A trip to the mountains

The day after Ian’s birthday was spent getting everything sorted to leave for the mountains the following day.

There are many things to be done to the house before it is shut down for a few days so Lindi and Ian cracked on with that while I sorted out the van and Lauren entertained Stella.

First thing to do was change the wheel…

Off with the old and on with the new

Once that was done I got the van hooked up to 240v, turned on the fridge to maximum so when we left it was properly cold and didn’t eat up the battery trying to reach a decent working temperature. Both Lauren and I went round the house getting all of our stuff together with the idea being when we came to leave at 11.30 the following day all we had to do was chuck a few bags in the van and we’d be good to go. That night we had a bbq and I took some awesome photos of the Milky Way, annoyingly they are on my DSLR and I don’t have a card reader to get them on to the iPad.

On the morning of our departure I noticed the van was only getting 9v from the solar panel, this is unusual, it should be getting double that. The system comprises of 2 x 50 watt panels wired in series which gives you 100w of power and I usually see about 18v from the panels. Not sure what is going on, fairly confident it’s not the wiring as if it was I’d get 0 volts as the positive is connected to one panel and the negative to the other, without a ground you’d get nothing, that’s what I think anyway, I proved this by removing the – leg from the controller and sure enough it thinks the sun has gone in and 0 volts is displayed, in my mind this proves the wiring continuity, it doesn’t however prove the solar cells. I didn’t have any more time to test as we were already late leaving.

Shortly after we left Ian stopped for fuel, I checked the solar controller and I was now getting 16.4 volts from the panels, weird…

The drive to Mont Dore took a couple of hours and we headed to the nicer of the two municipal campsites in town called Camping L’Esquiladou, it has a pool which Stella loved, facilities are good but the pitches are a kind of magnetic gravel, big though and they have electricity.

We planned to stay for a couple of nights so made our respective camps, chucked some food from Ians birthday on the BBQ, cracked open some booze and settled in for the night.

Morning came quicker than I would have liked mainly because the bread van comes through the camp hooting his horn to alert everyone to his arrival. The queue is something to behold, lots of bed head and dressing gowns. As I was now up and the sun was shining, I could appreciate a little more where we were camped, the view of the mountain is quite lovely.

Ian and I had planned to go out on out mountain bikes while Lolly, Lindi and Stella went into town.

We aimed for the Mont Dore cable car station which was only 5km away. Unfortunately, that 5km was uphill the whole way and in the midday sun, it was proper hard work but eventually we made it to the cable car.

The trip up was as pleasant as a cable car can be, it was pretty much as packed as one in the winter is.

At the top the view is spectacular, there is also a restaurant that sells beer.

Before heading off on the bikes I took the drone for a little fly about, shot some video and took some aerial shots which I’ve yet to process. As you can see from the picture above there are what appear to be lovely trails down the mountain, this was not the case.

The whole way down from top to bottom are paths made from massive bits of gravel, it’s a bit like riding down a really steep slope made of tennis balls, this photo doesn’t do it justice,

In the world of skiing, this is a blue run but in the world of mountain biking, this was rubbish. I managed to get down unscathed but Ian came off leaving a good portion of his leg on the mountain, ripping his shorts and smashing his bike helmet, I saw loads of walkers take a tumble so you can imagine what it was like on a bike. It took us about half an hour to get down and at the end we grabbed a beer, the day out on the bikes had been a massive disappointment, the best bit was coming home down the road we’d cycle up earlier. We did find a few small tracks and a luge that I had a go on, we headed home via the supermarket to grab some beer. Just up from the campsite is a pizza van with a few tables in a small garden with a lovely view over the valley, the pizzas were excellent as was the sunset, it’s bring your own booze if you ever go there.

During our time here the most mentioned word has been “Funicular” because there is one here and Lindi wanted to go on it. You can take your bikes up there and there is mention of a VTT course, Ian and I cycled to the funicular station while Lolly, Stella and Lindi took the bus, before we all left I got a lovely picture of me and the kiddo.

The funicular station is a lovely old building and the funicular carriage is quite nice too.

It takes about 5 mins or so to get to the top and is well worth going for a ride on. At the top there are all sorts of things you can do in summer, there is an rope adventure playground in the trees as well as the VTT and hiking trails.

There is also a lovely restaurant so we stopped for a nice but pretty expensive lunch.

Ian and I set off on the bikes, we found some signs for the trails but no maps. The VTT trails are referred to as circuits and the only one we found was the green which wasn’t particularly taxing and lead us back to where we started, we did come across a nice waterfall though.

