Hello? Is that the Ministry of Defense?
WE’RE OFF!!! Our Cape to Cape expedition has begun. Can you believe it?!
Before we regale the windy tale of how we kicked off our trip from Cape Wrath yesterday, allow us to briefly summarise all that has happened in the ~three months since our first blogs (promise the updates will become more frequent from here on!):
We bought (in the words of our dear friend/4x4 driving instructor/common sense advisor Graham) a ‘bitchin’ car and pimped it up even more with a roof rack, roof top tent, all terrain tyres, steel wheels, three door canopy (sprayed in a matching colour to aeroplane standard by my dear brother and Director of Engineering Thomas) and THE COOLEST wooden, felted, lockable platform made by our very own wonderful Director of Carpentry, Rhys (see bios for all these legends here). Whilst we have summarised this in just one mere (albeit lengthy) list, it was actually a pretty hefty job which involved a lot of late nights in my school’s floodlit carpark and some unexpected costs for drilling into our roof and fixing our tailgate that we discovered didn’t lock.
Here are some pics of our car prep 😍🛠🔩:
And then, the finished product! Car complete with roof top tent & awning (lots taken in the dark evenings with Domino’s Pizza in the school carpark)!
The great thing is that we learnt a LOT about new things we had no clue about. We are really very proud we have managed to get our car into the state it is now but couldn’t have done it without the incredible help of our friends and family at Cape to Cape HQ
2. We moved out from our flat, scattered the boxes containing our stuff across the UK between our friend’s farmhouse living room, Emma’s parents’ ‘annex’ and Ross’ sisters’ garage and slept in our kind friend’s spare room for 2 weeks (whilst helping her with last minute wedding crafts at the same time!).
3. We went to 4 ‘destination’ weddings and a Christening in the space of 6 weeks
4. We left our jobs!!! (For now)
And so to the windy tale!
As Emma jetted off to destination wedding #4 in the Isle of Man, Ross camped out on the drive of our Advance Base Camp Team Leaders’ house (aka Gill and Paul’s - Ross’ sister & brother in law). A full kit inventory was carried out: boxes organised and labelled & gear tested. We had some little helpers too - our 3 year old nieces and 4 year old Nephew were on hand to ‘pack’ the car, test the tent and generally cause mischief. Emma was absolutely the least helpful of anyone present, as she joined late on Sunday night nursing a hangover from the tequila at Saturday’s wedding! Luckily, the MacKays were on hand to help us at every step of the way: washing stuff, making brews, giving hugs, getting in our favourite Indian takeaway, treating us to a spectacular new SLR camera (!!!) (thank you Issie, Bridie, Gill and Paul) with all the gear and generally looking after us in true MacKay style.
Some pics of our prep and the helpers on the drive in Pollockshields:
We only had one ‘wee’ hurdle pre-departure: we blew a fuse when trying to replace a light inside our car with a stupid LED one and broke the central locking and the display unit which shows miles per gallon and the time! Ross’ Dad (taxi driver-cum-auto electrician) saved the day by teaching us about fuse boxes and some other general car maintenance!
We set off from Glasgow on Tuesday morning and travelled almost 300 miles to reach the Cape. What we didn’t realise was:
There are no roads on the Cape - in the winter (when the public bus ceases to operate) you have to walk 16 miles to reach the lighthouse at the very tip
It would be gale force winds when we arrived
Cape Wrath is actually a Ministry of Defence (MoD) firing range and sometimes closed to the public when activities are taking place ...
Great planning from us then!
We bloody loved the drive. It was so beautiful; remote, exposed, wild and other worldly. The Autumnal colours seemed so vibrant against the barren rocks and even more special when viewed beyond the horizontal rain and raging torrents.
En route, we gave the MoD a buzz to check we weren’t going to get shot at as we made for the Cape. All was good there - no one is stupid enough to go out in this weather!
Emma found details of a beachside bothy on the Cape Wrath Trail website (which is brilliant by the way: capewrathtrailguide.org). It told of naturally dried peat, a fire pit and a magical story of a ‘hermit-like’ man who had lived there for 40 years with no electricity or water! We were intrigued and this seemed like the bold start to our trip we were hoping for.
The only downside was that it’d require a 5 mile hike to get there over said peat, bog and sand dunes. No problemo we thought. No problemo.
We arrived at the Sandwood Beach carpark with the horizontal rain continuing to batter us. We quickly packed our rucksacks with all we thought we’d need, grabbed our satellite phone, had a quick glance at the map that was displayed on the door of the dreary loo block and set forth unto the breach!
Daylight was sadly *not* on our side nor were the water levels of the lochs, some of which were lapping at our boots as we marched towards the beach. When we reached what we hoped would be our destination, we couldn’t cross the final river. It was at least 10 meters across, a very strong current and even more risky since it met the sea. Darkness was now upon us and we didn’t trust the weak lights of our head torches to see us to the bothy. And so, we turned on our heels and marched all the way back, another 5 miles (uphill this time)! Our spirits were still high (we knew before setting off that there was a possibility we wouldn’t find the bothy) but we were drenched to the bone and very hungry once we reached our car again.
