Category Archives: United Kingdom

Time for a rest

Firstly, Jen and I both hope that all have experienced a wonderfully relaxing Christmas and New Year and we sincerely hope that you are as excited about the year ahead as we are.

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So it’s been a while since we last posted an update but we didn’t want to intrude on our valued friends Christmas and New Year celebrations with incoherent ramblings from the other side of the Globe!

I hear you scoffing at that little white lie! It’s true – I’ve been pretty slack!

Or maybe it was a case of writers block as has been suggested to me in a pleasant email that I just received! Thanks for that Bec… Just the motivation I needed!

It was time to leave Morocco behind and begin the journey toward the UK for a rest and refresh before the next leg!

A quick check of the ferry timetable and the decision was taken to make an early start for the final 100km’s back to Tanger Med Port for the 11am departure! Arriving on time it was nice to hear that the 11am ferry would not be running providing us with plenty of time to relax in the car park before the 2pm ferry –Yaaaayh!

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European Mainland within Sight!

The rock of Gibraltar really is quite striking as you approach from the straights!

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Off the ferry and firmly back on European soil in Algeciras, it was only a short drive around the coast to where our Camper Contact App (best €6 we’ve ever spent!) once again provided us with a great location to park up for the night.

View by Night

View by Night

View at Dawn

View at Dawn

The following day, we found ourselves wandering across a border and airstrip into what really is an unusual little enclave that has remained firmly in the possession of the United Kingdom for decades – Gibraltar. Even someone completely devoid of any knowledge of military tactics would, I’m sure, with one gaze across the narrow straight separating Europe from Africa, realise why being in possession of the Rock of Gibraltar is such an obvious tactical coup.

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The small community south of the Spanish border really does provide the illusion that your back in Britain with numerous little English pubs displaying lunch boards with that ubiquitous English favourite, Fish and Chips!

Gibraltar Main Street

Main Street, Gibraltar

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Moorish Castle

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Wandering amongst heritage buildings bordered by a lovely waterfront that sports apartments, restaurants and hotels all sitting snuggly with the backdrop of the white sandstone rock, the whole area does have a nice vibe about it. Certainly not for the budgeting traveller however, it was easy to see why there is an exodus north into Spain for anything from accommodation to food once you start noticing the prices!

Floating Hotel

Floating Hotel

An example for you! – There was a Burger King sign displaying a special XXL Bacon Cheese burger with fries and a drink for the very XXL tariff of £8 .10 which for those Aussies on the slipping $AUD equates to just under $17! Ouch… The same billboard a couple of hundred metres to the north back in Spain provided the same Burger King meal for €7.15 or $11AUD…..

Beautiful Coastal Vistas

Beautiful Coastal Vistas

Through numerous towns and small roads we wandered north-enjoying Spanish highlights such as Seville, with its lovely historic buildings set amongst swathe’s of lovely parklands. It’s rapidly back to tourist reality however, with strings of huge tour coaches and people moving in every direction like ants! I’d have to admit I wasn’t all that sorry to see it in the rear view mirror!

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We made a detour west in order to have a little taste of Portugal along with the fact that your allowed to free camp alongside reservoirs in Portugal – numerous opportunities were presenting on the map and, along with our handy Camper Contact App, we found ourselves relaxing on the shores of a pretty lake with that lovely feeling of being far away from the pressures of life. Had it not been for the ever-present time limit attached to the Schengen zone we ‘d have stayed a lot longer – Alas…

Nature camping at its best

Nature camping at its best

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Friendly Dutchman Emile and his trusty travelling companion

Friendly Dutchman Emile and his trusty travelling companion

We spent a couple more days wandering north via Portugal before heading back into Spain.

Harvested Cork Tree

Harvested Cork Tree

Small Portuguese villages

Small Portuguese villages

Not the recommended way to level your camper!!!

Not the recommended way to level your camper!!!

Camped beneath the castle walls in Bragança, Portugal

Camped beneath the castle walls in Bragança, Portugal

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We endeavoured to find the largest Carrefour shopping centre that we could in order to load up on drinks priced in Euro’s rather than Pounds for our upcoming stay back in England. We have never seen duty free alcohol limits the likes of the UK!!! (with the caveat of “Personal Use Only”)a pallet load of Alcohol (I’m exaggerating of course) loaded into the Patrol, we boarded the Ferry from Santander late in the afternoon for an overnight sailing to Portsmouth!

Yes - that's Litres!!!!

Yes – that’s Litres!!!!

Departing Santander

Departing Santander

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Sunset on board...

Sunset on board…

The cruise was quite relaxing with a mix of entertainment on board but it did become quite rough during the wee hours to the point where we began to wonder if our vehicle would still be where we left it when we went down to retrieve it at journeys end!

Portsmouth

Portsmouth

Arriving back in Littlehampton was strangely like returning home! Familiar faces and another stint enjoying the fantastic house we’ve been lucky to ride out 2 winters in to date! Jen wandered into a local bookshop that we’d patronized the previous year and was recognized immediately – “you’re the Australian girl staying here in Littlehampton!” Followed by an invite to join them after hours along with some of their other select customers to enjoy some pre-Christmas snacks, drinks and live music! We might even miss Littlehampton…!!

Justin And Gerry

Justin And Gerry

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Another couple of local stalwarts, Gerry and Margaret, kindly offered us a space where we would be able park the Patrol on the hardstand at the rear of there home, which was eagerly accepted!

Parking around the UK is a real nightmare. The moment you drive off, your street parking space is gone and you end up lapping the neighborhood numerous times in the hunt for a new one. So with off street parking sorted, we’ve been able to start preparing the Patrol for it’s next sojourn.

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We have spent quite a few hours high pressure spraying and cleaning the vehicle and camper in preparation for a customs and quarantine inspection upon its arrival into North America. Removing the seats and much of the interior ended up being part of the process. Dead bugs, grass and dirt seems to find its way into every nook and cranny, but we are now confident that we’ve managed to clean it to an acceptable standard.

Another important task on our to do list was to apply for our US Visa’s. As we plan to stay in the US longer than 90 days, we needed to apply for a full B1/B2 non-resident tourist visa instead of the usual electronic authorisation.

Getting Visa Photos

Getting Visa Photos – No Smiling

After filling out the requisite forms with our life and financial history, and of course paying the required fee, we needed to schedule an interview appointment at the nearest US Embassy, which of course was in London! After shipping and flights, visas would have to be one of the most expensive parts of this sort of travel!

It had been 10years since our last visit to London so we were due a visit to refresh our memory. 

After 2 hours inside the US Embassy, (along with hundreds of other hopefuls), we left with the knowledge that our visa’s had been approved and it was on to sightseeing before our return to Littlehampton. Surprisingly, we had better weather this time in winter than we did on our last visit in the middle of summer! Who can pick the British weather…

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A greater armed presence…

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Number 10 Downing Street

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Picadilly Circus

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Big Ben

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Houses of Parliament, Westminster

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Christmas Eve heralded the arrival of some travelling companions that we were keen to catch up with. Land Cruiser packed, Erik and Mieke departed Holland after 1pm with half a days work already behind them and after several hours driving and a ferry ride that, according to Erik, was something akin to a Rollercoaster, they arrived at 10pm to enjoy Christmas with us.

