Monthly Archives: December 2015

Meeting people & progress update.

You meet some fantastic people out here on the road, there are a few crazy ones two and a few sad stories mixed in with them, but mostly good honest people. We met a bloke the other day who was traveling down to southern Spain to do some voluntary work in the dog re-homing centres after his dog died in July this year. The Spanish are not noted to be animal lovers and from what we have seen, the RSPCA could do alot of good down here. That was his way of overcoming the grief, his dog had been a rescue dog and he will probably end up with another one, or two, from the home in a few months time.

IMG_1378Four days ago now, I had the pleasure of meeting Marion & Hans from Germany, now living in Spain. These two have such a passion for travel, it’s difficult to name a place they haven’t been! Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Southern Sahara…you name it. They embarked upon a 9 month tour of South America in a specially designed ‘go anywhere’ vehicle and wrote a fully illustrated book on it so others could learn where to go where not to go & what you need to bring. I was sitting on the step sipping a cup of tea, when they both walked passed & enquired about the weight of Frankie & the bikes on Charlie’s scooter rack. We got chatting, (as you do) next thing, I’m invited into their van for a full run-down on all things Morocco, what to, what to ware, more importantly, where to go and by which route. It was 45 minuets of knowledge and inspiration. I sat there soaking it up like a sponge, scribbling notes down franticly as they imparted their wealth of information. It’s obvious they love the country & will be going again next September, if I remember correctly, it will be their 4th trip to Morocco. So inspired by their descriptive tales of all things Moroccan, I left their van buzzing with excitement and wanting to get to Morocco as soon as possible.

Notes taken during meeting with Hans & Marion

Notes taken during meeting with Hans & Marion

But not all stories are happy  Feel free to page down if you don’t want to hear a sad story. We met a (let’s say, ‘fairly well spoken’ ) elderly lady walking her dog in a Aire-cum-boat-yard recently. As we are all bound to be, if we are lucky enough to reach 80+ years, she was a bit of a character let’s say, chuntering away to herself as she walked her dog up and down the harbour walls, as she had done for many years. After introductions, it wasn’t long till we found out she was not a fellow Camper or one of the boating people tied up in the harbour, but she lived on a yacht in the dry-dock boat-yard, where they worked on boats taken out of the water. The story goes, this lady and her husband, many years ago, were yachting people, traveling all around the med and beyond to France, Italy, Greece & Spain. It transpires that, her husband (didn’t catch his name) got ill very quickly & died. So this poor women dealt with the funeral, scatted his ashes on the port-side of this harbour. Not able to continue sailing on her own, she had the yacht lifted, pulled into dry-dock & has lived there ever since, 10 years plus…how sad. She goes to the end of the pier every day to visit her late husband & previous dog who’s buried there next to him. On the up-side, she has some friends or relatives in the UK and was jumping on a plane just before Christmas to go stay with them for the festive period. Good luck to you, dear old lady, (who shall remain nameless) it was a pleasure to meet you & you’ve given us both ‘food for thought’.

But the next port of call would be Cordoba

Just wanted to rumble through a few points randomly as updates to previous topics:

