Archive for February, 2012

February 16, 2012


by backpackingbongos

Last Autumn I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a week in the far north of Scotland.  What struck me about the parts of Sutherland that I visited was the vast empty spaces, an incomprehensible sense of scale.  I felt that I was somewhere special, in a unique landscape different to anywhere else in the UK.

We spent a couple of nights at the Crask Inn, a place that I urge you to visit if you ever venture that far north.  An ancient white speck of stone situated in the middle of the vastness.  The hospitality there is the stuff of legends.  Standing outside I would often find my eyes drifting west to the distant mountain wall of Ben More Assynt.  The flat Sutherland moors rising in successive waves towards the heights.  It was simply awe-inspiring stuff.  In the middle distance is a long moorland ridge which I will refer to as Sallachy, rising above Loch Shin.

A couple of days later we were driving another single track road, this time along Loch Shin itself.  It’s a huge body of water and there was a sense of leaving civilisation behind as we reached the far end of the loch.  The empty moors were soon replaced by the towering bulk of mountains as first Ben Hee and then and Arkle and Foinaven vied for attention.  On this stunning drive we passed a long moorland ridge which I will refer to as Sallachy, rising above Loch Shin.

The following day we were standing on the summit of Beinn Leoid and I was simply spellbound by the 360 degree panorama.  To the west was the sublime chaos of the Assynt Peaks, Quinag stealing the limelight.  To the north and east there were wild and empty mountains, the quartzite peaks of Foinaven and Arkle looking particularly stunning.  To the south was the daddy of them all, Ben More Assynt.

However my eye kept being drawn south east along the length of Loch Shin and towards the distant east coast.  A stunning empty landscape on a vast scale.  I tried to work out where the white speck of the Crask Inn would be located on the distant moors.  In the middle of this rather splendid view is a long moorland ridge which I will refer to as Sallachy, rising above Loch Shin.

This photo I took looking south east can only hint at what my eyes saw, it’s hard to capture such a large empty landscape, to realistically portray the sense of scale and drama.  The body of water to the left is Loch Shin and rising above it to the right is the ridge that I will refer to as Sallachy.

By now I hope that you are thinking what my obsession is with this bloody Sallachy?

Well, WKN Windkraft Nord AG are proposing to stick 22 giant wind turbines on that ridge, even though it is surrounded by a National Scenic area.  Their website is here.

The John Muir Trust are much more eloquent in their objection to this scheme than I will ever be.  You can read that objection here.

February 12, 2012

From the furnace to the freezer

by backpackingbongos

The contrast could not be greater.  Yesterday afternoon we were watching the sun set from the scruffy Negombo beach, just north of Colombo.  There was a riot of colour both from the deep red disc reflecting off the sea and the locals enjoying the weekend at the seaside.  The hot and humid air filled with the sound of laughter, waves breaking against the beach and the ever-present honking of horns from the maniac bus drivers.

Forward wind twenty four hours and we were sitting on the Heathrow Express watching a cold monochrome world speed by.  Old dirty snow lay on grey concrete, walls covered in an endless line of graffiti.  The hot humid air almost a distant memory with the freezing air biting into our bones.  The sound of laughter replaced by silence and the avoidance of eye contact on the tube across London.

It’s always good to be home.

A fantastic couple of weeks in Sri Lanka.  I will do a write-up soon.  In the meantime here are a trio of brief video clips giving a taste of the sights and sounds of the country.

For short journeys the easiest way to get around is by auto-rickshaw, often a bit of a white knuckle ride!  Thankfully the traffic in the city of Galle is pretty tame.

One of my favourite spots of the whole trip.  The beach is cut off from the mainland by a mangrove fringed lagoon and only accessible by boat or footbridge.  A real tropical paradise.

Negombo beach is most definitely not a tropical paradise with its rubbish strewn beach and polluted sea.  However its only a few miles from the airport so a great place to spend the last night soaking up a bit of local atmosphere.