The final leg

Things at camp naked worked out quite well in the end, we liked it so much we stayed for about a week. We had awesome neighbours, Leanne and Kevin, hopefully we’ll head up to Newcastle sometime and meet them for a drink.

Stella met who she described as her honorary grandma, a lady called Lynda. Lynda and her husband Stewart were both lovely and invited us round to theirs for a drink one afternoon which we gladly took them up on, it was a lovelyafternoon and we swapped email addresses to keep in touch.

Stella really enjoyed the beach and even ventured out onto a lilo with me and Lolly, she really got the hang of being in the sea.

She also quite like me digging holes for her to sit in and be buried.

Aside from the beach there isn’t really very much for Stella to do so we decided to move on and try and find somewhere that caters more for kids, we consulted the ACSI campsite book. We checked out one place but it didn’t look all that and the surrounding area was pretty run down so we drove on to this place.

It’s a Yelloh camping site which in season is very expensive, as it was out of season the pitches were considerably cheaper. We were offered a number of options and eventually settled by a spot by the beach which would eventually slightly regret.

I spent a little while getting set up while Lolly took Stella to the waterpark. Stella loved the waterpark and was exactly what we wanted for her.

There was a designated small baby pool which she could splash about in, there was a lazy river she floated around while in her inflatable ring, a jacuzzi we all hung out in, there was also another pool upstairs which Stella loved jumping off the edge of into one of our arms and swimming from one end to the other in her ring.

There is an on site cocktail bar and restaurant that we visited on our second afternoon there, I had a steak and Lolly had mussels, it was OK but expensive for what it’s was.

I also discovered they sell my absolute favourite Belgian beer on tap which was an excellent surprise, wasn’t cheap though, 6 euros a glass…

That night there was a beautiful sunset and I sent up my drone to get a picture.

When we first arrived we found a bar which was part of the complex called the Tiki bar, it was closed but a couple of days later we ventured back there and it was open, it dawned on me that i’d taken hardly any pictures of Stella and Lauren together so I grabbed a snap of them both sitting on one of the swings they had at the bar.

We didn’t really do to much at Aloha, it was nice to relax and watch Stella enjoying herself in the waterpark or trying to bounce with the bigger kids on the bouncy castle.

There are a lot of Germans at this site and they tend to head for the more static accommodation which looks lovely.

I also noticed the kids here were quite unfriendly. Stella would bowl up to any kid in the park or on the bouncy castle and say hello and they all just looked at her like she was an alien, I felt really sorry for her especially as everywhere else we go so many people make an effort to talk or smile at her. Most of the adults were the same to be honest, nearly every site we have been to people have been quite cheerful and made an effort to say good morning or hello, few and far between here, I’m not blaming just the Germans either, everyone was like it except us which I am sure got on peoples nerves!

Right by reception there us a little wooden house for kids, Stella went mad for it and I got a really nice picture of her in it.

Toward the end of our trip here I put up the awning lights which I’d forgotten to put out for the entire trip, they looked nice at night.

It was a lovely little spot we had but the wind blew terribly and there were mossies everywhere, they particularly liked me 😦

After 5 nights it was time to pack up and head out, when we checked in we had been told the spot we took was one price but it turned out to be about 9 euro’s a night more expensive, even though I explained we had been told it was the same price as the cheaper pitch reception were having none of it which kind of tainted the whole experience for me.

I dropped Lolly and Stella to Béziers airport and started the long drive back, I drove for about 8 hours to a place called Nonancourt where there is an Aire Lolly’s parents use, I got there and was offered some vodka from 2 kids in a car that were hanging around with nothing better to do, I declined and said I’d have a beer once I’d finished getting myself setup for the night. I’d been trying to find somewhere to grab some beers from all the way to Nonancourt and came across a garage that was open, to my surprise they sold beer and I felt I had witnessed a miracle, it was only when I was half way through the second can I realised it was non alcoholic not that it mattered I suppose, just having a beer after a long drive alcoholic or not definitely helps you unwind.

Lolly’s parents weren’t going to arrive at the air until about midnight so I caught up on an episode of Stranger Things and admired my view for the evening.

Camping for three in a motor home for 3 weeks sounds romantic but you have to take so much stuff..

The roof box was also full, now you see why we need a bigger van!

Before I settled down for the night I decided to put in my API information for the tunnel crossing, It was at this point I realised there was an error in my booking, somehow my booking from Calais to Folkestone had been booked the other way round, it was too late to call so I figured I’d deal with it the next morning.

About 7.30 there was a knock at my window and Lolly’s dad very kindly took my tea cup and filled it with tea, I had a lovely chat with Ian and Lindi along with a pain up chocolate and some cake for breakfast, I got a last picture of Bumblebee and Charlene as this will definitely be their last adventure together.

I said farewell to Lindi and Ian, cleared up a bit of the mess the vodka drinking kids left and got on the phone to Le Shuttle.

