Sunday 24 May 2009

Travel Scotland 2009

Ok, so this year a full scale van trip isn't on the cards, I now have a full time job and Joe has a part time job, so we decided to head up to Scotland for two weeks instead. We are heading to the Hebrades, the small island of Tiree. We are heading up with some good friends, Jeff, Rob and Flic, and Glenn (who we met on our Moroccan adventure)!!!

Very much looking forward to van life again, not really sure what to pack but all I can remember from last year is hold back on things rather than going mad packing!

Saturday 11 October 2008

now we're home...

Now we're home and have been for a couple of weeks I have realised the lack of last week bloging for the trip. My memory has turned to jelly after three months away, not too good now back at work... but from what I can remember...

20 September
Went for an amazing 30k cycle around the island, great cycle tracks and lovely weather even though we were back in France. Left that evening heading towards Poitiers.

21 September
Went to Futoroscope today! A random break in our driving days, fantastic day out, watched a great show at the end with misty fountains and lights, and had a lot of fun.

22 September
Driving day, but stopped for lunch in a great place at 4 where we ended up staying the night, there was a wallnut tree! and some goats and some brits.

23 September
Drove to Calais and it rained a lot, vent leaked a bit! Slept at Calais

24 September
Got on the Ferry at 7 and got back to Cambridge about 4. My mum (Lou) didn't know we were coming back (it was her birthday and we decided to surprise her!) We turned up at a restaurant in Newmarket and then my dad brought my mum in and she was over the moon. Great end to our trip

11 October
It is VERY odd being back in the UK. Our house is great though and it is great to see friends and family. roll on next summer!

Thursday 25 September 2008

homeward bound

17th September
Dropped Jeff of (hopefully the right airport), after driving around the airport a few times looking for a place to stop, we then started our journey home, with lax plans we drove for some amount of time then decided where to go, in the end we decided to press on to our beach we visited on the way across (Spain- Oyanere) in hope of either wind or waves the next day. When we arrived a few British surfers were out but no waves to speak of really.

18th September

Headed across the rest of Spain after waking up to mirror flat half foot waves the next morning. Spain is very pretty in the north- all green and hilly, not like the hot barrenness of the south that every one goes on holiday to. Stayed in a really nice Aire just in France, next to a lake and had Tangine and a box of wine, have decided to go to Ile D' Oleron, as we missed it on the way down and mum Crabb has just flown there with Ron and said it was very nice.

19th September (Joe)
First rain test on the new vent- seemed to cope well, a bit noisy, but been so long since it last rained can't remember what the old vent and van in rain used to sound like. As we speak Lou is driving the stretch from Bayonne on Bordeaux, for anyone that hasn't done it, its a 2 hours stretch of dual carriageway with nothing but trees either side forever! Considering building a vent rain house so you can have vent open but not get rained on. France is expensive! E1.40 Litre!
(Lou) Got to Isle and parked up. Joe was very upset that you couldn't drive right up to the beach because of height barriers. So we walked (very taxing, a whole 1.4Km). Beach pretty, had a small wander and then took some very windy tracks over to the NE of the Isle, to Boulassiers. Found a free 'Camping car' parking place (lightened Joe's height barrier anger a little) with toilet and water too! Biked to town (about 2 shops and some restaurants!) and had a drink in a crazy bar then a very nice meal in a restaurant. We're def back in France, twice the price of portugal meal!

Thursday 18 September 2008

Portugal and back to Spain again (featuring a guest blogger!)

6th September
Started the day with a sausage bagette and then cycled into Foz, which is a very pleasant 10 min cycle, we had a picnic (joe had more sausage sarnies, I upgraded to an egg and salad variety, (loving salad, I miss salad, and a fridge!) on the beach and then had a potter around town, very pleasant. Really appreciated the hot weather back... a vision of things to come with the rain and england looming within the next month...

7th September
Joe went for a kitesurf today which was successful until the wind died, which made it quite hard to do anything! We had a good clothes washing session, perfect drying weather! Fish man 2 (we now call him 'Fishyman' came to take out his nets and let us come on a ride with him to put the nets out which was cool.

