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A very long dog walk

Merlin has been particularly annoying over the last few days so I decided he needed a good long walk to sort him out. I’m happy to announce that it worked and he’s been curled up on the couch asleep for most of the evening. There was a slight revival for dinner.

This is not going to be a proper post, . . I really just want to share some photos! It is delightfully wintry here at the moment with a fair bit of snow (for here) and lots of ice. I’m really enjoying it, and learning a lot too! For example, the clear stuff that looks like water is quite often really slick ice so you shouldn’t stand on it!

This walk was about 12km all up and took about 4 hours I think. I can’t tell for sure because my GPS logger has not been working properly. I just downloaded a software update and that seems to have fixed it but, sadly, only after I had deleted todays tracking information. The walk was from my house, north to Meall Meadhonach (354m), across to the peak just north of An Socach (362m) and across to Creag Riabhach (the small one: 316m), then along the ridge (344m) then home. This almost finishes my tour of “small hills between Kinlochbervie and Durness”.

Merlin is not particularly excited about snow, but not averse to it either. The only problem is that there is not much water for him to drink when everything is frozen, and he doesn’t seem to like the few streams that are running – too cold perhaps? He is disappointingly competent on ice. I was expecting at least a few hilarious sliding and tumbling episodes but he has resolutely stayed on his feet and even been mostly in control, at least when I’ve been watching.

So now on to the pictures:

An impromptu trip up Canisp

Firstly, apologies for not posting anything in so long. I do have quite a few things to post but have been too busy with work and visitors and visiting to get any done.

Secondly, I haven’t been on WordPress for a while and, having flicked through just a few of the stories on my “reader”, it seems that I have missed a whole lot!! I’ll have to make time to read all your stories and life-changing events soon!

Now, on to today:

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Looking up the Allt Mhic Murchaidh Gheir along the flank of Canisp

I was hoping to go for a walk with a friend today but unfortunately he had to work. Instead, I decided to stop off at Canisp on my way home and walk up it. I didn’t think I’d have time, given that it was the second shortest day of the year and I wasn’t even ready to leave until 10:30am, however I decided to walk out for 2.5 hours, or until the weather got too bad or I couldn’t be bothered walking anymore, then turn around. This would give me enough time to get back to the car before complete dark.

The weather was “less than ideal” . . . . gusting around 40mph with occasional hail showers. I also hadn’t brought any proper hiking gear with me so had no compass, no map, no pack. Still, I’ve been planning to go up Canisp for months now and every time I drive past I think about it again so it seemed like a good idea. (I did have full waterproofs and took my phone and my emergency torch from the car)

It was fantastic! I walked mainly off the northern edge of the flank so I was sheltered from the worst of the wind (coming from the south west), but it was still pretty crazy. At one point I had to change my course to hug the bottom of the gully as the wind was too strong further out.

There was an exposed section up to the summit which I didn’t think I’d make it through, and was seriously considering turning back, but luckily the wind dropped for long enough to allow me to get up there, and back (just!).

As well as the wind, there was occasional stinging hail . . . at one point on the way back it got so bad I had to find a ledge of rock to put Merlin against and stand over and behind him to shelter him from the weather. Poor boy – he was fine with all the other rain, wind and hail, but this one was obviously hurting him. He kept trying to run away from it and it took me screaming at him to eventually get him to listen and come and take shelter.

I was surprisingly proud of myself for getting to the top. I guess it is my first really wintery walk (the ground was white, although I think it was just hail, not actually snow!), it was such an unplanned and  unprepared trip, the weather conditions were fairly atrocious and I actually did really well. I didn’t fall over at all (despite being blow sideways/forwards/backwards several metres about 5 times), wasn’t cold and enjoyed myself. Oh, and did I mention I was wearing cheap gumboots???

Despite the weather I saw a grouse, a ptarmigan and two deer. Here are some pictures and some other interesting things I saw. (All photos taken on phone since, being entirely unprepared, I didn’t have a waterproof case for my phone, so had to use my camera case instead, leaving the camera in the car!)

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Thrift and porphyry

Thrift, the small dead flowers in the front right of this photo, is generally a coastal plant, as indicated by its proper name “Armeria maritima”. However, it can often be found up high, especially on these quartzite hills. Similar barren conditions I guess. Bright green stuff to the left is clubmoss.

