Whales and dolphins of the Moray Firth, Day 5, 4 June 2008
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4 June 2008 - Comin' down the mountain - Day 5

Ok, maybe this is the day, maybe we will be back in the water, see something amazing, something life changing. Or maybe the weather will be too rough again. Anybody want to wager on this question? Taking bets now, get them in.

The morning seems hopeful. As always, Gamrie Bay seems pretty nice. It isn't raining, it feels a bit warm, and all that. I throw my normal things in my backpack. I never quite figured out what to take with me me. I love having my binoculars with me, but they are not very useful at sea. So, they go in there for the car. There is no mobile service in the village, so it is nice to take it with to catch up on a few days of messages that have come in during the time I'm in the village. I don't really need my wallet but it seems weird going without it. The dry suits are almost everything you need, but I take a few other things to stay warm when we are not in them. Camera, of course that has to go with me. The dry suits have a secret pocket in the sleeves, which keeps it dry even getting splashed and all that. It probably wouldn't help much if I end up in the water but at that point, I don't think I would worry about my camera so much. And since the office has things like wifi connection and is a good place to write, I take the little laptop and leave it over there.

On the path to Crovie.

Duncan and I decide to take a quick walk over to Crovie (heard it pronounced a few different ways, local one and everybody else's) before we meet up with everybody. It is a funny walk in some ways. So much of Gardenstown, the picturesque parts of it, you see from the front, walking around, the face that shows from the ocean, but then there are these little supporting parts of the town like the rubbish dump and recycling center and we notice things like how all the pipes seem to go from each house right through the sea wall and I guess right into the ocean. Quick sewage treatment then. But the walk takes us through a lot of these places, the less pretty parts.


Approaching Crovie.

Crovie is a funny town. There is a road down the hill to it, but in the village itself, there is just the tiny road that goes along the seawall. If anybody brings anything there, they have to cart it through the village in a wheelbarrow. There are a few of them in front of different houses and at the edge of the village, there is a large number of them, all with their different house numbers painted on the side.

The walk takes us out the edge of Gardenstown, over the beach, over a few rocky paths (sign says dangerous path, which looking at some of the cliffs, sandstone with lots of pebbles wedged in, I can see how a bit of that falling apart would bring down lots of stone on anybody unlucky enough to be under there at the time), and then into the edge of Crovie. There are a few people sitting out, it seems like it would be a nice place to hang out, to forget about time for a little bit. Some are having their breakfast out in front of their house. A camera crew is wandering around too, taking video of lots of different things. Perhaps it is a second unit, gathering stock footage and scenic bits of small sea side towns. Nobody seems to know exactly what they are filming though.

Crovie's main street.

Back in Gardenstown, we are going to try it. We pack up the trailer with our equipment since we are heading to Whitehills to launch from there. The other group assembles and suits up after we leave and they launch from Gardenstown. None of us got out yesterday, so there are a few errands in town (Banff) to do first. The oil filter didn't get fixed yet, they need to be picked up, and they need air for the air tanks to inflate the pontoons for any stranded whales (part of the reason we didn't do the simulation the other day). All of that takes quite a while. And we stop at a few different overlooks to try and see conditions at sea and any possible things out there (nice bird rafts). The drive through town is also a tour of the Dale Walk of Shame, that's the corner that caused me to fail my first driving test, that one the second, etc.

On the way to Whitehills, above Banff looking for sea life.

Fixing the oil filter.

Soo, Amber and Dale, preparing the tools and flares.

At the harbor, we all set to work doing the normal things to get the boat ready. We also have two oil filters to fix. Mechanically it isn't so difficult but being marine engines, they are a bit compact and it is a bit fiddly to try and disassemble things around them and get parts in and out. And on top of that, we are in water and any bits that slip out our hands will probably end up at the bottom and quite out of reach. It all goes a bit faster than Kevin had anticipated, but unfortunately the weather hasn't gone as well. We look for anybody who has a more up to date report and get calls from those on the other boat, apparently it is pretty rough out there and a few of them are turning a bit green, or possible fairly pale.

Guess we are not going out today then. It is rather disappointing, but seems like a reasonable decision given the conditions. However we only have two more full days to see absolutely everything. We have already seen a few but we really want to have a good day with lots of animals. Lots and lots of them. And all week, we keep hearing about all the things we can do instead, fun day trips, hikes, tours of things, but how do we fit them into the last two days too. Just isn't enough time.

