A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Archive for the ‘Abroad’ Category

Storms, Lava and Iceland Horses(Day2)

Sitting in the Perlan Centre after a guided tour of a glacier, inside the building but made up of real glacial snow and ice. Chuffed to be mistaken for an Icelandic chap, think it was the Scandi look rather than the accent that did it. The short trip is coming to an end with a gentle wind down day, Alison going to a museum while I went up the road to this ice place after listening to the John Beattie Lunchtime Show. Although we never made it to the glaciers or geysers we packed in as much as we could and need to go home for a rest. May be snoozing on the planed train journeys before making it to Inverness in time for yet another award night at the Kingsmills. Slightly strange scene here as the centre cafe serving area is revolving ever so slowly and now in front of me is the stairway and back entrance. They have to keep moving the seats and tables to keep up with the revolve. Finally balked at my 490 krona ticket for going out a door onto the balcony. They are maybe just a little too keen on the charging, but not enough of an issue to let it bother me.

Yesterday, taking Graham’s advice, we went up into the north-west, an area that inspired Jules Verne to write Journey to the Centre of the Earth. And travelling round and over it is easy to see why. The only thing we missed out on and that was due to the car, was the dirt track road going over by the Snaefellsjokur Glacier. We took the next one and a fine trip over it was too. The roads here have had a major investment package poured into them, all looking newly tarred and double tracked.

On the way round the peninsula we drove through fields of lava

and we stopped for me to take a couple of autumnal snaps

of the moss that is always first to colonise the lava.

Seemingly this is a bright almost fluorescent green in the Spring time.

Should have realised that the weather was a little fierce seeing the waterfall in the background going back up the hill.

On this part of the journey Alison had us stop at a couple of points, Longdrangar and Djupalonssandur, where the wind was now a full storm, especially up on the cliff top.

Hard to keep your balance and the power of the sea on the rugged shoreline was spectacular to watch. The photo had to be straightened as I do not have a tripod and it was hard to keep one’s balance.

We drove past the next stop but so glad we turned around to go down the short road to Djupalonssandur.

Another black sand beach and storm force winds.

The sea surging up the beach and I got a foot soak for trying to catch a photographic wave.

I find it hard to take pictures of the full ferocity of the wind, these will have to do.

I had no idea about how this beach still holds the remains of a tragedy which took place on the 13th of March 1948, when the Grimsby trawler, Epine, foundered on the rocks off the beach.

Here is an extract from the inquiry which took place after the loss, seemingly to lay blame on the skipper for the disaster.

 

“At the time of the stranding the wind was a moderate gale with a rough sea and the vessel pounded heavily and took a heavy list to starboard. Water began to enter the vessel in large quantities and in less than ten minutes after she struck the water in the engine room reached the dynamo and extinguished the lights. The crew came out on deck and with one exception were wearing their life-jackets. The skipper gave this man his own life-jacket. Seas were sweeping the deck and the lifeboat was found to be stove in. In the opinion of the Court it is almost certain that had it been possible to launch the lifeboat it would immediately have been dashed to pieces on the rocks, and no attempt at rescue from seaward was feasible. Some of the crew were washed overboard but others managed to climb into the rigging after firing six distress rockets, and lighting one fire on top of the wheelhouse and another on the whaleback. The wireless operator who seems to have stuck to his post and done his duty with commendable fortitude got into touch by radio telephone with the steam trawler “Spurs”, and also sent out a distress message. Shortly after the ship struck, Malariff Light was seen at times about on the starboard beam. The place where the vessel stranded was rocky with high cliffs but with a small beach at their foot. After some time a light was seen ashore first on the top of the cliffs and later on the beach. Attempts to establish communication with the shore by Morse lamp were unsuccessful and it seems that those on board the “Epine” decided that the best thing to do was to await daylight. Meantime, the wind increased to about Force 9 with a corresponding increase in the sea and some of those in the rigging of the trawler were overcome by exhaustion. Shortly after day-light the Icelandic rescue party ashore succeeded in getting a rocket with line attached on to the wreck which was finally secured by those on board the trawler and four members of the crew were taken ashore in the breeches buoy. One other member of the crew of the “Epine” got ashore by jumping overboard and swimming or being washed ashore, but the remaining 14 hands had already perished either by drowning or exposure.”

Although well over a half century ago the remains, still scattered over the beach provide a poignant reminder what was like at sea before rules and regulations improved life for the deep-sea men. In daylight it must have been bad enough, to have foundered in the middle of the night, just pure terror.

