We’re sliding slowly towards the end of the Big Scottish Tour and very soon we’ll be going back to our own house for a few weeks. It won’t be long before we set off again – this time south to France and Spain and beyond. For now though, it’s time to stop and reflect on the journey so far.
We haven’t measured the distance we’ve travelled this time, nor have we worked out our miles per gallon. I usually keep a record of all these things but I was too chilled to bother. On balance that’s a good thing as I can be a bit obsessive about keeping records of everything. Chilled is the word to describe the majority of the trip. The more remote parts of Scotland have a very calming effect and we found ourselves relaxing more and more as the trip went on. People would ask ‘where are you going next?’ and we would look at one another and shrug. Sometimes there would only be 30 miles between one stop and the next.
After the North Coast tour and a bit of time near home to catch up with family and friends, we toured the coast of Dumfries and Galloway. People say this is a part of Scotland often forgotten by people in a hurry to get up north. It has a very different feel to other parts of Scotland and there were moments when we imagined that we could be in Cornwall. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream and, as one farmer told me, it has some areas where the bad weather just passes it by. There were a number of times, especially when we were in the far west, when we were basking in sunshine and the rest of Scotland had wind and rain. Dumfries and Galloway has rolling pastures, lush grass, fabulous views and great ice cream.
If you’re coming up from the south and want to dip into Scotland without driving too far, D&G might be just the ticket. Having said that, it definitely isn’t the wild Scotland of the Highlands and Islands. The wild north remains our favourite – yes the weather can be awful, it’s remote and sometimes difficult to negotiate, but there is an energy there and a wonderful hospitality that is quite unique.
We’ve been back near home for a few days now and tomorrow we’ll be going back to our house for a few weeks. It’s going to be strange. We’ll be able to stand in the shower for as long as we like, use the dishwasher, do our washing without searching for change to feed the machine, spread ourselves out and even be in different rooms. The dogs will have to adjust to sleeping in the kitchen with the door shut – they won’t like that – but on the other hand we can open the back door and let them out rather than take them for a walk every time one of them needs to pee. We’re looking forward to it and at the same time we’re already talking about our next trip. One of our friends suggested that we had caught the full timing bug. We did consider letting out our house long term and just keeping on travelling for a couple of years but the urge has passed. We’ve decided that having a base to return to and friends and family nearby for at least part of the year is important to us. How fortunate are we that we have the choice?
This bit is dirty – not for the faint hearted
Aha – that caught your attention eh?
We wrote earlier about the challenge of finding a place to dump your toilet cassette when wild camping. Our friends and fellow travellers, Katherine and James, told us about their pee bottle. Much like some truckers, they use it to pee in (yup, I once got the Basil Fawlty award for stating the bleeding obvious) and then deposit it where appropriate, thus making their cassette last longer. We thought this was a good idea but for girls it’s difficult, for obvious reasons. Katherine uses a Shewee which is a plastic device to make it possible for women to pee standing up, thus solving that age old penis envy that Freud claimed all us girls suffer from. I bought one of these a couple of years ago. The instructions said to try it in the shower. I must be a bit thick because I tried it in the shower with the water running. How on earth can you tell if you are using it efficiently when several litres of hot water are raining down on you? I’ll tell you – you can’t. I know this because I bravely went on to try stage two of the training. Using the damned thing in your own bathroom. I was hopeless. Had to change everything from the waist down. So I gave up… but not for long. There had to be another solution and after a little thought we found it. We bought a 5 litre black petrol container and a small 50p (pee – ta da) plastic jug from Tesco. We place a very small amount of organic toilet fluid in the container and a bit of water, pee in the jug and pour it, very carefully, into the container. It is much easier to empty a discreet 5 litre container into any toilet or other suitable place than a toilet cassette. We managed a whole weekend in Largs this way and felt very proud. Obviously it helps that we have a proper bathroom in the van so this complicated manoeuvre can be managed with some dignity. If you are a motorhomer and are thinking of trying this, there are a couple of things you should bear in mind. In your main cassette, use more toilet fluid than you normally would. The organic stuff loses some of its potency after a couple of days. And, please remember that you need to put some liquid, whether your own or just water, into the cassette. I won’t spell out the obvious reasons why.
Health warning: If you happen to be in our motorhome and find a small plastic jug, do not, I repeat do not, use it for cooking.
So, have you chucked up your cornflakes? Sorry if that’s too much information.
Learning from children
The other day our friend Helen came to visit with her wee boy Callum. We had a couple of hours of great chat and catch up with Helen while Callum entertained himself by pretending to drive the van. After he had no luck persuading us to give him the keys he asked to go outside. First of all he took Poppy for a walk around the van but got tired of being dragged around by 8kg of determined cockapoo. He brought Poppy back and set off to see what entertainment he could find.
We were astonished less than 5 minutes later to see him playing with all the children in this small 5 van circle of the site. They were playing football, chatting like old friends, riding bikes and skateboards and running in and out of each others’ awnings. When it was time to go home he finally and reluctantly came back and said he’d had a great time. To be honest we were a little envious – he had such an easy way of making friends. He is a fine lad and his mum is rightly proud of him. At the age of eight he can get along with anyone, boys and girls, he joins in with their games and chats easily and he finds something in common with everyone he meets, whatever their age. After they’d left we talked about how we need to learn from children like Callum. Making friends is a real gift and we’d love to cultivate it more. Ok, we’re not planning on borrowing other people’s bikes or footballs, it’s the ability to unselfconsciously chat to others and just accept them as they are that we tend to lose as we get older.
I’ve just had this troubling mental image – wild haired woman, carrying black 5 litre container full of pee, stops complete strangers in the street and chats about her inability to use a shewee.