The Last Post

What a year it’s been!

Niki on Pulpit Rock, Norway

We are really sorry that the year has come to a slightly premature end, and that we are going to be missing our much-anticipated Sardinia trip. But let’s not take anything away from a year that was more life-saver than simply holiday. Certainly, at regular intervals, Niki and I had conversations about how we hope this year off will add very positive years to retirement – whenever that arrives again.

Giethoorn traffic jam


We had budgeted €1958 per month for a total of €23,496 for the year, excluding the cost of the van. We’ve ended a few months short – like a lot! But our budget goals have been well met:

Budget for 7 months: €13,708

Spent over 7 months: €11,747

Budget breakdown:

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So, big blowout on the cost of diesel, but our two very expensive months (first and last) were really exceptional, and in other circumstances we’d have spread the mad dashes over a couple of months. Regrets? Yes! We should have eaten out more 🙂 However, in Greece we ate almost every day, and a month of this cost €192!! Also, we’ve grown to love 5 litre boxes of wine for €12.

Cycling on the beach, Greece

Some Thoughts:

  1. It’s really important to spend a trip like this with someone who puts up with all your nonsense! Niki has been fantastic at making the van home – she has done this in South Africa, New Zealand, the Philippines, China and Switzerland as we taught around the world, but this was a bit special. She was unfailingly positive about my ordinary driving, worse parking, and absolutely awful sense of direction. The pressure on her to direct us on unknown roads, down crazy narrow tracks, in foreign languages, all while we headed off to unknown destinations was immense. None of this would have worked if not for her!

    Dyros Caves, Greece
  2. Don’t wait! We agonised over anticipated costs, worries about where to go and what to do. We worried about future jobs and how we were going to pay mortgages … and then we simply got on the road. It’s helped to have inspirational friends- The Langston’s took a year off and did this with teenage kids – and all survived! The internet is replete with websites of folks detailing their experiences, including cost breakdowns, mapped routes etc etc. These have been so helpful in proving that this could be done.

    Sunset, Po River, Italy
  3. Friends from all over have been great – Thanks Dave for the help, Lloyd for being such a faithful reader, family and friends from all over sending in comments that were, without exception, helpful and supportive.

    Passing through Austrian villages
  4. We are a little tearful at saying goodbye to the van, and to the end of our year. To counteract this we are quite committed to doing this again in the near future. This time round we’ll buy a second-hand van in the UK, and then ship it over to NZ when we’re done, whenever that might be.
    Not a bad view 🙂 Free camping, Norway

    So, that’s it: We are looking forward to seeing our kids in New Zealand next week, starting a new adventure in Angola in August, and continue to live, rather than exist.

    Smile – ‘cos it makes a difference 🙂


Rimini, heading South

Our first stop after Ravenna was at Rimini, all of 28km, and allowed us to really take it easy, have a slow walk through town, and see some of the amazing sights. I should point out that Rimini has got some seriously old stuff, including the oldest remaining bridge and town entry arch in existence from the Roman Empire. The old town is appropriately compact and easy to navigate on foot. Again, it was amazing to wander past ongoing archaeological sites, such as the Surgeon’s Residence, preserved after the Hunnic sacking of Rimini in the 5th C by its own collapsed walls and roof. Our campsite was also only 15 minutes walk from the beach … and on the track of the Rimini Marathon held on Saturday – Absolute chaos getting out of the town, with Google making some odd decisions that underestimate the size of the van, compensating by over estimating its sense of my driving ability! On average, then, we’re OK.

Niki at the entry arch of Augustus, 27 BC, Rimini
Pope Paul, V, 1614.
Roman Arched bridge, AD14

Last two nights have been spent in a very relaxed (soporific horizontal) campsite, 10 horizontal meters from the sea, but 80 vertical meters down a somewhat irregular path (hmmm – that’s a very optimistic description). Had the opportunity to show the hundreds of Italian cyclists battling up 16% climbs that we were made of sterner stuff, bumping up our battery output on our e-bikes significantly in the process. To be honest, still couldn’t catch the majority who were on road bikes. Did watch one guy take his mountain bike up a path I’m not sure I could have walked. Having had years of cycling with crazy Italians I completed the day with ego still intact.

Today we are at Loreto. I had no idea this town existed, so excuse the complete ignorance as I relate the following. The Basilica here is the site of an annual 4 MILLION visitors. What for, you may ask? Well, housed in a marble encasement, which in turn forms the focus of the interior of the basilica itself (you picturing those Russian dolls that fit inside each other?), is an interesting structure. This is the home of Mary (yes, that Mary) transported from Palestine, via a few intermediary stops, including Croatia, arriving in Loreto as the last Crusaders were driven out of Palestine (1295). In order to prevent the holy site from being taken by victorious Muslim forces, four angels transported the house in a single night… Beyond my credulity, but the annual pilgrimage continues. Saint’s bones, relics, and brickwork remain an important source of income.

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On a less cynical note, and understanding that all major faiths are masters of manipulation and propaganda, I would point out what a marvellous experience this was. You can literally feel the devotion of people as they enter the Basilica and pass through the brick house. The interior of the Basilica, of course, lends itself to this by keeping the nave fairly simple (apart from unbelievable mosaics that far exceed the colour and definition of most Medieval paintings) with the focus on the marble encasement and surrounding cupola. There was a service being held, accompanied by the chants and songs that brought home the incredible acoustics and attendant atmosphere that result in the trance-like state that seems to be the goal of all religious institutions – and not a few secular ones too (hello, Mao).


