Sunday, 24 June 2012

Off road - Green laneing in the Mournes in a Hiace camper van

My van is capable of full 4×4 capabilities, and of course its not something that gets put to use very often, but I’d been looking forward to trying it out at the first available opportunity. The time came at the beginning of May when I headed down to the Mourne mountains for a couple of days. I was looking for some wild camping spots in nice locations, and planned to survey the area for future trips too. So first heading into the mountains I parked here:
Carpark in the woods
This was a lovely spot to stop for maybe a picnic, or to head out for a walk, but it’s actually pretty close to the main road going through that section of the Mournes, which made it not quite the best place to settle in for a couple of days. I went for a little walk around the area and discovered that there was a forestry track leading much further into the valley, and the iron bar gate was un-padlocked! After walking along the track a few hundred yards to check it out I decided to see how far I could get along it and use 4×4 if necessary. So I went back to the van and started out.
So, heading along the track, it soon became loose and steep and stony in places so I locked the free-wheeling front hubs and switched into low 4×4 – suddenly it was a different beast and it was no problem to negotiate the rough steep sections. Of course, being a camper van, there is plenty of stuff to rattle about and fall off shelves etc, but I have most things pretty well secured, and nothing got damaged. I ended up finding a little ‘layby’ below some trees and, avoiding some large boulders that might damage the underside, parked here:
The camping spot in the valley
This turned out to be one of the quietest locations I have ever spent the night. After slowly watching the sunset, and the shadows of the trees closing in around me, I settled down to a night so quiet, all I could hear was the sound of my own pulse, and the occasional rustle in the trees as ‘something’ checked out the van in the night. It was one of those timeless, endless nights of broken sleep, when 1/2 hour seems like three hours. Awakening early (it felt like a lay in) I was surrounded by mist and the rains of the day were already beginning to pelt the fibreglass above my head. Only a stong coffee, and bacon sandwiches were going to get me moving this morning!
During breakfast a farmer in a landrover drove past and gave me the nod and one finger wave from the steering wheel, so I know I can return here without upsetting the natives ;) Then I set off again in the rain to re-negotiate the track, now much wetter and more slippery – back to the road, and further into the hills.
The drive that morning (Music, Martin Simpson, never any good)
That day it got so wet and stormy that there were waves like the sea on the mountain reservoirs, and driving rain so I went back to lower ground. So, for the rest of the day I checked out all the little roads leading to the coastal dead-ends, and found a few other quiet spots on the shore for future stays.

Friday, 22 June 2012

April Zen Retreat

At the end of April, I attended a Zen meditation retreat held at Benburb Priory by Black Mountain Zen Centre of Belfast. Here are a couple of images i took part-way through the retreat. Sitting in my van in silence.. If you look carefully you can see some peacocks through the back window, as the fowl wandered around in the evening sunshine..
The spring blossoms in full bloom
Look carefully for the peacocks.. A friend had put the branch of blossoms under my window wiper one afternoon too :-)
I found living in my van at the retreat a special experience, as it gave me the luxury of ‘going home to my own bed’ each evening instead of sharing the accommodation with the others. Of course my home is still very simple and fits well with the basic zen type of life – except I am living this way all the time. (Its also nice to have the option of making my own meals sometimes in the van when on retreat ;-) )

Derry, Londonderry in my camper van

In April, I was up in the North West of Ireland seeing some friends, and generally traveling about. Its a beautiful part of the world, and also has a colourful political history. For those of you from outside N.Ireland this might be interesting to see. I took a drive through the Cregan & Bogside areas of Derry city as it is today, and filmed some of the murals and the famous ‘You are now entering Free Derry’ gable wall:
An article about the history of this area can be read here. I can highly recommend a visit to the north west, and there’s lots to see and do in and around the city of Derry, and in crossing over into county Donegal, the city being the gateway to the wonders to be seen in this part of Ireland.