Part way up the hill I saw something that looked like a weathered red conglomerate sandstone. There shouldn’t be any of that on top of the quartzite, so I was thinking about what it could be, then remembered there are several sills (horizontal intrusions) of porphyry (an igneous rock with large feldspar crystals in a very fine grained granite-ish matrix) in it. Guess what it is called? “Canisp Porphyry” (you’d think I would’ve thought of that straight away). The rocks were so weathered that I didn’t recognise them. Once I realised, I was ridiculously excited about it. The porphyry in this photo is the two large red rocks a little way back in the photo.

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Sandstone-quartzite contact

The quartzite layer on Canisp is actually quite thin (as can be seen easily from the side profile of the hill). Here a gully has broken through the quartzite and is cutting quite deeply into the softer sandstone underneath. The red in the side of the gully, and the red stones in the bottom of the gully are sandstone, then you can see the contact with the quartzite where the rock changes to grey again. The sandstone also tends to have more soil (or peat) and vegetation on top because it is softer, erodes faster and has slightly more nutrients in it.

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A lovely view to the south on the way up.

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Summit cairn (luckily no false summits here). Merlin is in this photo, left hand side at the lower edge of the higher rock section.

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First summit shelter. Not looking too happy!

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Merlin doesn’t like selfies. I was ecstatic about being up there though!

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A spur off the western edge. Sensibly we didn’t go out there!

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All closed up, ready to go home.

By the way, this is my new waterproof jacket. I’ll tell you more about it soon. So far it has been excellent!

No route map because (obviously) I was completely unprepared so had no logger with me! Apparently the walk is ~12km, 700m ascent (although the hill is 847m) and I took about 3hr 45min.

 

Not quite the walk I intended . . .

Friends, family and casual readers . . . . I normally try to keep my blog posts in chronological order. This, I have decided, is a huge mistake. I still have walks and events from over a month ago that I haven’t written about yet, and this is preventing me from writing about more recent events. No more! From now on I will write to you about whatever is most salient at the time that I am inspired (and available) to write.

Starting from now!

I went for a walk on the hills behind my house this afternoon to look for open sundew flowers (I’ve seen lots of closed ones, but haven’t see any open yet and they are quite pretty) and bog orchids (also quite pretty, but mainly looking for them because I’d been told they were hard to find).

I meandered along through all the boggy sections, finding lots of sundews, but none open, and no bog orchids. I didn’t really think I’d find bog orchids as this area regularly has sheep grazing on it so is not quite a pristine environment.

Oval leafed sundew with closed flower.

Oval leafed sundew with closed flower.

This photo is actually from another day, but is the first sundew flowers I saw (and a much better photo)

This photo is actually from another day, but is the first sundew flowers I saw (and a much better photo)

I also found loads of my current favourite flower, bog asphodel.

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Close up of bog asphodel

Two bog asphodel in a typical lovely boggy situation, with sundew (incl closed flowers)

Two bog asphodel in a typical lovely boggy situation, with sundew (incl closed flowers)

Unfortunately it was reasonably warm (in Scotland this summer that means that it was probably above 12 degrees!). I would’ve been happy about this, except that it also meant Merlin was warm. And we were walking through bogs. Which meant pretty soon Merlin was laying in a black, muddy bog.

I decided to walk down to the loch I’d found last week to wash him off a little bit so continued following the bogs downhill and south, until I reached a burn (stream) which I assumed would take me to the loch.

This is where my walk took a turn (figuratively – literally it had already taken many turns).

I found a plastic bottle. Then a thick plastic bag. Then another plastic container.

I hate seeing rubbish, and particularly plastic, lying around like this. There have been quite a few times I’ve returned from walks on the beach with an armful of bottles and other debris.

Luckily the bag was mostly intact so I could put the bottles in and carry them out. I followed the burn down, picking up more bits of plastic along the way. It’s not that someone had dropped them here – they wash up or blow in during storms.

