Well… it was going to happen inevitably, and it was going to happen in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception. In the middle of Dartmoor, far from the nearest garage, Heidi broke down. Guttingly I was driving…
Things had not been going well when we pulled into the Dartmoor National Park Visitor’s Centre carpark in Postbridge, a tiny hamlet in the middle of the moor surrounded only by marshland and fields. She had not been responding well to the accelerator and failing to get the revs needed to conquer the many hills we were bobbing up and down (in a rather Postman Pat like fashion) whilst dodging on coming lorries. How ever Matt and I had both put this down to my somewhat temperamental relationship with the gearstick, and hadn’t realised initially that it may be something more serious…
It was only after coming back from a rather challenging walk (not in terms of time, but in terms of terrain, which was somewhat like walking on an unpredictable sponge), that we realised things were not looking good. The billowing smoke that emerged as we turned on the ignition and revved the engine could only mean one thing… We were stranded!!
Previously, when I had been considering what I would write about this week, it was definitely not this. Up until this point, it had been a very peaceful and relaxing week. We had left Burgh Island and retired to a small campsite up on a hill in Church Hill Farm. Originally we had only planned to stay one night, but it had felt so calming and relaxing that we ended up staying for three. After the social whirlwind of our previous week we were happy to soak up the country air and relax in the sunshine.
The high light had been being totally and utterly absorbed in nature, we went on beautiful walks stopping from time to time to admire the brown butterflies that floated past us, ponder at the rooks that seemed to flock where ever we went, to walk amongst a myriad of shiny black beetles and to marvel at the miracle of twenty or more spiders busy spinning their webs on a rather autumnal looking bush…
… speaking of spiders, we were very happy to have discovered (upon our return from Burgh Island) that Cederic our seven legged spider was still with us. For those of you who are not aware, Cederic has been with us from the start. Having only seven legs his web spinning technique is a little hampered and he doesn’t seem to manage to catch any flies, so we were quite surprised to see him happily spinning away in the sky light over our dining table. I think that he has realised that this is a better bet than above the front door, as with the nights getting colder, we are no longer keeping that open… (so it is definitely not rich pickings from a fly catching point of view).
I had at one point thought to aid Cederic in his fly catching endeavours, but as Matt pointed out whenever I try to help creatures they always seem to end up having a near death experience.
A good example of my recent endeavours was my attempt to rescue an innocent looking Beetle from a rather large vicious looking Ant that was clamped onto its leg. After nearly squashing them both (but with the best of intentions) Matt gently pushed me to one side and stepped in to save the day… Unbeknownst to us it turned out that in fact we should have backed the Ant as the Beetle turned out to be the Blue Mint Beetle, scourge of Britain’s plant, whose infestation has prompted the Royal Horticultural Society to make a full scale public alert! It was only when we saw the woodland littered with shiny blue/black bodies did we realise the error of our ways.
However, back to Heidi…
Upon realising that we could not go anywhere and also that for the first time in 33 days neither Matt nor I had signal, we tried to enlist the help of the locals. That also did not go so well as the ‘helpful’ (yet unhelpful) man from the visitors centre and the infamously grumpy ‘Gerald’ from the post office tried to send us back and forth to one another… neither really wanting the bother. So I had to try to ‘kill them with kindness’ (i.e. sweet talk them) in order to requisition their respective phones (I wasn’t the most popular person!).
An hour and over 20 phone calls later we had finally found a company with a big enough truck to tow Heidi, Matt and Me. The ETA was approx. 10pm, so we walked to the nearest pub to wait and downed a couple whilst engaging in a bit of banter with our respective brothers (Kenny for Matt and Phil for me) to cheer ourselves up. Needless to say, I was somewhat the brunt of this banter as Matt had decided that it was amusing to re-instate my old title of ‘Car Killer’ in the light of my having been the last one to drive Heidi.
Boosted by our bantering brothers, we left the pub and headed back to the car park to wait it out. As the tourists and walkers dwindled into the night, odd random people started emerging and Matt began to worry that this might be one of those carparks… So at the peril of draining Heidi’s battery (lets face it, we weren’t going to be going anywhere) we turned up the music and decided to make the best of it.
Flashing lights heralded the arrival Brian from Field Services ready to recover us. He was an absolute star (good-humoured and really helpful despite it being 10.30pm on a friday night!). He quickly hooked up Heidi and packed me and Matt into the cab of his recovery truck and at last we were on our way to Plymouth.
The original plan had been to be at Matt’s Aunty Annie and Uncle Steve’s at 6.30pm for dinner. When we were eventually dropped off (by our amusing cab driver, the nocturnal Yogi, (we had to bite our tongues so as not to ask if Boo-Boo was still in Jellystone), who had an incredibly positive perspective on life the universe and everything!) it was gone 11.10pm, but Annie and Steve welcomed us with open arms (and some much appreciated cold beer and wine).
We were lucky enough to have had a garage recommended to us by Brian, which was where Heidi had been towed to. So on Saturday morning Annie dropped us off and we went to meet Paul to see if he could help. Paul was brilliant and despite being snowed under promised to look at Heidi on Monday. With nothing more to be done, we picked up our bikes (which Brian had kindly let us leave in his garage) and embarked on a 6 1/2 mile cycle back to Anne and Steve’s. As many people know, I am not the most proficient of cyclists and when Matt and I first got together our one and only cycling excursion had ‘ended in tears’! But since the start of our trip I had re-embraced the idea and been enjoying the fun and freedom of biking out and about, so it was with great enthusiasm that I hit the road (and at one point nearly hit the tarmac too). Just about back in one piece we relaxed at Annie and Steve’s until they arrived back from their own adventures (an apple festival in Bere Ferris) and we all prepared for a fun filled evening watching the Rugby with some of their best friends.
The evening was full of highs in heavy contrast to the performance of the England Rugby team! Beer and wine flowing as liberally as the jokes (often at the expense of the England Rugby team) and so despite the crushing defeat, a good evening was had by all. On Sunday Matt and I spent the day trying to relax and take our minds off our sickly motorhome abandoned outside the prospecting garage, preoccupying ourselves in front of the screen, Matt enjoying a day of sport with Steve and me catching up with some well overdue blog related activity.
Soon Monday was upon us and we caught up with Paul who confirmed that despite being booked up with MOTs, they were going to stay late to try and give us some immediate answers about Heidi’s condition. We knew that best case scenario she would need a new cam belt and timing kit, and were desperately praying that we might somehow have miraculously avoided the worst case scenario of major engine damage…Only time would tell!
That evening we received a call from a gutted Paul, who told us with dismay that Heidi was fractionally to large and weighty for their ramp! Back to square one or maybe not… Paul had already come up with a back up plan and early on Tuesday morning he phoned us to say that he had spoken with Matt at a reputable garage around the corner, who dealt with larger vehicles, was happy to help and was awaiting our call. Matt immediately phoned and spoke to Matt who confirmed they would be able to look at Heidi on either Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, while I rang round and came up with a number of back up options (just in case). Having done everything we could, we were left to wait and thank our lucky stars for Annie and Steve’s huge-hearted hospitality!!