Never had the adage “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” felt more appropriate as we chugged into Abersoch in the black of night.
Go camping, they said. In a Mercedes Sprinter topping 22ft in length converted into a bespoke camper van. In October. What could possibly go wrong?
At least we had booked a pitch at the Tyn-y-Mur site on the hills overlooking the picturesque Welsh town dubbed the “Sandbanks of the North’.
Choosing to arrive in darkness, however, meant we had to wait until first light to capture the impressive landscape below.
In the meantime there were much more pressing things to focus on, like hooking up to the power supply in the driving rain in a deserted field (torch, anyone?), before tackling the challenge of cooking dinner in one of the smallest kitchens known to man.
Home for the week was “Orla”. This was the life we’d chosen, the adventure had begun and it was to prove one heck of a lot of fun.
If, like me, you’re a camping novice on the cusp of turning 50 who likes life’s simple luxuries but had decided to take the plunge into an entirely different world, then why not do so in style?
Quirky Campers offers a unique and simple service that gives customers the option of choosing from a wide range of camper vans individually designed in terms of their beauty, functionality and customer service.
You pick one, collect it from the proud owners – in this case Jess and Josh from York – attempt to absorb all the instructions, leave your own vehicle at their home and hit the open road to go wherever you wish.
And the best bit? The owners are just a phone call away should an unforeseen crisis occur.
The beautiful and rugged coastline of North Wales was our destination of choice and, like Orla herself, the place didn’t disappoint.
Orla, named after Irish fashion designer Orla Kiely, whose patterned curtains provided privacy in the two sleeping pods above the double bed, drew some admiring glances from the locals once she began cruising the narrow streets of Abersoch.
She had dashing paintwork, but the true beauty lay within.
Orla could sleep up to four, including two adults and two children. Steps led up to one of the pods that double up as handy storage spaces, while the kitchen included a double gas hob, sink, fridge/freezer, two drawers and two cupboards.
Hot water was provided by an electric pump, as was the heating system, while a pop-up table sat neatly behind the driver’s seat, which swivelled round at mealtimes to add to the cosy feel of this mobile marvel.
It had taken less than 24 hours to stop worrying about what we didn’t have and start appreciating what we did have, such as a satnav, USB charging ports and wing mirrors with sensors to help in the act of overtaking or switching lanes.
No television? No problem because an unlikely and unexpected love affair had begun and, post-lockdown, the sense of freedom trebled as we made it our mission to let Orla show us as much of the Llyn Peninsula as possible.
Abersoch remains the jewel of this particular crown and so it should, with its quaint harbour, designer boutiques and swanky restaurants dotted close to the sea.
But venture further afield and you will find more gems, like Trefor, Criccieth and Morfa Nefyn, where standing proudly on the beach in the tiny village of Porthdinllaen is arguably the greatest pub in Wales.
The Ty Coch Inn stares out across the Irish Sea and has been voted one of the top 10 beach bars in the world. It is only accessible by car to locals, but the 20-minute walk to reach a cold and refreshing pint is more than worth it.
The hidden location meant Orla had to miss out on this particular pleasure, but she soon made amends with a visit to the stunning village of Portmeirion.
This tourist hotspot in Gwynedd was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village and is now owned by a charitable trust.
It is located in the community of Penrhyndeudraeth, overlooking the estuary of the River Dwyryd, two miles south east of Porthmadog and has served as the location for numerous films and TV programmes, most famously as “The Village” in 1960s’ show The Prisoner.
Our instinct was to join the queue for lunch at the town hall, which has been converted into a cafe. But why would you do that when Orla is waiting proudly and patiently in the car park, ready to host a feast of sandwiches and snacks while looking down over a place of stunning beauty and charm?
That’s the thing about holidaying in a camper van. You can forget what’s right under your nose because the novelty of having everything at your fingertips takes a while to get used to.
You can’t nip to the shops without having to take the whole family, and your parking skills are tested to the limit.
But this is all part of the pleasure and experience, because you can just fire up the engine and move on to the next place, the next suitable site, plug into the power, open the sliding door, let the sun shine in, pick a bottle of wine from the fridge, sit back and relax.
What’s not to like? And after a while you don’t even mind those competitive looks from fellow campers who stroll around failing to look inconspicuous as they compare notes on the make and model of their next-door neighbour.
But let them look, we thought, because Orla was in a class all of her own.
We covered more than 600 glorious miles at a cost of £160 in diesel and the journey was worth every penny.
We didn’t want to give Orla back, really, because it felt like giving up a home, but we will be back behind the wheel sometime soon.
Go camping, they said, and sample van life.
Go on then.
Orla, a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, is available to hire in York and sleeps three adults and one child. From £92.70 a night. quirkycampers.com
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