East to West

I’ve been very lucky in being able to travel around Eastern Europe as far as the Black Sea this season, but before I head to Portugal for the winter I have to go to the UK for two months.

Not the most ideal time to be going considering the state of the pandemic but nonetheless, it has to happen. I have a perfect, very remote spot there to isolate for the required two weeks.

The routing there takes us from Budapest through Austria to the south of Germany, as I will do a quick stop my motorhome dealer in Mannheim for a repair to my driver door handle.

Yesterday Olli and I left a Budapest that was clearly switching over to a rapidly approaching winter and en route I could not believe how cold it suddenly became! At one point it was six degrees and raining, whilst only two weeks ago we were enjoying upper 30’s!.. Time to dig out the winter coat in the garage, clearly.

On this routing we stopped at a car park site listed on one of the apps I use (search for sites) and it’s perfect. Effectively €1.50 for the night, and real close to one of the best city parks I’ve ever seen.

It offers endless paths to enjoy with lots of local dog walkers, all in spectacular scenery. It’s incredibly hard to believe you’re in one of Europe’s big cities.

We had a really good night’s sleep and only 4 hours from Mannheim, where we will go back to a camperstop there we used before. I have to say, Germany knows how to treat their motorhome visitors!

Studentenstadt Park and ride, Munich

Exploring Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea Coast

After my (shorter, thanks Covid) summer holiday in Hungary this year I ventured out to Plovdiv in Bulgaria where I had some paperwork to do. I decided to route via Romania and explore a bit off the beaten track.

My route followed the Serbian border and I went to a camp at a lake in the South West corner of Romania near the town of Hunedoara. The camping is right on the lake and was spectacular.

From there I routed south of Bucharest and initially tried a crossing into Bulgaria that Google suggested, but that was shut. I had to reroute and cross at Calafat. The roads were narrow and slow going, with some interesting traffic, but it was relaxed and easy.

sdr

Once in Bulgaria I headed straight for Plovdiv and I was so deligthed to hear about a new camper stop that opened there. It’s about time! Here’s a video I did about it:

Then it was time to explore the Black Sea Coast. My friend Vera who lives in Bulgaria now gave me a ton of wildcamping and campsite recommendations to explore and so off we went.

The first stop was on a cliff edge with amazing views of the ocean, where plenty of others were also wild camping. An absolutely super stop – Dyuni beach, south of Sozopol.

Just look at this sunset view!

From there I headed up further north and found a super little municipal campsite just below Topola, in a quiet resort and fishing village. Again, with spectacular views, and at €15/night it was well worth it.

It really is a super little town and offers superb scenes almost anywhere you walk.

Olli and I are staying here for now till this weekend and then we’ll explore the Romanian side of this coastal route a bit.

Overall, I’m so impressed by the Black Sea Coast – I really had no idea what to expect but I did not expect the scenery to be so great. We’re also very lucky with the weather – averaging 30 degrees in the day and cooler evenings.

I will certainly come back to this part of the world, and if you’ve not been, I highly recommend it.

Via Switzerland to north Italy

After Holland I routed via Switzerland to get to just north of Milan in Italy, where I was going to get an electric auto-levelling system installed.

My good friends Bryan, Sheila and their dog Ziggy have a house in Grimentz, Switzerland and so I routed to pass near them and we met up in the village of Sierre for a quick breakfast. It was super to see them again.

We took a pic of the dogs but not of us!

I found an incredible municipal overnight stop in the village before which offered a spectacular 360 view that was priceless.

Whilst it was fantastic to be back on the road again, I did encounter an issue with my new compressor fridge. Essentially, I did not tie down the thinner gas line and with the vibration of the driving, it snapped.

I can recall smelling quite a distinct smell and it must have been the freon escaping from the system. This means I was going to loose the frozen seabass and other goodies in my freezer! I gave Bryan and Sheila two of the seabass and tried saving the other food. I called ahead to the Italian dealer that was going to do the auto levelling for me and he put me in touch with a Vitifrigo technician that was near them. (Luckily, the fridge is an Italian brand!)

I managed to find him after a few very tight turns in neighbourboods I’m sure I was not supposed to drive in. He promptly re-attached the gas line and refilled the compressor with gas right there on the side of the road! All sorted.

Then I went on to the auto levelling installer – but about this I’ll write in the next post.

Wonderful Gouda, Holland

We’re back on the road again! With the travel restrictions finally being lifted, Olli and I left from Harwich in the UK late last night on the overnight ferry to Hook of Holland in the Netherlands.

I like coming on that route as it’s close to Suffolk where I’m usually based when I’m in the UK, and Hook of Holland is just generally nicer than the Calais scene. With my South African background I also get to enjoy The Netherlands a little bit more, as I can understand and converse with the locals (albeit a bit slower than they might like) and read the road signs and shop names.

A year ago I’ve discovered a superb parking place in the heart of Gouda, the Dutch city famous for the cheese by the same name. I enjoyed it a lot so I’m back, and this time will stay a day or two, just enjoying the freedom of being out and about and taking in the sights of the town…not to mention the local food, drinks and extras (and obviously cheese, already bought some!).