On the way back round after a burger and some fish at Olafisk we stopped a couple of times for some beautiful landscapes

and the quiet,

inquisitive Icelandic horses.

They were gentle and possibly long-suffering as yet another traveller stopped to take a snap of them.

So back before dark, no scratches and a full tank, with just a small half hour deviation before getting back on the right walking track. Took a photo of the “home ground” as it is good to get acquainted with my new national stadium.

Two Day Car Hire (Day1)

Day began a little disjointed. Alison after getting a photo of her driving licence emailed through (We both forgot ours, to be honest I never thought of it.) had booked a car for a couple of days. We walked to the Avis shop with the help of a street map, the only thing of interest on the way apart from the length of the walk, was a wander past what I thought was the National football Stadium. This was confirmed at the shop so now I can say I have been to the home of the team I am supporting in Russia next year. Me going with the flow, Alison set sight for the black sand beach at……..We set off and, the trip was magnificent on so many levels, waterfalls,

geothermal knowledge

and the sea,

always the sea. Not too far out of Reykjavik we stopped off at a geothermal plant

which supplies half of the capital’s energy through renewable heat source. Today, the geothermal power plant of Hellisheidarvirkjun produces about 303 Megawatts of electricity and up to 400 Megawatts of thermal energy, ranking Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal plant as the largest geothermal power station in the world, in terms of installed capacity. Impressive to say the least

and obviously all work vehicles electric.

Then it was off down the Golden Circle, stopping off to walk round the wonderful waterfall, not as spectacular as at Gullfoss but it will do. A wee walk round it and a slight spray keeps one awake on the road.

The little person in yellow gives a bit of scale,

to the beach at Reynisfjara

and the crowds. I am even more laid back about the numbers of visitors now than ever as most of them walk 30 yards from their buses take their photos and are back on board all in twenty minutes. We walked the length of the beach and were on our own for the most part.

It is the same back home, out of the car, photo and meal and away again, The geology of the place is phenomenal,

the molten lava being cooled by the sea and again the scale……

The sea itself was getting a little choppy, starting to blow a bit from the south-east. The constant rolling of the waves on the beach has the pebbles beautifully smooth and black. The two Trolls that were caught out in the daylight heading back to sea kept the attention for quite some time.

Driving on the other side of the road and car, in the dark and the driving rain made for a tense hour or so but nothing went amiss and the chappie in the gps got us home around 8.pm. It is only now after a couple of days away that we stop thinking and talking about what is happening at home. I have a change of course in mind and hopefully that will see me through the winter. This break has been awesome, I only ever use that word to describe something in its truest sense. This country of fire and ice fills one with awe. I reckon you would need a good three to six months to see it properly, to immerse yourself in the history, the sagas, the rupturing of the continental shelves, their drive for clean energy and finally, find out how to play good football.

Fisherman Goes Whale Watching.

The morning was trying to stay positive writing the last missive and I think I managed it but only just, especially when you hear what other people are doing in their Communities growing their Assets and growing their Community’s resilience. The twenty years that have seen Eigg’s population almost double has seen our Primary school’s role more than half, that against a background of far greater potential assets in Applecross. So to try to stay positive we went whale watching. Just going to sea on a fine autumnal day of the Icelandic coast

would have been enough but the day,

the gannets diving

and swooping

around the boat,

the other boats

also with full compliments on board

and finally the minke

made for a fine soul cleansing day. For some reason I have not been bothered by the numbers of tourists around

(wonder why?!!).

And finally I have a team to support in the next World Cup.

Nordic Horizons Session

The room was full, around seventy odd, people standing at the back, and they came to listen to the Highlanders tell their community’s stories of their recent history and in some cases not so recent. The Glen Wyvis story went back to the Jacobites, but I digress. The videos will be out shortly. Maggie started the trio off after Kristin introduced the breakout session by telling us about Nordic Horizons which was set up in 2010 to learn and exchange knowledge from our near neighbours around the Arctic Circle. Over the years there have been 40 events learning about the Scandinavian experience in diverse subjects such as kindergarten, cycling, constitution and oil.