Whoever designed their ticketing system designed it in such a way in that if there is an error in the crossing direction you can’t just swap them round, you have to buy a whole new ticket and then give them the booking references for both tickets and they will refund you the original booking. That’s all well a good but as I didn’t notice until after hours the day before I travelled, the price had rocketed to over double the original cost. After a lot of negotiating / pleading they eventually credited my original crossing cost to to the new booking which cost me an extra 103GBP but on the plus side I am getting on an earlier crossing. I know I didn’t make the mistake so I’ll be contacting their customer complaints department.

As I write I’m sat at Calais waiting for my crossing,I thought I’d go and hang out in the Aire Lolly and I stayed at back in 2015, it’s been demolished and rebuilt since then!

It looks a lot nicer and tidier but it’s not an aire anymore, there was a burger stall and kebab shop that was really busy with kids, now it’s just a promenade with a load of lined parking, you can still get dodgy mussels and chips from the restaurant that time forget however, it’s still here and not moved with the times.

I’ll be glad to get home if not just to sleep in my own bed and drink a decent cup of tea, how very British!

We’ve covered about 1700 miles this time round and apart from a puncture Bumblebee has performed flawlessly cruising at 90mph with ease on the A roads, honestly, as a family we’ll be sad to see him go but it’s been a fitting farewell trip for our trusty home on wheels….

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Camp naked….

On our last day in Mont Dore Lolly, Lindi, Ian and Stella did some sightseeing and I spent some time trying to figure out the solar issues…

I’ve concluded that one of the panels is having problems working in direct sunlight, I know solar panels outputs are effected when they heat up but they shouldn’t stop working altogether, most likely something is heating up and becoming disconnected.

You can see from the picture below I’m getting a voltage that should now charge the battery when the panels are not in direct sunlight.

The manufacturers of the panel, Phoenix universe did call me back and sent me some things to try that may be able to fix the panel, if that didn’t work they also offered me a new panel at trade price which is a very kind thing to do…

Just before we left Mont Dore I saw this car parked up on the street.

I can’t remember the last time I saw an old Capri 🙂

As the title of this post suggests, we were off to a naturist site. I’m not a fan of the whole naturist thing and don’t partake, I genuinely don’t ever feel the need to wander about with my twig and berries swinging in the wind, each to their own I guess.

The drive down to Cap D’agde is about 4 hours and we didn’t leave Mont Dore till about 5 so without any stops, we should have arrived at 21.00. Four hours continuously behind the wheel is a bit much for everyone so we did make a couple of stops and arrived around 22.00.

I hate arriving anywhere at night as I find it messes with your bearings and makes things generally more difficult to find, such as the booking in office. At this point I would like to mention how lovely the staff here have been. Despite arriving at ten in the evening they made sure we had somewhere to stay for as long as we needed, security we’re helpful in directing us to where we needed to be and being cool with leaving the van in a drop off only point till we were sorted. The check-in staff on the gate explained everything we needed to know and when we registered at reception the following day the same helpfulness again.

As you may have read on my blog we stopped at a naturist place in 2015, you can read about it here, I still maintain I wasn’t made fully aware that it was a naturist site! This time around I was fully aware as it was a kind of deal, I get to go to the mountains with my bike and Lolly gets to wander about in the buff getting a awesome tan.

As I mentioned earlier, we arrived at night and as such the naked crowd had got dressed, sort of…

Turns out this is a bit more than a naturist site, as we were trying to find the night office to check in I noticed a lot of people wearing what looked like S & M gear, lots of ladies wearing string dresses with nothing on underneath and a very obvious transvestite which I have nothing against but just wasn’t really expecting.

We were all knackered so I threw together a camp for us to sleep and stash our stuff while Lolly entertained Stella, when she came back she said amongst other things she came across a couple cracking on and a few people standing around them saying, mmm, yes, very good….

We had the worst nights sleep, it must have been about 30 degrees in the van, Stella kept waking up and when we left the door open to let some air through we were both sure someone stopped to see if there was any action going on, we both agreed we wouldn’t stay here for very long.

The next day we decided to give the place a chance, all we’d seen was some odd stuff going on in the evening and a rushed camp which wasn’t the best start. I setup our spot with the aim of staying for a few days because as I’m sure I have mentioned, it’s a ball ache to get everything sorted.

I also got a chance to set up the hammock and setup the washing line as we are in dire need of doing some washing!

The campsite is massive, all of the avenues are alphabetically ordered so it’s fairly easy to find your way around, all of the avenues look like this.

Some of the properties here are amazing, none of them are permanent which is mad considering how grand some of them are.

Our neighbours in the camp are from the UK and gave us the full rundown, basically this place is whatever you want it to be, for example, when you go to the beach, go right for the family side which is still fully naked or go left to the side where people have sex and other stuff on the beach while a crowd looks on, similar thing at night, if you hang around the site not much happens and nothing is in your face, however if you want some action then it’s not difficult to find so I’m told.

We decided to head to the beach but by the time we got everything together poor Stella was exhausted and fell asleep in Laurens arms..

We all had a little snooze and then went to the beach.

