Monday 1st September – Sunday 7th September
Well I guess this post is like those special packs of products that you purchase in the supermarkets, you know the ones that state “Same Price But 25% Extra Free” !! You may wonder why that is, well to be honest I had not anticipated having much to say this week, other than we left Morvich in Scotland, via Edinburgh, and arrived in Doncaster, England so I wasn’t actually planning on penning any more blog posts until we commenced the next part of ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’, so this one is just a little extra.
What won’t surprise you is that it rained again through the night and when we awoke on Monday morning it was to grey leaden skies and quite a brisk breeze, but it was just about staying dry. Today marked our last day off from work and we had planned on another day of ‘ready to move’ preparations, however, we had had such a good productive day yesterday that we thought that we actually deserved a ‘day off’, the question was, what were we going to do with it ?
We decided, for no good reason, to drive back to Portree on the Isle of Skye, we didn’t think we had done it justice the first time around as we had not arrived there until late afternoon so it ended up being a bit of a ‘flying visit’. The roads up here are generally quiet, compared to roads in places where there are a few more ‘inhabitants’, but now there is a distinct lack of holiday traffic, namely Caravans and Motorhomes, so it was a nice quiet drive the Sixteen miles to the Skye Bridge and then beyond to Portree.
Well it transpired that we actually hadn’t done the place an injustice on the first visit, there really isn’t that much to see, unless of course you were waiting to board one of the many sea-going craft that do various wildlife spotting trips. Not so many people around today queuing for those either, so it was time to leave once more, but not before a bit of ‘Al fresco’ dining, it was lunchtime, I knew that because Shazza told me it was………… !!
Over lunch we were contemplating what to do next, when Shazza had one of her Eureka moments and this time it didn’t involve a supermarket. “How do you fancy a trip on a glass bottomed boat“, this was NOT actually a question but more a statement of intent, so lunch over we headed back to the ‘Kyle of Lochalsh‘ to purchase two tickets for a One-hour trip on the ‘Seaprobe Atlantis‘. We were fortunate on two counts, when we got to the ticket office we only had to wait for forty-minutes before the next departure and secondly there were only two other couples booked on to this trip, almost like having the boat to ourselves so I was hoping for some decent space to move around on deck to take photographs. I wasn’t actually sure how far this ‘glass bottomed boat’ went out to sea or indeed what we were likely to encounter. As it turned out the ‘Seaprobe Atlantis’ doesn’t actually have a ‘glass bottom’, it has a lower deck which is under the water and there are windows in the side……………. wouldn’t that make it a ‘Glass Sided Boat’ ? This was not the best day for a boat trip, it was grey and overcast, it was pretty damn cold in the stiff breeze and their were plenty of ‘White Horses’ having a damn good canter out there on the sea !! Any self-respecting marine creature would certainly be taking shelter somewhere and not keen on posing for tourist photographs, I wasn’t holding out much hope on seeing very much but at least it would pass an hour. The information guide on the boat was quite good, he told us all about the ‘Sea Otters’ that lived in the bay, not that we saw any mind you, but when they gained permission to build the ‘Skye Bridge’ part of the ‘stipulation’ was that they had to include ‘Otter Tunnels’ so that the Otters wouldn’t have to risk their lives crossing the road. He also pointed out the house where ‘Gavin Maxwell’ (Author of the book ‘Ring of Bright Water’) had lived for part of his life.
Now this of course was all very interesting, well sort of, but come on, we could have driven to where the house was, let’s go see some marine life………so we did !!
Well at least we had seen something ! Then the boat moved across towards the Isle of Skye and we were advised to go below deck and look out of the windows. Unfortunately, although the boat slowed down, it was still moving too fast and with the swell up above it was too murky to take any decent photographs. However, we did see the massive ‘Kelp’ forests that were growing under the waves and we saw dozens of huge ‘Brown Crabs’, of the eating variety, a large jelly fish and varying species of fish, not exactly in ‘shoals’ but at least we saw a variety of what was living beneath and it was also warmer below deck than up on top !! To be honest, we didn’t see anything that made me go ‘WOW’ but the scenery wasn’t too bad and we did happen across a few more seals.
Well it wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour, I like boats so I actually just enjoyed the trip but decided I needed one of my own so I have placed an advertisement…………….
So that was it, although not quite our last day off as our ‘official’ travel day at the end of our contract was Sunday, however, we were rostered for our last day off on the Saturday so we were planning on leaving site early on Saturday morning and making our way to our night stop on the Edinburgh CC site, as ‘customers’ !! We were also considering the idea of leaving after our final duty on Friday and spending a night ‘Wildcamping’, but that would depend on whether we were ‘ready to roll’. Before we could decide on any of that though there was a little matter of a day’s ‘LANTRA’ training at Inverness followed by our last three days of duties !!
