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The big tour

Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:05 am
by Bill Bentley
We have just returned from our final test tour before setting off on our big tour.

We are driving our Kia Sorento, 2,5 liter turbo diesel 4x4 and pulling a Hobby 495UL caravan. We have had this car for some years and are very satisfied and confident that it is as good a towing car as you can get. (We used to tow our double horse box with it and its predecessor, an older version of the Sorrento). The caravan is a 2017 model and, after previous tours, we decided that the kitchen was too small. Also my wife wanted a non-chemical dry toilet and I was happy enough to go along with the idea.

Actually we wanted to have a very different caravan, designed by us and built by a small manufacturer, but the time frame and cost would not accommodate this idea. So, being otherwise satisfied with the Hobby, we decide to remove the entire seating area, half that part of the caravan and so extend the kitchen and create a new toilet / washroom.

I also fitted a pair of 100 Watt solar panels which load two 92 Ah batteries. There's a simple volt meter showing the current status and a 12 Volt ciggy-lighter-plug to charge mobile phones etc.. I also fitted an inverter giving us 240 Volts for short periods for kitchen mixers, our computer, etc. because 12 volt just does not give enough umph. The batteries also get charged whenever we drive and there is a charger should we ever need it and have land electricity, i.e. at a campsite, available.

Our main comm’s link is my iMac, I actually hate the bloody thing, but then again I have hated all previous computers. My wife has told me that if this one gets introduced to my shotgun, thrown out of the window or down the corridor and jumped up and down on, I ain’t getting another one; so I’m being nice to the fucking thing, for now !

I have fitted a 10 Watt antenna booster which has 2xLTE and 2xWLAN antenna’s and so can receive and send simultaneously. Please don’t ask too much more about it, my step son though it up, I just put it all together and it seems to work. That is, it gives us a much better range whenever a signal is available. The German countryside is very poorly linked up.

We didn’t drive too far, we only want to do about one to two hundred kilometer steps at a time. We stopped first at an ostrich farm. Really nice people, no charge ! OK I bought a couple of beers and some bread from them, 6 € ! Then we went to friends small-holdings on the Polish border, each in small villages, very quiet and remote, perfect.

The roads, particularly the A11 moving northwards from Berlin is the worst road that I have experienced this side of South Africa ! It was restricted from ‚unlimited‘ down to 100kph, I slowed down to 60, it was embarrassing but we were being shaken to pieces. We then had to stop because our extended mirror was threatening to fall off. Later, at a bridge repair, there was a limit of 30kph when, without further warning. two sleeping-policemen-ramps, one immediately behind the other, almost threw us off the blood bridge. Just what these dipshits have got in their heads instead of brains is beyond me. On checking everything, we discovered that my batteries had freed themselves from their anchorage.

It was certainly a tough test for the equipment and a lesson to us not to trust road signs, I honestly don’t expect to find anything this bad in Spain or Portugal when we get there :?.

So, it’s repair and improvement time. Then we are over at Steve Hugh’s memorial service after which it’s close down our house and hit the road …

Re: The big tour

Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:16 am
by 27

Good luck on your travels. :D :D :D :D


Re: The big tour

Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:03 pm
Hi Bill,
I'm guessing area's of the old East Germany are still in need of road repairs and improvements. Lots of luck on your journey! When is D Day?

Re: The big tour

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:22 am
by Arnie
Bill and Rahi, BOB VOYAGE, keep us in the picture or the loop whichever is easier. Arnie and Brenda

Re: The big tour

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:05 pm
by Bill Bentley
Hi everyone,

here we are, 5 nights and six days into our tour and only just starting to catch our breath after the enormous effort of getting going. I suppose that we could have waited a couple of days longer and started in October, but the weather was turning and I wanted to be moving in September. Gone are the high 20’s and low 30’s°C of just a couple of weeks ago. Now we are lucky to top 10°C during the day and just avoid frost at night.

Our first two nights we spent on the edge of a field / forest, bordering the garden of an old mansion which still has the artificially made lakes immediately behind us, in the once fine gardens, now reclaimed by nature. We could have stayed longer (free of charge) but our aim is much further South and West. Still it was a great walking area for the dogs and we visited the farmers pigs and horses etc..

The third night was spent on the outskirts of Dresden, a really spectacular City, easily a match for Berlin, Paris or London ! I am not talking about the famous Frauen Kirche, which Aunty Betty supported the rebuilding of, after we had bombed the city to bits AFTER WWII, which was insignificant in the shadow of the other magnificent buildings. Our location was behind the Fritz Berger camping shop (again free). There was a very fairly priced mains electricity connection, so we distilled as much drinking water as we have capacity to carry (10 liters). It does not sound very spectacular but once the grounds were locked up at night we could also let the dogs roam freely. We also had a key incase we wanted to go out, but we chose to rest up again.

How can I add a photo ? The attachments block below does not seem to want to help me :? :?