  • The Sog-bog is superb. We did try it without any additives at all, but found that just occasionally (when I’d done a smelly one, as I always get the blame), we could smell it in the bus, so we now add two tablets of washing powder at every change to help keep the smell down & it also helps break the contents down quicker too. Result 10 out of 10 for the Sog system, even if I do have to sit to pee. (T.M.I ?) The spare cassette has been needed three times now.
  • Solar: In general, just about right. On any ‘normal’ use day, it will keep pace with our demand. The lappy normally is the most power hungry device we have, so I try to use the Hudle2 (tablet) as much as I can for browsing, but there’s many things you can’t do with a tablet. On overcast days (luckily there haven’t been that many) by 22:00h the battery voltage could be down as low as 12v, (about 25%) but normally, by 10:00 next morning, it,’s back up to 14v (full) ready to be drawn on again. I may need to ration lappy use if we have bad weather, which would be a good excuse to read a book.
  • Gas it: Under slung gas tank (38l), I don’t know how people manage without one! It must cost a fortune to keep swapping the bottles & connectors over! Despite having a few teething problems with the filling sequence (push the green button for up to 60 seconds, if that doesn’t work, go see the attendant, who will need to flick a switch under the counter) …it’s great. Ten quid will normally last about a month but it depends on how often we use the heating… not much at the moment. Add and your never far from an LPG station (It’s known as GPL or Autogas in some parts of Europe and CNG in other parts of the world) You will also need the European adaptors kit, as the filling nozzles change from country to country.
  • Scooter (Frankie) & Bikes: As you see from the pictures, we saddle-up most days, usually for trips of less than 5km, but we have had bike rides of 20km+, it just depends on the terrain. Over 5km, or if there’s no cycle tracks (because we avoid cycling on public roads) …out comes Frankie. Sometimes we get him off and have a blast about, ‘just for the fun of it’. As any fair-weather-biker will tell you (you know who you are!) it’s great to have a blast around when the suns out & the roads are good. We could manage without Frankie, but we wouldn’t get to places we have been to, or see as much of the areas we park in, yes….we could use the local bus, but who needs that hassle?
  • Online Equipment: The D8 WiFi antenna and router ( works a treat! I have mentioned it to so many people, online & in person, I should receive commission. Whenever we get the opportunity to lock onto free WiFi, it does the job. Some signals can be quite a distance away, but still useable. Free WiFi in France was fairly commonplace, here in Spain, rare! The D8 antenna & router are not cheap, but ‘do what it says on the tin’ and I’ve no problem recommending one to anybody who wants ‘free’ WiFi on the move. We regularly download 10-20Gb per month over it. Add this to a FON account and your chances of getting on-line for free increase dramatically. Read this guide for more info .When there’s no WiFi to be had, the 2G/3G/4G router D-Link 921 on the other hand is not so user friendly, it’s 240vac and can be a bit of a pain from time to time. Sometimes I will need to manually set the desired network & manually adjust the APN settings to get it to lock on. We’re on a ‘Three’ tariff of £15 for 3 Gig (use it or lose it within 30 days) but it’s unusable in Germany, Portugal & Morocco, so I’m going to need local sims to cover the gap. There’s also a chance the card could be knobbled by Three at any time, as it’s not intended to be used for extensive periods of time outside the UK. We have 3 of these cards, so should be OK till July. Note: 2G is just too slow to use, 3G is pretty much everywhere and we can’t use 4G outside the UK with this Three sim deal. It works…it’s not very quick…but it works, the connection is private and sometimes you need to get on-line.
  • Phones: Toggle – 3p per min to UK landline or mobile, 5p per text & no extra charge to the incoming number. We have 5 of these sims for calls & texts only. One each me & Angie, one in the Charlie’s tracker & 2 spare. They cover all of Europe (not Morocco) and we’ve not had any problems, yet. The web interface is very user-friendly too. Tip: Turn your data off & check it stays off every now and again. Don’t accept text apn settings from Toggle, delete the text, unless you know what your doing and want data.
  • TV and Radio: The TV (a gift) is superb it’s an Avtex 21” and it only just fits in the specially made cupboard, by millimetres! It will take a USB HD drive directly and play everything except MP4. That’s why we also have an LG HD/BlueRay player (240v) with USB interface, which will play any file type inc. MP4, so we should have all the bases covered, until the boffins in China bring out another format so we all need to change our players or overwrite the the OS with hooky firmware…again! Couple the TV to a (cheap) car radio from Aldi and a half decent pair of 80w speakers and you have good stereo sound. Most 12v TV’s have a weak sound system so a boost from the radio/amplifier is a big help. The satellite system packed up in France months ago, it just wizzes around attempting to find a satellite for ages, but never succeeds. Two techno-bods have had a twiddle & pronounced it dead, I haven’t missed it for a second!
  • LED Lighting: All the lighting was replaced with LED lamps, two colours were used, a harsh direct spotlight type white light, for the times you actually need to see what your doing and a warm glow LED in other areas. It all goes to keep down the draw on the batteries.
  • The Lay-out: We think we have chosen well. The living room area is more than adequate with seating for up to 7 people at a floating table, if required. The bed is also adequately sized and with the extra memory foam (mushroom) is very comfy too. The kitchen lacks flat work-top space, I’ve adapted a chopping board to clip to the worktop & Angie does a cracking job in there given the limited space she has. The bathroom (as aforementioned) is tight. In our caravan, we were spoilt in this department as it had an end bathroom/toilet area with loads of space, but no fixed bed, so it’s a trade-off, a compromise, as everything is in an 8m x 2m plastic box on wheels (sorry Charlie, cover your ears). But it’s just big enough, how much of your day do you spend in a bathroom anyway?
