Monday, July 18, 2005

Camping at Rowardennan

As Fiona was visiting her friend down in England for a long weekend, I decided that Ryan and I would go camping to our usual spot at Rowardennan on the banks of Loch Lomond. So come Saturday morning cheese and ham rolls were made, all the essentials for camping were gathered and the rucksack was packed. We were ready to go.

Jim and Wendy, were giving us a lift up to the campsite and as I had time to kill until they arrived I decided to go for a shower. I swear that my friends hang about my front door waiting to hear the shower clicking on and then decide to ring my doorbell. As soon as I had stepped into the shower the bell chimed. Ryan answered it and shouted up that Ann was at the door.

I hurried to get ready and went downstairs to see "Big Bird". I was pleasently surprised to see her as this was the first time that Ann had dropped by. She was cycling down to Lochwinnoch in training for next week's trip to Arran and wanted to know if Ryan and I wanted to join her. Obviously we would be unable to join her this time, but I was really pleased that she had went to the trouble of coming to ask us.

We caught up on all the gossip and Ann decided to hang on to see Jim and Wendy before she set off. They arrived shortly afterwards with a bit of a surprise. In the back of the car was the latest addition to the Arthur household, Dana the dog! She is a cross between an Alsation and a Collie and was rescued fom the kennels by them, several days earlier. We said goodbye to Ann, who trundled away on her bike and the five of us set off towards Loch Lomond.

Forty-five minutes later and we were walking the short distance from the car to the campsite. Dana was proving hard to handle and Wendy will have her work cut out calming her down. Jim, who was obviously smitten to have her was grinning like a proud father and if he spoils the dog as much as he spoils Ryan then it will be one, happy pooch!

When we arrived at the campsite there were several tents already there and unfortunately we were going to have to share it. Jim took the dog for a walk and Wendy stayed with Ryan and I while we asembled the tent and when they returned they decided to head for home and leave us to it.

With the tent organised I suggested to Ryan that we go for a swim in the Loch. So we headed down and gingerly made our way into the chilly water. Ryan decided that waist high was enough, but I bit the bullet and went under the water, but after 10 minutes of being macho I decided that I was frickin freezing, so we got out of the water and dried off.

Ryan, takes a dip in Loch Lomond

It's hard trying to pull your stomach muscles in when the water is so cold

It was time to gather firewood so that we could get a good fire going later on. The last time I had taken Ryan camping I was unsuccesful at starting the fire and so this time I had come prepared. I had brought matches, firelighters and some alcohol hand rub that would go up a treat, and after getting a tip from Thomas I had brought Tampons as he assured me that they get the fire going without any problems.

That's not strictly true, as I actually had purchased a packet of Tampons and a packet of Tampax as I was not sure which one would have been better. When I was in the Chemist buying them I noticed the assistant watching me lifting up every packet and reading the back. She must have thought "poor sod, his missus must have sent him to buy them and he hasn't got a clue". I was actually hoping she would ask me if she could help me, just so I could see the look on her face when I replied, "yes, which one of these are easier to set on fire!", but alas she didn't.

Anyway, back to the story. A few hundred metres away from the campsite there is a little house that is either owned by a family or rented out to people. I have only ever saw people there once in all the times that we have camped there and I find it strange why it is never used as the view from it is spectacular.

The holiday home on the hill

At the side of the house there is a little shed that is full of chopped logs and as usual I decided to borrow some firewood. Not strictly legal, I know and one of these days I am going to caught, no doubt by Special Branch! So after a couple of trips we had enough to get a nice big fire going later on.

The shed from where I "borrowed" firewood!

We went for a walk and went to the pier and watched some people water skiing for a while before moving further along the beach where we found a rope swing with a tyre attached to it and Ryan amused himself for 10 minutes and of course I had a shot too!

Ryan has a swing, but soon becomes "tyred"

Eventually we were at the Rowardennan Hotel which was full of weary walkers and people who had obviously just descended Ben Lomond. I had a pint of beer and Ryan had a coke and we watched the Open Golf Tournament from St. Andrews, where Monty was giving the Tiger a run for his money.

While we were sitting there a couple who looked like husband and wife were setting up their musical equipment and were going to be the band for the evening. I suggested to Ryan that we stick around for a while as he had never seen a band play before and he was fascinated as they tuned their instruments and got ready to sing.

We watched their first three songs and I would have happily stayed there for longer but Ryan was itching to get the fire going. We headed back to the tent and made dinner then relaxed for a while. The other campers who were sharing the site with us already had a fire going and the speedboat they had arrived just then, with a top up of several cases of beer.

Just then, another group of about a dozen people arrived and set up their tents next to ours. They too were laden down with cases of beer and bottles of Vodka and I whispered to Ryan that I hope he wasn't tired as it was obviously going to be a late night! They seemed friendly enough but must have decided it was a bit too crowded where we were and so moved 20 metres up the beach from us.