Erik and Justin

Erik and Justin

Mieke and Jen

Mieke and Jen

We weren’t surprised by the description of the ferry crossing as the sea had been a boiling mess of windy white-capped fury all day from our balcony view…

We enjoyed a festive week of drinking, cooking and eating.  Not just simple cooking either – Eric basted and cooked Peking Duck on one occasion and Jen cooked the full Traditional Christmas Dinner – examples of the tuff times that we had to endure over the Christmas period.

Christmas Feast

Christmas Feast

Highlights of our time with them included freezing walks along the coast, a day trip to both Arundel and Brighton and a couple of days rest in the middle (allowing our swollen livers to resume normal function) whilst our guests ventured into London for their own memory refresher.

Brighton Royal Pavillion

Brighton Royal Pavillion – Could be forgiven for thinking you were in India!

Not really the weather for swimming!

Not really the weather for swimming!

Another highlight was our own personal sky-show! Unlike our home island where you have to protect stupid people from themselves, it does seem the Brits are considerably more liberal in this regard.

And I have to say that $60 AUD worth of exploding pyrotechnics that lasted about 2 minutes would have to be some of the best fun I’ve had in a long time.

I will really miss setting off rockets!

In the coming weeks, we will depart Littlehampton heading for Belgium where we will drop off our trusty Patrol for it’s cruise across the Atlantic! We will spend some time back in Holland before departing Europe one last time for Orlando in Florida.

A week later, which will be roughly the end of March, we should be reunited with our vehicle and begin our North American adventures.

Stay with us as we journey across, up and down the Americas and hopefully tick off our own version of the Pan-American drive….

Cheers

Justin

Rather have a Panda than a Prince!

Back in 2008, a group of us ventured into the central deserts of Western Australia for a couple of weeks of solitude! Well not quite solitude as Jen and I were providing the support vehicles for 3 friends on KTM motorbikes as they bonded with each other (boys will be boys) in a ride of a thousand or more ass smacking KM’s on rough tracks!

Anyway, one of those intrepid adventurers was John who at the time was living in Norway and made the journey to Western Australia for a Desert experience.  Now with a family and responsibility, John finds himself just south of Aberdeen with his lovely wife Katharine and daughters Sophie and Abigail.

John and Family

John and Family

Having stayed in contact, John had kindly issued us with an invitation before our journey began to stay a few days should we find ourselves in his neck of the woods.

So with a few days before our auspicious reunion, we had a pleasant enough amount of time to make our way south. Loch Ness was loaded into the Sat-Nav and soon enough the tourist mecca filled our windscreen, well the parts of it that you could see between the tour buses is probably more accurate!

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Box ticked is all I have to say regarding our quick visit before we departed for Inverness. From our campsite we were afforded a lovely walk along the River Ness crossing small footbridges between islands separating the fast flowing and very dark tannin filled waters. Really nice!

Many of the RV Parks often have a small food van or mobile fish and chippy on site over the weekends and there was one such van on this site at Inverness.  The lure of a bacon buttie was too great and whilst awaiting our order we were discussing the general feeling in Scotland regarding their English overlords! The chef told us that at the time Princess Kate was in labour with her first royal baby, there was also an expectant Scottish public awaiting the arrival of a baby Panda at Edinburgh Zoo. There happened to be a soccer match taking place between Scotland and England and those chants that we hear coming from bellowing fans at such events was on this occasion heard to announce “We’d rather have a Panda than a Prince” I guess that makes some of the feeling quite clear.

Whisky, an acquired taste! And I acquired it a very long time ago.

So finding yourself in Scotland is like walking across the Middle East to the Waling Wall, assuming you’re into such things!

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

However, due to the taxation of alcohol in the UK, Scotch Whisky is certainly not cheaper in Scotland and in fact is far cheaper in Germany and even Australia. Similar to winery cellar door sales in Margaret River, neither is it a better deal at the distillery. However a tour and tasting had to be on the agenda. We chose Glenlivet as it’s one of the oldest whisky distillers and we enjoyed a great afternoon observing single malt production and most definitely tasting some of their finest. First £200 bottle I’ve ever tasted and probably the last also, sadly!

Departing the distillery, I was definitely unable to operate vehicles or any other form of machinery.  Luckily, I had a chauffeur.

A drive through Aberdeen on our way to Stonehaven and we found ourselves in the entrance of a lovely home overlooking the North Sea!  Purchased as a run down ruin a few years ago, John and Katharine certainly had vision, saving the dilapidated house on site and finishing the whole build off to a level that might even cause Kevin McLeod to struggle for words!

BBQ Scottish Style

BBQ Scottish Style

Lovely house by the Sea

Lovely house by the Sea

Dunnotar Castle

Dunnotar Castle

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Out of our 3m square box and into our digs, we considered squatting and forcing John to seek legal advice in order to extricate us!

Whilst Jen had been researching her family history, she had found that just south of Stonehaven is the tiny village of Caterline, the base for a coast guard station in which one of her distant relatives served as a boatman. Ever efficient, John treated us to a tour of the area and, would you believe, managed to jag Jen a ride on a replica of one of the boats used by the coastguard back in the day.

Caterline Coast Guard

Caterline Coast Guard

We departed this Oasis with hopes of returning to once again enjoy some Scottish hospitality and as it turns out, there may be another chapter involving John, as it would seem that we might be meeting up again in Utah next year! – More to come on that front hopefully.

St Andrews was our next stop and it started with an impromptu drive (legally) across the 18th hole of the Old Course! Stunning place full of tourists trying to battle the age old first world problem of deciding whether the golf equipment they intend to purchase should have St Andrews emblazoned on it or not? Aside from golf, it is a pretty place to visit and the ruins of the cathedral are quite amazing.

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Where Kate Met Wills (Apparently)

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Edinburgh! a must visit destination, and beautiful! The photos will suffice, I’m sure.

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Blackfriars Bobby

Blackfriars Bobby

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Back in England and we headed along the “Castle Coast” to Cragside Estate, listed in our National Trust Guide and sounding interesting.   Wow!! What an amazing Estate. It was the first house in the Victorian era to have hydroelectric power.  This provided lighting and many other modern conveniences that we take for granted. The whole estate was absolutely amazing and worth a Google if your bored!

Preston Mill

Preston Mill

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

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Interesting Geology

Interesting Geology

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

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Cragside Estate

Cragside Estate

We were approaching a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the ferry prices were timed to increase with the extra demand, not to mention the battle that lay ahead in finding the ever necessary RV park for the long weekend.  Knowing full well they are all filled to capacity with sun seeking Brits we decided enough was enough and managed to beat the price rise and depart Old Blighty for Holland just in time to avoid the holiday madness!

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Jam Packed

Jam Packed

Cheers for now – another update soon!

Pay and Display!

With a slow but steady improvement in the weather our sojourn of England continued.

Lydford Gorge provided an opportunity to stretch the legs, with a couple of hours spent wandering along walk trails, all the while being treated to the graceful spectacle of countless crystal clear streams making their way down into the base of the gorge.  Following that, we visited the Finch Foundry (the last functioning water driven forge in England), saved from destruction by a savvy friend of the previous owners whom recognised it’s historic value.

