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Handa Island

Finally we were free to leave. We had a great panoramic paddle between Old Man of Stoer and Handa.
Wish you were here cos there’s no WiFi.

Retail therapy on Summer Isles

In times of low, there is always retail therapy to turn to. And so to improve our mood we hitchhiked to Ullapool on Thursday morning. We had nice coffee and bought lots of yummy food to bring back on school bus. It was a very interesting experience, which made me realised that no, I don’t miss my work just yet.

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Comfort buying is what distinguishes retail therapy from ordinary shopping, and so I have one of my comfort buys to share with you. Pretty, only how would it fit into my already full dry bags and where am I going to wear it?

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But retail therapy works only for short while, so the day then resulted in the two articles, Czech and English. And none of us had good night sleep.

Friday was much better. Many of you sent us messages via blog, face book, phone or email. We are very thankful for them. It wasn’t easy to keep distance and perspective on the whole think but we think we got there now. Yes it was just small group of people who got maybe jealous or maybe just misunderstood our concept. There was a prominent voice of the one kayaker, and he still continued in sending us message in similar tone yesterday, but we do laugh at it now.
We are also overwhelmed by the support we received. We knew that our friends were reading our blog (compulsory) and then few other people did, too (fantastic), but so many? To see all this support really motivates us to continue with this journey, and hopefully it won’t scare us and change our perception and writing.

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So while we were still a bit low yesterday we went for walk. In the end we are in a very beautiful place of Summer Isles. We admired them already during our arrival on Wednesday and took time to paddle past and around few of them.

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The first island we passed was Priest Island. We had lunch there, but psst, don’t tell the R.S.P.B.it use dot be a favourite hunt for smugglers. The name of the island is apparently due to a priest using it as his retreat. Another story talks about Lochbroom priest who used it and isolated punishment island for licentious monks during medieval times.
Also an sheep-stealing outlaw was banished here by people from Coigach, but later was accepted back to the mainland society.

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Stac Mhic Aonghais
It is named after Angus Kerr from Coigach,who having dishonoured the daughter of a respected local family, was apprehended and left to perks on this small rock.
People regularly came to check on him. Once, although they removed the pears from their boat, Kerr managed to slip unnoticed, took the boat and drifted to the mainland near Stoer Head. Here he proclaimed himself as progenitor of the Kerrs of Assynt.

Tanera Mor
Is the largest of Summer Isles. It’s history stretches 1000 years into the Vikings times and was known as “Hawraray” – the island of haven, and used as their hiding place and base for mainland raids.
There is also a tale of a legendary treasure still buried here waiting to be discovered by a “one-eyed” Macleod.
In 18 and 19th century Tanera was widely populated, but by the beginning of the 20th century only two families remained.
Today there is a cafe, holiday homes and a post office.

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Our campsite has a view of Risol Island. It used to have a fishing and curing station and inn for seamen.

Also we befriended local pig.

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And since the weather wasn’t suitable for paddling, we at least tried some flying instead.

We hope to be backbone water on Sunday and finally making some progress towards the north.

A day off

Today we didn’t paddle. We woke up needing to think things over. It wasn’t just the wind forecast that needed our attention. Yes, it was predicted F4 – 5, 6 later, headwind, but if we wanted, we could set off, and make a slow progress. Unfortunately there were other things on our minds, which made us feeling very low and demotivated at times.

TILTING AT WINDMILLS

The story is long. It started at the beginning of our kayaking. Discovering that the UK can offer not only great traditional climbing but also seakayaking, made us feel fortunate, in the end there is no sea around the Czech Republic, and never before did we think that sea kayaking would had had any chance there. How mistaken we were. It was Jeff Allen who first told us about someone, Petr Major, who was Czech and kayaked. He was actually the first Czech, or so we believe, to embark on Britain Circumnavigation. He made it over half way, from Dover to Portree. What an inspiration!
Slowly we started to be interested in what’s happening on the seakayaking scene at home. Actually there was a lot of happening, just the writing about it wasn’t as great as in the UK.
Czech people paddled in Alaska, South America, Greenland. They are making traditional, skin on frame kayaks, and fibreglass ones, too. Others are making great carbon paddles, one of which we are using now, and greenland paddles. There are symposiums and competitions. These we saw as great achievements considering the handicap.
And so, when we set off on our journey and started our blog, we thought nothing of writing it in English and Czech. We were actually thinking how cool this would be.
Such was our naivety. Already the first sings should have warned us. As you all know we needed some support to be able to pull this whole thing off. But the idea of sponsorship was widely criticised among the Czech audience. Never mind, we thought, paddling will reunite us all.
And so, half way through we are beaten up. There is such thing as a Facebook sea kayaking group, but compare to the British ones, is very quiet. Well, we said, we would do the same as with the UK one, we write something and put it up. But the Czechs are tough crowd. And all we have been hearing are harsh words, rejections and complains that we are spamming the quiet life of the group.
Patience, we thought. Opinion of just few people can’t deter us from our good intentions. But slowly more and more people are sending us rude and sometimes threatening messages. We were coping till yesterday. Then one of the leading expedition kayakers send us a response to our request of help and advice saying:”Hi Michal, I would like to help you, but I think that with your writing you have PISSED OFF many Czech kayakers. It would be better if you stop bothering people and instead of writing you would start to enjoy paddling. I am so pissed off by your spam, that I wanted to resign from the group where you’re posting. Nothing against you, but what you are doing, is not sea kayaking but WiFi paddling.”
After reading this, we have to admit, we felt lower that we would ever imagine we would feel on this trip.

