Where were we? Ah yes, heading to a Caravan Club CL in South Uist.
'Oh, hello Mister Gàidhlig!' smiled Catriona, owner of the CL after I rang at the door. I guess that my Gaelic fleece is none too subtle:
'Tha Gàidhlig agaibh?'
'Tha mi ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig, comhla ri Sabhal-->Mòr Ostaig, ach tha Sassainach a th' annam'
Almost every Gaelic conversation started off like this during my stay. This would be followed by something I'd fail to understand after which we'd switch to English, but it was a start. I liked Catriona very much, and immediately felt very welcome and relaxed. Phew!
It's all very nice travelling around here, there, and everywhere, but sometimes you just want to STOP. You want to plug in to the mains and keep the caravan dry and warm inside. You're fed up with cleaning the sand off the floor five times a day. You don't have the energy to chop kindling or crank up the woodgas stove outside. You just want to get the jobs done that are weighing you down, clean up, and chill out without having to worry about the weather or where to go tomorrow.
That's exactly what I did. The Airstream was washed and waxed. The motorbike unloaded, cleaned, oiled, and taken for a spin. I slept. And Dougal? Dougal made new friends:
Dougal's other good friend, Paddy, lives at Askernish Golf Course, just a few miles away from where we were. So of course off we went to go find Paddy, who, like Dougal, has matured somewhat and was less playful than he's been before. However, he still joined us for a good half hour, and you could tell that he and Dougal remember each other:
Just down the road from the CL is an abandoned church. I liked the building very much, and in my head sketched up a 'grand design' for a one-bedroomed house with a huge galleried ceiling in the living room and the bedroom on a mezzanine:
Lovely building, but wrong location. I like the Uists very much, and it's the island chain I visit to wind down and de-stress, but once relaxed I prefer Harris where there's a little bit more going on.
There was only one other thing to do during my short stay at Catriona's CL.
You may have noticed that now and again I wild camp on the islands. As well as applying common sense (ie one, maximum two nights in a spot, stay out of the way, leave TIDIER than you find etc etc) I have a little rule. That rule is to spend what I would have spent on site fees in the local economy. Therefore I HAD TO spend £20 on food and cake in the sweet wee cafe in the Lochboisdale Post Office to make up for the two nights wild camping. Tough, but I managed.
I'd have stayed at 'Taigh Chatriona' for three nights but I needed to head to North Uist. My friend Mat was coming over to join me for a few days, and was sailing to Lochmaddy. Off I headed to Moorcroft Campsite on the South West Corner of North Uist. The lovely owners remembered me and made me feel super-welcome again. And, I'm pleased to say, indulged my Gaelic a little too. 'We could tell you were bursting to have a go!' laughed Catriona. (Please note, not all Hebridean site owners are called Catriona, but it does seem to be a theme.)
Slight panic set in when I realised that this night at Moorcroft would be my last for at least two weeks with access to a washing machine. Despite the gloomy wet weather being anything but 'drying weather', it was time to bite the bullet, hang the expense, and get everything clean and dry using the machine and drier. That night was an expensive one.
Clothes admin, and my inability to get up in the morning, meant leaving the Airstream at Moorcroft while I went to met Mat's ferry at Lochboisdale:
He'd had a super-long drive up from Dorset so was happy to chill for the rest of the day. Off we went to my favourite wild camping spot for the night.
Well, MY 'fair weather blessing' may have worn off when visiting the islands, but I now believe that I simply loaned it to Mat this year. After he arrived, the mist lifted and the sun came out. 'My' spot at my favourite place was free, and life was good once again.
Washed up on the beach where we were was an old wooden pallet, ideal for a bit of fire pit action that evening. However, the blade in my bowsaw was becoming less than sharp. Time to head to the DIY shop on South Uist, just over the causeway from Benbecula.
In the shop they had blades for larger bowsaws, and only the complete saw unit, handle and all, in the size I wanted. The kind owner therefore removed the blade from the complete saw to sell to me for £3, and ordered himself a new blade to replace the one he'd borrowed from the complete saw on sale.
Now, can you see them doing that in B&Q?
With the sun shining, the Hebridean folks being their usual friendly, helpful, down-to-earth selves, and with a friend in tow to show off 'my' special place, my spirits lifted immeasurably. Maybe the fact I'd slept loads and had adjusted my adrenaline levels from 'London' to 'Hebrides' also helped.
That evening, Mat and I enjoyed an al-fresco meal cooked on the Dometic Origo stove, followed by an evening just chilling out around a roaring fire, in awe of the amazing sunset on one side followed by an equally spectacular moon rising on the other side.
That was finally it. This was the Hebrides that I know and love. The light is something else. My severed roots were once again back in Hebridean soil and growing again. I knew that evening that my earlier apathy about coming here was misplaced. If only for this one evening, the whole journey from Kent was more than worth it. Nowhere else in the world makes me feel as happy and as grounded as I do here. Nowhere else comes close. The Outer Hebrides is the most amazing place in the world. You either get it, or you don't.