8th September (Joe)
Not a lot of wind today so hung around a bit and read and played catch and ate and got chased by wasps. Then went and saw some good birds in the lagoon. Hit supermarket for BBQ goodness, I bought a fish! And it was only 1 euro 60 cents. Joe bought some meat and the whole lot is now squished into our ridiculous fridge (planning on upgrading next year...) mmm ice cream. Had a BBQ, fish man came to join us for for a chat while our BBQ was warming up and the tide coming in. Our BBQ was yummy and Lou enjoyed here steamed/ grilled fish.

9th September (Joe)
Really hot but no wind to speak of again, went for a cycle to bird watch then went to the sea/lagoon to go for a swim in a little lagoon with quite a big rip, practicing some rum line swimming. Then returned to the van to have some food, later fish man came over and took us out in the boat again, then we had to help another fish man get his boat of the bottom, he re-payed fishyman by giving him some “shrimp” (really clam things), and we parted with the promise of giving us some tomorrow.

10th September
We woke up to fish man putting a massive bag of white shelled things on our wing mirror; we rushed out of bed and Lou grabbed a mug in the effort of not to look like were just rushed out of bed (it was 11am) He had a good catch with 2 buckets of different fish he gave us two small “nice ones” and a massive one that he says “when people were poorer they ate this but these nicer (pointing to the smaller ones)”. After seeing the lady in the shop the day before with Lou's fish we were both trained gutters. Cut the fins of with scissors, scraped of the scales then cut down its belly and scooped out its insides with a couple of fingers. The big one was quite gutty but easy to scale, then little one opposite. We have now gone shopping as its raining and need charcoal to cook the fish.
Fish was good, made it on the BBQ with roasted potatoes done in foil and vegetable kebabs. Fish man came again and had a beer with us and then he took us out in his boat again to put his nets down. We had tales of his breakfast routine (dipping a piece of bread into a cup of coffee at 5.10 in the morning), McDonalds, and how he worked as a carpenter there and mice, something about Canada and compensation... took some pictures of him which his wife wants copies of. Promise of some more fish tomorrow!

11th September
Woke up early and put on the pre-set-up kettle ( we knew getting up early would be painful) Set off for Lisbon. Got there with no troubles, except our clock has been wrong in portugal, we are an hour early to pick up Jeff... Better than being an hour late! We have lost our vent!

Jeff: 11th to 16th September
I've been staying with Lou and Joe for five days now, and I'm amazed how sane they are after three months on the road! As one might expect, van life is somewhere between camping and house-dwelling. There's still no toilet, but one is suitably equipped for most other occasions, including some pretty advanced DIY. I'm impressed with Joe's van modifications too. Whilst their use has evolved a little, everything is fulfilling its designed purpose and staying together well.
I arrived at Lisbon airport on the 11th, was picked up by the crazy pair, and we drove to Foz de Arelho. It's a nice calm, shallow lagoon ideal for learning to windsurf. Was quite windy, so I spent most of my time uphauling, falling in and walking upwind. I managed a few high-speed stretches, though, definitely my fastest windsurfing yet. My main problem was turning into the wind whilst uphauling, and then being pulled in as the sail sliced across the wind. This was improved by putting more weight on my front foot, and trying to speed up the whole getting-on operation as much as possible.

After a couple of days, we had a roadtrip day to Traba in the North West of Spain. Joe and I navigated for most of the journey. This became pretty difficult as we approached our destination, as we were right at the resolution limit of the map. Roads around Traba were missing or, at best, unnamed on the map
but we got there by some strokes of luck and compass-assisted guesswork. That Joe and Lou have endured a three month road trip without GPS is a tribute to their resourcefulness and resolve! I found my few hours of navigation a good challenge to pass time on the road, but not one I could repeat on a day-to-day basis without professional psychiatric help. Guys: navigation on Earth is a solved problem!

