scotland2_jpg_t285We definitely looked a tad out of place standing around the Inverness train station while waiting for our outfitter to pick us up. Everyone around us were wearing knee-high green rubber gum-boots. My wife, Alana, six year-old daughter, Kyla, and I were dressed in low leather hikers - typical gear for a summer canoe trip in Canada but not necessarily the northwest tip of Scotland. Our odd appearance became even more evident when our outfitter picked us up (Kushi Adventures a Kushi Adventures Russell recognized us straight away; looking down at our feet, he smirked "You must be the paddlers from Canada."

After a quick trip to the local store to buy us some proper "Wellies," Russell drove us north. The route chosen for us was a remote spot of Inverpolly, located in the North West Highlands - about a 2 1/2 hour drive out from Inverness. My prior communications with Russell simply asked for a place with beautiful scenery and few people - he matched it perfectly.

We dodged sheep and cows on the road in to our put-in at Loch Buine Moire. Here, a short 400 meter portage between two stunted knobs of glacial rock would take us to our first camping area - Loch Sionascaig. The turquoise colored lake had a shoreline made of peat bogs, heather moorland, low lying pockets of birch - and in the backdrop the towering Torridonian Sandstone peaks (Stac Pollaidh, Suliven, Ben Mor Colgach, Cul Mor and Cul Beag). Of course, we saw little of the magnificent scenery due to it "chuck'n" down rain when we arrived. While Alana and Kyla pushed on their gum-boots, Russell quickly pointed the location of the first portage, sketched a makeshift manual on how to erect the new tunnel tent he had packed for us, and described the art of lighting a Kelly Kettle with one match and a bundle of wet heather. It was learn as we go, baptism by fire, jump in with both was an anxious moment to say the least.

Kyla helped belittle the stress somewhat when she threw her pack into the canoe, storing her collection of Polly-Pockets and a newly purchased red-haired Highlander dancing doll and said "Come on Dad, were not made out of sugar!"

Into the cold rain we went, a clan of Canadian paddlers heading into the wilds of Scotland.

Once over the portage I did what any canoeist with experience tripping in northern Ontario during a rain storm would do - I looked for a clump of trees to put up a tarp and light a warm fire. Problem was, clumps of trees are a rare find in northern Scotland and when you find them, the area they're rooted in happens to be the wettest around. We resorted to a drier spot - a bog where the standing water was only ankle deep. Two mounds of rock gave us some protection against the fierce numbing winds and I was able to light the Kelly Kettle with - amazing enough - a single match and a bundle of wet heather. The tunnel tent was an amazing piece of gear that matched the elements we were in as well. The "tunnel" formed a self-standing shelter, with the sleeping portion being added when needed. We were able to get out of the rain and wind and even cook up our first meal (bangers and mash) - something we couldn't possible imagine doing in northern Ontario due to hungry black bears wandering the woods.

With the global position of the northern Highlands, and that the summer solstice had just begun, it remained light out well past Kyla's bedtime. So, once the rain stopped, we all crawled out of the tunnel tent to take some time to soak in the scenery around us. We gawked as the rising mist cleared from the surrounding mountains and unveiled the stunning landscape. Kyla with her hot chocolate and Alana and I with a wee dram of whisky, we settled into our new found canoe country - northern Scotland.

Part 2 coming soon.