Night four was spent on a rather ramshackle farm on a rather wet and windy day/night. Here we experienced that the plastic wedges, which we had bought at Fritz Berger, to replace our old wooden chocks, didn’t survive their first usage ! Not to worry we can reclaim this, when we get further South, at another of their shops.

Last night and tonight we are at a small private distillery. They also keep sheep in their orchard and that’s where we are camped. The weather has cleared up and so all is looking fine. We tasted a selection of their schnaps’s yesterday and will take a couple of the best with us, just in case it gets really cold. Ah yes, with the sheep in their shed, our dogs can run freely within the orchard, a welcome change, not being on a lead all the time, more like home.

We have added a dent in the side of the car and scraped the back feet of the caravan, ripping off the elephants feet, but no real damage. The roads and tracks are at times very steep and narrow ! The caravan seems to need regular attention, a drawer flew out during the drive, two days in a row and is, for now being secured with masking tape during future journeys. A mirror had also been freeing itself from the wall, but I hope to have solved that problem …

It seems that everything is made for show and not really built for purpose. OK, if you just drive down motorways and then onto ‚Holiday - Campsites things would probably suffice, but in my view, that ain’t camping - caravanning. I expect to be able to use steep country lanes and, carefully, some dirt roads / tracks.

The next major issue that itches us is getting resupplies of gas. Not a problem in Germany, using their UN 11 kg cylinders which are swappable almost everywhere. It seems however that, in spite of 40 years of EU mismanagement, there are still over 300 different gas fittings in use. While we have bought an EU adapter set so that, in theory, we can have our cylinders refilled, we can’t actually find anywhere in France, Spain or Portugal, that will actually refill our bottles. Each country wants you to convert to their system, but what do you then do with your old gas cylinders ? And it costs several hundred €uro’s every time for their new (rented) cylinders and valves etc.. In Spain we read that you have to ‚make a contracto‘ and for this you also need a new gas MOT as well … more cost !

Can anybody give us any tips ?
Surely there must be a list of gas (propane / butane) refill stations that are willing to refill our German (UN !) cylinders.
There are seemingly millions of people moaning about this madness on the internet but, to date, no practical solutions …

Best wishes to everyone send

Bill & Rahi

It seems that the pictures have not been included in my copy and paste action. I shall try again soon !

Re: The big tour

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2018 6:33 pm
Hi Bill,
Interesting journey log and you've only just started. Frustrating situation about the propane cylinders, which reminds me - when I came to Canada I brought all my beer making equipment only to find the c02 cylinder I had was not compatible nor convertible to anything remotely North American...….pissed off to say the least. NO HOMEBREW.
Hopefully your issue will resolve itself with some luck and British ingenuity!!

Good Luck

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2018 9:01 pm
by mick burgess
Hi Bill,
Thanks for the info glad you are both having a great time. As you are staying rural what about a paraffin/kerosene
stove or cooker that fuel is easier to find. Failing that mate there-s always the old Benghazi Burner never failed.
Thought with your ingenuity you would have had solar panels on the roof and a little cooker,
Take care safe trip.
Mick and Marion
PS Hi Pinky does that mean you are Teetotal !!!!!!!!!!! :lol: :oops: :cry: :roll:

Re: The big tour

Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:29 pm
PS Hi Pinky does that mean you are Teetotal !!!!!!!!!!! :lol: :oops: :cry: :roll:[/quote]

Hi Mick,
I tell folk over here that for a while I was a member of the biggest drinking club in the world ie: BAOR.
I remember waiting on in the officers mess when you were dined out in Munster........was it 1990?

Al Beveridge was QM-T I think and he brought a bottle of vintage port for the evening, he had a few and asked us which year to use.......I suggested the 1966 because it was the year England won the world Cup. We decantered it correctly and a few of us waiters got the The good old days.


Re: The big tour

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:06 pm
by mick burgess
Hi Pinky
Yes it was Dec 90 I was posted to Lulworth as Range Officer managed to stay in the job till Dec 2006 I was living a dream Hunting /Shooting and Fishing plus still involved in Gunnery Hey Ho. Yes Munster Mess was a great time with some real characters.
Hope you are in good health sadly wont be at any more do's failing eyesight tried repling earlier but the site was down.

Re: The big tour

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:22 am
I am well and sat here waiting for the severe Winter to gabs us by our bits like every year.
So far so good, we had two dumps in September and its been ok since.
Just a matter of time...……..
All the best

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sat Nov 17, 2018 7:35 pm
by Bill Bentley
Our Big Tour, part two ...

(sorry pictures still not activating)

On the afternoon of the 2nd of November Rahi took this photo and later showed it to me saying: look our guardian angel.

