The journey to pick Kerry up from Clevedon was pretty much uneventful. The Google maps route suggested many traffic jams lay ahead of me but there was nothing but blissfully clear roads for the entire 180 miles! Was this a sign for the next couple of weeks? Will the roads be empty except for Kerry and I and my van?
I was a fool to think that. We set off from Clevedon a bit late in the day and pretty much drove into a 300 mile traffic jam.
The morning started with “Where shall we stop for the night on the way to Inverness?”
I opened up The Campervan Bible’s website, logged in and opened up their interactive map. The whole of the UK was covered in 1000’s of symbols. I said, “tap the screen and let’s head there!”
So Lake Windermere in the Lake District it was! Honestly, it was the most perfectly aimed finger prod I’ve ever witnessed! Only 15 miles off piste it was perfect! We could cross that off our bucket list too. Been there, done that!
With the van emptied of all of the unnecessary full time stuff I usually lug around and the space filled with Kerry’s stuff that she doesn’t usually lug around, we hit the aforementioned tailback from hell. Ed from Camptoo messaged me wishing us a safe trip to which I replied with a simply recorded message of a long scream and a photo of many thousands of vehicles and their brake lights.
No matter, we’ll get there eventually I’m sure. And after a couple of coffee stops (all me) and piss stops (also all me) and many hours of driving we arrived at Lake Windermere. What a sight! Absolutely stunning! We landed straight on the map pin for the Campervan overnight car park, paid the tenner for the night at the ticket machine and went for a walk to embrace the fresh air, stretch our legs and feast. Only all we feasted on was the variety of flying beasts that kept entering our mouths as all the bars and restaurants on the harbour front were rammed full to the brim. We headed back to the lair and after copious amounts of cheese and crackers we settled down for the night.
The following morning we set off after a terrible bacon roll and luke warm coffee from the harbour. Shame really as the cafe showed promise. Instead of promise we got 17 day old rock hard rolls with 3x microwaved and grilled bacon fat. The coffee wasn’t actually coffee, rather luke warm milk with some deflated froth atop and a hint of browness.
The next leg of the journey northbound was noticeably lighter on the traffic. We sat at a steady 70 for the next several hundred miles whilst I watched the fuel gauge do it’s thing.
Coffee was needed several times and one of the stops was at a lay-by service/visitor area on the edge of the Cairngorms called The Hairy Coo. There were no hairy coo’s per se just a ginger one made of steel but cute none the less! The coffee was notably fine though so I was happy!
As we ventured along the A9 that circumnavigated the Cairngorms I noticed that it was very well equipped with numbered lay-bys. As each one passed I couldn’t help but think “We should stop in one even if we don’t break down”. The numbers got higher and as they entered the 90’s I thought “We’re staying in one tonight. It’s getting late and it’ll do”. Number 96 came up and wowzers! What a sight! What a freaking view! Anchors on, the entire contents of the rear slid forward and neither of us cared nor played the guessing of “I wonder what that was”. We sat and gawped at the view for an eternity. Well, a few minutes at least. As every vehicle passed the van rocked and the thought of dying there made me feel uneasy so out came The Campervan Bible’s map again and would you bloody believe it not 300 yards away was a spot on the old A9 that’s now a cycle path but still an accessible road, right at the foot of the spectacular view in front of us!
Putting my new off road tyres to the test, I parked the passion wagon and positioned it for the most glorious of sunsets, steak and asparagus cooked outside and coffee from the Aeropress.
We sat there in awe and felt very insignificant, so minuscule, in this land of giants. Mountains looming over our heads, burns running down the hillsides cascading over rocks whilst they gouged their way through with brutal and relentless force on their way to feed Loch Garry.
Hopefully I set a surreal image there in your heads, because it didn’t quite happen like that. The steak was only partly cooked outside as the trillions of midges that were nestled silently in the grass all rose at once and attacked with a violence only seen at a child’s birthday party during a game of musical chairs! It was too late for the Smidge that The Campervan Bible supplied for the trip as I was lured into a false sense of security, led into a trap. I did try the Smidge after I was inside so I could retrieve the dinner from outside but I failed to read the instructions and assumed it was a light and airy mist. I pointed the nozzle at my face and pumped the top hard only to squirt my face with a creamy lotion like substance that stung my eyes and stained my teeth and didn’t taste to good either! And left big wet blotches on my new shiny T-shirt. Smelled delicious though! How can midges not like Smidge? If I hadn’t already had a taste I’d have been licking my arms already.
We made a conscious effort to wake and watch the sun majestically rise over the Cairngorms but when the time came I turned the alarm off, squeezed out a quiet fart trying hard to not wake Kerry with my childish giggles and went back to sleep.
The next step of the journey took us the final 50 or so miles to Inverness, to Bught to be precise. Our campsite for the night to shower and chill out before the big start for the NC500.
It was probably the weirdest location of any campsite I’ve ever stayed on, slap bang in the middle of a housing estate. A mesh chain fence, gave it the final Soviet Bloc feel.
“Right,” said Kerry, rather excitedly, “I’m off to the showers” and ignoring the lady at the gate’s explanation that “the showers just there are the best” she sauntered off to the block nearest us. Only she was back faster than she went with a not very delightful face “oh my good god, those showers are absolutely pathetic, I’d be better off under a watering can!” I of course had to go check the gents ones and she was right. Not only was the water flow literally gravity fed from a bucket in the basement, they were painted navy blue. With no windows. It was the most depressing room I’ve ever been in. I thought “Christ, it’s so abysmal in here even the water has given up hope!”
We both headed off to the “good” shower block where yes the shower was better, pretty good in fact, but alas just as grim. Not even a mirror adorned the wall. But plenty of phone numbers if you fancied some extras from a local…
The rest of the site was well kept enough, although the fence did little to block out the 24/7 hum from the adjacent public indoor pool pumps and boilers.
Never mind, tomorrow is another day and the start of our NC500 trip supported by The Campervan Bible and Camptoo.