By the time I got to the bottom of the burn, my plastic bag was full. Luckily I’d found a decent sized plastic tray to put everything in. Unfortunately the bottom of the burn was not the loch, but the sea. The rocky shore line was beautiful, but covered in rubbish washed up from sea. Rope, fishing nets, cans, timber and, far outnumbering everything else, my nemesis: the plastic bottle. I started picking them up, but couldn’t carry them all. I found a laundry basket (shaped thing), and filled that . . . . but there were still more! Then I found a large plastic tub (probably from a fishing boat) and half filled that as well.

I looked around and couldn’t see any more plastic bottles. I didn’t look too hard or far, because I already had way more than I could carry back. There was still a lot of other rubbish out there, but it would have to wait for another time. I couldn’t leave any plastic bottles behind though.

I wanted to take the fishing net too but didn't have the space for it. I weighted it down with rocks and will go back for it sometime.

The cove, now free of plastic bottles. I wanted to take the fishing net too but didn’t have the space for it. I weighted it down with rocks and will go back for it sometime.

The way home. Oh dear.

The way home. Oh dear.

I carried my large plastic tub up to where I’d left my other, smaller, plastic tray. I could carry one (and that was difficult enough), but how was I going to carry both?

I rearranged everything, tied the tubs together (I’d picked up one decent piece of rope on the shore because I had a feeling I’d need one) and created a sled. Now I just had to get home, . . . . over quite a big, rocky, nobbly hill. Or maybe several hills. I didn’t know. I had no map, no watch and no raincoat, which meant I didn’t know the best way home, how long I’d been out, . . . and it was raining!

I set off home, heading up the hill.

Up the first bit of hill. Foinaven, Arkle and Ben Stack lined up on the horizon (L-R) and the Kinlochbervie harbour buildings just visible in the gap between the rocks direcly below Arkle

Up the first bit of hill. Foinaven, Arkle and Ben Stack lined up on the horizon (L-R) and the Kinlochbervie harbour buildings just visible in the gap between the rocks direcly below Arkle

At the top of that hill (difficult enough), I was greeted with more hills.

Where am I supposed to go from here?? Merlin is being no help at all, but having a wonderful time.

Where am I supposed to go from here?? Merlin is being no help at all, but having a wonderful time. (Can you see him?)

And then an impossible slope (at least with a sled) down to the loch I’d missed before. I would’ve been better going back around the low lying bogs the way I’d come in, and ended up doing so from this point on.

Dragging the sled up hill was hard work, but reasonably straight forward. Going along the sides of slopes, or across rocky ground was quite difficult. I had 3 complete capsizes (with rubbish spilling everywhere) and several near misses before I did some re-engineering of my sled (including side barricades and buffers to stop my small tub swinging from side to side). I also learnt to pick a much flatter, albeit longer, path and to “feel” the sled better to quickly turn around and grab it before it tipped. I started having some appreciation for how difficult it must’ve been for dog-sledders in the Yukon (yes, it’s funny what I think about while stubbornly persevering with a difficult task).

Looking back down out to see after a not too difficult bit (going AROUND the hill and loch to the right of here!)

Looking back down out to sea after a not too difficult bit (going AROUND the hill and loch to the right of here!)

I don’t know how long it took me. Several times I looked at the hills or rocks in front of me and thought that what I was doing was near impossible. At the least, very stupid. What was I going to do though? Leave a big pile of rubbish sitting in the middle of the hillside? If I hadn’t picked it up that would be one thing, . . . but to gather it all into one place and then leave it? No. And to gather it all up, move it up a hill and then leave it? No way!

This was a good reminder of how doggedly stubborn I can be!

Once I was back onto the bog, things got a lot easier. My flat bottomed sled was reasonably good over bogs and the hardest thing was trying to avoid running over every bog asphodel or sundew flower I saw!

Getting back into civilisation, I heard someone yell at me. Huh? “Well done!” he repeated. Ahhh, nice to know he approves and doesn’t just think I’m crazy dragging a plastic tub stacked high with rubbish across the bogs and along the road.

I dragged my sled into the driveway with a sense of immense pride and satisfaction. Time for a dodgy selfy to celebrate the moment.

Home!!

Home!!

Sled modifications - namely the higher sides at the back and plastic bottles around the grey tub to buffer it.

Sled modifications – namely the higher sides at the back and plastic bottles around the grey tub to stop it swinging side to side.

