Wednesday 5th April 2006
Well things got off to a bad start with the taxi arriving 15 minutes late, however fortunately I had made allowances for this so created no problems. What did create a problem however was on arrival at the check in counter and presenting all of the bags I wanted to take a was told I was a little bit overweight (20+kg), well I knew that and she did not have to get personal, however she explained to me she was talking about the luggage.
How much would it cost I asked, she replied $1786, well I guess my total luggage excluding cameras and computers would not amount to that so I decided to leave one suitcase behind, so all of the luggage was pulled off the scales and removed over to the corner and proceeded to unpack the what I thought were necessary items out of the suitcase we're leaving behind.
Next time I will give it a little bit more thought because if I had removed the tools maybe it would have sneaked through, I say this with hindsight because of the things that I did not pull out and are now sitting in the suitcase at Beverley Studios, Christchurch (sent by taxi), but more about that later.
She weighed everything again and we were underweight and so were allowed to proceed to the next department.
We were flying Singapore Airlines and as usual everything about the service and the plane were superb. So it was 11 hours on to Singapore and the three-hour wait over for the Lufthansa flight.
Both Luda and I commented that the Lufthansa plane and service was not up to the Singapore airlines flight.
Thursday 6th April
12 1/2 hours later we were in Frankfurt at 5:30 a.m., here Luda and I parted with Luda flying onto Rostov, after a six our waitover, and I went on through immigration etc to the Hertz counter collecting a "Seat" (a car made in Spain) small hatchback and about 45 minutes later I was on my way out into a -2° spring morning, with the sun just rising showing as a golden disk on the horizon directly in front of me.
There's one thing I like about the German autobahns, that is their posted top speed of 130KPH and I was averaging between 120 and 130, and everybody was passing me, no I do not mean the large BMWs or Mercedes, but little Volkswagen Golf's that must have been cruising at between 140 and 150. I even clocked a little "Smart" car at 140. Heck, the last time I remember during 120 in New Zealand cost me $700.
The must have been snow on Wednesday night because I saw traces of it on the side of the road as I was driving.
I had my computer on the passenger seat showing the route I had to take, the only problem was the GPS unit that plugged into the computer wasn't recognised, which didn't really matter most of the time except the times that I got lost, going a considerable distance out of my way, then when I arrived in Bielefeld wandering around in ever decreasing circles trying to find motorhome dealer.
I took a break and had a hamburger at McDonald's while I studied the map, neither of those things helped, so was out into the city with German place names, trying to follow the instructions that the computer was telling me, and finally, purely by accident, I found myself exactly where I want to be two hours earlier.
Of course the salesman was just going for an hour's lunch, so he would see me in one hour's time, yes he was young, a 28-year-old high-school dropout by the name of Julian. Fortunately I convinced him before he left to unlock my motorhome, and arrange transport so I could take the car back to Hertz in the "Lunch" hour.
All that proceeded like clockwork, the Hertz depot was 100 metres down the road, and I was able to unpack all of my luggage before Julian arrived back from his lunch.
It was at this time I started to miss the things in my missing suitcase, like the New Zealand poster to go on the rear window, the sheets, the towels, the tea towels and the windscreen mounting for my GPS unit, half of which I had, and the other half was in the missing suitcase.
So it was then on to taking delivery of the motorhome, passing over the bank cheque, with a major problem in communication, in Europe what we call a bank cheque is called a bank draft, and fortunately the bottom half of the cheque, that was there to be torn off, had the word draft written on it so that made Julian happy.
Having bought several motorhomes in the past I made several assumptions, which were very bad, and I've made a list of things to check off if anyone is considering buying a motorhome overseas of questions to ask etc.
They finally find somebody to run through the things in the motorhome, however the person with the good English was busy and I was given a German engineer, along with a student that could speak English so to cut a long story short that night I could not get the heater working, nor the refrigerator and of course if the heater did not work, there was no hot water, so no shower was possible unless one was used to water at about 5°
They lent me a car to go to get some food and gave me directions to the closest supermarket which I took the scenic route making the 4 Kilometre Drive into a 15 kilometre tour.
