Wednesday 16 September 2015

Adventurous Journey to Scottish Highlands: A report by Aayush Srivastava

As the last leg of my Gold Award (International Award for Young People), I went to an adventurous journey in a place called Great Glen in the Scottish highlands. The Great Glen is one of the most spectacular geographical features of the British Isles. The ten-day trekking trip started on February 2nd 2015, the day I boarded a train from London King's Cross to Edinburgh in Scotland. After this six-hour journey, I boarded another train to Glasgow, and finally from Glasgow Queen Street it took another four hours to reach Fort William, where I met other colleagues, guides and settled down in the chalets there. Fort William acted as the nodal point of the trip from where we would trek radially to different places the following days. Scotland, like the entire United Kingdom, is known for unpredictable weather and being a person from India, the extreme cold is something I always dread. Anyway, we were lucky with the weather. The first three days were very gloomy, but the rest of the trip was good sunshine and blue skies. The main highlight of this entire trip was not just adventures but also getting an insight into the ice advance in the region, considering this part of Scotland has witnessed serious climatic changes in the recent past. 

The first day involved an expedition to Ballachulish and Corran. We all found it challenging as it was raining a lot and that added to the bone-chilling weather. Well, that made the entire group ready for the following days as it was just the start! For me, the sky-lift to the highest peak of Scotland was the attraction of the day. To my surprise, the sky lift was open (with very little safety provided!). For an acrophobic person like me, it was a really tough experience, however the stunning scenic beauty at the top made up for it. The next two days, we travelled to Arisaig and Achnacree respectively, where we scaled several hillocks and did coring at several sites. Coring is actually a tiring job, especially when the weather is not supportive and the land is all marshy, nevertheless, it's very important to understand the soil beneath and inferr other information from it. 

The fourth day, the sun was kind and we trekked to Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain. It is also a very popular boating site and we all did various water sports. I myself went canoeing and really enjoyed it. The following day we went to a national park on the other side of Loch Lomond, a site considered very sensitive to environment changes and home to various indigenous flora and fauna. I was lucky enough to spot a golden eagle and a herd of red deer. The park is so big and dense that we really had to walk a lot to get a glimpse of a few animals. The sixth day we went to see the great "parallel roads" of Scotland which are actually shorelines of a past ice-dammed lake, which are at considerable heights. The "roads", slashing through the hills have left scientists baffled for really long. Below these "roads", we saw the River Roy which splashes down its rocky course, surrounded by a narrow strip of woodland. 

The seventh day marked our journey to Drumlochter which bears the marks  of massive glaciation with  its legacy of moraines, eskers, raised beaches and ice dammed lakes. This place has some really rugged terrain which makes it a paradise for people looking for 'adventurous treks'. We did, however, scale much height owing to security concerns but it indeed looked stunningly tempting. The eighth day was the relaxing day for us and most of us chose to stay in our chalets and enjoy local Scottish cuisine. The ninth day saw us again exploring a new lake, this time Loch Etteridge. It's a relatively longer lake than Loch Lomond and we were to boat till its centre and collect some cores from the surface underneath. Boating all by yourself in a big loch was a certainly memorable experience. The local birds and bright Sun added to the memories and the coring, generally a tough task, finished in no time. 

Like every good trip has an end, we too had to head back to London on the tenth day. Early in the morning, we left our chalets and boarded the train to Glasgow from Fort William. As it is verily said, the very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip which not only introduced to me a new dimension of adventure but also brought me closer to nature.  Click for pictures

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