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Tuesday, July 19

Today we set off to the starting location of our last driver on the back roads of Ireland and that was the drive around the Fermanagh Lakeslands was the starting point of Enniskillen. Is a pretty straightforward drive to Enniskillen with a motorway most of the way so we arrived in good time, drove around town a little and found a very large car park with a height restriction open so we feel we have done enough driving for the day and will settle here.

Wednesday, July 20

this morning we drove the 20 odd kilometres to Brookeborough to visit Anita her and her family from Christchurch and returned home to sort out her mother's estate, then we drove back to Enniskillen and it drives round the last of our Back Roads of Ireland Scenic Routes, This Time around the Lower Lough Erne, we visit the ruined castle that was surrounded by trees, drove over Boa Island and then on down to look at the Marble Arch Caves.

The car park was quite full but nevertheless we managed to get on to the next tour that was starting in five minutes, it was a walking tour as it had been raining and the river was running too high for the boat tour, but the walking tour was quite satisfactory and has allowed us to see what the caves were all about.

Then it was back to our parking spot for last night at Enniskillen.

Thursday, July 21

This morning we woke up with hot water and a signal that the gas had just run out heating hot water. This meant if we wanted the fridge to work order heat more hot water we had to either keep the motorhome motor running, checked into a campground, or fill up with gas. The latter was the obvious choice and as I was unaware of any refilling stations in Ireland (I later found possibly there were three at least) so we decided to head back to Scotland.

We had really finished our sightseeing, driving back to Larne, I programmed a route we have not been on before, that took as inland and we realised that we've seen the best of Ireland by driving around its edge and the scenery we saw around the edge was vastly superior to anything inland.

We arrived at Larne, went to the ticket office and found that the fast ferry was leaving in about 30 minutes so we paid the money and went on board. One hour later, more or less, we were in Stranraer and then set our GPS for the closest LPG refuelling station, it was then I found out that there were possibly three in Ireland, but the story is on but not backwards.

In all wandering round the edge of Ireland we did 3700+ kilometres and took lots and lots of photographs, met lots of lovely people, we had a wonderful time, and the weather wasn't bad either.

Back in Scotland we found the closest LPG refuelling station, to the north, which is the direction we wanted to go was at Kilmarnock so up to Kilmarnock we went, filled up both cylinders with LPG and the volume we put in indicated we were totally out.

That done we then looked for a caravan club site and found the closest one was at Ayr so 30 minutes later we were there, checked in and sitting on our allotted site.

Friday, July 22

We caught up with our washing, replenished our water etc, then headed off towards Culzean Castle that we missed on our 2007, with that finished we look to see where we had not been before and found that the road R713 took us through the centre of Galloway and it turned out to be the Galloway drive and the road to the Douglas Castle, we passed by Loch Doon and found a resting spot in the centre of a forest which will be our camping spot for the night.

Saturday, July 23

This morning we set off South to Wales passing through Dumfrees and close to Gretna Green, a bit further on near the town with the interesting name of Beeswing we stopped and looked at the 16th century Drumcoltran tower a large stone building, four stories high, with the animals in a barn outside. Looking at it is reasonably and would be quite easy to repel the casual vagabond.

A little bit later we stopped at an old stone church with interesting gravestones and a lot of the names appearing to be English around the 1700s.

We then got onto the M6 motorway which took us down towards Wales very fast and the GPS in its wisdom decided to take us through the city of Liverpool, fortunately wasn't the town centre, but was bad enough with the depressing narrow streets and old brick buildings and the stench of poverty, so we were glad to move on and finally set the GPS to a campground about 40 km away from Chester, and driving there we found a parking lot on a building site which hopefully will do us for the night, near the town village of Ruthin.

Sunday, July 24

A last visit to Wales was 2007, we struck quite wet weather and as it was a beautiful clear blue sky today we decided to redo part of the route we did five years ago. So we programmed the GPS to take us towards Mount Snowdon and we drove through Snowdonia National Park with all of its very old abandoned houses, it's incredible stone walls for the roadway and for the old Homestead plots, that now look ridiculously small, on incredibly bad land.

It was obviously also the scene of quite intensive mining and we saw an old copper mine, and of course they used to harvest slate, and I'm sure there are some tin and lead mines, but I might be mistaken. One of the mines had an incredible amount of tailings and not what one normally associates with tailings being very small stones these appeared to be at least the size of a cricket ball or perhaps even larger.

As we were driving through the National Park, every little parking area was chock-a-block with parked cars and I assume they'll all off walking, as there was certainly no other activity to be involved in, and when we got to the forest, again there was a mass of large car park courtesy of the forestry Department, again I assume all the people were all off walking, there was absolutely no space left for parking, it was a pay and display, so they will be getting a return on their investment!

