Friday 25th April
Friday was, as suggested in my previous post, a full on ‘Domestics Day’ with me being assigned to the ‘Blue‘ duties such as the emptying and filling, as appropriate, of the on-board tanks followed by a good wash of both ‘Big Momma’ and ‘Wuxly’. You may recall that when we lived ‘conventional‘ lives like ‘sane‘ people and had a house, we also each had a car with ‘Wuxly’ being Shazza’s mode of transport. However, as part of our de-cluttering I sold my car and now ‘Wuxly’ has become ‘our‘ vehicle but more so when it comes to the ‘washing & waxing’ part, or as Shazza prefers to call those type of tasks, ‘Blue Jobs’. Shazza on the other hand would be conducting the ‘Pink‘ tasks, namely two lots of Laundry, a good clean of ‘Big Mommas’ interior, her first attempt at making me some ‘Eccles Cakes’ and then preparing this evenings meal of ‘Mexican Chicken‘, which I guess is just a Chicken wearing a Sombrero and laced with a ‘Tequila’ sauce !!! Now, back to the all important ‘Blue’ jobs, which are not in themselves a full day commitment, unless of course they are being conducted on a campsite where Eric has an opportunity to ‘socialise’ and engage in ‘Pleasantries’ with fellow campers !! Well it was a nice day, those who had not elected to go out sightseeing had quite wisely, like myself, decided that our pride and joys were in need of some TLC, just for clarification, that’s the vehicles and not the those engaged on the ‘Pink’ jobs !! Anyway, the socialising went well, lots of pleasantries were exchanged and we all just about completed our ‘Blue’ jobs just before the last light of the day had faded !!
It turned out to be one hell of a ‘Wild’ night, not due to any kind of all night rave with my newly acquired ‘blue job’ friends, or coming to that, the intoxicated chicken, just in case your minds were straying in that direction !! The gale, accompanied with heavy rain, became one of those ‘Lionel Richie’ moments ……. “All Night Long” !!
Saturday 26th April – A Walk Along The ‘Caledonian Canal’ (3.6 miles)
It had not been a good nights sleep, we were sure that we had heard voices outside during the night, perhaps awnings or furniture being strewn about, but when we had looked we could not see anyone. I thought that we may have witnessed a few ‘Awnings’ getting airborne and making a dash for freedom but they had obviously all been batoned down quite well, in the morning there was no sign of carnage as I made my way across to the shower block and although there was a stiff breeze blowing, the rain had stopped and it looked as if we would get a reasonable sort of day.
We had already decided that today we would go and take a look at the flight of eight locks on the ‘Caledonian Canal‘ known as ‘Neptune’s Staircase‘. If you were heading West on the canal from Inverness then these would be the penultimate set of locks before reaching the ‘Corpach Sea Lock‘ heading towards ‘Loch Lihnnie’ and then the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, these set of locks are all automated and operated by a resident lock keeper. The other thing about ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ is that boaters, after having negotiated the flight of locks, have to wait to pass through both Rail and Road Swing Bridges, but again these are operated by the lock keeper.
We made another picnic lunch and headed, in ‘Wuxly’, just one mile North from Fort William. ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ is well signposted off the main road and the ‘free’ car park, with no height barrier and which could easily accommodate a Motorhome, is conveniently located right at the foot of the flight of locks.
After our look around the top ‘basin’ and no sign of any impending boat type activity through the locks we started our descent and circular walk towards the sea loch at Corpach. It was quite a warm and sunny day but with a stiff breeze blowing. The towpath was well surfaced, if a little wet after the previous nights stormy conditions but the main thing was that the visibility was excellent and all the reports we had had about this walk was that we would have some wonderful views.
