Occasionally life calls for a seriously un-green activity. In our case,trekking 500 miles from Mid-Wales to N.W. Scotland in a diesel transit van with a Twizy loaded in the back has to count as one of those and it’s not the first time we’ve done it. We love our Twizys but with hard seats and only 50 miles of range, it would take younger, more flexible spines and a lot of days to drive a Twizy all that way. Hence the transport by van.
However, the cause was a good one. We were delivering ‘Toro’ our modified Rural Twizy to the Isle of Eigg. 10 households are going to try out how well a small, low energy vehicle works for them and how much of their locally-generated green electricity it consumes. We hope that our other prototype vehicle, Bruce the electric buggy, will join the Eigg trial later this summer once our colleagues at Edinburgh College have managed to fix his unfortunate litany of technical problems. He won’t go as far or as fast as Toro but he will tow a trailer and not mind bumpy tracks.
So, back to Toro and the van. We reached Mallaig on a glorious sunny evening with clear views across to Eigg and Rum -always an rewarding sight after 500 long miles. We parked by the harbour and sprung Toro from the van. Within seconds, he’d attracted an array of curious onlookers armed with questions, exclamations and cameras. And, of course, everyone wants to have a go in a Twizy. Some were lucky.
After a night and excellent dinner in Mallaig, we were up bright and early for the CalMac Ferry clutching our special Eigg vehicle permit for Toro in our sticky hands. After tea and bacon rolls in the Mission cafe, we picked a strategic parking spot on the dock where the Skye Ferry couldn’t possibly suck us into its bowels by mistake but neither would the Loch Nevis (leaving straight afterwards) overlook us.
Our first landfall (and incidentally first dolphin spotted) was Muck and during the stop over Toro’s crew hung over the upper deck railings watching manoeuvrings nervously in case the enthusiastic JCB picked Toro up and shipped him onto Muck by mistake.
20 minutes later, we landed on Eigg and drove up the ramp to be greeted by familar faces: Eigg Organics Neil and Eigg Box Lucy. It felt good to be back and Toro with masses of luggage stacked on his rear looked every inch a Rural Twizy. First test was a short run, behind Lucy’s landrover, up to the Earth Connections Eco Centre to meet Bob and Norah who are to be Toro’s trial minders. We talked through driving and caring for a Twizy and Bob had an experimental run. The only technical hitch was demonstrating the ‘easy to install’ nature of the Twizy’s optional plastic windows. As Twizy owners who don’t own
windows (or even doors in our case!), we had managed to slightly distort the zips by rolling up the windows for convenience of transport. Probably a mistake. Anyway, we left the problem as an early exercise for the islanders as they have the motivation (horizontal rain) and the technical competence to solve it without further hindrance from us.
After a tasty soup and roll lunch in the pier cafe, we headed to the other end of the island (4 miles) to find Eigg Organics and “check in” to our yurt accommodation. It was great to drive Toro almost to the Yurt door which has a stunning view across Laig bay to the Rum mountains which were visible intermittently but not (of course) at the moment of taking a photograph.
After being shown around all the facilities by Neil, we boarded Toro once again and headed back to the Community Hall to catch the Feis Eige concert where children from Eigg and surrounding islands were performing instruments and music learned from tutors during the week. An enjoyable hour where our favourite was probably the double basses playing Fever with the audience singing and clicking along.
We then had a sit-down meeting and a welcome cup of tea with Eigg Box Lucy and Earth Connections Bob to discuss all the administrative details of the trial – the insurance forms, feedback data collection, etc. With that all settled, we tried tackling one of Eigg’s rougher access tracks to see see how Toro’s modified suspension and chunkier tyres would work. It was fine, not exactly a
comfortable ride with all the rocky bumps but no worries at all with clearance unlike our experience in Thierry (a standard Twizy) on our visit last September. A lot of the tracks leading from the road to people’s houses on Eigg are like that – hence the need for a ruggedised vehicle.
Back at the yurt, we unpacked, cooked and ate our supper whilst enjoying the view and chatting to the hens who were determined to check out the alien vehicle invading their space. Then it was back in the Twizy and along the island for the Feis Ceilidh.
Later that night, driving back to Cleadale, we experienced one of the most enjoyable aspects of driving a Twizy on Eigg. Because of its silent motor and open sides, you can enjoy the fantastic views in every direction, smell the sea and ‘hear’ the absolute quiet as you drive along the spine of the island. The wind generated by the Twizy even keeps the midges at bay.
We slept well in the yurt – enjoying that distinctive snug and smug feeling when it rains on a tent in the night and it doesn’t come in! Over breakfast, the friendly hens came by to check us out rather than just the Twizy. By eating everything we’d brought with us, I think we proved a bit of a disappointment to them. After tea and breakfast, we drove
along to the Western end of the island, parked and walked over to the Singing Sands. As the rain started, it was time to head back to the pier, offload our luggage and hand over Toro to a waiting Bob and Norah. As the Loch Nevis ferry docked, they drove Toro down the pier to wish us farewell. We left Eigg, our friends and Toro with some reluctance – although it always helps when you leave an island in the pouring rain!
24 hours later, arriving back home in Wales, it felt odd to open the van doors and find no Twizy. Empty Nesters indeed. We now await (somewhat anxiously and certainly enviously) reports of Toro’s Eigg adventures. As far as we know,he’s the first Renault Twizy to experience small island life. Watch this space.
The Eigg Trial is a collaboration between the Eco Travel Network, Eigg Box and Edinburgh College. It is funded by the Green Transport Prize which was awarded to the Eco Travel Network by Edinburgh College in May 2013. You can read more about the trial here.