The name Eigg comes from Old Norse meaning the edge of a blade. Although I knew the background to the buy out it was interesting to hear first hand the transfer of the island from Schellenberg to Maruma and finally to the Community of Eigg. From degradation to mystery and finally to rejuvenation. The plans continue and currently they are investigating growing their community hub as its needs has outgrown its original structure. The story of their renewable energy system is immense and the combination of hydro, solar and wind for local use must be a way to go in many rural, remote communities. The most telling statistic of all is the population increase of around 60 during the buyout to over a 100 now. Huge amount of hard work, volunteering, and dedication has gone into the story and it is continuing. Listening to the story I could not help reflecting on what is happening back home and how the residents of Eigg talk naturally about Community Owned Assets. I think this very natural idea has not been accepted yet on our peninsula. I may be wrong and often am but I know that a number of our community desire and are very capable of running such assets and this is  one of the missed opportunities in the Trust Consultation. While I was involved it was brought up several times but never quite made it into any of the documents. I have since dropped out and this may have changed, but until the Community Company/Community has access to Community Assets we will not be able to replicate the wonderful work carried out on Eigg.

Next up was John,

the Flying Farmer, who is the powerhouse behind Glen Wyvis Distillery. Fascinating history of distilling around the Dingwall (another Norse name) and Black Isle area. This was followed by some professional videos and beautiful scenic views showing off the best of the Scottish wild landscape. I invested in the distillery some months ago and hearing about the renewable side to the venture I may put another sum into it as the plan is to produce around 500kWhs and have the operation run 100% on renewable energy. Do not know where John gets his energy from but it appears unlimited. I am taking two or three steps back and will be doing more of that in the near future, need to rejuvenate some energy from some where.

Alison was next up

and told the story of the Applecross Community Company, the Filling Station, the Broadband and the Hydro Scheme and possible future developments. Imagine if access to land was added to this list……..Needless to say that the session over ran but the interest stayed until the end, Eigg and Applecross are already on the map and are now known around the Arctic Circle and I would reckon there may be a wee spike in investments to the only renewable energy distillery at Glen Wyvis.

So our weekend draws to close and while waiting for Alison to meander through the Harpa shop a couple of American students struck up a lovely warm conversation which began by asking what I thought of our FM Nicola Sturgeon. They thought she was the best ambassador a country could have. Chatted for quite a while and the conversation ranged across all issues affecting land in Scotland to health in America. If they weren’t Socialists they were pretty close to it and it must be good for their nation to have sharp minds like theirs come to conferences like the Arctic Circle. They have a standing invite if they ever make it to Applecross and we left in good cheer.Walked down town

through the Flea Market and back up rather tired to the accommodation.

It must be good that people to know the positive steps taken forward by the communities in the Highlands and in our case despite the people in control rather than with their help. The evening ended with a late night wander through the town centre and back down to the Harpa Centre

thinking about all the folk we have met over the weekend, Rasmus, Anders, John, Maggie, Kirsty,

Graham and many others.

Going to be a tourist for the next three days and looking forward to it.

Church,Ice Breaker and Rural Broadband.

Thought it would be touristy all day but the Arctic Circle seems to draw you in. Made it down for a fine lunch where I met up with Lateral North’s Graham. Did the tourist bit by going up to the church tower that looks over the whole city. It is a Lutheran church,Hallsgrimkirkja, which took 41 years to complete. The tower is as tall as it is because the church leaders wanted it to outshine the Catholic Cathedral along the road. Plenty of tourists about still, so much so that Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon all fully booked. Holiday weekend. As well as the wide lens view of the city I enjoyed picking out groups of colourful habitations.

 

I reckon Highland Council would never give me a job as a Planner.

 

It does however make you wonder why our housing has ended up the way it has.

 

 

Why did it go down the grey and white box route and why now does the new housing have to fit in with the grey and white boxes look. I am sure it would be easier to get through the winter if we lived in colourful and haphazard boxes rather than the uniformity that seems to be current across the Highlands. Mind you in Applecross at the moment even putting a uniform box up seems to be beyond the Planning Authority. Even with the mix of colours and styles there is an obvious plan to the place, so not advocating a free for all.

Inside

as well as the outside

was pretty impressive but you cannot help wondering about man’s influence when trying to preach a message. Does building impressive change people’s mind on a spiritual level? Prior to the church visit I made it down to the Nordica, the large Finnish icebreaker,

moored alongside the Harpa. http://arctia.fi/en/ship/nordica/ Waited 15 minutes in the raw wind for a tour of the ship. Consisted of a lot of stairs before reaching the Bridge.

Impressive layout

and as so many people wanted the tour they had to restrict the numbers and where to go.

