A love affair

Many will know, and a lot more won’t that I love the idea of traveling around in a VW camper. So when I finally grew a pair and booked my holiday or as the locals call it ‘an over sea’s experience’ the idea of seeing the islands from a camper van was an opportunity not to be missed.

So came the day when I had to pick the van up and being that I was going to spend two months with it most of the time it being my only companion the nice people at the depot let me choose which van I wanted. My eyes fell on Ricky Marlin, a bright orange and yellow beast, with a giant Marlin leaping from the water. I said ‘Awesome’ like the locals. I looked around to make sure there were no others, the old crone looked cool but Ricky was at the front bathing in the Auckland sunshine raring to go where as the old crone hid in the deep depth of the depot. And so the sweet love affair began.

At first I didn’t get on with him. My left foot was constantly trying to find the non existent clutch and my left hand kept on reaching for the gear lever to change the gears. But Ricky had all of this under control and all I had to do was control the ‘gas’ and the brakes. Ricky was an automatic and theres an art to driving them, esp when you need it to be a low gear. Ricky also kept it secret on how to change radio stations, until the 3rd week which was a pain, as once out of Auckland it was the sound of static or rumble of Ricky’s stomach. But once he revealed the button to search the local stations I was singing along to Bruno Mars, Queen, Black Eyed Peas, Katie Perry and Moorehouse (NZ pop band). I quickly fell in love with ‘Classic Hits – the best of the 80s 90s and now’ the only issue was the frequency would change from area to area often having their own news and presenters but still the same top class tunes.

Sure it was cold in the evening, but Ricky had a little gap for my power adapter to connect my heater and during the day in the baking heat of Northland Ricky pumped the air conditioning on. The only downside was Ricky was a drinker, a terrible drinker. He would demand fuel every couple of days and occasional would hit the hard black stuff. But he never complained and got tired as we drove 400km in one go. Sure he slowed down on the hills and I had to will him up, then encourage him to take it easy on the other side as we basically free rolled down the snaking road to level ground.

After two months I’ve become quite attached to Ricky, Ive learnt to handle his poor steering, and got use to getting him going in the morning. I’ve learnt to run him in gently to ease him into top speed, I’ve got use to the time it takes for the condensation to go and the way the wipers work. In return he has got me from A to B and now back to A. His kept me dry, warm and entertained. We’ve had adventures on some of the toughest and highest roads in NZ and not once has he let me down.

After 8298km or 5156 miles. (Thats the equivalent to driving the length of Britain 8 times or driving two thirds of the coast line or exploring NZ)it’s time to give him up and make my own way in the world.

Goodbye Ricky. I hope your new companions treat you with respect. Beep your horn when your passing through my neighbourhood.

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Saying Hello to an Old Friend

I have cheated on her all to often in the past year and the last time I went to say hello she was so happy to see me and me her that we fell in love all over again. I hugged her at every step and just like the first time she took my breath away. I don’t know how she does it.

This was a camping trip with a friend… who’s original thought was a multi day walk in the peaks. Boring I know but he does seem to like the Peaks and to be fair there are a lot of nice walks and I enjoy that area of the UK as well, but I can go there on a day visit. He then raised the idea of the Lakes. Well we could do I said, but where? I’ve done most of the south-west fells. I haven’t but the places we were looking at I had done. I was off course slowly driving him to the decision of Snowdonia.

Like many people, my friend thinks he ‘prefers’ The Lakes, and feels they have better scenery and mountains and in some cases that can be true. I was never a fan until I walked the Pikes and climbed The Old Man and just as I was falling in love with this area of Britain I went and visited the girl I had been cheating on and before I had laced up my boots I knew that the Lakes had nothing on her.

So with a modest agreement from myself we had planned to go to Snowdonia. He had wanted to walk Tryfan, and I wanted to bag some of the Welsh 3000. I really want to bag them all before I go and this walk promised getting a good 6 of them in.

As we arrived at the foot of Tryfan, my friends jaw dropped with excitement, and we speedily placed our rucksacks on ready for the hike. We were going to conquer Tryfan from the North and the last time I had climbed her was from the south which I thought was a bit of a scramble. That scramble I remember was about to turn into a walk in the park.

What faced us was only made more difficult by carrying our packs on our backs. We both had light loads, but lets face it, you can have the lightest tent, sleeping bag, coat etc, but once they are all packed together you are talking about an extra 4-6kg on your back.

My mate was loving it, the walk was a mix of scree, climbing, walking, jumping (but not falling) although there were some hairy moments. Every turn and twist, every step of height came with a new challenge and a new view. This was why I loved Wales. A 2 mile accent was turning into a 3 hour climb, as we stood at the base of each new challenging assessing the best way to conquer it.

We reached the top, and were not alone as we saw some one jump Adam and Eve… something I have longed to do but once again chickened out despite the best efforts from another group using what I would call bullying tactics to make me try it. It might have worked on their friends but the fear of tripping, or falling and smashing my legs already played deep in my mind.

