Tag Archives: explore

“there’s yoghurt on the sleeping bag…”

“What am I doing here? Am I insane? Is this insane? We should go home, this is really not a good idea.”

These are some of the things that have gone through my head in the last twelve hours or so. I’m currently in a double sleeping bag, Em asleep beside me and Hannah curled up in front of her after a tumultuous night.

Meanwhile Rosie spent the night in her new little sleeping bag, looking the definition of cute at the bottom of the tent. She slept fine on all accounts. The same cannot be said for the rest of us.

Part of that was certainly the cold. Apparently the temperature hit 0C last night and it didn’t take long for the warm air created by our fan heater to find a new home. Rosie didn’t seem to mind but Hannah was restless (for whatever reason) and I was chilly – incredibly rare for me.

As much as I maintain my opinion that children shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you love – especially something inclusive like travelling and camping – I can’t help but lie here, very still for fear of touching a cold bit of the sleeping bag, and think this an error.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is perfectly safe, no one is in any danger of freezing or starving or any other ing. Nevertheless, there’s a line between enjoyable and idiotic and as the rain falls steadily on the roof of our tent, Tess continues to be restless in the porch and Rosie repeats the word hungry, all while Em continues her morning slumber, I can’t help feel we’re teetering along it.

So what to do? The girls don’t seem to mind, Rosie bouncing around and Hannah in happy mode and smiling proudly. Tess meanwhile is an old hand at this and as I said before, there’s no concern for anyone’s welfare.

Plus the fact if we did falter at the first hurdle, I doubt we’d actually be able to pack up that quickly, certainly not in the rain. Chances are we’re here for at least another night but maybe that’s a good thing; forcing us to persevere when the obvious thing to do is run home quickly.

Chances are we’ll stay the distance, especially if we can iron out some of the problems – like a pillow that doesn’t hurt and a tent that isn’t in the extreme levels of chaos. Breakfast and, crucially, a first cup of tea since we left the house will improve the mood.

One hour later…

A run to the loo showed we were right to be cold: our tent sits just below the snow line that has engulfed the hills around here. I stared blankly at them for a second, wondering two things: why it couldn’t come just that little bit lower and insulate our tent and why this keeps happening to us whenever we go away at Easter?! After all it was this time last year that I saw, for the very first time, snow in fontainebleau on our family spring trip. There’s no way we could’ve seen this coming when we booked the time off, I think it’s Rosie. Next year I think I’ll take her to the Sudan and make a fortune selling the story to the papers…

Things are looking up, but despite there being yogurt on the sleeping bag and both children complaining of hunger (they’re not actually hungry, they’ve already eaten lots but for big one, it doesn’t include “biscuit” or “chocolate” which is what Rosie really wants. It’s almost like she’ll eat all of other food until the only things left are the ones she actually wants, giving us no choice).

Em has just come back into the tent from outside, exclaiming it’s like a sauna in here, fan heater having been on for a while now. Even Hannah has calmed down, sat on my lap. It seems that all the things that initially got to us first thing are slowly drifting away.

It just goes to show the importance of patience when doing, quite frankly, anything with children. Knee jerk reactions are rarely right and these experiences never come easy; or shouldn’t at least. We’re improving every minute, even if there is still yoghurt on the sleeping bag.

Southbound

We said our goodbyes to our good friends on the Saturday morning, having packed the car, checked the map and concluded on a plan. It was going to be a long day – coast to coast of Sweden to Fredrik’s former home of Goteborg. Something in the region of eight hours.

It had been a fantastic week spent with one of my greatest friends and had thrilled me to introduce him and Karin to Emily. As much as we could’ve easily stayed much longer, it was time to move on. After we climbed into the car, i leaned across and softly said, “Let’s go home”

Of course it wasn’t quite as simple as that; apart from anything else, it’s a bloody long way! The plan was to spend a week getting back, stopping at some highlighted spots on the way; and it’s exactly this that i’ll rattle through in this post.

Forgive the fact that i’m going to blast through this portion of the trip. So much happened on the way back, i could easily write an entire post on each individual day. Sadly, that would be far too difficult and time consuming. Throw in the fact that they really weren’t climbing orientated days – and this is predominantly a climbing blog after all – and i’ll gloss over a lot of stuff.

I say non-climbing days but actually, the reason for choosing Goteborg was actually almost entirely climbing. As mentioned, Fredrik used to live there and it’s actually the venue for where we met back in 2011. As it was on the way, i was keen to head back for another night or two to have another blast at some old projects and show Em the island of Hono.

