Wednesday, 16 January 2013

131 The journey so far

As a bit of a recap on our journeys so far, below is a Google Earth representation of the places we have travelled in the past 2.5 years. The total distance is a bit over 45,000 miles.

Most of the countries in Europe are here except Bosnia - just didn't want to go there and Ireland - we're saving that for a special visit.

I April 2013 we intend to visit the Americas, starting with the USA and Canada and then going through central America around October and into South America thereafter. Below is a 20,000 mile projected part of just the USA and Canada.

The route looks a bit convoluted but we cannot go too far North till the weather warms up or the road to the Arctic sea will not be open.

Fingers crossed .........

Oh...and here's the good's on the bike....Yippeeeee

130 New caravan and to Scotland

Mon 7th to Wed 16th Jan 2013
I took Wallace bike into a tuning firm in Great Dunmow to sort out the fuel system. There was nothing wrong with it but they are delivered to emission specifications that make them not smooth ride at low revs. It makes driving 2 up and in traffic a lot easier.
We were thinking of buying a larger caravan with a fixed bed in and it just so happened that Bob and Liz had one that had been sitting in their garden for a couple of years. It was a bit tatty with some accidental damage at the front and side but the inside was like new so we decided to think about it.
We had a night out with Rosie and her new (ish) boyfriend, Jake. He is an estate agent (don't laugh) and works in an office next door to my sister in sawbridgeworth. He seems to be a really nice guy with a good sense of humour and a pleasant manner. We like him...well done Rosie, just don't tell him, we can't afford a house. We drove up to a bikers clothing shop near Saffron Walden to look at some bike gear for the Americas. Bloody hell it was expensive but Karen liked it ! I rode to another shop in Hemel Hempstead to look at bike luggage systems and came away with a brilliant little video camera, a GoPro. It's the one used by all stunt teams, skiers, canoeists, Top Gear and anyone into sports. It is brilliant. It can be controlled using our mobile phone via a WiFi link. We set it up on Karen's Bird table and videoed the squirrels feeding from a distance of only 5".

Here is a sample. We are gonna have some fun with this. (The quality of this clip is very low as the internet link is slow here (Scotland) and the system would not cope with a hi res version. Later clips will be better.)

We decided to buy Bob and Liz's caravan so we started packing up on Friday the 11th and moved out of Hertford camp site with the old the caravan and drove on to Bob and Liz's on Saturday morning.
Bob had pulled the new caravan out of it's storage position and onto a hardstanding where we pulled our old van alongside and were able to move stuff between them easily. I use easily in the loosest possible sense. It took 2 days.
On the Monday morning (the 14th) we set off with the old caravan in the direction of Scotland. However, we were only going to tow it to Wolverhampton where Bruce was to take it on and move it to his place in mid Wales. We arrived in Scotland at about 8pm to a warm welcome at Mum and Sandy's new bungalow, about 5 miles from where the old one was. The place is beautiful but does have some flaws, like the cupboards are too high for Margo to reach and there is no light in the main corridor. Aside from that it is lovely.

Monday, 7 January 2013

129 December in La Manga

December 2012

This month passed by at a very leisurely pace, as indeed it does in this part of the world.  We did a bit of traveling around and a very large dose of socializing.

The views were spectacular

We were looking for the Guns of Mazarron and we found them down a long steep sigle track road. These guns have 19inch barrels with a range of 20 miles. The, 2 guns, were built by English firm, Vickers of Barrow in Furness in 1927. They were us to defend the naval port of Catagena during the Spanish civil war. They are 59 feet long and weigh 88 tons each.

Karen gives some idea of the scale.

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The builders of the surrounding fort got a bit carried away and made the place like a scene out of a Disney movie.

We had a couple of Sunday roasts at "Nobby's" with our friends Jackie and John and a couple more visits to the Italian with Dick, Joe and Sue and then B and Chris.

B and Chris were the couple we met the last time we were in La Manga and we went out for a ride on the motor bikes for a play day  with them last time.  Unfortunately they hadn't brought the bike with them this time, so Ray and I went off on our own and visited a lovely restaurant that we'd found called Marisposa and then on out into the "Badlands" which is quite wonderful, scenery wise.

