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Archive for July, 2018

Trossachs and Farewell – July 12

On Thursday morning, I hit the wall. I was tired of packing, unpacking, shuffling, repacking. I was cranky (maybe a little bit unhappy as our trip was coming to an end). It didn’t help that the room had been a million degrees and the shower kept randomly dripping through the night. You know what Scotland doesn’t have a lot of? Air conditioning!

Anyway, there I was cramming stuff into the suitcase for the next to the last time (Hooray!) so we could head back towards Edinburgh.

Chad thought that it would be nice to take a meandering drive through The Trossachs since the weather was iffy, instead of planning something that could be spoiled by rain. The carrot he dangled to captain grumpy here, was that we could get some geocaches along the way. There was one problem with that carrot – I didn’t have data on this trip. While I could download the caches, once we were in the car I didn’t have maps to help me to figure out where the caches actually were, all I could see was that they seemed to be right off the road.  Only there was no access point – turns out there was a long trail that we couldn’t see. So much for that idea!

The Trossachs were lovely. Although by this time I was tired and anxious to just be done with the driving portion of our day.

We did stop at Loch Cho for a geocache. At which time I was attached by midges.

It was awful! Loch Cho was quite nice, though.

Not long thereafter we found ourselves back in Edinburgh strolling along the Royal Mile to the Jolly Judge, which greatly improved my mood! Also, it was Cider Fest/Tap Take Over!

My mood was further improved by having some fancy gin drinks and dinner at Holyrood 9A before heading to our hotel to re-pack for the last time.

So long Scotland, you were lovely as always. We’ll be back. And next time we won’t move every night. For real this time. For real.

chris on July 12th 2018 in Travel

Eigg-o-rific – July 11


We awoke to the distinct sounds of rain on the skylight. It was early and bright – because that’s how it is here. I looked at Chad who had clearly been awake for a while. “I’m not hiking An Sgurr today.” He didn’t seem exactly disappointed.

The only thing we really had planned today was to meet Gabe, one of the Laig Bay brewers at the Brewery. We had no idea where it was. So, we put on our still damp clothes, packed up and biked down into town, seeking additional sustenance and hot beverages, plus directions to the Brewery.

Once fortified with fresh backed biscuits and other delicious things, we hopped on our bikes and headed out. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand where we were going and Chad who had gotten directions, was having a bit of a time navigating using the map on hand.

After a few misadventures we realized that A. we were going in the wrong direction but B. we were close to Massacre Cave – so we went to Massacre Cave.

The story is, the islanders would hole up in this cave in times of trouble. So, when another clan came to take vengeance, all 300 inhabitants of the island ran to their hide out. Unfortunately, the invaders knew of it and set a fire at the (quite small) mouth of the cave, effectively suffocating everyone. So, good stuff!

There was another couple just coming out of the cave when we arrived, they announced that it was dry once you got through the first bit. So in we went!

It was really neat, although I have a hard time imagining 300 people huddled inside.

Now, onward to the Brewery. I may have mentioned earlier that I haven’t really done much biking in years. Riding this bike UP and down hills, and over lumpy trails was rough. I was soaked with sweat. All I could think about was getting off the bike, drying off and putting on my jeans (those hiking pants were getting pretty ripe).

FINALLY at long last we were there. Oh sweet Jesus. And then we had to climb a gate. You’ve got to be kidding me.

Gabe was super nice and chatted with us for a while, sending us back with four bottles of beer. And here I thought I was going to lighten my pack by leaving him the beer we’d brought!

We still had plenty of time before the ferry arrived, so we struck out for the ruin of the township of Upper Grulin  which was settled probably between the 18th & mid-19th centuries and cleared in 1853 to make way for sheep.

To get there we pedaled through a sheep fold. The sheep were unimpressed with our biking, as was I to be honest. At the gate we abandoned our bikes and headed the rest of the way on foot. I was so happy to ditch that thing. Oh my gosh I am so out of biking shape!

We walked past an old bothy that was in the process of being renovated. We’d try to rent a similar one for our stay, but were out of luck.

The ruins were quite grown over, but still easily visible. Chad picked a little pinnacle and after settling in, I read about the area so we knew what we were seeing – aside from stone walls and a great view of An Sgurr.

Like just about every other spot we’d been on the island, it was beautiful and lovely and worth hanging around for a while. Which we did. (Not in small part because I did not want to have to get back on that bike any time soon.)

After returning to the port and finally turning our bikes in, we sat outside (with what was probably half the island) and had a Laig Bay Brewing beer (or maybe two) waiting for the ferry to come in.

Thank you, Eigg. It has been a true joy. With An Sgurr still to be climbed and quite a few places left unexplored we will most certainly be back!


chris on July 11th 2018 in Travel

Eigg-celent! – July 10

What I like about the Eigg pedestrian ferry:

  1. It doesn’t leave early.
  2. The Captain stops and turns for puffin sightings.
  3. Doggos!
  4. You only need to show up 15 prior to departure.
  5. Upon arrival at Eigg, half the island is at the port waiting.

