I open my beautiful notebook, which was one of my birthday presents, to start writing a new adventure. I realise that the cover image is a girl wearing a hat with the legend “The Hatter” and that leads me to think about “The Mad Hatter” and I start wondering if the universe is trying to tell me something.
Because this morning, sitting in a train to the unknown (ok, Galashiels, but that sounds less poetic) I came to two important conclusions:
- I’m going bananas (and I’m liking it).
- I definitely need a bigger backpack. Or a car. *Pause while I check bank account *. Backpack it is. Actually I can’t really complain about my wee 30-litres from Lidl which is holding the house, mattress, duvet, first-aid kit and a significant portion of the “just in case” section of my wardrobe.
3. Going on adventures is heavy. Especially if you need to be ready to sleep with cold, wind and/ or rain.
These are my conclusions. Yours could be that my wacky scheme is going on my first solo camping trip. Since I am reaching a cowardly age I decided to start with a safe option: a green place nearby (Hawick), not too far from home (2h 30 min), accessible by public transport (as I said, adventuring is a heavy business) and in a safe, quiet, family campsite with amazing reviews in pitchup (the trip advisor of people who travel with a house on their back).
Fergus didn’t come with me because, besides the fact I love the odd wee trip on my own and he is not feeling very well, where I see the beauty of the stars, the mystery of the sounds of the night, the sweet tweeting breaking the dawn…he sees cold, bugs and a bad night’s sleep. And I must say his point of view tends to attract more support than mine…
After one train and two bus rides I arrived to my destination with all the paraphernalia on my back and I got ready to enjoy my IKEA moment by setting up camp on my own. And I was doing exactly that when I realised why mallets are sold in camping and outdoors shops…apparently not all terrain is nice and soft enought to bury the pegs with your hands, and not all terrain has big hammer-like stones. I ran around the campsite for a while and all I found was a wee sharp pebble. Three cuts, four grumbles and half a litre of sweat later I realised that the mini-stone technique was not going to work (I know, it was a pretty slow epiphany…).
Time to execute plan B: looking for a kind soul with a big hammer…and voilà:
Before abandoning my new home and leaping into the wilderness I attempted to return the hammer, but I desisted when I became aware of the psychopathic image I was projecting: wandering around the caravans and staring at windows with a huge hammer in my hand.
I hid the hammer and got ready to do what I was there to do: get lost in the wild. And I did it quite well because I saw just one more human being for about three hours hiking on the Borders Abbeys Way.
Although it’s far from being the most beautiful route I’ve walked it had what I was looking for: a silence just disturbed only by the flow of the water, the singing of the birds and the music of the wind. Talking about the music of the wind, it was starting to sound like heavy metal: with enouth power and strength to make me wonder if it’d be too late to adopt a religion and start praying. Not because I was worried I’d be blown away, since besides being a good eater I have the metabolism of a sick turtle and the wind would have to intensify noticeably to make my round shape fly…What worried me was my tent, considerably weaker and held to the ground with my noob camper skills.
But quoting the book I am reading, the only option is to keep walking (Wild, incredibly appropriate for going backacking: on the first chapter the lassie loses her hiking boots while doing a 1000-mile mountain trail…). So inspired by the wisdom of someone who nearly died on a walk I continued walking. After all I can’t allow myself to be intimidated by rain and wind after seven years of living in Scotland.
After 17600 steps according to my tracker, or 57800 steps according to my foot pain, walking besides the river I reached a cute little village where I was planning to shoot some coffee through my veins. It’s ok to sleep in the middle of nowhere, but spending a whole day coffeeless…I’m not that crazy…
So I write these paragraph sitting in a cafe called Cream Puff in Denholm with a tasty mocha in front of me, waiting for my soles to stop crying for help…
The bad thing about going somewhere is that then you have to come back (or not, but I am not ready to start a new life in Denholm). The good thing is that the technique is pretty simple: left foot forward, right foot forward, repeat. The lucky thing is arriving to a bus stop that conveniently stops just outside the campsite, saving me the last few kilometres down a boring road under the rain and with the temperature dropping around 10 degrees per hour…
And since I managed to avoid a few kilometres I could take advantage and use that time to do a little resti…hehehehe…you’ve been fooled, losers, we will rest when we are dead! So I took the extra time to explore the lovely green space around the campsite with such an amazing collection of plants that I started asking myself if I had somehow teleported to the tropical jungle. Supporting this theory, the rain abandoned all subtlety to make clear it might be time to go back home (or the green inflated piece of fabric I am calling home tonight).
