Starting the Tour

Sunday 1 July, London to Abergaveny

The bus was a little late, and then got lost, but nobody cared - we were chatting and having a ball, despite the 6am wake for a 7am start. Windsor castle was a castle, Stonehenge was a henge. You could pay four pounds and get past the fence to a slightly closer fence, but we didn't bother. Although it would have meant we could use the tunnel under the busy road, rather than trying to dodge the speeding motorbikes, cars, and semi-trailers.

But even better than peering through the fence at Stonehenge was getting among the rocks at the next stop, which was the larger, older stone circle at Avebury, where you can wander among them and touch them and get photographed kissing that special someone in front of the Snogging Rock. The Avebury circle was much more fun than Stonehenge, even before the extra added excitement of having our bus driver backing the bus in to a stone wall - which wasn't quite as old as the stone circle, but looked pretty damn old all the same. That wall had stood up to about three centuries of marauding Britons, it could certainly cope with a (mostly fibreglass) bus travelling at only about three kilometres per hour. It was about then that our bus driver / guide, a Kiwi called Spinner, confessed that this was actually her first trip as driver, as she usually worked in the office.

Still, twenty minutes and one roll of gaffer tape later, the bus was nearly as good as new, and we were off again to Bath. Pretty town - we didn't pay to see the (reconstruction) Roman baths, but we saw a lovely cathedral, a very cute TeddyBear shop, a weapons shop on a centuries - old bridge, and a pretty garden which you had to pay far too much to sit in. We didn't buy any replica eighteenth-century pistols or roman short swords from the weapons shop as we didn't think Customs would let us through, much to Kate's distress - she was in D & D heaven.

Across the River Severn to Wales, and first stop was Tintern Abbey, where a bloke called Wordsworth wandered around a few years back. We got a rather odd photo of a modern motorbike in front of an ancient cathedral, and we all had real Welsh apple cider (yumm, even better than Scumble) with the real, tasty, homemade Cheddar cheese - the original product that they're trying to copy when they make the plastic, processed, predigested stuff you find in supermarkets. (At least, we all had the cheese, but Spinner had apple juice instead of cider, she being the designated bus driver.)

And then on to our first overnight stop, the Black Sheep Hostel in Abergaveny. It was clean, friendly, colourful, built under a pub... everything that the hovel in London wasn't. They did a huge dinner of every kind of dead animal that humans eat, prepared by our host on his large barbecue (and about a dozen salads for the vegetarians among us). After eating for about an hour and a half, we had an interesting discussion about time travel and adjourned to the pub, for an evening of beer, wine, spirits and a quiz night.

Our team, 'Weee Neeeed Teeeeed', consisted of an American called Emily and Julie the Canadian Girl (she wasn't actually Canadian, but she liked to pretend she was) as well as Kate and I, and we won - with a little help from Rob from Queensland, Willie the mad wee Scotsman, and a certain unnamed bus driver doing some espionage work for us. Kate and I were somewhat amused to find that our prize was a bottle of South Australian wine, from a winery about twelve kilometres from our house. And there we were, half way around the planet... still, it kept us tipsy for a while. Though not tipsy enough for Miss Canada to fall for the hoop-snake or drop-bear stories. Oh well.