Traba was more isolated than Foz, and the sea less forgiving. Save for a little paddle here and there, Lou and I didn't venture into the waves. Joe had a surf, but “wouldn't recommend the sea at Traba; I've scared myself every time I've been out!”. We messed around in a small river channel which flows into the sea, and Lou and Joe even managed a little windsurfing in it. I blame the low buoyancy of Joe's board for my poor performance at Traba! Lou and I washed our hair in the fresh water, which helped to stave off crispiness for another couple of days.

A little more driving (and navigation!) brought us East, past A Coruna, to San Xorxes. We parked up in a little forested area close to the beach. Joe and I built a hinged vent cover for the top of the van to replace the original dislodged by a football. It scratched the engineering itch nicely! I was impressed with the selection of tools, fasteners and materials in the van. It was restricted enough to make the project a decent challenge, but not to the point that craftsmanship had to suffer unduly. Lou cooked a traditional Moroccan meal in a Tangerine, or something, which topped the evening off nicely.

It's my penultimate day, and we're just getting started after a pancake breakfast. Joe's rigging a windsurfer, Lou's reading and I'm writing this. The laptop is being powered by the inverter from the auxiliary battery. The van electrics and electronics are performing well; my simple charging circuit is charging the battery when the engine is running and isolating it otherwise, my battery indicator is reporting its condition faithfully and Rob's lighting system is doing an excellent job of switching and dimming the LED strip lights in the back. There are a couple of quirks here and there, but everything's generally working well. There; a much needed electronics update!

It's been a relaxing holiday and a good glimpse into Lou and Joe's road trip, windsurf-bum lifestyle. I'm looking forward to my return home and a week of making stuff, and welcoming the pair when they return in a few weeks.

Friday 5 September 2008

spain and back to portugal

1st September (Joe)
Headed to garage, parked on the steep hill outside. Mechanic asked if we lived in our van, and then he let us go and park on a flat bit before he took our alternator out to poke. aAfter some poking he said need a new one, and can get one by tomorrow. Asked around a few garages and found one cheaper but can't get the part till day after so we decided to opt for man with plan 1. Seb, Chris and Will were really good checking up on us at regular intervals and being our taxi. They gave us a lift to Maternal where the boys went windsurfing and we sat in the bar spending our 4 euros wisely on beer. Then to Tonel where we stayed before, but this time with a tent. After a BBQ we retired to our tent, which is more spacious than out van bed but defiantly more cobbly, and as we found later, warmer in the mornings!

2nd September (Joe)
After a wander, the boys went for a surf in Tonel then went surf shop shopping then got a lift back to our van, where part had been fitted but battery was still being charged, we stopped for lunch a Jam, juggle and skate. Then Will rocked up () and we decided to head to Foz do Arehlo. After a long drive and getting lost twice, once down a crazy lane and once at a roundabout that had N1 signed down 3 of the 4 choices. We arrived, ate some tea and retired for the evening.

3rd September (Joe)
Woke up, headed to Foz beach for a surf with Seb and Chris. I was too rubbish to paddle out past the massive shore dump, but where the boys returned I was reassured to hear they only got a wave each too. Lou had a epic body board even though she snapped it in half on her first wave. We headed back to lagoon for lunch and a game of bowls in which we had to tie up a owner-less Labrador to stop it eating our balls. We had the first windsurf where Lou stayed out longer than me, harnessing and planing I quote . Foot straps and beach starts next! I got cold and went for another unsuccessful fish with my modified mark 3 with a real reel. Improved my casting a lot (now I have to wind for almost twice as much before I can see there is nothing in the end). The boys said their goodbyes and are heading to north France where there is wind but only 15 degrees! It rained on our way to the shop where we bough fish fingers peas and mash. After a feast and a shave I left the remaining fish fingers under the van in a Tupperware box in the cool for breakfast.

4th September (Joe & Lou)
The box was Gone!! After a look in the bushes I found the box with a big hole in the bottom and my fish fingers missing!!!
Went for a very light wind windsurf (maybe 8 knots at the best!) but all good practice! I had a go on Joe's board (103 ltr) and I went along and even managed a tack! Windsurfed across to the other side of the lagoon which was fun. Discovered they have showers in the windsurf centre next to our lay-by! First hot shower since 17th July!!!