I still hadn’t seen any open sundew flowers, nor a bog orchid. I did see something part way through my sled dragging that I thought may’ve been a bog orchid (nature’s way of rewarding me for helping out??), but it turns out it was just a pale butterwort. Still a nice find though.

pinguicula lusitanica (pale butterwort) - sorry about the photo, I told you it was raining!

pinguicula lusitanica (pale butterwort) – sorry about the photo, I told you it was raining, and I was rather preoccupied with my sled dragging)

The amount of rubbish that washes up on beaches around here is astounding. I wonder if the people on the ships simply throw things overboard, or if this is all stuff that has been washed away by mistake. Some of it has probably come from other lands over the seas. I’ve heard about the eddies of rubbish in the middle of the ocean, so I suppose it should not be so surprising to see so much of it here. It feels like a never-ending task, and somewhat pointless, cleaning up these isolated coves that probably nobody else ever sees, but I just think that now there is 1 (or about 50) more plastic bottles that will never make their way back out to sea again.

I also saw my first juniper berry this year

I also saw my first crowberry (I did get excited thinking it was a juniper berry, but after looking in my book I think it is a crowberry. My “botanist on call” has no internet at the moment so I can’t check!)

and a bunch of ling (heather) coming into flower, set off nicely against some bell heather)

and a bunch of heather coming into flower, set off nicely against some bell heather

And some St John's Wort, probably hypericum pulchrum

And some St John’s Wort, probably Hypericum pulchrum

and a moth of some description (with some lovely boggy background)

and a moth of some description (with some lovely boggy background)

So, . . .  sorry mum – this is why I didn’t get to skype you thisafternoon!

And if you’d like to know what an open sundew flower looks like, have a look here: https://cultivatingcarnivores.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/drosera_flwr_1.jpg

Happy Birthday Pumpkin!

Hard to believe this bonny wee boy is four already! (Clearly I’ve been reading too many baby/child birthday announcements!)

Really though, it’s Merlin’s birthday today. I meant to do a proper post to celebrate it (and him) but we went for a walk today (up his first “munro”, Ben Hope) which took longer than I planned, and a walk to a waterfall last night which also took longer than I planned, and now we’re off to the pub for dinner to celebrate (he’s already had his dinner but it’s a nice justification for mine!).
So, a big happy birthday to my big red dog! (more self indulgent photos of him to follow)

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A pretty photo of him last week

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Today - 4.5hrs running around a hill and he still wants more!

Marty Mackay Memorial Walk (14 miles Rhiconich to Durness)

About 5 weeks ago now there was a charity walk/cycle in town. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get involved with my new community and do some walking. Also, I didn’t bring my bike with me (not thinking that cycling was a “thing” up here) so the cycle was out of the question!

The walk was from Rhiconich back to Durness – 14 miles, up the main road. It is in memory of a local man who died quite young from cancer. Sponsorship money raised goes to various cancer charities and other local causes. Here are some links with some more information about it: http://new.durness.org/?page_id=2335

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marty-Mackay-Memorial-Fund-Sponsored-Cycle-Walk/491671654284500

We caught the bus down to Rhiconich with about 10 other people.

In the bus on the way to Rhiconich

In the bus on the way to Rhiconich

There were a couple of people running it, who set off first . . . and a few of the locals got straight off the bus and into the Rhiconich pub for their first drink! This was at about 8:30 in the morning! After standing around for a little while, we headed off – Merlin and I, and a guy I know from town (the one who identified my deer ked bug last year).

Talking to the runners at the start

Talking to the runners at the start

The walk was pretty straight forward – it was straight up the main road. As usual when I’m walking with someone else, I paid much less attention than normal to where I’m going. It was a lovely day and I do love the scenery, but it was quite a long, uneventful walk!

Merlin had to be on the lead most of the time. There were quite a few sheep around on the road (and Merlin is still VERY interested in sheep), and on the windy sections of road it was just easier to keep him on lead in case there were cars coming. Sadly, Merlin is not the most fun to have on lead, especially not for an extended period of time, with sheep trotting along in front of him!!

3 locals watching the procession from up on high

3 locals watching the procession from up on high

The event was very well organised, with support cars going up and down the road, handing out fruit, lollies and drinks and checking on everybody and picking up people who couldn’t keep walking.

Support car, complete with couches.

Support car, complete with couches.