We tried to find the red trail but didn’t manage to as the signs are non existent, this is also a ski resort so there should be some way you can ski or ride a trail all the way to the bottom, if there was we didn’t find it and ended up taking a fast road down to the town, Ian enjoyed it I suspect because he didn’t come off and got to fly down a hill, I was hoping for some technical trails that we didn’t find so left less impressed than Ian.

We stopped for a beer in the square, went to the supermarket to get more beer and then realised it was Sunday so the shop would be closed. Luckily we had enough to last the night.

We went for pizza again because it was nice and you don’t have to generate any washing up. Lindi wasn’t overly happy as she had a load of food in her fridge we could have eaten that was probably going to go off. That’s one of the tricky things about this whole motor home thing, you don’t really know what food options will be available when you stop so we generally cater for there being none which means some food does get wasted if there’s a nice food option at your destination.

I totally understand why Lindi was upset about the wasted food, we hate wasting food too but sometimes it just happens.

At the time of writing we have now left the campsite, the rest of the crew are down in the town looking around the spa building and I’m up the mountain trying to figure out the solar issue. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the panels is definitely not working, the one closest to the roof box, I’m not sure if roof box is partially covering one of the cells which is causing the rest to fail or if the panel is just busted, I can’t see any obvious damage and they should last anywhere between 10 – 20 years. I’ve called the manufacturer to see what warranty the panel has as they are usually guaranteed for about 20 years as there isn’t too much that can go wrong with them. The puzzling bit is that I have definitely seen a voltage reading upwards of 15volts since I noticed there was an issue, I’ve checked all the connections, reset the controller but it’s still doing the same thing. It’s not the end of the world as we’re doing very little off grid stuff this trip but when things break it annoys me, especially if I can’t fix it myself…

Wales 2016

Our first major trip of 2016 would be to Wales, 10 nights starting on the easter weekend, 3 campsites and one birthday, we set off a day late due to Lolly having the flu but to be honest that was fine by me, it meant I could take my time loading up the van and making sure we had everything we need. After a day of getting the van sorted we got up early the following morning and started our journey, Lolly took the wheel first and drove us to the M4, this was a milestone for Lolly as she doesn’t usually drive on motorways, she did really well.


It took us about 4 hours or so to reach Pencelli Castle, we booked in and then drove to the start of a walk from one of our books. As soon as we neared the start point the heavens opened and the wind started to blow, the next few hours were spent wandering about in the kind of weather you usually avoid going out in and instead watch it through a window while sitting by a fire with a pint in your hand. We also got lost and walked 30 minutes in the wrong direction. We got back to the van and made for the pub down the road from our campsite, The White Hart. The pub was lovely, very welcoming and we got a table straight away, there was a good selection of ales on tap and ciders too, I had a mixed grill and Lolly had a lamb and leek curry, both were awesome.  The campsite was a 2 mile drive down the road, the site features a drying room which is kind of essential given the Welsh weather, I went to hang up our wet stuff only to find an army of soaked teenagers doing their best to get all their clothes hung up in there, they were all soaked to the skin and still had to put there tents up in the dark and rain, poor sods.

Due to the rain hammering on the roof of the van for most of the night neither of us got a particularly good sleep, this was to be a common theme throughout out trip.  We got up, made some tea and drove to Bike Park Wales, we arrived and Lolly bought us a bacon and egg roll each. Lolly had booked on an introduction to mountain biking course as she’s not as confident on her mountain bike, I got myself a day ticket with an uplift pass and we spent the day haring about the downhill trails, the weather held out and we both had a wicked day, i’d definitely go back there, proper good fun.


On the way back to the site we stopped into the Royal Oak for some food, nice little pub, got a table quickly and in no time at all we were stuffing our faces, after eating we watched Deadpool in the van and crashed.

Day 3 was a walk up Pen Y Fan, for a short while I read a lot of books about the SAS, they all talked about selection and part of selection is walking up and down Pen Y Fan a few times with a heavy Bergen on your back in a ridiculously short amount of time. I wanted to walk up Pen Y Fan to see why it’s the mountain of choice for the SAS, I wasn’t planning on doing it quickly or with a ton of gear in my bag. We parked up the van and set off, there are a few different ways to go up, typically we chose the hardest, a steep long ascent on uneven ground, The weather held out again and was actually quite pleasant.


It took us about three hours to walk up to the top of Pen Y Fan, the wind was mental and I lost a prop off the drone I was planning to fly at the top, it started to get cold too, the last 100 meters was in the snow, the picture below is looking up to the peak.


As you approach the peak you have to climb up some frozen steps which are properly treacherous, we made it up and took a quick selfie, you can see from our choice of clothing how much the weather had changed, always be prepared!