I was hoping there to buy a duvet, but they stocked food and crockery and very little else, so was extremely fortunate that I had packed a large duvet to act as packing in the large suitcase, so I spent the night huddled in a freezing motorhome with his duvet wrapped around me, letting in the cold air, with a motorhome sofa backrest as a piece of concrete imitating a pillow. Not one of my best nights.
Friday 7th April
Well the morning by the did come, the sun did come up, and the day slowly got warmer, so that the temperature in Julian's office as I started describing to him the shortcomings of dealing with foreign company whose native language is not English and how he did not communicate clearly what he considered went with the motorhome I was buying. He told me how sometimes he gets 300 e-mails a day and how difficult it was, at that moment it was certainly like the tropics in his office.
He made undertakings to get several things sorted out for me, gave me some extension cord adapters, two gas bottles, and the rest I will just have to accept.
He then gave me directions to another supermarket, loan of a small Fiat car, so then it was off to do some more shopping, at the supermarket I should have been directed to last night. I got loaded up with provisions, duvet, towels, tools, computer printer, paper, and lots of other things.
That all took about two hours, so when I returned the numberplates are on the motorhome, and jetlag was starting to creep up on me, so at that point I decided to stay on-site for another night.
Whilst I was in Julian's office, a guy barged in and started talking with an Irish accent, Julian told me that he was one of the Irish gypsies that wanders in from time to time with a pocketful of cash and buys several motorhomes. I was talking to the Gypsy later in the want to know all about my background, which gave me an excuse to ask them what he did, he said he did "Ground Work" and when I looked dumb, he said he was in building, and I went on to tell him, making the assumption he was a carpenter, just how well the carpenters were paid in New Zealand.
He then let on that his speciality was putting in asphalt driveways and then the penny dropped, that is a speciality that the gypsies are known for putting in substandard driveways at Buckingham Palace prices.
Later I got my new printer working, this meant having to uninstall the older model that I had at home, so a 20 minute job turned into 90 minutes. That done I was able to print out the Russian translation of a German letter that hopefully would allow me to drive the motorhome in Russia.
Then it was a matter of making up a new shopping list, and a new questions list for tomorrow, to hopefully answer all of my final questions. So that was time for my second nights sleep in the motorhome, this time I had hot air, hot water, refrigerator working, so I look forward to a pleasant nights sleep.
Saturday 8th April
Light rain and cold Yes the heater worked well, the water was hot, and I started getting prepared for the final details before I leave, then I discovered that Saturday's the open one hour later, which is giving me a chance to bring the newsletter up-to-date.
Eventually the office was open, I had a few more queries answered, then I went back to last night's supermarket to collect a few more things on my ever-growing list and about 12 o'clock started heading towards Holland.
Whenever I visit Holland I am always continually amazed at the amount of water you see everywhere, in fact the destination that I was heading for, Hank Buycks house, is an area called Castricum which has about 10 square kilometres of its 49 square kilometres being water.
I've noticed daffodils out everywhere as I drive through Holland, there's no traces of green yet on the trees and they tell me that spring is at least two weeks late.
Just before I got to Hanks Place, I found the normal road closed so I then spent the next hour driving in an extended circle until I lucked the street that turned into this area. Both Hank and Yvonne are well and were caught up with each other's events over the last six months. At about 10 p.m. jetlag really hit me so I headed off to bed.
Sunday 9th April
Clear blue skies, but very, very cold, Hank tells me that spring is running at least two weeks late, which of course is affecting all the tulip growth, and consequently all of the tulip shows.
Hank sorted out my problem with the computer and the GPS sensor.
Monday 10th - 16th April
Very cold, some rain, some sunshine, most afternoons hang took me to visit various camping store is, so I was either shopping, looking at motorhome accessories, working on the motorhome or working on my web site.
The 14th of course was Easter Friday, and all the shops open in Holland, and on Saturday, but were closed on Sunday and most were on Monday. On the Saturday I went to the small shopping centre at Castricum, it was packed, and people are lining up at the tills to purchase goods, a situation that would be most appreciated in many places in New Zealand.
