Tartan Safari December 2001
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The Tartan Safari December 30/31st East Lothian.
This particular event was born out of circumstance. Our normal New Year adventure is the Shamrock Safari in Ireland but foot and mouth worries rightly curtailed that. It was unthinkable that nothing at all could happen so an old Club Off Road favourite, Ronnie Dales superb off road area around Abbey St Bathans, was called upon to provide the necessary mix of friendliness, scenery and excitement.
This location has been the home for the Tartan Trail for many years and that event is a legend in its own right (incidentally the video of that event is available again at £10.50 inc P&P if you're interested in what an upmarket off road safari can be like. Just contact CoR or send a cheque for that amount to the address on the home page. Commercial break over.) The Tartan Safari was slightly shorter in order to allow entrants to return home for the New Year (and also to avoid the sky high hotel prices that New Years Eve engenders). It also used some new ground.
Day one. An hours fun and frolics looking for letter boards whilst trying to traverse the maze of tracks and riverlets in Ronnie Dales back yard. What should have been a nicely disciplined affair soon turned into the usual chaos as navigation became aggravation. Oh how us Redcoats laughed! Some spirited fording had left the first 4x4's through with a lovely 'beard' of weed dangling from the track rods and axles. Despite the bright sunshine that weed was frozen harder than the yellow bits outside an Eskimos igloo within 3 minutes. Salutary lesson in freezing conditions, after wading expect things to freeze including such necessities as brakes. Alan Wormald did as was told by his ace navigate Cath and that got them a clear round. The Braggins's (as usual) didn't do anything they were told and nearly sank their Landcruiser VX in a frozen weed covered pond, thankfully an innate sense of self preservation, built into Land Cruisers as standard equipment believe, halted their progress before it became too late. The Noyes V8 110 , having made it trouble free to Scotland from the the Peoples Republic of Wight promptly decided to not engage 4wd when called upon to do so. As is the way of things Solihull subsequent investigations luckily revealed 2 large bolts abandoning their task of keeping transfer box to gearbox but no problem with the diff lock which decided to work of its own accord once some technical terms had been used on it. Perhaps that's another built in safety measure to ensure a larger breakdown doesn't occur?
With some freeze dried 4x4 under our collective belts it was off to ford the river and then nestle in a riverside hollow for alfresco lunch. Lentil soup, rolls, sandwiches of myriad varieties, shortcake and a tiny 'snifter' of the local Brammle liqueur were served from our 4x4 food truck to warm the parts other safaris just don't reach. Lunch over it was off again on to virgin territory. The bright sunshine cast incredible shadows on the rolling landscape as we motored along the skyline, looking for a challenge. A mile later we found it. Down a heather clad bank and tight tricky river crossing, followed immediately by another and another as brooks meandering forced us to cut through the 'elbows'. Sadly the last crossing was just a little to deep and without bridging ladders (which were snug and safe at home!) we were going to spend just too long getting through and just a little too risky for the longer 4x4's in our intrepid band. Virtually everyone had cleared the third river crossing by this time so it was about turn and retreat. The dry stone wall that made a tight crossing on the way in was even tighter on the way out but teamwork ensured success and nary a scratch on the stone. Further perambulations took us up along and at the side of the Whiteadder river before we waded out on to the road once again and headed for the hotel, heat and eat. The dinners were a rumbustious affair to say the least but you had to be there to appreciate it, indeed that could be said of the whole hotel experience. There was more diesel smoke and off road miles travelled in the bar than any event I've ever done, but what else do you expect when a bunch of off roaders get together.
Day 2. It started snowing at 0745 precisely. By 0815 it was obvious we were in for a real dollop. Such conditions are a natural habitat for a 4x4 so the days proceeedings, proceeded. The local vicar was helped to the bosom of his congregation by Redcoat Bettis and we aided a couple more floundering 4x2's on our way through to the uplands on our treasure hunt. Not all of us made it. One of the steeper hills proved too much for a couple of our number so they decided to go the long way round as a self help group. Those of us at the front had an easier time of it. Virgin snow has far more grip than the packed variety and we eventually halted the convoy to let the rest catch up. The ensuing snowball fight was, I suppose, as inevitable as it was invigorating. It did bring to mind the adage; We don't stop having fun because we grow old. We grow old because we stop having fun. Patience and 4 wheel drive got us all through to the end of the treasure hunt, and there were those dedicated enough to still pick up the clues on their travels even though it meant uncovering most of them from under a snowy mantle.
As we entered the steeply sided woods the grey overbearing clouds that had been our gloomy companion all morning, finally parted to let us appreciate the real splendour of a forest in Winters snowy garland. However the idyllic Christmas card scene wasn't matched by the conditions underfoot and a test run round some of the tracks soon revealed that steep tracks and close trees meant things were the 'in' side of sanity. Not before the Norris Discovery, Goss Frontera and Thomas 90 had all put some tracks through the woods in proving just how slippery it was however. The ice floes floating down the river told their own chilling tale but the welcome at the Riverside restaurant was as warm as ever and the food just as filling. After a leisurely lunch we chose to miss the hair raising woodland rides and return to practice some real 'snow grip' motoring in the training area. This rapidly degenerated into high jinx of the usual kind. Matthew Cutter being towed on his sledge, ever increasing doughnuts in the snow from Fronteras and Freelanders alike. The see saw was in good use and finally a brace of quads were brought into the equation. From Megan age 3 to much more 'mature' girls and boys not many didn't take the opportunity to freeze their fingers on the bars of the sliding Suzukis. It wasn't planned but needs must when the snow calls and no one seemed to mind one bit.
With the sun setting flame red on the horizon and power lines crackling like burning logs it was time to head off the Lammermuir Hills, look out over the steely grey of the Firth of Forth across to Fife twinkling in the distance before joining the ordinary traffic on the now cleared A1. Our finale evening consisted of a keenly fought quiz where Bess Norris narrowly beat Ian Herron to the prize. A quick rendition of the 12 days of Christmas as only such a gathering could, or would, do it and a raffle for the Land Rover watch which went by some almost mystic process to our demon Barber, one Phill Thomas. Then another three course dinner and evening in the bar, it's a tough life but someone has to do it!
Tartan Safari Entrants
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