Boscastle is famous for the floods of 94. Today it appeared to be the only place in Britain that wasn’t flooded. ‘TWO MONTHS OF RAIN IN TWO DAYS’ said the headline in the Daily Express as we pushed on through the one pocket of sunshine in the UK. The radio reported people stranded on the M5 all night, with Gloucestershire and Worcester both flooded. “It’s bedlam up and down the country,” said the owner of an empty campsite on what should have been one of the busiest days of the year.” We dipped down into Boscastle, and wandered through the picturesque streets squeezed between hillsides leading down to ancient harbour. In the tourist office we watched a stream of cars being constantly washed away on a DVD loop, mirroring last night’s TV.
As we paused to refuel on our final Cornish pasties before making for Devon the sun went behind a cloud and the tourists began running for their cars. We togged up in waterproofs and prepared for a two hundred metre climb out of the tourist honeypot. A couple wandered over to chat and introduced themselves as long distance cycle tourers, Julia and Gary. Amongst other travels they had spent six and a half years circumnavigating the globe, although they only set out for a year initially. “Come and camp in our garden,” said Julia. “We live on the route. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night. You arrive. Just pitch up and have a shower. People offered us so much hospitality on our adventure that we’d like to give something back in return.” They sped off in their Land Rover hooting and waving as we mounted our bikes.
Five hours later, wet, bedraggled and exhausted we cycled up to the address they had given us in Bude. But no one was at home. It was late, the hotels and B and B’s would be full and we had passed the only campsite two miles up the road. We had no other option.“Let’s hope it’s the right address,” said Stuart, laying the tent out onto the small patch of grass, taking up every inch. We left the tent to grab something to eat, crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t later be evicted from the garden by an angry home owner that didn’t remotely resemble the people we had met earlier in the day. As we walked into town a friend rang to ask about our progress. “You’ve camped in someone’s garden but you aren’t completely sure it’s the right one?” she said incredulously. “You guys are unbelievable.”
When we returned to our tent there was a light on in the house. “ You made it! Come in for coffee and meet everyone. Do have a shower too,” said Gary. He showed us into the living room, past bookcases of travel guides, galleries of photos from Australasia, South America and Europe and lovingly maintained old touring bikes hung like picture frames on the walls. We had certainly come to the right house and talked biking and adventuring over coffee with Gary, Julia and other friends and family staying with them. And as we told our story and they all revealed a little of theirs we discovered ourselves to be in the company of not just circumnavigating cyclists but Olympic standard canoe paddlers and keen scuba divers.
“Will you be touring again after your round the world trip ,” I asked Julia as we made coffee. “Oh we’ve done loads since then and plan to do more,” she replied. “Gary suggested we tour Ireland next year. But I reckoned that might be a bit boring so I changed one letter. I think Iceland will be fun. I find the shower a great place for planning.” At the third mention of a shower I gave in. They were obviously finding us a little ripe. But as I entered the bathroom the first thing I noticed was the shower curtain, a complete map of the world; it wasn’t a hint about our cleanliness after all. As I shampoed my hair I listened to the kids playing in the tent, and traced our journey so far on the map of the UK and wondered about the possibilities for circumnavigating the rest of the shower curtain with a family of five.