The beach is about a five minute ride through camp from where we are. Back home, one of my oldest friends periodically gifts a us cool things her girls have grown out of, this has been really useful for this trip and Stella absolutely loves it, thanks Steph 🙂

Being a naturist beach it’s not the done thing to start taking loads of pictures so I’ll have to describe it, obviously we went to the family side but en route came across a couple of beach bars that look awesome and are part of the resort.

The beach is sandy and the sea isn’t far away, there is a lot of people traffic by the sea, mostly naked but definitely some wandering along from other beaches to have a look at the naked people of which there are plenty to see!

I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot of penis and testicle jewellery amongst the naturist crowd which is mostly displayed on the beach. Some of it’s piercings but others are rings made of metal or leather with your twig and berries bunched up through it, some men hang chains from their necks down to their waists and then connect it up to their goods, very strange.

Periodically a bell rings which signals the ice cream man in the area, Lolly bought Stella a cone which she consumed with a good helping of a sand.

Stella wasn’t too keen on the sea and enjoyed sending daddy to and fro to fill up the smallest bucket in the world with water, she did eventually get in and was really happy when she realised she could walk in the sea by herself while holding Daddy’s hand.

After the beach we headed home and made some food, time for a family selfie!

We’d booked for two nights but might stay for a couple more, there is no requirement to actually be naked and once you get used to people walking about in the buff it’s just like any other camp site.

The one thing that does let this place down are the toilets. Each toilet block that I have found has a tiny toilet for kids, a regular toilet with no seat and squat toilets, there is no toilet roll in any of them, just a hose to wash your bits. I suspect this is because when you are naked there is no place to stash your toilet roll so it’s quite obvious you’re off for a dump (poo for non British readers) and also it means the site doesn’t have to stock them with loo roll. The showers on the other hand are excellent, they are also open and have mirrors opposite them so at some point you just can’t escape being naked.

As you can see below, Stella has no issues with being in the buff, she’s just like her mum!

At this time of year it’s hot, this is the temperature inside the van at about midday

That alone would encourage you to take all your clothes off!

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A trip to the mountains

The day after Ian’s birthday was spent getting everything sorted to leave for the mountains the following day.

There are many things to be done to the house before it is shut down for a few days so Lindi and Ian cracked on with that while I sorted out the van and Lauren entertained Stella.

First thing to do was change the wheel…

Off with the old and on with the new

Once that was done I got the van hooked up to 240v, turned on the fridge to maximum so when we left it was properly cold and didn’t eat up the battery trying to reach a decent working temperature. Both Lauren and I went round the house getting all of our stuff together with the idea being when we came to leave at 11.30 the following day all we had to do was chuck a few bags in the van and we’d be good to go. That night we had a bbq and I took some awesome photos of the Milky Way, annoyingly they are on my DSLR and I don’t have a card reader to get them on to the iPad.

On the morning of our departure I noticed the van was only getting 9v from the solar panel, this is unusual, it should be getting double that. The system comprises of 2 x 50 watt panels wired in series which gives you 100w of power and I usually see about 18v from the panels. Not sure what is going on, fairly confident it’s not the wiring as if it was I’d get 0 volts as the positive is connected to one panel and the negative to the other, without a ground you’d get nothing, that’s what I think anyway, I proved this by removing the – leg from the controller and sure enough it thinks the sun has gone in and 0 volts is displayed, in my mind this proves the wiring continuity, it doesn’t however prove the solar cells. I didn’t have any more time to test as we were already late leaving.

Shortly after we left Ian stopped for fuel, I checked the solar controller and I was now getting 16.4 volts from the panels, weird…

The drive to Mont Dore took a couple of hours and we headed to the nicer of the two municipal campsites in town called Camping L’Esquiladou, it has a pool which Stella loved, facilities are good but the pitches are a kind of magnetic gravel, big though and they have electricity.

We planned to stay for a couple of nights so made our respective camps, chucked some food from Ians birthday on the BBQ, cracked open some booze and settled in for the night.

Morning came quicker than I would have liked mainly because the bread van comes through the camp hooting his horn to alert everyone to his arrival. The queue is something to behold, lots of bed head and dressing gowns. As I was now up and the sun was shining, I could appreciate a little more where we were camped, the view of the mountain is quite lovely.

Ian and I had planned to go out on out mountain bikes while Lolly, Lindi and Stella went into town.

We aimed for the Mont Dore cable car station which was only 5km away. Unfortunately, that 5km was uphill the whole way and in the midday sun, it was proper hard work but eventually we made it to the cable car.

The trip up was as pleasant as a cable car can be, it was pretty much as packed as one in the winter is.

At the top the view is spectacular, there is also a restaurant that sells beer.

Before heading off on the bikes I took the drone for a little fly about, shot some video and took some aerial shots which I’ve yet to process. As you can see from the picture above there are what appear to be lovely trails down the mountain, this was not the case.

