Thursday, March 31, 2011

VoM2: Yikes!

£78.01 = $125.02 ...
55.76 litres = 14.73 gallons ...
That’s $8.49 per gallon ...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

VoM2: Lundy Island

Lucky for us, Betty and I just happened to catch the first sailing of the season from Ilfracombe to a little island called Lundy, about 24 miles out into the Celtic Sea. After a pleasant two hour ride, an amazing piece of rock with a bit of turf on it comes into view, home to only about 25 full-time residents.

It’s a healthy walk up to the plateau where a dozen or so buildings are all that occupy the island. Most are small accommodation buildings, each one cottage-like with its own unique style. There’s an inn of sorts where you can have coffee and get basic meals.

After that, it’s 3 miles to the other end of this half-mile wide island, covered in moors and marsh with the occasional stone wall and small groups of livestock. There are walking paths everywhere, around both the island’s plateau rim and it’s rugged shore.

There is no noise, and on a misty day like we had it is simply beautiful. In the sunlight, I bet it would be magnificent. If you like rugged little islands as much as I do, this is a true gem!

VoM2: "Minimalist" Toll Booth

Another charming — though also slightly annoying — toll “booth” in the middle of nowhere in Exmoor, Devon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

VoM2: Toll Booth

I finished my tour of Cornwall this morning by driving around to Lynton on the north coast of Devon, where my friend Betty had driven up to from her home in Dawlish on the south coast. We’ve joined forces for a few more days of hilarity together before I push on north to Wales.

Our afternoon exploration took all around Exmoor, on narrow, twisty little lanes over hills, through forests and across streams. At one point on a road called the Worthy Toll Road — through a private estate — we actually came across an ancient toll house with a gate blocking the road.

I thought you might find the setting and the tollbooth amusing, especially the instructions and coin receptacle!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

VoM2: Route Planning

Most of the time, traveling only on the surface of the earth is wonderfully rewarding. It gives me a fantastic sense of how every place, person and thing is connected to every other. It also allows me to travel at a more authentic “nomadic” pace, to experience subtle shifts in culture, climate, geography, economics, politics, etc. If you ever take a long voyage of your own, I strongly recommend sticking to the surface of the earth.

Surface travel is more complicated than flying point to point, however, and since it generally involves many more transport connections, it requires some concentrated time and effort to sort out along the way. Fortunately, the occasional “planning day” is available on long voyages like this.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, surface travel planning can be pretty challenging. Once in a while it can even make me question my commitment to it. Then, just when I’ve all but thrown up my hands and said “I can’t get there from here!” something clicks into place and all is well again on the Voyage of Macgellan: A route is charted which — despite being complicated, indirect and lengthy — has a certain elegance of its own.

Today has been such a day of planning, and I offer you this updated map segment to illustrate.

Boiled down to its core challenge, there is no surface travel option available from Ireland — or anywhere in the UK — to the Faroe Islands. There have been ferries from Scotland and the Shetlands in the past, but all those routes have been abandoned in recent years. In fact, the only way I can find to sail to the Faroes — and on to Iceland — is from Hirtshals, Denmark, out at the very tip of the peninsula. It’s a once-a-week ferry that runs overnight to the Faroes, then overnight again to Iceland, and a two-night return along the same route.

So, to get to the Faroe Islands from Ireland I will travel as follows:

1) Return ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales.
2) All-day trains from Holyhead to Harwich on the SE coast of England.
3) Overnight ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg, Denmark.
4) All-day train from Esbjerg to Hirtshals, Denmark.
5) Overnight ferry from Hirtshals to Torshavn, Faroe.

The train and ferry schedules don’t sync-up particularly well, of course, so there will be a few “waiting” days at points along the way. Bottom line: I’ll leave Dublin on April 28 and arrive in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, on May 9, a total of 11 days later!

After exploring the Faroe Islands for the remainder of May, I will continue the ferry run out to Iceland for the month of June. Early in July, I will take the return ferry run back to Hirtshals, Denmark, and continue on to Poland and out through the Baltic States before entering Russia mid-August for the Trans-Siberian journey. How I will arrange all those logistics I have no idea. Raise your hand if you see another “planning day” in my future!

The truth is, despite moments of semi-exasperation and the necessity of some long indirect slogs between points, I really enjoy all this logistical planning and execution. First, I’ve always enjoyed a good puzzle, and figuring out how to get around on the surface of the earth is one of the biggest, most interesting puzzles I’ve found.

Second, though it’s hard to put into words, there is truth to the notion that it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts. When the world-at-large weighs in and superimposes its variables and constraints on my journey, it’s a surprisingly profound experience: Something in the neighborhood of “it is what it is”, “go with the flow”, “let it be” and “you’re not in control.” Put a gun to my head and I couldn’t give you a better reason for doing what I do than to be reminded of these truths.