From here we walked across to Corn Du, hung out there admiring the view and then started our descent via the obelisk which is a memorial to a young lad who died at that spot on the mountain in 1900


You then come across a stunning lake which we could see from the top of Corn Du


From the lake there isn’t anything much more special to see, it’s just a walk over fields and roads till you get back to the van, all in all we did 8 miles and apparently burned 1000 calories. We were tired and hungry so on the way back we swerved into a pub we first saw on the way to Pen Y Fan called The Swan, it was quiet and the staff were really friendly, the food was lovely as was the beer, we both slept well that night.

We had planned to go for a bike ride on day 4 but the weather had other ideas, the rain come down like a monsoon, we made it as far as The Star Inn and spent the next there hours holed up in front of the fire waiting for the rain to stop, we did venture out again and we came across some old VW’s.



Shortly after discovering the VW’s the pedal arm on my bike came loose so we abandoned the ride and returned to the van, we watched Deadpool again as Lolly fell asleep halfway through it the first time, we made some pasta too.

Day 5 was our final in Pencelli, we packed up and headed off to our next location, Afan forest park. En route we stopped to do the four waterfalls walk, there are few different routes you can take, ours was circular and seemed to take in the muddiest paths possible, if you are up this way then definitely do this walk, the waterfalls and scenery is stunning, you can walk behind the waterfall below which we did, you get soaked…


By the time we arrived at Afan forest it was dark, the campsite isn’t really a campsite at all, it’s more like a car park with some electric hooks ups, 24 hour toilets and a green space to pitch tents, we made some food, had a beer or two and settled in for the night.

Day 6 started with sunshine and a reminder that I was another year older, lolly made me a lovely breakfast and presented me with some new headphones, boxer shorts and a necklace. Now that it was daylight we could appreciate where we were camping, right at the foot of a bloody big hill.


The plan was to spend the day on the bikes riding the trails and generally having a good time. We went to the bike shop to grab a map but were told there weren’t any, all the trails are well marked, we’d be fine without a map, I took a picture of one of the maps at the start just in case. To get to the start of the trails involves a 6K ascent, it starts off ok but very quickly the terrain you have to ride up looks like this


Which meant there was a lot of this


On the upside for the first time in ages we got some phone signal, I got some birthday messages from my family which was really nice, when we got to what we thought was the top we stopped for a sandwich, a drink and a bit of a rest.


Shortly after that photo was taken it started to rain so we darted into the woods to get under cover, we followed the signs to the start of the trail for what seemed like an eternity but eventually we made it to the top and the sun came out again.


We planned to take a trail down called whites level but after spending so much time getting up there we thought we’d do the skyline trail, have a look about and then pick up whites level and head down, didn’t quite work out like that. Most of the markers we were looking for had either moved or no longer existed, partly due to a windfarm being installed on the hillside which had changed a lot of the features, the map we took a picture of down the bottom didn’t quite match what was going on up the hill, this was the closest I had ever been to a wind farm and it was pretty impressive.


After a lot of wrong turns and not knowing quite where we were Lolly got us back to the start of whites level and we started to make our descent, unfortunately the sun set pretty quickly and a lot of the decent was through forest, with the fading light and Lolly forgetting her glasses we had to abandon the trail because Lolly couldn’t see and find another way down, thanks to Lolly’s excellent map reading and sense of direction we took a forest road down into a village about 3 miles from where we were staying, it was pitch black by the time we got down, we belted back to the van along the old train track, locked up the bikes and grabbed a drink, Lolly was a bit scared and there was a really eerie vibe about the place we were staying at once the sun went down, we ate some food and decided we’d chip off first thing, i’d had an excellent birthday, a proper adventure, not likely to go back to Afan.

Our last few days were to be spent on the Gower peninsula, we were booked into a very family orientated site called Carreglwyd, there were lots of rules but none we intended to break, we were shown our spot and then left to our own devices. The weather wasn’t all that so Lolly suggested we head to the pub for a birthday meal, we went to the Ship inn and spent the next three hours eating and drinking followed by a walk along the beach, we retired to the van and watched an awful film.

The next morning we woke up and the rain was chucking it down, this picture kind of summed up the mood


We spent the morning in the van with the heater on, lolly read her book and I made tea and snoozed, the rain stopped so we decided to go for a walk in Rhossili, we also arranged to meet Laurens auntie Steph.

The walk we were supposed to do takes you along the Rhossili headland, was managed about ten minutes trekking up hill before deciding we couldn’t be bothered and would much rather take a walk on the beach, the view from where we where was very nice though.


