Camping in Devon
On the 17th June 2015 I bought myself a nice and shiny, 2005 Honda CB1300s in the best colours. It’s a lovely bike and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I starting planning one of my special little trips.After some serious deliberating I narrowed it down to either Wales or Devon. Here’s my story.
I was rudely woken from my slumber at three in the morning by my alarm. In an attempt to rid myself of the offending racket I jumped out of bed, landed awkwardly on my laptop charger and fell onto my sewing machine. The alarm continued contently as if nothing had happened. I sat back down on the bed and waited for my brain to slowly come to life. Oh yes, my name is Richard Georgiou and I’m going on a motorbike trip.
Before leaving I made two mistakes, the first was believing that, as it was August, it was impossible for me to get cold. The second was swapping my thermos flask filled with the wonder of coffee for my camera. I mean, how stupid can one be?
I left at 3:30 in the morning and the darkness was complete. I thought the headlight on my CB1300 would be a pointless addition but it was actually super bright which meant I could clearly see the road ahead as I shivered my way through the smaller roads towards the M23. In my infinite wisdom I’d decided to wear my ultra-cool (I think it’s actually called ‘sic’ these days) Belstaff leather touring jacket instead of my modern one. This resulted in me being so cold that I actually questioned my choice of transport favouring a people carrier. I remember thinking “I’d rather be in a fucking people carrier, even one made by Renault!” That’s how cold I was.
By the time I’d reached the M25 my grasp of Anglo Saxon was complete and my nipples were rock solid. According to my rantings I had achieved the number one spot for “complete fucking idiot of the year” award and was planning on selling both bikes and spending all the money on fluffy jumpers and thermal underwear.
The M25 came and went and soon enough I was experiencing the delights of the M4 which was just as cold but thankfully reasonable empty. Then, coincidentally just as the feeling was disappearing from my hands and feet I hit the traffic. It filled all three lanes and moved at around 2 mph. I used the benefit of only having two wheels to carefully filter through the traffic. Cars dived aside as they saw me appearing in their mirrors and before long I was through it and back up to speed. The sun had caused the temperature to increase nicely and my trendy (sic) Belstaff was feeling very comfortable indeed. Perhaps bikes aren’t such a bad means of transport after all.
When I reached junction 20 I had a decision to make; was I going to go over the Severn bridge and into Wales or turn off and go to Devon? Well, I looked in the direction of Wales and it was cloudy, then I looked in the direction of Devon and it was sunny. I turned off and headed for Devon.
This was a turning point both literally and psychosomethingly as the journey turned from what felt like a miserable exercise in stamina to something that resembled enjoyment. I left the M4, did a small stint on the M5 then at Bridgwater turned off the motorway onto the beautiful and motorbike friendly A39.
I’m not one for racing around so just bumbled along overtaking the odd caravan every once in a while. The next time I checked I’d somehow stumbled onto the A399 which was fantastic. The hills were so incredibly steep and twisty that the whole place smelt of burnt out clutches. I passed 3 broken down caravans and 2 broken down cars. Obviously the bike just zipped along perfectly without missing a beat though I did have to resort to 1st gear when navigating some of the very steep hairpins.
Travelling by motorcycle redeemed itself completely over the following three of four hours. I simply meandered around taking little side turnings and seeing where they went. I even did a bit of semi off-roading which I have to admit was a bit of a heart stopper on a bike that weighs in at around 260 kgs and has far more grunt than I have brains or self-restraint.
When I was ready to stop I pulled over in a layby, got my phone out and loaded up the GPS program. After 15 minutes the bloody thing had still not locked onto any satellites so I decided to just ride around until I found a sign. As I was getting back onto my trusty fat steed I noticed that I was actually stopped in front of a sign that read
“Camping, sea views, quiet, open bar”
Feeling like the complete twat that I was, I rode up the lane and into the camp site. I booked a spot as far away from the white plastic caravans and motorhomes as possible and rode to my secluded(ish) spot. I could indeed see the sea, it was quiet and the ground was grassy and well-tended.
It took me all of two minutes to get my tent up, then another two minutes to set up my mattress, sleeping bag and fleece liner. Once done I lay on my bed and relaxed.
