Since I’ve been a little lad, I always wanted to spend some time in one of those cool VW Campervans from the sixties or seventies. For some unexplainable reason (although I blame Toxoplasmosis) this wish had lodged itself in the far corners of my hippocampus, just to be blurted out from time to time. So – inevitably – the best girlfriend ever gave me a lovely smelling envelope full of printouts for my last birthday that indicated that she had rented a classic VW campervan from the seventies over the Easter weekend. I was completely over the moon and couldn’t wait for Easter to arrive. Even though it looked like it could be one of the colder ones. So one day in April we manned out little Korean sprinter and headed down to Tavistock to take temporary ownership of Billy Jean, a lovely van from those extremely friendly and helpful guys at Classic Camper Van Hire. After one last stop in a civilisation we finally arrived on Good Friday to have a look at the beast:
Blue Billy turned out to be a very sturdy little thing which was a pleasure to drive, apart from tight bends, in hilly roads, narrow roads, on wet grass and in parking garages. Apart from those, he was fine. Due to the natural lack of power steering, my biceps have hypertrophied significantly over the last days. We nevertheless packed our bags into its surprisingly small cabin and headed for the North Devon coast.
Note: agreeable designer notes.
On the way to the caravan site we realised that we neither had a flashlight nor a reading light with us, but the General Store in Hartland and the lovely Campsite owners were able to help out with both items, so we arrived on our wet paddock that was to be our base camp for the next days feeling uniquely prepared. Stoke Barton Farm and Camp Site is what I would call functional with great views and positively lovely owners. Don’t expect any particular luxuries, but you didn’t book the Intercontinental in Sydney, did you? Anyway, once Billy came to a halt I tried to set up the awning, but due to the rather heavy rain and the storm outside, all I probably ended up in was in a Youtube video titled “Idiot trying to put up awning – LOL”, so I had to abandon this activity AND find the space to store the bloody enormous and wet thing in the van. Once we arranged everything, hooked up the 240 Volt connection and fired up the heater and the kettle, things looked more rosy. Apart from outside, where a bloody storm was raging and shaking all sorts of appendages of Billy, turning it into an allmighty cacophony. I already dreaded the first walk to the loo, which had to be meticulously planned: fold in tea table, put on extra jumper, hat, rain coat, mud caked shoes, find flashlight, step over awning and go.
Dinner was a frugal affair, as we weren’t able to cook without the awning, so bread, tomatoes, tea and salami had to do the trick. And a pack of HobNobs. Sleep was surprisingly decent if a bit cold, but at least the hat, the three jumpers and ski underwear kept us warm.
Next morning was gloriously wet, and that was just the condensation inside Billy. I dared to trek to the showerblock (that’s the first time I went to the showers wearing 4 layers of clothing) in the pouring rain, and felt colder afterwards. Cleaner though. To pass the time we listened to Radio 4 and read the Guardian (top marks to the Campsite owners to provide us with the paper) and then decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the warm vestiges of the best bloody pub in the vicinity of a campsite, the ever so lovely Hart Inn (which has a chef worth waiting 3 hours for).
After 48 hours we abandoned the experiment and relocated to a nice hotel for some warmth and a hot tub, but I am sure we will try again. Maybe not just quite in this weather. Full marks though for the lovely folks at Classic Campervan Hire who were the loveliest bunch of people you could meet.