Like all good trips, this one started with a quick message.
‘Are you interested in a bit of an adventure in November? I’ve got a two-week slot at the end of the month.’ It was from Johnny.
I replied that I was keen and we agreed to meet up, have a cup of tea and a chin wag, and firm up some plans. One cup turned into two, and a chin way turned into a deepening plan to head out on a proper end-of-the-year adventure. We were looking into options that would make use of the prevailing winds, coming pretty much from the north if the forecast was to be believed. We were also bracing ourselves for fickle weather, with high winds and low temperatures making mid-November a potentially unpleasant time for this kind of trip.
We had agreed previously that we wanted to cover new ground. I always have a sense of contentment when I drive over a section of water, or past a mountain that reminds me of some great adventures over the years. It always makes me smile. But there are still plenty of areas I drive past regularly and wonder to myself what the terrain might be like, what it would be like to explore that mountain, that loch, that river. Probably the most niggling one of these is the Garry system. I drive to Skye all the time through the summer and on every journey I look at the rivers and lochs and make a mental note to get out on them one day.
One day. It’s always one day. But now it was becoming one day soon.
We chatted about starting up at Mallaig and doing another circular route, a little like my post-lockdown circuit with George. But as we unpacked the potential, a sudden brainwave hit Jonny. Rather than a circular route, we could make our way through the Great Glen, treading well-worn ground at the end of a new route, then portage our way up and over into the Findhorn system.
It was genius and the moment he suggested it, my face split into a grin. I had always wanted to do a source to sea of the Findhorn, but accessing it from the east, where I have lived for the past decade, is unrealistic, to say the least. From the west though, who knew? A new wind farm has been put in on the Monolaidh mountains, which might — just might — provide us with a solid track to get to the top.
We had to find out.
After a few tweaks to the route, we decided that we would paddle to Foyers if conditions were favourable and then start the 32km portage up and over the Monaliath mountains to find one of the tribs that fed the Findhorn.
The plan was finalised and the roles were set. I was to organise food and open water gear for the journey, Jonny would sort out the tent and white water gear. We would converge at Mallaig and see how far we got. It might be rough and unrelenting. It would certainly be cold and challenging. But that was the point of the whole thing, we wanted to explore and find out.
I always find it hard to get excited about stuff, even when it's something really cool or adventurous, when it’s still a way off on the horizon. I need to be immersed to feel that excitement, connected even. I had returned home and got back to my off-work routine of running, eating, and sorting some jobs for the upcoming winter season. The trip was always in the back of my mind, but for now, it was a sideshow, it wasn’t the main event yet.
The days ticked away and the trip got closer. I started to get my kit organised, food ordered, and some new waterproof socks from Reed — a great recommendation from Jonny that I would have deeply regretted not listening to. It was a bit of a balancing act, getting the bags light enough for portaging, but having enough kit that if the weather was particularly challenging we weren’t leaving ourselves exposed. This had to take into account the off-the-water sections too, including a high portage route in wintery weather. Space was limited and a swim wasn’t really an option. Of course, we had to prepare for it but were it to happen, it could signal the end of the trip.
The day prior to leaving I was packing my final few bits of kit, aware that I hadn't heard from Jonny. He was at the British Canoeing trainers meeting down in Wales, planning to make the long drive back up that evening, pack his gear, and see me early the next day. But the weather was looking against us, with easterly headwinds forecast to be blowing force 5 - 6. Jonny text me back later in the evening and suggested leaving later on Monday to avoid the worst of the wind. After a bit of back and forth, we eventually decided to just take Monday off entirely and go with the lighter winds on Tuesday rather than set out against the worst of the weather and risk exhausting ourselves from the start.
We decided on an early start and to get going for first light at Mallaig. Jonny would meet at mine just after six a.m. We would pack the final few bits of kit and reload the boat onto my roof before being dropped off by Rosie, who gave us the massive of by bringing the van back home which would save us a journey at the end of the trip. The excitement that had been suppressed by day-to-day life was finally starting to grow in me. I was keen to get started, to see what lay ahead, and to finally explore this new ground.
We arrived in good time at Mallaig, quickly organised ourselves to get on the water, had one final cuddle with Rosie and we were off. The sky overhead was clear blue and all around us were snow-covered tops. The wind had dropped and we had — totally by chance — timed the tides perfectly. It couldn't get much better.
