Just back from a weeks holiday, the first 3 days of which were spent of the Spey. Unfortunately my work system doesn't allow me to access photobucket, so I can't attach any images (if the Blogg reads a bit strangely it's probably because there are images in the original word doc.). If I'm very nice to Amelia, perhaps she'll post some up for me again .
Spey Trip 19th – 21st May 2006
Day 1 Loch Insch – Cromdale
Having done the shuttle to Speybay the previous day, Eric & I left Clive Freshwaters centre on Loch Insch at about 09:30 - & proceeded to spend the day paddling into a headwind of varying strengths. A slight contrast to the previous day, when a southerly had been blasting up the loch from the opposite direction!
The section down to Aviemore was easy enough, with the bonus that the strainer present last year had been removed, so that we had clear passage. The section down to Grantown felt as long as usual, not helped by the presence of the wind…
Just before Grantown we hit both a heavy shower of rain, which had us diving for the shelter of the road bridge, but also some incredibly thick swarms of something like Mayflies. Opening your mouth was hazardous! There definitely seemed to a bit more water flowing through Grantown than last April & dodging the rocks was far less stressful – though this was compensated for by the need to constantly clear flies from the eyes in order to see..
Around Cromdale we stopped for the night at a wild camp that Eric had assured me was "90% certain" & which he’d heard about on the grapevine. I think that he was a relieved as I was when it turned out to be as promised – with the added benefit of a rustic tripod already in place.
Soon had the tarp up & a fire going.
Day 2 Cromdale – Craigellachie
A dry morning & we were on the water for a reasonable time, still having seen no-one apart from the ever-present anglers. This changed just before Blacks Boat, where we caught up with a group of rafters/kayakers & slipped through the first small rapid behind them, trying hard to look (to the anglers) as if we were no part of them! Lines through the rapid were complicated by overgrown lilos everywhere, so Eric finally opted for the sideways line through the small hole at the bottom. I opted to switch from right to left of the river to avoid it, which resulted in an interesting expression on the attendant kayaker when he looked up from tending his charge to see an open boat hurtling towards him – don’t think that he was convinced we were under control! We stopped in the pool at the bottom & fired up the Kelly Kettle for a brew so that the lilos could get through Blacks Boat & Knockandu before us.
Eric wanted to get a couple of photos of me coming through Blacks Boat, so I eddied out on the right while he went down & got into position. As a result I misjudged the entry slightly & ended up on a river right line, as opposed to the usual wave avoiding river left. Did mean that I was closer to the camera though….
Once again Knockandu seemed slightly easier that Black Boat, as we slipped down the left side of the top chute
and through the wave-train.
The next few rapids provided some bouncy diversion, until the final one, where I had an appointment with a large hole that I was determined to miss (Last year I hit it full on & half-filled the boat.) Hole identified from about half-way down I decided to miss it on the right & strenuously back ferried that way. A bit late in the day I realised that it wasn’t working & changed to a left ferry since the current was trying to take me there anyway. As it dawned on me that the hole was keener on keeping the appointment than I was I back stroked hard & slipped into the left hand side before switching to a power-stroke to take me out again. Only took about a bucketful on board this time, & emptying was for comfort rather than stability reasons, so I must be learning something. Eric was in front & happened to look back as I exited the hole. Unfortunately I had the camera, but he did say that the sight of the Intrigue appearing vertically from the hole with the front half airborne looked quite impressive!
From here down to Craigellaichie things were nice & relaxed. We egressed below the bridge, hauled the boats up to the old railway line & trolleyed along to set up camp in the public camp ("it’s ok " insisted Eric " I checked with the Speyside Way Ranger"). The occupants of the only other tent proved, when they returned from a visit to the distillery, to be Dave & Angus, crew of the Discovery that we’d noticed at the waters edge. They were quite impressed when we proceeded to erect the tarp for shelter from the rain & turned the park into a tinkers camp.
After we’d all eaten, we adjourned to the Fiddich Inn for a couple of pints in an atmosphere unchanged since the 1940’s. It was a bit disconcerting though when the rest of the clientele left as we walked in. "But I had a wash before I came out" wailed Dave, while Eric & I looked guiltily at each other as we considered two days accumulation of sweat & woodsmoke.
Day 3 Craigellachie – Spey Bay
Shamed into action by Dave & Angus’s early departure (they had a shuttle to meet at 13:00), we reluctantly agreed that there was insufficient water in the Fiddich for a seal launch & followed them onto the Spey half an hour later. One of the delights of the Spey is that the river seems to speed up as it reaches the sea & there is a continuous series of small rapids all the way to the get-out. Being a Sunday there was also an absence of anglers to avoid – although the interest of a "Smolt Trap". Wanting to visit the viewpoint above the cliffs I shouted to Eric that we should break out here – and promptly did so. Eric thought I was just playing in the big eddies at this point, so he continued to play his way downstream! Being of the firm opinion that canoeing is about enjoying the journey & being in no hurry, we stopped just below this set of rapids for another Kelly brew-up.
The channel through the shingle banks to the sea was quite obvious this time, although still with the weird boils & swirlings of water around the cliff. A lot of trees swept down by the winter floods were forming blockages & strainers along the edges of the river & the old railway bridge was particularly well endowed with a collection of debris.
There was no eddy to pull into at Speybay, so it was a case of beaching the boats & scrambling out of them before the accelerating current took them off for a sea voyage. We met up with the other two for lunch at the café & Angus’s wife/shuttle driver assured that we didn’t really smell too bad!
After lunch we headed back to Loch Insch for more tea & cakes at the café (they had looked after my car after all) before splitting up – Eric heading south down the A9 for home & myself heading north for another week of adventuring in Assynt.