Author's note: Unlike our previous blog entries, the next couple of entries will be basic dot point observations and notes from our time on the road. But first, a little introduction…
On our final day in Edinburgh we picked up a campervan to begin the next phase of our trip. The plan was to make our way from the England-Scotland border, through the Lakes District, on to the Cotswolds, then somewhere else, and eventually on to London where we'd ditch the van and become backpacking tourists again.
To call the vehicle a campervan is overselling it somewhat. Truth is, it was really just a standard van (an old Toyota Tarago) with a fridge, portable cooker, DVD player and mattress in the back. The back door could be opened to support a tent-like contraption so we would have a bit of extra head room when we slept. It was exactly what we wanted for our no-frills and BBQ snags every night style of camping that we envisioned.
However, right from the get go, things went wrong. Horribly wrong. Only one burner on our cooker was in working order. And even then it took about 45 mins to boil a pot of water. So we were forced to eat out almost every night. On top of this, about a week into the camping experience we discovered that the tent extension wasn't waterproof. Read that again. We found out that the sleeping quarters of the vehicle were not waterproof. In England: a place that gets more rain than the Middle East gets wars.
* Made our way along the South-East coast of Scotland, passing through the towns of Dirleton (where we explored some castle ruins) and North Berwick (where we settled into a pub to watch the Aussies go toe to toe with Holland in the World Cup). The drive was great, the game was even better, and we were loving the idea of being out of the cities and exploring the lesser known corners of the UK.
* Our first night under the stars was spent at a campsite right on the edge of the England-Scotland border, about 6 miles from Berwick Upon Tweed. We were the youngest people on the campsite by a good 40 footy seasons! We'd better get used to camping with the "Silver Riders"! You could hear a pin drop after sunset. Luckily for us, the English summer sunset doesn't come around until about 10:30pm!
* Kickstarted our day by walking over the famous Union Chain Bridge which links England and Scotland. When it opened in 1820, the bridge was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world. As we crossed the bridge on foot, cars would drive over it and make the damn thing shake like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show!
* Stopped for a coffee at the Bus Café in Chainbridge. As its name suggests, the café is located inside the shell of an old double decker bus.
* Made our way through Northumberland National Park down to Keswick, travelling along Hadrian's Wall.
* Stopped at a spot along Hadrian's Wall and I found myself busting for a number one. Jess suggested that I go and do the job "behind those rocks over there". Those "rocks" turned out to be the remains of a Roman temple from about 122 AD. Don't worry, I did the right thing and peed with the sheep on the adjoining farm instead.
* Had dinner at pub in Kewsick and watched Luis Suarez single-handedly destroy England in the World Cup. No better sight than a bunch of teary Poms coming to terms with the fact that their team is rubbish!
* Enjoyed a quiet night's sleep as we shared a vast camping space with only one other camper. Went into Keswick for some sightseeing and general food shopping.
* Returned to the campsite to find it absolutely packed with campers setting up for the weekend. It was fuller than a fat chick's boot! Sleep wasn't going to be likely on this night. So we fired up the DVD player and watched Arnie do his thing in Predator. "If it bleeds, we can kill it". Classic stuff.
* With the sun rising at about 5:00am our van quickly resembled a baker's oven and we found ourselves waking up early every morning, whether we liked it or not.
*Made the most of the glorious weather by going on a three hour walk through the surrounding lakes.
* Jess was in her element - tormenting the local sheep, taking pictures and sniffing every bloody flower she came across (even the weeds).
* Sweated in places that I didn't know I had sweat glands, said "yeah that's nice" when called upon to comment on the view, and consoled myself with thoughts of a campervan full of cold tinnies of McEwans Export Lager and a Cuban cigar (Romeo an Julietta Petit Churchills for those playing at home).
*Made friends with a couple named Stuart and Michelle from Yorkshire and shared a few warm beers (it's an English thing) and a lot of laughs. Learned a great new slang expression for taking a leak - "off to see the Vicar". Because the urinals in England look like a Vicar's collar. Love it!