Thursday, 30 June 2011

Rhapsody in Blue

Kayaking off MacLeod's Maidens, Skye

Sea kayaking over the years has proved to be an exquisite blend of serenity, excitement, fear (sometimes, but not always overcome) and wonder bordering on worship for an intimate experience of the blue planet. Even so, there are moments where the blend is just so...well...overwhelming, that you know that the experience is even more amazing.

Some of the most memorable days so far have been on Skye. The first, when we barely knew what we were letting ourselves in for, between Dunvegan and the wonderful pub at Stein. Our second kayaking-of-a-lifetime trip also ended up in front of a well-tended pint at the Stein Inn as we beamed, bright red and crusty with salt, at the folk dressed in normal clothes. We were elated aliens from another blue world, one that was full of delightful surprises.

Taking off from Harlosh and out into Bracadale Bay, we eventually came to the cave-studded and towering clifflines leading out towards the stacks. The bay here opens to meet the Atlantic swell, and normally conditions here would be fairly dynamic. On this day of uber-calm, the swell just whispered gentle nothings to the coast, lifting the water's edge like a carpet. It was magical.

An immense cave full to popping with nesting birds. This one went back hundreds of metres, opening out into a cave cathedral.

A gentle splash of water disturbed the absolute stillness and a closer look revealed a stream plunging hundreds of feet off the basalt edges and into the sea.

A stream dropping into the sea.

Slowly the sea-symphony grew from small beginnings into a crescendo of situation and spirit of place. The immensity of the cliffs, the caves sputtering full of cormorants and kittiwakes with rarer puffins scudding along, just above the lilting sea’s surface. A sense of exposure that borders on high mountaineering and a truly awesome place to be.

With each turn of a corner in the dark, ruffled basaltic coast, the sense of exposure ramped up a little more until the theatre of spires opened out in front of us. A sensational amphitheatre of rising cliffs with the sea stacks breaking through the edge of the ocean.

The day was only half way through and our capacity for wonder was already full to bursting. With an ocean of time to play with, we crossed over the full span of the bay to the isle of Wiay. A stocky, basalt pile riveted with caves, we’d visited this isle before in bouncier seas. In the calm of the afternoon, this island was a rhapsody in blue. Cave upon magical cave and another wonderful place.

It had been a wonderful day.


Ian Charters said...

Magical! Now lost for words, apart from thank you :)

Alan M said...

Rhiannon, brilliant. I presume the 'isle of Wiay' (man) was named by a wandering Tynesider sometime in the dim and distant? Well done, yet again

NLN said...

Stunning in so many ways - almost makes me want to buy a boat - I said almost!!
Pauline :)

Rhiannon said...

Many thanks, Ian, Alan, and Pauline.
Yes, on a day like that, paddling's a wonderful thing. You'd love it, Pauline :)

Wiay must have been named after a Geordie, you're right, Alan :) Just like Guernsey..or was it ganzy?

Alan M said...

Nar lass, that'd be 'Jorsey' you're thinking of...

David A said...

Hi Rhiannon, fantastic narrative and pictures.

Rhiannon said...

Hmm, you've really got us there, Alan..not even with the help of a Geordie could I answer that!

Thanks, David- amazing photos on your blog, too. What an experience to see dolphins so close! Look forward to more Raasay posts and thanks for stopping by.

Alice said...

I've just done this trip in similar conditions. Agreed a very high spec day trip.
We also had a lot of Geordie chat - funny.
Alice aka @seakayakscot

Rhiannon said...

Hi Alice,
Sounds like you've had a trip of a lifetime- I've been following it on twitter. Awesome!
See you on the water sometime, and thanks for visiting :)