(Written by Dave)
We’ve made it to jolly old England – or rather, the UK – our 23rd country. We will ride our bike here more than the last few countries! Nancy (and I) both survived the ferry. It was a little bumpy but with all her ferry tricks, Nancy managed to sleep for 12 hours. I slept well also. This may have been general fatigue but either way, we were both very happy with the result. That’s not to say we were unhappy to disembark – we were both pretty tired of the bouncing. They said that our crossing was “calm” and that tonight a big storm is going to make today’s crossing a ripper. Glad we missed that.
We were stamped into the UK with nice shiny 90 day visas. All of our worry over getting out of the Schengen area was a waste of energy as they didn’t even look at our passports. So, even though we are in the UK, we do not have evidence that we have formally left the Schengen region. Not sure how this will play out later in the trip but we’ll see…
As noted yesterday we are planning on riding the length of the UK. This will put us in Scotland, Wales and England. We are planning on counting these as one country. These countries are recognized by the UN as the UK (along with Northern Ireland) and they competed as Team GB in the Olympics. Never mind that they all play in the rugby world cup as independent countries. If this all sounds confusing, we’ll try to learn the details and post them at some point in the future.
Getting off the ferry was pretty easy. There were a number of other cyclists there and our bikes made it safely. Once we got into town we tried (and failed) getting a UK SIM for our phone. We need a bigger town for that. We managed to get some money (pounds) without issue. There turned out to be a surprising shortage of places to stay in Harwich. The folks at information were fantastic, calling everyone in town but we had no luck. We eventually settled on a pub with camping in a town some 12 miles down the road (yes, they use miles here still).
The campsite is about average. Nice grass, shower, toilet but no cooking facilities. We didn’t want to cook anyway so that was not an issue. We discovered that they serve steak and kidney pies, Indian curry and bangers and mash – why would anyone want to cook? We both had a curry for dinner and it was pretty good. Ah, to be back in the lands of a good curry!
Riding was harder than we thought it would be. Mostly, the left-hand side and lots of roundabouts has us thinking and re-thinking. We’ve been on the right of the road side since France so we had to really concentrate. It could have been the ferry grogginess as well. While we didn’t have far to ride, we were not planning on riding so we may had not been fully “on” mentally. At any rate, we made it safely.
I mentioned yesterday how strange it is to be able to eavesdrop on conversations. Today this weird and wonderful phenomenon of “English speaking” continued. Four people at information were helping us at one point, all of them talking to us, all in words we could understand. It was loud. We had the same thing in the pub, several folks helping and lots of background conversations that we could understand. We are so used to tuning out what we can’t understand that we don’t even hear it. Now, we hear everything and it is quite noisy. It is a very strange feeling. I’m sure that this will pass over time but it wasn’t something we expected.
We are now working out how to get into London. We should arrive there on Friday night. There are a number of routes, but none look perfect – it is a big city. We’ve found a town 12 miles away that has all the major brand phone shops so we’ll stop there first. After that, we’ll see… We are aiming for somewhere around Chelmsford tomorrow night.