Monday 4th August – Sunday 10th August
Without any doubt this remote area of the highlands on the North West Coast of Scotland is exceptionally beautiful and both Shazza and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to not only work here but to also explore the area. However, it is ‘remote‘ and without ‘Wuxly’, our little car, to get out and about we would not have enjoyed it as much as we have, even if we had come up here on a tour with just ‘Big Momma’ we would not have even attempted to explore lots of the narrow, winding and often steep roads that the car has managed to take us. But the other limiting factor, other than the remoteness, is the weather. Whilst we have been blessed with good weather for the majority of our time here, we are currently experiencing an extended period of rather inclement weather, some of it being torrential downpours, unfortunately this has a nasty habit of occurring on our days off and whilst that doesn’t prevent the essential grocery trips to the Co-op in the Kyle of Lochalsh or the larger one at Broadford on the Isle of Skye, any jaunts further afield or to more scenic locations are pointless. What this area has is fantastic scenery, but that scenery, and the views, are only worthwhile if you can actually see them and when it rains here such scenery is completely obliterated ! If we were closer to ‘proper’ civilisation we could spend such rainy days offs perhaps in a cinema, bowling alley or even going for a swim in an indoor pool but no such luxuries here so we find ourselves being ‘confined to barracks‘ more and more. Both working and living on the campsite has advantages and disadvantages, on the plus side is being able to fall out of bed in the morning and being at work, well it’s a plus for Shazza whereas I used to work from home anyway in my old job so not much change for me. The biggest downside is that our ‘compound’ is situated right next door to the Office/Reception and on the main entry/exit road to the site and we have the Tenters field on one side of us and also immediately to the rear of us, so on or off duty it is much like being in a Goldfish bowl. This is why we had been told many times that it is important on days off to get away from the site, however, with bad weather and few places left to go that is getting more difficult as each week passes.
With a small respite in the weather, one evening on our day off we decided to go for a walk down to the local Loch (Loch Duich) with the mountains as our backdrop.
The dark nights are stampeding their way in now, it wasn’t long ago, only a few weeks, when it was still light at nearly 11:30pm, now however, darkness falls at a little before 10:00pm and with it a chill in the air, and it is still just the beginning of August !!
The BBC work of fiction is as ‘unreliable‘ as ever and so when we awoke on Tuesday morning on our full day off, (we would have to wait until next Wednesday before we had the luxury of another full day off), the forecasted heavy rain hadn’t materialised so we conjured up a last-minute ‘escape plan’. The weather was not good enough to tempt us into a ‘Kayaking’ trip, it was grey and overcast and the stiff breeze would have made it hard going on the tidal Lochs so we opted to return to the Isle of Skye’ to visit the ‘Clan Donald’ Castle, Gardens and Visitor Centre, a place we had seen on one of our earlier exploration sorties.
You may deduce from the lack of my usual deluge of photographs that we were not overly impressed with this particular ‘tourist attraction’ and that is exactly what it was, another daylight mugging !! The entrance fee for this huge disappointment was £8 each !! To be honest it was an attraction to lure our neighbours from across the ‘Pond’ in both the USA and Canada, many who may have made special trips across as they had historical family links to the ‘Clan’ name and who came to feel closer to ancient ancestral roots. I wonder if they felt that the cost was worth the quenching of their thirst ? The ‘museum’ looked as if it had been literally thrown together with a few artefacts and old photographs and the ‘visitors’ shop on the way out was so over priced we certainly knew which customers they were aimed at !! We kept our money in our pockets, but my wallet only had a brief respite as on our way back to the mainland, at ‘Broadford‘, we would need to call in to the local service station to re-fuel ‘Wuxly’ (Unleaded petrol here being five pence a Litre cheaper than the fuel stations near to the campsite). This fuel station just happened to be next door to the large Co-op Supermarket where, Shazza reliably informed me, we ‘needed‘ a few bits and pieces and both places being conveniently located to our favourite ‘Fish & Chip’ establishment ! In our haste we had not pre-packed a picnic, or as I strongly suspect, given Shazza’s usual reliability in planning all things to do with her ‘desire’ for food, perhaps this had been her ploy all along, but boy they didn’t half taste good, yet again !!
Our time off just seems to pass so quickly, we have very few of them left and those that we do have look as if they have already been allocated to getting ‘Big Momma’ prepared to hit the road once again. She really is in need of a bit of TLC, it’s amazing how dirty she is, even though for the majority of the time here she has been static. As well as a good external wash and brush up, internally, all the under storage cupboards needed emptying, cleaning and re-packing, the same with the overhead storage areas. We had already organised a lot of the essentials ready for our forthcoming winter adventure but their were still bits to arrange. The balance on the ferry ticket had now been paid, the pre-trip mechanical safety checks had been pre-booked in with FIAT Commercial, the fitting of the new security habitation door lock by Auto Trail had also been pre-booked, Shazza’s bike repair has been organised and within the last few days I had arranged with my Insurers to obtain my renewal documents for ‘Big Momma’ early, which included the all important ‘Green Card’ to cover us for our trip to Morocco. So we were virtually all organised, once we finished here and returned, albeit briefly, to stay at Shazza’s Mums we would update ‘Snoopy’s’ mapping and print off the current list of ‘Portuguese Aires’ to accompany our already vast library of ‘European Aires’ guides and our recently acquired guide to ‘Moroccan-Campsites’. Yes it was coming together very nicely and for my former work colleagues who still persevere in reading my ramblings, all these tasks are crossed off dutifully on my ‘To Do List’, I still cannot break this habitual need to make ‘lists’.
