Friday, August 16, 2013

Swimming in cold waters.

Swimming during the summer months was not what I had in mind when planning to live in the Outer Hebrides remembering from my childhood days on the Mull of Kintyre that anything more than paddling was seriously painful, but just recently I have been taking that daily dip. True this isn’t a leisurely floating around in the briny but more of a vigorous splashing and relatively brief episode but during the hot spell we’ve been having there is nothing like it for toning up the aging skin. For us fellows it can be rather alarming at first however reassuring to discover that given time everything does return to normal. So as Sunday promises to live up to its name once more people load up the car with all the plastic kit and head for the best beaches lugging boogie boards, bucket and spade and bags of beachwear. I sling water, camera an extra tea shirt and some fruit into the back pack and head due north taking the short cut over the moor crossing to Garry avoiding traffic and people. Crossing Leigasdail burn and following the ridge out to the high point between Traigh Mhor and Garry I take a first skinny dip in the wee loch my very own natural infinity pool. Swimming in lochs at this time of year can be dangerous given that some are surprisingly deep and can remain bitterly cold at depth.
 The ground drops steeply to Garry beach and I can already see from the crammed car park that the world and his wife have made it this far. There are times when I watch in horror as holiday makers drive all the way up to The Bridge to Nowhere above the beach and turn round slowing occasionally to take a snap shot then off, the boxed ticked, “Yes we’ve been there”.  At times like that I see a case for seriously increasing the price of petrol or giving people an annual quota.
The tide is well out and the crowds spread evenly across the beach with children, the only ones braving the water as their parent’s lie beached and roasting amongst colourful trimmings on dry sand. I walk purposefully, barefoot across the rippled sand heading straight for the water, drop my backpack and this time strip to underwear, drop dark glasses and hat and stroll in with hardly a flinch as I take the wave head on. While young children try valiantly to ride the small waves with boogie boards I shoot past in the foam and as I stand to hitch my drooping jocks they look puzzled as to how I with no board could have travelled so far. Simplicity is the name of the game travel light when it comes to playing with nature. I mop myself down with the second T-shirt (an essential when it comes to walking at this time of year to keep flies and clegs away) then off up to inspect my peat bank and climbing higher to Seabhal past the abandoned rusting and rotting hulk that now serves as a convenient support for spider webs to sketch amongst the butterflies, then southward and home a very pleasant solitary afternoon stroll having spoken to no one.