There was also a “refreshment stop” at Gualin House on the way. It was amazingly set up, with drinks, soup, scones, cake, biscuits and fruit.

The view from our lunch stop (see the deer)

The view from our lunch stop (see the deer)

It was also very well patronised. As I said, there were only 10 or so people on the bus with us, however I was amazed at the refreshment stop when more and more people showed up.

Just some of the people who came through the lunch stop when we did.

Just some of the people who came through the lunch stop when we did.

Walking down the road a bit further on, I looked around and could see people strung out all the way down the road! There were probably over a hundred people, and many of them children. It was fantastic to see so many young people out doing such a long walk. I think it reflects on the much more active, outdoor lifestyle up here.

A typical view on the road. . . people as far as you can see.

A typical view on the road. . . people as far as you can see.

About half way through the walk we started being passed by cyclists as well. They had cycled all the way from Lairg – 60 miles. It is hilly, the roads are rough and they had a headwind for the last part. It would’ve been a pretty tough cycle. The people ranged from serious lycra clad cyclists on expensive bikes (from the cycle clubs down south), to locals in leggings on rusty old mountain bikes who’ve only been out training a couple of times due to the bad weather. Again, it was very impressive seeing these locals getting out there and doing it. They are certainly a tough mob!

One of the cyclists coming through with a stunning backdrop (Beinn Spionnaidh)

One of the cyclists coming through with a stunning backdrop (Beinn Spionnaidh)

There was more amazing catering when we finished at the Village Hall, and a charity auction and dance that night. I must admit I missed most of the dance because I was at the pub drinking with a bunch of military (they had been in town for 2 weeks doing training exercises and they had Sunday off, so got to go out on Saturday). I did eventually get to the dance . . . in the front of a Swedish Viking armoured vehicle!! The dance was a lot of fun, . . . and keeping moving probably stopped me from being so sore the next day!

Two of the Vikings (the next day)

Two of the Vikings (the next day)

After pulling on the lead the whole way, and running around like an idiot whenever he was of the lead, Merlin was still being stupid all the way home. I got him home and washed him (he had half the countryside in his coat!!), then went back to the Hall for a while. When I got home again (before the pub and dance), all I could hear was “thump-thump-thump” from the top of the stairs. I poked my head around the corner and he was lying at the top of the stairs, with his head hanging over the edge and his tail thumping on the floor. His look said “I really want to come down and greet you mum, but I just can’t get up right now”!!

 

(And a big thankyou to the people who sponsored me for this walk!)

Beinn Ceannabeinne

Merlin had been annoying all morning, and I felt like getting out, so I decided to walk up Beinn Ceannabeinne. I had walked up it last year, but Merlin hadn’t been up and it was a nice enough day for a walk. A bit windy, but otherwise nice. (“A bit windy?” you say. “What a surprise for Durness!”)

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We headed up the usual path towards the bealach (as per our Meall Meadhonach walk) then turned left along the quad track that heads up Ceannabeinne. It was a lot easier than I remembered from last year. It was certainly a lot drier, which always helps. The track was still boggy but it was easy enough to walk just off the edge of it.

Looking up the track to Ceannabeinne

Looking up the track to Ceannabeinne

Looking back down the track towards the main track (sorry I forgot to take a picture from the bottom so you get one in each direction from part way up instead)

Looking back down the track towards the main track (sorry I forgot to take a picture from the bottom so you get one in each direction from part way up instead)

Everything was going well until I realised I hadn’t seen Merlin in a while. Oh great. There was no point in yelling as the wind was so strong that he wouldn’t be able to hear me unless he was directly downwind of me. I’d last seen him heading off to the west, so walked up to the nearest high outcrop. I couldn’t see him anyway but did see some sheep. This concerned me as I wasn’t expecting them this high on the hill and if he saw them, he’d chase them. Luckily they were looking quite relaxed so I guessed he hadn’t gone that way. I wandered around for a while looking for him, called a few times, then started getting really worried. What if he’d seen some sheep and was chasing them into town right now? (There have been a few sheep in town killed by dogs recently so this would be terrible) What if he’d gone all the way off the hill and wandered across the main road and got hit by a car? What if he’d fallen off the edge of one of the outcrops and was lying injured somewhere? What if he was stuck in a bog somewhere? This area is huge – I could never hope to search it all and find him! Honestly, it was the first couple that concerned me the most as they were the most likely. So, I started wandering around between the high point and where I’d last seen him, yelling futilely.