Face masks now becoming a fashion item it seems
We took the same photo a year ago

The city really is very beautiful with amazing architecture everywhere and a beet relaxed atmosphere, and it’s superb for cycling, obviously being Dutch and all.

If you’re ever in the area with your motorhome, park at Klein Amerika parking, it’s €8/day and there are also electric hookups if you need them. The location is super, right in the heart of town, easy to walk around.

Road test – Winter in Southern Spain and Portugal

I finally managed to escape the cold England grip in early December and set off as far South in Spain as I could go. I met up with my Dutch friends Erik and Joke – who travel in a humongous motorhome – and we toured down to Malaga in Spain together, seeing more and more sun the further south we went.

A motorhome parking spot in San Sebastian, North Spain

It gave me a chance to take the new Rayquaza for a proper test drive and test out not only how she drives, but also what my substantial investment in solar and lithium is giving me, and how that is going to help with wild camping (where you don’t have access to an elecrical hookup).

For most of the trip we simply “wild camped”, eg no access to an electrical hookup.

In short, she performs brilliantly. Only this week – 6 weeks after I left – did I hook up to an eletrical plug at a campsite, and only because it was there. I’ve been free/wild camping till now and my only slight gripe is I wish I had more water onboard. The tank is a stated 120 litres, but that can go quite quickly, especially if one uses the shower. Luckily, water is not too difficult to find, I tend to ask at petrol stations after I filled up on diesel, if they’d mind I hook up to a tap outside and fill up.

There were a few other snags, like a small leak in my water tank access hatch or an led light not working, but nothing major and easily fixable stuff to deal with.

I also figured out whilst I can have the 230v on all the time, I can’t really run the fride on the mains if I had a couple of cloudy days – at some stage the drain just becomes too much. That is easily solved though by simply running the fridge on gas overnight, and on power in the daytime, especially if it’s sunny.

The Viktron inverter/charger combi I got installed (the thing that manages all the power flow and turns 12v battery power into mains power) is an incredible piece of kit, and having mains power at all times / when I need it without having to faff about with a separate inverter etc is just superb.

The back bedroom area

Everything about the new motorhome feels so new, fresh and nice to use it’s only a pleasure.

.. And notice my South African flower themed cushions, thanks Ma Adri!

I’m still a bit skeptical about the longevity of some of the interior fittings (e.g. drawer closing brackets etc) but so far, so good. The new 4g / 5g antenna I had put in also performs extremely well and so does my cross-EU Vodafone package with unlimited Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming – perfect!

On a personal front, I had my mother, Adri, join me for a tour from Malaga to the border on Spain in Ayamonte, where my older brother lives, and we got to spend Christmas together.

Again with the new motorhome having a large guest bed in the front is a winner and the ability to seperate the two sleeping areas, and provide privacy in the bathroom space worked really well. This is a super motorhome!

With the holiday season long gone and my mother back to South Africa, I returned to the nomadic working lifestyle again, and settled down in spots I liked in the week, so I can work, whilst traveling mostly on the weekends.

Motorhome parking spot in the marina of Ayamonte, Spain

This week I joined up again with Joke and Erik, who are also still in the area. We spent the week at a remote campsite just south of Lisbon but now we’re back in the south again and I’m likely to return to what is becoming a favourite spot, the motorhome parking in the marina of Ayamonte. It is superbly located, with views onto the boats and then the town, and its quiet at night whilst easy to walk into town and enjoy a range of choice for food and drinks.

At some stage I need to start heading North again, as I need to be in the UK late Feb, but for now Olli and I are clinging on to as many days in the warmer sunnier climate of South Spain as we can get.

Homeless without Rayquaza

Today I handed over my home for the last three years, my motorhome Rayquaza, to the new buyers. Whilst I’m very happy she went to a young, enthusiatic and absolutely lovely couple who want to make her their new home, I’m quite sad now!

She looked after me well, and took me from Denmark to Turkey without moaning, ever.

Here’s to you Rayquaza, may you bring your owners the same joy you gave me.

Now for the next big step, getting my new motorhome! I’m expecting to go collect on 21 October in Germany and to be honest, till now I’ve not thought about that much but now I’m getting very excited!

Updating RayQuaza

My motorhome, named RayQuaza, will be 12 years old next year. For most motorhomes, that is not too old but for one in which you live full-time, it’s perhaps time to be replaced. It’s still a great motorhome for occasional use and I hope to find a good buyer for her! (and if you know of anyone, let me know…)

So the big question of course was, which motorhome to get? I have a specific list of “must-haves” and then some optional nice-to-haves, and then of course there was the budget. The latter quickly went out the window (!) but I’ll make it work, somehow. I have saved a tremendous amount of money the last 2-3 years living full-time in a motorhome and I have worked out I can part-finance a new one and have it all paid off relatively soon, whilst still saving plenty of money. Ideally my new one will last me at least 10 years, so as an “investment” it’s actually pretty good.