Since this is accomodation is intended as a transitory step (it’s not a 4-star hotel but it’s not pure wilderness either) I enjoy a number of luxuries: running water, a clean toilet, a hot shower…there is no kettle to prepare a hot tea but I overlook this since I am not British. So I am here, showered and in my pyjamas, writing this happy as a pig in muck.
As I’m a modern girl I had downloaded a film from Netflix to watch offline, always ready for any sort of contingency like not having WiFi or good reception. The eventuality I hadn’t planned for is that the electricity I had booked in the campsite wasn’t what I thought. I still don’t know what it was but now I know that the phone charger three-pronged plug does not fit there. I must widen my electrical knowledge in the future, but right now what I must do is stop using the phone before I run out of battery and read myself to sleep… It’s 9.30 pm.
2.30 am. I wake up to the sound of worlds crumbling. I pay closer attention and I discover it’s just a snore. An inhuman thunderous snore. Ah… The sweet sounds of nature…
Since I’m awake, I take the opportunity to go to the bathroom, although it’s just an excuse to put some distance between me and the snores. They are coming out of a tent shared by two ladies and two dogs, three of them unaware of the fact that the fourth one is a spawn from hell. During that night walk I remembered why I was there: for a sceptical non-believer observing the greatness of the firmament in a silence barely broken by the whistling of the wind swaying the leaves is the closest thing to magic…
I went back to bed with a stupefied smile and fell asleep until an inconsiderate merciless alarm brought me back to the world of the living harbouring not so nice thoughts about the mother of whoever had set an alarm at 6.30 am while on holiday. I’m sorry, mum. It’s my regular Friday alarm…
Since my eyes were open (my brain never opens before the first coffee) I brought myself breakfast in bed (aka taking out the sandwich from the backpack to my right, but still…). I opened the doors to the world while swallowing a coffee and a few more chapters of Wild (the story of the lady who thinks all problems can be solved by walking until your toe nails fall off). Quick sprucing up, dress like a person and away to move my heart. I decide to further explore the area around the campsite which I thought had potential.
An hour later I was on my way back, thinking about how happy I was to have explored the jungle-wood, discovered tons of unknown plants and birds and even seen a couple of young deer prancing when a rich looking man stopped his jeep by my side to rudely inform me that I was inside private property, as was clearly indicated at the entrance. It made me feel embarrassed so I apologised, trying to explain I hadn’t noticed the sign and I was just leaving, but he didn’t exactly appear understanding. Later my embarrassment became annoyance because:
- As I was informed by Fergus, Scottish law stipulates that you can’t deny access to woods even if you bought them (very summarised).
- Here is a picture of the entrance where is “clearly signalled that it’s private property”.
Well, make hay while the sun shines… Besides, it’s ok to feel a little enraged when you have to fight a tent to bring it back to a reasonable portable size. And with the portable house back on the back I made my way to Hawick, a town of 14000 inhabitants which is very cute and has a nice environment and a river with herons and I’m going to buy a house with a garden there, for the same price I’d get a bathroom in Edinburgh. Who cares if it’s around two and half hours from work or the average age seems to sit around sixty-seven…
All these thoughts were dancing in my head while I lunched in The Mote (a mound that in the XII century had a castle and now a metal bench), enjoying the sigths before setting forth back to Edinburgh in a bus where I write these lines (which are going to be quite hard to decipher) and I get distracted observing with fascination the master skills of my seat neighbour, who is applying glue and lashes to her eyes in a vehicle zigzagging through side roads at 80 km/h…And with such a glamourous story I my first solo camping adventure came to an end.