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From Holland to the tip of Spain via Switzerland
Wednesday, March 30
Hank was waiting at the airport for us so we were straight out of the airport into Hank's car and then it was just a 30 minute drive back to Hank's house where we relaxed in comfort for the next two days.
Hank had the motorhome already for us, he had had it serviced for the 60,000 km service and new brake pads all around which cost about €1100. He installed the LED driving lights which we have to have connected into to the wiring system when we get to Munich. He had had a complete service check done on the Fiat part of the vehicle and a complete set of brake pads fitted so we should be okay for another 60,000 km. So it was just a matter of us unpacking our suitcases, placing the motorcycle tray into the garage to be sold in a few months in England, it gets the complete tour!
Hank had obtained a external aerial that boosts the WiFi signal so that you can receive it from about a mile, so that looks like a good piece of technology.
Friday, April 1
We drove down the swiss back road down to the valley and saw down a side road in the village of Mayschoß some motorhomes parked, so we drove a few kilometres before we could turn round and headed back there and that's where we camped for the night.
Saturday, April 2
Before leaving New Zealand I purchased a MacBook Pro, the Apple Macintosh was one of my first computers that I owned back in 1976 and I only moved over to the PC when it became obvious that this medium was going to have the majority of the software available. The MacBook Pro is certainly impressive with a solid aluminium case and beautiful screen which makes it all of your photographs look incredible, of course reality settles in once you see the same prints on photographic paper, but it is good for awhile.
I brought the MacBook Pro with me on the trip but already the original problem with the Apple of lack of software has reared its ugly head again, even though I'm running Microsoft as a parallel operating system it just won't run all the software that a conventional PC handles with ease. So it looks like goodbye Mac when I get home so that anyone is wanting a almost new MacBook Pro you know where there will be one.
In Germany there is a chain of other electronic shops called Media Mart and if you like electronics this is the place for you. As usual I spent some time there and found a very nice little PC that was very light and appeared to have everything needed and yes the assistant said the operating system would handle English, but getting back to the motorhome I found that no, it would not, and going back to the shop, to somebody that was in the know, said no, computers sold in Germany only have the German operating system which cannot be adapted to English. Yes he said, I'll give you a refund, but I need the original box etc, so was then a matter of walking back to the motorhome, about 4 km, back to the shop, and obtained a refund. This was rather fortunate, that we had stopped, potentially for the night, as normally after going to the shops I drive on and then get left with the product that I cannot use and in cases like this, my friend Hank, finds himself with a new piece of equipment, this time, sorry Hank!
When I got back from my last walk to the electronic shop, that's Luda broke the news to me that there are many Russians in the gardens, and knowing Russians she said, tonight they'll be having a party so we elected to move on, trying three for other camping spots before ending up at Pforzheim where we found a campsite near the town on a little bit of sloping ground and we hunted round and found something that was reasonably level and camped there for the night.
Sunday, April 3
This morning we headed off towards Sulzemoos which is just outside Munich and were cruising peacefully along the A8 when just the other side of Stuttgart the motorway was closed and we were presented with a detour without any real detour signs helping us on the way, so we relied on the tom-tom and all it wanted us to do was turn around and go back and eventually we found our way back onto the motorway after having done probably an extra 50 km so you just put that down to the enjoyment of travel.
We found the premises of Hofstetter at Sulzemoos thanks to the tom-tom and so camp there the night, connecting to the electricity we found one point with €18 of credit so perhaps that was for the extra 50 km that we drove.
Monday, April 4
This morning we had an appointment at the service centre for 8 AM to have locks fitted to the two cab doors and the main door of the motorhome. The backing camera had stopped working and we wanted them to fix that and they said was not possible to do anything else except what we had booked for as there was no spare time. At that point I asked them how secure the motorhome door was and they commented quite secure and then I elected to see the locks for putting on the cab doors and quite frankly I believe that would have created quite a mess so I decided to get the backing camera fixed and forget about the locks and use the high tensile steel rope to secure the cab doors like I did last year.
So they got started on the backing camera, and at 12 o'clock when I went to collect the motorhome they told me that the monitor needed repair and it would take three weeks to be repaired.
Now when you're travelling in a foreign country anywhere in the world you have to expect things to cost you more and you to make decisions that you would not normally make at home when you have the luxury of not having to move on the next day.
So I pressed the service manager to supply me a new monitor, and he looked at me and said, do you want to buy one, yes this guy is really fast on the uptake, I said yes, he said well we have none, at this point I really pressed the issue and he got on the telephone to another motorhome service department 15 km away that was not connected with his firm, and arranged to have one fitted so we drove there and everything was done in half the time that we had wasted this morning finding out that the monitor was no good.
