What is exploring?

We all have an idea of what ‘an explorer’ is in our heads- mine is a man dressed in khaki , setting sail across a wide sea to find new worlds. But in this modern day where just about everywhere in the world is already known, mapped, recorded, it is hard to imagine how one can be a true explorer anymore.

I am currently reading The Wild Places by Robert McFarlane, which is a sensational travel journal, which encompasses stories, history, experience and fact. In there, McFarlane talks about the fact that maps where once created to tell the story of a journey, rather than to precisely put every aspect of a place into data format. I found this very interesting, because as humans, it is in our nature to describe a trip as what happened, and what we saw and did, rather than using metrics and data.

So, with these two ideas of a map in mind, we used an OS map to find somewhere that we wanted to explore. We spotted a waterfall, marked somewhere near a road near Moniaive, SW Scotland. We drove up towards it and spotted the public footpath sign pointing in its general direction. Starting over a farmers field, largely uninteresting save for some magnificently large cowpats. Shortly after, we spotted the culprit herd of cows. THEN…an enormous bull trotted to the front!

At this point, us looking like the family from ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’, him looking like a caricature angry bull (nose ring and all), we froze. Dan whispered, “nobody make a sound, just look away, and walk slowly and calmly towards the fence”. This is what we did, and the entire herd continued to death stare us for a good few minutes, before retreating over the hill.

Anyway, near death experience over, we came to the river we had been aiming for. At this point, it was hard to know where the path actually was, as it is a rarely walked one. But eventually we found the waterfall, and, I mean I love waterfalls anyway, but it was a pretty one. So remote and natural, really satisfying.


This picture is actually slightly upstream at a different waterfall bit, as you couldn’t get near the main part.

So, then we wended our way back, via a different field!!

On this day, I did feel like we were explorers. We headed out, with only a vague idea of where we going (some would argue that an OS map is not a vague idea- but my point is that we didn’t start the day with a plan). We just went to see what we could find. And secondly, if I was to create a map of the journey that we undertook, it would certainly differ from the OS map, because OS maps are only lines and letters, and we found a much more interesting landscape to that!!

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