We were carried to the end of the loch by the tide and the thrill of a new adventure and quickly reached the outflow of the river Carnich. Here lay the first of the two main portages of the trips, which we had seen described on one canoeist’s blog as ‘the hardest portage in the UK.’ The plan was just to get as far as we could by the end of the day and set out the following morning. The nominal aim, after a quick look at the map, became a set of ruins where the river started to swing to the east.
We poled, tracked, and dragged the boat as far upstream as we could before we reached some terrain that could generously be called interesting. It was proper portage time. We took the bags out of the canoe and followed a well-trodden trail closer to the river, choosing to stay lower down and avoid some steeper ground. The trail was technical in places, requiring all of our focus. An injury here would have been a serious matter, so far from any help, and communication was key to avoiding one.
The light was fading when we finally dropped our bags at the ruin. We pulled our head torches out of the bag and made our way back down towards the boat. Neither of us was looking forward to a night-time drag, but we agreed that psychologically it would boost us enormously, not waking up and having to retrace our steps the following morning. The final lift was reasonable, and we were back in camp if not early, then at least at a reasonable time.
Jonny and I had never expeditioned together before this trip. Whenever you strike up a new partnership, you spend the first few nights getting to know each other’s routines. We agreed to split the roles in camp. I set up the stove and sorted out collecting water while Jonny started getting the tent up. Within fifteen minutes, we were sitting out in front of our palace for the night, our food rehydrating, chatting about the trip and plans for the following day. But as temperatures started to drop and dinner began to sit comfortably in our stomachs, we both began to look longingly towards the tent, and it wasn’t long until we hit the hay, getting some well-earned rest and stocking up for the trip ahead.
We awoke to dry and windy weather but our sheltered campsite was ideal, allowing us plenty of space to get organised easily. I once again sorted food and made some tea. Anyone who has read my past blogs will know my preferred breakfast, and I once again stuck with the pancakes and spread, for ease and lack of washing up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my usual choice of chocolate and caramel in any of the two supermarkets I looked in, and we had to settle for a Biscoff spread instead. Given my usual choice, this next complaint might sound a little farfetched. It was too sweet. Bring back the chocolate, that’s all I’m saying.
We packed up and set off with our bags on our backs, giving us the opportunity to scout out our route without hauling a canoe. The wind was building slowly and by the time we hauled the canoe overhead to carry that to our bags, it was beginning to have an effect on walking. The overhead canoe carry may have allowed us to see our feet and it’s definitely a safer portage choice, but we were white-knuckled as we held it down, scared it was going to catch a gust and send us flying over the hills.
We had to find another solution, but the terrain didn't lend itself to dragging. We had to lift the canoe, but having it overhead was becoming just as dangerous as not being able to see our feet. After a few trials and errors between us, we came up with a system of carrying from either end, but looping the painters under the hull and up and over our necks to take some weight off our hands. We padded our necks with kneeling mats and, feeling like a pair of yaks in the Himalayas, set off again. It wasn’t comfortable, but it worked.
We continued onwards, using any section of river that was close enough so that we could get 'free' 50 metres or so. As the river swings east, the contours on the map were looking a bit closer than before, indicating a steeper section. As we approached, our first thoughts were that it looked completely impassable. Again we opted to take bags to scope out what lay ahead.
The track quickly disappeared underfoot and we found ourselves doing a mad scramble along the sides of what was fast becoming a gorge, both wondering silently how we were ever going to get the boat through some of the features. As with all these things, if you take a moment to think about things, you almost always come up with a better solution. We took a moment, looked down, and realised that there was an obvious answer all along.
The river bed may have been physically challenging, but in terms of the portage it was undoubtedly the path of least resistance. A straightforward channel, much easier than loosing our footing on perilous rocks with a canoe delicately balanced off any body part we could attach it to.
Drag, slip, slide, pull, swear, drag, lift, pull, being disciplined to eat and drink and then repeat. This was the theme for the next 4 hours. Eventually, we saw the first body of water, Lochan nam Breac. It was 1km long and was a welcome rest bite for our aching backs and muscles, even with the moderate headwind. We were getting close to the end of the portage at last. There was one more up and over before the last section of water to the exit at the northern side of the dam. We were pretty chuffed to get this under the belt and just as much that Loch Cuich was mirror flat when we finally reached it. A welcome surprise, given the pace of the clouds blowing over the Munro tops.