So we drove the 15 km and have a new monitor fitted at a cost of €242 and then drove back to Hofstetter to find out about the warrant of fitness.
A lot of the Germans speak very good English, but the comprehension, possibly when they are translated back into German, can be very difficult, so you just have to accept that things are done differently and that quite often they don't have a clue as to what you are talking about! Each year we find out more about the motorhome, from the dealer, about things we should have known at the beginning, the problem is of course they only have one person that teachers the bits and pieces of the motorhome and his English leaves something to be desired.
In Germany vehicles need to get, what we call, a warrant of fitness, at the beginning of the third year of its use and every two years after that.
Tuesday, 5 April
Today at 8 AM we went over to the service section to get what we call a warrant of fitness, they decided the handbrake needed adjusting so we got finished quite early we left the service department at 2 PM, only six hours and cost €113. It was then over to the accounts department to pay for their road tax and insurance for the current year and that cost €1910..
We noticed that the monitor we have installed yesterday was not giving us the picture we wanted, it went to extremely high contrast we could see nothing, and then after 5 km went very dark, and again we could see nothing. So we went back to the Markt Indersdorf village, about 15 km away, where we got the screen fitted yesterday, and after inspecting everything they decided I needed a new camera and monitor, of course the warranty on these products are two years, and of course we are in the third year aren't we. We will had that fitted tomorrow morning at 8 AM.
Wednesday 6 April
8 AM we are at the service centre having spent the night in their parking lot, 30 minutes later they drove the motorhome into the service bay to fit the new camera, it was due to take 4 to 5 hours so we were surprised when it was finished about 12:30 PM and of course that made it lighter on the pocket as well. They gave us a credit for the monitor that was fitted yesterday so we only had to pay €1114 to see where we have been!
The beauty of these smaller motorhome companies with repair departments is that you can get something done almost immediately or the next day where as Hofstetter are booked up sometime ahead. They are also much more flexible and when I asked for the LED lights to be wired up he said, no problems, where as Hofstetter said they cannot touch the Fiat's side of the machine!
Then we headed off to Memmingen to a motorhome camping spot which cost is €5 for the night.
Thursday 7 April
A peaceful night at the over night parking spot, this morning I spoke to a South African with what I call” a serious motorhome” in other words a large four wheel drive truck with a overland motorhome on the back. He shipped to Spain in January he is currently heading to Munich to a serious motorhome meeting where there will be about 100 similar motorhomes and then he'll be crossing over to Morocco and driving through Africa back to his home. He is not at all concerned driving through Africa as perhaps we would be, I guess he just knows the country, he says is just a matter of being sensible where and when you drive. I asked him if his vehicle was necessary for such a trip, he said no, he said that one would do it with no problems as long as you chose your roads with a little care.
We then headed off and did some shopping before we got on the road, and I bought another printer- scanner, the current one does not work with Windows 7, and it is almost out of ink and from what I can see the ink cartridges cost almost as much as the printer.
Our first destination was an overnight camping spot on the edge of Lake Bodensee, that proved to be somewhere probably not easily found so then we drove on to Chur in Switzerland, crossing over the border without Luda having to show her passport, I guess if you want to smuggle people into Switzerland do so in a German registered vehicle but make sure the passengers are not wearing their turbans otherwise they may get a little suspicious.
We are right in the middle of the ski area with signposts pointing towards St Moritz and other well-known Swiss ski destinations. Our final destination for the day was a village called Zillis in a valley surrounded by high mountains, and again the other night camping spot was hidden from us so at the moment we are camped in a car park that is obviously used for tourists visiting the old church have a few metres from the car park.
Diesel has gone up substantially since 2009, then we were paying €1.07 and today it is €1.47. We do between 7 and 8 km per litre so on a 30,000 km tour that we usually do it costs us €5800 an increase of €1700. These costings, are for those that always ask us on what it costs, because they would like to travel and have no idea on costs.
Friday 8 April
This morning we were up bright and early as soon became very obvious that the sun would not reach this valley until at least 10 AM. I went for a walk through the village and some other houses are very old and the church is on the tourist trail, it would appear that the villages at least 500 years old and certainly looking at some other houses you can believe this.
There was a distinct odour of cow poo right through the whole village, and as the day wore on he became the standard odour for the countryside, it would appear as if they all do organic farming, and I was thinking if you grew up in the village you accept the cow poo smell as being normal and when he went into the big city you complain about how it stunk! It's an interesting world!
