It has been a while since I took Rhonda out for a spin. In fact the last time proper was a trip to Yorkshire in September where I discovered most of my gear was wholly inadequate. Reading the HUBB forums, I discovered a winter camping trip in Cornwall and figured as my ribs had healed it was time to test out the new gear I had purchased and meet some new people. My travelling partner, Diehard fancied the idea and together we made arrangements to go.
The day arrived and after programming our respective satnavs, his a Tom Tom and mine a Garmin, more about this later, we set off at around 8-20am. The ride down was hairy to say the least and at one point whilst trying to cross the bridge over the Bristol Channel I struggled to stay in one lane and could not reach speeds above 60mph. Rhonda when fully packed has the aerodynamics of a flying brick and due to the high wind speeds and much fuel consumption with several much needed pit stops we finally landed in the Cornish town of Darite at 3-40pm.
It was a welcome sight to see a village hall in which we were greeted and met with hot tea. After so many hours against the wind, yes I know it is not exactly the Patagonian highway but I am not a young man, my arse was killing me and every bit of me ached. The town or should that be village due to its size, was very welcoming and our camp site was to be the school playing field which doubles up as the village green outside of term time. For those not wanting to brave the elements the option of sleeping in the hall was open to those who wanted to take it. Me and Diehard being the big roughty toughties that we are opted for the field and the fresh air along with the opportunity to test our new tents, cookers and other assorted toys.
This is where the first of our problems started. The high winds stopped us from putting up the basha which was to be our cooking area and it prevented us from using the home made charcoal burners we had brought along with us plus a supply of charcoal to keep us warm and dry stuff off if we got very wet. I had learned my lesson from the last trip! However we did manage to put the tents up and to peg them suitably. The gear I had brought along worked out and everything was bone dry. My waterproof clothes kept out the water on the trip and the boots along with the sealskinz socks worked a treat. The new sleeping bags along with the Exped airbed kept me toasty warm and I was feeling quite pleased with myself.
After a few beers in the village hall with the infamous “Doom Bar” local brew it was time for bed and an early night, very unusual for me. On the Saturday morning full of sleep and still feeling tired I was greeted with “Oi gert orf moi lorne” by some of the local kids. It must have put the fear of God into them when I shouted back there is a “tarmac crew coming along in a few minutes and we have an application for retrospective planning permission lodged with the council”. I can only imagine the panic caused when some of them went home and the locals thought “shit, the Pikeys have arrived”. Even more so when delivered by some one with an Irish accent and another with a scouse one!
A ride out had been arranged and as I had road tyres on I elected for a relaxing day at the camp. The off road mob headed for the hills and the slippy stuff as me and Diehard prepared breakfast. This is when we heard sounds from the next couple of tents and two guys who generally looked the worse for wear appeared wondering where they were and what time it was. Apparently they had a heavy night and arrived back at camp somewhere around 2-30 am, my kind or people! The slippy stuff was not for them either and as Diehard and me headed to the local shops for provisions they disappeared for a “walk” asking for directions at several pubs along the way.
Getting back from the shops was a mini adventure. Those narrow Cornish lanes all look the same and none have street name plates so if you do not know where you are then you are basically shagged! We went over one enormous hill at least twice as the two satnavs battled for supremacy. Narrow country lane followed narrow country lane and some more lanes that led to dead ends. Obviously the Tom Tom and the Garmin have issues with each other as who ever was in the front followed the instructions in front of them while who ever was at the back wondered why the hell are we going this way. I had visions of spending the night seeking refuge in a local pub named the Slaughtered Lamb. Thankfully and after some time we managed to make it back into camp.
Later that evening when we reconvened at the village hall I asked one of the brave souls who had ventured out for the off road ride where he had been. He said there and back. There and back was supposed to be some sort of answer? Anyway I asked how far they gone from here to there and back again and he said 30 miles. Me and Diehard had travelled more miles and probably over rougher terrain to the supermarket and back due to the fact the Tom Tom and the Garmin could not agree which route to take. Anyway after a few more beers it was time to go to the local pub for a meal which was fantastic and then back to the hall for some slide shows and some talks.
The talks were great and I met some people who I had corresponded with but never actually seen and was offered accommodation for the following night. This seemed like a great idea and would have been an extra day in Cornwall. It was with a heavy heart that I stumbled back into my tent realising I would have to go home soon. All too soon morning arrived and I started to pack up. This is when the weather really pissed me off. We had had gales of around 25 mph all weekend but with gusts much faster and as I took down the tent it turned into a kite and disappeared into the brambles some yards away. By the time I had retrieved what was left of it, it was full of holes and tears and beyond economic repair. It ended up in the village skip.
I was so pissed off and the weather report for the following day was horrendous that both Diehard and me decided it would be better to pass up the offer of an extra night and try to get home while the going was good. After saying our goodbyes we set off with the wind that had been in our faces coming, at our backs and we actually made good time coming home and the fuel consumption was noticeably lower. It must have helped that I took a lot less home with me than I had brought.
The lessons learnt this time are that you can do something about the rain and the cold but you can do nothing about the wind. You can make yourself warm and waterproof but you cannot stop gales from blowing everything you have about. With this in mind I think I can say I have everything I need at long last except for a tent of course!
Full marks to the organisers and the people of Darite, a fantastic place with wonderful friendly people and I cannot wait to go back there again if they will have me, hopefully in summer when the weather will be better.