I was on my own last weekend so planned to get out into the hills at some point. I watched the forecast all week, predicting the east side of the country would as usual be the better side, and planned some Cairngorm Corbetts in. As it was, by Friday the west side was forecast to be wall to wall sunshine, a light breeze and an almost 100% chance of cloud-free Munros! Whereas the east would remain cloudy and dull. I leapt at the chance to go up to the north-west in these conditions and randomly looked up the Corbetts map on Walkhighlands. I chose some Corbetts north of Inverness, mainly based on time to reach them from home – notably Carn Chuinneag for Saturday to promise tremendous west views over Assynt, with maybe Little Wyvis or Beinn a’ Chaisteil the next day. I found the campsite at Tain was open (I hate trying to find a suitably remote ‘wild’ camping spot in the dark with the Bongo’s poor lights) so threw all my gear in the van and headed off on Friday straight after work. Yay!
The journey up was straightforward – my plan was to get to Tain and then look on the map and work out how to get to the campsite from there. 3 hours later as I reached Tain and turned into a carpark in the town, I noticed there was steam billowing from the side of the Bongo. My heart sank – I knew that this would mean an AA call and the end of my hill plans for the weekend. I could not risk breaking down at the end of a remote glen. So then ensued several phonecalls to Ally, who guided me through filling up the water tank (I know, I’ve no idea!) and then persuaded me to carry on to the campsite and go there rather than park up in the carpark. I was very scared, driving along the A9 in pitch black, steam billowing out everywhere. I made it by the skin of my teeth to the campsite and parked up in a bay opposite the now shut reception. I’d made it here at least.
I imagined the worst – the AA not knowing where I was, unhelpful garages, having to leave the Bongo in Inverness, lugging all my gear across town to the train station, then expensive taxis from Inverurie train station….and so on. As it was, it turned out quite well considering. I called the AA at 7am, a helpful mannie came out by 8.20am to check, and got me to follow him to his garage in Tain (G.Bannerman – they were great) where they did a temporary repair and sent me on my way – although I could only drive straight home because I was warned it was very temporary. Apparently a rubber hose connected to the engine had a hole in it. Relieved but gutted, I drove back down the A96, looking sadly out the window at the cloudless blue sky. It’s not like there are even any hills off the A96.
I decided at least I would stop at Spey Bay, near Fochabers in Moray. This is a nice beauty spot where, as the name suggests, the River Spey meets the sea.
There is a dolphin centre there and a café and some walks down by the river. It was very pretty, but I still felt so sad I was not up in the hills looking across a sea of northern summits, and I looked sadly over at Ben Rinnes on the horizon, wishing I was there instead.
I had a wander along the bay and then down the river. It was all very bonnie.
I was in half a mind to find a discreet camping spot but decided against it. By this time I just wanted to get home.
The next day was another glorious one in Aberdeenshire. This time I had no working vehicle to even get out to any hills as my other car badly needs new brake pads. So I went for a local run instead.
I felt slightly sick, like I had wasted a whole weekend – but what can you do when these things happen? At least I tried and I can only hope there will be another weekend like it in the west this year (there didn’t seem to be any last year!) It’s part and parcel of owning an 18 year old campervan!