Sadly, after eventually finding a campsite, she was dogged by some ill health on the first morning. Thankfully, the weather was crap anyway and so, she slept it off a bit and i walked the dog and finished my book about Denmark before we found ourselves there.

Nevertheless, during the evening, the sun came to rise at around the same time as Em and we were able to head out to the island of Hono to experience this wonderful place and tick off a problem or two. I’d written in a blog post that it’s “the best place you’ve never heard of” and judging from her reaction, i think Emily would probably agree. Once there, i certainly realised what i meant!

That was Saturday and Sunday nights and Monday, we made the beautiful drive across the spectacular Oresund Bridge and, for the first time in over a week, out of Sweden. It had been a spectacular trip to a spectacular country but was now time to move on and first, to some of Em’s family.

They live just North of Kobenhavn and we were even lucky enough to stop in the great city on the way and check it out a little. It was only an hour but being as we had both been before, was enough to raise a large smile at times gone past and fond memories.

You could say it was a slightly mixed evening in one respect but in truth, even the lesser aspects of the night and subsequent morning were enjoyable. We were treated to some excellent food (pasta, sausages, burgers, what could be better?!) a heated political debate thanks to the Brexit, a phenomenal tour of the nearby Royal Palaces and an abject performance from the England football team that, for the second time in a week, had me heatedly shouting at a screen and apologising for my nation… Fantastic people whose generosity will always be remembered.

Tuesday was predominantly driving despite a slow start to walk the dog further and enjoy the view of the Storebaelt and Little Belt Bridges, with a couple of other breaks on the way. Eventually, we pulled up at a campsite mid-way between Kobenhavn and Amsterdam; tactically chosen thanks to the forgotten far North of Germany mentioned in a previous post. We sat by the sea, looking across at the next country, eating pasta and stuff on another exceptional Scandinavian campsite, and watched the sun slowly go down. It was another fantastic evening.

Wednesday yielded another driving-heavy day for nearly the entire day. The only stop we made in Germany was to use the facilities and it took an awfully long time to make it to Amsterdam. Thankfully, in Goteborg, i had met (thanks to Em’s keen eyes) fellow Land Rover owners. While they’re not necessarily the best vehicles to use for long overland trips, they do have the bonus of the camaraderie of other such enthusiasts… possibly from that feeling that they feel your pain. Normally in the backside.

Our other Landy owners were Dutch and pointed us in the direction of not only some useful places in the Netherlands and Belgium but also a campsite just outside Amsterdam. It’s somewhere we’d mentioned going previously so why not?! They even pointed us to a campsite just outside the city centre, close to a metro station at the end of the line: Gaasper camping.

We pretty much pitched up, pitched camp and sodded off into town… taking the dog. Admittedly, the poor girl had been in the car for more than a little while at this point but looking back, the sensory overload of Amsterdam in the evening (with her maiden trip on a train (hillarious) and her first and last effort on an escalator (even more so)) might have made up for more than a little of the travel.

Amsterdam was excellent but we were there for nowhere near enough time. That said, we were never going to be and this was more a stop-off and scouting mission, to see if we liked it enough to come back. We both agreed we did.

The main focus of the “Low Countries” was Brugge. I’ve never hidden my somewhat-comic dislike of Belgium – normally summed up with the simple phrase “Fucking Belgium” – and i think this may have been what spurred Em on to finding something in this little country to take me to. Her destination was too convenient to ignore, looked like a very interesting place to go and probably inspired by the film In Bruges – which can be summed up with the simple phrase “Fucking Bruges”.

It was stunning too. A quick google search found us a convenient campsite and made me realise quite how easy travellers have life these days compared to when i started foreign ventures all those years ago. Learning from our Amsterdam adventure, we drove into town and eventually parked before wandering the city centre with Tess leading the way at the end of a taught lead.

After a while, being hindered with the hound took it’s toll on me but no matter, we’d planned for this and took her back to the car before heading out again to actually go into places and get a fantastic dinner in the square or local Flemish stew, chicken stew and the most awesome beer. All told, Belgium did very well. For once.

Finally, Friday morning arrived, we packed for the final time, throwing stuff loosely in the Landy, and waved goodbye to Europe proper before heading to Calais. Part of the appeal of Brugge (for me at least) was the proximity to the port and in a meagre three hours, following a brief, unplanned detour to the port of Dunkerque, we rocked up to head home.

It’s always tempting to recap on your trip at a time like this, looking back at the good and the bad but this is a dangerous time to do that. Until you’re at least across the channel, a lot can still happen. And as it turned out, we weren’t quite done yet….