DINOSAURS AND WOLVES AT AN CORRAN BEACH
The entrance to the caravan site was very tight, between enormously tall and thick leylandii hedges which were not trimmed to easily admit Thebus’ nearly four metre height. Having squeezed in the site felt a bit cramped, with no views out at all, even though the sea was apparently close by. I was desperate for some internet as I could hardly remember when we had last managed to get a connection, but asking about it the price was five pounds a night on top of the camping fees, so bearing in mind the site was sloping, and there were no views either, I said I thought I might drive on the the nearby beach at An Corran, in hopes of finding the dinosaur footprints. ‘Good luck with that then!’ was the response, ‘You won’t get down there in that anyway its very tight’. Thinking that his comment might have been a bit of ‘sour grapes’ I drove on, and with his somewhat inexplicit directions was getting lost when I saw a Community Shop and Cafe open and popped in, as foolishly I had forgotten to buy bread or water at Portree.
The ladies there also thought the road might be tight on the way down, but assured me there was lots of room to turn at the end, and feeling I was getting quite confident with narrow roads I decided to give it a try
They were right - the road was narrow, with worryingly overhanging trees, and a tight corner and bridge, but we got to a smallish carpark where I assumed the dinosaur footprints might be located. The tide was in, and I remembered from when I had last managed to get an internet connection that the footprints were submerged at high tide, so we carried on right down to the end, thinking that, now here, we would park for the night and try for a viewing of the footprints at low tide.
There was a big parking area down by the harbour, with a long jetty and ramp for boats, but it seemed surprisingly popular for so early in the year. There were lots of parked cars, some of which looke rather rather flashy, and several people carriers, some big vans, and another motorhome with a large gazebo out behind it. A group of people were up on the rocky footings of the cliffs which formed the backdrop to the harbour, and I wondered if it was some sort of geological expedition. But we managed to find a spot for Thebus’ bulk and I let Phoebe out.
As we got out to investigate most of the people were quite a distance away so I didn’t bother to put Phoebe on her lead. The first thing that happened was that someone appeared from one of the parked vans to admire Phoebe and ask if she was friendly enough to stroke, needless to say the answer was - Yes! Stoke away! From both Phoebe and me.
It turned out that he was the enabler, though I am sure there is a much more impressive title, for a film shoot, which is what most of the assembled throng of people and vehicles were. It was for a German company, and as he was just in the middle of telling me all this his walkie-talkie crackled into life - ‘Get that Dane on a lead’!. Looking across the group on the rocky footings was now heading towards us, coming in search of refreshments, which were set out on tables under the gazebo, and with them was what looked like a creamy white Alsatian. I explained that Phoebe was very friendly and likes all animals and people (she doesn’t actually she hates squirrels from when they would endlessly run back and forth in front of the french windows of our old house at nut-burying time, right in front of her nose, and just where she couldn’t get at them)
Anyway my explanation of Phoebe’s friendliness counted for nothing, and when I was informed that it was not an Alsatian, but a wolf hired for the photo shoot I decided that Phoebe would be better off inside Thebus, as I had never tested her friendliness with wolves.
The Wolf Wrangler, as she like to be called, came past with the wolf on a lead and got it into the back of an estate car. Close to it certainly looked a lot less fearsome than one might have imagined a wolf to look, though we were all severely warned to ‘keep well back’. Secretly I thought the wolf wrangler was a lot more ferocious than the wolf.
The cast consisted of what appeared to be one very underfed young girl and the wolf. Then there were a lot of people to order everyone about, plus a lot more people being ordered about. And in a group, minus the wolf and the wolf wrangler they all went for something to eat. It turned out that the motorhome was for preparing the food, and for use as a ‘comfort station’. The two large people carriers were for ferrying the orderees about, and the flashy cars were for conveying the orderers. One large van was for carrying tables and chairs and the gazebo, and the other was full of snacks and drinks. The whole shoot was due to last a week and they were using various scenic locations round Scotland which had been recommended by the ‘enabler’. I vaguely wondered how many seconds the advert would last when edited and how much it would cost when translated into pounds, or more probably deutchmarks per second
After lots of eating and drinking and socialising a few of them drifted round to make a fuss of Phoebe, and also have an admire of Thebus, and one of them, after asking what I was doing, and how I came to be driving such a large vehicle, asked if a camera crew were following me!!!!! When I said no I was asked if I was prepared to be interviewed by them.
Now ‘Prepared to be interviewed’ can be interpreted in two ways. Yes I was happy to answer questions and chat on camera. Prepared was a different matter.
It had been really quite a long time since I had managed to check into a site with facilities, so other than having been able to empty the tanks and fill up with water when up by Cape Wrath that was about it. I had, in fact, even run out of drinking water and there had been non to buy at the last shop I visited. So showering had been out of the question, my hair hadn’t been washed in days. In general I felt quite ‘un-prepared’ to be interviewed, but with my new ‘devil-may-care’ persona I agreed and was interviewed sitting on Thebus’ steps with Phoebe peering, and possibly dribbling, over my shoulders, and who knows, even now I might be part of some German travelogue about the weird customs of various Island Races.
It had been a lovely afternoon, and gradually the cars and vans left, until there was only one belonging to the film crew who were now making the most of the sunset to take more photos. I intended to wait until it was deserted to take some of my own, but in the event, the rain came in, driving the film crew off and when they finally left it was too miserable to get out so, hoping for good weather the next morning I settled down to make a cup of tea with bottled water begged from the hospitality crew.
Wild Camping, as it is sometimes called is really the loveliest thing about travelling. After the film crew had all gone, and the last couple of tourists returned to their B&B’s, leaving a solitary car and trailer in the carpark, a sole yachtsman made it back for the night, having battled against the tide and wind, loaded his kit and himself into the last car, and headed off up the narrow road, leaving the quietness of the beautiful bay to us. With a single trawler working silently off shore, the sound of the waves and the day slowly darkening.
Next morning waking to the silent grey of the early dawn, with only the sound of the sea and calls of the birds I felt it was too dull to take any good photos so took Phoebe for a walk up the long water-break wall. I am sure all these features have their own correct nautical names, but having been a land-lubber all my life they are a mystery to me, so you will have to use your imagination, and forgive me when my sea-side terminology goes adrift.
By the time there was enough good light to maybe take a few photos the first of the tourist cars had parked up and people were strolling around. On our way back down the jetty we approached a German couple and stopped for a chat. Their English being of course almost perfect, whereas German is pretty well involved with ordering meals, drinks and somewhere to stay for the night.
I have been amazed by the amount of German tourists I have come across whilst travelling in Western Scotland. Apparently they have a real affinity with the place. Speaking with this German lady she enthusiastically told me of the Bagpipe Festivals which are held close to their home. I assumed that it was visiting Scottish Pipers who performed, and although they do, it is mostly German Bagpipers. I don’t know why but it was something which surprised me; somehow I imagined that bag-piping was purely Scottish
As we left the harbour I did stop at the small carpark to consider searching for the Dinosaur Footprints now the tide was lower, but the jumbled rocks below looked black and slick with seaweed and slime and I didn’t want to risk a fall then maybe not able to drive, so we drove on back out over the narrow bridge and under the trees to head up the road towards Torriden