Lydford Gorge

Lydford Gorge

Lydford Gorge

Loaded with castles and all things old is probably a fair description of this country.  As we travel more widely and visit more and more castles, estates, historic properties and beautiful gardens, we have come to understand the Brits a little better. There really isn’t very much land, if any, that isn’t privately owned with restrictions on access.

We keep entering National Parks expecting to see native forest and a lack of buildings and development, as we would at home, only to find houses, farms, caravan parks, car parks in random, isolated locations with “Pay and Display” parking meters and the usual “no overnight camping” signs!  Is revenue really that sought out by council’s that it’s worth running power to a car park on a country lane and having someone on wages heading out to collect the bounty? I guess it must be. Gates and fences prevent you wandering freely and is an industry that must generate more wealth in this country than owning a McDonald’s Franchise!  For a country that is a tiny 1300km long it seems to have found use for more fencing wire than we could ever dream of in Australia, quite astounding! And if you’d like to go fishing, get out your VISA card and let the fun begin!

Pay and Display! Check out the price for fishing!

Pay and Display! Check out the price for fishing! Times that by 2 for $AU

A cynical view I know!

Having said that, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, just not what we are used to, that’s all! So to our English friends – don’t be offended!

With Easter looming we were quite keen to be off the road.  It’s a frantic rush to have a few days off at home and it’s the same over here – lots of people moving about and very heavy traffic. We made our way via sites such as Glastonbury Tor and Cheddar Gorge to the village of Keynsham between Bristol and Bath.

Easter Traffic

Easter Traffic

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Gotta Love Stoned Adults on Trikes!

Gotta Love Stoned Adults on Trikes! I’m Not Kidding!

Catherine and Simon, whom we’d crossed paths with back in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic (whilst on their own overland journey – Malaysia to the UK), had put us in contact with a family friend in this village where Catherine had grown up.

Peter, Gill and Justin

Peter, Gill and Justin

Peter and his wife Gill are designing a tray replacement hard sided popup camper unit on the back of their Navara and we’d been discussing different roof lifting mechanisms over the net. With an offer of somewhere to park up for a couple of nights should we be near his home town and now finding ourselves close by, we made our way to Peter’s and were soaked in hospitality once again.

Peter's Pride and Joy

Peter’s Pride and Joy

Some of the internal electric set-up

Some of the internal electric set-up

Peter treated us to a guided tour of Bristol and Bath and hit all of the highlights – I think he’s missed his calling!  Gill and their daughter Larissa made sure we were fed and watered and all in all we were struggling to find a reason to leave!

With the locals back at work, we hit the road and made for Wales. I had big expectations for this part of the UK and we weren’t disappointed. It still amazes me that you can cross a line on a map and have such a distinction between people. Not only the interesting gibberish that is the Welsh language, but a feeling of a little more in the way of open spaces.

Wild camping at it's best!

Wild camping at it’s best!

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Heading northward through Wales with lovely warm days and blue skies we found a great campsite on a creek within Brecon Beacons National Park. The following day we hiked to the 886mtr summit of Pen y Fan and Corn Du for staggeringly beautiful views across the Welsh countryside.

View from Pen y Fan 886mtrs

View from Pen y Fan 886mtrs

Panorama of the Welsh Landscape

Panorama of the Welsh Landscape

With ongoing family tree research, Jen had traced a part of my family to a tiny village called Llanegwad.  It was one of many small villages that we visited on similar pursuits with some fruitful and others not so! This one was a great visit, as it appears to be where my surname originates. We wandered around an old churchyard and cemetery without any luck really, but fortunately the Pastor arrived and was more than happy to open up the old building and unlock the safe  for us. Here we were able to view copies of the parish records, which added some fodder to Jen’s research, but it’s a very difficult pursuit. Probably another dead (pardon the pun) end – we shall see!

St Egwads Church in LLanegwad

St Egwads Church in LLanegwad

The friendly Reverend Rhobert Pattinson

The friendly Reverend Rhobert Pattinson

Meandering onwards we enjoyed forested undulating scenery along with quite drizzly conditions, late in the day and the never-ending search began! Finding a location for a nights respite can either go smoothly or drag on to the point where you don’t care anymore and anything will do!

Ready for a Welsh Gold Mining Tour

Ready for a Welsh Gold Mining Tour

A couple of options presented themselves but the winds were up and they were quite exposed and blustery, we rounded into a rural car park for a perusal of the map when we noticed a sign, British Cross Country Championship – Marches 4×4 Event and a quick Google revealed free onsite camping! Hmmm, so we wandered down the marked forestry track until we came across a couple of vehicles camped in the spectator area.  Some friendly responses resulted in us spending the next 2 nights there.

Marches 4X4 Event

Marches 4X4 Event

What The??

What The??

Spectating the event the following day was very interesting.  It is more of a rally style event with a couple of short quite rough sections rather than the more aggressive 4×4 events that we have in Australia like the Outback Challenge. All in all, we had a great time, met some nice people and were fortunate to stumble across the event.

Snowdonia in Northern Wales, which sounds more like a Castle in a fantasy movie than an actual place, is very real, mountainous and wild with meandering roads in and around the dramatic terrain. With fairly consistent rain once again and the high concentration of slate stone, the area makes you feel like you are playing a part in a black and white movie. The colours are basic and striking.  Soaked in the clean mountain air it feels very raw and rugged and is the type of experience that keeps us travelling! You never know what’s next.

Weather rolling in

Weather rolling in

Another brilliant Wild Camp

Another brilliant Wild Camp

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But it was cold in the morning -2.5C

But it was cold in the morning -2.5C

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

The historic sites that I mentioned earlier, which are generally castles and estates, provide an eye opening insight into the staggering lifestyle enjoyed by an aristocratic slice of English society! The pictures will shed some light on the physical beauty along with the ostentatious display of wealth that in many cases was the only reason these creations were conceived and constructed.

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle

These faces were everywhere in this castle

These faces were everywhere in this castle

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Look at the detail and you'll see the faces!

Look at the detail and you’ll see the faces!

Many such as the one above were used only for a period of weeks during hunting and fishing season and then left to lay dormant until the next opportunity to display one’s position in society to their peers.  Family’s gluttonous with wealth and in possession of numerous castles and large manicured acreage could never have envisaged that their estates would ultimately end up in the hands of the public!

Wearing pants like these he deserved to have his property taken from him!!!

Wearing pants like these he deserved to have his property taken from him!!!

From accruing a fortune through businesses such as slate quarrying, slave running and importing sugar; labour strikes and the gradual move into a more equitable world (apparently) were to see those staggering bank accounts diminish quite quickly.  Relatives inheriting such vast stone empires found themselves on the end of death duties bills that were, at the time, in the order of 70%. Many were quite simply unable to financially remain in possession of these newly acquired assets or maintain them and as such, they were offered to the National Trust.  This avoided the death duty and ensured the continuation of such amazing establishments.

Those whom have had to relinquish their hold on these monoliths may have been quite happy to see these maintenance hungry goliaths gone from the family slate! These examples of status were rarely the only castle in the family, so they were not necessarily short of suitable digs after relinquishing ownership!

