Sunday 31 May 2015

The Rum, Eigg and Muck trip that wasn't

In the days leading up to the first of three expeditions I had planned to guide, my heart sank as the weather forecasts got progressively more extreme. The plan had been to go out to Rum, Eigg and Muck by ferry and paddle our way back to Mallaig over the course of five days. The best plans are made for changing, and so five of us set off from Loch Ailort heading towards Penmeanach Bothy where we thought we would get some respite from the predicted force 8 winds overnight.
Next morning the sky was leaden and the wind had not abated. We spent the morning gathering firewood in preparation for another night in the bothy. By the afternoon conditions had improved allowing four of us to go for a play in big swell in the gap between Eilean a' Chaolais and Rubha Chaolais.
The bothy again provided us with a comfortable night away from wind and rain. Next day, the wind had dropped and we set off for further adventures.
Paddling past Glenuig and Samalaman Island we noticed the dark humps of marine mammals in the distance. To our delight they came closer and before we knew it we were paddling amongst a pod of dolphins. They swam in between our boats, circled us and then decided that we were of no interest and left. Everything happened too quickly for photos, and sometimes I think its better to simply enjoy the moment.
Here's a bit more evidence that the area is full of wildlife. We didn't see the otter that made these footprints but we were very much aware of our amazing surroundings.
This was our first campsite of the trip, and a stunning place to stop.
As the sun set behind Eigg and Rum we found more otter prints in the sand, explored the beach, ate lots of food and had a very comfortable night.
Thursday morning gave us our calmest weather so far, so we explored along the coast northwards in the direction of Loch Moidart.
Had lunch at castle Tioram and then made our way to my favourite campsite at Smirisary. Here we met a French paddler, who was out by himself in his inflatable kayak. Next day he paddled with us into Loch Ailort as far as Roshven. We then headed further into the Loch to our starting point. Most of the day was paddling into strong headwinds but the last couple of kilometres the wind turned in our favour and pushed us quickly, our paddles held up as makeshift sails.
This wasn't the trip I had planned or had hoped for, but it was a good way to make best use of a week of very mixed weather. Thanks to Colin, Ian, Pauline and Genevieve for making it a week to remember.