After about 10 minutes of wandering around yelling, I saw 2 quad bikes below me. I ran down the hill (probably looking like a crazy person) to ask if they’d seen him (at least that would rule out one area I had to search). “Excuse me, have you seen my dog? He’s about this big (hand held at waist) and reddish.” They hadn’t, but said they’d keep an eye out for him. They also said they thought they’d heard yelling, but assumed it must’ve been the wind. “No, that would’ve been me.” Just as we were about to part ways, I saw him in the distance. He was back where I’d last seen him, looking for me. Unfortunately as he was still upwind I had to jump around and wave my arms (looking like a crazy person again) to get his attention.

This is a zoom in of our route map so you can see my irregular search pattern!

This is a zoom in of our route map so you can see my irregular search pattern!

He was pretty tired. Presumably he’d also spent the last 10 minutes running around looking for me . . . or maybe the last 5 minutes anyway. The first five were probably spent having a great time exploring whatever smell he’d followed! A short dip, and drink, in a small pond (bog) soon helped this though and he was soon running around again. At least he was staying a bit closer now though.

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We headed on up to the summit, which was, again, much easier than I remembered. It was very very windy on top, to the point where it was quite difficult to walk in a straight line. My feet kept getting blown sideways as I tried to put them down. Luckily at this point it was blowing me onto the hill rather than off it!

On the way up to the summit

On the way up to the summit

Looking north-east (mouth of Loch Eriboll) from just before the summit

Looking north-east (mouth of Loch Eriboll) from just before the summit

A bit windy on the summit. Looking north-west, towards Durness

A bit windy on the summit. Looking north-west, towards Durness

We had lovely views from the summit and could even see a warship in Loch Eriboll. They have military training exercises here for the next two weeks (or “NATO war games” as they are reported on the news) so lots of things going “boom”, the occasional helicopter and fighter plane, ships out to sea, and military personnel around town.

View south-east from the summit. Loch Eriboll, with warship on the left, Ben Hope (?) in the background and Beinn Spionnaidh in the distance on the right.

View south-east from the summit. Loch Eriboll, with warship on the left, Ben Hope (?) in the background and Beinn Spionnaidh in the distance on the right.

I decided to walk along the ridge to the north-east and descend from there. It is not the conventional method, and there is certainly no path, but I think we all know by now that it’s my preferred method of hill walking. At least this time I followed the easy sensible path up, then took the crazy path down (I learnt a little from my ascent of Fashven last year which I tackled the other way around).

Heading north-east to descend along the ridge

Heading north-east to descend along the ridge

Unfortunately once we started along the ridge edge, Merlin started wandering off again. The wind was coming in from the south-west and he just kept putting his nose into it and going towards the smells it was bringing him. This meant he was NOT going the direction I was and was always upwind so he couldn’t hear me calling him. Suffice to say there was a lot of yelling at this point.

The view. I'm very impressed that my camera managed to put this panorama together as I was wobbling a lot in the wind.

The view. I’m very impressed that my camera managed to put this panorama together as I was wobbling a lot in the wind.

I decided to cut off the western side of the hill to minimise my road walking and picked a section that looked no worse than any of the other bits. That is, it was very steep, but not too rocky or slippery. A little tough on the knees, but good practice and conditioning for when I start doing some proper hills.

Where I decided to descend. No, it didn't look sensible to me either!

Where I decided to descend. No, it didn’t look sensible to me either! This is a “Spot the dog” photo.

I meandered down, generally keeping to the higher sections as this gave me a better view of the way ahead to pick the best route. At the bottom I had to cut through some fields. I spotted a gate in one corner so walked towards it, only to find that it was wired shut and there was a very good 6’ fence all the way along. For me, this wouldn’t have been a problem. For Merlin, it definitely was.

We backtracked to the next field where the fence was only a standard 3’ fence. Again, not a problem for me, but still one for Merlin. He could jump that easily, but so far he doesn’t think to jump fences and I really don’t want to give him the idea. Finally I found a section that was low enough (maybe 2.75’??) that I could lift him over. He’s 35kg, with very long, dangly legs. And covered in mud. It wasn’t pretty, but we managed. And he didn’t seem too traumatised by the whole thing.