The scenery was incredible with the rugged mountains and the beautiful lakes as hard to reconcile that a little over 100 years there were 17,000 men employed in the slate industry in this area.

We eventually got out to the sea, and instead of driving along the beach as I thought we would be we are up about 50 to 100 m driving along a cliff edge and eventually we found a little layby, I have a feeling it may be a little bit noisy, enough already heard the roosters next door so it looks like the alarm clock will be set rather early.

Monday, July 25

We carried on round the edge of Snowdonia National Park until we reached Machynlleth and then we tried to pick up the road for the Wild Wales Tour so we fed in the city of Aberystwyth which appeared on the edge of the map drive inland until we reached Pont-erwyd and then went across the Devil's Bridge and carried on the route, all the tour showed us was the hedgerows on each side of the road and of course the interesting little villages we passed through so we carried on until we reached Tregaron.

Then we programmed in the destination of Llanwrda and we thought surely we can't go wrong this time, and again we saw interesting hedgerows and when we got to the destination of Llanwrda we saw a sign for the Llyn Brianne Reservoir, which is what we had been trying to go past, it was 11 miles away so that road we went, when we reached the Reservoir found with never been here before and there was a beautiful parking place overlooking the whole dam so here we are for the night after no success whatsoever and following our 2007 tour.

Tuesday, July 26

Today turned out to be a bright sunny warm day with the temperature is going up to at least 25°C. The last time we travelled this road was cold and wet and miserable so this quite a difference in the scenery we are seeing.

We left the dam and moved onto a road that we travel on last time that the opposite way, which is the reason we missed seeing this particular dam, we drove on through to the village of Rhayader where we turned off towards the Elan Valley and the Caban Coch Reservoir the Penygarreg Reservoir and the Craig Goch Reservoir, with the three large dams and the beautiful stretch of water they are quite a tourist attraction, so consequently there were lots of cars going both ways.

This quite interesting coming to a road that went up a Hill to find that we were going up at 25° slope, and of course what goes up must come down so few kilometres on we had a 25° slope going down with some very tight corners which may very interesting driving.

Eventually we did a left-hand turn which is taking is now towards the Devil's Bridge, and we found the beautiful spot beside the River that we camped at last time in 2007, however a Welshman had our exact spot so we found a spot hundreds of yards away and here we are for the night.

About 7 PM we noticed a quad bike moving over the hilly ground round this area and eventually we saw about 500 sheep moving down the main road towards a new pasture and the farmers dogs kept them on the road and make sure they moved towards their proper destination. This was the first time Luda had seen the sheepdogs working, and it was a big surprise to her just how clever the dogs were doing all the work for the farmer.

Wednesday, July 27

We left our peaceful camp site beside the River and headed back towards civilisation, in the form of Cardiff, however we realised we had probably two days to spare which we could not do much with so we decided to stay in the Brecon Beacons area so once we got to the town of Merthyr Tydfil we did our shopping and then headed off towards the town-village of Talgarth on the edge of this parkland.

A little bit past Ebbw Vale as we are going down a substantial Hill we found a large parking space with quite a number of cars but we decided that we would join the sheep in the hills around us for the night.

The sheep around this parking place, must all the time be getting titbits from the dozens of people to park here on a daily basis because the sheep have no fear of people. One walked up to our motorhome to see what it could get from us, and when it comes to dumb animals Luda is a very soft touch, so the sheep got fed bits of cabbage, carrots, apples and whatever else Luda thought it might like. Of course the sheep thought this was its new home and want to come into the motorhome so we had to close the door, and every time we open the door that was in the doorway again.

Luda went out to photograph the sunset, the sheep came other to see her, she actually got into the sunset photo which made rather nice picture, the Luda turned to come back to the motorhome, and the sheep followed, and is a race to see who could get to the doorway first.

The sheep have a short memory? Will you answer to that is no, well not the Welsh ones, this morning we open the door and the sheep said to us, and sheep language, good morning!

Luda than another Apple for the sheep, and she got a good series of photographs of herself feeding the sheep, with yours truly the photographer.

Thursday, July 28

We carried on our interesting drive to Talgarth and once there got on the road to Cardiff, almost a motorway, totally our interesting, could be anywhere in the world, we however did see one castle called Tretower Castle the first use of the site was in the 11th century after which it underwent three more successive phases of development, and from what I understand the development of the buildings carried on until the 17th century. The village that this castle is in bears the same name as the castle.

We drove on towards Cardiff and found a campsite where we can replenish our electricity and water, and catch up on the Internet.

Friday, July 29

We woke to a damp morning and with cloud cover that we had had looked like was going to be a wet overcast day most of the day. We had planned to go to Cardiff Castle but there's not much object going there trying to photograph it in the rain so we went off to the second century amphitheatre at Caerleon which was part of their fortress settlement of which there were three the other two being York and Chester.