We had to leave early to get to Inverness on time, the roads were really quite and it enabled us to keep our eyes open for a suitable Wildcamping location for Friday night, that is ‘if’ we were ready. We had to take into consideration that any location would also have to be suitable not just for ‘Big Momma’ but also ‘Wuxly’. We managed to identify four possibilities, as the ‘other’ holiday makers in Motorhomes in this part of the Highlands had now greatly diminished. We viewed locations that had previously been popular ‘overnight’ locations for other wild campers, but these were now empty so we were feeling reasonably confident that we could have a choice, although we had already selected our favourite. The great thing about it was that it was a four and a half hour run to the Edinburgh site so we would not be in any rush, we could park up and enjoy our first night for a long time outside of a ‘compound’ and be in no hurry to leave in the morning. We arrived in good time so decided to pull in at the car park outside the ‘Culloden Battlefield’ site and have some pre-prepared breakfast and a cup of coffee. It was good to see Tony again but accompanying us on our training were Mick & Pauline, second year Assistant Wardens from the ‘Bunree’ CC site. We had first met them when we had stayed at ‘Bunree’ on our journey up here way back in April, that really feels such a long time ago !! To be honest, when we had first been told that we had to attend this one day course we were not that impressed, a course just a few days away from the end of our seasons contract on a piece of equipment we may never have to use in the future !! However, it was actually a very good and extremely enjoyable course and primarily practical so we got to do a lot of ‘hands on’. In my view, Tony is an excellent trainer, he explains everything slowly and clearly, he demonstrates everything first and then allows us to have a go, as many times as we wanted to, and he didn’t laugh at our ‘stupid’ questions, well not a lot anyway !! Shazza and I both knew that we would probably forget most of what he had taught us, after returning from our six month holiday, but we think that after a brief refresher, if we get to a site next season that has this equipment, it will bring most of it back from the dark recesses of our brains, only time will tell on that one though.
We finished the training day with another one of those ‘multiple’ choice test things and after passing that Tony completed the ‘official’ documentation that stated that we had attended and passed the course !! We spent some time ‘chewing the fat’ with Mick & Pauline as well as popping our heads in to the site office to say a quick hello to Linda but then it was time to leave and we said our farewells to Tony, Mick and Pauline and before heading back to our own campsite we took the opportunity of filling ‘Wuxly’ up with some cheap fuel from the nearby ‘ASDA’ superstore.
So it was that we commenced our final three days of duties, and as we were on our own this meant conducting the normal routines first, the Bin Run, Cleaning of the Laundry Block and then the Shower & Toilet Block before a break for lunch. After lunch we spent the afternoons doing the ‘other’ groundwork and maintenance tasks, greeting and booking in the new arrivals and dealing with any customer requirements. We didn’t get any opportunity to do too much final preparation on Big Momma or cleaning and tidying our compound and facilities, which would have enabled us to get away after our last duty at a decent time and enjoy a last night on this beautiful coastline wild camping on the shores of a Loch. Our Wardens obviously didn’t want us to get ‘bored’ in their absence and had been thoughtful enough to leave us quite a ‘comprehensive list’ of tasks, enough to have kept us busy for three ‘full’ days let alone three afternoons !! Sharon read out the ‘List’, we looked at each other and with big grins on our faces, said in unison ‘There We Are Then’ and made a start on some of the jobs. We had got a nice surprise as the allocation of Summer 2015 contracts was published on the ‘Intranet’ before we completed our last duties, we eagerly looked down the list of Sites for our names, we didn’t have far to scroll down the ‘Alphabetical’ list as we had been given our ‘first choice’, so next season we would no longer be the ‘Newbies’ but 2nd Year Assistant Wardens at the ‘Berwick-upon-Tweed’ (Seaview) Caravan Club Site. We were looking forward to a ‘Full’ seasons contract next year, March through to November, but we first had to ‘Accept’, or ‘Decline’, the allocation. There was of course no hesitation and we returned our ‘Acceptance of Contract’ form immediately !!
Our last day of duties over we had a busy evening packing ‘Wuxly’ and ‘Big Momma’ and by the end of the evening we were done, we had cleaned our Compound and Facilities, taken Big Momma off the ‘levelling blocks’, put the bikes on the rear carrier, disconnected and cleaned the grey waste pipes and removed the silver screen, all we needed to do in the morning was to disconnect from the EHU and ‘hit the road’ !!
