Well, after quite a few false starts, the Grand Adventure (TM) is now up and running! The rules are simple – we have £1,000 to see as much of England as possible.
We very nearly set off three times. The first date was slightly delayed by issues of a tental nature; to whit, the tent we’d bought wasn’t big enough. Now, the missis and I are slightly built, but have two people – regardless of gender – EVER fit into a two-man tent? Just not possible. At least, not if we wanted our feet in there too.
So we resolved to wait a day, make a few more preparations (for example, we could actually decide where we were going!) and then get a slightly bigger tent in the morning.
And that was the end of Official Start Date 2. Particularly since we’d decided to head straight to the north-west to hike the length of Hadrian’s Wall. They say it’s best to do the hike West to East to benefit from a following wind, but this wind looked like it could spread the bum cheeks of a wildebeest. I never like being followed by something stronger than me.
Anyway, the winds blew us up and down the road as we tried to buy our bigger tent, making us ultimately grateful that we weren’t currently trying to pitch said tent. We had a couple more home-cooked meals and congratulated each other on our decision to wait out the worst of the weather.
The next day we packed the car with maps and computers and rucksacks full of clothes, with sleeping mats and not one but TWO tents, with enough equipment prefixed with the word ‘camp’ that you’d almost think we were camp… and then we still didn’t go.
This time it was my fault entirely. Actually it was Australia’s fault. The buggers. See, they don’t make it easy for those of us who want to go live there. I thought I’d gotten over the biggest hurdle, when I seduced, despoiled and eventually married my Aussie chick. But no – they make sure you really want it before they let you in. Consequently I spent several days applying for Criminal Record Checks from every country I’ve lived in over the past ten years. By the time I was done I wanted to jump all right – off the nearest bridge. I’ll doubtless write about the process later, but suffice to say it cost me close to two and a half grand (so far) and made my balls ache from the inside out.
And thought, bollocks to it, we’re going anyway. Because honestly I was getting a bit scared about the whole idea – it’s been quite a while since I travelled properly, and that vague fear of the unknown that makes leaving home so hard to do in the first place, was starting to reassert itself.
“We should just jump in the car and go, wherever it takes us,” Roo told me.
“I’ve been home so long, I’m forgetting how to jump,” I admitted.
What a liberating feeling it was to finally bugger off! This time we were prepared for anything. I’d bought some waterproof hiking boots. I’d made a list of friends and relatives we might trick into letting us stay for a night or two. I’d also stolen as much food as I could carry from my parents’ house, in the hope that it would stave off roadside starvation for a couple of nights. Roo, meanwhile, had covered the car in stickers of ice-creams and octopus. And fastened a plastic dragon to the grill. Which, as she informed me, was equally important, “because you have to have a plastic dragon on the grill, or no-one will notice us!” I couldn’t fault this logic. I didn’t even want to try.
And so, in severe danger of putting our departure off yet again, we jumped. Into the car, and into the loveliest part of the british countryside. A few pleasant hours beetling around he fields and forest of Somerset ended in a surprise camp-site near Wells. We had a huge meal in a nearby pub to celebrate – we only ordered a normal-sized meal, but when it arrived I found there was no part of it which would fit into my mouth.
And then, with full stomachs and a warm tent awaiting… well, a tent that we would make warm, with vigorous generation of body heat… we were happy.
Spent so far: Fuel – £30.01 (It was Roo. She’s incapable of hitting the exact amount).
Campsite – £12.00 (“Just give us twelve squid,” said the man in the camp site office, as though he was doing us a deal. Was he? No. That’s their regular price. But the red hot showers were worth every penny!
How will we fare tomorrow, on this Grand Adventure? I’ll keep you posted!