Nonetheless, the situation has meant that these properties are now open to the public and provide breathtaking insights into the lifestyles of the wealthy along with majestic locations for a picnic or wander amongst the manicured gardens.

Driving through Conwy

Driving through Conwy

The Duke of Lancaster

The Duke of Lancaster

We also came across a ship seen on BBC’s Coast Program, which hasn’t seen the open ocean in quite some time but is an interesting story to Google if you have some time.  Some of the most amazing graffiti we have seen!!

The Captain??

The Captain??

Continuing on to The Lake District in England and our next destination was Lake Windermere.  As lovely as the descriptions we’d heard and time easily passed as we soaked up our peaceful surrounds. The area is a tourist mecca and prices reflect it! The thought of isolated camping on the shores of these lakes in a vehicle is unheard of although the hikes in the area were plentiful.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

We aren’t against RV parks and use them regularly; we just enjoy wild isolated camping a lot more and appreciate the added benefit that it provides to our budget.  RV Parks are all much the same and in the UK range from $AU30 – $AU50 per night, tending towards the higher end as the weather improves.  We prefer to get a feel for an area and it’s geography by soaking in it rather than looking at the Caravan next to us or rather looking at the people looking back at us from the caravan next to us.

Ahhh much better!

Ahhh much better!

After a great drive through Wrynose and Hardknott passes to the western side of the Lake District, we spotted a good gravel track and managed to find a great campsite on a private fishing lake.  We drove in and found a few fishermen casting fly’s onto the lake. We asked about camping and no one seemed bothered – that was enough for us and up went the roof.

Boat Shed

Boat Shed

Our camp for the night at a private fishing lake

Our camp for the night at a private fishing lake

IMG_7659 IMG_1378A funny story was relayed to us here. One of the locals was telling us that we were now in the less touristy part of the Lake District and hence the lack of Pay and Display parking meters and keep out signs.  He said that in some of the villages out in this more isolated area, if you kick one person they all limp! That had us laughing.

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Ruins of Housteads Roman Fort at Hadrian's Wall

Ruins of Housteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall

A bit more family history hunting and a quick visit to Hadrian’s Wall before Scotland beckoned.  This is what the crowd came to see!

A quick National Trust Visit to Culzean Castle for the most incredible way to display weaponry I have seen not to mention the sheer numbers of flint lock pistols (about 700) – have a good look at the photos!

Putting an offer in on this one!! Hahaha

Culzean Castle – Putting an offer in on this one!! Hahaha

Another cool sundial

Another interesting sundial

Look closely!

Look closely!

Flint lock pistols with flint in place!

Flint lock pistols with flint in place!

Inscription from propellor in previous picture

Inscription from propellor mounted to the ceiling in earlier picture

Scotland is far more liberally minded with regards to wild camping and you’re able to free camp for a couple of nights legally! So we can finally free camp unhindered and we end up spending the next 2 nights in an RV park on Loch Lomond – Hahaha… I hear you laughing!  (You can’t free camp on the eastern side of the loch in peak season and must use registered locations) It was a really beautiful area with many walk trails and as with many of the locations that have stood out for us, it was the people we met that made it all the more enjoyable! Sunny blue skies and even a bit of warmth on the Loch shore with cold drinks and good conversation!

Loch Lomond Twilight

Loch Lomond Twilight

Drinks with new friends Adam and Lisa

Drinks with new friends Adam and Lisa

Loch Lomond from our campsite

Loch Lomond from our campsite

The weather was sensational but not forecast to last.  Our fellow campers pointed out the best places to visit on our onward journey and we decided to make for the Isle of Mull in the hope of seeing Puffins! Spending most of their lives at sea, they generally only make landfall in early May so we were crossing our fingers that they hadn’t checked their calendar!

We joined a tour boat for the 6-mile journey from the South Western end of the Isle out to Staffa Island.  The crew had seen puffins at sea but weren’t sure if they were nesting on the island yet.  In any event, the island itself was promoted as being quite spectacular with it’s basalt columns and caves and would make for a great day out.

Seals Enroute to Staffa Island

Seals Enroute to Staffa Island

Incredible Basalt Columns

The Incredible Basalt Columns of Staffa Island

It would seem that fortune was with us however; we managed to have a sensational encounter with these exceptional little seafarers on the last day of reasonable weather before it degenerated back into arctic conditions.

Puffins!!!

Puffins!!!

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It’s lucky they are good at seafaring because their landing skills on Terrafirma could best be described as a controlled crash. Fortunately the island as with most of the terrain around the area is covered with a thick bounty of long grass, providing the little Puffins with a mattress to absorb the shock as they crash into it, body dropping below their wings and feet splayed they hope for the best! Some come close to going end over end and others bounce off the grass and go head first down their burrows, it was exceptionally entertaining!

Controlled Crash!

Controlled Crash!

Amazing scenery describes Mull, stark and eerie with treeless rolling hills and a layer of water sodden peat iced over the island!

Ben Nevis came next, the highest peak in Scotland and then onto the Isle of Skye. Another fix of stark and aggressive scenery with beautiful bays and cliffs, even a dinosaur footprint or two presented but the temperature was descending rapidly and with it came our first serious snow since northern Mongolia.

Driving in the Snow

Driving in the Snow

Brrrrr!!

Brrrrr!!

Kilt Rock and Waterfall

Kilt Rock and Waterfall on Skye

Dinosaur Footprint 180 million years old

Dinosaur Footprint 180 million years old

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Parked on the side of the road at “The Storr” in the Trotternish Range on Skye, a van parked behind us and “Hello Fremantle” came from its driver! (Our Fremantle number plates) A family from Tasmania on a 1-day visit to Skye as part of a 6-week holiday was behind us. We had a chat about travelling before parting company – you never know whom you might meet!

"The Storr" used during filming of "Prometheus"

“The Storr” used during filming of “Prometheus”

Back on the mainland, we were hoping to drive one of the highest roads in the UK, Bealach na Ba, and as we ascended through the snow line, heavy sleet and snow began and slowly everything began to white out. At the beginning of this road there is a large sign stating this road may be impassable in wintery conditions, not suitable for caravans or large vehicles, single lane and a 1 in 5 gradient at times with hairpin bends! I would describe the conditions as Antarctic Blizzard so I think that would definitely count as wintery!

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I was a little surprised then when we rounded an icy hairpin bend to find a VW Passat wagon sliding down the next section of road backwards! He would drive forward until all that could be seen was the blur of the spokes on his rims and as traction faded he would begin his involuntary descent!

Bealach na Ba

Bealach na Ba

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At this point I had to reverse to allow him some extra room and as I applied the brakes we slid a little before coming to a halt.  What he was thinking attempting this road in a 2WD I don’t really know! Fortunately there was a passing place close by and were able to get around him.  I’m not sure how he got on as I don’t think an out of control reverse around hair pin bends on ice was going to end well! We continued on into the white, coming across one other small front wheel drive car coming in the opposite direction, wheels spinning and with looks of concentration on their faces! Upon passing them you could see where they’d been sliding all over the road! Maybe they can’t read.

Again we got out of the way!