Evening saw us at a breakout session but not the chosen one. As a shy Highlander I stayed and after the first speaker found the next two very informative. Environmental Impact Assessor who “mediated” between business and indigenous Peoples in the Arctic Regions of Russia. Throughout the talk I became aware of the uncomfortable feeling that it was “beads to the natives” Sure they received some benefits like a nursery school or help with their infrastructure while the extraction of diamonds/oil and precious metals went on but it seemed a big price to pay for very little benefit. There was a telling photo of a quad bogged down in a swamp due to the tundra melting due to climate change caused by big companies extracting resources. I am no scientist and maybe there are too many leaps of faith in that last sentence. Telling question at the end was who pays the environmentalist.

Next up was rural broadband provision in Northern Canada and suffice to say that the problems are exactly the same as is remote Highland communities. As long as the world is driven more by shareholder/profit motives rather than by social/community ones we will be stuck on the periphery with slow or non-existent broadband speeds. I am not sure knowing that other remote regions have the same problems as we do helps but it does give you a broader outlook on the scale of the problems. Interesting to hear about the small indigenous Peoples promoting their languages through gaining large internet followings, so ensuring the language survives. This taking place against a background of a growing mono culture which is slipping into place across the globe, again with the influence of the Web.

So it was the Japanese night, not entirely sure their connection to the Arctic Circle but it was very enjoyable lubricated by copious amounts of bubbly.

We were a bit too polite around the sushi and missed the boat, only going outside in the corridor to sample a piece each from a very overworked chef who was just about keeping it together. Fine food and the evening finished with the now customary brisk walk home. Lots to think about and although not directly invited it is thanks to Nordic Horizons I am here, experiencing other people’s similar problems across the North. Impressive is a word I seem to be using a lot but it is not out of place and I reckon many aspects of life in Applecross can be described as impressive…..

Arctic Circle, Nordic Horizons.

It felt somewhat strange to just be in Iceland. It just sort of happened, although well aware that it takes so much to get these Gatherings of the ground. Unfortunately Lesley could not make it due to a bout of ill health. Everything went so smoothly and little effort after leaving the flat in plenty of time, then the subway, bank, bus and airport. Little consternation when last call for boarding came as we were strolling towards the gate. Not too worry as there was plenty of time. Spotted Nicola, FM, strolling through the airport and again boarding the plane. After landing we got on a couple of buses heading for Reykjavík and again Nicola on board. Amongst all the crush she still very pleasantly had a couple of selfies taken for a couple of Americans. She never even batted an eyelid when one of the Americans asked what her name was, and that was after the selfie. I like this photo taken at the Scottish Reception on Friday evening.

Only been here for a couple of days but have come across so many polite and helpful Icelanders. They seem so laid back and give you lots of time to get you where you want to go. From the bus driver who dropped us of at our accommodation to the guys at the whale watching office and the especially at the check in desk for The Arctic Circle Conference. The Scottish contingent has been organised by Nordic Horizons. http://www.nordichorizons.org   I came as an unregistered hanger on and would have paid the full fee if I had to but as I was not planning more than the drop-ins today and again on Sunday it would have been an expensive trip. They could not have been more helpful and I had my badge printed out with the right country on it. Others had to change theirs from the UK to Scotland. Everything was done on time and we wandered up to our first event

where Nicola Sturgeon was taking part in a Q and A after a short speech.

I have to say that without the screen of the media presentation I was tremendously impressed with her erudite, passionate and informed performance. Even the Turkish citizen, who proclaimed his love for Margaret Thatcher did not faze the FM with his weighted question.

Off to the harbour after lunch,

you would expect this. But not before listening to an Iceland’s modified version of “Mercy” and an Adele song. Very soiree style.

First passing the huge Finnish icebreaker which was there as part of the Conference.

Cold brisk wind but a good antidote to the heated rooms of the Harpa Centre. There was a variety of boats

and only got into one conversation, albeit stilted as his English was not the best. turned out he was a boat builder and was interested in the longboat we were alongside.