Monday 17th April
I drove to a very large camping store in Schijndel to find the carpark packed, with traffic parked on the road some distance either side of store, to change the 12v to 220v inverter for a larger wattage, found some other necessary accessories for the motorhome, and then a hightailed out of there for Calais, checked in explaining I was early, they did not mind, just charged me an extra £55, and I was on the 8:30 p.m. sailing.
As always the Channel crossing was uneventful, however I must admit walking through one of the lounges I wondered whether I was on my way to Asia somewhere, but no it was just the people born in England talking with strong local accents!
I bought some duty-free wine and Bourbon, and the guy that was doing the packing put all the glass bottles into one plastic bag together. I was not terribly amused and told the supervisor who was doing the packing, that is wonderful to be back in England and experience the superb service! He explained that they did not have time to put plastic packing around all of the bottles because they had thousands to serve every day! As far as I was concerned it was just another poor excuse for not doing his job properly, and any further comments I made would be totally wasted on him.
So we arrived in Dover, which is not surprising as that is where the Ferry was sailing for, off out to a parking spot, fired up the GPS, found the camping ground in Dover and let the GPS guide me to the site.
Following day I started heading towards Peterborough and at one point I got tired so pulled off at the Duxford exit and as I was there went through the RAF Museum, it is very interesting looking at the collection planes, the collection of Spitfires, I was probably there on an off day because as you had to move from one hangar to another hangar, and like any airfield there was a large distance between them, and there was a shuttle type of transport moving around with sufficient intervals between them, that people would get sick of waiting and walk back by themselves, well it was good exercise any how!
At the "Gift Shop" I bought a tin of "Ration tea" similar to the wartime allowance and bought a flight jacket that had a "Polar" rating which I was extremely grateful for in Peterborough.
On to Peterborough, and the campsite that I had booked in for, found it again thanks to the GPS, found the people who I had recently met on a motorhome Forum, that one of them was a portrait photographer, so I spent a few hours chatting to him and sharing a bottle of New Zealand wine over a delightful meal that he had cooked. So far the weather in England has been beautiful!
Wednesday morning 19th , never talk about the weather in England, today it is blowing in raining.
Thursday the 20th and about the 11 a.m. we move off in convoy to be motorhome show and on to the Motorhome Facts space that had been allocated to those that had booked in early, they told me to come there would be room, so I ended up camping at the motor show with a group of people that regularly talk to each other on the Internet on the Motorhome Fact Forum.
The show opened on Friday and I spent the next three days sorting out things that would be helpful in surviving in a motorhome with a living space of about 140 sq ft.
I managed to get the satellite television working, the English agents, RoadPro, were kind in lending me an English instruction manual, which through the inkjet printer I have with me, that has a built-in scanner, I was able to duplicate, and following the instructions for first-time I turned it on after that I had most of the English programs I could wish for, except of course the sky Channels which are scrambled. Thank you RoadPro.
I organised to have a security system into the motorhome on Tuesday, I bought what appears to be a good water filtering system, and sorted out one or two other items, bought a secondhand bicycle for £20, and have flown the New Zealand flag or through the show.
I also installed a single "Gas Flow" cylinder (a LPG cylingder that you can fill up like a LPG car) and the necessary fittings for my travels through Russia and the Ukraine, I am unreasonably certain that the type of cylinders we use in the motorhome will not be available either as refills or purchase. I am aware that there is LPG in both of these countries and now it is a matter of hoping to find the outlets that sell the LPG and that I have the right fittings.
I now just had to have a deadlock fitted to the entry door and that should cover the security of the vehicle, this makes me disappointed that the salesman that sold me the motorhome, was too busy looking for the next sale to deal with the sale he had just made.
The "leisure" batteries lasted six nights whilst I was camping without power, I was reasonably careful with the usage, so I think the solar panels which a lot of people had fitted to their motorhomes are unnecessary with the type of travelling we are about to do.
