of the Great Glaskogen Instant Custard incident of 2015.

    Take care mate.


    Quote Originally Posted by hemlock View Post
    You have surpassed even your high standard.
    Just one thing, shouldn’t the third line of the chorus be “We heave and haul all day our boats” to make it rhyme?
    CHeers Martin, appreciate it. You're probably right about the rhyming and it does scan well, but now its recorded for posterity, I think I'm stuck with the original!


    Quote Originally Posted by JimHou View Post
    Bloody superb, Mal. I read the whole blog in one sitting - that's how much I enjoyed your marvellous account of such an utterly bonkers expedition :-)
    The mind boggles at the exhaustive planning which clearly went into it and what a satisfying achievement to keep 21st century kids entertained so very far out of the comfort zone of the average youth. It's just a shame that you didn't offer sufficient ritual sacrifice to the Wind God in advance!
    Respect to you all.
    Thanks Jim. More sacrifices will be planned in.

    There's load of exhausted (!) planning goes in to this trip for the Pirates' Parents, but for me, I just draw a line on a map, get Lynne, at least, drunk at New Year to ensure somebody is on my side, and then step back and see what happens. Then on the Thursday before the trip I throw a load of stuff in the Skoda Skip and head north....OK, there's a bit more than that, but we're getting pretty used to it. Our biggest problem is duplicating gear despite vague attempts to reduce this each time. For instance, this year we carried either 6 or 7 tarps between us, yet used only 2. We have, though lost at least 2 on previous trips due to wind, so a few spare is not a bad plan...but maybe not 5.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bonarmbj View Post
    Outstanding!.....Inspirational!....and somewhat Unique!

    Whilst I'm now sat here dribbling into my porridge at 5 am...Mal, you really do need to give up your day job 'soonest' and pursue a career where your talents seen so far will info & entertain a vast audience....

    MB
    I reckon there's more planning goes into one of your magnificent banquets mate, these things just sort of come together.

    It would be great to write this sort of thing for actual financial reward, but I suspect it would get filed under either "farce" or "fantasy" in most In Trays!

    See ya at Henley, if not before, a different sort of madness!



    Quote Originally Posted by worosei View Post
    Well done!
    Read this in the local library,sniggering and earning peculiar looks,brilliant photography!
    Tally ho
    Thanks Andy. Pales into nothing compared with your own epic, but it was damned good fun!


    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne View Post
    A wonderful write up Mal of an awesome trip. This was a fantastic adventure and as you said, all of us became a team.

    I was definitely a knackered old croc when I got home!


    Your photos are fab and really capture our journey.

    Great soundtrack too.

    Looking forward to the next trip. I imagine Rob will not miss the next planning meeting!

    Cheers,

    Lynne
    I normally say this to John, but it applies more to you for this one...

    Its all your fault!



    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    How were the ticks?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne View Post
    There were hundreds of tiny ticks that seemed to be attracted to Ben's bag but we just brushed them off. I think as a group we had to remove 7 ticks. Tobey had the most with 3.
    Quote Originally Posted by bigyellowtractor View Post
    Do you use the little plastic crow-bar thingies or some other method ?

    As Lynne says, think we were 7 ticks. However, she doesn't mention that they were all on her, Darren and Tobey, so maybe having such an appetising family along kept the ticks happy so they kept clear of the rest of us!

    The kids often pick up ticks. Difficult not too when you're rolling around in the tussocks, grass and heather I guess. They're so used to them that they keep an eye on themselves, and seem quite proud when they find one and go running to mum or dad. Obviously, we're pretty aware of Lyme Disease, and have knowledge of the symptoms to look out for after each trip, even those of us who didn't find a tick.

    Col, most of us have the O'Tom Tick Twisters, which come as a pair - big and small for very little money. They work well most of the time, though one of the tiny nymphs that got on Tobey was too tiny even for the smaller Tick Twister, and needed to be "lassooed" by one of the tick devices that have a little loop at the end you put over them and pull tight (can't remember the name, Rob will know). Poor Tobes had to stand there on the beach with his shirt off, whilst 4 adults took it in turns to prod at him with implements until the thing was removed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne View Post
    Looking forward to the next trip. I imagine Rob will not miss the next planning meeting!
    You can count on that! We were going to Shiel up until the week before when you dropped that bombshell on us.
    I think it was the better choice though and I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I had to drag two canoes over the portages this year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    most of us have the O'Tom Tick Twisters, which come as a pair - big and small for very little money. They work well most of the time, though one of the tiny nymphs that got on Tobey was too tiny even for the smaller Tick Twister, and needed to be "lassooed" by one of the tick devices that have a little loop at the end you put over them and pull tight (can't remember the name, Rob will know).
    For reference the tick remover we use is called a Trix Ticklasso. Not sure where I bought it but they are available from Amazon.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    A great route, very entertaining read and brilliant photos. I especially liked looking at your various imaginative tent/canoe/tarp/wall camping setups. This is one of my favourite aspects of a trip.


    Your descriptions of the decisions to be made concerning wind and waves, deciding when to stay and when to go, route planning across the moors, and finding camping spots in unpromising terrain really bring out the challenge of canoe tripping in the wild.


    I know some river runners who think that “flat” water paddling is a soft option compared with the real business of heading for vees and swinging into eddies. I think a trip to Inverpolly in the wind would make them see things very differently. I’m glad you made it through safely and had such an epic time.