Just as sleep was encroaching on my conscious state I heard
“Terry!”, then “Terrrrrryyyyyy!”. I sat up and listened. This is when the screaming started. “TTTEEEEEEEERRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!”.
I jumped up from my comfortable slumber and ran towards the screaming to find a lady entangled in a camping chair. She was about as ‘unhappy bunny’ as ‘unhappy bunny’ gets. Approaching a wild animal from behind is never a wise move so I went round the front and approached in clear view.
I was presented with quite a sight. A middle aged lady trapped in a half erected camping chair. Short skirt, exposed. Et cetera.
As tempting as it was to just chuckle and walk away I wasn’t sure that I could cope with any more screaming. As such I helped her out of her predicament and listened patiently as she explained ..
“I bought the chair in good faith at our local store, it looked like a nice chair, sturdy and I liked the colour. Not that I need a study chair. But I liked the colour.”
On and on she went. “So, where’s Terry when you need him eh?” I said. Luckily at this point Terry joined us. I explained that his wife had become entangled in her fabulous new camping chair (and by the way I just love the colour). Terry took over and manhandled his wife into their caravan being careful not to thank me or show any signs of appreciation whatsoever. I ignored this and put it down to him being of the northern variety. Being a hero is a thankless existence. I returned to my tent, grabbed my wallet and headed for the bar.
The walk down to the bar took me passed caravan after caravan after caravan. Each and every one full of noisy children and unhappy couples experiencing the many delights of a family camping trip.
The bar was empty but for the exception of a middle aged barman with a strong Cornish accent. Getting drunk so early in the day didn’t seem right so I ordered a nice, cold bitter shandy and made my way over to a table in the corner of the beer terrace.
Being a family oriented place meant that everything was covered in a type of dirt and vomit proof plastic. Not the classiest of establishments but functional nonetheless.
I picked up the menu; today kids we have egg and chips, ham, egg and chips, ham, egg, chips and beans, pizza or chicken tikka masala. I have to admit to being a little surprised by the latter so placed my order and, throwing caution to the wind, decided it should be joined by a nice quad Bells whiskey for good measure. I asked if I could have my chicken tikka masala done Madras hot but the blank look told me all I needed to know.
After a few minutes and a ding from the microwave my feast was ready. I downed my whiskey and took the plastic containers up to my tent. As I carefully made my way through the maze of caravans and mobile homes I heard a number of conversations, one of which stood out. It went something like this:
“You’re not having your fuckin’ tongue pierced.”
“I fuckin’ am, and I’m having a tattoo.” This was promptly followed by <slap>, then <tears> then <slammed door>.
“I hate you!”
My pace quickened and soon enough I’d reached the safety of my tent. It was time for my dinner. I set the three plastic containers out in front of me and opened them one by one. First was the chicken, it had a weird stew smell about it, was dark brown and looked like no chicken tikka masala I’d ever seen. Next up was the waterlogged giant grain rice. Then, in the third container I found a thing that was probably a naan, sat on top of the thing that was probably a naan was a thing that was probably an onion bhaji, though strangely it smelt like a fishcake. (see photograph)
There I was, eating my dinner (trying to conjure up images of a real chicken tikka masala with its bright orange sauce, succulent and tender pieces of chicken and fragrant aromas) when I heard
“God help you if you show me up girl!”
I looked down at the tent of happiness and saw the family of four walking up the hill in my direction. It looked like they had a kite with them <oh what fun!>. I looked on and watched with interest. The mother was in her mid-forties; she didn’t look overly happy and had a bit of a face on her. The father was walking ahead trying to gain some distance between him and the rest of them. Straggling along behind was the son, I’m guessing he was around 16 and chuffed to high heaven that he was on holiday with his parents in a camp site somewhere in the West Country. Then there was the daughter. She looked about fourteen and was covered in makeup, super large hula-hoop earrings hung from her ears, above that was a perm Kevin Keegan himself would have been proud of.
They walked up the hill getting closer and closer. No one said anything. The tension in the air was electric. To get to the field where they could have fun and frolics with their kite they had to walk right past the front of my tent. The father eyed up my bike then nodded at me. The mother looked at my bike, then at me, then grabbed her daughters arm and pulled her close. The daughter pulled away, looked over at me and smiled. At this point I became very interested in the thing that was probably an onion bhaji (that smelt of fishcakes) that was sitting on top of the thing that was probably a naan. When I thought they’d gone I looked up and saw the son walking passed, he looked at me, held out his hands and shrugged. Poor boy.