Well you can see the shape of the amphitheatre but with the buildup of dirt over the centuries and now has a thick covering of earth covered with grass so one just knows that the Romans were here.


to top right....


We then drove up to the magnificent ruins of Tintern Abbey that was founded in 1131by the Cistercian monks and by the 14th century was the richest abbey in Wales, however along with Other monasterys it was dissolved in 1536 and it's now roofless ruins and exposed soaring arches give it a beauty that many of the photographers that were there were, trying to capture.

From there we started heading south towards our appointment for Monday morning for the air suspension and by the time we got to about Bristol on the motorway it was starting to get clogged up and the traffic started moving slow, so we headed off to a campground in Bristol to find it was full, we then tried a shopping centre car park, and they had a limit on how long you could stay there, we tried the park-and-ride and you are meant to just park and ride there and not stay overnight so we decided to carry on moving south towards our Monday morning appointment, and then we found a noisy little parking area just off the motorway junction and that will certainly beat
driving another hundred kilometres.

Saturday, July 30

As far as I can tell the traffic on the three lane south M5 was running all night and this morning when we moved on to the motorway at least the traffic was moving at a good pace but that was a solid three lanes as far as we went. The M5 seems to be a direct access to Torquay and Plymouth so if somebody can work out for me three lanes of traffic travelling at 55 miles an hour how many does that place at the destination and how crowded will the campgrounds, the beaches and whatever else they go south to do, it makes you glad to live in New Zealand, and add the crowded
old cities, the row after row of terraced houses, having no space for your car on your property, and then when you do finally get out on the road and away from the nose to tail traffic, then the one way narrow lanes of England are enough to make you want to immigrate!

We carried on our way to our air suspension garage and about 15 km out we saw a camping sign, I thought no way is there going to be space, but there was a cancellation just before I walked in, and whilst I was there somebody else rang and would have taken the space, so for five minutes earlier or later, there will be no room at the inn!

Sunday, July 31

We are finally at Tiverton and last night the campground was 11 km away so we had a very small drive to get here. I decided to open the safe to make sure how much English currency I  had not got one of these new digital keypads on the safe week in key and a number and it opens the safe.
That's wonderful except if one keypad for example number seven stops working and you code contains a seven then you are locked out. So we hunted around for the key that came with the safe, found it, and had access to the safe again by the old-fashioned key in the lock system.

So to attract the young players the electronic combinations to open a safe, you're in fine condition until some think goes wrong, then you better have the key!

Tomorrow we get the air suspension fitted to the Carthago, we collect a rental and mess around for three days until the installation has been completed then work out the rest of our program for the year.

Saturday, August 6

We are currently in a parking area on the motorway to Paris, let me run over the last few days….

Monday 1st we left the motorhome to have air suspension fitted, which was a three day job. They discovered the universal joints on the end of the front suspension were worn out so they had to be replaced which added another half day the motorhome was in the workshop.

We drove off to the closest large city which was Exeter, booked into a reasonable hotel, then walked into the shopping area about a five-minute walk and had a very good range of shops, which of course they should for 110,000 people.

On Wednesday my Sony computer just stopped working, it closed down in the middle of the program, and would not restart their matter what I did, the power button has a green light when it is switched on and that just remained dead. Of course I hadn't done no backups so my immediate solution was to try to buy a similar computer with less power and switch the hard drives over.

We booked in to the hotel for the two nights which would have worked with the original timeframe but when they rang up for the okay on extending the job we decided to go down to look at the Eden Project down in Cornwall, now I am afraid I let Luda walk through it, ever since my father cured me of gardening as a child, it has to be something pretty spectacular for me to pay money to look at plants. Luda did admit that the botanical Garden in Minneapolis that her daughter took her to, she thought was better, and evidently the price certainly was.

We got back to the garage on Thursday about 12 noon, had run through of how the air suspension worked, and that set off for Winchester where we found a motorhome overnight parking area, along with buses several other motorhomes and lots of cars.

Friday we went into an area where they had what they call Supershops, and went into the PC World to see if I could get a replacement computer, they had nothing remotely like what I was wanting, so with a little bit of thought I bought a new Acer tablet that ran Windows 7 and thought that will see me home.

 We then headed off for Dover, drove straight up to the ticket office with a open ticket, and drove straight on the 2:30 PM sailing, we landed about 5 PM and got straight on the motorway towards Paris where we found a parking area on the motorway where we spent a peaceful night along with two of three trucks.

I found the tablet was not quite as easy to use as I was hoping, so I pulled out the iMac that I had considered switching to and found again I couldn't get done what I wanted to get done, probably more my problem than the computers.