    I will have to try your trick of taking teenagers, they seem an exceptionally useful piece of kit.


    Thanks for taking the time to post this. Already looking forward to your next one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    The Sixth Day – a Day in Heaven


    A day of rest. No need to get up early, no need to move at all. Yet nobody had told the Narrator’s bladder or tummy that news, and as he lay in his pit, gazing out to the summit of Cul Mor, the pressure built until he had no choice but movement.
    You held on until the sixth day?

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    Words kinda fail me - pooped from just reading. A truly awesome adventure and wonderfully shared.

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    I’ve been reading these pirate adventures for years and love them all, this one included, although I do wonder if you’ve thought about having a canoeing trip on water sometime, you know, just for a change
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    I normally say this to John, but it applies more to you for this one...

    Its all your fault!
    For the record. Every time you’ve said this it has made me very proud
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moosehead View Post
    A great route, very entertaining read and brilliant photos. I especially liked looking at your various imaginative tent/canoe/tarp/wall camping setups. This is one of my favourite aspects of a trip.


    Your descriptions of the decisions to be made concerning wind and waves, deciding when to stay and when to go, route planning across the moors, and finding camping spots in unpromising terrain really bring out the challenge of canoe tripping in the wild.


    I know some river runners who think that “flat” water paddling is a soft option compared with the real business of heading for vees and swinging into eddies. I think a trip to Inverpolly in the wind would make them see things very differently. I’m glad you made it through safely and had such an epic time.


    I will have to try your trick of taking teenagers, they seem an exceptionally useful piece of kit.


    Thanks for taking the time to post this. Already looking forward to your next one.
    Thanks Graham. I hope a few more folk might be tempted by the lure of a line linking blue lochs and thin blue lines. Not too many, mind, or at least not when I'm out there!


    Quote Originally Posted by Geodesic View Post
    You held on until the sixth day?
    Hah. No. Regular as clockwork, just that a lie in wasn't happening!


    Quote Originally Posted by cankay.org.uk View Post
    Words kinda fail me - pooped from just reading. A truly awesome adventure and wonderfully shared.
    Cheers Jon. Poop was also a regular conversation, as it always is when wild camping. See above


    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    I’ve been reading these pirate adventures for years and love them all, this one included, although I do wonder if you’ve thought about having a canoeing trip on water sometime, you know, just for a change
    Maybe one day. OK, it would have been nice to paddle down to Fionn Loch again, and to explore Sionasgaig, but you have to build weather days into the plans...


    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    For the record. Every time you’ve said this it has made me very proud
    As it should do. For the record, I've meant it every time, without this site, none of this would have happened.
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    Lynne's excellent version of the blog gives a slightly different perspective, with more happy (delirious?) faces:

    http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...och-to-the-Sea
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    Utterly, utterly mental....
    It's hardly suprising you burnt off so many calories, you seem to have spent most of your time dragging boats around the countryside!!!
    The blog and trip are a work of genius.....well done sir.
    There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

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    Another quality Blogg Mal. Lovely varied photos and well told.

    The young people must have had a life enhancing adventure. Hopefully they'll remember these sort of adventures - and really appreciate the effort you took, when they are older too.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

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    Another classic, if slightly bonkers blogg.

    I went up Stac Pollaidh a few years ago and took a long lingering look at the landscape from on high.
    You're right, it's a spectacular area and your fantastic pictures really show it at its best.
    Newbond

    'In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.'

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    Read this last week and to be totaly honest i think that your all a bit "Radio Rental" as always immense literature and stunning photographic evidence to cement the pure beauty of such a vast wild wilderness.

    Wouldn't be surprised if you receive a call from the childline authorities as what you put those poor children through is not too short of slave labour
    "I am easily satisfied with the very best" Sir Winston Churchill, He once owned an Apache too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by stuk View Post
    Utterly, utterly mental....
    It's hardly suprising you burnt off so many calories, you seem to have spent most of your time dragging boats around the countryside!!!
    The blog and trip are a work of genius.....well done sir.
    Yep, that's a pretty accurate description. Thanks mate.


    Quote Originally Posted by David Perry View Post
    Another quality Blogg Mal. Lovely varied photos and well told.

    The young people must have had a life enhancing adventure. Hopefully they'll remember these sort of adventures - and really appreciate the effort you took, when they are older too.
    I'm sure they will remember them. Hopefully in a good way!!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Newbond View Post
    Another classic, if slightly bonkers blogg.

    I went up Stac Pollaidh a few years ago and took a long lingering look at the landscape from on high.
    You're right, it's a spectacular area and your fantastic pictures really show it at its best.
    Cheers mate.


    Quote Originally Posted by tonym View Post
    Read this last week and to be totaly honest i think that your all a bit "Radio Rental" as always immense literature and stunning photographic evidence to cement the pure beauty of such a vast wild wilderness.

    Wouldn't be surprised if you receive a call from the childline authorities as what you put those poor children through is not too short of slave labour
    Hah. There were quite a few comments to that effect, but to be fair to the Pirates, they volunteered to carry stuff!
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    Great story and pics of your annual adventure as always Mal.
    Atb Terry

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    A very entertaining read, and a journey to remember, kudos to the salty pirate flotilla.

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    I've also written up a version for The Paddler magazine; https://joom.ag/1kCe/p40

    Some other great stuff in there too, including an interview with Sir Ray the Godfather.
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