Mariposa. A Brit run restaurant and activity centre. (Canoeing, quads etc)

The badlands

There is a very nice British community in La Manga and we had arranged to have Christmas dinner  with Shirley and John and their friends at a restaurant called Paddy Singh's and it is what it says on the tin, British/Irish and Indian.  We had one problem in that we had no smart clothes to wear and so it was off to the shops to grab something cheap and then we tried out the restaurant which I have to say was great. The food was really tasty and there was plenty of it.

One of the events of the build up to Christmas was a Wheinachts Markt. Ray was all excited as he thought we could get a curry wurst and some gluwein and it would be all christmassy and German.   It was however very strange as it was bright sunshine.  There were no stalls as we thought there would be, only table tops with mostly rubbish on them.  The upshot was we did find a German bar and the cook was cooking up German sausages, and the gluwein was very strong.  We sat in the bar and were joined by Sue and Joe, and we promptly had a few beers and ate all the nuts and chocolates that had been put on the tables as decorations. 

Leon had been enjoying his stay in La Manga, and mostly he had been quite well all though we knew that his kidneys were not functioning all that well.  Sadly we woke up one morning to find he had been sick in the night and there was blood in it.  We took him to the vets, who x-rayed him and we saw how badly they had deteriorated.  He advised us to put him on a special diet, that could  help him live a bit longer, but Leon wouldn't eat it and the vet didn't hold out much hope for him lasting very long.  Obviously we were very upset and having seen him so miserable made the decision to let him eat what he wanted for his last few weeks........

La Manga has a local bike gang and one of the members, Graham,  is a Brit on the campsite, a few places up from us.  He invited us along to one of their ride outs to visit a bikers meet at another club. So on the 16th we set off at a very slow pace (they were Harleys) via a picturesque mountain route to a place called Elche.
Wallace was a bit out of place here.

The entertainment was fantastic

The week before Christmas, Dick, Joe and Sue flew back to Britain, Chris and B went away to house sit and it became very quiet on the site.  We had joined in the carol singing with Joe leading us all through the carols, it had been a good fun night, but now everything was a case of waiting for Christmas. 
We have been doing a lot of research and planning for our trip to the States, and getting quite excited about it, and on Christmas eve, decided we would head back for Britain on the 27th.
We popped round to see B and Chris and had a brilliant day and then looked forward to Christmas dinner the following day.

The dog Chris and B were house sitting for. I have never seen a dog get excited over Christmas.

B's Christmas present. A monkey suit !!

We spent the day in the sunshine, packing away some of our belongings and getting the land rover ready for traveling.  Wallace was greased up and loaded on the trailer.  Dinner was lovely and the staff did very well considering the number of people there.  John and Shirley both jumped into the back of the land rover for a lift back to the camp site, which is no mean feat as Shirley was recovering from an operation and still was having problems with a stitch that had become infected.  I have to say though, as nice as it was, I really missed Christmas at home with the family.

Karen, Shirley, 4 of their friends, John and me. Strange having Christmas dinner in an Irish/Indian restaurant.

Boxing day was spent taking down the big tent and completely removing any signs of our existence.  Leon was still hanging on in there and actually perked up when he realized that he was going to spend the night in his favorite tent on top of Gromit.  Chris, another British ex-pat, who lives on the site all year round, came over in the evening and had a couple of beers and a chat and wished us a safe journey.

We were up early on 27th and finished off the last bits.  Said several goodbyes to Shirley and John and another lovely couple, Mary and Geoff and headed round to say goodbye to Jackie and John.   When we got to their bungalow though, all the blinds were down and we didn't want to wake them.  So if you read this or Dick if you can pass on, we are sorry, but we did try to catch up with you and wish you all the best, and hopefully we will catch up again in the future.

Our plan was to drive over the next two days to get to Calais, where we would get on the ferry on Saturday morning.  On the Thursday our plan was to get to Bordeaux.  We drove from 9am finally getting there at 0045am.  It was a long hard drive in Gromit.  We stayed in an F1 hotel which was very basic, but functional and let Leon in with us.

Driving over the Pyrenees was interesting.
Friday 28th December
We left the hotel at 7am and again had a long journey up to Calais.  We were on track for an 8pm finish and were really looking forward to getting there.  It was a dark and stormy night, and Ray had just taken over the driving when the lights on Gromit packed up. We were on the motorway, so had to do about 4 miles with the hazard warning lights on and found a place to park up.  Ray managed to hot wire the light switch which had broken and we finally made it to Calais about 9pm.  We stayed in an Ibis, which was a bit more expensive, but they also took the cat, so we were quite happy.

