Monday, 30 September 2013

Honeymoon: Week 2

Bettyhill to Stewartby: 703 miles, Total trip: approx 1648 miles

On Tuesday we decided to go further West along the coast to Durness past even more incredible scenery and checked into a camp site overlooking Sango Bay for water and laundry etc.

Initially we was only going to spend the one night and start back down South later the next day, but as the weather was meant to be so nice we decided to make it two nights. I'm so glad we did, on Wednesday we took a very long walk along Balnakeil Bay with the hot sun beaming and it felt like we were on a tropical island! Who would of thought we'd have pictures like these from the North coast of Scotland!?

One toe in the sea though soon put Ryan straight on the idea of going for a swim so we made do with lying on the beach smiling instead! :)

The are many traditions about Wedding Cake, many of which seem to include keeping it for many years which we're not in a position to do. Instead we thought it would be nice to bury the last slice in the most Northerly point of our hike where we were feeling happiest with the Holiday. Being Pagan I like the idea that a symbol of our love and union has been returned to the Earth for safekeeping and can help things grow in such a beautiful place. When looking around for a spot to bury it in I found a white feather in the grass so, reading it as a sign, I used that spot and kept the feather for tying to my staff with the other symbols I've received over the years. Below is a panorama from the very spot of our buried cake!

As the sky was still clear, at night we wrapped up warm and walked over to the observation point on the cliffs away from the lights of the camp site to do some stargazing. We've always lived in rural areas so are used to having a good sky full of stars but this was really something else! The Milky Way was so clear as a line over our heads, we lost count of the number of satellites that tracked past and saw no less than 8 shooting stars! It's always a humbling experience when faced with something of such magnitude when we as humans are so small, and we lay there on the ground for ages sharing ideas and our wonder of the cosmos.

Thursday morning we got packed up, done another load of washing before we left and then headed South for the journey home. We drove through the mountains and joined the A9 south to Inverness, then decided we might as well keep going and got as far as Pitlochry. We were a bit late arriving for the shops so spent the night in a car park from the camp spot list and done our last bit of souvenir shopping first thing in the morning. It was a soggy morning for everyone, including this wee Robin who I felt sorry for and fed with some oats! We also visited the Heather Gem factory where they make jewels from dyed, compressed and polished heather twigs. They really are beautiful things and Ryan treated me to a Celtic style necklace with a green gem in the centre for my Birthday!

That day we pushed on as far as we could South and ended up at a spot near Stoke on Trent for the night, that meant that we could have a nice leisurely day on Saturday. We found a nice pub to stay at called The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton that also has a camp site next to the canal and also offer a free meal if it's your birthday - bonus! :D

On Sunday we made the most of our last morning away, just enjoying our time together and eating pancakes for breakfast! We then made the short drive home and as the roads turned into ones we recognised I felt a strange mix of happy anticipation and sadness. What a trip it has been, we've both really gotten into the swing of living on the road and exploring places so can't wait for our next adventure...

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Honeymoon: Week 1

Our tour of the Scottish Highlands, week 1 = 945 miles

The Wedding was fantastic so a MASSIVE thank you goes out to everyone who came (dressed up Medieval!) and who helped make it such a special day for us! Also thank you to everyone who gave us money as we certainly couldn't have come so far without it. 

We spent Sunday and most of Monday loading up and sorting through our belongings that have been in boxes since we moved out of our rented house nearly 2 years ago! It took us a little longer than expected to get everything into place in the motorhome so it was about 3pm before we got on our way, but then we weren't in any hurry to be anywhere so it was still stress free for us. 

To avoid the notorious Birmingham rush hour we took the M1 from J13 as far up as J24 near Nottingham, hopped across on the A50 to the M6 and found a nice spot near Kendal in the Lake District for the night. Ryan is a member of and so has the details of a lot of acceptable wild camping spots in the UK linked to his SatNav which makes them very easy to find. It doesn't mean that there is no chance of being moved on but as long as you don't overstay your welcome or be a nuisance you'll generally get left alone. Another great feature of this is that all of the spots are rated so you can choose between urban/rural laybys, carparks, pub stops etc so no nasty surprises or stopping every few miles to look at them to decide if it's suitable.

Tuesday morning we carried on up the M6 to Carlisle, took a short shopping trip to a Maplins and Halfords for a new stereo and speakers as the standard speakers can't contend with the engine noise and were crackling quite badly. Unfortunately the crackling problem was still there through the new stuff so Ryan has to do some work on the wiring to figure that one out, something that we knew would need doing at some point anyway due to the state of it all behind the dash! We also went on a slight detour down some tricky back roads to see Hadrians wall and, although the stubby remains of the wall itsef isn't much to behold, the view is still worth it! (and no the wall in the shot is not Hadrians wall, it's the car park wall!)

The M6 turns into the the A74(M) just after Carlisle and we pushed on into Scotland for our second night and stopped in a nice little spot near Moffat down a disused section of road that's frequented by lorry drivers. We have our suitcase generator with us so can re-charge our batteries etc every couple of days and save on gas even if we're not near a campsite with electric hook up.

On Wednesday we got through Glasgow (via the Clyde tunnel as we didn't fancy going over the bridge in high winds!) and drove past Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs on the A82. It's such a beautiful area with stunning views and cascading waterfalls around every turn but we didn't hang around as we wanted to get over to Skye the next day. We stopped that night in a car park from the wild camping list amidst the mountains near Glencoe and enjoyed a romantic meal with a glass of Asti left over from the Wedding. Bliss...

