Whilst scouring the coastline and surface of the sea with my eyeballs looking for those magical sea creatures, it is very easy to overlook what most kayakers are there to see: the sensational scenery.
I never do take it for granted, because when paddling alone there is plenty of time to take in the surroundings as well as sharpen up your eyes and ears for those nuggets of natural history. There is actually more chance of missing out if you are in company, because you may be engrossed in discussing who said what to who and why. Here’s a good example:
After five or six days in the wilderness I do find that all the senses are sharpened. This is great with regard to eyes and ears, but not so good, after five warm and sweaty days of paddling, when it comes to smell.
From a mile away I can hear the constant yelling of Oystercatchers, Wrens and the occasional Yellowhammer singing form the hillside, song flights of the Rock pipits the call of Cuckoos carrying even further. The only human-made sound is the far distant chuffing of the Jacobite steam train as it climbs out of Arisaig, and the odd Dreamliner six miles overhead.
Finely-tuned long vision isn’t necessarily all good. On my final day I was paddling towards my car on the lochside a good mile away. I could see a figure walking along the road beside the water with two large dogs racing about, one of which halted beside my car and I could tell by its aura, even at that range, precisely what it was doing. The owner assumed a sheepish and guilty sort of body language and glanced up and down the road to make sure nobody was in sight to observe what his canine companion was depositing. He then looked directly at me but quickly decided I was far too far away to have noticed what his dog was up to.
By the time I arrived by the quay he, and his enlightened dogs, were long gone, but I had to be very careful where I stood.
I had an early start on a twenty mile day trip around Lochs Sunart and Teacuis, so I had to take breakfast on board.
I stopped for a coffee break on a pink carpet of Thrift beside loch Teacuis.
Next day I paddled Loch Moidart. I got to know it well because I had to backtrack a couple of miles when I discovered that the ‘North Channel’ around Eilean Shona island dried out at low tide. I should have known this because this is the access route to the handful of houses on the island. It was worth the diversion however, because I briefly saw another otter.
So I exited into the sea using the South Channel and had a brief chat with kayak guide Ali Mcghee and his group from Ocean Alba. Out into the open sea a Loon was in the process of swallowing a small flatfish:
with a fine backdrop of the hills of Moidart.
By great good fortune it was exactly lunchtime when I arrived at the unbelievably stunning white sands of Smirisary, backed by an area of short turf perfect for a bit of a lounge about and a cup of tea. (video)
Not surprisingly, the Ocean Alba group thought the same and soon arrived as well.
I spent three days paddling around the Arisaig and Ardnish peninsulars, finding a couple of decent places to camp above sandy beaches.
There was a tremendous all-round scene because out to sea were the Small Isles providing an impressive distant backdrop.
And the vista inland wasn’t to be sniffed at either.
Progress was slow as there is no way I was going to paddle past a beach like this without a bit of investigation on foot.
It wasn’t just the views that were Caribbean. The weather was largely sunny with temperature up to the low twenties. And not a drop of rain for the whole week. Not bad for Western Scotland.