Saturday 29th December
We were up with the sparrows again today to get to the port and be on the early ferry.  However on getting to the port, we were told that the ferry had been cancelled but we could drive to Dunkerque and get on a slightly later one, so that's what we did.  There was a warning that the crossing would be rough, but as it turned out, it was not too bad, and didn't seem to bother Leon at all.
Once off the ferry we high tailed it to Roydon to collect the caravan and take it to Hertford campsite.  It was lovely seeing Billy and Sue again, (we'd last spent some time with them at their house in France), and we were invited for Sunday dinner the next day.  We also visited Trula and Paige and finally got ourselves settled in our new home.  Yeah, cold, grey and wet, did we really want to leave the sunshine.

Sunday 30th December
Dinner was lovely, Sue made a lovely job and there were some other friends of theirs there so it was a nice sociable lunch.
We just continued to settle in after that.

Monday 31st December
The weather has been awful and after braving the elements to do a bit of shopping and then setting up my bird table, we toyed with the idea of going into Hertford to celebrate New Year, however the weather beat us and we stayed in.  Yeah Happy New Year.

Tuesday 1st January 2013
Karen woke me up at midnight and as we were listening to the bells and fireworks on the TV I sneaked in a "Pinch, Punch, first day of the month", assault. I had to win one after the many that I had lost !
Another very quiet day, home cooked food, it is lovely having an oven again.

Wednesday 2nd January.
Leon has taken another turn for the worse, so I took him to the vet.  He decided he wanted blood and urine tests done so we have to take him back in the morning.  He slept most of the night and didn't eat very much, no matter how tempting I made his treats.

Thursday 3rd January
At the vets, they wanted us to leave Leon, so we popped round to see Liz, Bob and Benjamin.  They have a caravan that they want to get rid of, so we were going to have a look at it.  It is a lot posher and a bit bigger than our tired old thing, so we are hopefully going to buy it from them.  It was lovely seeing them and on our way home we called into the vets to get Leon.  There though we were told we could not take him and that the vet wanted to see us later, so we made another appointment, both filled with dread.  As we walked into the surgery later, the vets opening gambit was, "so what is it you want to ask me?"  Having been informed of the error of his ways, he then proceeded to tell us that Leon's kidney readings and urine readings were fine but his bloods showed parasite activity, probably something he picked up in Spain as obviously we hadn't wormed or ticked him properly. Again it was pointed out that he had been and that the tablets and other medications had been brought from him, including the extras to cover all the time we were away, which all led to a bit of an embarrassing silence and "oh we will further test the blood, the results should be here in two days".
Both Ray and me are a bit fed up with this and believe there is a hidden agenda with the vet.  He has previously showed a lot of displeasure that cats don't need to be treated prior to coming back into Britain now.  Anyway, the receptionist brought Leon out to us and he was hissing and spitting at her, (he had to be put under with gas as he was being very badly behaved apparently).  I took him from her and he snuggled in, but as soon as she started talking to us, he started growling at her.  We shall just have to wait and see what the other results bring, but I don't think I'm going to put him through any more trauma.  We have seen the evidence of his problems, so we will let him go in his own time.

Saturday 5th January
We had a hectic day today.  Bruce and Lyn were coming down from Wales today, so we had arranged to meet them and Billy and Sue for lunch at the carvery, and that was good fun.  Then we spent the evening with Bob, Liz and Benjamin's, and Liz cooked dinner.  It was lovely and we stayed the night.  Leon stayed in the caravan and we got home early Sunday morning to make sure he was fine. 

Sunday 6th
Ray is going to the lock up today to empty Gromit and I get to go to Sainsburys.  Wahoooo.
I joined him at the lock up and we popped into Pete's, our next door neighbor.  It is strange, you feel as if you have been away for a long time, but when you catch up with everyone, life hasn't changed a bit.  I'm always convinced that I might have missed something monumental.

Monday 7th
Mostly an admin day.  We have sorted out change of addresses on our driving licenses, and sorted out the visa type papers for the states.  We are off to Trula's now.