As I continued eating my dinner a tiny red car drove past the front of my tent and parked in the bay next door. The doors opened and two German ladies stepped out. We said our hellos and did smiling et cetera. They then got on with the task in hand, setting up their home for the night. They had one small two man tent between them which must have been most cosy.
I finished the edible parts of my dinner and was sitting there thinking about how I could do with a nice glass of red (to get rid of the weird fishy taste of my onion bhaji) when a friendly German face popped into sight, next to it was a bottle of Merlot!
“Do you like wine?” she said with a smile.
It’s always good to come back with a witty opening but the only thing that entered my head was
“Even a glass of drunk man’s piss would be welcome after my fishy onion bhajis”.
Luckily I managed to keep that one to myself, instead I said
“Wow, that would be lovely. Thank you” with a smile. She asked if I had a glass. Rather embarrassingly I didn’t, I handed her my empty water bottle which she pretty much filled.
The combination of a bitter shandy, a quad whiskey and half a bottle of Merlot made the world a better place. I tinkered around with my bike, wrote the first bit of this text and before long the sun had reached the horizon. Over a sea of plastic mobile homes and caravans, spells of tranquillity emerged separated only by moments of laughter and the odd argument thrown in for good measure.
At this point the family who had been having fun with their kite walked passed. This time though they were together in a group and looked far happier. It’s amazing what a good kite can do. They all said hello, I smiled and returned the gesture.
Within ten minutes of the sun disappearing the temperature had dropped considerably. It was time to climb into my sleeping bag and to bid the world farewell for another day.
My sleeping set up is okay but to be frank, it’s a right pain in the backside to get in to. After ten minutes of wriggling and huffing and puffing I was in. Unfortunately I’d left my socks and boots right next to my pillow (my Belstaff jacket) but moving them involved getting my arms out of the sleeping bag so I just smelt the wonders of motorcycle travel all night. Aaaaaah, Bisto!
It was a few hours later when I was rudely awoken by, what can only be described as, a seriously impressive piece of flatulence from the tent next door. This was followed by giggling. After sniggering for some time it hit home that every little noise my body made could be heard by my neighbours. The rest of the night was spent trying to expel various gasses (_!_) as quietly as possible.
By the time morning arrived I was so full of gas that quietly was just not going to be an option. I carefully exited my tent and made my way down to the toilet block next to the bar. About half way there I couldn’t hold it in any longer and each step produced a little “pop”. I shall refrain from going into any detail but suffice to say that I left the toilet block with a smile from ear to ear and a feeling that only a mother can feel after giving birth. Oh the joys of simply being alive!
I returned to my tent and started packing everything up and loading it all onto my bike. My flatulent neighbours were also packing up so I thanked them for the wine and bid them farewell. I noticed that their faces were bright red and they avoided eye contact when they spoke. More sniggering.
After all the grief of packing up, loading up and getting dressed up, finally getting on the bike and riding off was a real pleasure. The bike may weigh a lot but zipping around those winding bends on a sunny Sunday morning you’d never know. I decided not to use the motorways on the way home and instead I stuck to the south. For the first few hours the roads were beautiful and clear but then it all stopped. I used the motorbike magic to filter through the traffic and before long was back up to speed and heading home.
At one point I was sitting behind a lovely looking Aston Martin DBS stopped at some traffic lights. He revved his engine which sounded beautiful. The moment the lights changed he was off. I twisted my throttle and a couple of seconds later I’d flown past him. I suppose when you’re in something like a nice Aston you’re used to being faster than everything else on the road but picking a big muscle bike to play with was a bad choice! Fun though.
The rest of the journey home was as expected with the normal traffic queues around Worthing, then opening up nicely on the A27 past Brighton, Lewes, Ringmer and home.
When I reached home it was all a bit of an anti-climax. I’d forgotten that my wife, son and dog were not going to be there so celebrated the completion of my 540 mile journey with a lonely mug of coffee and a slice of Victoria sponge that I found in the fridge.
So, all that is left now is the question “Where next?”