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…