Well, we unsuit and pack things back into the trailer. We will leave everything there and tomorrow we can run right out since we will have everything ready. We need to restock the food so we head to Tescos. Now the other group, they saw Elvis two days ago and we are so jealous. Ok, that's another thing, Duncan and Soo and Amber are sort of my pals because we were on the same boat crew. We were supposed to rotate around to mix it up a little bit more but because of how the weather went, we didn't end up doing that. So there is a bit of us and them in all of this. Not that the others aren't also really nice and all, but we mostly spent most of the day with our crew.

No sea today, going to head back.

But Elvis then. So, in 1977, well, some say he died. But they haven't looked in Banff lately. He is there and walking around. When they saw him a few days ago, he had on yellow. Today we saw him walking around town in a red shirt and white trousers. Man, he looked great. But he is the king and that's what I would expect from him. They got his business card, but darn it, we didn't have time to hire him and get a private show from him. We later see him chatting with some elderly ladies at the bus stop.

We also do some shopping and then head back to Gardenstown. So we have most of an afternoon left at this point. We look at the options. Mostly everybody either wants to go up to Troop Head or go for a swim in one of the bays. I am greedy and want to do both. But I pick Troop Head because of the gannets. And I mistakenly think that we will walk past the bay they are swimming in and I can take a quick dip. That second part was wrong but oh well, the gannets were great and I don't regret my choice. Well, maybe a little bit but I'll have to plot to get my swim in later.

Back in Gardenstown.

Dale can't get up the hill.

We all pile into the Rover and Dale takes the wheel with confidence. We make it all the way up the first turn in the hill out of town and Dale stalls the engine on the really steep turn. And again, and again. See, all the petrol is flowing backwards and there isn't anything in the engine, he tells us. So we get out and let him back down to the flat bit and work on getting back up the hill, while Richard runs to get the gas credit card.

Finally, ages later, we make it up the hill and Dale then drives around in circles to find another petrol station that is open. Eventually we make it to the trail head for Troop Head and say good bye to the three heading off the other way for their swim. It is a short walk out there, all misleading and nice path, short distance and all that. Quickly, we are at the edge and start looking over. Wow, that's pretty amazing. There are just thousands of gannets sitting there. I've never seen them nesting before, generally, the few times I've seen them, they are just flying, and flying from way over there to way over that other way, never stopping. They have a nice grassy slope to sit on and I sit watching them through binoculars for quite a while. I attempt to take pictures through the binoculars too and when I look at them later, am quite surprised that some of them actually come out really well.

Walking to Troop Head.

After this, I have to hustle to catch up with everybody else. And after the next stop watching a different part of the cliffs, and so on. It is a really amazing sight and I try to take it all in. We walk along the edge of the cliffs, just inches from the edge and a steep drop to the sea just to our right. The path is a little challenging too, it is grassy mostly, but is extremely uneven and has a few really deep holes which surprise you when you fall into them.

Looking over Troop Head.


Through binoculars.

Hiking along the cliff edge.

Simona, Soo, and Andreas.


Eventually, we hop over the fence and walk in the pasture land, which is much easier but also requires hopping over a lot of other fences along the way, at the edge of each field. We crawl over, leap over, Andreas picks up a few and lifts them over, and some crawl through. Despite the obstacles, it really is a nice walk and the scenery is spectacular. I spot a small seal colony at the base of one cliff.

Climbing through fences.

Seals, on the front left edge of the back island.

We come out at the top of the hill to the east of Crovie. It is a challenging walk down, I make a false turn and nearly end up going off into a pit full of gorse. That probably wouldn't be very fun. And then back in Crovie again. Hmm, wasn't I just here. It looks basically the same, I guess a few hours haven't changed it, but I guess a few decades haven't either. Then a short walk back to Gardenstown where we find the CRRU crew hard at work making a big couscous meal and assembling things for Soo's birthday. Did I mention it was Soo's birthday today? If you were there at all the few days before, it shouldn't have been a surprise. It was mentioned once or twice, or three times...

Coming into Crovie.

Crovie public transport.

Back to #2.

We have dinner and a few drinks and then the birthday cakes and presents come out. It is a funny assortment of gifts, CRRU logo merchandise, bits of tat, and of course, what birthday would be complete without Andreas' pants. Of to the pub, hopefully it is open tonight. It is but isn't for very late. But it is late enough for a few rounds out of the kitty and a few games of pool and darts. After the pub closes, it is back to #2 to finish off whatever remains of the alcohol supplies, rum and coke and whatever else anybody can find. Another late night, although I sneak off a bit before everybody leaves because it gets a bit embarrassing falling asleep in the middle of all of this every night.


Enjoying the sunset.