From Tryfan we stormed ahead towards the Glyders, and what a sight. This had been the first time I had conquered these and why I have waited this long was beyond me. the landscape was vast, and ever-changing. Were in another planet, or the moon. Maybe we were in a quarry, or some strange Sci-fi world. Next we would be talking to Captain Kirk and Spock the landscape was for ever-changing but the one image I have locked in my head is that of the Horseshoe of Snowdon.

In the distance, sat looking like she always does was the magnificent Snowdon in all her glory, in the way I had never seen her before. That was to be tomorrows treat.

After a long and very steep decent to the Nant Peris with several reminders to my mate that I had run on this road and up towards the Pen-y-Pass when I took on one of my favourite races we finally reached camp, only to divert into the local house for a well deserved pint.

Shortly after pitching we were back in and sampling the fine ales on tap and talking about what we always discuss when I meet this friend. A long discussion about trains. We got the distinct impression that our neighbours were listening in every so often and so they should have been as it was a enthralling energetic topic of discourse.

With the last of the 6 or maybe 7 glasses finished we trotted off to the campsite only to be jaw struck by the sky littered in the most number of stars I have ever seen, all shining as bright as the next, and in front of this backdrop lay Crib Goch and her impressive knife ridge. Being a city dweller I see stars, but never have I seen the sky mapped out like this it was like being in a planetarium.

Morning rose and my friends cold had fully taken hold. As the walk was cut early from the previous day due to time and the knowledge we would never walk Y Garn and get to the reservoir  used for Electric Mountain we had decided that this would be battled today as we could always come back and do the horseshoe on another day.

To cut a long walk short, my mate could not go on, and so we changed tact and headed for the car with the promise that we would return to finish the walk at a later date.

Even with this short spell in her magnificent gaze, the love I have for the area is even stronger and the thought of not being able to see or walk in Snowdonia for a year scares me.

This is one truly wonderful place and will remain my special happy place for years to come. North Wales and especially Snowdon always has a place in my heart.

Camping, Walking, Castles, Two thirds my perfect holiday

Well my last post was all about the walking holiday I have just been on and many of you may say that, that was no holiday. Where is the beach or the pool, the cocktail bar, the sun etc. Well I’m not into any of the usual holiday spots and I do quite like the idea of hiking and walking and looking at the wonderful country we live in soaking up our rich countryside and heritage.

Now on the holiday I took last week, it was one of my first proper camping experiences, and while I feel I will not go it alone just quite yet, I did rather enjoy it. Not as much as staying in a hotel, and having a wonderful cooked breakfast and being able to fall into the shower but none the less I did not grumble and if I am to carry out the next holiday plan in a cheap manner then camping is the only way.

That holiday is again walking, but with the added obsession of mine Castles. Wales is littered with them, and before 2012 I wish to have explored most of them. The northern shore has been done, and thanks to last week I have now completed one of the mid/south part of Wales. Therefore I am now planning a camping holiday that replaces walking with looking at castles, and trains, bridges, and canals just to make it ultra geeky.

The following posts will be filled with the castles I wish to visit, and the start of this grand plan. What is worrying is the amount of people who also wish to take part in this little adventure. Not that I am complaining, as I need the people with tents and sleeping bags but most important of all I need the good company of my friends.

So who knows within the next week or so, I may be setting up camp waiting to visit many a castle.

I’m now off to read all about the castles I may visit at some point in the future.

http://www.castlewales.com/

Never done!

Well this is a simple ad short one. I’m not going to list the things I have never done, but there is one that I am about to do. That is camping. Now I would describe myself as a novice camper, pretty much inexperience and by that I mean under the canvas, Apart from the nights in the back garden, when my ma and pa threw me out of the house I have never been camping.

However come July that will all change, as I will trekking off to Scotland, The Lakes and my best place of all Wales to climb mountains and be eaten by insects.

Now I use to be the lad to run up and down trees and have no fear, but with age comes great responsibility to stay alive. I am not for one minute suggesting that camping under the stars may kill you, but there is a chance you don’t hear the combine harvester in Mr Giles’s field.

I now with age like my comforts. The cooked breakfast which is served by a waitress, a hot powerful shower, with clean bed linen on a comfortable bed with hot chocolate and a television, (and by that I don’t mean the waitress and the bed and hot chocolate is in the hot shower, these are all separate items I enjoy about hotels) but this can be expensive and camping can be cheap and I will be indulging in this activity for the first time in July. At least I will have my mountain climbing to take my mind of the creepy crawlies and one of my best friends to take the piss out of me.

So while 2011 has not allowed me to complete any of my must do list, it does seem to be the year of me catching up on taking holidays. If climbing mountains and sleeping under cloth is your idea of fun. I know half of it currently is… We will have to wait until July to see if the other is fun in my book.