Scottish Paddling Week – February 2012

Picking the Bones out of the Haggis

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The funny little man with the baked beans on his jumper agreed that the river was at a low level before spiriting away Christine and Lois into his egg stained lair.

So the first river(s) of an epic Scottish Rivers tour was to be the Roy and then onto the Spean.

The Roy was a bit of a scrape with some interesting sections that caught one or two of us out (ahem!) meandering around beautiful valleys with big birds overhead waiting to pick off anyone pinned to a rock.

One of the highlights here was Les wrestling with an overhanging tree that had dared to snatch away his trusty paddle – needless to say the tree lost in the end !!

We decided to continue onto the Spean with the hope it had more water in it – it didn’t. After a few further scrapes and the odd portage most were getting tired and this was to prove my downfall.

After Jess and I had followed Rob down a very passable section of river, the rest had gone down a boat grater and as everyone even­tually made their way down to us I was still wiping laughter tears from my eyes. My river karma had been activated !!! Within a whis­ker of our finish I bobbled over a rapid no bigger than a kerb and bit the bullet – this would be the first of four swims that would eventu­ally see me crowned swimmer of the week !!.

Paddling the Awe the next day, joined by Roger, was to be much more like the paddling I had envisaged and gave Ian the opportu­nity to test his new ‘Bigalo’ sport glasses. The top section provided a challenge picking our way through a boulder field with Les stand­ing atop a pinner and helping through those with the wrong line. My only mistake in this section was to prematurely turn my helmet cam off as Les spectacularly star-jumped into the wet. The first true rub­ber duck moment of the trip so far !!

The hole around half way down provided plenty of excitement, photo opportunities and re-runs and also another couple of notches on the swimmer tally !!

Sadly, Mark and Shim couldn’t join us the rest of the week and saw the Etive with little water and too many exposed rocks. I was sort of relieved after viewing Rob’s footage from a previous visit and losing sleep over the thought of going over the waterfalls. Most folk went for a walk, cycle or to the pub but the die hards (Vicks, Roger and Les) decided on a paddle on Loch Levin.

A fairly lengthy drive to the River Tay was in store for Wednesday’s paddle. Red kites circled overhead on the gentle Tay before big fun was had in even bigger water further downstream at the Grandtully rapids.

The Nevis on Thursday was my favourite river of the trip for the qual­ity of paddling and the stunning scenery. It started immediately with a grade 3 section of which most were wary of until I went down it back­wards showing a unique ‘other’ line (talk about nipping my boat seat !!).

Snow covered mountains towered all around us and Highland cattle grazed by the riverside as we made our way down through various rapids to Roaring Mill.

This would have kept Carol Vorderman on her toes as the swimming tally kept totting up. Les, Jess & Rob picked their way through the carnage with the confidence of, erm, confident paddlers. Craig (only just), Simon (twice!) and I (very quickly) tested our drysuits and ev­eryone’s throwline skills (especially Sarah who plucked a few ‘float­ers’ out).

The last day saw us scouting the Western Highlands for bigger water but to no avail so we settled on another trip down the Awe. Christine made a last ditch effort to clinch the swimmer of the week title but on the last evening with home cooked food and plenty of bevvies for all the prize was mine all mine. My precious!

Then would you believe it? It absolutely bounced it down !!!!!

A massive thank you must go to Les for organising the whole memmo­rable trip and fishing us out of the white stuff when needed.