The whole way down from top to bottom are paths made from massive bits of gravel, it’s a bit like riding down a really steep slope made of tennis balls, this photo doesn’t do it justice,

In the world of skiing, this is a blue run but in the world of mountain biking, this was rubbish. I managed to get down unscathed but Ian came off leaving a good portion of his leg on the mountain, ripping his shorts and smashing his bike helmet, I saw loads of walkers take a tumble so you can imagine what it was like on a bike. It took us about half an hour to get down and at the end we grabbed a beer, the day out on the bikes had been a massive disappointment, the best bit was coming home down the road we’d cycle up earlier. We did find a few small tracks and a luge that I had a go on, we headed home via the supermarket to grab some beer. Just up from the campsite is a pizza van with a few tables in a small garden with a lovely view over the valley, the pizzas were excellent as was the sunset, it’s bring your own booze if you ever go there.

During our time here the most mentioned word has been “Funicular” because there is one here and Lindi wanted to go on it. You can take your bikes up there and there is mention of a VTT course, Ian and I cycled to the funicular station while Lolly, Stella and Lindi took the bus, before we all left I got a lovely picture of me and the kiddo.

The funicular station is a lovely old building and the funicular carriage is quite nice too.

It takes about 5 mins or so to get to the top and is well worth going for a ride on. At the top there are all sorts of things you can do in summer, there is an rope adventure playground in the trees as well as the VTT and hiking trails.

There is also a lovely restaurant so we stopped for a nice but pretty expensive lunch.

Ian and I set off on the bikes, we found some signs for the trails but no maps. The VTT trails are referred to as circuits and the only one we found was the green which wasn’t particularly taxing and lead us back to where we started, we did come across a nice waterfall though.

We tried to find the red trail but didn’t manage to as the signs are non existent, this is also a ski resort so there should be some way you can ski or ride a trail all the way to the bottom, if there was we didn’t find it and ended up taking a fast road down to the town, Ian enjoyed it I suspect because he didn’t come off and got to fly down a hill, I was hoping for some technical trails that we didn’t find so left less impressed than Ian.

We stopped for a beer in the square, went to the supermarket to get more beer and then realised it was Sunday so the shop would be closed. Luckily we had enough to last the night.

We went for pizza again because it was nice and you don’t have to generate any washing up. Lindi wasn’t overly happy as she had a load of food in her fridge we could have eaten that was probably going to go off. That’s one of the tricky things about this whole motor home thing, you don’t really know what food options will be available when you stop so we generally cater for there being none which means some food does get wasted if there’s a nice food option at your destination.

I totally understand why Lindi was upset about the wasted food, we hate wasting food too but sometimes it just happens.

At the time of writing we have now left the campsite, the rest of the crew are down in the town looking around the spa building and I’m up the mountain trying to figure out the solar issue. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the panels is definitely not working, the one closest to the roof box, I’m not sure if roof box is partially covering one of the cells which is causing the rest to fail or if the panel is just busted, I can’t see any obvious damage and they should last anywhere between 10 – 20 years. I’ve called the manufacturer to see what warranty the panel has as they are usually guaranteed for about 20 years as there isn’t too much that can go wrong with them. The puzzling bit is that I have definitely seen a voltage reading upwards of 15volts since I noticed there was an issue, I’ve checked all the connections, reset the controller but it’s still doing the same thing. It’s not the end of the world as we’re doing very little off grid stuff this trip but when things break it annoys me, especially if I can’t fix it myself…

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The Party

As mentioned in the last post, it’s Lolly’s Dad Ian’s 65th birthday.

Much of the day had been spent getting the place decorated for a small soirée kicking off at about 17.30.

In true English tradition, the bunting had been rolled out!

Even the barn had bunting on it.

Loads of lovely food was prepared, I was in charge of the bbq for the day which is a bit of an honour as Ian loves to BBQ and I’m not sure he entirely trusts anyone with the job!

There are no pictures of me actually manning the BBQ so here is a picture of the BBQ and what became the smokers table.

All of the guests are local to Ian and Lindi and are friends they have made whilst renovating the house, some of their friends speak English, some don’t, one of their guests grew up in this house and lives not to far away, they’ve never been abroad, never really left the village..

It was lovely to see so many people at the house, Lolly and Stella made Ian a cake and we all sang him happy birthday.

The day flew by in no time at all and one by one the guests headed home.

The evening ended with a beautiful sunset.

Ian fell asleep in the garden, I helped with the tidying up and Lindi went on a washing up mission till three in the morning!

What started off as a pretty stressful day turned into a lovely afternoon and evening, hopefully Ian enjoyed it.

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Annoying….

All good things must come to an end and in this case I am referring to my pleasant hassle free journey to my in-laws…

20 mins after leaving my stopover I noticed a strange noise coming from the van.

When you’ve owned a vehicle for long enough you know the difference between the weird sounds that go with it and ones you’ve not heard before, they usually indicate something is wrong, sure enough, there was…

I first tried to repair the puncture using some tyre weld but then realised there was a gaping hole in the wall at the rear so the next option was to change the wheel, one slight issue that I’ve never sorted out, no jack.

