#microadventure on the Saltee Islands

An opportunity seized. A bag quickly packed. A boat taken. Me and my big sister, all grown up and off on a little adventure together.

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Just eighteen months separate us, yet we have grown up to be two completely different people. Her, twenty four, beautiful and stubborn. Me, twenty two, ragged and determined.

We plied off a motorised pack raft onto the edge of the beach, totally alone for one night on the empty Saltee Islands to spend a night amongst the seabirds.

We walk, we explore, so long it’s been since we were alone in each other’s company, we eat the filled rolls prepurchased from a garage deli on the shores of Kilmore. We wander over the cliffs, caged in by a colony of gannets, jeering the silly ways of the puffins and seals. We gather whale bones strewn across the beaches floor, vertebrates to be used as future paperweights, light a fire in the empty grate of our little shed and roll out our sleeping mats for the night ahead, basking in the sheer simplicity and beauty of it all.

Look how far we have come, since those days a lifetime ago playing push off the bed with our Da, screaming at each other as teenagers and now full circle, coming to rest at a lilting easiness between us.

Both of us currently stand on the threshold of real life, when this summer comes to a close, our time will come to leave home for good and continue the dreaded search to figure out who we are, on our own. She’s looking at Canada, me at Australia. Worlds apart.

But for one more night, we sit on the cliff, side by side in an easy silence, watching the world from our patch of isolated paradise.

 

My First Time Wild Camping Alone.

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I picked a spot to head towards. Roughly ten minutes away. All uphill. But the trees deceived me, they looked a lot nearer then they were. Half an hour later I gave up, here will do. The sound of the wind kept tipping me over, the power of it mocking my unsteady feet. I sheltered from it as best as I could. People have this perception that away from the city everything is silent, but between the birds, the animals, the branches and the winds,the noise roared relentlessly around me. Apparently if the weather is nice in Edinburgh, it does not automatically mean it is nice up here. I pulled the contents from my red rug sack and began assembling my tent. I forgot my sleeping mat. I groan inwardly.

But alas, this is the life I have chosen. Now I must practise it.

Up in the Pentland hills I lie. Cold and lonely, I wait for the darkness to creep in, for sleep to drag me under, to take me away. I have given up on entertaining myself, and it is too windy to venture further and explore my surroundings. So I lie on my back and imagine what my family are doing right now, sitting around the fire, watching a movie? I laugh tentatively at the thought of telling my Ma what I did last night. She will kill me. Although if she knew what other 22 year old girls got up to, she would be delighted I am so into the outdoors. She’s a worrier though, which makes me worry. And when people unconsciously instil this unfounded fear into you, it can hold you back and make you doubt yourself. My flatmates are probably drinking beer, cooking dinner and watching reality TV. I laugh out loud again, I live with three boys yet I am probably the most macho of them all.

I think about who else is on top of a hill or in a field, cradled in a sleeping bag somewhere in the world right now? I salute them.

I zip up my tent waiting for the fear to come, but it doesn’t, I feel safe. I was scared of what the night ahead would bring, but deep down I know, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. I want to to shake the cobwebs off, to stop dreaming and start moving. Step by step, little by little, I will get there. Darkness has become my friend, hiding me from the outside world.
In my day to day life, as I have grown and worked and lived. I have become increasingly self concious. I have wasted so many hours stressing about my weight, my height, my face, my accent. I never wanted to be that person, and out here alone in the wild I am no longer. What does any of that stuff matter. My looks, my insecurities do not affect how well I pitch a tent, my ability to light a fire, how I read and write. The freedom to just be, is quite liberating.

I am braver and more capable than I think.
Next stop, a small expedition.
Little by little eh.

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WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU ON YOUR FIRST WILD CAMPING TRIP ALONE:

Travel light, take only the essentials.

  • A mat
  • A tent/bivvy
  • Sleeping bag
  • Flashlight/torch
  • water/food
  • towl
  • cooking utensils
  • matches
  • extra clothes for warmth – leggings, jumpers, hoodies, extra socks, buff, wooly hat
  • first aid kit
  • book/notebook to entertain
  • phone – just in case something goes wrong.
  • a map

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