Tomorrow we hope to visit the local Aeronautical Museum – I’m a little worried that this may focus heavily on the 4 angels mentioned earlier, rather than Italy’s rich mechanical heritage (yes, Fiat produced a number of fighter planes – some were even better than the Fiat Panda – a car that should have been strangled at birth). Let’s see what the day brings. Tonight we are a camper stop just below the Basilica, overlooking the Adriatic. Perched on top of a hill (I almost resorted to prayer coming up some of the roads) gives us a glorious view of the Basilica, the plains below, and the Adriatic in the background – all in Spring’s delightful blue sky. How lucky can you get?

Dierhagen & The Baltic

With the better part of a week to travel along the north German Baltic coast while we wait for our front fender (which needs to be ordered and painted). We’ve travelled up through Rostock, although we did not stop there, having had enough of urban space for a while. So here we are 50m away from the sea, just outside Dierhagen and on our way to the National park at Darss for a bit of cycling.IMG_5012

Travelling on the back roads has been a bit interesting, and I’m at a loss as to how the speed restrictions work. There are very few speed signs as you approach a town, and typically none when you leave. That means 50km/h in town, sometimes 60 or 70km/h when leaving, and, at some unmarked spot, the limit goes to 100km/h. As there are no signs this is more usually indicated by cars riding right on your bumper to add some encouragement. Usually doesn’t work for me, except in the case of huge trucks, which certainly are intimidating. And in this area it’s not as though there are any hills on which you can leave the trucks behind.

We’ve had some lovely sights on the way up, with autumn colours now predominating. The Baltic has been the flattest lake ever! Cycling to Dierhagen – next to the beach, all forested – took us to the small harbour where we spent some time trying to distinguish sky from water. There is a bit of mist around, and between the deep green colour of the sea, the grey/blue of the sky, and the reflections off the mirror-like surface means that it is quite disorienting. I think if I were on a boat I’d have difficulty knowing which way was up – apart from the breathing thing, of course.

Baltic … Lake?

We had a big van cleanout yesterday, which has proven relatively easy to do on a regular basis. This morning we still need to do the water tanks as they’ve not really been cleaned in a year. Our fresh water supply has been in good nick, mostly because we use so much water that the tank is being filled with fresh water every three days. We are also very careful about not having food scraps etc go into the grey water tank – I don’t shave in the van for the same reason. Even so, we put dose of cleaner in monthly, but I think it’s time to get out the cloths and do it properly – an unpleasant task, I’ve been told. We are also good for another two weeks on the clothing side, having done three loads of washing – at exorbitant prices, unfortunately.

With a bit of luck we’ll be in Hamburg (again) tomorrow, get the van sorted (hmmm, some insurance issues on the horizon) and then start heading south (again!).




It’s been a slow couple of days, brought on by occasional showers, frequent downpours and torrential, heavens-opening, deafening, so this is what real rain looks like kind of sessions. Good days to catch up with some reading, some accreditation stuff, and start a series of taped shows. Today has been better, allowing us to walk around Kristiansand, only occasionally taking shelter under trees and, once, more expensively, in a coffee shop.

Looking towards the cathedral

To end the day we are parked next to a greened area, lovely large park with lakes for swimming and a real network of walking trails. The area used to be a real dump (literally) before being cleaned up in the mid-1800’s by troops – cheap labour – and is now a great resource. Lots of people of all ages running, some obviously keen on beating a previous time, others more inclined to use a calendar for timing purposes, but all having fun.

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Kristiansand has been an interesting stop, particularly along the waterfront. We visited one of Norway’s largest cathedrals – for free (SO unusual). The building itself is quite simple by Gothic church standards, but has that usual Norwegian sauna feel. The air is warm, the church smells of wood, it’s dry (not so saunish I know), and generally relaxing. I was particularly interested to see a model ship hanging from the ceiling – a gift from Denmark’s hereditary prince in 1964 on the 100th anniversary of the battle. The ship, Jylland (Jutland) is currently berthed in Denmark and is the last remaining wooden screw driven warship.


Also … Sorry we missed the organ recital this morning – we would have loved to hear this monster at work. How any one person can control all of this is simply amazing!


We are going to try find a less direct road to Oslo, but so far this is proving a little difficult. It’s also interesting to see that ferries from here to Denmark will probably be cheaper than driving south from Oslo – thinking for another day.

Magma Geopark, Egersund

We’ve been taking our time to travel down along the coastal route 44 after Pulpit Rock, rather than the shorter and quicker E39. We are very happy to have done so as it is a completely different landscape, and well worth the time. The road has been unexpectedly good – wide, little traffic, excellent viewing points, which has made traveling in torrential rain a little easier. We are currently enjoying a free carpark right next to the sea, and in the coastal centre of the Norwegian Magma Geopark. Along the way we’ve passed through Norway’s agricultural heartland, before the Anorthosite intrusions noted below.

Hmmm, not the agricultural heartland…

The area is characterized by Anorthosite outcrops, which give the area its very distinctive topography. Forming the base of a Himalaya like range and formed as a huge magma chamber some 930 million years ago and 20km below the earth’s surface (tough luck to any ‘young earth’ nuts). This has now been exposed, and recently glaciated, so the landscape has all the characteristics one would expect. The rock itself is exceptionally poor in minerals, and therefore is only minimally vegetated – and that leaves fantastic views of a myriad of lakes (hello Minnesota) and countless high outcrops. We’ve had a great day cycling through the area around Egersund, making great use of a break in the rain – and well-timed too as it pelted down again after our return.

Erratics left when the glaciers retreated
Pixie-like person with mushrooms

Our parking spot is also unique. This precise area is the contact zone between the tidal waves from the English Channel and from north of Scotland, resulting in no tidal range – an ‘amphidromic point’. Live and learn. And apart from all the science, it’s just a really pretty place to be.

Potholes left after rivers continued where glaciers left off

With a bit of luck with the weather we’ll follow up with a different cycle route heading out from Hauge and Sokndal – looking forward to this!!