With: Rachel (born 1981)
Date: 17 August 2016
Where: Barra Airport, Western Isles
This was undoubtedly the shortest walk in the series, as we noted at the time! Rachel joined me in Oban for a wonderful week's ride all the way up the Western Isles in variable but sometimes lovely weather! The one bit of 'weather' we wished for every evening was a breeze, to keep the infamous midgies off us while we pitched, cooked, ate, and took in our awe-inspiring surroundings.
Our night in Oban had been OK, but on our first night on the Isles at the first place we thought of camping we were figuratively but unfortunately not literally blown away by the sheer volumes of the little fuckers. Hoping there might be more breeze in a less sheltered spot we continued to Barra 'Airport', in fact a tiny terminal building next to the beach, which serves as runway. With the Scottish 'right to roam' legislation at the forefront of our minds we decided to make camp across the single-track road from the terminal building in order to be on point to watch the following morning's landing. (We weren't the only spectators as it turned out - not by a long shot!) This also meant we could turn the bus-shelter-like 'Baggage Reclaim' into a kitchen-cum-clothes-drying-area. As we'd hoped, there was a bit of breeze here so we managed to pitch our tents and prepare our supper (tent slop, of course, but the slightly tastier Rachel-version) without their company.
While we did this a local chap came by and Rachel engaged him in what turned out to be a very interesting conversation about the airport and life on Barra generally. We were also entertained by the sight of two - presumably local - women returning to their cars to get changed after surfing (we didn't stare, honest), and remarked on how rare it still is to see women doing things like this without men.
Unfortunately, just as we were ready to eat the wind dropped and we were inundated. Since we couldn't wear our anti-midge headnets while eating we had only one choice: we'd have to walk about, fast, while eating. So we marched along the lane, onto the beach, past the terminal building on the beach side, and then back again, highly amused by our own ingenuity. We couldn't really talk, because we were busy shovelling slop into our gobs.
I seem to remember getting into my tent soon after we'd eaten, and listening to the sound of Rachel trying to kill a few dozen midges that had somehow got inside her tent. This became something of a nightly ritual!
Thank you Rachel for a really terrific week. I wasn't sure how it would be for someone to join in with my usually solitary lifestyle, but I enjoyed it very much and I'm glad you did too. Oh and by the way, I've been making tent slop your way ever since, even though it does use more fuel!
[Addendum: When I sent this account to Rachel to check she said: 'I do particularly love the way when we were in the Baggage Reclaim shelter you turned to me, I think just as the rain had really started to tip down and I was grinning because we'd found the Baggage Reclaim and it had completely tickled me, and you said something like "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else" or "this kind of life is totally brilliant" - indeed!']