We made great progress along the loch, stopping to get some extra clothes on now that we weren’t having to work as hard. Gloves were a welcome addition with the cold light winds on the hands. Ready for me to sound like an advert? I was glad I had packed my Dachsteins, as they work so well even if they get a bit wet. Advert over. We came up with a plan to put one each on our lower hands and then shared and pair of mitts for our top hands, the theory being that the lower hands get wetter easier and we wanted to keep the mitts dry for later in the expedition.
The light faded as we reached the dam. We popped out to find a suitable campsite for the evening, which turned out to be right beside the dam itself, next to the road. The lovely patch of grass was too inviting to turn down! It started to rain and we knew there was a bit coming through the forecast during the evening, so we set about getting organised quickly and keeping as dry as possible. Much as it was making everything damp, we were pretty pleased to see the rain. It meant more water in the rivers further down, and less potential portaging or hard work.
I awoke to a wet feeling on my right-hand side down by my mat, it felt like a puddle. I then realised that my belay jacket wasn't stored away last night and my socks were down there. Soaked. There had been a little water logging outside of the tent which had crept in as we slept. Having dry feet always feels like such a luxury on a trip like that, but it wasn't going to happen now. I thought longingly of the dry socks I had in my bag and nearly gave into temptation, but I knew I needed them while I was off the water and couldn’t risk soaking another pair. I’d have to just take a deep breath and slide my feet into wet, cold socks.
With a good track ahead, we loaded the boat onto the trolley and started to make our way down the road, checking water levels on each of the streams and working out where would be best to get back on the water. The Kingie was flowing well with the overnight rain, but we were moving well and opted to trolley to the power station to make up a bit of time. Soon enough we were paddling down the Garry system. The sun was shining, and water flowing as two golden eagles majestically drew our attention for a while. I even forgot about my socks.
The sound of white water roared ahead. We crept closer along the flat calm waters of the loch. I stood up for a better view, and to my surprise, Jonny was standing up behind me! Obviously, communication was going to be key, so we chatted through a line and went. As we made our way down the line we seemed to head further right than we had intended and between us, there seemed to be a little confusion. We had fallen into the classic trap of not chatting to each other mid-flow, relying solely on the pre-rapid chat. It was something we would need to get sorted for when we made it to the Findhorn.
At the start of the trip, we agreed that decisions would be based around journeying. This meant not feeling any pressure to paddle hard or committing rapids, for a few reasons. Both of us were thinking along the same lines in terms of making a decision, a swim wasn't really an option, and damage to the boat with being tandem with full expedition kit would also be the end of the trip.
We continued downstream taking each section as it came. Again we heard the loud roar of some rushing white water. It was a series of 3 drops with big, boat-filling holes. On a standard river day, this would be a fun — if wet — line, but with expedition heads on, we hopped out of the canoe and dragged it around on the shore.
The next set of rapids lent itself to lining the first half of the rapid. There was a small eddy halfway down with a fast but small drop which we agreed we would paddle. Though the boat was pushed in a few different directions by the flow, we both reacted for our end of the boat. In that very small moment, just for a few seconds, it felt as though we had been paddling tandem together for years. Everything had just clicked for us. We both smiled.
As we exited the river onto Loch Garry, we were faced against a force four headwind. The south shore promised a little more shelter, so we set out to cross the loch. The effort clearly took its toll on our weary limbs and longing stomachs, because as soon as we hit shelter we both turned our thoughts to food. Could we make it to Fort Augustus that night, we wondered. It would mean a long day and plenty more effort. But it would also mean fish and chips. We may not have agreed on anything in that conversation, but we both subtly increased our effort, just enough that it might make it possible.
Arriving at the Garry dam, we had a quick look to see if there was even any compensation flow that might allow us to at least get downriver by lining. It was too low even for that and we were forced to trolly down past all the main events and get back on a few kilometres downstream. The river was low but was being topped up by some reasonable volumes of water from the tributaries. It was just enough, but with our heavier boat, we were getting grounded every now and then, just often enough to make it a little frustrating at times. Every grounding ticked away precious seconds that might make or break our journey toward fish and chips.
We lined the last grade 3 as a team line dispatching swiftly. It was now easy water to Loch Oich. We reached the loch and the wind was in our favour. Fort Augustus was calling. We set up a sail and were soon at the end of the loch, heading towards a decision.