Luckily I had the sense to take out some breakdown cover prior to leaving, the cheapest I could get it for was 100 quid for a years UK breakdown cover that includes 6 weeks euro cover from Just Kampers, well worth it. I called the breakdown number and in no time at all the nice lady on the phone told me there would be a breakdown truck with me in about 30 minutes, while I waited for the truck I got the spare wheel out from under the van.

I’m pretty sure this is the original spare wheel, it’s never been used, it’s also been strapped to the bottom of the van for nearly 20 years so it’s a bit rusty, still serviceable however, in 30 minutes the truck arrived.

In no time at all the wheel was changed, I noticed the spare looked a bit flat and I couldn’t get the dust cap off so I asked the recovery dude to borrow some pliers, he brought some and had a go at removing the dust cap but as he did he must have dislodged the valve momentarily and some air came out, I’m pretty sure what he said in French was leave it alone and get as far as you can…

I drove for about 20k and wasn’t convinced the tyre would make the 180k journey in it’s current condition so I stopped off, bought a couple of pairs of pliers, got the dust cap off and topped up the tyre to the correct pressure, I then did another couple of stops every 20k or so to check the tyre wasn’t losing any air, all good and happy to sit at about 80mph without any vibrations through the steering wheel.

Lindi and Ian live in a place called Le Tourondel and it turns out there are 2 of them 50 mins drive apart, guess who has now visited both of them…

At about 17.30 I eventually arrived and was reunited with Lolly and Stella who I think were very pleased to see me, I was definitely pleased to see them!

Many cold beers were drunk and Lolly’s mum made a lovely roast which went down a treat, it’s very relaxing in Le Tourondel, it’s also dead quiet and it’s lovely to sit out the front and listen to all the wildlife. There are bats roosting in one of the buildings and right outside the house is a commune light, the light attracts insects and the insects attract the bats, you could watch them for hours….

The next day was a pretty laid back affair, Lindi and Ian had things to do in the garden ahead of Ians birthday, Lauren managed to lie in the sun for nearly 10 whole minutes without Stella putting sand on her, I made some lunch for everyone and took an aerial shot of the place..

The house with the nice grey roof is the main house, the building with the rusty roof is the barn, the building next to Bumblebee is the bat hotel and the building up at the top by the motor home is the little house which Ian has recently restored. The garden is being remodelled hence the lack of vegetation, next time we’re here I’ll take another shot to see how things have progressed.

Ian and I ventured down in to town to get the tyre fixed to find the tyre shop closed till the end of August. Ian called one of his friends who organised a new tyre for us to be fitted the following day in a town called Tulle. Lolly had organised a trip to some epic caves, Gouffre De Padirac.

Looking down the entrance is impressive…

Looking up is even more impressive…

I’ve always fascinated by underground spaces, be it tunnels, bunkers or caves and these ones are incredible, they are massive, it’s mad to think all of this has been carved out by water over millions of years.

There are numerous lakes in the caves which have been lit up beautifully.

Part of the tour takes you on a small boat along the underground river which is awesome although you aren’t allowed to take any pictures or video while on the boat.

You are given audio guides that tell you loads of interesting facts, the thing that blew me away is when the caves were discovered it was in the 1800’s, two blokes went down that entrance on a rope ladder with some candles, got as far as the river, went back up and got a canoe so they could go further. They can’t possibly have seen as much as we could until electricity came to the caves some time later.

To work out how high the halls were they got a kind of chines lantern with some string on it and sent it up to the roof, then measured the string, genius!

This picture above gives you an idea of how big the caves are, you can see people walking up the steps and this was halfway up one of the halls.

It does get cold down there so I’d recommend talking a jumper, it’s a great trip to do on a wet and rainy day, we spent two hours in the caves.

By the time we got out it was 21.30, we headed home, had a bite to eat and crashed.

The next day was get the tyre sorted day.

Unfortunately Simon hadn’t told me which tyre shop in Tulle he had made the appointment with so there was considerable cocking about while I tried to get hold of him to confirm. Turns out he thought he had sent me the address but the message didn’t send. Once I got to the shop it was to close to lunch time to get the tyre sorted so they told me to come back at 2PM after lunch.

In France, nothing gets in the way of lunch, for two hours everyone downs tools, shuts up shop and has lunch. There is also a rule that you must change either both front tyres or both rear tyres, Simon explained I only needed the one, the garage agreed but said they could not fit the wheel to the vehicle, I would have to do that myself, no worries.

We did some shopping at Noz and Decathlon, I chipped off to get the wheel and the Coups headed to Lidl to grab shopping.

Tomorrow is Ian’s 65th birthday so there is a little bit of a party going on in Le Tourondel, I can’t wait…

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AND SO IT BEGINS…..

Lolly and Stella flew to France a few days back and I’m driving to her Mum and Dads place in Argentat to meet them, from there we’ll spend three weeks travelling around France staying in what will be Bumblebees last adventure with us…

Saturday morning at 9am I was all packed up and ready to roll..

