Monday, 9 August 2010

A bit deflated on the Spey

The idea had been for a family trip down the Spey from the tiny village of Speybank to the sea. Mrs and Little Miss CWW were enrolled for a 3 day float/ paddle, bivvying by the river bank. We had one kayak and the inflatable canoe, with Mrs CWW up front and the gear in the middle. A car had been left by the beach in Spey Bay and we were all set for the big adventure.
Unfortunately the weather and water weren't on our side, there being a bit much of the former and not enough of the latter. We set off under grey skys.

In more lightly laden boats it usually takes just over an hour to reach Aviemore, but the lack of current was at times extreme.

It was a weary trio who arrived at Aviemore 2 hours later. The omens did not look good, though a riverside cup of coffee helped.

We were too late for breakfast and too early for lunch, so pressed on to Boat of Garten. Here we hid from the rain under the bridge and considered our options.

The map suggested a total loss of altitude of 10m between Speybank and Grantown on Spey (our next planned port of call). I think 10m is about the height of right-angle falls on the Etive, but the Spey took about 20 miles to drop this far! The heavily laden Sevylor inflatable clearly didn't have enough horse power to get there today. On top of this, Little Miss CWW had nipped up to the shop and returned with this week's edition of Heat!. This seemed like a hint.
We decided to call a halt. Mrs CWW returned for the car (by steam train and taxi), I paddled the kayak onto Grantown and Little Miss read Heat!
A long time later we regrouped at Grantown. It was cold and wet and we didn't feel like camping, so it was back to base, the expedition being considered a failure. The kayak was hidden under a bush, as car 2 didn't have a roof rack.
The following day we still had to collect car 1 from the sea. After the long drive to get it, the weather had brightened a bit, so we decided to squeeze a bit more out of the journey by continuing down to Knockando distillery.
The river was more interesting from the beginning (it drops 100m over this stage).

Unfortunately it soon became apparent that out now lightly laden inflatable had a leak. How this happened I don't know- it was above the water line so probably not related to bumping the shallow river. It meant that I could only sit and paddle on the right side. We also couldn't lean to the left. The end result was a very sore back and shoulders after 6 hours on board.
We had a little bit of warmth to picnic by the river. This area has some of the prime fishing in the country, and the banks are often neatly tended. There were plenty of expensive looking fishing lodges with Range Rovers parked outside.

The final few miles to Knockando were the most fun from the paddling side, but we were very tired. With better weather on the first day our spirits might have been higher and the last stage a possibility, but it was good to get back to a bed. There might be a next time, but I don't think it will be with a blow up boat.

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