Now there we were, enjoying our peaceful walk when I saw out the corner of my eye something on the water, one minute it was there, the next it was gone ! As we drew closer we could see that it was a bird, don’t ask me what sort, as all my friends will tell you, I have never been any good with birds !! This ‘unidentified’ water fowl kept diving under the water, it was gone for absolutely ages and emerged further down stream. We must have watched it ‘dive’ on at least ten occasions but each time it surfaced with nothing !! Did these birds eat weed or fish and surely they, like us humans, have to hold their breath, so they cannot eat underwater so I could only assume that this individual was expending a great deal of energy for very little reward. But then I just managed to get this photo………
There is a nice grassed area with picnic tables and benches that overlooks both the ‘Corpach Basin’ and ‘Loch Lihnnie’ so we sat and enjoyed the views whilst eating our lunch before setting off again but this time on the towpath on the other side of the Canal.
It hadn’t been a strenuous walk, in fact most of it was fairly flat and although the scenery was absolutely marvellous I have to confess at being slightly disappointed at the lack of boats actually moving on the canal. Well someone must have been reading my mind because our timing back to the bottom of the locks at ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ couldn’t have been better. In the bottom lock, waiting to pass through the last lock gate and the road and rail swing bridge were two boats, one a fishing vessel on its way to the summer fishing grounds in the Northern Atlantic waters and the other a smaller sailing yacht.
So all in all a very pleasant walk, nothing too strenuous today but not all our ‘Expeditions’ need to be akin to route marches. This was very likely to be our last ‘sightseeing’ trip or ‘Expedition’ in this area, well for this visit at least, there is a lot more to see and do in and around Fort William so a return visit is not out of the question. One trip we would like to return for is the famous journey on the ‘Hogwarts Express‘, a steam train journey from Fort William to Mallaig which is a distance of around 46 miles. It is called the ‘Hogwarts Express’ because this is the train that is used in the ‘Harry Potter’ films. But there are so many other things to see and do, Historic Castles, Bicycle Routes, Walking Routes and even the Whisky ‘Distilleries’, oh yes, I may have been underwhelmed with Fort William as a town but as a place to use as a base to explore the wider area it is perfect.
Although we had one day left before travelling the last Seventy or so miles further North to our final destination and allocated Caravan Club site for our first summer season, we would be using that for another major re-stock of provisions. Our helpful and informative Wardens at this site had pre-warned us that where we were going was pretty ‘remote’ as far as shopping opportunities were concerned. Whilst there were local shops, the availability of the larger Supermarkets would be a choice of either Fort William or Inverness !! So, we needed to make sure that the ‘larder’ was full so that for the first couple of weeks we could concentrate on learning our new roles rather than worrying about what we had in the cupboards to eat !! So our last day would be a visit to Fort William to both the ‘Aldi’ and ‘Morrissons’ supermarkets, then upon our return it would all need to be carefully stored in ‘Big Momma’.
We returned from our walk and after a mug of fresh hot coffee I decided to take a walk along the shoreline whilst Shazza put her feet up and relaxed in the van. There is something quite soothing about being on or near water, I wandered as far as I could possibly go along the rugged and rocky foreshore before the sea would let me go no further and I found a suitable rock and just sat there with my thoughts. I reflected on what we had done in the seven months since we drove away from what had been our home, half of that time had been spent on an Autumn/Winter mini-adventure in Spain and Portugal and the other half on a Winter/Spring mini-adventure touring parts of the UK. In that relatively short period of time we have travelled to many different places, all with different memories for many wide and varied reasons, we have met many different people of all Nationalities and we have loved every minute if it, well almost every minute !! We are now about to start another chapter in our ‘Adventure’, a Summer in Scotland where we will be working, but also, through that work, meeting lots of different people, hopefully of mixed Nationalities and during our four months we still expect to be doing some sightseeing ourselves and I dare say countless more ‘Shazza Expeditions’. I do intend to keep publishing my blog posts but I am not sure, at this moment in time, how frequent that may be. I do hope that you have enjoyed being on this journey with us and that you will continue to stay a little while longer on ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’………………………