Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sleeping in my van

I've camped in my van for the last three nights and I'm loving the freedom of it. I left home much later than planned on Thursday and arrived in Oban just after midnight. I found a free car park, rolled out my bed in the back and went to sleep. I had a really good night's sleep and felt comfortable and safe. It would have been much more difficult to find somewhere to pitch my tent. It was dark when I was driving so I couldn't spot any good camping spots from the road.

On Friday I caught the ferry over to Castlebay on the island of Barra at the bottom of the Outer Hebrides. It's a five hour sail and was calm, clear and sunny all the way. We arrived in the early evening to more sunshine. Knowing the good weather wouldn't last and wanting to explore I drove a full circuit round the island's ring road stopping to take photos of the white sandy beaches and looking for a camping spot for the evening.

I drove over the causeway to Vatersay and followed the road finding more white beaches and a lone seal. I also discovered the remains of a second world war plane crash. This reminded me of walks I've done in the Peak District to see similar remains (a more macabre version of being a plane spotter).

Although I saw lots of nice places I would have had to park a little bit back from the sea and not have had the best view. With this is mind I drove back to one of the laybys I'd passed earlier on the west side of Barra and stopped there. Although it was on the main road there were very few vehicles passing. I had the beach and sand dunes in front of me and a rocky grassed over hill rising up behind me on the opposite side of the road.

I wouldn't have been able to pitch my tent here as the layby itself was covered with loose stones, the hill behind was too steep (and I probably wouldn't have got my pegs into the rock anyway), and the sand on the beach was too soft and the tide was coming in. So having my van meant I was able to camp in an amazing spot and have it all to myself. I kept the door open until quite late and opened it early the next morning, sitting in the doorway to eat my breakfast. Last night I camped here again. Another campervan was parked at the far end of the layby, but it was far enough away for us both to have privacy.

I've put a roll-up bed that I've had for years in the back of the van. It's actually meant for a child and is made up of three foam cushions attached together - two larger ones and one smaller one. When it's folded up it makes a chair, the smaller cushion being the back of the chair; when it's unrolled it makes a bed with the smaller cushion being slightly raised at the head. It fits really well in the van and is where I'm planning to build my bed when I convert the van. Down the other side from my bed I have everything stored and although it looks very packed, it's much more organised than I was in my car.

The more I use my van, the more I'm getting the feel for how I want to convert it. I'm glad I didn't rush into anything. Although most of my original ideas still hold, there are a few things I will do differently and other modifications I've realised would be nice to have.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up on my tents though. When I want to get off the beaten track to places I can't access with a car and when I'm walking and carrying all my gear, a tent will be needed. Also, when I'm staying in one place for a while it's better to have everything set up in one place so I don't have to pack things away in the daytime. I'd also have more room in the back of the van during the day.

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