Today we drove towards St Moritz and to get there we went over a past that is 2284 m high and obviously there was a lot of snow and magnificent mountain views almost every kilometre of the way. It was very interesting all the small little villages, each with their own substantial church, and life in the village 500 years ago and today are about as far removed from each other as it is possible.
We saw one or two people out on the ski fields having their last trip to the slopes for the year, there were still quite a lot of snow about at the high level we were at, and it was beautiful lakes all covered with ice, but I'd expect it to be pretty thin at this stage and I certainly wouldn't test it. We didn't go through St Moritz city just round the edge, but there were certainly some big establishments there to cater for the ritzy crew that they attract.
With the sun not reaching the valleys until quite late in the day the mornings are very cold, well
The route we will be following on this trip through this part of Switzerland has been that of the Glacier express, a film I saw on the documentary Channel, and I noticed it had a road running beside it, so that is what has attracted us to this part of the country. We can't help noticing large number of trains we see running in every direction, they all use electricity as a means of propulsion and not every train was seen as have a lot of people in them.
We then drove on, intending to go over a mountain pass, and we noted that that was closed, but the GPS kept us going on a particular road, and then I realised it must have asked me if I wanted to go on a ferry on this road, as it told me to turn left and take the ferry! Yes the ferry ran through the mountain, some 18 km, and of course it was a train and all the cars and trucks drove on one knee and drove forward to the front and when we got to the other end we just drove straight off, that certainly another experience we have not had yet before today.
Wherever we go through Europe we see a large number of solar panels in use on the roofs of houses, sometimes free standing in a field, today on the top of a motorway fence about 2 km long, yes everywhere, makes me wonder why we don't see a similar sort of usage in New Zealand with our high level of sunshine.
Saturday, April 9
The camping spot we head for last night was at 1150 m and we were totally surrounded by mountains and this morning the temperature at 8 AM was 2°C and we watched the people carrying skis walk over to the gondola to go up where there was obviously still good snow.
We however carried on our way towards Zermatt and this time with a GPS asked me if I want to avoid the ferry, I understood what it meant and said no. So we set off on the roads through very picturesque scenery with the mountains towering over us where ever we looked and eventually we got to the ferry destination only to be told the maximum height for vehicles to go on the train was 2.5 m which ruled us out. The young lady that could speak very little English asked me where did we want to go and I said a city beginning with Z and she uttered some name which threw sheer desperation I said yes, she says go back the way you came and take to turn off towards this direction, so I went out with the map reprogrammed the GPS and were on our way up the road there was only open from 21:00 hours to 11:00 hours. Nowhere on the road could we see a reason for this most peculiar road opening time but we did not complain as the scenery was absolutely marvellous.
We went over the Lucomagno Pass at 1920 m elevation and drove past a stunning little villages perched on the side of the hills and every little village of 20 or so houses have their own church. Most of the houses were built in the log cabin style of whole tree trunks crossed at the corners and probably the whole house was built without nails. The timber on the outside looked really old but I guess on the inside it was just as warm as the day they were built.
Often the tourists complain, in New Zealand, of how our scenery is spoiled with high tension power lines, what is the same in Switzerland, but much more so with a smaller country and massively more people.
We stayed on this road until we reached the A2 at Biasca, and we carried along this motorway until just before the St Gotthard Tunnel where we pulled off to have lunch, and we got back on the motorway and within a couple of kilometres we entered the 16 km tunnel, the trucks were stopped from entering the tunnel in convoy by a red light on the truck lane changing to green after so many cars had passed. Once out of the tunnel we due to go on another ferry but that road was blocked on the GPS sent us on another road up over another pass to another ferry, one that we'd seen last year and elected not to travel on, this time we did and is not very much room on each side of the motorhome to drive it through this long train, we voted that we would avoid the ferry's on land in future if we could.
Once off the train we carry on through the mountains entering the valleys between these magnificent hills and it was quite slow going with the very windy roads so we pulled over often to let the traffic behind us past. Eventually we did a left-hand turn which took us towards our destination for the day of Zermatt, we had the intent of staying in and another one of the frequent car parks designed for the snow sports enthusiasts, but this time we found a sign saying the police did not approve of overnight camping, so we went back a couple of kilometres to a basic campground, there was a basic in everything except price, and here we are for the night.
Sunday, April 10
Today we woke to an outside temperature of 0°C and at 9 AM we caught the shuttle bus into the village of Zermatt, and from here we took a cog Railway up the mountain to station called Gornergrat which is at an elevation of 3.1 km above sea level. It was a 20 minute train ride and the train was full of people, with skis, dressed in ski gear, and I note now that they wear a crash helmet which is new to my one day skiing experience in the States some 20 or 30 years ago.