The journey to Folkestone was uneventful but the satnav did take me on a rather long winded route as one of the sections of the M20 was closed, the upside was a saw some beautiful countryside I’d not seen before.

When you get on the train, driving through the carriages always reminds me of the Death Star run and I always hope a tie fighter will come screaming past me, never does 😦

It’s all very efficient on the train and with in no time at all Bumblebee was secured and we were on our way..

I took a wander down the carriages to find the loo and saw this which made me laugh

Hopefully they’ll see the funny side of it too.

From Calais the plan was to head to Oreleans and find somewhere to plot up for the night using the trusty all the Aires book, I was aiming for a place called Beaugency which is about 4.5 hours drive. It chucked it down for the entire journey and when I got there the Aire was permanently closed. I looked up another about 25 mins away, got there and also was closed. The next one you had to be a member of a camping club to get in, finally I found a little spot that was actually far more up my street.

As you can see I was the only person there, there is a serviceable toilet, the road it’s next to is reasonably quiet and it’s right opposite a lake.

Everything happens for a reason!

The van is full of stuff so I had to empty the van to get the blinds and bed setup, then find somewhere to put everything, at this point I have realised it’s unlikely we’ll be able to stay at any aires as the space I used to store most of the stuff is where Stella sleeps, we definitely need a bigger van!

As I cracked open a beer a small Mercedes Vito turned up and the owners proceeded to beach their vehicle on a concrete kerb stone, much revving and wheel spinning later they gave up trying to sort it and went to bed.

I had a great nights sleep, probably the best one I’ll have of this trip! I woke up and started to pack up the van ready to roll to Argentat. My neighbours got their van unstuck, rolled out a table and chairs and made themselves some breakfast, very civilised..

I made some tea and munched a BLT I picked up yesterday.

There’s been a lot of activity here this morning, some dog walkers, a chap fishing on the lake and what appears to be a hunting party.

There was also a couple of vans with hunting dogs go past, this place does remind me a little of Lake Crystal from Friday the 13th, I hope they’re not hunting for the local murderer!

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A few trips in the UK….

Life with a kiddo leaves little time for writing blogs and as such there have been few entries here with what we’ve been up to in our trusty VW…

Long warm sunny days out numbered by long wet days or summer as we like to call it is in full swing at the time of writing, we’ve been cramming in as many weekends as possible, you know us, we like to get away 🙂

Our first trips to acclimatise Stella to the van again was to our go to get away in Penshurst, our usual spot is at the bottom of a hill via a mud track which was still pretty soggy, we had spent a day higher up and been blown about considerably, we were also overlooked by a new thing which appears to be some kind of running / cross country event the people at kingdom put on, loads of people about the place overlooking our spot so we had a look round and found a hidden platform we could reach and was big enough for both vans…

It’s quite hidden from the main track which suited us just lovely!

This was in May and the weather was still fresh but dry enough to have a fire and cook on it..

Our next outing in the van was to Peppa Pig world for Stella’s birthday, we went with Laurens parents and her brother and his family, the in laws have an awesome motor home and Kris and Helen had a tent.

We stayed at Paultons campsite which is no more than 10 mins walk from pig world, the site caters for motor homes, camper vans, tents and caravans with generous sized pitches each with electric hook up, showers and washing facilities are excellent, there are also some quite stunning glamping options too!

Despite the weather being rubbish we all had a great time and Stella got to meet Peppa and George, she was truly star struck!

As the weather improved over the next few weeks we spent a couple of weekends back at Penshurst in our usual spot, good food, company, plenty of booze and massive fires!

For fathers day we spent the weekend in a lovely little site in Arundel called Acorns, all pitches are set in a woodland setting with quite possibly the cleanest showers and toilets I have come across..

The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind what to do, luckily we brought the drive away awning and managed to fit the whole family in it!

Not long after this, Lolly and Stella went to Morocco for 10 days leaving me to fend for myself, with a weekend free I decided to check out a place I’d been eyeing up staying at for a while, Birling gap, I went for summer solstice and parked up in the national trust car park, we are members so I didn’t have to worry about any parking charges…

I parked right by the cliff which I probably shouldn’t have done as I was wild camping but I got no bother so no harm done.

There are some table and chairs that belong to the trust cafe which was well and truly closed so I fired up the Cobb on one, opened a beer and made some food..

This was the longest day of the year and the sunset was glorious, it was lovely to be by the sea and watch the sun set..

Our next trip of note was to Volks Wealde in the grounds of Penshurst place, hands down one of the best VW festivals I have been too, not too hectic, good company as always and lots of interesting vehicles to look at, we had a lovely little spot in the corner of the site…

On the way out I grabbed a picture of the van by Penshurst place which we finally got to go and have a walk around, been meaning to do that for years!

Most recently we returned to Weymouth staying at Shortlake farm which is only open for the month of August for tents and small camper vans, it’s a great spot with no defined pitches, you find a spot and park up, toilets and showers are excellent as is the onsite shop, especially if you like local beers, fires are also encouraged, we took the fire pit.

