Our time in Ireland coming to an end, it was time to meet the ferry to take us back to Pembroke, Wales. So, we drove east from Kerry for a few hours until we felt like stopping, then I arbitrarily picked a town on the sea that may yield a decent overnight spot.
This turned out to be Youghal, a delightful seaport town with Irish Heritage status. Much of the town wall, the first record of which is apparently dated 1275, is still present and marked by a rather impressive clocktower in the middle of the town. We found a park at the harbour, and went for a walk around the town in, as usual, the mist. The town sloped down towards the sea, so walking away from the harbour took us up above the town, giving us views over the rooftops to the boats moored offshore, hidden in the mist. Something about the town, perhaps the sense of eerie quiet, the mist, and the presence of the clocktower, gave me fond memories of Cyan’s Myst.
We were briefly and awkwardly witnesses to a funeral taking place in the main street, which we only identified as such after we curiously approached the large and dispersed group of quiet onlookers. We quickly and guiltily scurried back to Nettle.
Another day of driving followed, and we reached the Rosslare ferry port. We stayed the night tucked into an overgrown track to a field, while a storm raged around us.
Up early for the ferry the next day, and five hours later we were disembarking in Wales again. A brief stop for supplies (we accidentally exited the supermarket through a fire door, to our embarrassment), and we drove on.
We chose another arbitrary destination on the coast for a stop-over, a town called Tenby. Another jackpot: Tenby turned out to be a beautiful little seaside town, sunny and warm. We spent quite a while trying to find a park, with little success until we found a park located below the town, on the south beach. We took a walk around in the late afternoon sun, through the colourful little alleyways and along the promenade above the harbour, all pastel buildings and colourful yachts.
My aunt Marion told me while we were in Tenby that this was where my grandparents had their honeymoon, a delightful little fact.
Utterly failing to find anywhere in cramped Tenby to wild-camp, we drove further afield and found a nice little stretch of bitumen with a view over the sea in a nearby proto-village. We stayed the night, then returned to Tenby so Katherine could do a little shopping; I fussed about online back in Nettle, doing something or other that seemed of vital importance at the time.
A long drive towards Bristol and Chipping Sodbury, where we were to meet up with a motorhome service guy to get a couple of things looked at (including my dent from Kerry), followed by a longer amount of time driving around trying to find a decent place to stop overnight. It turns out, the UK is very difficult to free-camp in, or at least this part of the UK — everything is so densely packed, there’s no out-of-the-way places to park.
We ended up settling for the main street of Chipping Sodbury, which we knew at least was relatively nice and had parking. This choice turned out to have good and bad consequences.
The good we encountered relatively quickly: Having just had dinner (which was also lunch), I started feeling a little queasy. I slouched, then made to lie down, then thought I was going to throw up and headed for the bathroom. Then, everything started going dark, my ears started buzzing and I lost consciousness! The next thing I knew, a very distressed Katherine was next to me with the emergency services on the phone, and I made it known that I was back. Still woozy, I guiltily tried to let Katherine know I was okay, then the ambulance arrived outside. The two guys were brilliant, and did some poking and prodding. I discussed my prior history of blackouts with them, the most memorable of which was in primary school when I opened the door of the classroom, everyone watching from inside, then blacked out and fell backwards into the hallway — what an entrance. They surmised that I had blood pressure ‘on the low side of normal’, and that these things just happened sometimes. Drink plenty, eat regularly, plenty of protein and I’d be fine. Not that that made Katherine feel too much better; she told me that I actually passed out with my eyes open, so I looked like I was awake, but there was no one there. Jesus!
So, it was fortunate we were within reach of an ambulance — it was important that we had some answers and comfort. Later, when drunk passers-by were jumping on Nettle, we felt less positive about our choice of park. So, we moved the next day to a CL site 20 minutes or so away, very much enjoying the sense of security there.
A night there at the CL site, and the next morning we met up with Justin to get Nettle looked at. They did a great job ironing out the ding I put in the back (which Justin described as a ‘terrible injury’, to my great dismay and guilt), which is now almost as new. Phew. He left me with instructions for some DIY work, errant window blinds that wouldn’t close and a draft around the kitchen.
Quick Skype call to Timmy and Jen, our friends who had arrived from Australia on holiday, and who we are meeting in France, then a visit to the DVLA, the vehicle registration/licensing organisation for the UK, to tax Nettle. There’s an expense I’d rather not dwell on.
Finally, we were off on an epic 6 hour drive across the UK to Dover, arriving after dark. We found a road along the cliffs at the side of which we stopped for the night, then made our way into Dover proper. With time advancing, and not having yet managed to obtain maps for France due to some technical issues, we were getting a little concerned. Then, in the nick of time, we happened to park right within reach of an open wi-fi network, and in the final minutes before we were due at the ferry port, I managed to download the maps and load our GPS, Nigel, with them. Phew.
So, all set, we drove onto the ferry, said au revoir to England and watched Dover’s famous white cliffs recede. Next stop: France!