At least our first day was sunny ,as we wobbled off on our heavily laden bikes with waves from Andi and Mark. Cat and Graham accompanied us as an honour guard to Richmond Park with Graham acting as our own personal paparazzi. From Richmond we detoured to Bushy Park for tea and biscuits with Julie and Will. Then with the sun still shining and our heads filled with farewells we cycled towards Liphook our rough half way point between London and Southampton.
Somewhere along the way our route took us a bit further East than we had planned and we realised our original plan was a bit ambitious. As we cycled through Hurt Wood in the late afternoon, we spotted a likely looking forest path and hopped off bikes to investigate. After walking for a few minutes down it we bravely decided to free camp for the first time ever. Queue our first ever camping risotto (why haven’t we made it before) followed by a night of broken sleep where every tree rustle, falling pine cone and passing deer was going to be either a forest ranger, the police or a badger driven wild by our empty tin of salmon.
The next morning It was dead quiet and misty and we were up early and out of the woods before 8am without seeing a soul. As we approached Cranleigh for breakfast rolls the sun continued to shine but it wasn’t to last. Just after lunch it began to lightly rain as we cycled South from Alton and continued to get heavier all afternoon. We consoled ourselves with thoughts of our warm showers hosts in Southampton and by singing choruses of various rain related songs (we know very few full song lyrics).
Reaching the welcoming home of Oanh and Nick the rain soaked afternoon quickly faded as we drank tea and enjoyed lovely fish tacos. We talked late and slept soundly in the warm dry beds after checking the cycle computer to discover we had racked up a huge day of cycling fully loaded at 112.3 km.
Day 3 began with a light drizzle but our spirits were high as we followed Nick through Southampton on our way to cycle along the coast towards Gosport. Our plan was to break the journey into two days camping between Hamble Le Rice and Gosport on Tuesday night before the ferry to Santander on Wednesday. Nick had said pubs in Hamble were good so with the rain still drizzling away we settled by the fire in the King and Queen for a final pub lunch and some quick emails.
From Warsash the route we followed was an un-driveable, muddy, pot hole cratered track so we ended up pushing our bikes along for about 30 minutes. After searching for a free camp spot and only finding flooded tracks or fields we decided to aim for a marked camp site at Gosport. Emma discovered a slow leak on a busy main road which slowed us down although Justin felt like a member of a formula one pit crew as he quickly swapped the tube allowing us to continue in the fading light. Spotting an access road into a park on the edge of Lee-On-The-Solent we decided to make camp: very wet, very cold and very tired. Our tent was only partially hidden, and we listened to fog horns and our rustling bike cover throughout the night hoping no-one would be mean enough to move us on.
We were up early awakened by the sounds of dog walkers and cycled on towards the ferry stopping for a brief breakfast of chilli cooked by the ferry terminal in Gosport (go the Primus Omni Fuel). Justin got his first puncture on the way through Portsmouth but this only caused a minor delay before we sped quickly through the boarding gates and into our warm, dry cabin headed for Santander. Our cabin is now bedecked in drying tent and clothing from every available surface should all be dry by the time we dock tomorrow morning in Spain!!