Amazing photography from Michal Sur - thanks!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

An interview with the EBD!

'So Eleanor, what was your favourite part of the journey?'
'I liked the bit between Neptune's Staircase and Gairlochy because it was pretty and quiet'.
'And the scariest moment?'
'The scariest bit was definitely Loch Ness on the second day when we had to pull in.'
'What were you thinking then?'
'Would you do it again?'

'James, what was your favourite bit?'
'From the top of Neptune's Staircase to Fort Augustus. This was a beautiful part of the journey with little bits of challenge. I like the way the kayak sits very close to the water - it's nice most of the time, and occasionally a little scary when the waves build up!'
'Were there any scary moments for you?'
'No, not really, although the exceptionally large waves on the second day on Loch Ness were pretty challenging, especially with Eleanor on board.'
'And would you do it again?
'I could give Loch Ness a miss, but I'd love to paddle from Banavie to Fort Augustus again.'

Two stars and a wish for the Kayak.

You may - or may not - know what I'm on about with the two stars and a wish thing. It was Eleanor's idea to review the performance of the kayak by giving it two stars and a wish. It's something they do at school - say two things which are good about something and then one thing to make it even better so ...

Eleanor says... my stars are that the kayak was very stable and good on the waves. My wish is that we could keep it!

James says... my stars are that the kayak does not catch the wind and tracks very well. Like Eleanor, my wish is that we could keep it for another adventure.

The Support Team says... my stars are that the kayak kept the EBD safe and gave them so much challenge and fun. My wish is that there was room for me, (on the calm bits!).

James adds that 'the kayak has proved to be one of the few bits of equipment that as soon as you got it, you knew it was going to do what you wanted it to do. Each morning when Eleanor and I climbed into the kayak and picked up our paddles any worries I might have had about the weather disappeared - I knew the kayak could cope. The kayak felt very professional. I trusted that it would be safe, not just with me, but with Eleanor on board it had to be doubly good - and it was.' James likes gadgets and good quality kit and is a dad who likes to keep his Eleanor safe - so praise indeed.

A Kayak's eye view part 2.

The first part of the canal above Laggan Locks travels through tall evergreens before linking up with Loch Oich - I have to admit to feeling rather envious as I watched the EBD set off on this stretch of the journey - it looked so secret and mysteriously beautiful - and the water was calm enough for me not to worry about them! I think their photograph says it all.

Loch Oich was a fun section of the journey, water conditions fine with lots of little islands to explore and a few tour boats to navigate.

It will be no surprise to you that there are no photographs from the first two days on Loch Ness, but when the unbeatable EBD put into the loch to paddle the last few km to Loch Dochfour, they did manage to get some pictures which help to show what James meant when he described Loch Ness as oppressive. I'm sure it can be glorious, but Loch Ness showed us its greyer, gloomy and more threatening side. Interestingly the Loch was in direct contrast to the amazingly kind and encouraging folk that we met along it's shores.

Loch Dochfour to the North Sea was an easy paddle only interrupted by endless locks and portage sections. the last few photos give an idea of what the EBD saw along the way - wrecks, birds and boats.

A kayak's eye view part 1.

Hello again! I thought you might be interested in seeing the EBD's journey from a kayak's eye view. Like me you will have followed their adventure with feet firmly on solid ground - I have so many pictures of the EBD putting kayak together, setting off, arriving ... so now we are home and have more or less acclimatised to 'normal' life, I've downloaded pictures from James' camera to see what they were up to when they paddled out of sight!
As you will appreciate, there were several moments when it was impossible for the EBD to mess around with clever photography - after all, when the weather - and waves - get tough, the tough have to keep hold of their paddles! And of course there were times when their hands were full of oaty bars, chocolate and sheep. What I'm trying to say is, sorry, we don't have a very extensive series of kayak's eye view pics, but hopefully enough to give you an idea of what it would have been like if YOU had been sitting in the kayak!

First picture is typical of what I spent a lot of time doing - the kayak, the car, the support team fiddling around with a map or something, in the car park as we set off from Corpach Sea Lock by Fort William.

As I was busy cycling up the wrong side of the canal, the EBD went off with the camera and watched a yacht coming through Neptune's Staircase at Banavie.

Eleanor's favourite part of the journey is shown in photo 3 - a peaceful section of the canal between Banavie and Moy bridge. The road swings away from the canal here and makes for quiet paddling through woods and farmland.

An atmospheric picture at the start of Loch Lochy.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Last day. Muirtown Locks to the North Sea.

Now many, if not most, folk who decide to paddle across Scotland, arrive at the top of Muirtown Locks, have a wee peek at the sea - by foot - pack up their kayak and go home. I mean - what's 1.7km when you have paddled nearly 100km - well it's the difference between being purist about this whole trip and .. well not being so purist .. and I'm sure you can guess where James stands on this one .. so ... the last 1.7km.

Here we go - and the reason I didn't have the strength to write about this last night was because it took us nearly three hours to travel this last section!