There are about 4000 Motorhomes, at least, at this show, and I would suggest at least every second motorhome has at least two dogs with them, confirming the reputation the English have for their love of dogs.
It again I find interesting, that a number of people that I speak to a considering selling up in England and moving to Europe for a better lifestyle.
The photographer that I met, that was camped beside me, specialises in photographing people in council houses, photographing their children, often they are single parents, he has salespeople knocking on the door on Monday, they get photographed on Tuesday, and have print delivered to them on Friday, a 20 x 16 canvas textured print that he gets £150 for, he collected deposit when it is delivered, and a finance company handles the balance, they evidently specialise in this type of clientele, (the finance company) as they have people calling each week to the collect money for their purchases.
Is also interesting the number of people that are aged probably 50 plus, that in the fifties or sixties considered moving to New Zealand or Australia but for some reason didn't, but most of them had either relations or friends living in either country.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Here I am in the south of England, I am on a camping site on a farm, waiting for the security alarm to be fitted to my motorhome, I see sheep in the field next door with little lambs, blossoms are out on the trees, the camping site is one of the better ones I have been on, it belongs to the owner of Van Blitz, the security alarm people, they run it in conjunction with their alarm business which is accessed through the camping site, they call it Cornish Farm.
The amenities are very nice and clean, I just been up to put some washing in, it is one of these European drum washers which are not very common in New Zealand, and I put the soap in the conditioner tray, and the woman that came in could not understand why I did this, she been made the profound statement, that "every woman in the world" would know I had done wrong and then took offense when I questioned the accuracy of her statement.
Wednesday, 26 April 2006
I'm writing this, I am still at Taulton, the VanBlitz security system was installed yesterday, unfortunately was not to my satisfaction. First problem was that they had placed the magnet for a micro switch in the recess that is designed for the additional security lock on the entry door of the Hymer, and as well the motion detector could not detect movement at the back of the van.
Now personally £720+ (with a gas alarm) to me is a lot of it is money, and when you go to a person that is reputedly the best I expect a job to be done that falls in line with the reputation of the company and the price being charged.
But to start at the beginning, I was looked after by the salesman (whos name I can not remember) that it is a little short, a let us call him BB. BB walked me over the motorhome discussing what they were going to do with the clipboard and his hand, I was always under the impression that I spoke quite clearly, but I had to repeat a couple of items because he did not understand me, or was not listening. We went into the reception area, I told them I wanted a headlight bulb set added to the account, he said he would check up which set was required, and when he saw me later in the day told me he had it all in hand and he knew which one it was..... it of course was never delivered and I had to ask for it again!!!!
I was taken into the city, where I obtained some money from Lloyds bank, tried to find an Internet cafe and the only one, the library, was closed for the day.
While Eddie was taking me and to town he was telling me about all the things that went missing at the motorhome show from various stalls. Evidently some quite valuable items went missing, this I believe is called the "English disease" that is people taking things that don't belong to them, fortunately like all diseases not everybody is affected.
Of course Eddie should be grateful, if he lived in Scandinavia, (Norway 13.6 people per sq Km) where they leave outboard motors on boats, he would have to find another business. Unfortunately this is one disease the English brought with them to New Zealand.
And more on the positive side, look at the thousands of people employed in the security business because of this "disease"
Of course with 390 people per sq Km England is one of the most crowded countries in Europe, and they have been many studies done with rats etc that shows overcrowding does lead to a breakdown of social standards. However Holland with 382 people per sq Km as far as I am aware does not have the same problems!
It was then over to me to find my way back to the campsite and is probably better if I do not bore you with the details that leave it to your imagination and the fact that would probably take 10,000 words to cover my exploits before in desperation I got a taxi from some remote part of the city.
So when I went back at 4:30 p.m. BB proudly showed the over what they had done, and I could not beleive my eyes when I saw that they had placed the magnet of the sensor on the entry door in the location that Hymer have made for the deadlock. He told me they always fit it there on the Hymer's, and then went on to blame me for not telling him that there was a deadlock to be fitted!