Ryan and I prepared everything we needed to get the fire going and after pouring alcohol hand rub onto my Tampons and chucking on a couple of firelighters, we had the beginings of a good fire. We gradually put bigger logs on and before we knew it, had a raging inferno.

Ryan, like any other 10 year old loves tending the fire and here is a picture of him in all his glory!

Ryan. No, sorry wrong Firestarter!

We chatted late into the night and toasted marshmallows on the fire. The young group that were just up the beach from us had a guitar with them and were singing away to their hearts content. However, 50 metres in the other direction, another group of campers who also had a guitar were trying to upstage them and we were treated to a kind of bizarre, Battle of the Bands.

The funniest moment happened when one group started to sing The Proclaimers song, "500 Miles" and the other group joined in, each taking it in turn to sing one line of the "Da da da da" chorus. By 2.00 it was bedtime and Ryan and I crawled into our sleeping bags and left the partygoers to their fun.

The next morning, we awoke at 9.30 and I immediately startred to cough heavily, due to the smoke from last night's fire. Is this what it is like for a smoker every morning, I pondered. We got washed and brushed our teeth in the Loch and then made breakfast. Crosse & Blackwell's "Hunger Breaks", an eclectic mix of beans, mushrooms and sausages in a tin, which is only outdone by it's posher cousin, HP's fantastic "All Day Breakfast". Mmmm!

Breakfast for campers - Crosse & Blackwell's "Hunger Breaks"

After we had eaten we packed up our gear and dismantled the tent and set off towards the Hotel again as a large drink of water and a decent toilet break would be required before today's exertions.

Ryan and I at the Rowardennan Hotel

Ryan staggers out of "The Clansman" bar

We began to walk towards Balmaha which is a good 8 or 9 miles hike away and I knew it was going to take all day and be a bit of a slog for Ryan. Twenty minutes later and Ryan was already asking how much further it would be. Just then some walkers who were coming in the opposite direction stopped and asked how much further it was to Rowardennan and I assured them that they were almost there. I then asked them if they had walked from Balmaha and they said it had taken them almost four hours. I saw the dismayed look on Ryan's face and decided it was time to be a bit more pro-active.

A couple of minutes later and I turned to see a van approaching us. I had noticed it the previous day, parked outside the Youth Hostel and so I decided to chance my luck and stuck my thumb out for a lift. The driver stopped and I noticed that the van was half full of foreign walkers and ther rucksacks. "Where you off to lads?" he asked. "Balmaha", said I half expecting him to say no chance, but instead he told us to jump in.

Thirty minutes later and we were climbing out of the van in Balmaha and I thanked my lucky stars for our good fortune. I suggested to Ryan that we climb Conic Hill and he didn't look to impressed. "Come on it's easy" said I and he grudgingly agreed.

We went into the tourist information office and asked when the bus to Balloch was due and the lady informed us that we would have to wait an hour and a half as we had just missed one. I asked her if she would watch our camping equipment while we climbed the hill and she looked a bit perplexed, saying that she did not think we would be back in time to catch the bus. Never one to pass up a challenge I assured her that we would be back within the hour. I saw her gently shake her head as we walked outside!

I set off at a brisk pace with Ryan in tow and we climbed the increasingly steep path as quickly as we could. The sweat was dripping into our eyes and at one point I stopped and asked Ryan if he could really feel his heart beating. Isn't it great, I asked. He didn't look too convinced.

Anyway, we ascended all 1,200 feet of the hill in 32 minutes and it was bloody hard work. I explained to Ryan that we had just climbed 1/3 of the height of Ben Lomond and he seemed quite happy with himself when I put it like that.

On top of Conic Hill

Unfortunately there's no loo at the summit!

Just incase you find it hard to imagine how we climbed Conic Hill, then here is the idiots guide on how we did it!

We sat for ten minutes and drank plenty of water before we set off back down. 17 minutes later and we were walking through the door of the Tourist Information office to pick up the gear. The assistant asked if we had changed our minds and decided not to climb the hill. I informed her that we had just done it and she looked a little cynical. However, our bright red faces should have been a bit of a give away!

The bus arrived shortly afterwards and 30 minutes later we were in Balloch where the train for home was sitting, ready to depart. We had really knocked it off with the journey home today and we took our seats just as the train doors began to close.

Ryan, lets the train take the strain

A couple of hours later and we were home. Ryan went for a long hot bath and I ran about doing the housework and feeding the cats before having a nice hot soak while I read my Star Trek magazine. Bliss.

I had just lit the candles when Fiona arrived home. Ryan was delighted to see her and was nearly crying. I was of course nearly crying too as the silence would now be shattered (only kidding babes).

We all shared our stories and had supper before heading off to bed. Three very weary travellers!