The last week of May saw five friends (who had recently met through the Yes Tribe, Yestival and Escape the City) head to Scotland to explore the beautiful Caledonia Canal for a few days. After a somewhat interesting start, they got away for their five day adventure. We caught up with them recently to chat with them about their experience.
Words: Mel, Michelle, Ged, Charlotte and Lucy
We organised the trip over May bank holiday weekend to tie in with the extra bit of 'free' annual leave this would provide us with. We were hugely lucky with the weather for the time of year, only seeing a few spots of rain on day 2, during which we took advantage of the canal-side pub's extensive menu of puddings and boozy coffees! An evening flight up to Glasgow late on the Friday evening, and return the following Saturday, meant we got to make the most of our time on the water and in Bonnie Scotland pre and post paddle.
We SUP'd the length of The Great Glen, coast to coast Scotland. Our plan was to head north eastwards from Fort William because the prevailing wind is in the South West and so we liked the idea of being blown uphill and/or not battling a headwind! This is a gorgeous 60 mile stretch of waterway connecting fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east. The route is made up of a combination of man-made waterways (constructed in the early 19th century by engineer Thomas Telford) and the natural lochs of Dochfour, Ness, Lochy and Oich. A totally stunning and hugely varied trip across the Scottish highlands.
We collected the SUPs from Explore Highland in Inverness and post checking the weeks forecast on our arrival, we made an easy team decision to turn the route upside down to avoid battling the 10 to 25mph northerly winds! Cue five tired lassies who had not long said they were ready for bed....on the canal and paddling into the evening sun to our first camp spot.
Some of us had never SUP'd before, and weren't really that keen on swimming but it was a brilliant few days and we all supported each other. We agree that the thing which we most enjoyed about this adventure was the company and sharing the experience with such a fabulous group of women. We had such a giggle at every step of the way and everyone contributed something special to the trip. The achievement was fantastic, but it felt so much better for having accomplished it as part of this team. This made the moments of tiredness and nervousness bearable and simply part of the journey. An adventure is always an adventure.
Having a hairy scary day on Loch Oich (I think it was) when the winds and waves picked up and my legs seized forcing me to plea for an impromptu break, made me enjoy the whole trip better because it might have seemed "too easy" otherwise! I'm definitely a happy canal SUPer by choice but the adventure is not complete without some frights.
Some of our favourite moments involved laughing at the 5,267 (!) packs of tuna to Michelle's master packing skills, my tent jumping to freedom onto the train line in Inverness, Mr Grumpy "Don't take my photo" as he rescued my tent, Lucy's refusal to paddle despite my "please paddle now!!" (we were 'sailing' with the aft winds and Lucy wanted to see how far she could go without paddling but I was heading for a collision course - I missed by about 2 inches), Charlotte's daily fight with her bag which needed a Tetris map, and the mystery of the lock keepers message "are you the paddleboarders? Well you left something important in the Eagle Barge Bar last night." I'm pretty sure the girls guessed that it would be something of mine but didn't say but since we had survived a day already without it, it couldn't be THAT important. Eventually I phoned...it was ONLY my house and car keys! See, not essential for SUPing.
#supnessmonsters was the hashtag that we used on most of our posts, although unfortunately we didn't see Nessie along the way. What we did discover was that a one hour maiden SUP lesson on the Thames is all you need to prepare for a 100km SUP Adventure. And that there is real beauty to be found on our own little Island. One of our group is Scottish and she re-learned her pride in the beauty of Scotland and being able to "show it off" in such spectacular weather.
How to do the same too:
If you are interested in doing this journey we couldn't recommend it more. The formation of the great glen way canoe trail made it a very accessible adventure, with information being readily available, a great provision of facilities along the way, and an added benefit of it being virtually impossible to get lost! We hired all our kit from Donald at Explore Highland (http://www.explorehighland.com/) who was fantastic in advising us on all things related to the trip - as the project officer who set up the trail it's fair to say he really knows his stuff and comes highly recommended.
Thank you Mel, Michelle, Ged, Charlotte and Lucy for sharing your story! Have you been inspired by their story? Do you have your own to share? We’d love to hear about it. The YesTribe is a community that is free to anyone who is looking to make life less restricted, more enjoyable, more interesting and more memorable. Your story doesn’t need to be an endurance adventure, many of the YesTribe are making films, raising money for good causes and developing the community.
Make life memorable, Say Yes More!