Coming from the opposite direction is easier, but you still have to go down the other side.

Dropping below the snow line around 15km later we descended into the town of Applecross where we were met by a snow plough and grit truck heading up to clear the road of snow and probably also VW’s and the like!

Red Deer

Red Deer

AKA Highland Cattle

AKA Highland Cattle

Hairy Coos

Hairy Coos

Doesn’t matter in what direction I look through this section of Scotland, it’s just fabulous scenery everywhere. Deceptive it is though, for the rolling hills that look so inviting are not so pleasant once you begin walking upon them.  Grass tussocks hide large lumps and dips along with undulations of black peat soup that is eager to invade your nice hiking boots! Water lays within pools all over the ground just ready to sprout life into the apparent swarm of midgies that are due to arrive in this deceptive paradise within a month or so.

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A walker’s dream is not an understatement, however you really need to stick to listed walks due to the reasons in the previous paragraph. It’s difficult at times to choose a walk as the options are endless. We’ve enjoyed many forays along trails and all have been worth the effort, but one of the best so far, I think, was a walk near one of our overnight camps up a mountain known as Stac Pollaidh.  It is a sandstone structure that is slowly suffering the effects of freeze and thaw as it atrophies back into non-existence. A fabulous few hours that reminded me just how insignificant everything really is. Anyway enough of that!

Stac Pollaidh Walk

Stac Pollaidh Walk

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Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave

Ardvreck Castle Ruins

Ardvreck Castle Ruins

Scotland's Northern Coastal Scenery

Scotland’s Northern Coastal Scenery

Dunnet Head, the northern most point of Scotland and the UK mainland was reached and provided us with incredible views across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney’s. The following day we reached the location known as John O’Groats which, for some reason that I still can’t understand, receives all of the notoriety associated with being the most northerly point even though it’s some 3.5km short of Dunnet Head’s northerly latitude. Nonetheless we’ve managed to drive from Lizard Point being the most southerly point in the UK to the most northerly point and although 1300km will see you achieve the journey in the most direct fashion, we’ve managed to cover over 4000km making the trip. Guess we can’t be accused of not having had a reasonable look around now can we!

Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Dunnet Head Lighthouse

View of the Orkneys

View of the Orkneys

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Adam again, this time with a friend on a motorbike trip

Adam again, this time with a friend on a motorbike trip

The weather has remained quite rough. Our Webasto diesel camper heater has become our best friend! I couldn’t imagine travelling again without one! I respect that I’m from a land of sun and rather warm temperatures, at times quite uncomfortably so, but hey! It’s spring here and the seals are scared to go swimming it’s that cold!  Jen has been trying to spot an Otter but I think they’ve all frozen to death! Beautiful and absolutely majestic is Scotland, a must see destination on your bucket list! Make sure you’re here in summer….

Oh Sooo Cold!

Ohh Sooo Cold!  Sorry Bec – promise some warm weather photos soon!!

 

More to come – Justin..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move along, nothing to see here!

We are on the move again!

We said our goodbyes to friends and with Littlehampton disappearing in the rear view mirror, we set the sat-nav for Stonehenge.

Saying Goodbye!

Saying Goodbye!

Jen and Gerry!

Jen and Gerry!

There are plans afoot to sink the nearby highway to the iconic rock structure and this will apparently make the visitation experience much more pleasant by removing the visual and audible pollution of the highway! At near £15 a head to enter the site and limited to just over 7500 visitors a day – (you do the math) it just might kick the gate numbers along as well when you’re unable to see it from your car – a very popular way of visiting currently. Undaunted we spotted a few vehicles on a local by-way and managed to park a couple of hundred meters away from the prehistoric masterpiece! We wandered around taking a few pictures and learnt from security personnel at the main gate that if wandered a little further down the road and made our way through the farmer’s paddock we could get quite close and have a better look.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

We followed the instructions and ended up within about 30 meters of the main event! It would have been nice to wander amongst the stones but $AU60 for the 2 of us (exchange rate allowed for) seemed a little steep. Whilst taking in the view, we noticed a couple of vans a little further along the by-way and they were obviously camping. We headed for their location and camped about 300m from the Stones!! Of all the places I would have expected to find some free camping, within view of Stonehenge certainly wasn’t one of them!! So all in all it was a great day!

Camped Within View!

Camped Within View!

Stonehenge Selfie!

Stonehenge Selfie!

Next stop was Lyme Regis; a lovely little village nestled in an amazing section of geography known as the Jurassic Coast. After a wander around town, we headed west a couple of miles and found a campground in the town of Charmouth, located smack in the middle of a World Heritage fossil finding location.

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis

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Lyme Regis with Ammonite inspired street lights

Lyme Regis with Ammonite inspired street lights

The Brits love their Beach Huts!

The Brits love their Beach Huts!

With low tide being touted as the best time for fossil hunting and Jen quite keen on rocks, she was out the door at 7:30am and off into the sleet and cold and down the trail to the beach.  I, however, am not as intrigued by the fossil hunting pastime and slept in through the sleet, only emerging once the sun had risen and warmed the whole area. If you have ever spent time in high mountains or areas with lots of snow and wind then you will relate to the temperature differentials that we are currently experiencing. When protected from the wind and the sun is beaming on you directly, it’s T-shirts, cold beer and the clean crisp colours of blue water and green fields! The very moment a cloud interrupts the sun’s rays and their attempt to reach you, and it’s anoraks, beanies and hot drinks. It’s just like flicking a switch! Definitely 4 seasons in 1 day!

Jurassic Coast at Charmouth

Jurassic Coast at Charmouth

Charmouth Waterfront

Charmouth Waterfront

Over the course of the day, we found quite a few nice fossilized ammonite specimens, all the while listening to the sounds of erosion and collapsing earth from the cliffs behind the beach. Serious erosion is constant along this coast and with the rich hoard of fossils hidden away in the silt, there is a constant renewal of interesting creatures revealing themselves for the first time in millions of years.

Ammonite Fossil

Ammonite Fossil

Justin's Rock Balancing!

Justin’s Rock Balancing!

 

Fossil Hunting

Fossil Hunting

Ammonite in the silt

Ammonite in the silt

Ammonite Graveyard

Ammonite Graveyard

180 Million Years Old

180 Million Years Old

Continuing along the Cornish Coast, we parked up for a short time in the town of Teignmouth to discuss our options for the night’s accommodation. We were trying to find a free site somewhere! As fortune would have it, a motorhome made it’s way through the car park and stopped right alongside us. I said hello through the window and inquired as to whether they knew of any free-camping sites locally. They had just purchased their new house on wheels and were out for a test drive.  Luckily for us, they were well versed on the area and pointed us in the direction of a lay-by on the Teign river which proved to be a great stop for the night.

Our First Free Camp in the UK!!

Our First Free Camp in the UK!!

They also told us about a “wildcamping” website in the UK that we have since joined which has lots of overnight stops listed. With our fairly consistent use of the site since, we’ve found it quite good and although many of the sites aren’t the sort of location that we would normally attempt to find, some have led us to really scenic spots that we would have missed otherwise.   So while it takes a little getting used to –  parking for the night in carparks and other quite public locations – they certainly are a great budget saving backup to paid camping.   I also have to add that as we are in a pop-up camper, we are quite obvious when camped as opposed to a hard side motorhome where you may be able to appear simply parked as opposed to camped!

