Sunday, May 10, 2015


Went for a weekend trip to Berlin.  Last time I was in Berlin was something over 10 years ago when I went there for a business trip to visit a customer.  Back then the city was just a massive construction site and everything was being redone.  There’s still a lot of things that are being worked on now, but most of the city is finished being rebuilt.

I was impressed how big Berlin is.  Compared to London where everything is small and cramped, Berlin has wide streets with new sidewalks.  I hope that the city will continue being a place where things improve (if they just manage getting BER airport done!)

Evening takeoff from London

Hackescher Markt

Großer Tiergarten

Großer Tiergarten


My dinner, love this stuff

The new VW T6, my dream van (for touring)

BER airport, note it's still not open

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The first bank holiday weekend in the UK.  Spring is in full swing and the trees are starting to turn green.  I've been waiting for the moment all winter.  So I wanted to go out in nature, hike somewhere nice and go camping with my new kit.
Originally I wanted to go up to Snowdonia as there's some forest there and the nature looks quite nice with patches of forest and what British people call mountains.  But then I was reading that you can't really camp there and that in Scotland you can camp pretty much anywhere that's public land.  So I started looking into it and found the Galloway Forest that was not that far away (still half a day's drive).  So ok, that's it.  I'm going.  My wife was heading up to Scotland the week before and was told it's snowing up there, ok - perhaps they are exaggerating.  So my wife did go for work and said the weather is bad.

Crap.  I didn't want to go up to Scotland to be faced with snow and poor weather.  At this point I started looking again into Dartmoor, something I though about last year.  It's the only place in the UK (outside Scotland) that you can also camp pretty much without a permit and more importantly won't be confined to camp near kids.  Ok, I started looking into it and it looked like something to do.  My plan was to leave on Saturday and come back on Monday.  But then the forecast showed that Saturday was heavy rains and figured I'd go on Sunday and enjoy two days.

So with my new Rab Bivy and North Face down sleeping bag I headed off early in the morning.  The drive was a bit rainy but this was the storm that was still from Saturday.  When I got near Exeter the weather cleared and looked promising.  I found that park's office and registered my car just to park overnight.  All really easy.  The guy at the park office asked where I was from, said London then unconvinced asked again differently and said something about States.  He gently smiled and wished me luck.

Back in the car I displayed my "WARNING - Don't bother breaking-in" sign that I was given at the park office and set off.

Immediately after leaving the parking lot it started to drizzle.  Ok, no problem, it's England after all.  The landscape was quite nice, very tranquil and gentle in a steady way.  No rugged peak edges or sharp lines.  All very smooth and rolling.

Saw some sheep that were just shaved and looked quite miserable... Oh, that reminds me, want to look into woolen clothes.

Walking over the moors was quite easy, the ground seamed solid and there's not much of obstacles that are in the way.  Feels like I could do on in any direction for hours.  There are may rock formations and some are ancient settlements that were build around the time of Stonehenge.  (Did drive past in earlier on my way here)

Further down the valley I came to a river.  I tried to look on the OS map to see what the plan is, but sadly the wind was too strong to hold the map and worse there's no real paths in Dartmoor, it's just a landscape that is void of any trails.

I tried following the river to go further north into the park.  It was getting more and more muddy and was watching ever step I was taking.  At one point I came to a pool of mud that what I thought was a rock was just a leaf in the mud.  Stepping onto it my foot sank straight into the mud.  Mud was everywhere, but I did bring extra socks with me so at my next break I changed.

Going further into the moor I got to a point where I was thinking, do I want to continue?  What is really out here?  Why did they make this national park if it's just a massive swamp?  Then I remembered that half the park is a training ground for the UK Army.  On the weekends it's free passage, but other days they practice live fire and what a poster called, "Defensive Maneuvers"  This had me further thinking that it seams a bit of a insult to the English people that they declared one of the most useless areas in England for nature and people who want to go camping.  Scotland at least let's you roam and camp on public land, but England is another story all together.

At this point, the weather was starting to turn sour, the mist was coming in and the wind picking up.  I thought about it half joking that I should head back and just go home.  But I continued and came to a river that I needed to cross if I wanted to continue north.  Now there's no bridges, no where that looks like where you can jump, just mud and moors.

I looked around and saw some large rocks that I could sit behind and watch the landscape.  Also a great place to make some tea in my stove and watch the other hikers in the distance struggle with the mud and weather.  It was around 4pm and figured I could still make it in a sane time, beating the traffic that I'm sure was going to be a mess on Monday when everyone comes back to London.

So that was it, I started heading back and near the same point that I fell into the mud, my other leg got a good dose of Dartmoor mud.  Great.  On the way back to the car I was getting soaked in the rain and was just thinking about the fresh clothes I had in the dry car.

On the way home I stopped by to have dinner in Exeter's car park with M&S.  Had a nice salad with Italian salami and some other goodies.  Did beat my camp food that I had packed for the trip.  I did enjoy going out to Dartmoor and think it's something work seeing.  Don't expect to camp or anything that you would do in nature.  It's a harsh environment and should be approached with respect.