In port, Chad ran into our AirBnB hostess, who happened to be leaving for Glasgow for the rest of the week. The Caravan is unlocked, she told us. And feel free to put any of your stuff in the refrigerator in the kitchen, the door is open. (By open she literally meant, wide open.) Oh, and if it rains, try to dry the dog’s feet off before he runs in the house or just shut the door.

That was our introduction to the Isle of Eigg, population just over 100.

To be clear, our lodging was a Caravan in the back garden of a house in the Cleadale part of Eigg. We had no real idea what this meant, but at $44 for the night, it seemed like a good deal, or at least far better than a tent. Our directions to the caravan ended with, “It’s the only blue Caravan.” So basically, if we got confused and took the left too early and came across a caravan in someone’s back garden, if it wasn’t blue, it wasn’t ours.

And to clarify, in case you’re confused like I was. The Caravan is in fact a small pull behind camper. I was thinking it was one of the oh-so trendy modern gypsy wagon caravans, which seem to be popping up all over AirBnB. (If only those included Gypsy Varners so you could take your wagon for a ride.)

To make travel around the island easier, we rented two mountain bikes, shouldered our rather heavy backpacks – plus Chad got to pack the cooler in as well – and headed off and UP. I should mention we were both wearing jeans and that it was a bit muggy and very sunny. Not the typical Scottish weather everyone goes on and on about. And most certainly not the type of weather I want to experience riding a bike while wearing jeans.

Also, I haven’t biked much on flat recently, let along on hills with a fully laden backpack (4 bottles of beer, three 12oz and one 750ml), sitting on the most uncomfortably bike seat I have encountered. I was drenched by the time I crested the first hill. It wasn’t long before my sweater was a goner and I was desperate enough to consider pulling over and changing into the only other pants I’d brought – my previously worn hiking pants. But I didn’t, not so much because I have some dignity, but because I’d have had to dig them out from the very bottom of my pack.

Finally arriving at blue Caravan in back garden, we were greeted by the house dog (I swear I thought I heard someone say his name was Wooflan…) and found the Caravan unlocked and the house door indeed wide open. 

Ok. So we’re here. We’re now thankfully NOT wearing jeans. What shall we do? Shall we ride back down into town and over to the trailhead for An Sgurr and hike it? Then ride BACK UP to our lodging? Or how about we do little exploring that involves riding bikes up slightly less hills? Maybe go over to the Singing Sands, grab the geocache that should be along the way? Not sweat to death?

Yes. Yes, that sounds like a far better plan. Far, far better. So, now about finding the trail to Singing Sands.

So the thing we struggle with in Scotland is remembering that just because there’s a gate on a road or trail, does not mean you must turn back. Those are most often there to keep the sheep or cows on one side, and to let those of us with opposable thumbs through. It took us about three failed attempts before I stopped to read a description of the trail that said, “Go through the gate.” Oh. My mistake. Alternatively, we could have just looked for the bikes piled up by said gate.

Bikes ditched we headed on the trail through the sheep fold. I’d figured out the answers to the geocache that would presumably give me the right coordinates. And it was relatively close to the trail. Only there was nowhere to hide anything substantial. We wandered around and finally consulted the hint. Um, yeah so I messed up somewhere.

Fair enough, we headed on to the beach and I figured I’d take a look at my math later (I screw up the easiest math puzzles, often times due to transposing numbers – spoiler alert!).

Singing Sands was breathtaking!

And we had it nearly to ourselves and then, shortly thereafter, completely to ourselves!

We waded in the surf and the tidal pools.

Checked out the caves and the natural arch.

And yes, the sand does sing when you walk on it.

I cannot express how much I love standing in the sand, water lapping at my feet, and looking up to the hills. It may be the perfect combination.

After a quick review I determined I had transposed the geocaching coordinates when I plugged them into my Garmin. Duh. Fixed that and as we headed back to our bikes we stopped to find the cache. I’d read the log prior to packing our bags to come to Eigg, so I knew the cache needed maintenance as it had gotten all soppy. Luckily I was somewhat prepared with a Rite in the Rain notebook and ziplock bags! Hey oh! Cache maintenance for good karma! While I did that, Chad sat on the rock and read his book.

After a short respite, the floofer took us for a walk down to Laig Bay Beach where we encountered beach cows – an entire herd – which was a completely new experience!

Not wanting to bike DOWN into town for a beer and then back UP to the caravan, Chad decided that we should hike up to God’s Finger. The trailhead was practically across the road from us, so it seemed like a solid decision.

It was straight up. Up. Up. Up. In very tall weeds. So of course I was on high tick alert!

Once we got to the point where we could stop climbing and walk on some flat, Chad wanted to explore further. It was hard to argue, so we followed some sheep up a trail and soon had a great view!