There is some wonderful views as the train makes its way up the side of the mountain has interesting seeing the volumes of people on the slopes today, and the “Swiss National” that was sitting opposite us was telling us that in January and February the slopes are just packed and there is long waits at all the ski lift stations. The train we were on was a non-stop to the top and the people could get off the train walk 20 m and then be at the start of one of the ski runs, do not ask me what happens when they get to the bottom!
It was a reasonably expensive ride to the top just to take a couple of photos of the Matterhorn, for Luda and I the cost was Sfr.137.00. There were several photographers at the top with some St Bernard dogs with casks around their neck looking for people to be photographed with the dogs, they only thing that I noticed was people walking up to the dogs and photographing them by themselves! I'm not sure if they got rich today with this system.
Incidentally the Matterhorn looked incredible, is a bright clear day and we had a wonderful view.
Evidently this mountain is noted for the best skiing in Switzerland and it was not so many years ago that Zermatt was a sleepy little village with the people wondering how they could make money, all this has changed with the train, chairlifts, gondola and goodness knows what else taking the skiers up the mountain.
It was really interesting watching all the very small children skiing, many of them without ski poles, and many looking like experienced veterans. I didn't notice any of the beautiful people one associates with the skis resorts, but they were people of all ages and some might say well into their 70s.
The temperature may start out cold here in these valleys but as soon rises to at least 30°C which makes for a very pleasant day.
The road into Zermatt is a narrow one way road that the shuttle bus travel long at high speed knowing exactly where he had to be to let the traffic coming the opposite way past. I'm glad this is one destination we didn't drive all the way to. The train service seems to be incredible right throughout Switzerland and certainly the number of trains coming into Zermatt would indicate that the majority of people come in by this method.
Around 12 noon we caught the train to Tasch which was the closest station to the campground and walked a couple of kilometres back to the campground, replenished the basics and then drove on to a campground near Chessel which is near Villeneuve on Lake Geneva. We have seen many warnings that overnight camping does not amuse the police, so unless the opportunity presents itself it looks like campgrounds for Switzerland.
We drove through very many valleys with grapevines planted in terraces going right up the mountains, one certainly does not associate wine with Switzerland!
Monday, April 11
An uneventful day to day we just drove about 100 km to the capital city of Bern, we first tried parking in the park and ride and then worked out we didn't quite know where we were going or how work and get back so we then set the GPS/campground close by to find that it did not open until 20 April so that was then onto another campground eight kilometres away, where we arrived at lunchtime and suddenly came out and gave us a form on how to get into the city and told us where to park and to come back to the office at 4 PM quite an interesting life they have in Switzerland, as we wandered through the city amongst all the other tourists we found a lot of the shops were closed so if you wanted their products you just have to come back when they were open!
Today was a bright sunny day the temperature of 30°C.
The campground costs are confirming our belief that perhaps Switzerland is the most expensive country we have visited!
For the record Switzerland is about 15% the size of New Zealand which makes it slightly smaller than Holland, has 179 people per square kilometre where as in New Zealand we have 15, and 6 in the South Island.
Tuesday, April 12
Today the temperature started out of 2°C with rain, and we kept the rain with us all day as we travelled north on the middle portion of the large S or large Z through Switzerland. It was a wet day all day and fortunately this scenery was not spectacular, round four o'clock we pulled into a parking area off the motorway where we were tempted to stay for the night however after observing the fourth police car driving past and around the parking area, and remembering that the signs that were posted that overnighting in a motorhome is illegal according to the police, were elected perhaps the wise thing was to drive on a little further to camping ground.
We reached the camping ground with no problems, and there was a large car park outside the camping grounds for the tennis club or whatever, and Luda thought it might be a good idea to stop their but I got all righteous and said no will stay in the campground. Of course at six o'clock at night the office was closed and backing up to drive into the camping area as the notice on the door instructed I backed into a pipe with a parking sign attached to the top and smashed two thirds of the plastic fantastic moulding that made the rear end of the motorhome looks smart, but totally impractical for knocks and dents. I think the motorhome we have bought is intended for the autobahns of Germany and not the locations we had been visiting.
So we got out the electric drill and the PK screws and screwed things together which allowed us to drive the vehicle and proceeded to park the vehicle for the night.
