Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homeward bound and trip review....Phew!

Crikey Dick,
Wow this is the last Blog in this series after 6 months travels.
A lot of Bridge has gone under the Water! But let's finish off Scotland and heading down to Heathrow etc.
Here are a few night shots of Edinburgh, a beautiful city anytime of day, though the Royal Mile does have its rougher side (late nights Fri and Sat can be wild west-ish)
Advice from Ian the local with all the gen on where to go for a weekends walking in the hills and lovely Borders scenery took me back to the Melrose area, where I walked up the Eildon Hill and next day drove through a lovely back road taking in a couple of the reservoirs for Edinburgh.
These sheep were such an unusual colour, they could have only just  been dyed, not sure why and other flocks in the area were the same, maybe to find them in the snow which I understand is plentiful in the UK at the moment.
Just love the stone walls, must be backbreaking and take ages to build.
Megget Reservoir feeds Edinburgh
This is the only area of Britain where I saw circular stone walls which are sheep yards.
Walking along the roadside these beautiful ferns caught my eye.

With only one more weekend I choose to go down back into England and go to the Holy Isle...Lindisfarne.

Lindisfarne is only accessable at low tide by a causeway and this was the way the monks also accessed it back in 640 AD and has also been visited by Vikings.
It certainly is a stunning place, windswept with commanding views.
These traditional sheds are built along the lines of upturned wooden boat hulls.
These stone carvings in the graveyard of the church with Celtic patterns also in my opinion had similar patterns to Maori or even Japanese, which just goes to show there inspiration is from the same source - nature.
One of my fellow woofers who came down for the trip was a geo cacher, so we tracked down several of these hidden little caches. Since these GPS devices have come on the market, there are literally thousands of them hidden around the world and finding them has become an interesting hobby.
We also called onto Berwick on Tweed, Eyemouth and St Abbs.

The latest in tombstone etching, I wonder what I'll get put on mine.

This is St Abbs, with a roaring sea and a biting wind we headed back to Eyemouth to sample another Italian icecream shop. It was good but still no match for childhood memories and tastes.

It was getting rather cold in Scotland now and living in a caravan with a 2 bar heater was lo\sing its charms and anyway New Zealand was calling.

The morning of the off, I biked the 4 km to Traipran Law which is a commanding little hill overlooking East Linton and walked up. There used to be a settlement of people up here in Roman times and has quite a bit of folklore to it. I can understand why.

The green structure (which in a previous life was a mobile breast screening xray unit) is the kitchen/canteen with my abode just in front.
Here we are at Dunbar Station heading for York and the bike's new home!
York was having an arty time projecting light shows, this is actually on  the outside ofYork Minster, very impressive.

I headed down to London on the Megabus which was a bus and train journey changing in the Midlands at this amazing station. I was struck by the view, knowing where I would be in a couple of days, back in rural Nelson.
So now to the trip review:

I had high expectations for this trip. Iit was to be my first foray into busking from a bicycle, to meet the real people along the sides of the roads and little towns in UK, Ireland and Europe.This was my vibe as I left NZ.

This was the reality after only 4days biking.
This trip turned out to be my toughest time travelling or otherwise, not having broken any bones before or been seriously injured, and my spirit took a massive hit. I am incredibly grateful to Ken and Angela for putting me up for so long, allowing me to heal and get back on the road.

Now reflecting upon my trip. I was ill prepared for cycling in UK conditions, ill prepared for finding busking locations and out of touch with the reality of biking and having enough energy to also busk. Once I was finally given permission to ride again 8 weeks after the operation, I had lost a lot of my fitness and desire to do what I came to the UK to do.

I did not get to Ireland or Europe.

On the plus side Christine and I had a great time getting around England and Scotland. I met lots of interesting people (in hospitals mainly) and found many spots we would like to return to, perhaps on another trip.

Would I do it all again? No bloody way. I've learnt a lot and would do it all very differently, though I'm still figuring out if I'm up to it.

My arrival in New Zealand was not without some drama. I had intended to open my saxophone case and play "Po Kare Kare Ana" once on NZ soil, however this was all curtailed when Customs asked for my ongoing ticket. I had left NZ on my British passport and didn't get it stamped upon leaving NZ, and therefore had to be given a one month visitor's visa.

Warm weather greeted me back in Nelson, but after only one week at home, I was involved in this three car crash (we were in the middle).  I have no excuses, it was my fault, luckily no one was seriously injured, though there could have been deaths.

This has been a sobering trip and 2010 was an eventful year. I feel I have created my own luck or lack of it.

At the tender age of 60, I'd better mend my ways or I may not reach 65.