  • Motorhome guide CAMPERSTOP EUROPE an ‘All the Aries’ type publication is well worth the cost. There are individual publications for France/Portugal & Spain, this one consolidates all of them, and the rest of Europe but may not be as detailed. It covers more than 8,000 motorhome stopovers throughout Europe but we did find that it was not fully updated every year as some of the stops were more expensive than advertised or had been out of service for a few years, but still worth having despite this. Camping card ACSI is worth it’s weight in gold and I would strongly recommend it to anyone travelling out of the holiday season. With campsites all over Europe and prices from €12 it halves the cost of that all important campsite stopover. We have, on occasion found Aires next door to Campsites charging more than the ACSI price for the campsite, in with the cost you get EHU & hot site showers…no brainer!! Microsoft Autoroute 2014 route planner (no longer supported) loaded with thousands of personalised POI’s is a top tool for planning a route to the next wild spot or just nipping down the road to Lidl. Camping Car Infos, a French site dedicated to Aires is a valuable tool but does cost a few quid to download. The software’s a bit quwerky & dated, it only likes to run on Firefox, but the info is nearly always correct, shame it’s in French. There’s heaps more information on either of my two favourite blog sites or , both of which make this site look childish, but hey…we all gotta start somewhere!
  • Other bits, just musings in no particular order: What else we got…I think the engine is a little underpowered at 2.3L. The 2.8L engine may have done better to pull us up some of those 10% hills, but an average of 28 mpg is a good return, so I can’t slate it too much and the 6 gears split works well, the ride is smooth, a bit like being on a coach.
  • The fresh water tank is certainly big enough, we haven’t been close to running out. The waste tank is also big enough, possibly too big, we tend to keep it below half (saves on fuel).
  • The padded screen cover really does keep the heat in and at times keep the heat out, but its a pain if you are traveling in a morning, as it could be covered in morning dew & I often put it away wet.
  • The storage system in the garage/boot seems to work well, but at the moment, I do tend to have more than enough lose bits floating around with no permanent home.
  • Security is still an on-going concern, or rather the lack of solid window locks. If I had to break in, I could probably rip open a window without any tools, a bit of a worry. There are after market adaptors you can slip over the handles & screw on bits of aluminium rail you can fix to the bottom of the window but it all looks a bit under engineered. Whatever you fit to the opening side of the window, one sturdy tyre lever under the hinge side and your in! The habitation door is no better, in spite of the extra lock I fitted, the hinge side remains venerable. There’s no wonder some owners leave a big dog in their van all day…we don’t think that’s an answer, but we understand why…. what do you do? We close the screens  routinely and put everything in the safe before we leave for any length of time, even in the supermarket carpark when we are just popping in for a quick shop. The wire rope goes around the cab door handles too. The sat-nav (spit!) and Trancend ‘Go-Pro’ are tucked away. Practically, without it having an effect on your day-to-day life, there’s not much more you can do. If a nare-do-well were to break in, there’s not much in here of any use to them. The cost to us would be to repair the damage from the break in. We will remain cautious, aware of our surroundings & hope for the best.
  • Until it’s proved otherwise, I still think the reported ‘Gassing’ of people in their motorhome/caravan is, quite frankly ‘Twaddle!’ I’ve not seen one toxicology report to confirm this actually happens. Its been said that a trained anaesthetist, would have trouble in delivering the correct dosage to put you out for a while without killing you, so how a ‘low-life’ with a gas canister could manage it is a mystery. I think the victims may have had one too many sherberts & left the back door unlocked. It’s a semi-credible story to sell to the insurance company. So note to family: Please don’t worry! Were fine. Smile
  • BBQ: The Cadac safari works well. I’ve only used if half a dozen times, but it seems to be idiot-proof, its just big enough for 2, it’s easy to clean, pizzas, fish & chestnuts…easy-peasy…win, win.
  • On advice of other bloggers, we bought a 400/800w halogen 2 bar electric heater last week for our planned trip to Morocco. We intend to dock in ‘sites’ at least half the time & it gets very cold at night, in the Atlas mountains it drops below freezing, so we could save on the gas & use the EHU where available.
  • The cast iron skillet cooks lovely ‘little’ jacket potatoes, Angie has not had chance to really use the Remoska yet, but did use it lots in France during holidays, so we know that when the time comes, it will come in handy.

And finally: It took a bit of getting used to, this ‘wild camping’ thing. The first few nights ‘off-campsite’ were not without wakeful moments. If you fancy dipping you toe in, pop over to Asda’s car park tonight in the car & see how much unbroken sleep you get during the night. Ear-plugs help, but then your ‘off-guard’ & you can’t hear what’s going on outside. If you can hear what’s going on outside…you won’t sleep. The truth is…nowt’s going on outside, but its all a mind game & we’re slowly getting better at it. We feel safer here in Spain & France than we did in England, people tend to ignore you more & mind their own business. If only that yapping dog would SHUT UP!!




Merry Chistmas all…x