The lack of public open space that’s accessible is such a contrast to that of Australia, everything here is owned by someone or it’s been bought back by, or donated to, a trust such as the National Trust. You head for a nature reserve with expectations of forested areas of wilderness only to find farmland and open fields! There just isn’t really much left that’s escaped the touch of man!

We have had a few mixed comments about being in the 4×4, such as “that looks like it would be good for pushing things over in the desert!!” Mind you those types of comments generally come from the more challenged of the population with not much idea of what the world has to offer other than what they see on the BBC! “Generally deserts don’t have a lot of things to push over hence the term desert, you moron”- that would have been the appropriate response but not really a helpful one…

Polperro was our next target. Many locals had recommended this village as a must see and I’m glad to have taken their advice. I’ll let the pictures of this Historic Fishing Port tell the tale.

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Polperro High Tide

Polperro Low Tide

Polperro Low Tide

Polperro High Tide

Driving in and around the back roads of Cornwall is an unusual experience, even after some of the countries that we have traversed! Once off the highway and on the more interesting back roads, they are all quite skinny single lane roads with slightly wider sections here and there for passing. Many of the smaller roads are limited to vehicles of width no more than 6 feet and although we are a little wider, we haven’t come unstuck –  yet. We have been on sections where both wing mirrors have been in constant contact with the leafy embankment, which really makes you concentrate on your steering!

Hedge Driving!

Hedge Driving!

Speaking of embankments, nearly all of the roads are bordered both sides with ancient stone walls or hedges covered in tangles of vines that are usually around 5 to 8 feet high. You can’t see anything of the countryside once in the maze and have to constantly wait for a low section to provide a vista of your surrounds. It’s a little annoying actually but it’s also the character of Cornwall and possibly a lot of the UK. Oncoming traffic is always met at the most inconvenient of times. If I had a pound for every time I’ve had to reverse to find the nearest section that provides a little more clearance for passing then we’d have a much larger travel budget than we are currently on!

Luxulyan and the Treffry Viaduct sounded interesting and we arrived in the area late in the afternoon. The beauty of the countryside amazed us!! Built in the late 1800’s, the centerpiece of the area is a 30-meter high dual-purpose viaduct that carried steam driven machinery and water for mining. The whole area was fascinating and easily consumed the rest of the afternoon. We ended up camping in the car park, as it seemed like an OK option late in the day, reasonably remote and quiet, well almost – other than some illicit substance smoking locals at 1am whom parked no more than a meter from us and then proceeded to blast their horn as they left in order to get a rise out of us! Seems they are a little short of Friday night activities to engage in around here! Doesn’t help if you haven’t got any teeth and can’t read!

Treffry Viaduct

Treffry Viaduct

Luxulyan Valley

Luxulyan Valley

On top of the Viaduct

On top of the Viaduct

Amazing Engineering!

Amazing Engineering!

We make our way from village to village and I’d have to say that most of them are lovely, some with more character than others, but all with something of interest.

Roche Rock appeared in the film "Omen III"

Roche Rock and it’s 14th century chapel appeared in the horror film “Omen III”

Roche Rock

Roche Rock

Charlestown where the "Onedin Line" was filmed

Charlestown where the “Onedin Line” was filmed

Charlestown

Charlestown

Historic Cider Press

Historic Cider Press

Pentewan Sands was our next stop and provided us nice blue skies for the next couple of days.

It may be sunny but....

It may be sunny but….

A walk along a section of the coastal path that traverses much of the Southern England Coast was fantastic – majestic views of rugged coastline with carpets of green fields capping the cliffs, really stunning stuff!

South-west Coastal Path

South-west Coastal Path

Coast Path

Coast Path

Mevagissey Harbour

Mevagissey Harbour

St Mawes Castle built by King Henry VIII

St Mawes Castle built by King Henry VIII at the mouth of the River Fal

Using the King Harry Ferry for 300mtrs of travel saves 20 Kms!

Using the King Harry Ferry for a 300mtr crossing of the River Fal saves 20 Kms of driving!

D!affodils are everywhere

Daffodils are everywhere!

Continuing our travels, we arrived at Lizard Point, the most southerly point of the UK. Freezing cold and windy but also spectacular and picturesque!

The Lizard, The UK's Southermost Point

The Lizard, The UK’s Southermost Point

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove famous for it’s serpentine rock and idyllic beach

When in Cornwall have a Cornish Pasty

When in Cornwall have a Cornish Pasty

Marconi Monument

Marconi Monument at Poldhu Cove

Site of the first Wireless Radio Communication

Site of the first Wireless Radio Communication by Marconi

Mobile Fishmonger!

Mobile Fishmonger!

St Michael’s Mount was on our must do list, England’s version of Mont San Michel (and historically related) and it proved to be a really enjoyable visit. Firstly, we camped in a pub car park that was listed on the website that I spoke of earlier. It was obvious to us that you couldn’t camp there but with no signs to say otherwise, we decided to play the dumb Aussie card and waited until quite late to pop the roof up! As locals wandered past observing the rather strange Australian vehicle we felt as though we should direct them to “move along, nothing to see here!!”

Camped Near St Michael's Mount

Camped Near St Michael’s Mount – spot the Aussie!

Well, we got away with it but received the knock on the back door as we were packing up the following morning. No motorhomes allowed! The security guy was easy going however and not really bothered by our presence, so we drove off down the road a couple of hundred meters and parked in the designated car park for the day for a few pounds! You can’t stay overnight in any of these car parks, lots of signs telling you to go away politely! The local caravan park was charging £24 for the night as it has a captive market! Ahhhhh tourism, have to love it! Anyway the castle was fantastic, I enjoyed the visit immensely. It’s still lived in by the St Aubyn family whose hands it’s been in since 1659 which I thought made it feel more real than the now tourism based plethora of castles that have become Museum pieces open to receive the tourists dollar elsewhere the World over. It’s small as castles go but oh what a piece of real estate!

Castle upon St Michael's Mount

Castle upon St Michael’s Mount

Incredibly thick walls!

Incredibly thick walls!

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Love a good sundial!

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One of the methods of transport to the Island

One of the methods of transport to the Island

St Michael's Mount

St Michael’s Mount

Have to love religious imagery in churches!

Have to love religious imagery in churches!

IMG_6912 We have since joined the National Trust (£99 for 2 Adults, 12 months), which provides free parking and entry to a host of sites around England, including St Michael’s Mount, along with access via a reciprocal agreement to sites in some other countries including Australia. The Boroloola Post Office, in Australia’s Northern Territory, was on the list (Hmmmm don’t quite know what to make of that one!) For those wondering what I’m talking about, Google it and see if you can find the similarities between St Michaels Mount in Cornwall and the Post Office in Boroloola and let me know what I’m missing. Linda ask Deb what her memories are of Boroloola – hahaha.

3000 y.o. Men-an-Tol stones

3000 y.o. Men-an-Tol stones – smaller than you think

Crawling through the stone ring is meant to have healing powers!

Crawling through the Men-an-Tol stone ring is meant to have healing powers! 

