(written by Nancy)
Boy was it cold, cold, cold last night. We had clear skies (I could see many stars when I got up about 2 am), which meant that the temperature really dropped. That made it very hard to get out of the sleeping bags this morning, and coupled with all of the dew on the tent meant that despite all of our best intentions to get an early start on the day we were pretty late leaving camp. It was a nice little campground though – quiet at this time of year. Fair warning though, you have to ignore the smell of the chickens nearby, which was bit overpowering this morning while we were eating our oatmeal. (junior editor’s note: they forget to mention these parts in the adventure travel brochures). By the time we finally got the tarps and the tent relatively dry in the sun and warmed ourselves up it was 9:40 before we hit the road.
Today was the first day in quite a few days that we didn’t have to stop multiple times to check the map and the directions. That was a welcome change – makes a big difference in feeling like you are making progress when you are not stopping to constantly check if you are on the right track. Traffic wasn’t bad and it seemed like in no time we were in Exeter. Of course, by that time it was necessary to stop for morning tea/early lunch, and we found a little cafe on the way through town where we had egg and bacon rolls – well, egg and bacon baps, as they called them.
From Exeter it was only 12 miles or so to our intended destination of Moretonhampstead but we knew we had a couple of climbs to get over. There are hills every which way you look, but actually none of them turned out to be too bad. We did have a 16% grade that went on for a bit but that was the worst of it. I actually expected it to be worse, as even my map had a few of those arrows they put on where there is a steep gradient but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too bad. Either that or we are getting use to the hills. Dave even commented at one point how nice a 7% grade felt, and I agreed!
At the small village of Dunsford (in a valley between two of the hills) we entered the Dartmoor National Park. It is quite a scenic area – we rode up through the shadows of the trees that covered the road and then popped out at the top where you could see more hills covered with grass and green hedges. It is hard to stop and take pictures as the roads are so narrow and there are not many pullouts but Dave tries his best. The hedges are often so high it is hard to see over them – it’s like riding between two large walls sometimes.
We have started to see many more houses with thatched roofs and today we even saw a bus stop with a thatched roof! It looked a little bit like a big mushroom I thought. The houses all look quite quaint with the thatched roofs – Dave thought we might see Bilbo Baggins wandering about but I thought perhaps we might have better luck seeing Robin Hood somewhere.
We rode into Moretonhampstead and stopped at a little town square area where we met David Jones, an Irishman out on a short tour of the south of England. We sat and talked bikes, cycle touring and the value of taking sabbaticals for a bit (he is on one as well) while the sun came and went and came back again. It’s lovely sitting in the sun but when the clouds roll in it gets downright cold. We finally said goodbye to David and made our way to the Sparrowhawk Backpackers, where we have the one double room, which is basically the guest room in the owner’s house. Not luxury but at least we will not have to worry about drying the tent in the morning.
Tomorrow we continue through the Dartmoor Forest and then make our down to the southwest coast, where perhaps we can find a good fish and chips shop to celebrate reaching the English Channel.