8th - 9th December
On the 8th we were still at the campsite as we had to wait at least 24 hours after the vet had carried out the tick treatment (required under PETS regulations) before we could check in to board the ferry, and the day was spent carrying out last minute jobs and ensuring we were all up together before we got back to Blighty.
On the 9th it was all very straightforward and we had a leisurely breakfast followed by coffee and Brie sandwiches (I couldn't stop buying bread and Brie, munching it then heading back for more). Soon we were on the ferry and the crossing was very quick. We were back in British waters before we knew it. We had no problems with the crossing at all and the customs staff who checked our van were very friendly with a good sense of humour. Again Nailz was the ice-breaker and he loved getting all the attention.
After a few hairy moments trying to remember which side of the road to drive on we were speeding back to Dorset on a lovely sunny evening watching another formidable sunset. We were relieved that there was no snow or ice after the horror stories we had heard while abroad and weather-wise it was comparatively comfortable.
Needless to say we are back in sunny Wimborne all safe and sound having had a wonderful five month stint abroad. We were even met with some lovely home-made soup made from the produce of the family allotment which was delicious - thanks Donna! It's very nice to be home.
Some big "thank-yous"
Our adventure would not have happened were it not for the help of a number of our very good friends. Firstly Mic and Martin, who put in such a huge effort to get Gerty fit for our trip. We really cannot thank you enough! Mic and Martin have worked in the most extreme weather conditions including electrical storms, snow, downpours, sunshine - anything you can imagine - without the benefit of a good workshop, all on a driveway, and produced something breathtakingly beautiful yet practical, subtle and graceful yet protective and hardy. Gerty is a work of art. She has performed beyond our expectations and has kept us safe and warm in some very difficult conditions. There were often moments when we completely forgot where we were, because wherever we were, we were home! Thanks guys, so very much!
At the start of our adventure I did say I'd put up some photos of Gerty to show her off and with all the activity over the last five months I've not done it (I'm not sorry!!). So here she is in all her glory, with photos courtesy of another good friend of ours Charlie!
It's worth noting a small number of details which are (among) my favourite features of the van (there are too many to list).
We didn't use electricity hookup once on our trip. All the power we used came from the sun (and occasionally boiling a kettle from a shower block!). Our lighting uses LED lights so our electrical consumption footprint was pretty low but it made our trip easier knowing we didn't have to rely on campsites and were using renewable energy for electric at least. I did flatten the battery once when I was using my portable studio for about 10 hours (laptop, audio interface, USB keyboard, stereo, lights - pretty much everything electrical I had with me running at once) but the battery was soon blinking away fully charged a few days later.
Wood Burning stove
This was a godsend when the temperatures plummeted as we got to the north of Italy and kept us sane as we headed through very cold temperatures in France. Lighting it in the morning was fun (it really focuses the mind when it's minus 6 outside), and evening spent watching "hippie TV" was a joy. It also meant I had a great excuse to indulge on steaks as we went round (trying the local beef was one of my highlights) as well as chestnuts which was another treat amongst many. Martin hand-made pretty much everything except the burner itself and the copper pipes which were beaten flat and used as brackets look amazing.
The Living Room interior
Bit vague I know, but when you spend a bit of time in the van you really lose yourself. Anything can be going on outside and you will be blissfully unaware, surrounded by beautifully-stained tongue and groove, French-polished ivy roots, an irish-knot engraved table and hand-made seat cushions (another big thank you, this time Marcia - they have been so comfortable!). Also have a look at the kitchen area - it's another Mic masterpiece - see the tiles and the perfect grouting around them? All done by Mic's fair hand.
Cheers to Dave for making the lead trays which sat in our "garage" area under the wet-suits and scuba gear to catch any dripping water. They really did the job. Functionally this area was key to our trip. With space to hang wet-suits and BCD's, a wood store, a space to keep the fold-up bikes and our other equipment and tools.
Thank you for reading and leaving comment either here, facebook, twitter or flickr - it's been really nice to get little messages from home.
So there we have it. We've been to a total of ten different countries, had a brilliant time, seen some inspiring sights, met some wonderful people, eaten some brilliant food and drunk some very nice wine, beer and brandy on the way. We can't wait to catch up with everyone (and bore you with over 30Gb of photos), so I'll now bring this blog swiftly to a close.
Will this be the end of our adventures?
For a FULL map of where we've been (if not the exact route), have a look here