We mooched down to the beach and spent the next hour or so investigating all the weird and wonderful things you find on beaches, for example, an old boat.


Lots of drift wood


And a shrimp


Rhossili bay was award best UK beach in 2010, it’s a lovely beach even when the weather is rubbish and is popular with surfers.


We left the beach and went to meet Lollys auntie Steph, we had a lovely meal at their local pub and stayed then night at their house, best nights sleep we’d had all week, was nice to have a decent shower too. We got up the next day and decided to go home, we still had a night at the campsite booked but we were both shattered and wanted a night in our comfy bed at home.

This is the first time as far as either of us can remember that we were quite looking forward to going home, I don’t know why, maybe it was weather or the tiredness. I enjoyed South Wales and next time i’d like to head north, maybe a bit later in the year when the weather is better.

A trip to Coldharbour. 

Last year Lolly and I bought each other a mountain bike. Whenever we go away we take them with us, occasionally we just hop in the van with the bikes on the back, drive somewhere that entertains mountain bikes and go for a ride.

About 45 mins drive from us is leith hill and just beyond that is Coldharbour, a tiny village you can easily end up at if you go for a walk or ride around Leith Hill. All around this part of the world are bridle ways and tracks for walkers and riders as well as horses and the odd crosser that’s not supposed to be there.

We started at the plough inn as you can park up there and it’s a good reference point if you are using the map below.

The idea was to go and do some of the trails and then grab some lunch. Didn’t quite go to plan, the next couple of hours ended up as a kind of freestyle ride / hike with the added fun of potentially wandering into a pheasant shoot, luckily we didn’t but we did think someone might mistake us for some wildlife and crack a shot off.
We came across some pretty cool woods well worth a photo of!

The trails on the map weren’t that well signposted and as you can see below we went a rather odd route.

Before setting out I booked us a table for 15.00, past experience of the Plough Inn and trying to get a table for lunch was a bit of a failure due to it being heaving. As luck would have it our random ramble brought us back to our starting point at exactly 15.00, below is stravas account of our adventure.


While I put the bikes back on the van lolly went to meet the two horses and their steer that rocked up about the same time as us.


The pub was pretty quiet when went to our table but very quickly all the tables were taken. The plough does some great local ales and some pretty potent cider too, we were both fairly hungry so we dispensed with starters and went straight for mains, I had the plough inn burger with added cheese and Lolly had-the same.   The burgers were excellent, really tasty, good size portions and not particularly expensive.

We shared a chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream for dessert, it was epic!

The Plough Inn is nice pub with a mix of walkers, cyclists, and families, there is a nice garden for when the weather is better and dogs are welcome all year round, if you’re ever in that neck of the woods give it a visit.

We had a really good day out, we’ll be back later in the year to try and find the trails and give them a good hammering.

As is customary with my travel reports, a picture of our van, bumblebee parked up near the pub, the namesake of this blog!


Hello summer 2015 !

Hello readers, hope life is treating you well!

So it seems the good old British summer has finally arrived, scant periods of sun and warmth enveloped by mainly cloud,rain and school holidays!

Things have been a bit quiet on the adventure front since our return from Scotland with only a handful of trips and a single one nighter!

I’ve spent a bit of time building up a new mountain bike and the majority of our trips have involved exploring the south downs, specifically Peaslake, Leith Hill and Devils Dyke.


The next big trip for Bumblebee is the Le Mans 24 hour race, about 20 blokes, 2 confirmed camper vans, a convoy of cars and beer, shaping up to be a cracking stag do!


The van has spent some time abroad with it’s previous owners but none with us, i’m really looking forward to making the trip, the only downside is that Lolly will miss out as it’s a stag do, not for girls!

I’ll post up a full report of how the van copes with the trip to le mans and in the mean time i’ve posted up our first wild camping experience which can be found in the travel section under Devils Dyke 2015

Updates February 2015

Hello faithful followers !

Whilst not much has been happening on the blog lots of things have been going on in the background and i’ve now had a chance to update and add what we’ve been up to.

There’s been some fairly extensive work been done on the van, if you are interested check out the sticky clutch and bike rack posts.

On the travel front we haven’t really been too far but we have had a day out at Bedgebury Forest on our new bikes, full report of the days escapdes can be found here.

I’ve just booked three weeks holiday so we’ll be starting to plan our trip to Ibiza very soon, proper excited about that.

Also this Friday 20th February i’m playing b2b with K-Complex at I Love Hard Beats 3rd birthday bash in London with Kevin Energy heading back to the wheels of steel after some time away from the scene, you can find all the info about the even by heading to facebook via this link, it’s gonna be an awesome night out !

Thats all for now !