The light was fading, but time was not on our side. We peered over the weir at the River Oich, which was in good flow. We weighed up the pros and cons, it was fish against risk. Jonny knew the river well though and we both agreed that we could always pull out of the river at Kytra if the timings didn’t look like they were going to work out. But we shouldn’t have worried. We cruised the entire river in just forty minutes, pulling up on the beach at Fort Augustus with our spirits through the roof at having had some weather and water on our sides and an easy ride.
But doubt crept in. I’d been stung before. It was winter, or at least very late autumn. Were fish and chips going to be out of season?
Luck, once again, was on our side, and we were soon working our way through a pair of fish suppers we had longed for all day and which, in our minds at least, we properly deserved.
It was forecast to be really windy the following day, around 90mph on the highest tops and around 70 - 80 where we would be going. Canoeing just wasn’t going to happen. Looking at the synoptic charts, it looked really windy for the next three days. We would just need to sit it out. We had a chat about trying to get a little of the portage done, ready for the break in the weather. But having the convivence of shops and cafes in Fort Augustus made the decision easy. We had a great, sheltered camp and it seemed like a good place to stay until we could move.
For our day off we parked ourselves in a great café, drinking tea and eating breakfasts and lunch until we had outstayed our monies.
This was also a chance to sort out the last of our foods for the remainder of the trip. And of course, enjoy a bottle of plonk. We ate, drank, and laughed that evening getting to know each other a bit better. It felt like a great rest day, but we were looking forward to keeping our journey going. Before bed we scanned over the forecasts, it was still looking windy but easing off on Sunday. We agreed we would paddle to Foyers the following morning and do a bit of the portage so we were ready for Sunday to get up and over the 800+ metre tops, before dropping down in to the source of the Findhorn.
The morning was calm, even mirror-like on the water. It didn't make sense as every forecast was in agreement that it was going to be really windy. Above us, the clouds were moving fast but where we were it was perfectly still. We enjoyed the tranquillity while it lasted. The winds picked up a few kilometres from Foyers and we managed a bit of assistance with the sail. If there’s anything in your favour on a trip like this, you take it. We arrived at Foyers bay and ate lunch before stripping off our layers for the start of the uphill. We weren't sure where we would camp but would try and get as high as was sensible with the winds.
The trolley up the road was easy going with two people. We set up a double line on each end around one of our waist belts, connected with a carabiner, and pulled uphill. As we approached a farm we had spotted on the map, the conditions up high weren't looking favourable. We had another look at the map and discussed some campsites to escape the strong southerlies. There was a spot around the 400-metre mark that looked as though it would work. The track to get there wasn’t as smooth as before, so having two of us dragging the canoe was a major advantage. Not for the first time, we congratulated ourselves on the decision to paddle this tandem.
In the distance, we saw what looked like a big building. If we could get there, we agreed, we should be able to get a little shelter behind it. It was higher than we had originally planned to camp, but the solid structure should make up for the stronger winds.
The wind was starting to become more of a challenge the higher we went and as we turned across the road towards the buildings, the canoe was pushed over onto its side. We were camping here. Whatever we found, we would use it as a shelter, we couldn’t go any higher tonight, and even being here, exposed, was starting to become challenging. There was great shelter behind the building, but it was a concrete plinth. The tunnel tent we were sleeping in relied on tension to hold it up, and without the jackhammer that we had jettisoned in the planning stages as being bloody heavy and totally pointless, we were never going to get anything into it. I set off in search of the biggest rocks I could find to pin our home down for the night.
On my return, Jonny introduced me to his genius idea. He slid the canoe poles through the end loops of the tent and we lay the rocks on the poles to keep the tension across the whole end. It worked surprisingly well, and as soon as possible we were hidden away in the tent trying to get comfortable. It was one of those nights where no matter how relaxed you try to make yourself, every movement brings you back to your senses. You listen for that change in the weather, that pop of a tent pole, that unhinging of a peg — or in this case an enormous rock.
What we actually heard was a ridiculously loud bang. It was like a car had backfired right outside the tent.
I popped my headtorch on and checked outside. Everything was okay, the boat was fine. I settled down again.
The boat was still fine, so we peered a little further around to find the source of the sound. A salt bin lid was flapping in the wind, blown into the air before the weight of the water that had filled it brought it crashing back down. Hardly the peaceful evening we were hoping for, but we tried to settle down and get some sleep between crashes and gusts.