It was also a nice surprise this week to receive a ‘Skype’ video call from our friends ‘Paul and Debs’, both are loyal followers of our adventures and who themselves are working towards the day when they too will break free from the ‘shackles’ of a sane and safe lifestyle to embark on their own nomadic ‘walkabout’, or should that be ‘driveabout’ ?
Life on the campsite doesn’t ease off, the ‘guests’ still arrive, those that have already pre-booked, but even more that arrive ‘unannounced’ at all hours even late into the night !! We have had to endure early morning alarm calls from a screaming child who was pitched in a tent right behind our compound and then when ‘they’ finally left, the pitch they had been occupying was re-allocated to an elderly foreign couple, one of which of the residents snored so loudly that they kept me awake right into the early hours, to say that I am now having a sense of humour failure would be a gross understatement !! I had rather hoped that by now, being well into our third month, that the pace of our working routines would have eased considerably, but it hasn’t, or perhaps it is that we still have not learnt how to slow down ! We certainly both feel that there has been no ‘significant‘ difference in the frantic pace from our previous full-time careers to what should be a more relaxed pace associated with semi-retirement. However, what keeps us both going, although only just, is the knowledge that we have now entered our final four weeks before being able to take an extended holiday doing what we enjoy doing the most, travelling on the open road, visiting new places and meeting new acquaintances along the way, as well as imbibing copious quantities of ‘falling over juice‘, Yes we are nearly there !
Our first season as Assistant Wardens has been ‘interesting‘ and in the main has been very enjoyable. It has been quite enlightening in one big way, although Shazza and I don’t have any problems living together in a confined space we had never before ‘worked together’ in a professional capacity ! However, we both agree that we actually make a very good team, there are some things that Shazza is more patient with than me, mainly the office admin stuff. I left a very well paid career behind partially to break free from such ‘Administrative’ commitments and responsibilities so why would I want to do it for a part-time job that pays minimum wage ? but vice versa I enjoy doing the more practical outdoor stuff, but to be honest we can basically both do the associated ‘Admin’ as well as the more ‘practical’ elements so we can cover for each other if the situation were to arise. Shazza just does the necessary Admin with a bit more willingness and enthusiasm than me !
I also have to confess to having one particular problem day within our two-week work rota, that is the Friday when we have the early start and Our Wardens have a late start. As well as starting the days routines with the usual ‘Bin Run’, on this particular Friday I also have to bring in ‘Eight’ rubbish skips, after they have been emptied, and put them back into the bin compound, (after putting them out ‘full’ the evening before). I guess that is my own fault as it is supposed to be a two person job, however, I don’t see the point of getting Shazza to close the office to walk up to the bin compound to come and help me, perhaps it’s my ‘Macho Man’ side coming out !! Then it is straight on to cleaning the Laundry building, Dishwashing area and Information Room, after a short break for a cuppa it is then straight into an Hour and a Half of Toilet cleaning duties. So after a fairly active four and a bit hours we then get a much-needed break for lunch, when we return our Wardens generally want us out doing groundwork for the rest of the afternoon, so all in all this particular Friday is a very long and physical day and I do find myself running out of steam very very quickly !! I do tend to worry whether it is an age thing, in my mind I am still feeling as fit as someone in their mid-thirties, perhaps my body is reminding me otherwise ! However, fortunately on these particular Fridays our working rota enables us to finish at 6:00pm and we have the luxury of not being the duty wardens.
Once Shazza and I finally depart from the site, Our Wardens are taking a period of time off that they are owed, this means that the site will be managed in their absence by ‘Relief Wardens’. However, once they return they will be on their own for the few remaining weeks of the season, although once the office is closed at 6pm they will be thankfully ‘off duty’ and will not have to undertake the ‘Duty Warden’ cover. The campsite by this time should be relatively quiet though with ‘guest’ occupancy levels being pretty minimal, the Autumn weather should greatly reduce the frequency of some of the groundwork tasks as the grass and other shrubbery should begin to stop growing with the onset of the Highland Frosts. But they do have to ‘close down’ the site ready for the Winter months so our Warden is already planning ahead and getting some preparation done now, he is being aided by Shazza. whilst she is on office duties and during a lull in the periods when the ‘guests’ do not need attending to, she has been rubbing down and re-painting ‘Fire Bells’, rubbing down and re-painting ‘Fire Extinguisher’ boxes, painting new ‘Back Boards’, which the newly painted fire bells are being mounted on, and also she has been painting the ‘Window Boards’ that the Wardens will bolt on to the window frames on all the buildings when they close down the site. As for me, apart from cutting the odd bits of board down to size ready for Shazza to paint, I am happy to keep myself busy out on site and as well as the ‘routine’ ongoing day-to-day groundwork commitments I have also taken it upon myself to do battle with some of the gigantic brambles and other ‘wild’ shrubbery that, during the past few months, has been growing through the site chain link fencing, in some areas I have won the battle, well for now at least, but there is still quite a lot of it around the rest of the site, I doubt however that I will get to make a start on these areas, let alone finish them, in the few short weeks that we have left here, a job for next years ‘Assistant Wardens’ me thinks !!
Well, to end this weeks blog post I have a couple of statistics………….. We have just 26 days left before we depart Morvich at the end of our first seasons contract. Taking half days and full days off into consideration as well as the one day ‘off site’ LANTRA Training we only have 17 working days left. Are we counting down the days, what do you think……………………………?