Merry Maiden Standing Stone Circle

Merry Maiden Standing Stone Circle

We headed for “Lands End”, the most westerly point of England. After entering the car park and seeing the theme park with the “Shaun the Sheep 3D Experience” we exited the other side of the car park and headed for Cape Cornwall with it’s wild, woolly and less commercialized coastline. The entire coast along here is awe-inspiring, beautiful little coves between rough vertical cliffs with ancient stone walls crisscrossing the countryside above. Small villages with tiny roads, farmhouses and barns with ancient build dates smattered all over the area. It really feels as if time has stopped in some of these areas – sensational.   Levant mine was the next attraction, with the only remaining operational Cornish Beam Engine. It was an eye opening experience, mining for copper and tin a mile out to see but 2000 feet below the waves!. Photo opportunities galore present along the coast here, stunning in every direction.

Remnants of Cornwall's Tin and Copper Mining Days at Botallack

Remnants of Cornwall’s Tin and Copper Mining Days at Botallack

IMG_1259 IMG_6971 IMG_6960 We spent the next few nights in the town of Botallack hoping to see the return of pleasant skies. What began as a one night stay extended as the weather went slowly and then more rapidly from nice blue skies upon our arrival to drenching rain with freezing gale force winds, capped off with visibility of less than 100 metres. What to do but go to the Pub!

Local weather phenomena known as "mizzle"

Local weather phenomena known as “mizzle”

The local drinking houses in the UK really are an attraction in themselves – I love them! Quaint little centuries old buildings with real ale pumped by hand from the keg! If you like your beer, it really is paradise! With a bit of effort, you’re generally able to strike up a conversation with some locals or the bar keep and have a great local experience!

On two occasions now, I’ve observed gents in these small pub’s that could easily have been having a night off before heading back to Biggin Hill ready for an early morning air-raid in their Spitfire’s or Hurricane’s! The quaffed hair, scarves and swagger along with long leather coats, has them only missing the classic MG in the car park and the forlorn sound of an Air Raid Siren!

Our last night in Botallack could probably be compared to a Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race – it was so windy that it felt like we were tacking our way across the Atlantic! Enough was enough by morning and with deplorable weather still showing its ugly little face, we began the journey north. I won’t go on about the beautiful Cornish Coast, just get there and have a look if you haven’t already!

Beach at Perranporth

Old Mining Shafts on the beach at Perranporth

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps down to the beach

Bedruthan Steps down to the beach

Old Tintagel Post Office

Old Tintagel Post Office

Remnants of Tintagel Castle - rumoured to be the birthplace of King Arthur

Remnants of Tintagel Castle – rumoured to be the birthplace of King Arthur with Merlin’s Cave below!

You can park overnight but just don't go to sleep!

24hr parking allowed but just don’t go to sleep!

Entry to Boscastle Harbour

Entry to Boscastle Harbour

View of Boscastle

View of Boscastle – site of a devastating flood in 2004

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The Iconic British Phone Booth!

Cheers

Justin

Living in the UK

Our home for the last few months has been a lovely guesthouse on the seafront in West Sussex that we have been looking after whilst it’s owners are sunning themselves in warm and toasty Australia – quite ironic!! It’s been a lovely respite from the vigor’s of living on the road with the oven receiving a thorough workout with Jen cooking many roasts and rediscovering her culinary cake baking skills.   Digby, the resident Miniature Schnauzer in our care, has also been the recipient of many home baked doggy biscuits, not to mention his very own 7th Birthday Party with many of his doggy friends!

Digby can't wait for cake!

Digby can’t wait for his cake!

I'm 7!!

I’m 7 today!!

Party Goers!!

Party Goers!!

The novelty of a nice hot shower on demand with no setup required has seen a dramatic improvement in our personal grooming!  Makes life on the road sound a little less appealing when I read back that last paragraph but it couldn’t be further from the truth!

We’ve been relaxing through the cold months of winter and whilst enjoying some lovely sunny days from our balcony overlooking the sea, you are soon reminded of just how far north you are when as you leave the house, you’re smacked in the face with the freezing breath of the northern winter.

Pretty Cold!

Pretty Cold!

Always rugged up!!

Always rugged up!!

Our temporary home!

Our temporary home!

Some lovely sunny days

Some lovely sunny days

Due to our location just south of the range of hills known as the South Downs, we are protected from the worst of the Northern Winter with our own little micro-climate* and despite news reports suggesting that the whole of the UK has been blanketed in thick snow, we have only received one day (well more like a few hours!) of snow and, whilst only a light coating, there was enough for a little snowman and I can loosely claim a white Christmas (albeit a month late!) Frosty mornings are common and the frozen beach sand was a novelty!!

(*Info provided by the locals we meet during our dog walking duties)

SNOW!!!! at least for a couple of hours

SNOW!!!! at least for a couple of hours

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Overnight Frosts

Overnight Frosts

Ice as the temperature drops below zero at night

Ice as the temperature drops below zero at night

Hence our location has proven fortunate, as we’ve not found the winter to be oppressive in any way and have enjoyed numerous day trips around our local area taking in the history and scenery that is southern England!

Local Pub

Local Pub

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle – Home of the Duke of Norfolk

Arun River

Arun River

Foggy Drives

Foggy Drives

Beach Huts

Beach Huts

Mind you, not having to exit a warm bed in the dark and transit to a workplace followed by returning in the frozen darkness probably gives us a false reality of life through a British winter.  Our primary concern has been the amusement of a small canine with his primary concern being food!!! Visit’s to the local High Street shops, dog walking and grocery shopping round out our days!

Walking the High Street

Walking the High Street

Whilst on our temporary hiatus, Jen has also been beavering away furiously on family tree research and, with thanks to our friend Karen back in Australia, has traced both our families back to around 1500!  Amongst things discovered are an ancestor’s headstone dated 1666, which is amongst the oldest in Britain, a boot maker that stole a pair of boots resulting in his passage to Australia being one of my ancestors and Jen having a couple of convicts that were transported to the colonies on the second and third fleets!

So with Christmas looming, we received a lovely invitation to join our second family in Kent for the traditional British Christmas Dinner so with Digby packed into the Volvo (included with looking after the house!) we headed for Broadstairs and our first Christmas outside of Aus!  After a couple of nights spent in serious pursuit of over eating and drinking and now feeling quite at home here in England, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Littlehampton.

Xmas Cooking

Xmas Cooking

I can’t resist making an observation at this point….

Back when we first entered the UK, we stayed in a small RV park in Ramsgate, which is around 200km east of us here in Littlehampton. I asked the RV park owner if he could recommend any parks near Brighton en route to Littlehampton and he replied that he’d never been to Brighton! Moving on, Jen mentioned to a fellow dog walker that we were heading “up the road” to Broadstairs for a few days over Christmas and was met with the comment – “I love you Aussie’s, a 100miles and you think nothing of it!” I could go on and on but I’ll finish this little observation with the latest comment.  Whilst once again trotting Digby along the seafront, Jen spoke to a regular dog walker and mentioned our forward plans for Cornwall, the Lakes District and Scotland – the gentleman’s response was to confess that in his 65 years he’s never been to any of them!

