Saturday, 19 February 2011

Watch out for the guys

This is not the most brill pic due to the sun on it, but I am trying to show two things.

One is the beautiful grassy location at the top of an idyllic Hebridean beach on Barra where we were wild camping. I think it was Barra, although it could have been Benbecula. Probably Barra.

The second is the fact that the tent is somewhat disformed, poor thing. You can see that if you look carefully. The top is not smooth and taut, and the entrance door is totally skewed. Here is the story.

This was our trip to the Western Isles of Scotland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides and any other island or peninsula en route that we could use our CalMac pass on.

Caledonian MacBrayne is the Scottish ferry company that services the islands and the western coast. It is not cheap. I think we paid around £200 for our ticket at the time, it was an Island Rover ticket where you get to go all over the islands which isn't bad value if you can cram as much as poss into the necessary time, 15 days or so.

Arran was one of our early stops, in fact I think it was the very first night. As we approached the harbour/port of Brodick, the cloud lifted, and there was blue sky, sunshine, and a lovely view of Arran. We'd been given gloomy tales of endless rain while on the ferry across from Ardrossan, but it was all looking pretty promising as we cruised into the harbour.

We drove not too far down the road and found a camp site. After pitching the tent, we went out to look at the island and buy provisions for tea. Being early birds, we soon went to bed.

Some considerable time later, and in that instantaneous moment when something shocking wakes you up I didn't even know whether I was awake or asleep, I received a huge whack on the head. I have to say that, when you are soundly asleep in your comfy sleeping bag in your cosy tent, some drunken prat falling on top of you is not the best thing to happen in the middle of the night. He'd presumably tripped over the guy line.

I was pretty dazed, but as I'd taken the brunt of the falling drunken prat, Partner got out of the tent and asked what the fuck he was doing. Or something like that.

Drunken prat started to get aggressive, and pointed out he had a gun in his tent. Well, was I ever freaking out at this point. My imagination shot into overdrive and I immediately wrote the front page story, complete with gory headline, of my own death on a campsite in Arran, shot through the head.

Partner was having none of that though, and to my fear and horror he told DP to shut up and clear off or he would kick the shit out of him.

We went off to report it to the camp site managers/owners. They weren't interested and told us we needn't bother going to the police. They probably didn't like being woken up well after midnight either. We moved the tent to a different spot (just in case DP found his gun after all or decided to fall over the guy lines and onto us yet again) and cleared off early the next morning.

But what to do with the tent? The poles at one end were severely bent and buckled, but luckily the flysheet and inner tent hadn't ripped. Still, we had a planned two weeks in an area of high rainfall - and we didn't know if we would be able to even put up the tent the next night. And if it rained ..... The determining factor may have been that we had paid for our CalMac pass, so we decided to give it a go, and off we went to the next ferry journey and the next destination. We did discuss sleeping in the car. A Renault 19 two door hatchback. The dogs normally slept in it.

Partner straightened up the poles as best he could. It's a good thing they were strong, made of some sort of alloy framing that they use in aircraft. Flimsier ones would have snapped under the weight of DP. The next night, we finally managed to put up the tent after Partner had made a few adaptations with a tent peg between the poles to make things work. It was somewhat askew at one end, and not its normal perfect streamlined self, then eventually we went to sleep in a much quieter and far less eventful campsite.

And that was the worst thing that happened to us on that holiday. A bad start, but absolutely perfect weather for the whole of the two to three weeks, beautiful scenery, wild camping, lots of interesting historical sites to visit, whiskies to try - one of our best holidays ever. When we sadly returned home, everyone thought we had been to the southern Mediterranean we were so brown.

I loved the Hebrides.

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