During Reading Week, my Co-camper and I set out on St. Andrews’ expedition society Expand’s micro-adventure challenge. Awesome trekking related prizes were on offer for the documented debacles of each pair of voyagers. The aim was to travel thirty miles outside The Bubble to camp – without spending a penny. To the dismay of our friends, the Co-camper and I decided that we were up for a little adventure, and two ladies set out on the road with walking boots and sugary snacks.
I spent the previous night ‘researching’ our trip. The cartographic mastery of Google Maps and Images provided us with what one might call directions to my chosen location: the beautiful heritage site, Loch Leven.
After breakfast the following morning, we walked. Glorious weather paired with deep and meaningful chat suggested that, despite our friends’ doubts and concerns, we were going to be brilliant travellers. A golden sunrise blanketed A-roads and we admired fields and trickling brooks.
A packed lunch at Cupar was much deserved before (to the anguish of my blistered feet) we were off again. We attempted hitchhiking at 3pm, aiming to arrive at the loch and set up camp before sunset. Of course, two gorgeous girls did not take long to flag down Chick – the retired army-officer in a BMW with cream leather interior. Hitch-hiking in style.
Twenty minutes later, he had gone out of his way to drop us on the loch and we headed to explore the terrain. Reeds and woodland framed the glistening water. As we walked its perimeter the sky pinkened with the setting sun. In the centre of the loch lay on an island the small castle in which Elizabeth I imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots. Picturesque? I think so. Eventually we found a cushy leafy spot under a canopy of branches to house us for the night. As the sun went down, as we listened to the cheeping and squawking of birds.
This is where things got complicated… My companion brought a bivouac sack and layers as bed and shelter, while I (slightly more sensitive to the cold,) had a sleeping bag in addition to the rest. However, Co-camper’s dear mother had posted up walking boots and rucksack, but not the sack. Co-camper had not checked before she left. After I had a rant about such irresponsibility, I went on to discover my sleeping bag was missing. And by missing, I mean sitting on a shelf in my bedroom in St. Andrews. Woops.
So, how many idiots can you fit in a Bivi Sack? The answer is two.
At 2°C and after six hours of shivering attempts at sleep while using my companion as a human blanket, I gave up. At 01:30 we packed up, considered our options and decided it would be best to brave the dark, unlit, misty road back to St. Andrews. Morale was high, and we persevered on foot for five hours. We were Catherine of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, toiling across the moors. It was silent, bollards and trees morphed into people, the woodlands watched us pass as the moon hid behind the clouds. Finally, a newspaper van passed and like a high-speed guardian angel, out hopped a talkative Glaswegian who welcomed us in and offered a Mars Bar, cigarettes and the most wonderful heater we have ever known.
We were lucky that he “could never forgive [himself] if something happened” to us and after a kiss on the cheek and a shake of the hand, we bid him adieu on the doorstep of St. Andrews.
We were tired, dirty, and limping, but after twenty four hours of extreme adventure, we were back in time for a hot shower and breakfast. The courage, drive and pragmatism we demonstrated (against all odds) was what made our micro-misadventure something to be proud of. We may not be conventional campers; but nonetheless had an amazing experience. One for the grandkids.