We had a lovely view until a group arrived with two bell tents who happily told me they were going to ruin our view which they did, nice. I can’t recommend Shortlake enough and if you have kids, Eweleaze is a short walk away along a coastal path and there are all sorts of animals you can hold or touch…

There are also massive hay bales the kids can play and ponder on..

You can also reach the beach which is shingle but with a couple of lay bags it can be quite comfortable…

So far so good, we’ve had a lot of fun and Stella absolutely loves it…

Our next trip is 3 weeks around France which I hope to document a bit better than I have done our other trips.

Sadly, at the end of the trip to France Bumblebee will be up for sale simply because we need something bigger.

As you can see through this blog, we’ve had THE best time and adventures in our camper van and seen and done things we would never have without it, we hope he goes to a home that will take him to as many places as we have cause there’s plenty of life left in the old boy yet!

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Diesel heater update

After spending a miserable day in the snow and rain installing the heater I’ve since used it on a couple of occasions, it’s a wonderful thing having heat in your van!

As you will have read, on the day I installed the heater I picked possibly the worst day of the year to do it and as such, didn’t do as good a job as I could have. I hadn’t secured the pump as well as it could have been and with the lack of space to get to the combustion pipe work I wasn’t happy that was secure either.

My father in law is an amazing engineer, he also knows his way around cars and has everything you need to remove an engine and gearbox on your driveway, something he has done many times! He very kindly agreed to let me do the work on his drive and also jack up the van to such a degree I had sufficient room to work and it wasn’t going to drop on me, very important that last bit!

Here is a shot of the van jacked up just before work began.

What you can’t see under the van are 2 pairs of axle stands and the jack keeping the van secure.

What you can see is clear skies and sunshine, much better experience!

First job was to drop the fuel tank which is achieved by removing 5 bolts from the straps that hold it in, top tip, do this with a nearly empty fuel tank. Once that was down I could secure all of the combustion pipe work and reroute the fuel lines properly.

One thing you’ll notice with any of these heaters is when they are running you can hear the fuel pump ticking, this happens on the expensive heaters as well as the Chinese ones. The sound is caused by the solenoid in the pump actuating and then vibrating through either the nylon fuel line and / or what the pump is mounted to. You can look on google and there are many discussions in the motor home and boating world on various ways to eradicate the noise.

Webasto recommend installing 2 x 90 degree fuel line connectors either side of the fuel pump as mentioned in this article so I purchased a set. I set about disconnecting the fuel filter and pump, then reassembled using the 90 degree connectors and in the process shorten and secure the fuel lines to the chassis. I also made the install of the pump more secure in the hope that it now won’t fall off and should move around less thus reducing the noise it makes!

That’s what it all now looks like, you can see the fuel connectors in place and the pump secured to the chassis. You can also see the combustion exhaust and muffler. I highly recommend buying some extra pipe work to allow the exhaust gases to vent somewhere near the back of the van. It’s about 4 quid for a 60cm length from eBay, ships from China.

After I had reconnected the fuel lines and pump I had to prime the fuel again, when the heater fired up there was white smoke everywhere which on this occasion is a result of fuel overdosing from priming, however, I also noticed plenty of that white smoke coming into the van despite all the doors and windows being closed.

This presents a serious carbon monoxide risk (death basically) which is why you must vent the exhaust gases away from the underside of your vehicle. I’ve also invested in a carbon monoxide alarm.

Here is a better shot of how much exhaust you have to play with using the supplied exhaust and muffler before I extended the pipe work.

And here is a shot of the extended pipe work in place exiting the drivers side of the van, no more combustion fumes under the chassis…

You also need a joining pipe and a couple of jubilee clips, the joiner i used is from Webasto, about 8 quid from ebay.

I also bought a sticker to put above where the exhaust exits the van as it is quite hot..

When I got home I ran the heater for half an hour to clear any excess fuel and then switched it off. Once the carbon monoxide alarm arrived, I put it in the van, ran the heater for 30 mins or so again with all doors and windows closed and was relieved to find no carbon monoxide present.

The pump is quieter but I would be lying if I said you couldn’t hear it, you can, just not as much.

Lastly I took out the butchered seat base and replaced it with a standard T4 one that hadn’t been butchered, fits over the heater a treat….

My experience with the heater so far has been great, it does what it says on the tin and when it’s cold, which it is frequently in the UK, it’s nice to have a toasty van 🙂

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The Chinese Diesel Heater

Ever since we’be had the van I’ve thought about getting a diesel heater. The ones most people have are either an Eberspacher or Webasto. If you buy one new they generally come in at about the £800.00 mark which is why we don’t have one..

