Near Death In Scotland… Living In The Tub… Rolling Hills To Which There Seems No End…
The van is large and ungainly, hardly a pretty sight, a hulking mass on wheels which rolls and tumbles along tiny Scottish roadways, slapping wayward tree limbs with wide, gawky rear-vision mirrors. They call it Tub, and we live in it. It’s our home for a few days, days spent wandering and wondering, a life on the road as free as the hills we whip by that seem to roll on forever.
The road is, he says, one of the most picturesque in Europe, and so we take a left turn and it’s narrow, ‘passing areas’ dotted every few hundred metres, barely even a line on the map, but stretching off into the hills like it has no end, and we, being carefree, take it with no thought other than to reach the other side where we’ll make camp, taking it as it comes.
We bowl along at a cracking pace, occasionally pulling to the side to let another car pass, admiring the sweeping countryside, a picturesque road indeed until we happen upon a series of steeply angled (at least 80 degrees, I’d wager) hairpin turns which we look to navigate in second gear – folly, as it turns out, and so we roll backward, stalled, down an almost vertical turn, hearts beating out of chests, hoping against hope that no one is coming toward us along this treacherous mountain pass – picturesque be damned, I mutter to myself as I lose the clutch and struggle to find first gear amongst a cloud of smoke which I fear heralds the ultimate demise of The Tub, our faithful travelling companion.
Luckily, first gear, once found, is rock solid and so we eventually begin to climb, slowly, slowly, around one vertical turn, around another and another until we finally make it to the top, the engine temperature gauge steadily moving upward, quicker than we are, definitely – hearts still beating, we pull over and take stock. Near death, to be sure.
However, not ones to be too daunted by a mere brush with the Reaper, we continue on, finding the downward ride a lot easier, despite the smell of burning brakes – regardless, we roll into Kenmore on the banks of the River Tay, which feeds into a gargantuan Loch of the same name, and we find a large pub with seats on the grass in the sun and so a pint of the local’s finest is in order, a smoke and calmness is restored.
No campground here however, so we prevail upon the Tub once more, hit the side road and eight or so miles later, roll into Aberfeldy where we eschew the packed campground in favour of a small meadow right on the river, where we make camp and praise the good lord, or whoever, that we’re still here. A good start, methinks, and we drink and eat and eventually retire.