Wednesday, April 13
Today we drove the 137 km to the Carthago factory at Ravensburg, through the mountains of Switzerland with a temperature of 3 to 4°C, flakes of snow, through Austria and on into Germany and finally to the factory, then I will put my best bow tie on and go into the service department to see if they could glue us back together. A young guy from Croatia there was in charge of repairs came and looked at the job, asked me when I'd like it done, I said today, he went away to look at things, found he had the plastic fantastic we required, said we will probably be able to do it tomorrow so we sit here and we will wait and see.
Thursday, April 14
About 10:30 AM they took the motorhome into the hospital to have the surgery done on its rear end, two large pieces of plastic that received a little bit of a knock, and broke, have to be totally replaced. This took five hours at a cost of €1100, quite an expensive error in backing.
Now I understand why people wandering off round the world do so in a larger vehicle is more like a truck than a poncey motorhome. This has made me realise that the Carthago could be put off the road very easily in a Third World country, and if that was China, I probably have to pay for it to be transported back out of the country to goodness knows where.
I'm not quite sure what my next step is, but then I have quite a few months to think about it and to work out a solution.
Friday, April 15
We paid the bill this morning, and then got on the road south around the edge of Lake Bodensee into Switzerland and then on south to Concise on the edge of Lake Lac de Neuchâtel. It's been a cold day to day starting off at 0°C and got to a high of 10°C was a cold wind blowing most of the day. I've managed to find a couple of good WiFi sites with the aid of the booster which is allowed me to catch up on the Internet from the luxury of a motorhome. We found one of the very few free camping areas in Switzerland is right beside the railway track and will be out to watch the expresses roar their way through and just hope that they don't carry on all night.
Saturday, April 16
We left our camping spot by the lake and proceeded to drive south towards France almost right across Switzerland.
In Switzerland you must buy a motorway vendete to drive on their roads, the tom-tom sees them as toll roads so are always asks you if you want to drive on the toll road, and in Switzerland of course the answer is yes, leaving Switzerland and France it asked the question, however of course once into France you are then on the French toll roads which are very expensive, we drove for one hour and cost €16.20, so I guess every country gets the share of the tourist dollar the best way they can.
We drove down past the shores of Lake Geneva passing through the outskirts of Geneva and then very shortly passing over the border into France without the bump. We certainly saw the best of Switzerland as far as mountains, villages and valleys were concerned on our first few days in Switzerland has this part we passed through was very bland and could have been anywhere in Europe.
We deliberately took a route we had not been on before taking us down through the centre of the Rhône Alpes area and we started heading towards a camping spot from our camping book, we fed the GPS cordinance and that place is in the middle of the village with no possible camping spot in sight, we noticed in the photo there was a lake showing through the trees so we drove on down towards the hydro lake that was at the bottom of the valley, found a no camping spot for motorhomes, and just as we were about to depart saw the spot that we were looking for a long way from the cordinance in the book. It was a very peaceful location was mountains all around us, and after last night being beside the railway track, with trains throughout the night, this spot was very quiet.
This quite interesting to note that the highway were travelling south through France on which took us through the Alps was named Napoleon's route, and naturally any pass through the mountains would have been used right through history. Apart from the name of the route there was no trace of the Emperor to be seen.
Sunday, April 17
I guess if you go into the mountains to sleep, you must expect to be cold in the morning, and cold it was down to 0°C. However the sun soon warmed things up and were on our way once we have replenished our water supplies. We had a wonderful WiFi connection on this spot thanks to the booster.
We drove on south through the mountains and they were wonderful mountains for France, but just a shadow of what we had seen in Switzerland. It was a beautiful drive winding round the valleys with little villages dotted here and there and very soon we are in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur province of France and heading vaguely in the direction of Nice passing through a reasonable sized town called Gap. We had a couple of false starts ending up on a road that had been closed, and then the tom-tom wanted to take us down a footpath, or what looked like one, and we just told it that the road was closed and have found that another route which was more much more pleasant to drive.
France is very motorhome friendly, we find dumping stations and all the small towns we passed through with overnight resting spots in the same locations where has on the other hand Switzerland has to be the most expensive country we have visited, I figure we went through NZ$2000 in the short time we were there was really nothing to show for the expenditure.
Still on the mountains we drove past a very impressive series of hydro dams and I noticed the water levels were considerably down, and I was expected for this time of the year, with most of the snow melted, for levels to be considerably higher. Still the mountains we came to a village called Le Lauzet-Ubaye and there we found a couple of motorhomes parked by a picturesque little lake, and after driving around in circles for a few moments we found the road that led to the parking spot and here we are hopefully for the night, but no strong open WiFi signals.