Time shoots by and before you know it we were heading down the road back to the awesome Harpa Centre. Turns out listening to “The News Quiz” followed by the “Archers” and forgetting the time difference meant we had turned up an hour early, not as early as Maggie who was working off her first email and was puzzled there was no sign of anyone one and a half hours before the start. Met an Icelandic gynaecologist who had spent nine years at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital. She had introduced herself on the sight of the kilt and proceeded to expound on the wonderful time her family had in Scotland. Her kids continuing to learn English but with a broad Dundee accent. They are being pulled up for it as they are told it is not “proper”  but insist on keeping it.  Conversation revolved around Iceland now and seems there are problems here on the ground with ordinary working folk. Although there are signs that there is development going on all around

people are wondering where the money has gone and is another crash imminent. At least some of their crooks did jail time. Cynically speaking ours seem to get or keep their bought honours. The kilt has been brought out for the Scottish Reception. Wearing the kilt certainly has its benefit and kept catching sight of photos being taken. After meeting up with others heading for the Third Floor, a couple of glasses of red, we were at the Reception. Just a busy friendly, informative evening, and we were fortunate Nicola, when on the way in, headed for our little group

which had been boosted by Kirsty and her colleague from SAMS. Again selfies all around, followed by another short speech emphasising the connections that we all have. In closing wondering what advice we can get for our footie team. Towards the evenings close a Saami wandered up for a warm and inquisitive chat. He was a reindeer herder and was asking about hunting red deer. I am not sure he understood the controls the landowning elite in Scotland have over the “wild”red deer. Maybe a photo to follow. And after another glass of red it was home, a brisk half hour walk in the biting wind.

Slow Misty Mountain and Big Archie’s Dead Sheep.

The first of the days off involved getting up at half seven, nipping out to the Varuna for the medium langoustines, some to Applecross and the rest to Loch Ness Inn, before sorting out some mussels and seafood for the trip down to the south-west. I have never experienced a trip to Lochcarron such as the one on Monday morning. I picked up the convoy of eight cars at the little spring above the hair pin on the Applecross side of the Bealach and then proceeded to drive at between 5/15 mph through the mist till we came out the other side, increased to around 20mph after that so the fact that, although feeling a little pissed, I restrained from the horn or lights, passed one at Tournapress but not till Kishorn glen did I try to pass another, nipped back in when saw a camper coming the other way. Then got the finger from the car in front, young chaps in convoy, with silly little double exhausts, equally silly prints on back window, Arbath, NC500 2017. So waited until they decided to stop at the golf course before normal driving began and arrived 20 mins late for meeting.

Meeting went well and after a couple of hours, a quick shop, adding to the stack of seafood I left Applecross with, it was the road south to a hoped for break of two days of peace and bliss on the island. Taking the road down to Port Appin I was in unknown territory. Came down to the pier, unloaded and after local info parked van in right place. Peace was already descending and watched a fisherman catch a large mackerel of the jetty in the lowering sun.

Ferry appeared back from the island and was soon loaded up and on board for the short ten minute trip across.

We left the Pier House, a well known restaurant behind and were soon on the island.

It was apparent that all was going to be well as an elderly gentleman offered to take the bags and punnets of food down to the house. A fine plan as my two miles turned out to be a good four and carrying mayo buckets and bags would have meant two trips. As I was first to arrive the mussels were prepared and when the last ferry brought the others over we tucked into Andy’s suggested recipe of coconut milk and Thai paste to cook the mussels in was greeted with thumbs up all round. Simple meals are the best.

On Lismore and sitting round the table listening to the story of Archie, the film crew from Cologne, and the final scene of the dead sheep. Seems a group of film students from Germany came to the island for the purposes of making a film about a daughter finding her father but a sheep was killed before this happened by the daughter and it turns out the sheep was a particular favourite of the father. So to do the final scene. Big Erchie was asked for a dead sheep, one that had recently passed away. Well this was not available so Erchie dispatched one of his own and duly delivered the carcass to the film crew. They then began filming the final scene but they chose the only and busiest crossroads on the island, much to the chagrin of the residents. Not only that but it was around ferry time so a double whammy. To make matters worse Erchie’s partner discovered her pet/favourite sheep had made it into the other world so she arrived extremely irate at the film set. She soon had the film crew on their knees begging for a bit of peace and quiet to conclude their project. Tuesday morning saw the story embellished even further as Erchie had prior to delivering the “pet” tried to make use of a rather large and very dead tup, two weeks dead in fact, and having a blue tinge to it. With the help of a neighbour, tow ropes they attempted to use the tup but we’re overcome by the gasses that were emitting from the now mobile tup. So plan B was put into place and £70 changed hands to pay for the delivery of the dead sheep. Sounds as though the island was greatly affected by this German visitation to the extent that cars and water courses have still to recover.

So a couple of days of cycling, talking, meditating and walking are planned for the days ahead.

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