So it seems we Aussie’s do think of distance in a very different way to many other peoples of the world, however I’ve also met English with extensive travel resumes and very well used passports. It’s just interesting meeting people who have lived somewhere their whole life and never been further afield than 100kms

Life in this quiet little hamlet is not always what it seems and we have had some memorable moments whilst living here.  Inevitably, when you sit still long enough, you begin to notice all the little facets of life that generally go unnoticed when you are always on the move!

To date we’ve had 3 helicopters land on the park opposite the guesthouse, each with it’s own reason for doing so, but one story is a stand out so here it goes!

The scene – about 9:30pm and with few glasses of red consumed, we hear the sound of a nearby helicopter! A look out of the window and we see it landing across the road!  Now earlier that evening, we’d noticed a few boys in blue and an ambulance make their way past but hadn’t thought a lot about it since.

Air Ambulance opposite our accommodation

Air Ambulance opposite our accommodation

With a helicopter in the mix, the bait was too strong, so grabbing Digby we wandered out into the cold blackness and strolled west a couple of streets to where emergency services lights were glinting!

Bright Lights

Bright Lights

Incident Response Units

Incident Response Units

After asking some other interested locals, we weren’t really left much the wiser and had to wait until the next morning to catch up on the gossip! So, not too far from us (in our 4 star guesthouse overlooking the sea) there is a half way house for ex-cons as it turns out! Seems the English have a similar ideology to Australian’s, which is, if you mix people up from all walks of life they will inevitably get on!!!! Bit of sarcasm there in case you missed it!

Anyway during his stint in the local half way house, one of the newly re-entering society residents decided life was easier back inside and devised a crafty scheme to achieve his desired goal!

He set fire to his top floor apartment, climbed out onto the roof and started throwing roof tiles at locals and the subsequently arriving fire and emergency services!

Anyway he eventually retreated to street level; well actually he fell through the burning roof and was chauffeured to his new accommodation by heavily armed riot police.  Oh, he did also receive a band-aid for a cut!

Headline News!

Headline News!

Result – 11 cars damaged, one person injured with a minor graze to his stomach after being hit with a flying roof tile and one burnt apartment.

So a very expensive helicopter along with a few ambulances, 2 large riot police vans, a few pursuit cars and several fire trucks!  Not sure if that’s overkill for one tile wielding bandit but I guess it’s lucky he fell through the roof before the SAS were activated.

After all of that excitement, we had our own little introduction to life in suburban England.

The following morning we were greeted by the first malicious damage to our Patrol so far! We had our vehicle parked on the street within view of our accommodation, as does nearly everyone else in Britain. The old saying – “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Once you park up for a while you are noticed.

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So with a nice 8mm bullet hole through the now shattered passenger’s window we decided it was time to move the Patrol into secure parking where it still is!

The window remained in place thanks to the window tinting and fortunately no one had broken into the cab.  Jen called the local Plod and they suggested it was most likely a BB gun or air rifle received as a Christmas present – you’re able to have .19 caliber air rifles here unlicensed!

Whatever!!

The Police were rather embarrassed when we enlightened them to the fact that we’d just traversed 1000km along the Afghanistan border along with travels through nearly every other of the Stan countries and hadn’t been the recipients of anything other than waves thrown at us! (left out the rifle shots in the Wakhan valley as I didn’t want to take the edge off my story!)

Luckily a replacement window was found at a wrecker so £50 and a couple of hours and all was back as it should be!

New Window Installed

New Window Installed

Sadly we missed the Russian heavy bombers flying down the English Channel!!!

I don’t wish to put a grey shadow over our stay here. These sort of random incidents can occur anywhere! We’ve met so many lovely people here who could not have made us feel more welcome and we have had an outstanding time.  It’s easy to settle in and I love the English sense of humor. Maybe all of those generations of my family that had their roots here have somehow crossed over at a cellular level!

Friends

Friends

Fireworks

Fireworks

Seaside

Seaside

Seafront Pier

Seafront Pier

Littlehampton Harbour

Littlehampton Harbour

Seaside Park in front of the guesthouse

Seaside Park in front of the guesthouse

View from the Balcony

View from the Balcony – more helicopters!!

And we found the StarGate….

The Stargate

The Stargate

The Patrol has just received a full service and a thorough clean of the camper so we are ready to hit the road again soon and start filling our posts with fresh stories.

We aren’t really sure how this year will pan out! At this stage it’s a lap of the UK and Scotland before heading back to Holland and then Norway.  After that, we’ll head towards Turkey and around the Mediterranean before crossing to Morocco.  It will then be back to the UK for Christmas.

Morocco Planning

Morocco Planning

Our original plans have changed quite a bit and we don’t feel we’ve quite quenched our desire to see Europe primarily due to the Schengen visa restrictions so intend on a little further investigation. We were going to cross to Egypt and head for Cape Town at some stage this year, however there are some difficulties in the current environment with regard to getting the Patrol to Egypt.

There are quite a few vehicles still making the crossing and it is possible but shipping appears a little hit and miss at the moment.  One of the biggest factors, however, in our change of plans is that if we cross to Africa we have around 10 to 15000 km to Cape Town and the end of our journey and we aren’t quite ready to consider an end date at the moment.

So we hope to finish this year back here in the UK and then head for Canada, maybe Alaska and then make the big run to Ushuaia in South America. Well that‘s the rough new plan and should the budget hold out that little bit longer we may still be able to offload in South Africa on our way back to the best country I’ve visited so far – Australia.

It’s a rough guide and as usual it comes with a caveat – plans are very fluid!

I will, however, miss English TV:

To Fat To Work – Benefits

17 Kids – Benefits

Cant Work, Won’t Work – Benefits

Immigration Street

Can’t Pay – We’ll take it away

The list goes on! hahaha…

On that note, we are excited, energized and can’t wait to get back into it, all the best to you all and thanks to the wonderful people of Littlehampton for making us feel part of their community!!

Digby!!

Digby!!

Cheers for now

Justin.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We find ourselves hunkered down in Sussex on the southern coast of cold old England for the next few months, out of the Patrol and into a house for the winter!

Very civilised!

Next year holds the allure of new destinations and more adventures as we continue our travels throughout the UK and back to Europe, still a few experiences to be had on the continent before we will be happy to move on!

It’s been an incredible experience to date and has only made us thirstier for more!

Thanks to all of our family, friends, supporters and followers for your warm wishes and comments and we absolutely wish you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year!

Get out there and stay safe!

We will be back soon with another post and hope to keep you all wondering where we might end up!

For those with some spare time, we have just uploaded a new video to You tube, covering some highlights of our journey from Vladivostok to Tajikistan, it’s really part 1 of our travels.

It covers a lot of ground and I’ve done my best to keep it short, however you will definitely need a coffee and a Tim Tam along with a comfy chair.

Part 2 was the Pamir Hwy video we shared some time ago.

There was a lot of sorting out required for this latest production, that’s my excuse for releasing it later than Part 2.  Some will say it’s just because I’m a little backward or maybe I’m just following in the footsteps of George Lucas and “Star Wars”

Link to You tube:            http://youtu.be/pDVLRPUWzyE

Cheers Justin and Jen.