Monday, April 18
We decided to drive towards Nice and I selected a road through the mountains as being the most interesting, and I told the tom-tom to avoid motorways. We went through some very interesting countryside and then started getting really into the mountains, and in hindsight, I should guess that was going to be a problem, as there was no traffic coming towards me, were due to go over a pass at 2804 m high and at about 2000 m the road was blocked with about two meters of snow, let me restate that, the snow was about half a metre high and extended about 2 m along the road, effectively blocking the road.
One solution was perhaps to drive through this little bit of snow, but we had another 800 m in elevation to go and I could not imagine there being less snow on the road ahead, so then it was a case of backing back down the mountain, about half a kilometre, which does not sound much but backing down a winding road that is inclined to be narrow, in a 7 1/2 metre motorhome is not something you do every day.
We stopped for lunch and told the tom-tom to go to Nice and avoiding a roadblock and found another road very easy, and after about 10 km without ourselves on another road and elevation of about 2000 m, with ample snow on each side of the road, and then suddenly we were in Italy, we had been close to the border evidently the alternative route will take us through a fully before we swing back towards France at some point.
We then started going downhill from the past that we had crossed over, so it was a matter of sig and then zag all the way down the mountain with these magnificent snowcapped mountains all the time in front of us, and when you see something in front of you, you saw them know that perhaps you have too go across that, and we discovered a little motorhome camping spot beside the road, it is set up for the ski season, I would guess, and at the moment it was totally empty, so we had to drive about 4 km before we could turn round so we camped beside a roaring river, and backing into the camping spot, we discovered we had lost our back number plate, so I photograph on the front number plate, printed out onto light cardboard with the printer we carry, and taped it into the back window and hope this is adequate for the countries were about to pass through.
Tuesday, April 19
We cleaned and refilled our water tanks this morning before we left, our first mission was to go the 4 km we went to turn round last night to see if there was a number plate waiting for us to collect, of course there wasn't, we then made the decision that it was unrealistic to drive back over yesterday's route on the off chance we might find a number plate where it dropped, so we drove on South.
We noticed some rather interesting animals about the size of a rabbit, but of the rodent family, I had a bushy tail a little bit like a cat and we observed that their home was in a burrow, interesting animals, no idea what they were so you'll need to check out Ludas photos for more information.
We had again set our GPS for Nice, and it directed us twice to mountain passes that had a notice up stating they were closed, there is still a tremendous amount of snow up there in those mountains. So we carry on South remaining in Italy, till we reached a motorway, and we saw traffic coming the opposite way, and there were no signs saying the pass was closed, so we followed the winding road up into the mountains until just under 2000 m we arrived at a tunnel that would take us through the mountains to France. It was a one-way tunnel with traffic passing through in one direction every 15 minutes so there was not a long wait and the 3.4 km tunnel presented no problems whatsoever.
Looking at the roadmap there evidently was a road over the mountain but fortunately we did not have to test the road for passibility. We carry on driving round and up and down the mountains in France, it was really impressive scenery, the beautiful little villages set under the hillside, the terraces of grapes and olive trees was all very beautiful, but that became a point when I didn't want to see another winding road going round the hill, so I reset the tom-tom for a direct route to Nice and very quickly we were led out of the mountains down towards the sea.
We found ourselves again on the toll road, we found a delightful parking spot on this road in one of the many Aires that are scattered along the French motorways, and it would made a delightful place to stop but then we remembered the beachside parking that we had three or four years ago in Antibes, so we reprogram the GPS to take us there and then to find a way across the rail line which only had one underpass at 2.5 m so eventually we got to the parking spot, to find that it was no longer available for motorhomes, so there were a lot of motorhomes parked on the side of the road with their doors facing the sea and the local traffic roaring past a few metres away on a more or less continual basis, this was joined by the occasional train that ran alongside the road so unfortunately was not like the spot we remembered!
In retrospect I then made a bad decision of deciding to move on to our next location without looking at that time and considering its implications, of course we are moving out into the 5 PM rush traffic, and going out of Antibes I had to swerve to avoid a car that was double parked, also observing a scooter that was what trying to pass me and the passenger side mirror got smashed for the third time.
Now problems to date, smashing the plastic fantastic back portions of the motorhome, number one, losing the number plate, number two, smashing the mirror, number three ! Hopefully that it.
So eventually we got onto the motorway and started travelling in the direction of Marseille, found ourselves again on a toll road, so taking the part of the last of the big spenders, elected to stay on it, found another Aires, not quite as good as the first one, so here we are for the night along with a dozen large trucks with their refrigeration units running!
I tried collecting some money from my Euro travelcards as this stopping point had a bankamat, and both cards were rejected so is obviously the wrong type of machine.