Below are pictures of the site taken on our last evening, we will never forget this beautiful site, the extremely warm and friendly ‘guests’ that we have met in our Eighteen weeks and of course the stunningly magnificent landscapes……………
We slept really well and we both were awake, without the aid of an alarm clock, at 06:15am and after our normal mug of coffee we got up, washed, dressed and did the last bit of preparation getting ‘Big Momma’ into ‘On The Road’ mode before eventually driving out of the campsite gates for the last time at 07:40am, we decided that we would stop somewhere en route to Edinburgh and have breakfast.
It was a warm morning and the dawn clouds were still clinging to ‘our’ mountains as we said farewell to them for the last time. We had the first part of our road journey South to ourselves, as we had anticipated we would at this early hour. However, as we passed the locations we had earmarked as potential ‘wild camping’ spots for our last night we realised we had made the right decision to stay ‘on site’ as they were all occupied. It was going to be a long drive, ‘Snoopy’ indicating a journey time of Four and a Half hours, but we were in no rush we were now commencing a six month holiday. After driving for One and a Half hours I knew that Shazza, following behind in ‘Wuxly’, would be ready for breakfast so we found a convenient place to stop, and what a place, it was signposted as the ‘Commando Memorial’ and had lots of ‘Free’ parking, spaces for Coaches and Cars.
As we were enjoying our breakfast I received a phone call, now we knew we were back into ‘civilisation’, we had a phone signal !! The call came from Steve & Lyssa (Adventures of Big Bird), friends who had commenced the ‘fulltiming’ lifestyle at the same time as us last year and who we had met up with a couple of times ‘On The Road’. They are currently in Germany and ‘working’ their way down to Sicily this year, so you will have to read their blog to learn what they are up to. We had a decent catch-up chat, that is what is nice about this fulltiming lifestyle, you meet lots of nice people and whether or not you see each other by chance or arrangement you stay in touch with each other.
We were soon back on the road again and didn’t stop again until we reached our night stop at the Edinburgh Caravan Club Site. We had stayed here a couple of times ‘as customers’ over the last few years so knew the site. When we booked in we saw two familiar faces, Assistant Wardens who were on the same ‘Induction Training Course’ as ourselves, so we had another one of those ‘catch up’ chats and briefly discussed our respective seasons and our allocated sites for next season. It felt good to be just another ‘customer’ and we set off to find ourselves a suitable pitch for the night.
After a quick-lunch it would have been very tempting, after our long drive, to have done some personal contemplation, you know the sort that is best done with one’s eyes closed. However, we decided to re-explore the local area and knew that quite literally just across the road there was a very nice wide ‘promenade’ where you could walk parallel to the ‘Firth of the Forth’ shoreline.
It was a very pleasant, warm and sunny afternoon and we enjoyed a very pleasant stroll along the seafront. I was a bit taken aback, up in the Highlands we were ‘Wowed’ by the sight of Eagles and large Buzzards but we had forgotten, until one flew right above our heads, just how large some of the ‘Big Birds’ were down here too………………..
With the afternoon leg stretch and ‘bird watching’ over we headed back to ‘Big Momma’ where we both indulged in a spot of personal contemplation………………………..
Another great nights sleep, even with the Aircraft flying over on their descent into the local Airport. We didn’t bother setting the alarm clock, we don’t have to bother with such irritating things for several months so it can sit on the shelf and gather dust. The idea was to wake up, put the kettle on and sit drinking our morning coffee whilst listening to the first hour of ‘Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs’. However, we were awake at 06:15 and even though we didn’t rush we were still ‘on the road’ by 08:26am, still too early for the Steve Wright stuff. Today’s final leg of the journey to Sharon’s mums house was going to be a long one again, another Four and a Half hour drive, so again we decided to take ‘Brunch’ somewhere along the route. We knew that there was a large ‘Morrisons’ superstore just outside Berwick-upon-Tweed, this equated to ‘cheap fuel’ so that would be our first stop. This fuel stop was a mere ‘stones throw’ away from what would be our new home for eight months next season and so we did briefly consider dropping in to the Caravan Club Site to say ‘hello’ to what would be our new Wardens next season. However, Shazza knew that it would probably have gone from being a ‘flying visit’ to an extended one once ‘I’ got chatting, then perhaps I would have wanted a sneak preview of the site, so no, best we leave the personal visit and just make a phone call by way of introductions at some point before we leave the UK. After a very brief lay-by stop for ‘Hot Dogs & Coffee’, the fast food van being ‘Big Mommas’ galley and not a local traders van, we hit the road again and made the final push reaching our destination at 2:30pm.
So here endeth our latest mini-adventure, “Elf & Elfette – Our First Season“, we remain in the UK for just Eleven days to get bits and pieces sorted and visit family ready to commence the next adventure………….”Our Winter Trip 2014“.