After leaving Germany and entering France we just wanted to race on through because of all of the controversy about gas bottle refill / exchange and I have never had a good time in France anyway. Even so we would have to stop somewhere, France is a big country.
We entered France by Mulhouse and I was immediately impressed by the obvious efforts to conserve nature, with many ‚animal highways‘ crossing over and under the motorway. Also the lack of human habitation, the Jura region, with its steep forested hills is a rare gem these days.
We reached our first stop about 50 miles north of Lyon, typically, for us, a small farm type camping site ‚Aire Naturelle Tera Ferme‘. It was so nice and informal that we stayed a few days. On recommendation from the owner we visited the ancient city and market of ‚Louhans Chateaurenaud‘ and this is probably the best street market that I have ever seen. It’s been held there for almost a thousand years and many of the buildings also reach back for half a millennium.
New guests arrived fleeing a giant storm which eventually killed some 40 people further south. They told us of another such market at ‚Apt‘ which we then also wanted to visit. This brought us into the region of the ‚Provence‘ and old tales of a great gorge were dragged up from my memory. What luck that we decided to follow up on these old memories. OUT OF SEASON the Provence has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth ! In season it will be like the Lake District, an ant hill of human insanity. Luckily we had it almost all to ourselves, in brilliant sunshine, quite breathtaking. What was best ? All of it ! The ‚Grand Canyon du Verdon‘, the clay quarries of Colorado, the ancient dwellings at ‚Borries’ and a fantastic camping site ‚Arc en Ciel‘: the rainbow.

Our plot at Arc en Ciel: (sorry there was a photo in my text)

Now running low on gas we headed for Spain and hit another considerable storm and were forced to hide between lorries at a truck stop, where you don’t get much sleep. A couple more average campsite stops and we reached our next target, ‚The Finca Caravana‘ at Yecla, Spain. It’s about 50 miles north of Alicante at about 2,500’ up on a plateau, windy and very barren. Just the right place to meet other nutcase’s.
(sorry a couple of cracking photos didn't show up)

We were, by now, really getting into the swing of this Gipsy lifestyle and departed full of satisfaction on the morning of the 2nd of November. At the very first cross roads we were hit by a transporter, which was doing at least 60 mph, which destroyed our car, actually tearing off the tow bar and leaving our caravan to slide off into some road signs. While I was still in hospital, Rahi arranged for the recovery people to tow the caravan back to the Finca Caravana, where we were able to stay until we could arrange transport back to Germany. The first ‚rainbow’ photo was taken on the afternoon after the accident.

We had to stay for just over a week, as it was not easy arranging to get back because of the dogs and my injuries etc., we eventually hired a ’man with a van’ who drove from Berlin and picked us up. A round trip of well over 5,000 km in just 3 days ! He is called Faruk, a young German born Turkish lad and he very much saved our bacon, sorry skin. I really must make an effort not to be so sarcastic, Faruk did us a good turn and we have made friends with him and he will be bringing his caravan to park at our place for the winter ... and his Harley !!!!!

I must also give a massive thanks to Franz Marschall, owner-operator of the Finca Caravana, he helped us in just so many ways. Supplying us with gas, ferrying Rahi backwards and forwards to buy medication, food and dog food etc. etc. etc.. As well as cooking for all of his other guests and running the campsite. It is refreshing to meet such kind generous people and to be able to also call them friend.

I am, for certain, at least partly to blame for the accident and as our car was only ‚Third Party Fire and Theft‘ insured we are now without transport, so it’s back ‚on the busses‘ for us. Our caravan is being returned and, as it was ‚Fully Comprehensive‘ insured will either be repaired or the insurance will cover any outstanding payments etc..

All in all a rather expensive holiday - new lifestyle experiment, which we shall long remember. Still, we are grateful that it was not more serious. After just one week I could dress myself and things are improving daily. There are not likely to be any lasting medical problems, so all’s well that ends well !

By the way we have not really been put off having another go at becoming Gipsy’s, once we recover. The one big lesson is that we MUST learn the language before we get there ... but just where is ‚there‘ going to be ?????

PS If anybody else wants a PDF copy of my write up with some great photo's just send me your e-mail address per 'private mail' .

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:18 pm
by mick burgess
Hi Bill
Sorry to hear your trip has been cut short but am o very pleased you and Rahi have recovered and were not more seriously injured.
Would love to see the pics and write up will send email on your site.
Take care and health and happiness to you both.
M & M xx

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:03 pm
Hi Bill,
That's terrible news. Hope you make a full recovery.
I guess you'll have to endure a German winter now? They can be severe, I recall in early 1985 we had -26 on Soltau.
Stay warm and safe.

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:08 pm
Winter Chieftain.JPG
Winter Chieftain.JPG (283.38 KiB) Viewed 2850 times

Re: The big tour

Posted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:03 pm
by mick burgess
Hi Pinky,
Yep Soltau was a tough call on occasions but surely Alberta can be too. Liked the picture but at least you sprogs had heaters in Chieftain we had bugger all on Centurian :lol: :roll: :oops: By the way do you ever go down to medicine Hat these days had a good golf course I recall.
Take care M & M