Wednesday, April 20
I was a noisy night on the parking spot, however a sleeping pill did drown out all the noise. This morning we set off towards Sainte-Maxime, a spot we stopped at four years ago, pleased to report there was no problem with the bankamat at the large shopping centre. We drove to the parking spot we used last time and found no Internet that we could tap into, even with the booster it is becoming quite a problem to get a Internet connection anywhere, most are protected with the password.
We looked at the route we did several years ago and decided to try to see different parts of the country so we headed inland again to the hills towards a town called Mallemoisson however to get there both of my GPSs want to send me down a track that even a goat would think was ridiculous so we looked at the map on the Auto route and found the road that went round the goat track to get us to our destination. Most of the way the scenery was quite drab, however there were some interesting bright spots that made the root interesting particularly going through a gorge where the road had been carved out of rock, and the road was inclined to be a little bit narrow at that point so it at moments like that you're pleased there is not a truck coming towards you.
We checked out the Internet several places along the route and the only Internet available were all protected by passwords.
Our route took us through a rather barren area, there had been taken over by the military, and there are warnings at the beginning that this was a military area, and not to stray off the road, as live ammunition was used. We passed a compound chock-a-block full of tanks, whether they were of any use only a military person would be able to comment, no we did not photograph them.
Our route took us through large fields of lavender, and in the military area we came across large flocks of sheep and goats. Some of these old towns roads are so narrow going between the houses that several times we have come across traffic lights at a tight spot restricting the traffic to one way, single lane.
Tonight we're in another parking spot just off the main road, at least there are no trucks here, at the moment.
Thursday April 21
It was a peaceful night by ourselves, in the car park, car park was there because of the natural phenomena of high pointy stones or perhaps one could call them hills or mountains, but obviously something that had been shaped by nature and I guess they must have stretched for about 500 m or more along the road.
We carried on the road towards Avignon, there were several stretches of road were trees on either side of the road that had to be at least 200 years old restricted the road down to about 1 1/2 cars, and when you driving a motor home which is about 2.2 m wide this can create problems, and if you don't watch yourself you again wipe out the passengers mirror.
However we carried on and when we got to the village town of Apt we checked in to the municipal camping grounds at a very reasonable price of €14 including electricity. We later went through a walk through the town and others just like one would imagine of old French towns with narrow roads and little boutique type shops rather quaint and delightful to look at.
Friday, April 22
We used the campsite washing machine and caught up with are washing before replenishing all of our suppliers and getting on our way to a destination in Spain. I programmed the tom-tom to avoid toll ways and we carried on until about 12:30 PM when we stopped for lunch and I reprogrammed the tom-tom to not avoid motorways and found I saved 200 km and five hours of travel.
Just before we got on the Tollway were going through a town with nose to tail traffic and a car sneaked between me and the person in front, to go across the road, and then all of a sudden there was a screech of brakes and a motorbike went over on its side and started sliding towards the car. It was one of these cases where the car for you to get across the road okay because the traffic was going slow, and a motorbike thought nobody was going to come out in front of him and he was speeding down the centre lane passing all of the cars, he was quite lucky he didn't get badly damaged because he just had a T-shirt on the top part of this body and I guess most of the contact with the ground would be on his backside so I guess he'll have a good bruise there to remind himself not to speed past stationary traffic.
So currently we are travelling on a toll way and with stops in Aires for the night.
Saturday, April 23
A peaceful spot on camping on the motorway parking area. We work this morning to solid rain which stayed with us for most of the morning or until we reach Spain, and then we started seeing sunshine. The cost of the Tollway in France was about €14 per hundred kilometres and we found that in Spain there was only about €10 per hundred, with diesel being about $.10 a litre cheaper.
Today it was just a matter of driving along a motorway eating up the miles as we drive in the direction of Gibraltar to cross over to Morocco.
We found another quiet spot on the motorway just after Barcelona and here we are for the night.
Sunday, April 24
This morning started out wet, and stayed that way for most of the day as we drove south, stopping for the night in the town of Sant Carles de la Ràpita where we found a motorhome camping spot with about 6 to 10 motorhomes already there. Being Easter Sunday, and being in Catholic Spain, all the shops were closed so we went for a walk through the closed town and found one or two Kababs shops open obviously run by people of a religion other than Catholic. A very quiet camping spot.
Monday, April 25
Spain like New Zealand obviously celebrates Easter Monday as a holy day, and again the shops were closed, and again there were almost no trucks on the road. It was slightly overcast as we drove south to Carcaixent a small town about 40 km south of Valencia.