The rest of the evening went pretty smoothly apart from one near miss, when Emma had snuggled down in her sleeping bag (to prevent her teeth from chattering with cold any further) and Ross was cooking dinner at 11pm in the wind and rain (“hero” says Emma). All of a sudden the sound of Ross yelling “SHIT” and the scraping of our tent ladder could be heard in unison. The handbrake on our car wasn’t working properly and our car began rolling down the hill towards a fast flowing river! Thankfully Ross deserted his Pasta ‘N Sauce concoction to save the car (and his wife) and all was well. Our BFFs at Toyota Oakmere sorted out our handbrake once we made it to Warrington (it had seized and only one drum was working -
making it weaker than normal).
We learnt a couple of really important things from our (more mental than planned) start to the trip:
You’ll never know if you’re ready until you actually start - an hour in tough conditions is worth 10 in front of the computer
Patience and humour are as important as purpose - we were reminded not to get too swept up in to do lists and destinations
Less truly is more - there are endless eventualities you can prepare for but that comes at a cost: extra weight/fuel or simply the burden of more material things around you. We want to trim down to what really matters as a huge part of this adventure is to have a more simple and slow existence.
We’ll carry these lessons with us on the next stage of our journey as we pass through the UK, enjoy our 3 leaving parties and head to the continent on Sunday!
We will leave you with this very happy picture of us setting off on Wednesday to start our journey for real :)
Lots of love, the MacKays xxx
Michael & Serena in Barnsley...our car’s previous Mum and Dad...met through eBay!
John @ TM Motors on Kilburn Lane, London - great bants and totally reliable
The team @ OGS car key solutions/mechanics in Finchley, London
Lucy & the gang @ Oakmere Toyota Northwich
Dave, Jason, Tom & Marek @ Aerocare international, Warrington - superstar painters in THE most professional aeroplane standard facilities!
Adam, Mark, Ali, Ali and Moustapha @ Paddington Academy for helping us with trip prep, receiving endless packages to school (Mark!) and being our Africa/Arabic panel of experts (Adam, Ali and Moustapha)
Sophie, Amy & Jasper - the most wonderful hosts for our 2 homeless weeks. Providers of G&T and an addictively comfy mattress!
Todd @ The Good Coffee Cartel for fueling our trip with the best coffee in town and a sexy new pair of sunglasses
Max and Laurent Maunier for sharing their knowledge of cars that we could only dream of!
Anti B - for love, encouragement and that all important question ‘would you reconsider?’ one week before we were due to leave! Thank you for the special gift of our new camera!
Kristy Merrett for helping us to not lose our flat deposit by plastering holes, taking bags and bags of stuff to the charity shop and cooking up a feast with al that remained in our freezer!
Graham Burgess - handiest man in town, 4x4 instructor, common sense advisor and off road terrain rental services
Bethany Merrett - best friend and provider of love at all times, storage services, games advisor and generally the biggest, vest encouragement we ever get!
Ellie Mitchell - bestest office buddy you could wish for and witness to most of the hair-pulling-out frantic phone calls to tyre companies, roof rack fitters and eBay customers.
Thomas Wardle - endlessly generous with expert advice, meticulous and thoughtful. The best brother and one half of our SOS team. What more could you wish for?
Heather Wardle - patient (even after the 10th phone call to Tom in one day!), encouraging and always amused by our ridiculousness...lover of Mahabis
Mum - Base Camp Team leader, provider of the comfiest bed, best butties and stern words of caution. Always interested and accepting of our taste for adventure! MOST reliable & tech savvy member of the support team.
Rhys (The Judge) - Director of Carpentry, brew-in-bed maker, legal advisor, provider of the most ridiculous banter and the perfect other half of Emma’s warm, welcoming family home.
Gill - Advance Base Camp team leader, multitasker extraordinaire, most efficient errand runner, provider of all home comforts at any time of day or night...literally NEVER says no! Other half of our SOS team. Who is going to mess with that?!
Paul - for being always chilled about us using Dalziel Drive as a base for our madness. A generous and special soul
Issie - Expedition Chief: selfless care giver, Irn Bru buyer, baby sitter, concerned with all things safety, chaffeur, maximalist packer (if there’s a CHANCE you might need it, just take it!) and stage 1 companion.
Donnie - taxi-driving (literally), fuse buying, oil procuring, torch selecting, gun endorsing, wild life worrying Auto ElectriIvan Advisor
James, Jamie, Alex and Kira - our little helpers and bringers of joy
All of our beautiful friends in Glasgow, Warrington and London who have sent us well wishes, positive energy and love 😍💕