The next field we had to walk through was an old townsite. Lots of ruined buildings, foundations and walls. Also some trees that were quite obviously planted as gardens. It was quite sad to see all those homes just disappearing.

The most intact house

The most intact house

A number of partial houses, stone walls and fields.

A number of partial houses, stone walls and fields.

Gorse bushes hiding their spines behind pretty yellow flowers.

Gorse bushes hiding their spines behind pretty yellow flowers.

At least at the bottom of that field was a proper working gate . . . although it did take some effort to break the rust to loosen the catch! From here we were on the road, and Merlin was back on lead. He was still quite tired so wasn’t too worried about it except that he’d been running free for so long though that he kept forgetting he was on lead and trying to walk off and do his own thing!

It was a very pleasant and picturesque walk back into town, with very little traffic on the roads, and beautiful scenery and seascapes to look at.

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Sango Beag (little Sango) bay, looking east.

Unfortunately this was the dirtiest Merlin has been so far – it took a very long time to wash him, and even longer to pull all of the heather out of his coat!

We have arrived safely!

Here are some photos to prove we are actually here . . .

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Clearly the cold is not an issue

In an interesting coincidence, the day I left Australia was my one year wordpress anniversary. Isn’t funny when things line up like that!

A new adventure

I mentioned at the end of my last trip report that I’d decided some changes were required in my life. Well, for any of you that don’t know yet, Merlin and I are off to Scotland today.
Here is him getting picked up thismorning:

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And here is me at the airport with all my carry-on!

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There is not much plan. We’ll just see what comes our way. (we do have somewhere to stay and enough money to live off!!)

I’ll talk to you all in a few days!

My first Duathlon

After the horrendous swim at the last triathlon, I wanted a chance to redeem myself. There was a triathlon in January held at our rowing regatta venue. Perfect I thought. A non-ocean swim. A chance to see if my training had paid off and I really could swim 750m freestyle. Also, nice to have one kind of on my home ground (regatta venue). My friend was also keen to do her second triathlon, and her husband (who’d been support crew for the previous event) was also interested in giving it a go.

I hadn’t trained since the last tri, but thought this one was at the end of January, so I still had a few weeks to get some practice in. Then, in early January, I found out that the tri was actually in 6 days. What!! Panic. I was completely unprepared, mentally more than physically. However, I decided I should enter anyway. So I did. I then felt like I might be getting a bit fatigued, so very carefully tapered for the remaining 6 days (ie did no exercise at all to make sure I’d be properly rested!).

The day after I entered, we were notified that the triathlon had been converted to a duathlon (run-cycle-run) because the high temperatures had made the water in the lake unsafe for human contact! What?!?! The whole point of doing this event had been to redeem myself in the swim! I thought about pulling out, then realised how lazy and silly I’d feel afterwards if I didn’t do it. So, I did it anyway. And here’s how positive I can be sometimes: I’ve never wanted to enter a duathlon so I took this as a great opportunity to do my first (and possibly only) one!

It was all fine, I wasn’t too stressed (after all, there was no swim to worry about) . . . . . until I was actually lining up in the starting chute. Then I went straight back to my usual “No!!! I’ve changed my mind! I don’t want to do it!”. They had decided to start our run one and a time, on 5 second intervals. I was number 428 so I had over half an hour to wait and stress. Luckily I had some lovely people around me in the line that I could talk to. Unfortunately they were also very fast so once we did start, the ones in front disappeared into the distance, and the ones behind overtook me . . . then also disappeared into the distance!

Apparently the tactic for duathlons (or tri’s that have been converted to du’s) is to sprint the first run. At least, that’s what everybody seemed to do! I ran close to my normal pace and proceeded to do almost as badly in the first leg as if it’d been a swim! At least it was still easy to find my bike in transition (it was the only one left in my section!). Transition was much easier at least without wet feet.

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Here’s me before I realised there was a photographer there . . .

And here's me after! (First run . . still alive, although I still would've smiled on the second run. Same goals as the first tri!)

And here’s me after! (First run . . still alive, although I still would’ve smiled on the second run. Same goals as the first tri!)

