The weather forecast was predicting the hottest day of the year. This sounded like the perfect time to take the boys on a overnight trip. And a great excuse to buy some new gear a Quechua Arpenaz4.2 XL tent. This is a budget 4 man tent, but one that I could stand up in and had plenty of space should the weather confine us to shelter. It will not withstand heavy weather like the Mountain Hardware Trango 3.1, but I will not be taking the kids out in those conditions.
We were up early, had a gorgeous drive to Loch Fyne and I found the campsite I stayed at with Jo and Iain. I cannot believe that was in 2014! Where did that time go?
The tent took a while to pitch as there are a few design flaws that I will need to address. Each of the four poles are held in place by inserting a pin on the outersheet into the sockets at either end of the pole. The process is push each pole through the matched sleeve on the outer sheet and insert the pins along one side. Each pole is bent in turn and the pin inserted at the other end. Except in tensioning the pole, the pins fell out of the other untensioned poles. It would be easier to fit the poles with two people, but the boys were busy exploring, finding firewood and expending energy, which would help later on in the night.
About 45 minutes later, the tent was finally up. It was hot, humid and I had walked around the tent far too many times chasing poles. I was now drenched in sweat and somewhat irritated with the minor tent flaws. Time for a beer! The boys were still exploring and I had some peace. I set up my chair by the loch side and savoured both the view and the beer. I drank the beer slowly and cooled down. There was a mouthful left and as I picked up the bottle to drink, a wasp flew down the bottle neck and into the beer. I emptied the bottle and the wasp flew away. For the rest of the day the wasp buzzed around us trying to get any food and was a general nuisance. To the boys credit, they stayed still when it landed on them and we managed to avoid anyone getting stung. Eventually he got too close to the fire.
The last time I camped here, Jo mentioned a survival training course held in the same spot and poles were used to make shelters. I checked the firewood the boys had collected and there were some straight poles with side branches removed. They looked ideal for the main ridge of a shelter. We returned those and Josh cut the remaining wood pile into usable lengths. I walked with Kai along the beach looking for some dead wood and soon found enough wood for the evening. I dragged the wood back to camp and Josh had just finished cutting the first lot. He was hot and tired and had had enough. My turn for the saw and about an hour later it was all cut up with half the wood stacked in our chosen fire place.
Lit the fire and let it burn down to embers to cook hotdogs. I bought some toasting forks and we had one each, stacked with two hotdogs. And they were all cooked to perfection. I even had some sachets of barbecue sauce in the car, left over from a take away meal!
We had three baking potatoes. I wrapped each in foil and placed in the embers. Mindful that I have had mixed success with baked potatoes, set the alarm on my phone for 40 min. Alas the fire was too hot and the foil for one potato burned through and turned part of the potato to charcoal. I turned them all over and rearranged them in the embers. After half an hour I took another look and they seemed to be done. The burnt one was also crunchy on the other side. It went back on the fire to be come part of it. The remaining potatoes were cooked. I mixed with a bit of butter, a slice of cheese and they were perfect! The boys wolfed them down and decided that baked potatoes were awesome and should feature at home.
We sat round the hot fire on the hot day! And drank lots of water. I had only brought 5 litres of water, two of apple juice and 1 of milk. And we each had a 500ml drink from our lunch meal deal (with the beers, it came to 10.5 litres of fluid for 24 hours). We had hot chocolate about 2130 and filled up the empty drinks bottles after with an apple juice and water mix. We now only had enough liquid left for a morning hot chocolate for the boys and a coffee for me! I told the boys we could not waste any water on brushing teeth and they hid their disappointment very well. Luckily I had wet wipes which were used to clean dishes, mugs and cutlery. And children.
About 2300 I thought I could see flashes in the night sky, but I was not sure if it was the fire. I went down to the loch shore and called the boys over. Behind the hills of the north shore the clouds were flashing - there was a major lightening storm! We got out chairs and sat watching for about 20 min. It was too far away for the thunder to carry to us. Once it passed, got the boys ready for bed and I got onto my sleeping bag. It was still hot and humid.
About 10 min later, I could hear thunder. I got up and took a look out of the tent window and saw the clouds lighting up again where we saw the lightning before. It must have been closer as we could now hear the thunder. The boys got out of bed and we sat on the floor with the tent door open, watching the light show again. It finished about 0010 and the boys were now very tired and returned to bed. I could hear their gentle snoring a moments later.
I could not sleep though. It was still too hot! And then it started, the tent lit up and the deep rumble of thunder filled the night. But the thunder did not end, it just rumbled on. And on. And on. The tent would light up as if day every 2 or 3 seconds. The rain started to fall and made more noise that blended with the rumble of thunder. Then suddenly the thunder cracked violently and the ground shook. This was not the gentle, peaceful thunder of summer thunderstorms that lull you to sleep but a really angry Raijin. I once heard thunder in Japan. The sound shook the building and sounded nothing like the gentle rolling thunder I had grown up with. I made a minor fool of myself when I asked if we should leave the building or get in a doorway because of the earthquake. 'What earthquake?' was the reply. I explained and with a smile normally reserved for young children was told, 'Oh that? It's just thunder.'
The storm passed and I fell asleep. In what felt like just moments later, the boys were awake and doing their best to be quiet but I woke up. The gentle rain made a calm sound on the tent. I made hot chocolate for the boys and some fresh coffee for me. Had a test run of my new Zyliss Cafetiere Hot Mug which worked well.
Breakfast was croissants with butter that was only just solid. It was almost a dip! While we ate, we noticed a large yellow / brown slug crawling up the inside of the tent. I pulled it off an threw is outside and closed the tent door against the rain. A short while later, we could see the slug's silhouette. I flicked the tent and knocked the slug away from the tent. I put my coffee grounds in a thick line between the slug and the tent. The slug was not aware this was a deterrent and slid straight over them.
After we had eaten, the rain had stopped and it was time to pack away before the rain started again. After we had eaten, the rain had stopped and it was time to pack away before the rain started again. The boys pulled the tent pegs out of the ground, cleaned them and put them back in the bag. Then they helped in collapsing the poles as I slide them out of their sleeves - something that needs a bit of care as the metal connectors catch the tent material very easily. Soon we had all the tent bits down and ready to fold back up to put away. I then discovered the tent bag had mysteriously shrunk since taking the tent out yesterday. After several attempts I gave up, rolled the tent up and just put it in the car with the bag on top. I would only have to take the tent out again when I got home to dry it out.
A quick check of the camping ground to make sure we had not left anything and then back on the road home. We arrived home just after lunch and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning gear and packing things away.
A quick check of the camping ground to make sure we had not left anything and then back on the road home. We arrived home just after lunch and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning gear and packing things away. The only downside was that it was only Wednesday and it felt like it should now be Friday and the weekend tomorrow. Thursday and Friday were extraordinarily long working days! But both boys loved it and I think they have another good camping memory.
The title is a reference to Thunder & Lightning by Thin Lizzy you and hear the track on youtube. An alternative title could have been "God of thunder and rock 'n' roll" - KISS - God of Thunder, but my youngest was a little disturbed by the video.