Simon Willis: Meet Nellie

She’s big and grey like an elephant and so, we reasoned, our van’s name ought to be “Nellie”.  As in Nellie the Elephant?  Ok, it works for us.  But more often than not, she simply gets referred to as “base camp”, because our fabulous, long wheelbase Jerba campervan has been the start and ending point of some of our most memorable adventures.

Simon Willis
Simon Willis

Nellie slots into our lives like an undemanding family member.  Mostly she sits quietly on the drive, asking nothing but insurance, MOT and vehicle excise duty.  When called, she’s always ready to play.

Nellie takes us sea kayaking; from her bosom, we’ve explored every nook and cranny of Scotland’s crinkly west coast, from Aran to the northern tip of Shetland.  She takes us cycling through France and Italy, allowing us to head to where the weather is best and stay as long as we like.  She has proved invaluable in triathlons, especially Ironman races because she guarantees a comfy bed and familiar routine in the days leading up to a big event.  Year round she’s our base for wild swimming, a cosy, warm changing room and recovery area, a literal life-saver following an hour immersed in 6C water.

Each sport has produced its own unique set of adventures with Nellie, too many to squeeze into one short article.  So in coming posts, I’ll share a few of our experiences.  Along the way, we’ll visit the Netherlands, Croatia, Bavaria, Italy, France and Scotland.  Lots of Scotland.

To sit behind her wheel and embark on yet another journey is to be almost overwhelmed by the memory of all the exciting times we’ve shared.  And I’m certain Nellie also remembers them too.  After all, you know what they say about elephants.

shetland sunset
Rainbow in Loch Ailort
Campervan ready for anything
Simon Willis

Simon Willis is the author of Day by Day on the Pacific Crest Trail and The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail guidebook.  He produces the world’s best selling coaching films Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.  Simon and Liz Willis live on Ardnamurchan in the Scottish Highlands.