Sunday 3 August 2008

When things go wrong.

My original intention had been to be away this week. Some time had been spent in plotting the trip, maps had been poured over, timetables, ferry connections, bus times, food sorted, all the things that make up the segments of a trip. Being on a very tight budget means travelling on the long distance coaches. Thus it was last Wednesday night I was at the coach station good and early for the 2300hrs coach to Glasgow. People never line up for the coaches, it can be a complete scrum at times. Forget genteel British politeness. As soon as boarding begins there can be a stampede worthy of any John Wayne western. A rucksack on one shoulder makes a good riot shield. Normally I never sleep on these night runs but can manage to doze a bit. This time though it was hell on legs. A mum with a toddler of around four or five sat next to me. As the kid began to bounce around, arms and legs waving in all directions I inwardly groaned. As we pulled out he settled down and I chided myself for misjudging the little lad. What followed next was amazing; he began to snore. It was incredible, the sheer decibels of volume he was putting out. It was like a low fly past of a jumbo jet. The relief driver looked back in amazement, passengers further back commented on the racket. Gradually the noise subsided a little. His next party piece was when he began to wriggle. Arms, legs and head thrashing in all directions. Bang, a boot in the ribs, a head butt followed by a swipe across the face. Enough was enough, I growled at his mum, she looked apathetic, said there was nothing she could do. The relief driver was was sympathetic but there where no spare seat. Things eased off a little but never really ceased. By the time we reached Glasgow I was a tired and a tad cross bunny. As we went to get off the coach the boy's mum looked at me, her lip curled in disdain. "What's your problem, don't you like kids or somethin'?" That was too good to resist. "Yes dear, kids are fine, slow roasted. The trouble is I can never manage a whole one these days!" A two hour wait at Glasgow coach and a couple of cups of coffee and then on to the next coach for the three and a half hour run down to the ferry at Kennacraig. it is roughly a two hour run on the ferry to Askaig on the top end of Islay. Rain was coming in as I set off down to Bunnahabhain. At first just light rain but soon it was a steady downpour which had me hastily donning waterproofs. Stopped on a track just by the village. had to thrash about a bit to find water. A roe deer buck barked at me as I filled the water bag. Standing as still as possible I watched as he scented the air, his nose twitching, trying to get the measure of me. Finally he gave another high pitched bark and bounded off. The midges where dense as got the tent up and where in a total feeding frenzy with me as the main menu. That was the reason I had taken this tent. A Henry Shire's rainbow, a light, roomy tarp tent that offered full midge protection. it is a tent I have used regularly in milder conditions, simple, easy to erect and light. Too tired to bother cooking, I made do with a badly battered cheese roll that I had been intending to eat on the journey up. The rain by now was intense, so where the midges. A couple of hours after getting my head down I was woken by water dripping from somewhere. A quick check showed a couple of leaks in the tent. This was not good. my first concern was the sleeping bag, Although wet in places it was not soaked. Quickly it was packed in to the rucksack to stop it getting any wetter. This was worrying, what to do? It was obvious the tent had sprung a couple of leaks at the seams, what was more disconcerting was that I found a couple more leaks too. There was no choice but to pack everything and sit it out until morning. Putting on wet clothing was a bind but there was no sense in putting on my spare dry stuff. The rest of the night was spent sitting in waterproofs trying to doze as water pooled around me. By morning the tent was obviously leaking badly. The rain hammering down was filtering through in several places. The midges had amassed in a grey, seething cloud, so, rather than bother opening the tent I just sat the stove in the middle of the floor to make a brew. The matches where damp but that was no problem, I had a fire steel. The question was what to do for the best? If it had been winter I could have managed by using some of the caves marked on the map. After packing up I did in fact take a wander to have a look at one with the idea of setting up the tent inside. It was far too small. A midge net was crucial, without it the midges would have made life hell. Deciding there was no option, I headed back to Port Askaig. Asking at the local shop I was told there was no camping shop on the island. My idea had been to try and buy a tarp and use it as a fly to keep the worst of the weather off. There is only really the shop and a small hotel at the ferry terminal. Common sense said I had to cut my losses and get in somewhere for the night. Struck lucky with the hotel. Wandered in, looking, what would be termed in Scots as 'fair drooked', water streaming off my waterproofs and dripping everywhere. In fact I was fairly comfortable, damp but not cold. The girl at reception, ditto barmaid, waitress etc, said there was a small single room and I could have it for the night with ten pounds off. Toilet, shower and everything was separate and there was no heating. However, it was a dry bed for the night. Went out for a wander, there was some building work going and I wondered if I may have found a large sheet of plastic. No luck, a couple of guys offered me a large piece of canvas, it was so heavy though I would never have carried it. The idea crossed my mind that I could have made a bivi with it but the sheer weight was too much. My tiny hotel room looked like a disaster zone as I emptied everything out, wet gear everywhere. Probably I could have sorted something out if I had had the cash to do so. Nipping back to Tarbet, or even Glasgow to either get a cheap tent or a tarp. My cheapest option though was to head back south and get sorted out from there. That was what I finally opted for. It took a bit of juggling and blarney but I managed it without any major cash outlay. A great pity, if anyone out there wants a Henry Shires Rainbow and is prepared to spend time sorting it out, it is theirs. It is a tent I will never use again. Ok seams can be sealed but having had a problem with it I shall never use it again. If no one takes it off my hands it probably will be be binned. This is the first time it has caused a problem and I have used it in worse conditions. This has been a wasted trip, a shame really, ok, there was heavy rain at times but it was not that bad. The midges where hell but that is a normal hazard. In reality I need to get away, still do. Problems are starting to crowd in, difficulties dealing with people and social interaction has always been a stumbling block for me. Recently things have worsened once more.


  1. What awfully bad luck - particularly given the effort of the journey up there. The journey from hell by the sound of it, too.

    Hope you get a new shelter, and a good trip, sorted soon.

  2. Such a shame Dawn. Very frustrating, hope things get better. All the best.

  3. Hi, I check out you blog quite regularly and enjoy it. I need a tent and haven't considered tarp/tents up to now but quite possibly they will suit me.

    If you are seriously going to bin yours, I will gladly have it.

    Can be contacted here:

    dot com

    Many thanks!

  4. Sorry to hear about the trip. If you want the tipi-tarp back, jut give me a shout.

  5. Duncan,no problem, I shall switch to my Shangri 2. Anonymous the Rainbow is yours. I shall e mail. Dawn

  6. What a complete nightmare from start to finish! Hopefully you've had a year's worth of bad luck crammed into one short trip, and things will now go extra well for a while.

  7. Given the passage of time Dawn, you may see that trip as an 'experience' rather than bad luck. OK, you used resource and energy to end up somewhere where you hadnt intended to experience things that were not planned; sounds just like the rest of life really....


  8. It happens to the best of us Shamus,as you say, it is an experience. Given the number of years I have been trundling around the hills the times things have gone wrong is minimal.

  9. It happens to the best of us Shamus,as you say, it is an experience. Given the number of years I have been trundling around the hills the times things have gone wrong is minimal.

  10. Dawn sorry that happened. Your skills and experience though got you out of it fine, some determination that is in you from all the trips you undertaken in the hill. As you say your..Shangri 2...will do fine. Add the mesh inner and the midge is no longer a worry hey. Like the photos of the wild camps on your other postings. Good stuff I'll look back soon.

  11. Attention!

    Dawn sent me in the post her dodgy tent. I said, lemme reimburse the postage. She said, naaah no worries.

    Nice, or what?

    Just hope it holds the rain off after being treated to a thorough service, heh.