View from the Skye bridge
On Thursday we had a little wander around Fort William which is very welcoming to Motorhomers with our own designated car park with long (though a little too narrow) parking spaces.

We then drove on up the A87 near Loch Ness an on to Skye :) and spent the next 2 nights at the Caravan and Camping club site at Edinbane. The site has nice clean facilities and is a working croft with sheep and Highland cattle. Ryan bought some duck eggs from their shop which were delicious! We also checked out the Edinbane Pottery shop in the village which has some really incredible things inspired by the local landscapes, though even with the wedding money I couldn't warrant spending £75 on their cheapest teapot however beautiful it was so left empty handed.

Whilst on electric hook up we tested out our electric hob to save using our bottled gas, and got our laundry done. Our idea of using the bathroom as a drying room worked well too, the telescopic poles we have for securing our food in the cupboard during journeys can be fitted up between the walls and hold a surprising amount of clothes. With the roof vent open and the heater on they dry well when it's wet outside which is definitely a necessity.

On Saturday we left Skye and went on a boat trip around the Kyle of Lochalsh. It's a glass bottom boat and took us to see the birds, seals and a ship wreck. Whilst passing a salmon farm we even got to see a Porpoise but they're a little more shy than dolphins so it kept it's distance, though I was lucky enough to snap a shot of his dorsal fin!

We drove back along the A87 and the A887 to Loch Ness. The A82 road to Inverness was closed at a village and they diverted us along a slightly scary back road including a massive 15% incline which required poor Waki to be in first gear with all manner of burning clutch smells to get up it! We shall definitely be shopping for an engine with a pokey Turbo before long.

That night we spent near Dores by the shores of Loch Ness, and Kaa did his best Nessie impression for us! We were a little worried about how he would take to life on the road with all of the vibrations but he seems to be just fine with it. He looked a little confused at first but soon settled down and has been behaving exactly the same as before, friendly as ever and he even ate a mouse the other day so doesn't appear to be stressed at all.
On Sunday we done some shopping in Inverness and drove on up the A9 along the spectacular east coastline. Not wanting to drive any further we decided on what was listed as an an urban car park from the wild camping list at Latheronwheel that seemed fairly easy to get to, which turned out to be a harbour car park in one of the most beautiful places I think I've ever seen! What a gem! As the sun began to set we explored the rocks and pebble beach and lay in the remaining light on the cliff grass before turning in for a roast beef dinner and our cosy bed.

Monday morning we woke up very happy indeed, had a yummy bacon and duck egg breakfast and carried on North to Thurso then west to the Kyle of Tongue which had been our target destination from the start. When we were looking for ideas of where to go I was drawn to the spot on Google Earth and we decided that if Waki could make it we would try and get up there, so below thanks to a steady hand and Photoshop is a 360 degree panoramic view from the road that cuts across the Kyle itself (click on the picture to see it larger):

It's a shame that the sun wasn't prepared to come out whilst we were at Tongue as the waters along the North coastline really do glow a tropical blue in the sunlight but it was still a stunning place all the same. We hadn't really planned anything past Tongue so doubled back to a lovely seaside place called Bettyhill and went for a nice walk on the beach, it was actually a really warm day so we even dared stroll barefoot along the waters edge of the North-North Sea and explored the rock pools! 

Thanks for reading, I'll post Week 2's adventures when we get back if we can tear ourselves away... 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Positive Progress

One week to go! We have done so much already, but it does feel like an impossible feat to finish everything so I'm sure there will be a few things to make do with until after the honeymoon. Of course there are things like solar panels and a wood burning stove that we have always intended to fit later this winter and add to next year so we understand that it can't all be done at once.

Since the countdown began Ryan has finished welding and repairing the cab which was all in a terrible state, and it even now has a beautiful coat of white paint. This was Ryan's first attempt at welding and with the amount he had to do he's now quite the expert! His Dad helped us out again and even had to make some new brackets for the bumper as the old ones were almost completely gone due to the rust. Many hours of grinding, welding, fibreglass and fillering and sanding ensued.

After all of their hard work Waki thankfully passed her MOT, I must admit it was slightly terrifying to watch them lift her up on the ramp! See below for the progress pics on the rust battle:
The rust on the arch and drivers door

More rust by the bonnet
A lot more rust, it's a wonder the bumper had stayed on!
New metal
Repaired area by bonnet
The other side of the bonnet also repaired
White paint at long last

Whilst all of that's been going on I've been very busy inside, we now have cupboard doors to keep all of our things where they belong and have bought a plate rack and cup holders etc to help stow those items safely and efficiently. The kitchen cupboard doors are made from recycled pieces of tongue and groove cladding left over from the ceiling. I made a frame with some new bevelled wood to finish them off, and even managed to re-use the triangular off-cuts from cutting the frame to shape as the door handles!
The kitchen cupboards made from recycled wood 

I panelled the storage box in the living room (destined for our shoes) which used to be another seat, and we have the new worktop cut to size just awaiting the supports to hold it above the snake tank and give us room for our printer and other technology.

I have also panelled and painted the new rear locker box that used to be under the bunk beds with access from outside for tools and wheel chocks etc. We've kept the access the same as it is very useful but instead of beds on top it will have another much needed kitchen worktop with cupboards and drawers in it for our bins and saucepans. I measured the rear luggage shelves against our bags and bike helmets so that we make the best use of the space so they are now up and secured in place ready for the rest of the wardrobe/kitchen worktop combo.

Yesterday I got the supports for the worktop in place so will continue that job today, as well as finalising the wedding arrangements, making decorations and squeezing in a painting commission before we go.... so I better get on with it then! :)