5th September (Lou)
Really windy, I rigged up a 3.5 and Joe was on a 4.5. I came in after 6 runs after deciding I wasn't having much fun (although I was in harness and plained too...) Joe did something similar, and then we had a long nap and then woke up and it was chucking it down with rain! How dare it rain! So supermarket and a very naughty McDonalds... lightened the mood a little. Now stealing internet from a roadside location... Joe drove until we picked up a signal! Location not disclosed...

Sunday 31 August 2008


25th August Ctd...
Stayed in Tarifa and went out for some food, and then both suffered from really poorly tummies...not ideal in the van with no toilet, won't go into too much detail...

26th August
Joe felt quite a lot better when he got up, and after sending him to the pharmacy to get me some drugs I started to feel a little more like it and we decided to head to Gibraltar. Absolutely insane! Drove in (after long queue, we were advised to cycle but both felt too rough) and were greeted by red telephone boxes, British traffic lights, but unfortunately they do still drive on the right. Found a place to park (just like the UK, clamping signs everywhere!) and then headed of to find the monkeys! Went via a few shops and met some really nice shop keepers in the 'local corner shop' , they have really insane old school London accents, almost expected them to say 'alright guv'... Walked up the hill a bit and found the cable car up to the top of the rock to see the monkeys, which were amazing, comic moment was when it tried to rummage around a girl's bag for food. Headed into town for a wander round and Joe had a pie and roast potatoes in a proper English pub. Gutted, I looked on with my sore tummy and an orange juice...Headed to Las Dunas in the evening to find Will, Eve and Eric, Steve and Yens, Seb and Chris and Kia the amazing blonde German Shepherd! Poor Seb and Chris had had a properly bad day of it with the '35 minute' ferry from Morocco and a slight altercation with a Moroccan car and their bonnet...

27th August
Headed to Bologne for the boys to have a windsurf, everyone was there!

28th August
Headed to Caunos de Meca for a windsurf, Joe had a good old wave session, and I had a good relax on the beach with no sand pelting which is pretty refreshing. Glen came too!

29th August
Epic windsurfing session, went to Bologne (bolognaise) and it was about 27 knots and I went for it and had a windsurf on the 3.5. Amazing! (managed to come out and back a few times!) All headed out in Tarifa in the evening after a warm up session by the vans with some drinking games. Got Seb good with a game of Black and White...

30th August
Woke up a bit groggy, but had some breakfast and headed to Las Dunas. Went out for a windsurf, which was fantastic and a bit traumatic all in one. The task- Harness. First time success! I was very chuffed, so much so I got a bit over excited and did quite a lot of cross wind sailing and ended up a mile away from where I started...Joe had to sail up and then come and get me in the van!

31st August
Drove down to Sagres today, rather interesting van troubles on the way, the battery isn't charging and we have to get a jump start every time now, luckily we're with Will, Chris and Seb so they are kindly helping us out. Garage tomorrow.

Monday 25 August 2008

end of Morrocco

24th August (Joe)
Woke up early ish for our drive, was going well, omitting the accidental detour to Marrakesh. After some hours of driving we had a slight van hiccup, the battery only charges when the engine is running at high revs, after some poking and wire bristling and tightening to no avail, we continued to get lost off the toll road to soon end up in the dark and running low of fuel, with unlit donkeys, cyclists and lorries in the middle of road. Things weren't ideal, after a large amount of detouring including a tour of Tanger, we asked a police man who said we had to follow signs to port med down a toll road, at then end the road appeared to end next to a massive fence with cranes and containers in; however there was a pot holey track over the brow of the hill that turned in to a very “coast” road to evidentially arrive at the boarder at about 1am, the boarder crossing is much emptier at night but still confusing and tout related. We parked near the port in ceuta to get a ferry tomorrow.

25th August
Woke up and poked van some more, still no good, got ferry back to main land Spain, went for a shop then headed to Tarifa for a some food, might head to gibralta tomorrow!