Whether wild camping in a remote Scottish glen or having an overnight stay before an early morning flight, Bertha is the perfect functional camper van. Rowena loves the practicality of being self-sufficient – the simple pleasures in what she calls her “micro-world” – which enables her to get out and about enjoying Scotland’s outdoors.
Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners. It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing myself and my camper van
I’m Rowena, and I live in Aberdeenshire. I love being outdoors and especially getting out into the hills. I initially bought a campervan so I could do lots of little trips to the hills at a moment’s notice, getting as close to nature as possible and without having to worry about either booking accommodation or tenting it in wild weather.
I didn’t want a pretty old-style VW because I knew it would get trashed and wasn’t too practical, and I couldn’t afford a later style VW van. I wanted something compact, functional, cheap and reliable – the Mazda Bongo fitted my bill. I have had my Bongo – called Bertha – a year and half and can honestly say it’s (she’s) been a brilliant buy!
2. How do I use my camper van ?
There are many ways – mainly for getting away to go walking and having the van as an overnight base, but also things like meeting friends for a run and being able to change in the van afterwards to go for a cup of tea (or even tea in the van) ! Bertha has a bike rack attached so I often stick my on my bike and drive off to a location to have a really great, scenic ride. Even things like catching early flights from Glasgow or Edinburgh – a fair trek from Aberdeenshire, so I will drive down the night before, stay in a long-stay carpark and kip in Bertha for a few hours ! My family and friends have also been known to stay in Bertha when they are through visiting.
3. Best thing I love about my van ?
I love the simplicity of being able to pack a bag and drive off. Being able to stop on the way and brew a cup of tea. Bertha is like my micro-world when I’m out in her.
I also just love lying in Bertha with the wind and rain lashing down outside, reading a book and drinking a cup of tea – or whisky, depending on the time of day ;-). It’s the simple pleasures that are so great.
4. Pet gripes ?
Well, being 17 years old, Bertha needs constant maintenance. I must admit, if my boyfriend wasn’t handy, it would be a problem. He is very good at fixing things and sorting things out – there are always constant tweaks to be made.
The lights are not great so I am not confident driving at night. And it is not the best of conversions – I put up with it but it doesn’t make the best use of space. But that’s OK – I forgive her!
And she guzzles the diesel like nothing else.
5. Favourite accessories ?
Well, Bertha is very ‘no frills’ so there aren’t many. However I bought a drive-away awning which doubles the amount of space if I’m in a campsite – this is great for spreading out a bit, drying wet gear etc.
Also the rock ‘n’ roll bed is possibly comfier than my bed at home !
6. Best tip for new owners ?
Many people love the idea of a campervan but the reality is often not the same as their idea. I love getting away by myself and don’t mind ‘roughing it’ so it is perfect for me. But it is a confined space.
If you are buying an old van, be aware that it will need a lot of maintenance and looking after.
If it’s a Bongo you go for, consider joining Bongo Fury which is a fantastic support network and resource for all things Bongo related – well worth the membership.
7. Best trip in my van ?
Earlier this year I went up to Sutherland in the far north of Scotland for a few days. It really is such a stunning area and a fantastic place to base yourself for a few days.
Another time I was in London for a few days for work. I literally woke up in the centre of London on the Friday, got back home in the evening and drove straight off, camping wild at a remote spot near the Ben Lawers mountain range. The contrast was incredible !
8. Dream trip ?
I would love to take a few months off work just driving about Scotland, exploring all the remote glens and peninsulas, using Bertha as a base.
It would be great to take her on a trip to the Alps or Pyrenees, but realistically speaking it’s not a good idea when I even have trouble driving Bertha over the Lecht, which is a mountain pass between Aberdeenshire and Speyside.
9. Favourite campsite ?
Personally, I’m not a great fan of campsites. I often find them to be a bit like suburbia, and with loads of rules on what you can and cannot do. This to me takes away from the essence of camping, which is the freedom and enjoyment of the great outdoors. I prefer to find a remote spot and camp wild. But, not all campsites are the same – Rothiemurchus campsite in Coylumbridge, near Aviemore is a great spot in a fantastic location. The Red Squirrel campsite in Glencoe is pleasingly free of rules and regulations and is very laid-back.
10. When I’m not camping I’m …
Preferably outdoors – walking in the hills, running, cycling or backpacking. When indoors I love reading updating my blog: http://outnaboutinscotland.wordpress.com/ or planning my next trip !