Morning came around eventually. The skies looked clear on first look, not ideal for us as we wanted more water after missing the downpours and high water levels with sitting out the winds at Fort Augustus. We made steady progress up the wind farm track, glad to be moving and getting some heat into our cold, damp paddling kit.
The weather was turning. Rain quickly became sleet and snow as we slowly gained height towards the summit of Carn na Saobhaidhe (811mtrs). We had covered 23kms with just under 800mtrs of ascent. It struck us that this was a committing portage when we weren’t 100% about the water levels being high enough. This uncertainty was doubled given that the Findhorn levels rise and fall, at times visibly fast.
We were hoping that with the ground being soaked, any further precipitation would go straight into the river. The weather was improving as the forecasted high pressure was creeping over Scotland. We opted to drag down the SE ridge to try and minimise the amount of time we spent trudging through peat hags. According to the map, there was a track just over a kilometre away. For me, this was one of the toughest sections of the whole trip. The peat hags were absolutely brutal and several times I found myself sliding backwards into them, completely unable to get a grip to climb out of the ditch I was in.
We stopped and re-evaluated. The dragging looked easier near the water source and it looked like there was water in the burn, but the catchment area was tiny so we concluded that it must not be running.
We took a risk. To our surprise, it was flowing high. We managed to get on just a few hundred meters later, team lining the boat with one line at the front and back to steer around the meanders of the burn. We were making great progress but soon enough it was going to steepen up to an unmanageable level and we would need to trolley and drag again at some point.
The single track on the map heading down to Dalbeg lodge had been 'upgraded' to a 4x4 track which was just about trolleyable. The levels in the upper reaches looked fantastic, surely we hadn't timed the levels perfectly?
We near enough ran the last section of the portage. We could see the start of the Findhorn. The levels looked perfect. It was on!
We couldn't believe our luck, the river was flowing well but not in spate and the sun was shining! We both knew how fast the Findhorn can drop, so without saying a word we started the changeover from portage to white water, carrying out the required tasks while eating our lunch. As I was moving my gear around I noticed my bag zip wasn't closing properly. The teeth weren't merging together and the bag wasn't sealing. I did what I could with brute force and trial and error, before accepting it was sealed as well as it was going to be and stuffing it back in the boat. There was no time to waste.
We agreed on our signals and got on the river. Soon enough we were heading swiftly downstream. The river was absolutely absorbing. There were no major eddies to stop in and check out what was to come, we had to stay totally focused the whole time. It just seemed to go downhill constantly as far as we could see. We approached the first main corner, noticing a bridge. A good sign of solid bedrock. We managed to get into the left and pop out for a look. We quickly decided it was a no-goer and we set about lining the rapid.
After this main event, we were off again. We couldn't relax, knowing that a moment’s slip in concentration could spell the end of the trip with the bitterly cold water. As we approached a wide bend, we both noticed a roaring noise coming from around the corner. We both saw the size of the hole at the same time as we rounded it. It was too late to bail. We switched to ‘give it some welly’ mode and drove our way to a ribbon eddy on the right-hand side, before being swept against some rocks. We leaned downstream and exited the boat as gracefully as we could, then started to line down the side in a trickle compared with the roaring flow we had just left. We both started to wonder when it would end. We were loving the water levels, but this already was a welcome break from the waves constantly filling up the boat, and the constant pressure of reading and running rapids we didn’t have time to scout.
Jonny had paddled one of the upper sections before with his partner, Amy. So when he recognised the get-in and we were finally on familiar water, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was easygoing, more shingly rapids but with fast flows to catch on the way down. We made swift progress down past Tomatin to our campsite for the evening. It was a cold night, with clear skies.
The following morning, we awoke to a beautiful start, the sun was rising over the distant mountains. We checked the levels and they had actually gone up to 4.5, helpful for the upper sections but meant we would need to camp again to let the levels drop for the lower gorge. We decided on a later start to let the levels drop for the top and upper sections, hitting the water at 10 am.