On our way south past Valencia we saw kilometres of orange groves beside the motorway, I guess they were all for the famous Valencia oranges one can buy almost anywhere in the world.
We found a very large parking spot close to the railway and we were settled in for the night, until a local guy with his camper, told us of a camping spot about 7 km away we would find much more motorhomes this and it would be very very quiet, he said there was a narrow road leading to it, and he was correct, we stopped for many vehicles to allow them passed us and we finally got to the motorhome camping spot, it was an official camping spot, with a sign and all, appeared to be in the grounds of the local hospital, and we had a attendant there who guided us in to the spot where we were to be for the night, and we were the only motorhome.
Yes it was quiet and very very quiet, unfortunately the road out of the camping spot was different and were able to travel that with ease until we got to the main road.
We carried on South to Alicante where we went off the motorway to have our LPG bottles topped up ready for Morocco, we took 15 L of LPG, and we did have enough for our time in Morocco but now we have plenty. We filled up with diesel and probably have one more filling to go before crossing over.
We carried on to our destination of Bolnuevo a coastal village near Mazarrón and we found the camping site that we stayed at four years ago, yes the road was much better this time as they have finished it, and yes the fees had gone up considerably.
Before we checked in to the campground we visited the local Lidl grocery shop and topped up our supplies with food we'd like for Morocco. The campground name is Bolnuevo Playa and they are packed every summer and winter, this time of the year is good for space etc. The cost for two days with electric was €39.51.
Thursday, April 28
We carried on South and just after the turnoff to Cullar we found a motorhome and dump station and parking lot that we used last time we were passing through so we parked up there for the night, after we'd been there about an hour ago a guy came to the door of the motorhome and said are you really from New Zealand ? We answered to the affirmative and he and his lady from Nelson, had just pulled in their to dump their dirty water so they came in and we had a chat for about half an hour, he'd been here for almost a year in Europe, purchased a 5 m motorhome in England for an incredibly low price has been wandering right throughout Europe and eastern Europe during this time, his lady flew out to join him about a month ago and had a lot of territory to cover before they get home later this year.
Friday, April 29
We had another minor problem today our Flash new, full- world Tom-Tom Go 1000 stopped working today, so we resorted back to our old tom-tom and gave our new Garmin and airing as that will be used in Morocco. I wondered why I came away with three GPSs, and today has illustrated how one can be out of service for the rest of the trip, so now we have two.
Looking at possible motorhomes for the China trip next year I've almost resolved that we cannot take this plastic fantastic over such roads even after we install air bags, so we'll be looking at possible replacements and have found a Mercedes six ton van and has been fitted for overland travel for sales in England, a 5 m Iveco chassis four-wheel-drive motorhome they can be driven on a car licence, again in England, and a company called Overland vans who take a British Army surplus DAF four-wheel-drive truck, build a living area on the back all for about a third of the simular machines built in Germany, but of course on a new chassis which increases the costs substantially.
They basically have no waiting list and can have a vehicle on the road about four months from the order date compared to 18 months for Germany.
All these vehicles look interesting but the downside is for two of them is that I need to upgrade to a heavy duty traffic licence!
The other question I need to have answered for the China trip is do we need special papers to cross the Russian Stans, I see a lot of the people that go on the world tours by motorhome get an international travel carnet, and the problem with this of course is if the vehicle is registered in England and is substantially different in cost to a European one, so another problem to be resolved, and of course we will find this out in August when I visit the Stans Consulates in Frankfurt
Saturday, April 30
A peaceful night in the parking spot on the motorway, however the rain did not go away overnight that range right through the night and most of the day.
We drove to the meeting spot for the Morocco tour to make sure we could find a place on Monday, set in as a point of interest on our old tom-tom, the brand-new tom-tom is still not working, we then drove on to a camping spot further around the coast, drove into one campground and found the road went right on and on, so we drove on and on and eventually found ourselves in a military area, signs were still up but the military had gone, so we drove back to another little campground, found they had WiFi so we decided to stay there until Monday morning, has been raining so much here in this part of Spain that the motorhome pitches require good parking and more important careful driving away otherwise I may be here for the duration. Walking round the campground there were some interesting holes caused by wheel spin.
From here we drive to the meeting spot by 3:30 PM on Monday, there the guide will go through all the immigration procedures and will cross over later on the Monday. Yes we have seen the bombing in Marrakesh, we actually won't be in that city, we will be parked on the outside somewhere, and we will have two days of touring through the city, probably on foot, but is one thing for sure, the Morocco tour company will not want to lose any participants so I'm sure they will be checking everything out in fine detail.
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