Darkness moves to light through the calendar and I find my thoughts turning to journeys to come. The pull of the future often conjures reflections of journeys past for me, perhaps that’s why I looked at a file from last season and clicked ‘Shetland Caves.’ Images gazed back and these thoughts filled my head.
The cliffs of Muckle Roe are keenly imprinted on memory. From the very beginning of my sea kayak journeying they have dwarfed my imagination, frightened and given joy, often in equal measure. Last summer they dressed themselves in extraordinary light and beckoning the paddler inward.
How it feels to explore the Hole of Helier is best summed up for me as “Go there, drift through, and drift again.”
The light plays tricks and imagination bounces and rebounds from wall to wall.
Sometimes I had to look up from down to gain perspective.
As caves grow old they can become haven that is ‘Geo,’ and a lunch stop with friends.
To the West lay something that is, of all the special places I have ever paddled, perhaps the most special of all. Kind of “mirror, mirror on the sea, who is the most special of them all?”
If you visit on those rare days when the swell is gentle, Kirstan’s Hole, the caves and subterranean passages of Fogla and Lyra Skerry entice without fear, fear of entry without exit.
Where tide can move through adjoining caves making gentle flow become rip …
And wonder can become confusion ….
…. before calm returns.
An island of many moods, some violent and intense, some subtle and reflective, we found Papa Stour in the latter, dissolving into monochrome mist.
Surreal, it was as though we had broken through to the unconscious mind of island, becoming part of her dreams and imaginings.
Silence seemed at times to shout before echoing back our paddle strokes.
I have been to this entrance before, I have stood off it, journey through it, and wished I had not, wished I could have turned and exited its near 200 meters length but could not. But last summer a gentle tide picked us up and sped us through.
One minute the west of Virda Field, the next out of the Hole of Bordie.
As darkness begins its journey from northern latitudes I think of being there again, land and sea of dreams, where water turns light to gold.
Thank you Papa Stour, thank you Shetland.