The wet socks came back to haunt me once again. I put them on that morning and the cold was instantly drained from my feet. It was a long morning, and they never warmed up again. The constant nagging feeling of cold sapped my mental energy too. I felt miserable with the cold. When everything else was going so well and had been so successful, I couldn’t focus on anything other than the numbing cold from my toes. It was impossible to get my mind off it and the feeling was making me feel sick, whether it was a physical or mental reaction I still don’t know, but it was hard to shake. That morning was the quietest of the trip so far. We stopped downstream for something to eat. I added a layer of clothing and forced food down my throat. I gave myself a mental pep talk. Be bothered. It was a mantra that had gotten me through a lot in the outdoors and that had stuck with me from my early days, in cold weather without enough layers or the right waterproofs. When it was getting hard and conditions were against you, be bothered, and you’re partway there.
Slowly we approached the first of the main events in the top section of the river. I agreed to line the boat and Jonny took the paddles we were using. I fumbled down the right side of the river, falling over a few times as I couldn't get any feedback through my feet to what I was standing on. It's kind of funny now, looking back, but quite frustrating at the time. We navigated the next drop on the right with ease before making our way down to Dulsie bridge.
We already knew that we weren’t going to paddle this rapid. Upon arriving, we went for a look and work out how best to manage it. We ate some more food in the sun and I was glad to be getting my feet moving properly and feeling the blood flow, even if it did give me a few rough minutes of chilblains as the blood began to flood back into them. Reinvigorated, full of food, and with blood flowing fully, we lined down the right-hand side again, then dragged a little and dropped the canoe back into the river and heading downstream.
We made good progress and felt like we were working as a well-oiled machine, thinking of the same outcomes and tactics before we even spoke, always a good sign that people are working well together. On our way down to Levens, the next grade 4 section, we spoke about trying to get some footage of moving as a team on the white water. I stuffed my phone down my dry cag with the camera sticking out just enough to hopefully capture some of our journey.
We kept going downstream to the top of Levens. We crashed over a big wave. The front of the canoe went high and as we came back down, there was a huge thud from the bottom of the canoe. We both looked at each other, both fearing, and knowing, the worst. Something had cracked.
We pulled over and I saw a crack under Jonny’s seat. We flipped it over and were relieved to find that the outer layers seemed to be okay. I felt a sense of responsibility here. We were originally meant to take my boat but a few days prior to the trip, I text Jonny saying I was concerned that on the Findhorn we would swamp too easily in my explorer with two people and expedition kit. We decided from hereon in that we would line anything that had any chance of applying pressure to the back of the boat, and not be drawn into running rapids just because they were there.
Light was fading as we paddled down 'Dragons Tooth' on the middle section and it was time to find a camp. We had hoped to get to Randolph's Leap, but the water was too serious to risk paddling this section in fading light. I jumped out at 'Carnage Corner' — named by the raft guides who frequent the river — to have a look and found a great little spot on the left. Jonny lined the boat to the bottom before we started our nightly routine. Once in the tent, I would usually stay out of my sleeping bag, trying to dry my damp leggings with my body heat. Tonight though, I wanted some comfort. I put on my spare leggings, enjoying some actual dry clothes. I put my socks into a dry bag and stuffed them into my sleeping bag, hoping to minimise how cold they became overnight, even if there was no chance of them drying out at all in there. I couldn't handle another morning with feet like today. We both lay back and had a few minutes of chat about anything that came to our minds, before drifting off to sleep.
The final morning was another cold one, probably the coldest it had been. The belts on our buoyancy aids and throw bags were frozen and I was glad I had kept my wet socks in my sleeping bag. It seemed to be doing the trick and I was in a much happier place than the previous morning. We made our way down to the gorge section. Between us, we knew the gorge reasonably well and made good progress making slick decisions at each of the features but never moving too fast. Slow, steady, and slick.
The sandstone cliffs of Mains of Sluie marked the end of the difficulties, we were glad that we had kept the boat intact and not had any major dramas. We had been in the shade all morning and were both craving sunshine. Chasing the rays downstream, we pulled over into a small section of warmth for the last of our food — a few biscuits, sweets, and the scrapings of brie left on the wrapper. We felt at home, happy that we were only a few hours away from finishing a successful and challenging trip. I felt lucky that my bag had held out and that we hadn't swam, but I was looking forward to getting my feet properly warm for the first time in days. Sure, they had warmed up, but they were lacking that true ‘to the core’ warmth that only comes from dry socks and a wash.
I recognised a forest on the left and I was certain it was the forest by Findhorn Bay. Around the next bend, we saw some familiar buildings. it was the end.
We whooped, celebrated and high-fived. A few kilometres of mirror-calm waters lay ahead, then fresh clothes, hot food, and a pint of Guinness.