Monday, June 18, 2007

Island life

Yesterday we returned from our camping trip to Gigha generally unharmed, but with a large selection of Midge bites and bizarre experiences.

On Friday we loaded up the cars for our trip and set off at about 12.45. We were aiming for the 4pm CalMac ferry from Tayinloan, so would have to make good going if we were to make it in time. We just missed this ferry by a few minutes and watched it sail off without us, but there was a bus stop for us to huddle under - and we had to huddle as the weather was a bit blustery to say the least. Whilst waiting for the ferry our first bit of weirdness was encountered - another car pulled up and out got some guys. We got talking about why they were going to Gigha and found out that they were a Senegalese dance band, and they were playing at the village hall that evening! "Are you going to go?" they asked. "Of course!" we answered, because you can't turn down an invitation to a Senegalese dance band as they don't come round that often - especially when they're on Hebridean islands.

When we got to the island, after the approximately twenty minute boat trip, we quickly set up camp. The rain wasn't too heavy, so we managed to get the tents up without too much trouble and minimal dampness. Hunger set in, so we got the BBQs out and began cooking up some meat. The one and only island pub was our next destination where we met some unfortunate microlight pilots who'd been stuck on the island for three days due to the bad weather. After some drinks it was off to the village hall for the band. adren-junk, our guide to the island, showed us the way to the hall by leading us into a wood reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project. Luckily we didn't get killed in some bizarre island ritual (I'm thinking The Wicker Man here) and made it to the hall for the evenings entertainment. It was 10.30pm but all the island's people seemed to be there, from the small kids to pensioners. It was pretty strange, but we had a good time dancing away and keeping the party going.

Saturday started off with the rain still coming down. The weather didn't stop some of the group from going for a swim in the sea - they endured the cold, but did manage a variety of interesting screams when the cold water encountered various parts of their bodies. The rain eventually stopped sometime mid-afternoon and things began to dry off. Dinner that evening was at the pub/hotel/restaurant where the haddock and chips went down a storm. We then went off to collect firewood. This led us back to the wood from last night where we hoped some dry wood would be available. At the wood we were pounced on by all the midges on the island, and had to make a hasty retreat before we could gather up much wood. However, with some blooed still remaining in our bodies, we scavenged around other less dangerous locations which provided us with enough wood (including an abandoned fence post) to make a go at a fire. We scrambled over some rocks around the coast from our camp to a more secluded location to set up our fire. The fire we raised was very good although wasn't the largest that's been seen. It provided a good focus around which to drink and sing, and somehow didn't arouse a load of angry islanders from there sleep.

On Sunday we awoke to a glorious day, with the sun shining and the island taking on a whole new look. Encouraged by this we all entered to water for a swim. It wasn't the warmest water that I've swam in, but after the initial shock it became pleasant (well bearable) and we spent a good 15 minutes splashing around. After breakfast/lunch and showers, to recover a decent core temperature, we drove up to the north end of the island to a larger beach than the incredibly tiny one by our campsite. With the sun, white beaches, clear water and brilliant views we felt like we could be in the Caribbean. Sprint races, frisbeeing and pirating were all activities that we did. Unfortunately we soon had to leave to pack up our tents and catch the last ferry off the island.

There was a lot more to the weekend than I've been able to briefly document above, but it was all excellent fun. I highly recommend Gigha to people thinking of visiting a small Scottish island (they don't seem to produce their own whisky though.)