When this sort of thing happens I become very annoyed and upset about the job that has not been done to professional standards, particularly when they try to blame me for the inferior job that has been done. I was told that I had not told them I was going to have a security lock fitted to the door. Hello! .is that any excuse to place it in that position and thereby preventing me from ever fitting a security lock, particularly in England with their problems of theft?
So they took the van back into the workshop leaving me to sit in the reception area, and after about 15 minutes or so, I decided to go out to see what they were doing my motorhome.
As I walked into the workshop Eddies wife Lynn told me I was not supposed to be in the workshop because of the pit, I am not sure if she thought I was going to throw myself into the pit and sue them for millions!
I told her I was here to see what sort of mess they were making of my motorhome. With that comment she attacked me for talking to her like that! (And she looked so nice). Fortunately at that point she walked away and then the boys had a discussion on the best way to tackle the problem. They were still wanting to blame me for not telling them about the deadlock!
I know I had discussed it with Eddie, asking him with all of the deadlocks I had on my van why should I have his alarm, and he dealt with those questions, but he had spoken to so many people at the show he did not remember! ...perhaps it is time he started making notes of his discussions!
Consequently I had to stay overnight for these problems to be rectified the following morning. In the morning they were not keen to discuss what they were going to do and I had the feeling they wanted me to leave it to the experts, yes, like I did yesterday! I suggested to the young engineer that they could put a slim magnet in the position that they were going to put a radio transmitter the previous night. He told me there were none made that were smaller than what he had in his hand, I commented that there was smaller ones in New Zealand, his comment was well we better get one from New Zealand, (yes he was very young).
So I sat in the reception area, dictating this newsletter, and eventually BB came in all beaming and said we have solved all of the problems!
I inspected the motorhome and somehow they had made a quick trip to New Zealand because they had a smaller magnet for the sensor and now it was working like it should have been yesterday.
They had the inside motion detector working as well, and I was told that the engineer that installed it yesterday had received a good ticking off for not doing the job properly yesterday. I guess he had had a bad hair day!
So was back into reception and Lynn brought the account out smiling sweetly, as she can, and I inspected it saw there were no bulbs on it and asked about them, I told them that BB had it all organised, so she turned to him and asked, and yes he had forgotten! Yes just like he had forgotten that I mentioned the security lock's yesterday, and I mentioned this, and Lynn again got upset and said "you don't have to be so aggressive"! My comment was I'm not when people do their job properly!
I also find it interesting that they are about five kilometres from the local town, yes they will take you in there, but you have to find your own way back through a maze of side streets and country Road's to the campsite. This is after you have driven a very long distance to have your alarm fitted, I would have expected a little better!
Incidentally when I arrived another motorhome arrived and they asked me if I had had a problem finding the place, I said no I have a GPS, they said well it was not easy, looking at the map I could believe that!
While the campsite is very new and clean, and it is also interesting for a campsite that deals almost exclusively with motorhomes, that they have no grey water dumping site suitable for a motorhome, well I guess they will learn! ( Eddie sent me a letter, a guy of his age should know to sit on letters, like he wrote, for 12 hours)
So I paid them the money and got on my way some 12 plus hours late. Drove through some very interesting countryside, real interesting narrow roads, the width of the motorhome, with large hedgerows on either side, fortunately nothing was coming towards me, and before my luck ran out on this aspect I found the main road and headed towards the Crystal Palace camping ground, where I booked in for two nights.
I'm working with GPS on my computer and will collect my NavMan when I get back to Holland and that may work a little bit better, even though the Microsoft Auto Route has vocal instructions, it is possible to make the wrong turning which I did several times to be told I was " off Route" So then I had to get back " on route"
But I have four more day's in England before a head back to the continent and Dusseldorf where I will say if I can get my Russian and Ukrainian visas for the motorhome tour through those countries.
Luda is having a good time in Russia, spending time with her grandson, and all of her girlfriends of the last 25 to 35 years. I collect Luda from Frankfurt on the seventh of May, where she will be flying in from Kiev after visiting with her parents.