First of all - Muirtown Locks themselves. If you remember back a week or so to Neptune' s Staircase at Banavie, Muirtown represents the east coast equivalent - so the first thing the EBD required was a set of wheels. I couldn't face unpacking the car and assembling my bike, (the cold is taking hold and support team energy is low) but we found a grand set of 'Boy's Own Manual' style wheels to portage the kayak past the locks, across a reasonably busy road, across the swing bridge, through a gate, down a track and onto the pontoon at Muirtown basin.

Here waiting for us was the Inverness Press and Journal photographer - which was quite amusing if a little embarrassing - but as Armin has already spotted we have made it into the newspapers! (Thanks for the press release Mark!).

The EBD paddled the basin against a brisk north westerly wind and pulled out at Works Lock for the next portage challenge. Past the lock, along a track, across the railway line and the final sea gate was in sight.

By now the wind was whipping up the waves on the last wee section of canal to Clacknaharry Sea Gate and the rain was back - but nothing that these guys couldn't conquer. No pontoon to get back onto the canal here, so we carefully lowered the kayak onto the water, in they climbed and paddled up to the sea gate - they were there at last ... "but hang on you two - the water isn't salty - I thought this expedition was salt to salt."


Out with the kayak, across the canal path, down the rocks, across the SEAweed and onto the Beauly Firth and the North Sea - Yep - salty water!

It was sad to pack up the kayak and stow it away in it's bag for the last time, (as predicted Nick, the EBD don't want to give it back), but we indulged in some ridiculous end of trip photos first.

I'm sure there will be some reflective blog posts to follow and we will let you all know the final total for our fundraising, but just for now the EBD and support team want to say a big thank you to everyone who has sponsored us, encouraged us and shared our amazing journey. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as us, (but don't feel as weary).

Lots of love to all

from the EBD and me!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Last Day. Last Homework...?

It's nearly 10pm and it's time to get back to the camp site but I'm going to let Eleanor do her homework before bed! So here she is ...

I have loved the whole trip and I don't want it to finish. I havn't seen much of Inverness but it is cold and extremely windy but it looks nice and has lots of farms around it, and lots of trees. Yes, Euan, the fahitas tasted good. No Narnians in Glen Affric I'm afraid. I had butter, cheese, mayo and baked beans on my baked potato. I wish I could skive on Monday but there is no way my Mum would let me! (Correct, Eleanor!).

Now we have to find our tent in the dark! (Sally)

Last Day. Loch Ness to Muirtown Locks.

Our last day began with overcast skies and Loch Ness was gloomy ... but the water was calmer and needless to say - even though the EBD had put Plan B into action on Tuesday - by 10.15am I stood on the shore with the purple Nessie as they paddled away from precisely the point at which they had taken out on the Big Wave Day.

There was no way that the EBD were not going to paddle every inch of that loch!

Paddling to Lochend presented no problems today and the EBD waved goodbye to Nessie and Nigel and cruised into Loch Dochfour and the canal. They were glad to back on friendly waters after the oppressive conditions on Loch Ness.

A simple and uneventful paddle past boats and cruise boat marinas brought the EBD to the top of Muirtown Locks in Inverness and the end was almost in sight.

Only 1.7km to go to the sea!

(10pm - need to get back to the tent - no wifi at this site - so look out tomorrow for Muirtown Locks to the North Sea)

Goodnight - Sal and the EBD!

Last Day. Too busy eating ...

More details to follow but just now all I can say is that by 5.30pm the EBD were kayaking in the sea by Clacknaharry Loch in the Beauly Firth - they've done it! By the time we had packed up the gear, found a camp site and pitched the tent it was 8 o'clock at night. Very tired and very hungry we made our way to the MOST FANTASTIC PUB IN THE WORLD called the Benleva Hotel at Drumnadrochit which sells amazing food and has wifi! El is eating steak and ale pie, J is scoffing fish and chips and I'm about to tuck into sausage and mash. More blogging when we have recovered and eaten!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Day 7. Homework.

For P6/7.

No we haven't tipped over Calums and we are not planning on doing it. I had baked potato for breakfast this morning and tonight I had chicken fahitas, but when we are camping we have chocolate! Yes, we have got very wet but you do when you sit in a kayak for 6 hours straight even with spray decks. Floppy is staying at Margaret and Ian's at Kilchoman in a field with all his woolly, (and very CLEVER) friends. Unfortunately I am back at school on Monday so be prepared!
We are going to finish tomorrow I hope. From Eleanor.

Day 7. Zzzzzz

Today was a rest day. We checked out potential launch sites for tomorrow and headed up to Glen Affric, which is beautiful beyond belief. Sorry no photos just imagine Narnia - or Last of the Mohicans, (which was filmed here!). Plan for tomorrow is to put the kayak in at Lochend, (surprisingly this is at the end of Loch Ness), paddle through Loch Dochfour and into the canal all the way through Inverness until the water gets salty in the Beauly Firth! Fingers crossed. And if you happen to be around in Inverness tomorrow - look out for the EBD!