Archive for November, 2013

November 27, 2013


by backpackingbongos


November 26, 2013


by backpackingbongos


November 17, 2013

Postcards from Arran part three – Coast, stones, caves and waterfalls

by backpackingbongos

One of the pleasures of taking a campervan to Scotland is being able to park up in remote and secluded spots each night.  This is exactly what I did for the eight nights on the Isle of Arran.  Sometimes it was just me and the dog, other nights I joined the other two vans for sociable evenings.  With the weather being as wild as it was I was glad not to have been backpacking in a tent.  Having a van meant that I could wait out the worst of the weather, dashing out for quick walks in between weather systems.  It would be wrong to name the places where we ‘wild’ camped, so instead here are a couple of photos of my favourite spots.



Fionn Bhealach (444 metres) and the north coast

The main lesson I learnt on this walk was not to underestimate bad weather even on the lower hills.  This was a full day circuit that took in a trackless moorland ridge before returning along the coast.  I measured sustained wind speeds of 50mph on the open moorland which made it difficult to walk.  I would often have to kneel down during the strongest gusts to prevent being blown over. Add into the mix heavy horizontal rain and I began to doubt my wisdom of leaving the comfort of the van.  Reuben kept disappearing to hide behind anything that would give him shelter.

The unpleasant moorland trudge was soon left behind for a spectacular coastal walk along a well-defined path.  This took us past Laggan cottage and the Fallen rocks.  A section to savour.







Kings Cave and The Doon

A popular waymarked circular walk took us to the Kings Cave.  This contains Christian and pre-Christian carvings, some of which are quite beautiful.  I found myself following a rather noisy family so decided to peel off to the south to have a look at The Doon with its impressive columnar basalt cliffs.  An enjoyable leg stretcher.








Machrie Moor Standing Stones

I waited until late afternoon before walking the mile or so to the various stone circles and standing stones on Machrie Moor.  I was lucky to time my visit when no one else was around.  A very atmospheric spot.




Eas Mor (waterfall)

This was a quick diversion on the way to somewhere else.  During a day of vicious squally showers I managed to time a thirty minute dash without getting wet.  An impressive cascade hidden in the forest above Kildonan.


Blackwaterfoot to Drumadoon point

Visibility was down to a couple of hundred metres as we sat in the wind and rain lashed Bongo.  The sea and sky had merged under the heavy black clouds.  The shower had blown in from the Argyll peninsular to the west, a solid wall of weather.  Thankfully it cleared as quickly as it had appeared, the sky washed clean.  A stroll along the sandy beach to Drumadoon point was timed to catch a spectacular sunset.  The feel of sand under Reuben’s paws sent him into canine heaven.






November 14, 2013

It’s Movember!

by backpackingbongos

It’s that time of year when you may have noticed an upsurge in the amount of moustaches walking around the streets.  This is because it is Movember.  A way of raising awareness and money for mens health; especially prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.  I though that this year I would get involved, both as an excuse to be able to grow a tash with pride and also as a way of raising money.    You can donate to my Movember page here.  This is how it was progressing last Saturday.

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On average, men die at a significantly younger age than women – the average life expectancy for man in the UK at birth and at age 65 is lower for men than women however there is no biological reason for this. The reasons for the poor state of men’s health in the UK and around the world are numerous and complex.

From Movember’s perspective the reasons for the poor state of men’s health include:
  • lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
  • men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
  • reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physically or mentally well
  • men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
  • stigmas surrounding mental health
Movember aims to change the face of men’s health and reverse this way of thinking by putting a fun twist on this serious issue. Using the moustache as a catalyst, we want to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health more openly and take action.

Using scary stats to motivate people is not how we roll at Movember, but the facts below are too startling to ignore…

  • Men have a 14% higher risk of developing cancer than women and a 37% higher risk of dying from it
  • Around 2,300 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010
  • More than 100 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day in the UK
  • 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
  • Suicide is the single most common cause of death in men under 35
  • 25% of men in the UK were categorised as obese in 2011 compared to 13% of men in 1993
  • Since 1996 the number of people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million
  • In England more men than women have been diagnosed with diabetes. 6.3% of men reported that they had diabetes and 5.3 % of women
  • Smoking causes around 87% of lung cancer deaths in men in the UK compared to 83% in women
  • A study published in December 2011 estimated that smoking causes nearly a fifth of all cancer cases in the UK
  • Men are twice as likely as women to abuse or become dependent on alcohol
  • A quarter of deaths of men under 34 can be attributed to alcohol
  • 6% of men in the UK are “at risk” drinkers – someone who drinks more than 51 units a week

Our vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health by supporting prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. We focus our efforts on:

  • awareness and education
  • staying mentally healthy
  • living with and beyond cancer
  • living with and beyond mental illness
  • research
November 10, 2013

Postcards from Arran part two – Moorland

by backpackingbongos

A large chunk of Arran is covered in moorland, this rising to high rocky mountains in the north.  Rough, rugged and empty it provided a welcome alternative to climbing up high during a sustained period of windy weather.

Sail Chalmadale – 480 metres

I spent the night in the van, metres from the sea at the mouth of Lorsa Water.  A windy spot where I did not risk raising the roof of the Bongo for fear of it being damaged.  It was a high tide in the morning and I was surprised at just how close the waves were.

The owners of Dougarie Lodge are keen to keep the public away from their country pile.  A path takes a circuitous route to avoid the buildings, depositing you further along the track that runs to Loch Lorsa.  Here I met a shooting party, who although polite did not appear overwhelmingly pleased to see me.  They were showing great skill in bringing down pheasants, possibly the dumbest creature on earth.

Tweed and gunshots were left behind for the march up the glen, first along a good track to the loch and then a boggy squelch through tussocky grass.  On the long steady plod towards the summit Reuben gave me cause for concern as he was lagging behind.  This soon dissipated once the wind got under his sails on the summit ridge.  For a lowly 480 metres Sail Chalmadale is a pretty fine viewpoint, mountains to one side, the sea to the other.

The trek down the south west ridge was hard going.  Steep and rocky at first, bog and vegetation lower down.  A great walk and the only day when it did not rain.













Tighvein – 458 metres

Tighvein is the highest point on the southern part of the island.  It was worthy destination for a quick leg stretcher before wind and rain once again swept in from the west.

There is a way marked trail from the car park at Dyemill to Urie Loch.  This is not marked on my 1:25,000 map, a little bit disconcerting when Reuben and I plunged into the forest.  It was a steady plod through a rather dark plantation before a final steep pull onto the moors.  The small loch sits in a hollow, a boulder providing shelter to get out the sandwiches.

The final walk to the freshly painted trig point is short but tough, the deep tangled heather making the going rather slow.

As expected the view was extensive across the surrounding bleak moors.  Within minutes of arrival the clouds started to shroud the summit, it was raining heavily by the time we got back to the Bongo.