It was beautiful – the heather was gorgeous, contrasted beautifully against the varying shades of green. It also looked an awful lot the same in all directions. Which was when I began to be slightly freaked out because I didn’t have my Garmin with me and the mapping app on my phone wasn’t giving me a tracklog.

So there we were, surrounded by all this beauty and all I could think, as I looked over and saw the clouds rolling in, was “I do not want to be that stupid tourist who gets lots and has to either be rescued or dies of exposure due to being a dumbass.”

It was not a good spot to be in mentally. Not at all. But wait! Another app worked in a pinch to at least give me a track, although there were no maps. But hey, it’s better than nothing!

Chad wanted to continue to the higher points of the ridge so he could look across and see Arisaig Bay. So onward we kept going and suddenly finally found ourselves in the bog. Yep, it took us until we got to the top of the hillside on Eigg to finally find a bog. Squish. Oh, did I mention that our extra shoes were sitting in the car in Arisaig? Well, they were.

Heading back, the clouds I’d seen covering the far end of the island had reached us and it started to rain. And rain some more.

So, there we are, Chad in his waterproof pants, waterproof boots and rain jacket. Me in my rain jacket, no-longer-waterproof shoes, and water-resistant pants. Which is to say, I was soaked from where the rain jacket stopped to my toes!

As we lay there in the caravan, watching the beach cows make their way past, we decided to get up early tomorrow and make for An Sgurr.

LOADS of photos in the gallery for viewing….clickity click! 

chris on July 10th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel

On the Sea – Arisaig July 9

Like the previous day, we were up early to head out. Not 5 am early, but still early. We had to be in Arisaig for a 10 am sea kayaking adventure. No rest for the wicked, the weary or the vacationing if you do it our way! We were using the same outfitter as last time, so at least we were ahead of the game in knowing where it was. I look for small victories in the morning, very small victories! 

Once again we lucked out and had quite a small group – 7 including our guide. We had a family from Norway and a guy from London. He told me a dreadful story about kayaking in London in a river (no, not the Thames) where there’s loads of trash including dead pigeons. But that’s not the worst part, apparently a lot of beginning kayakers go there and somehow manage to flip their kayaks multiple times! The first time I landed in dead pigeon water would make me a fast learner of how not to flip my kayak! It makes my natural aversion to West Virginia river water, which has thus far yielded no dead pigeons, seem rather silly.

The area around Arisaig is a seal nursery so we saw loads of them, including mom seals with their babies on their back. Which…super squee!

Watching them flop around trying to get to the water is hilarious. They are definitely NOT graceful on land, more like extremely large slugs.

I even had a baby seal swim under the front of my kayak!

The paddle was fairly uneventful, if you discount floating amongst seals, until we headed out into the more open water which was choppy! As we paddled along in the troughs and swells, I kept thinking “So, should I flip this thing and not be able to roll back up (likely), and have to do a wet escape what the hell am I going to do? It’s cold. The water is quick. This is how it ends.” (Although to be honest, I was pretty sure I was going to die sliding down the shortcut of Ben Nevis, as well, so take it all with a grain of salt.)

We reached a piece of water sheltered by a few small islands and our guide asked us if we wanted to go into more open water (obvious from the looks on all our faces that was a big NO) or if we wanted to turn back the way we came, have the wind at our backs and surf back in. Confused silence. And I spoke up and said, let’s go with the surfing bit, as it seemed far less likely to involve me rolling my kayak.

(the following photo is NOT taken anywhere near the area being mentioned in the current narration)

What happens when you’re the slowest paddler is when your group turns around, you suddenly find yourself in front and the guinea pig to try the surfing! Hooray me! As instructed, I thought I was paddling pretty hard. Apparently I was not, since our guide pulled up beside me and basically said you’re gonna have to paddle so hard your arms will fall off tonight. Good enough.

I do admit, surfing was fun – plus upper body workout!

This was our paddling route. 

Once back on land, we took a little walk around Arisaig to check out an old cemetery. Turns out there were six graves of sailors from the H.M.S. Curacoa, which was involved in a very sad accident.

Here’s a rundown of the accident: On the morning of 2 October 1942, Curacoa rendezvoused north of Ireland with the ocean liner Queen Mary, which was carrying approximately 10,000 American troops of the 29th Infantry Division. Each captain had different interpretations of The Rule of the Road believing his ship had the right of way. Queen Mary struck Curacoa amidships at full speed, cutting the cruiser in half. The aft end sank almost immediately, but the rest of the ship stayed on the surface a few minutes longer. Lost with Curacoa were 337 officers and men of her crew.

So, now that we’re all depressed, I’ll end with this. When you’re staying so close to a mussel farm, that you’ve paddled by it twice, you’re pretty much obligated to have mussels for dinner. And they were delicious!


chris on July 9th 2018 in Animals, Travel