It was a Saturday, I had just finished up with a group on Bristol docks taking them paddleboarding around the floating harbour when the message came in "Scotland is getting some good rain... fancy a trip?" Who am I to say no to that.
There was little preparation on my part I was working until Monday afternoon and so we decided it was best to head up that evening. A trip was, for lack of a better word, commissioned by Palm Equipment , a company I used to work for and one that supports Joe Rea-Dickens the author of that message I got on Saturday.
Monday evening came and I first headed to Cheese's to pick up some gear and boats before continuing on to pick up Joe, his boats and gear and what turned out to be a two day supply of cooked pasta and some lovingly homemade Lemon drizzle cake.
Scotland is far away, but the route is simple. Head north then when you get there go a bit further north into Scotland, then when you get there head north again and hopefully if you did everything right you should find that surrounding you in Glen Coe. Now this should be obvious because if you spin in a circle and stop every 10° round, the view should take your breath away.
Leaving Gloucester at around 9 or maybe 10 we made it to the river Etive in time for a few laps.
Tuesday was the day of napping and the Etive, we recovered from the drive and what awaited was 3 solid laps of the river, one that was completely new to me and is full of magical moves and perfect pool drops. I quickly discovered why this run is known as a classic Scottish river, set in the geographical wonder that is Glen Etive a popular setting for films such as Skyfall and Braveheart the flats in between rapids are a brilliant time to take in your surroundings before attempting to keep smooth lines down some technical whitewater.
Wednesday, or waterfall Wednesday, we headed to the Falls of Falloch to run the Hidden waterfall. It was high when we got there in the morning and after a hour or so of semi-successful filming the stoke was high. We headed to the River Ochy which was a 1.6 on the gauge and I was reliably informed meant that it would be raging... it was a super fun and bouncy run down with a good potion of beatering on my part (all part of the gear testing for Palm you understand).
Thursday, We woke up near Betws-y-Coed on Thursday, a few hours south of Scotland in the land of Red Dragons keen to get on a get some footage of Wales' classic the Fairy Glen. This river is famous, a great test piece of whitewater and in many kayakers top rivers of the world list. I have done this river before but I don't think there will be a time when I am not nervous before putting on. Often only one line and little to no margin for error on a river that challenges even the best of paddlers but after a couple of laps I was happy and stoked on the paddling we had done.
This trip was quick, it felt like we had done more days on the water than the 3 described here and I was sore by the time we got back, due to other commitments the trip ended too soon but we did make the most of the rain and I at least felt like a true rain chaser. The main lesson from the trip was nothing to do with the paddling, or preparation, or even that yes is always the answer to opportunities that come your way. No, the main lesson learnt was that I am totally unable to pronounce any word, be it river, place or name when it comes Wales and Scotland or even just the north of England and so I ask anyone reading and struggles like I do to visit walkhighlands.co.uk a website that includes pronunciations of places. That way we can at least go to Scotland without embarrassment.