Finally, I’ve found that the character of the route significantly affects the character of the journey. Traveling to and through unintended places gives the voyage even stronger dimensions of spontaneity, adventure and exploration. Color me happy… Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

VoM2: Tintagel, Cornwall

A perfect day walking the northwest Cornish Coast near Tintagel, legendary home of King Arthur!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

VoM2: Sunset At Land's End

Once upon a time… You find yourself in the right place at the right time, with good enough gear and a good enough skill set.

VoM2: Land's End, Cornwall

All week, people have been telling me that I won’t like Land’s End, the furthest southwest tip of Cornwall (and of Great Britain for that matter). They’ve been saying it’s a “rubbish place” with an obnoxious theme park and horrible crowds, etc.

Well, I drove out here yesterday across fogbound moors and found it is exactly my kind of rugged coastal place!

It’s also practically deserted — being well before “the season” — so I’ve had the little hotel here practically all to myself. The dreaded theme park is like a ghost town, but I just had to check it out and was rewarded with my own private viewings of the three main attractions. I was the only person in two “rides” and in one theater… My own private theme park!

The weather was excellent again today so I took to the coastal path and cruised several miles in both directions to nearby coves. Beautiful scenery, brisk sea breezes and hardly another soul in sight… Perfect!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

VoM2: "Most Southerly"

In my previous post, I casually mentioned that Lizard is “the most southerly” point. As you can see, that feature is a pretty big deal for the local businesses and attractions… and even for one homeowner with a good sense of humor!

VoM2: Lizard, Cornwall

Lizard is the southerly most point on mainland Great Britain. It is home to a small, friendly village and I have had a wonderful day here. The weather was perfect and I took a fantastic walk — about 8 miles total — along the coastal path around the headland… I even made a new friend!

Friday, March 18, 2011

VoM2: Fowey, Cornwall

The coastal villages of Fowey and Polruan lay on opposite sides of an excellent little harbor. Their history goes back hundreds of years and includes great tales of seafaring, smuggling and all manner of other lore. It’s a beautiful setting and I’ve enjoyed a very good day here, highlighted by a really nice long walk in the hills and along the coast.

Along the way, I took little passenger ferries — sort of like little water taxis — back and forth between the villages, and I was intrigued by the variety of small watercraft that the local residents use to transit the harbor themselves. It didn’t occur to me until I saw it, but of course the kids from Polruan have to take a “water-bus” to attend their school which is on the Fowey side!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

VoM2: Little Ferries

Besides being delightfully charming, the little ferries like this one from Bodinnick to Fowey are priceless assets to the local communities and to travelers like me. Without them, I’d have to repeatedly abandon the coast road and drive many miles up river to a bridge then back down to where I want to be. At a price of $2-3 per crossing and the price of gas about $8 a gallon… Such a deal, too!

VoM2: War Memorial in Devon

Cruising down the coastal road in Devon (near Strete and Slapton) I saw this monument and pulled in to take a look.

Turns out it was presented by the US Army to the local people who evacuated their homes and lands to provide a “live fire” practice area for the D-Day invasion. The beach’s similarity to those in Normandy (especially Utah Beach) made it a perfect rehearsal location for 30,000 American troops and 16 million tons of equipment to be put ashore. The local residents were given 6 weeks to leave and were not allowed to return for almost 10 months.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

VoM2: Cornwall Road Trip Begins

After our ferry crossing of the English Channel from Guernsey, I spent a delightful long weekend with Betty at her home in Dawlish (Thanks, Betty!)

I’ve rented a car, and my “plan” is to drive around the Cornwall peninsula for a couple of weeks to see what it’s all about. I started out this morning, staying as close to the coast as possible on some very narrow, twisty little roads. After stopping here and there, I found myself taking this charming little ferry across the river Dart.

It took me into the lovely town of Dartmouth where I decided to stop for the night. It’s a tidy, pleasant little riverside/seaside town, one of many I expect to visit in the next fortnight!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

VoM2: Sark, Channel Islands

Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Guernsey is the small island of Sark, a simply fabulous place for anything from a day-trip to a lengthy getaway. There are only about 600 people on the island, and no cars! Bicycles are the primary means of transport, but there are a few horse drawn carriages for touring the island.
The unpaved roads which cross the length and width of the island lead to many coastal walks along high bluffs with stunning views. If you’re ever looking for a place to “get away from it all” to enjoy peace and quiet, long walks and delightful island life, Sark should be on your list!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

VoM2: Guernsey Boat Parking

A particularly fun moment on Guernsey was when we were walking through a remote coastal village and passed what can best be described as a parking lot for water craft. Just another little you don’t see every day!

VoM2: Guernsey, Channel Islands

I may have been ambivalent about Jersey, but I’m quite keen on Guernsey! A charming old town, a delightful countryside and simply stunning shorelines. A walker’s paradise! My good friend Betty took the ferry over from England to join me for a few days, and we had a blast riding efficient little buses all over the island to explore a lot of it in a little time.

Besides the lovely setting and scenery, there is quite a bit of ancient history — people have been living on the island for thousands of years — some very interesting WWII history — having been occupied by the German army — and a lot of local folklore. I recommend Guernsey as a worthy destination, and a definite side trip from either England or France!