I didn’t feel great on the run, but again, once I got on the bike, I felt OK. It wasn’t as good as last time, with quite a strong crosswind making things difficult in some bits. At least we had the cross tail in the exposed sections and the cross head in the slightly more sheltered section. I had been quite conservative on the bike in the last tri – this one I pushed a bit harder so wasn’t sure how the run would go.

Finishing the bike leg. Didn't see the photographer this time.

Finishing the bike leg. Didn’t see the photographer this time.

It is an almost entirely flat run, but it was also getting quite warm, and we had a cross tail on the way out, so a headwind all the way home while tired. It was a tough run. I wanted to aim for similar to what I got last time, but didn’t really think I’d make it. I decided I’d be happy with anything under 5 minutes/km. That was hard enough, especially once I turned into the headwind. I just kept at it though, kept putting one foot in front of the other (and not too slowly) and counted steps (it takes my mind of the pain) until I could see the end in sight. The very last section goes up a slight hill, over a bridge, then back down to the finish line. The uphill (it was tiny!) was really hard, but I passed a girl just near the top and I was worried she would try to sprint back past me towards the line so I tried to go a little bit faster for the last bit. I can really say I worked hard on this run . . . . I had my heartrate monitor on (another benefit of no swim) and I peaked at 193bpm, either on the bridge or on the finishing straight! Not a bad effort.

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Anyway, the results came in and I was middle of the field (like normal), but apparently my second run had been even faster than the last tri!! My GPS watch said it was slower, so maybe the official distance was not quite right (so their time for me just makes it look faster) . . . but I did have some problems with my watch at the start of the run (pressed “stop” instead of “lap” and didn’t realise for a few minutes) so maybe they are right after all. I’ll go with their numbers anyway!

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The first run wasn’t that fast – we’re pretty sure their timer stopped before the end of the run distance, so this split is not calculated correctly. Shame!

It was quite a social tri (I mean du) for me. I saw a couple of people I know from rowing, and a couple of guys I went to uni with. Plus I think I saw a guy I was on an organised tour with in Egypt a few years ago! Random huh!

My friend TR also did this tri (du), and her husband gave it a go as well, inspired by our previous efforts. He is a natural runner so was very happy when the swim was cancelled in favour of another run. He was less excited when he found out afterwards that his first run distance had been almost twice as long as it was supposed to be because they hadn’t marked the turn around point clearly enough!! He still came third in his category. What an awesome effort! And became the pin-up boy of Tri-events WA (that’s what happens when you do a tri event in a black bmx shirt with an awesome beard)!

And apparently TR knew the strategy to sprint the first run. Actually, she didn’t. She’s just so competitive that she did it anyway!! Her race had a mass start (not like my “1 every 5s”) so she just refused to let anyone pass her!! She did the fastest run she has ever done . . . . by far!! It did kind of wipe her out for the second run, but I’m not surprised given how fast she went in the first one!

So, another successful day, some great time catching up with friends, and another great post-tri meal. No photos this time . . . but it was the same as last time anyway. Why mess with a good thing? On the bright side, they did get a bunch of photos of me at the tri, including one of me high-fiving TR in the finishing chute!

Very happy to be finishing and extra happy to see my friends cheering for me (that's her hand in the side of the picture)

Very happy to be finishing and extra happy to see my friends cheering for me (that’s her hand in the side of the picture). And a typical silly, tongue sticking out, face for me!

Also, the lovely people in front of me in the start line let me know that Rockingham (tri, held mid February) is the best swim course for beginners. Always flat, shallow, clear water, you can see the bottom the whole way, and I’ve since found out you can pretty much stand the whole way along. Sounds perfect! So, I’ve decided to have another go at redeeming my swim!

(First swim since December yesterday, did 1km non stop, and 2km total. A personal best for me. Now . . . if only I can not freak out when they yell “go”!”

Impressive photo from my mum

My mum took this photo a couple of days ago and I think it’s really stunning so want to share it with you. Please give us some feedback – is it just me that loves it, or is this worth entering in some local (or maybe not so local!) photography competitions? This is entirely unedited, cropped or manipulated – exactly as taken by the camera.

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(The photo is of our dam, and front gate and driveway, taken through the morning mist)