Wow, where to begin! It feels like so much has happened since I have updated this last.
We had an incredible time at our own little slice of paradise in keyhaven for two weeks. There were endless hours for baking, cooking and reading. Absolute bliss.
We spent some time riding around the New Forest National park and I particularly enjoyed gawking at the adorable fuzzy donkeys that lazed around everywhere!
However the time arrived to hit the road again, this time bound for Bristol! The journey took us through some incredible landscapes. The terrain was relatively forgiving with only the occasional rolling hill thrown in.
Our second day on the road saw us stopping for our usual afternoon cider in the sun (this cycle touring life is hard work , you know!). We decided to keep on riding for another hour or so as the terrain was pretty easy and riding conditions were beautiful. What we failed to realise was that we were about the enter the infamous Salisbury Plain, also knows as one of the UK’s largest military training grounds!
Whilst we were highly entertained by ‘tank crossing’ and ‘warning, unexploded items’ signs everywhere in the beginning, the novelty soon wore off. After two or so hours of riding up and down brutal hills, we decided enough was enough and we were just going to have to camp in the military area. Bad idea. As soon as I left the road I very nearly missed rolling right over the top of an undetonated smoke grenade. No. This is not going to work we thought.
After another hour of grinding up hills and consuming as many calories as possible to keep our engines going, we finally left the military area and found ourself in the town of Pewsey. It was nearly 10pm and the sun was swiftly disappearing. We literally chose the first viable campsite we came across, which was a *charming* little abandoned/fallen down building just off the road. The ground was flat and we were hidden. Perfect!
We woke in the middle of the night to rounds of gunfire and grenade detonations. We both made a mental note to never consider camping in a military area ever again!
Morning came and we were back on the road with the aim of hitting Bristol today. It was a long day, around 70km or so but the riding was beautiful. We spent a majority of the day riding down the canal paths past the incredible Caen Hill Flight of 29 Locks. Sam even got to help open one which im sure was a highlight of his day!
We spent a lovely two weeks in Bristol (with a trip over to Wales) catching up with Sams family. Bristol is an incredible city with a great culture which I preferred much more to London.
But as usual, the time came to hit the road again, this time bound for France! The first few days were great! We had stunning weather and the countryside was beautiful as usual. This time we decided to follow one of the national cycle routes. England has put quite a bit of effort into sign posting these routes and it sure made the job of navigation a lot easier!
I must say by this stage I am already getting pretty tired. I think this is probably the most sustained physical activity my body has ever endured and it was screaming at me to stop. This, as you can imagine, began to affect me mentally too. Being thrown into a lifestyle like cycle touring is not easy. It is so dependant on peak physical and mental performance and things can get testing when your body is simply exhausted. Especially when you have absolutely no experience whatsoever! I began to question what I was getting myself in for but with support from Sam and a few tears later I was back up and running.
About halfway through this leg were due to break into Dartmoore National Park which we were both pretty excited about. Dartmoore is the only place in the UK where you can legally wild camp which is a nice change to having to hide yourself off the side off the road somewhere (which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds). What we didn’t account for however were the hills! Oh the hills! My poor little leggies have never been so tired. I can think of one in particular that took an hour and a half to sluggishly push my bike up, as it became impossible for me to push the pedals on the bike.
We were a day ahead of schedule (somehow?!) so we decided to take a much-needed rest day in a tiny little village called Peter Tavy. We found a great little wild camp within walking distance to the pub. Perfect. We spent the rainy afternoon hiding in the Peter Tavy Inn drinking pints, playing backgammon and eating the best pub food in the region (seriously, the best beef and Stilton pie EVER). I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to say goodbye to England.
After an easy half day ride we arrived at the ferry terminal in Plymouth, pretty happy with our effort. 1200km later, we are able to tick off our first country on the bikes. We have certainly learnt a lot, met some incredible people and had an incredible time! Sam spent the afternoon searching in vain for submarines, whilst I was just happy to not be sitting in the saddle!
We arrived in Roscoff on the overnight ferry and the first stop was to the boulangerie (naturally). Four pastries down we hit the road in what proved to be another very testing day for me. The lack of sleep and the 1000 odd km had definitely taken its toll and I was at boiling point. After throwing my bike down half way up a hill it took some serious coaxing from Sam (and taking some of the gear off my bike) to get back in the right frame of mind. However as expected, we eventually arrived at Sams Dads home in Ployé.
And now, I sit here in this beautiful French farm-house with a belly full of incredible french cheese and bread happy as a clam. All the worries from the road have washed away. Sam always tells me when im having a shit day that it’s these experiences that help us grow and teach us to truly be grateful for the simple pleasures in life. How right he is.