Rolling along the city streets of Portsmouth on a Sunday evening the place felt almost empty. How peaceful a place can be devoid of traffic. Rather than the revving of engines by impatient motorists, we heard the clatter of wood on pavement as skaters attempted kickflips off an office wall. We arrived at the ferry port with minutes to spare before the next sailing. “Where are you going?” “Australia.” “Uh, I think you’ve got the wrong ferry..”
After a mere 40 minute ferry voyage across the Solent (“Tell your mates to get down from there. Would you climb on the wing of an aeroplane?”), punctuated by the deck soundtrack of car alarms continuously alerting us to their presence, we disembarked on the Isle of Wight, or ‘Vectis’ as the Romans called it. That night came the beginning of Phil’s bike troubles in the form of his front brake cable snapping. We spent hours in the darkness trying to find a suitable camping spot before lucking out and making our home that night under a tree by a stream flowing down a gully. I slept out under the powerful light of the near-full moon while Phil and Ellie kept warm in his new deluxe model tent.
In the morning I improvised a front brake for Phil using the spare friction thumb shifter I was carrying amongst my awfully heavy kit, and then he got a puncture. He got lent a map to help us find our way to the closest bike shop, apparently on a farm. When we arrived at The Bike Shed about 10 miles and many dirt track footpaths later, I laughed as we saw a ‘Closed’ sign hanging inside the doorway. We sat in despair on the grass and made our way through yet more bread and marmalade (the food situation wasn’t great, I will admit) as our new acquaintance regaled us with trivial tales of driving on England’s roads. I particularly liked his story about taking the wrong exit near London’s south circular, the A205 I know having cycled on it myself, and finding himself in a part of town where “I didn’t see a single white person, only coloureds and loads of them Muslims. I hoped to god I didn’t get a breakdown.” I enquired as to whether he thought Muslims weren’t very good car mechanics but he didn’t seem to hear.
It was then that Phil noticed that we had right before our eyes that holy grail – a bin! We rummaged to our heart’s content, fixed Phil’s brake properly and affixed two new bells to my HUD (Heads Up Display). To the Garlic Farm! Which was of course closed. We ran into a fellow who worked there though and whilst sipping on some garlic beer heard his tales of Japan, “I noticed that handles don’t feature in their products, for example teapots and mugs..and I saw an adolescent girl shit in a box.”
That night we came to the coast again, camped in a field, and Phil’s rack snapped.
I awoke in the wee hours to a breathtakingly vivid sunrise and allowed myself a second look at the hues of orange and red expanding outwards before pulling my hood tighter and drifting back to sleep. I helped Phil join his rack together with cable ties before we left and acquired old motorbike inner tube for a stronger repair. That day we reveled in perfect conditions along flat (!) ground along the southern coastline, where we stripped off and romped in the ocean before going uphill again.
We said goodbye to the friendly little island and took an evening ferry back to the mainland, arriving in the New Forest where we decided to make camp. We found a spot with a magical feeling to it. A deer bounded out from a bush 5 paces in front of me, a stream flowed over sand and rocks to the side of us and the leaves underfoot provided a great floor. Yes, it felt good to be back in a forest. The tent was getting set up when put, put, put drove a golf buggy about 75m away. It seems that wherever you are in the south of England there’s always someone close by.