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The hidden world of bothies

“A bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge.”

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We heard about them, but as their location not usually publicised we didn’t know where to look for them. We just hoped that on our way around Scotland, we will come across at least one.
Thanks to Johnny and Bruce we discovered two. The first one we visited yesterday morning,where we not only met with B & J again, but also with Alison from seakayaking Plockton and two of her clients.

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Actually we met Alison earlier that morning while camping on a beach close to her house. She was very sorry she missed us last night and couldn’t invite us to stay in her house. But we are always happy to come next time.

B & J shared the location of the next bothy and we parted our ways only to be reunited at Applecross Inn. We aimed much further than the bothy place, but yet again, our companion North Easterly made us to adjust the goal.

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And so we had first experience of a bothy. Great!

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Today we set off with another ambitious plan, and felt sorry we wouldn’t be able to stay at Rhuba Reidh Lighthouse, about which we found on Joe’s blog, as we were to pass it around lunchtime.

We listened to forecast at 1pm which predicted NE F4 to 5 for the next 2 days, we had F3, so thought nothing of it. The forecast was right, soon the wind picked up and the sea changed to predicted moderate.
We were passing incredible cliffs and headlands with lost of caves, arches and other formations. Unfortunately we could not go closer or enjoy it longer as the wind was getting stronger and waves bigger, close to solid F6.

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We have climbed over many moving hills when the lighthouse came into view. We attempted to pass it to reach the slipway, but the waves were getting even bigger and sharper and hitting directly the north side of the headland where the slipway is. We didn’t like at all and decided to turn back and land on yet another big boulders beach on lest exposed west side of the lighthouse. We coming back with such a huge following sea was very exciting but fortunately uneventful.

The boulders were so huge that it needed some quick thinking action. I saw people watching us paddling, so went up to the lighthouse to look for help. After politely answering the question about where our car was ( sorry, Garry) two guys came to give us a hand. They were brilliant and the boats were on shore in no time. They saved us at least an hour of struggle and emotions. Thank you Garry and Alex.

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Seventy days on and …..

Today it’s been seventy days since we left London. Today wasn’t easy. We overslept, then Michal opened the wrong packet and instead of soup ( yes, we know, but we like it), cooked a sauce which is normally used with meat. So breakfast was a disaster. We had to get boats on the water over some bigger boulders. My knees chose to hurt with every step this morning and the boats were so heavy, that I struggled to lift them.

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In the end we managed to set of only for the headwind to start after first stroke. It was getting emotional.
Michal wisely decided to stop for lunch before trying to get to the next headland, which may have been anything between one hour and three.
While we were having lunch we saw some kayakers. They fast approached and landed. Each of them pulled their boat up easily. Some local youngsters, we thought. Then we started to chat. They, Johnny and Bruce, were part of the group of students from St Andrew´s who are circumnavigating Scotland in stages, with Johnny doing the whole circle.

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Their energy and enthusiasm rubbed on us a bit and we left feeling refreshed, even thinking that we may reach Applecross in the end ( we’ve been trying since yesterday).
The positive feeling lasted only a little bit, although we left them at the beginning of their lunch, in an hour they overtook us. The day just got back to being, well, hard.
We made it through Kyle Rhea, and our hope that we would had enough time to reach the bridge before the tide turns grew. Not for long.
As soon as we entered the Loch Alsh the headwind joined in at solid F5. Only the sight of the Skye bridge made us to push. And just as we made it under the bridge, the tide turned. We decided not to cross towards Applecross in the headwind and spent an hour looking for place to camp.
We found it in the end. Calm and no wind, bliss? No, just lots of midges. What else to say, today was a hard work.

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