Friday, 23 March 2018

Looking North for an upcoming adventure


During the daily grind when my mind wanders, and I have to admit it often does, it most frequently heads North.

Not always - the wide open spaces of Africa with it's diverse (and large!) wildlife; the mountains of Corsica and the GR20 long distance trail I've wanted to hike since I was teenager; the blue waters, exotic fruits and tropical forests of the Caribbean; New Zealand, the European Alps, the Atlas Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest... I'll stop there, you get the point, I mentally wander south sometimes too.

But most often it's North. Landing on a high mountain lake in Alaska in a De Havilland Beaver float plane; watching the Northern Lights dancing over the snow covered forests in Arctic Sweden; and very, very often its Scotland.

I first visited Scotland as a 17 year old - I worked on an RSPB reserve on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park for a week (as a volunteer) as part of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. That week introduced me to a stunningly beautiful country which I have visited relatively often since, but no where near as often as I would like. There is still a lot I would like to explore and experience - luckily I've got a good few years to keep exploring and my wife loves Scotland too!

That trip almost 13 years ago also introduced me to the idea that working in the conservation industry wouldn't be such a bad way to make a living - a pivotal moment in many ways. But at that time my career aspirations lay elsewhere - to be entirely specific they lay a hundred miles or so west, flying small commercial passenger planes around the islands of the west coast of Scotland - that was my dream job. When the time came a commercial pilots licence was a cost I just couldn't justify and I followed my back up plan, went to university and now work in conservation.

But in just over a weeks time I will be fulfilling a small part of that 15 plus year old dream and flying onto a small Scottish island - Barra - in one of those very same small commercial passenger planes where I will land on a beach (the only commercial airport in the world which operates from a beach - yes really!). I won't be the pilot of course, sadly, but this is still a whole lot closer to that dream than nothing! 

Barra is the most southerly inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides island chain, and just 10 miles north to south, and 7.5 miles east to west. Small enough to explore by foot over the course of the 3 days I'll be spending there. I'll be camping during my visit so I've got my fingers crossed that the Beast from the East Part 3 doesn't bring a quite the cold snap that some reports are suggesting! I also need to go through my gear and thin it out a bit to meet the baggage allowance for the flight in.

I'll leave that kit discussion for another time. For now you may have gathered that I am pretty excited for my upcoming trip! And you can be certain in the knowledge that you will hear more about it on here in due course.

Richard 

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