Sunday, 2 May 2010

Loch Maree, no tics, no beasties and one black throated diver.

Last weekend my wife and I, accompanied by our ESS Meg, daughter Laurie, her partner Dave, mate Ricky(Peatbog), his partner Christine and ESS Peat made the long drive north to the beautiful and majestic, Loch Maree. The fifth largest body of water in Scotland, and undoubtedly the most picturesque has aproximately 60 islands to explore. We arrived at about 1800 on the Friday evening with grey skies and a brisk westerly breeze blowing, and decided to quickly head for Eilean Ruaridh Mor as this was the closest island to the picnic area at Slattadale. My wife, Sandra was solo in her brand spanking new Mad River Explorer 14TT. She recently had an operation to repair her Carple Tunnel thingy in her wrist and after half a mile or so was struggling and basically going round in circles so I tied her canoe to mine and towed her the rest of the way.
However we arrived safely on the island and set up camp.
Ricky had made a delicious chicken and smoked sausage gumbo for supper so we had that, and a couple of glasses of wine, and as we were all knackered, had an early night.
Laurie and Dave did'nt have a good night in their hastily bought, £20 sleeping bags so after a breakfast of bacon sarnies and tea decided to paddle across to the mainland and head for the outdoor shop in Gairloch to buy some decent sleeping bags and waterproofs.
Meanwhile, the remaining four decided to explore some of the islands.
It was'nt long before we spotted a nice sandy beach and stopped for a brew.
A wee while later we paddled on to Eilean Subhainn and climbed up to have a look at one of the lochans, and of course another brew. By this time it was about 1300 and we were getting hungry with all that good, clean highland air so headed back to camp. aurie and Dave arrived back shortly after this with their new bivvy bags and some stylish outdoor clothing. They had been looking for us in the maze of islands but finally gave up and came back to camp.
After a wee snack I fired up the wood burning stove to make Kleftiko. This is my version of a Greek dish that is normally made with stolen lamb. On the way up we stopped at a very good butchers in Fochabers with the intention of buying a couple of kilo's of lamb but they did'nt have any. The butcher suggested venison instead so I went for it. I never mentioned to my camp mates that we were going to be eating Bambi because some folks are a bit squeamish about that sort of thing.
I browned the meat, and added white wine, carrots, onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, rosemary, cinnamon, salt, pepper, fresh and dried chilli, and some lamb stock cubes, and simmered it for about three hours. I then added a dozen or so new potatoes for the last half hour. It went down rather well and when everyone had finished I asked my fellow campers if they had enjoyed eating Bambi. No complaints!!
Laurie made a lovely lime cheesecake for dessert.
We sat around for the rest of the evening supping red wine and chatting in front of the fire.
Around 8pm Laurie announced that she was "starving" so I knocked up a skillet of Fazulye, green beans, shallot, garlic and chilli in a buttery tomato sauce, and garlic mushrooms with toasted flatbreads. It must have been around midnight when we finally hit the sack.
I awoke first on the Sunday morning and made bacon sarnies and a kettle of tea.
I then took the remains of the driftwood and put it back on the shore where it came from.
I dug a hole next to where the fire had been and burried the ashes under the sand.
By this time everyone was up and dressed and set about rolling up our tents etc as we were leaving this morning. We loaded up the canoes, and gave the camp area a last tidy up before saying goodbye to Ricky and Christine as they were staying another night.
We slowly paddled back to Slattadale picnic area, admiring the scenery and taking pics.
We were quite lucky this morning because as we were loading the canoes onto the trailer a very strong northerly wind whipped the loch to a foam. I was glad we were on the mainland because Sandra and Laurie had decided to tandem in the 14TT and neither of them are very confident in strong sidewinds.
Ricky and Christine were out in the main part of the loch when the wind got up, but their experience and presence of mind told them to quickly head for the nearest island.
The wind dropped as abruptly as it had started, but they decided to call it a day as more northerly squalls were forecast, and ended up getting home around the same time as us.
To finish the tale we had a bit of car trouble on the way home. The clutch release bearing on my Peugeot 307 diesel estate has been noisy for a few thousand miles, and disintegrated around Garve. I knew it was in a bad way because it sounded like a cement mixer full of stones.
We have RAC cover but the very basic package and I doubt that they would have relayed us home, so decided to just drive and see how far we could get. When I had to move off I put it into first gear and started the engine so it would move off, then changed gear by timing the revs and avoiding using the clutch as much as possible. We made it home, and I even managed to drive it to Charles Butler, Gearbox and Clutch Specialist, Forfar where it finally farted and shit itself in the customer parking area. He said do'nt expect much change out of £600!!
First sight of our camp.

Laurie and I discussing cheesecake.

We even had a visit from Mickey Mouse.

Sandra and Laurie tandem.

Armada of Mad River Canoes.

Sunday morning ready for the off.

Ricky and his NC Pal in RX Light.

I made this wood burning stove/cooker from a
stainless steel oil tank salvaged from the skip at work.
Works really well, I'll add a door and damper later.

Getting lunch ready.

Slioch in the distance.

What a beautiful place.

Dave in his adventurer, very stable boat.

Wallace in the action man jersey.

A last look and pic of Loch Maree before the clutch
packed in. Might have been that steep hill that did it.