Initially I had my heart set on a Hymer – lovely German motorhomes, but terribly expensive. Then at the campsite I’m now I got some really good advice from a fellow (German) nomad, Ulli, who told me to approach German dealers wanting to get right of demo and rental stock in the September / October period. He was right – there were loads of stock that was relatively new with low mileage, discounted by about 25% off the retail price, and packaged with extras like awning, sattelite TV etc.

And so I saw and fell in love with a Bürstner model “Ixeo”, initially a smaller one (same size as current motorhome) but then I saw the (even more expensive….bye bye budget) longer version at 7.49m which gave me a type of “en-suite” bathroom at the back with a seperate shower. I really like this as it gives you more privacy, it’s safer if parked at night not in a campsite, as you have an extra door between you and the outside and so on.

This is the view from the bed at the back with the toilet door closing off the passage.

I also really like the fact there is a seperate shower with air vent and hanging rail – perfect for wet clothes, towels etc and not in the way of the toilet.

Overall what attrached me most to this motorhome (Ixeo I 728 G) was the light colour scheme, and the fact the body has no wood in it (so a lower risk from damp) and the XPS frame which improves it’s resistance to hail damage. She also has a double floor (great for insulation) and the water tanks are in there as well, meaning they are well protected from the cold. The split beds at the back can be made into a huge queen bed, and there is a big drop-down bed in the front. So if you wanted to visit …. now there’s space!

Overall, she’s just super beautiful and quite perfect! I have a lot to do before I can get her (late October) from the dealer in Germany, including upgrading my driving license which I will do in the UK in September, as this motorhome has a max permissible weight of 3 850kg, whilst a “normal” license allows you to drive a vehicle to 3 500kg. But it does mean she can take about 650kg in extra weight, which could mean I don’t have to use a trailer.

I am also keeping a close eye on the outcome of Brexit, especially in a no-deal scenario, as if that happens I will consider registering this motorhome in an EU country in order to avoid disruption at borders or limitations on my allowable stay. Bulgaria is the likely option since I already have residency there.

So I’m very excited at the prospect of getting RayQuaza II – it’s more than a dream come true, and a long long way from my first fold-open small trailer tent I started with!

It’s cold and wet in Buda and Pest

I’ve managed to get to Budapest where I have about ten days to sort out a few things including a series of follow up visits to a (brilliant) dentist I visited last year. Since her practise is on the Buda side, I decided to try a different than my usual campsite and stayed at “Niche Camping“, which was only about 5 km from the dentist, making for a much easier bike ride there. (Great little campsite btw, even throwing in a breakfast which was unexpected.)

How different the Buda side is from how I generally know Budapest is! Much greener, more spacious and in the area of the campsite, very big houses and lush properties!

Just next to the campsite is a chairlift that takes you up to a scenic lookout, but Ollli and I took to the steps below it for our daily walk. It was a great walk offering some super scenery.

 

We also made a few new friends on the walk!

Over the weekend I moved to my “usual” campsite in Budapest, Haller Camping since it’s fantastically located providing for easy access to the heart of the Pest side. But we’ve had 3 days of non-stop rain meaning quite a bit of Netflix, reading and the occasional walk, as Olli is a very fair weather dog.

When he can hear the rain on the roof….

The forecast is looking up though and we should get sunnier weather as of tomorrow. I certainly hope so as I’m quite sure I won’t be able to drive out of the mudpit we are currently in…

I’ve also been experimenting more with quite an alternative diet recently – more vegetarian / Indian / natural and I’ll write a post about this soon, it’s been quite an interesting experience for me to discover new tastes and learn how to cook without meat being the primary element of the dish!

By the end of the week we should be heading to the south of Lake Balaton where as usual I’ll spend the summer months.


Heading to Italy

It’s good to be back on the road again, though I’ll miss the UK friends and company. I had to be UK based for a bit whilst doing work trips abroad and attending conferences and client meetings.

As per usual I’ll be spending the summer in Hungary, at Lake Balaton. I was going to make it a slow drive with plenty of exploring to get there, but as I’m now quite late… Best just to get there. I’ll make a stop in Pieve di Soligo, near Treviso in Italy where I’ll see my friend Andrea, have the motorhome serviced and stock up on some prosecco, obviously.

It’s been a good day to travel albeit hot! Olli and I stopped in Gouda in the Netherlands to explore, and wow! Fantastic place. There is a superb motorhome parking dead centre of town with water and electricity, called Klein Amerika parking. Deffo worth a stop (can even overnight) and explore this super town.

Ciao!

A super week in Santa Susanna

With a view like this, and really good weather considering the time of year, I had a really good stay in Santa Susanna. The McArdles also visited and the boys loved it.

Now I’m heading in the wrong direction – North! I will have Rayquaza and Olli UK based whilst I do a work trip to Africa later in January, and hence I’m heading to the UK. As Britanny Ferries calmly quoted me a price similar to what a weekend on the Death Star might cost, I decided to drive up to Calais and take the train across. Not the most pleasant of drives but it is nice to be back in the road again.

Olli and I wish you a happy New Year!