Penrith. We are north and away from the endless suburbs. It really feels like we are back on the trip. The weather is nice and the sunlight pokes through the leaves of the tree tunnels. The extremities of my mouth point to the heavens. We are following a popular cycling route. The country side is sectioned off by walls made of stacked rock that seem to stretch for miles. After cycling for several hours we get to a small campsite. This place has apple trees so we stock up on fresh apples right off the branch. We set up the tent and get our first encounter with the infamous midge. Something that will intensify. More on that later.
In the morning we head towards a long climb called Hartside. We've done worse ones but at the top I feel finished. This is the first time we get introduced to the military activities that go on in the area. Fighter jets wipe by so low to the ground that you can see the pilot. At first you'll be amazed but that quickly wears off. At one point it starts to piss rain. That's ok, we're equipped for that ... sort of. During this shower we pass through some amazing countryside. Feels like the Shire from Lord of the Rings and I keep thinking I going to run into Gandalf. Instead we run into a family-run campsite. They're Australians.
- Want a tinny, I'm asked.
- It tastes good but it'll make you sing really badly, he tells me.
So once again we have a few beers before setting up. One of the guys there is just visiting. He tells us he had to sell his farm because of the ongoing drought in Australia. He also tells us that he believes in climate change. So do we.
In the morning we pack up and go. One thing about the English countryside is that it's overrun by rabbits. It's very cute. You can see them high tailing when you surprise them at the side of the road. The problem is: there is a flattened one at every mile. A road kill smorgasbord. I can hear Michèle's sad cries several metres behind every time we pass one.
The ride is hilly and thoughts come in and out. I start to think about counting. In general when people cycle they count. The majority will count kilometres but we count travel reward points. Sounds a bit like an aeroplan commercial but it's not. I always ask myself what is the amount of travel experience obtained during a ride. That's the problem we've been having here in Europe. You don't get the feeling of being on another planet. No matter how nice a ride is, or is supposed to be, you will not get much of a culture shock. We got a bit of one in Iceland and a lot of it in Cuba. I'm still looking for it in this second part. Speaking of kilometres, we meet this guy who is doing the same route but on foot. He tells us that he's done 200 miles in 5 days. Christ! That's more then we've been doing on our bikes. The funny thing is that his legs have ceased up and he can barely walk. He's going to do the rest by bus. I guess he's not really going for travel reward points.
Today our ride was cut short when we made a wrong turn at Clennell. We headed into a forest thinking we were following the designated route. Instead we ended on a steep logging road about 3 miles into the forest. No big deal. If you are in the UK you are always on top of the food chain. We head back the way we came and end up having to stay at another nightmare caravan park. If anyone reading this ever goes through Clennell, the caravan park bathroom codes are: C0478Y for the gents and C4679Z for the ladies.
We spent two days at a youth hostel. A much needed rest. Also, a destination needs to be found for post UK. The hostel is empty and hence quite relaxing. It has internet so we are able to prepare our exit plan. The final verdict is Morocco. There is a flight with Ryanair from Edinburgh to Marrakesh. Direct. The plan right now is to head south and have a try at the long desert stretches of the far south. I guess I'll be eating my words from the previous two paragraphs.
As we pedal away from our two days rest, a few thoughts pass through my head. More specifically about procrastination. Seems to be a thing of the past. Nowadays if we get the chance to get something done we do it. It's almost become a privilege to do laundry. But for this ride it's cloudy with showers. Nothing new here but the wind is strong and, being at our side, the rain is poking my ear drum.
Well, we end our Pennine ride in Spittal. A town next to Berwick Upon Tweed. Once again it's another expensive caravan park. The bathroom codes are: C1123 for the gents and ladies.
To be continued ...