I then had a sudden thought and removed the battery from the Sony, pluged the power in, and it worked, so I immediately spent the next three hours doing a backup and at that point switched the Sony off, plugged the battery back in, switched on and it worked!    Who knows why, and the fact that it is working is sufficient for me not to question it.

Today we carried on our drive towards Paris, looked for a parking area in Reims, realised we had looked there before and couldn't find it, so we got on the road to Paris and here we are.

Sunday, August 7

Last night a parking spot was designed to be a little bit noisy so we each took a sleeping pill and got a good night's sleep.

This morning when we were preparing for the Paris destination our old tom-tom that we purchased five years ago and has taken us through almost everywhere, stopped receiving instructions, this meant it would show us where we are going, but we could not tell where we want to go, so we had no access to a previous destinations or favourite campsites.

This is the second GPS to stop working on us, both tom-tom's, one new and one old, and even I thought it was overkill bringing three GPSs with me, and it looks like it was the right choice.

This then meant we had to rely on the ACSI camp guide, and of course we chose the wrong one ending up at a campground near Disneyland which we have done on a previous occasion.

Eventually with the aid of Auto Route and the maps of where we've been we selected a street by the campground and the Garmin eventually got us there.

Monday, August 8

Today we took the bus and the Metro into the centre of Paris and walked a route that Luda had planned and we found the shops that she had visited three years ago and she was very happy. By the time we got back to the motor camp my dogs were barking!

Tuesday, August 9

Today we start heading towards Frankfurt to see if we can get Luda an earlier plane to Kiev, it was a 526 km drive and we stopped just over the border in Germany at Saarbrücken where I visited a Media Markt and bought a new dongle and Sim card for Germany, I now have quite a collection of dongles and I'll have to look at what to do again for e-mails next year. The Acer tablet that I purchased has not yet been seen in Germany so though unable to help me with that in any way.

We camped that night in a motorhome parking spot that we discovered on the way to another one listed in the book, though it was rather rough than a lot of the other parking spots, but heck is only a place for the motorhome to sleep for the night.

Wednesday, August 10

We drove on to the parking spot opposite Isbis hotel by the airport, caught the hotel bus to the airport, changed Ludas ticket for the following morning, and my ticket for a week later.

The hotel was fully booked so we asked if we could park “our car” in the car park and the nice Turkish front office guy said yes!

Is one of the noisier spots which stayed in with the planes coming in to land and take off in what appeared to be straight over the motorhome!

Thursday, August 11

It was an early rise to get Luda to the airport by 8 AM, they had allocated her a seat number yesterday so all she had to do was check in the luggage, which only took a few moments and then walking to the gate where we said goodbye, and I caught the train into the city.

I was going to go to the three Stans embassies checking up on the visas for next year so from the railway station I took a taxi to the first one which was Kyrgyzstan and found the office of the console on the fourth floor, no elevator of course, very nice guy and yes we can get a visa next year within 24 hours for an urgency fee, and no problems with the motorhome.

I then walked to the next embassy which is Uzbekistan, there were two girls waiting outside and a brass plate said it was closed Wednesday, but today was Thursday, wasn't it? Anyhow the girls  had been waiting five minutes, I rang the bell several times but nothing happened so I presume their Wednesday last 48 hours.

So was then on for quite a long walk to the Kazakhstan Embassy -- Consul, they were open, three booths will working and they were lined up about 10 deep, soft it is not an embassy to come to for personal service, yes they can give us an visa that will take one week and no urgency.

I then walked back to where I had seen some taxis and so I selected a taxi to go back to the railway station, the first all I stopped off at the Uzbekistan Embassy but they were still on holiday, so was back to the railway station, with my friendly Afghan driver, he asked me where was I going, and I told them to the airport, his eyes flashed and said why are you not going by taxi, I said I will if you can match the railway ticket price, he dropped me at the station.

Then it was a matter of waiting for the hotel bus to arrive and it was quite a long day, and maybe realise I'm not 24 anymore!

Friday, August 12

I started the drive back to Holland planning to stop at Rees, a town on the German side of the Dutch border, has an overnight camping spot for about 36 motorhomes costing six euros a night including electricity, and as a dumping station and you can get fresh water is really what else do you need.

Well that is it for this year, tomorrow the motorhome will go into storage, first will have the engine checked out because I think the clutch has potential for major problems and organise the other bits and pieces that need to be done already to China next year.

On the earthquake front in Christchurch, Marg and Peter who are house sitting for us, had the earthquake inspectors round today, evidently our house is solid and secure and all it will need doing is having the outside and the inside fixed up, it almost sounds to me like the guy talking about his wonderful axe that he had for 24 years, and only had 12 new handles and three new heads!

I'm also told there will probably be snow to welcome me home!


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