So four weeks after hitting the UK we were getting sick of hanging around London like a bad smell. Then suddenly we got THE CALL.
Our troopy had docked at Southampton Port 4 days earlier and customs had just cleared it for collection. What a game changer! The thought that the vehicle that we had poured our lives into was waiting for us just 87 miles away was fantastic.
I borrowed my dads car and together with Jerome we raced to Southampton with our passports to grab our little slice of freedom. After all of the initial trouble we had with Russian Visas and general bureaucracy I bit back my excitement. I was certain that something might go wrong.
It turns out that shipping the Troopy was the easiest experience of this whole trip planning so far. We turned up at the holding yard and she was sitting there. After flashing our passports we were given the keys. The Troopy was in perfect condition and all contents safely inside – magic.
OK so it was time to get this baby on the road for a final test before leaving the UK.
Firstly we had to spend a day or two taking everything out and then repacking it in correctly. All of the home-made roof boxes had to be U-bolted to the roof cage, and the triple water filtration system had the filters installed and was bolted into place.
Other than that it was a case of filling every gap, every side panel and every secret cubby hole with our stuff. Full credit to the Troopy – she can hide a lot of stuff!! We managed to pack everything away with heaps of space left over for our clothes and toiletries. Boom! Serious excitement time.
As per our previous update we now have our Russian Visas. So the day after prepping we visited the Kazakhstan Embassy in Pall Mall. The Kazakh’s’ were waaaay more easy to deal with than the Russians – so they took our applications without a single question and told us to collect in 5 working days, with a weekend tacked on at the other end. It cost about GBP70 for both visas. Sweet as!
In this little chunk of downtime I decided that Jerome should see a little bit of England. Plus – it made a good excuse to put the Troopy through it’s paces.
We left London that Sunday and hot-footed it straight up North to the North York Moors National Park. That’s about 240 miles from London and as we set off late (if you know us that’s a pre-requisite) we skipped all of the pretty country roads and blazed it up the main motorways.
We hit the National Park via Thirsk and began the task of finding a campsite for the night. Both Jerome and I are the bush, or ‘wild’ camping types but that is very difficult to do in the UK and particularly so in their National Parks. If you want to camp in a big field somewhere, chances are that it belongs to someone. The best way to go is to get the landowners permission to camp for the night (if you are very, very lucky it will be a yes). We had been scouting for a few hours for a place like this to no avail. We eventually stopped a farmer and asked for advice on where to wild camp. He suggested a car park next to a river a mile away (hmmmm) But just as we approached it we saw a track to the left leading over a hill. No points for guessing which option we took! So our first night of camping was around the back of a huge hiking hill overlooking the valley with just one house in the distance. So lucky.
The next day we packed up and drove on to Rievaulx Abbey Ruins. The Abbey was beautiful and well conserved considering that it was built over 900 years ago.
From there we drove through the National Park up to Whitby with the hope of seeing the famous deep purple Moorlands/Heathlands en route.
Unfortunately the moors looked a little bleak colour wise – not sure if it was due to the time of year or that we had taken the wrong road through the park. Despite the lack of purple – the scenery was stunning and we ended up at Whitby Abbey which overlooked the headlands and ocean.
By this point our Troopy was attracting a fair few onlookers much to our satisfaction! The Landcruiser Troop Carrier was never brought to the UK so it makes for an unusual sight, particularly all kitted out.
Anyways – we jumped back into the car after a short tour of the Abbey and followed the road next to the ocean a few miles north, before cutting back through the National Park and then 70 miles onwards to the Yorkshire Dales NP.
Unfortunately it was near on impossible to find anywhere suitable to wild camp from our short exploration of the park – so we ended up camping in a designated field behind a pub overlooking Asgarth Falls. There were only a few people there so it was all good.
The next day we checked out the mini waterfalls before cruising on through the park with the aim to end up in the Lake District by the evening. The Dales are beautiful – there’s no denying that. Heaps of green rolling hills, sheep, squiggly stone walls and dramatic clouds.
We drove west through the park via Bolton Castle and stopped off at Hardraw Falls – England’s’ highest single drop waterfall at a staggering 100ft high!
OK so it’s not Victoria falls but it was heaps pretty. We then crossed into Cumbria and eventually ended up in the Lake District. The name tells it away so I won’t explain. First stop was the famous Lake Windermere. It’s a large, beautiful lake with about a million tourists and the typical shops that go with them.
Once again we were late to arrive (luckily it’s not getting dark until about 9.30pm here) so we chose to drive 12 miles North to Ullswater Lake – widely regarded as one of England’s prettiest lakes. We then spent a few hours circumnavigating it, desperately trying to wild camp. NO CHANCE!
There were designated campsites full of families (Bank holiday and school half term) which were going to be a last resort.
We carried on driving around the Lake until the road literally ended (along with my short fuse) and then doubled back. We spied a campsite in a huge green field next to the Lake with just one family in it. I have no clue why everyone else chose to cram themselves into the nearby identical green fields. It cost 20 quid to camp for the night and we chose the bottom of the field right next to the lake (you couldn’t even see the other family). We could even have a fire so we spent the evening playing ‘who’s the best pyromaniac’ and cooking Ratatouille.
The next day we drove 100 miles South-East on the main roads to Leeds to catch up with my best friend Adam, and Jerome’s cousin Jonathan along with his girlfriend Rachel.
True to form we moved on again the next morning and drove 50 miles to Manchester for lunch with my awesome friend Hanne (and her partner Simon), who was one of three girls that I studied Blacksmithing with for two years in Hereford, next to Wales. We hadn’t seen each other in 6 years so a quick lunch and a pint naturally turned into 3 pints, numerous bottles of wine, naughty cigarettes, non-stop chatting and a hangover the next day! We changed our plans to stay over in Manchester and made the 240 mile journey back to London in time for the weekend.
I wish we had more time to tour as most of my mates live in the West Country and Essex – and we didn’t get to go to either areas. But on another hand fuel is so expensive here it’s a crime. Current prices are about GBP 1.36 (AUD 2.70 ish) per litre of diesel. Whaaa??!!!
The Troopy was bloody awesome and all of our hard work making the thing has really paid off. We have a few odd jobs to carry out on it prior to leaving like an oil change but other that that she’s ready for action.
We picked up the Kazakhstan Visa’s after the weekend – completely hassle free and this morning I submitted our Tajik visas applications. We went for the 1 day processing time at an overall cost of GBP 40 each so we should collect tomorrow. Cheers!