Recently a lot of heaters have been popping up on eBay that look to do the same thing but for a fraction of the price. Some are pretending to be a make they are not and others aren’t pretending to be anything other than a 2000w diesel heater with everything you need to install it. There is also a forum on facebook called the Chinese diesel heater fitting advice UK and it is a great resource for anyone that is thinking of buying one or has bought one and isn’t sure how it works,

After a bit of research I decided to take the plunge and bought a kit one of the group members recommended, it’s this one. If you take a look at this one or similar ones for sale on eBay you’ll notice they all appear to be in Manchester. They’re not, they all ship direct from China, they take a couple of weeks to arrive and when mine did, it had everything it said was included.

I ordered a few other things, some extra pipe work for the exhaust so I can run it to the back of the van where the engine exhaust is and an Eberspacher stand pipe. This goes in the top of the fuel sender and connects to the fuel pump that comes with the heater to take diesel directly from the van fuel tank. The kit comes with a 10 litre tank you can use but I’m limited on space so better to just the fuel tank I already have. Once the kit arrived I booked myself a day off to fit it.

I couldn’t have picked a worse day…

Whilst it doesn’t look too terrible it was cold and the ground was wet..

Things got off to an OK start, I got the drivers seat out and had a couple of observers visit to see what I was up to..

My first job was to relocate the amp that was under the seat, once that was done I then placed the heater where I thought it should go..

What followed from here was a lot of drilling and eventually sufficient holes were drilled for the heater to sit with the combustion’s ports, fuel inlet and securing bolts poking somewhere through the bottom of the van.

I had intended to take pictures of each stage of the installation as I thought it might be helpful to others, however shortly after the drilling marathon it started to snow and then rain, I had the front of the van jacked up so i could squeeze underneath it to run the combustion pipe work in, problem was that where they came through was just above the fuel tank with very little room to manoeuvre, especially in the the snow, rain and cold. At this point, I was covered in mud, freezing and not entirely sure if starting this was such a good idea. I couldn’t do anything with the combustion pipe work so abandoned it and set about getting the fuel line in and electrics wired up.

This all went OK but I didn’t take any pictures because I couldn’t feel my hands, at this point I stopped and went for a shower, this is what my face looked like…

I cannot tell you how much of the underside of my van ended up in my eyes, nose and mouth. I called a mate of mine and asked if I could bring the van to his garage to make use of either his ramp or the pit, the pit was free so I headed off to use the pit and all of my mates epic snap on tool collection, eventually I managed to get all the pipe work in and it was a lot nicer being dry and not lying on my back.

If I could give anyone any advice about fitting one of these heaters I’d say either get someone else to fit it, fit the heater in a box under the van and if you can, do it on a ramp. Oh, and if you are feeling brave, drop the fuel tank (on a T4), it will make your life so much easier if you have decided to fit the heater in the same location as I have.

I’d say this goes for any heater, not just the Chinese ones, the whole install was a right pain in the…..

Here is a picture of the heater underneath my butchered drivers seat and the controller up on the side of the units…

Once it was all in it was time to fire it up, the LCD control unit is not massively intuitive and neither it turns out is the manual. There is however a fantastic video that tells you how to prime the pump when you first have everything hooked up, how to fire the heater up and how to turn it off, you can find it here and I highly recommend watching it.

Watching the video, there is a bit where you select the desired temperature by clicking the arrows on the control unit up and down, mine did not do this, it just gave me some figures in Hz. To remedy this, before you have fired the heater up, hold the settings button and the up arrow at the same time for no more than a couple of second, this changes the setting so now see the target temperature instead of Hz.

Once I made that change my system worked exactly how the video suggests, we now have heating in the van which means we can head out for the night when it’s proper cold. Despite the massive pain in the rear to get the thing installed I reckon it’s worth it, time will tell in terms of how long the Chinese heater lasts but so far so good and they seem to get lots of praise from those who own them, the more expensive brands however say they are awful and unsafe, not what I’ve seen so far….

We gave it a little test down at our favourite spot in Penshurst, the van was proper toasty and outside was bitter, we would have stayed over but at the time of writing, Stella has an infection in both her eyes and wasn’t feeling spending the night in the van.

We did however make a fire and cook some stew which was lovely…

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Happy 2019

A bit of a late post but happy new year to all our readers…

Our last trip was down to Penshurst in October just before the clocks changed and after that there hasn’t been much activity on the camping front, the weather in the UK was still pretty mild but the morning was definitely nippy and it never warmed up quite enough to brave our mobile shower!

We’d like to do more off grid stuff in the winter but keeping Stella warm is a concern so I’ve decided to look into a diesel heater. The Eberspacher ones seem to be the most popular but they are also properly expensive. Looking on eBay there is a brand called Planar who seem to do the same thing for a fraction of the price. Planar have a UK website, however their prices seem considerably more than the price on eBay.

I’ve mailed them to ask why this is before I venture into a purchase, I’ll update when I get a response…

Update: I’ve heard back from Planar UK who have advised the ones for sale on eBay are Chinese copies of the Russian heaters they sell hence the price difference.

A kit for our van is roughly £550.00 direct from Planar, the equivalent Eberspacher D2 kit is approx £750.00 so there is a considerable saving to be made.

Both kits are a fair chunk of cash and at the time of writing, cash I don’t have so time to start saving !

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