I started this trip with the memory of several friends who died prematurely, and this still happens daily to people we all know. I could have been this year one of those statistics (at least twice), or people very close to me.

I am in no position to give advice to anybody at the moment.

Thank you for following my blog.

Exercise your creativity at every opportunity and above all stay safe.

Merry Christmas



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Scotland Again!

25 Miles east of Edinburgh is a place called East Linton and this is where I worked for 5 weeks woofing on an organic farm. Quite a set up with permanent staff and woofers all year round. Each week was 4 days working and 3 to explore the wonderful countryside and what Edinburgh has to offer.

Phantassie was the area where I was and dovecots are all around the East Lothian area. I sat down and sketched a few. Dovecots are structures that housed pigeons for eggs and for eating, and very impressive structures they are. The Phantassie Doocot (as they are called) below was about 200 yards away from my caravan.

Being a woofer at Phantassie was really hard work, many times planting  rows of spring onions or harvesting potatoes made the backs and knees of young and old creak more than a little.

Rows of broccoli 100 yards long mixed with a sheltered walled garden with lovely rich soil and cool wet summers are great growing conditions for anything!
Basil in one of the tunnel houses.

Scottish hi-bred potatoes

Below is the harbour at Dunbar, a fabulous little place, with real fishing boats and mending nets etc on the quayside. This harbour is also flanked by a castle and superb sea defences.

There is a resident team of seals that frequent the harbour, much to the pleasure of yours truly and the visiting Scottish school children were equally impressed. Just to stand beside them and listen to the incredibly broad accents of these children and their teachers was such a lovely treat for me.

Dunbar is also famous as the birthplace of John Muir, who left Dunbar at the age of 11,with his family emigrating to USA where he championed and campaigned for the set up of the American National park system, helping set up the first in Yosemite. They have a small but very well done museum dedicated to John Muir which is the house he was born in and I spent an enjoyable afternoon reading and absorbing his story.  I have spent quite a bit of time in Yosemite and consider my feelings toward Yosemite very similar to John Muir's.

This is in Haddington where the Local Pipe band returned after having a cuppa and asked this busker if they could have their spot back. I was more than pleased to be asked and obliged willingly.
Kilmarnock, my home town, were playing Dundee United at Rugby Park, which is a home game so I decided to visit and take a trip down memory lane. As a boy I was an ardent Killie supporter and here I was back cheering them on after 45+years. In my day there was only one main grandstand, the rest was terracing. Nowadays it has a stadium all around the pitch. I did partake in a Bovril, which hadn't changed one bit.
This was the ball juggler taking the team mascot off the pitch to start the game. Killie lost 2-1.
This is Shortlees, the suburb I lived in. Kilmarnock has felt the economic downturn with many factories closed and lots of unemployment. On a grey late Autumn day, things did look rather glum. I was struck by the lack of gardens around the houses. The local shops used to be quite busy, now most are boarded up and it was as bleak as it looked.
The bottoms of the houses had been cut into, checking the structure. Some people had left it open and others had covered the holes with cardboard. Behind this house is where we used to play as kids in the field. Gee I'm super glad we emigrated to New Zealand.

Kilmarnock is not all doom and gloom though. I went to Dean Castle (up the other end of the town, the posh end) and was very impressed by the Castle and its amazing collection of very old musical instruments.
Dean Park, which is beside the castle also has this beautiful burn (stream) running alongside, a great place for a walk on a Sunday afternoon. I did get a huge carton of Verani Icecream and took it back to East Linton to treat the Woofers, though one English lad, who shall remain nameless (Sam) mixed some peanut butter in with his - heathen!

The rest of the time working at Phantassie was weeding and planting, and we also went around various local orchards to pick apples for juicing. The weather in Scotland was getting colder with grey days for several days, not seeing the sun. We got into frost preparations, covering crops in the field with straw.

Ralph, one of the owners had scored a unicycle at the local weekly (huge) car boot sale, and it needed an extension to the seat post so I could ride it. After doing that I started practising to ride it down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I got the idea to do this the previous week while busking, after I had survived being jumped on by a drunk Scottish woman who was trying to play my saxophone. I said to another busker, one day I'm going to return here and ride a unicycle down the Royal Mile and this was how the seed for that crazy idea occurred.

I informed some Scottish friends who met me and wished me luck. Below is the result, the weather was wet and cold.
I came off 100 yards short of the end. I lost a pedal and it's impossible to ride with only one! Luckily neither the sax or my body came to grief. After some beers we headed for a meal and of course I just had to have the Haggis Pizza.
So next blog will be the lucky last and plenty happened in my last week in UK. This will be the trip review, which will be something for me to think about.

Till then stay safe and  live the good life, whatever that means.

Cheers and Ciao