We love taking our teammates out of their day-to-day lives and dropping them into full-blown adventure. This is the foundation on which Secret Compass was built and what we’ve strived to do ever since. 2020 however has been no ordinary year. The global impact of the pandemic meant our expedition lineup was totally stripped back and we barely got to take any of you out into the wild places where the fun stuff happens.
In September though, we led a really small, tight knit team to follow Scotland’s River Tay from source to sea and we couldn’t have been more exciting to get back out there. We were thrilled to welcome back Simon, who in 2019 had joined us in Sudan to cross the Bayuda Desert. We caught up with Simon on his return to reality for some quick fire thoughts on his experiences on the expedition.
Hey Simon, so how’s your year been – where have you been based during lockdown and have you managed to get out and about at all during the pandemic?
I was lucky enough to get to India either side of Christmas, so I was fortunate not to have to cancel anything I had planned. Being an HGV driver I’m a key worker so everyday life never really changed, it just got busier.
And what was your motivation for joining the Scotland expedition?
I had holiday to use up and you sent me an email. The expedition looked awesome so I booked it. Simple.
What’s been your previous expedition experience prior to this trip?
I of course did your Sudan trip last year (highly recommended to anyone reading this). That’s the only real expedition I’d done, but I have travelled a fair bit and most of the time it involved camping and a lack of showers.
How did you get on with the paddling in Scotland – did you have much experience before this exped?
Actually I had never done any paddling before but that was the main attraction of the trip. Once I learned how to steer the raft it was pretty straight forward. You’re wet most of the time but the scenery was fantastic. When the sun came out it was a very pleasant way to travel.
Were there many rapids you had to negotiate – and how did you find them?
I think we did about half a dozen. We walked around a more difficult one early on but as our confidence and skill improved we were able to manage all the rest with only minor mishaps. Going through them backwards just adds to the experience!
I know you guys faced some pretty full on weather during the expedition – not surprising for Scotland – how did you find it and what challenges did you and the team face?
The first night and second day were horrendous. My tent door blew open and flooded my tent,so my pack weighed about twice what it had started out. The streams we had to cross on the second day had become raging torrents, the bogs were deep, the down hill bits were slippery and we were all pretty much soaked through. After that, the weather improved a bit and the last couple of days were warm and sunny. We were still wet though!
What were the highlights of the expedition for you personally?
We got to camp in some lovely places. Because of the weather it was never what you would call fun but apart from being flooded in the first night and camping in a bit of a bog the second day it was still a highlight of the trip. That and learning to paddle properly.
Definitely sounds like the team had its challenges. Did you take on any techniques for keeping the mood up when it go challenging?
Just the thought of one day being dry again.