First Trip with the Kids

24 October 2015
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Iain had expressed an interest in a camping trip with me and my boys, Joshua [11], and Kai [6]. We thought one night would be enough as a first-time trial and this weekend looked to be the last available one of the year. Except the weather forecast was really rather poor. Not clear sunny skies, but heavy rain showers and strong gusts of wind.

My car boot is not that big and is normally full when Iain and I go car camping. To make sure everything could fit in the car, along with the boys, Iain and I were in bivvy bags and the boys in a small tent. I had gone for the bivvy bag option to keep equipment space down as my last bivvy bag experience was great. This time was quite different.

At Inverary, we stopped and picked up some peat. Normally peat comes in tidy blocks that will fit under the car seats, which was the plan. This time, it came in two big bags that filled the leg room where Joshua was sitting and for the remainder of the trip to the eventual campsite, Josh had to sit with his feet on the peat bag and his knees up near his chest. To his credit, he did not complain once about the discomfort but was really glad when we eventually stopped. 

Once again we could not find the last campsite! I had even marked it on GoogleMaps when we were there last month, but the vegetation had changed and masked the castle ruin on the island, so I did not recognize the place and thought the map marker was in the wrong place. But we found a site nearly as good.

Unpacked, pitched the tarp and collected firewood. The rain arrived in sudden windy batches, which would push the tarp down and it was in danger of breaking free from the guy ropes. We fixed that with heavy rocks were over the pegs. The tarp now had taught edges but the centre dipped a little and created a natural collection point for rainwater to pool. The back edge of the tarp was the height of a walking pole [about 110cm] and we all brushed against the tarp as we moved under it unless at the very front edge. Over the weekend, each one of us managed to push the pooled water over the tarp edge and got soaked when leaving the cover of the tarp!

Dinner was prepared by Josh with Iain's guidance - Iain bought Josh a camping knife and it was christened cutting chicken kebabs. There were some vegetables too, but they never made it to the kebabs. The Kids did not seem that keen on tainting the chicken with vegetables.

I collected wood with Kai and when everything was ready, I got the fire started. Just as it got going, the rain came again and drowned the fire! Second time around the fire got going and the rain did not come before it was well established, but it was about 2000hrs before dinner was ready and the kids were really hungry by then! It was meant to be chicken in a wrap - but Kai just ate the chicken and left the wrap! And he loved it. Just meat, his favourite dinner. Kai then toasted hotdogs. Toasted as in: put a bit on a stick, hold it over the fire for a few seconds, then eat. Thankfully they were already cooked or Kai would have discovered why it is vitally important to make sure your food is cooked properly when wild camping [It is important at home too, but the dash to the toilet is not so involved]. Josh toasted marshmallows then made a marshmallow sandwich with the spare wrap. He told me later it was not that good and probably would not do it again!

Kai said he was tired about 2100hrs so I settled him down into the sleeping bag. About 2200hrs Josh went to bed, Kai woke up and then they chatted until about midnight, totally unaware Iain and I could hear every word. Iain and I relaxed by the fire and had a beer or two. Occasionally moving the chairs under the tarp when a particularly wild gust of wind and rain threatened to soak us. Glad the fire was quite close the tarp!

The fire died down and we headed to the bivvy bags. I had a terrible night’s sleep. I was uncomfortable and the rain created a lake around my air bed! Which made me somewhat nervous. I had no idea how well my bivvy would perform in standing water.

Got up early and packed the camp up. With the very early start, we were ready to leave about 0830hrs - far too soon to get fish and chips in Inverary. So we stopped along the Loch Awe shores, made some hot chocolate and wrote postcards to Mum [which Mum was over joyed to receive a few days later!]. And I saw a Jay for the first time!

We arrived at Inverary just at the right time for an awesome fish and chips lunch.

All in all a fantastic camping trip and hopefully the first of many with the boys. Considering the weather over the weekend, I am happy they have asked to go camping again soon.