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Loch Etive - Easter 2011
Seven of us met up on a glorious morning in Glen Etive at the head of Loch Etive. After an hour of packing and repacking boats to make sure we had everything we needed we headed off on our 4 day cruise around the loch. The first thing we noticed was how unseasonably warm it was. This was Scotland in April and we all had shorts and t-shirts on.
Scottish weather being as it is, soon we were paddling hard into a strengthening headwind and the cruise looked like becoming slog. A snap decision to stop for late lunch saw us taking shelter out the wind and soaking up the suns warmth. A short paddled followed and a fabulous camping spot found for our first night on the lake. Great views of snow capped mountains and with the wind dropping the loch becoming a giant mirror. Tents up, fire lit and evening meals cooked.
The weather changed over night with some heavy rain and a strengthening of the wind. Day two on the water was a colder affair and a little more damp with the odd short light shower. That said, the Loch was still stunning and the cloud and rain showers only helped to create wonderful atmosphere. After a long paddle we were blessed with a total change in weather when we found a spot for our second nights camp. The sun came out and wind dropped. Our second campsite was near the sea end of the loch and although the mountains were smaller than the first night, our views were none the less impressive.
Day three on the water was a mixed day. Wind and rain, sun and warmth. We had it all. Today we came across a number of seals that followed us for some way, playing in the shallows and hiding when they saw the camera! We also took a little walk up to a ruined crofters house to take in the amazing view up the loch right up to the high mountains of Glen Coe and Ranoch Moor. Our final nights campsite was probably the best of all. Views up and down the Loch. Mirror flat with the wind having died to nothing and hills clear of cloud. We managed to have a big warming fire and really relax into camp life. Great food and Great company. A couple of our more adventurous paddlers took a night time paddle using the fire as their navigation tool.
Day four saw a gentle paddle the last few KMs to the cars, empty the boats and off on the long drive home for some and onto the next Scottish adventures for others. Fantastic weekend had by all.
Thanks to all those who paddled for making a fun Easter break - Gerry, Jo, David, Claire, Karin & Chris.
Trip Blog - Kayaking Morocco
For some time now I have been thinking about padding in Morocco. This year I got the chance. With Easyjet flying direct from Manchester to Marrakech, a paddling trip in Morocco has never been easier.
Jo and I booked a 12 day trip with Water By Nature, the paddling company we used several years ago to paddle the Coruh in eastern Turkey. The guys at WBN are awesome river guides and fantastic company (oh and great cooks!) As much as I like the idea of planning my own, self supported trip, the logistics involved (and the fact that paddling multi day trips involves heavy loaded boats) is something I currently don't have the time to plan. Having WBN do all the donkey work, arranging transport to and from the river, purchasing of food, local knowledge of the river and all other potential headaches makes the trip a paddling holiday rather than an expedition but hey, a holiday is what we needed!
The trip was split into three parts. Time in Marrakech, time on the river and a few days on the coast surfing and soaking the sun. The river in question was the Ahansal river. Following a stunning drive up into the snow capped Atlas mountains, we camped our first night in an awesome valley with huge towering cliffs around. Day 1 on the river saw us rushing through tree lined rapids with monkeys in the trees and locals fishing and waving their hellos. Only one significant rapid on day one. This caused a few heart stopping moments but more for the local kids jumping on our boats as we paddled through than the difficulty of the water itself.
Following a lovely relaxing evening camped under a star filled sky day 2 saw a marked increase in speed and difficulty in the river. Most rapids never pushing more than big volume grade 2/3 we did encounter a couple of named rapids. 'The Wall' was a solid grade 3 with some big waves, a pour over to avoid and a hole to punch at the bottom. Fantastic fun and all group made it through without mishap. The second major rapid of the day was 'Wee Stinky'. This was the toughest rapid on the river. As flows were high this was a pushy grade 3/4 with some must make moves to avoid serious beatings in holes. The rapid was a little over 500 metres and was none stop ride. Fantastic fun and certainly got the heart pumping. The campsite this night was the best I have ever stopped. The view breathtaking and this coupled with amazing food, a great fire and washed down with G&T's and fine wine. Who could ask for more.
Day three on the river continued in the same vein as two. More great rapids a few with great names like rock the kasbah (there was a large rock and a Kasbah on the hill). We had 100 metre wave trains, a walk up to a Kasbah, drink with locals and generally soaked up the whole awesome scenery. Camp that night was again pretty special. Tucked in a tight gorge the rock structure was fantastic and the sound of the river rushing below the tents echoed off the cliff sides to lull us to sleep.
Day four was the final day on the river. What a day. I thought the river to that point has been special, today was something else. Only one significant rapid today call 'Cheeky Monkey' but with the whole river getting squeezed into around 4 metres wide, bearing in mind it had been over 20 wide upstream and with several hundred metre towering cliffs overhead it was a real spectacle. Stunning, magnificent.... words can't do it justice.
Eventually the cliffs retreated and the river slowed its relentless pace and eventually we entered the lake. The end of a truly amazing river journey. We felt gutted to leave the river and mountains but came surfing the Atlantic... nice!
For anyone wanting an overseas paddling experience but perhaps not having time or confidence to plan yourself, I can't recommend Water by Nature more highly. Their river guides are some of the best paddler around. You get to paddle with people from around the world, we had a Kewi and Yank as guides and were joined by a fellow brit and French chap. A great and interesting mix.
Some Pics from the trip:
Lakes Weekend - 20th & 21st November 2010
The Lakes weekend was well attended this year with 32 club member on the Water on the Saturday. A real mix of abilities and crafts taking part. Saturday saw four separate trips taking place. 5 guys set on on a three river marathon paddling the Leven, Upper Lune and Kent. The largest group paddled the Rothay and the remaining paddles took the the water of Lake Grassmere and Ullswater.
Sunday saw One group take off to paddle the lenght of Windermere, one group went up to north Lakes to Cycle Winlatter and the main group paddled the Lune to Devils Bridge.
A great weekend with stunning views, lovely weather and great company. Thanks to all those who attended and congratulations to Lee, John and Nick for passing their three star.