Staying at home in the motorhome

I hope this post finds you well and safe during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

I am in social distancing mode in the UK, after just making it back in time in mid March before all the borders closed.

It’s been strange in a way that as routines go, not much has changed for me as I’m on my usual spot when I’m in the UK and as we are still allowed out for walks and runs, Olli and I can still enjoy the super surroundings of Woodbridge, and I go to the garden office we’ve had for many years now, to work.

Low tide along the river Deben in Woodbridge

However normally by now I would have been heading to Italy and then over to Hungary… But it seems very unlikely I’ll be in my usual camping spot in Hungary this summer, though it could be an option late in August, who knows where this pandemic will take us.

I guess should we be OK to allow more movement in the UK by the summer, Olli and I might tour Scotland a bit this summer. I suspect a few whiskey tours might come up!

Keep safe and stay at home to fight this pandemic!

Driving through Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic

I’ve been on the A4 road north of Paris many times, but I’ve never seen it so void of people and cars. I had to drive from Frankfurt to the UK just as France not only closed it’s borders, but also wants people to stay at home to help curb the spread of the Corona virus.

As such I had to explain several times to police I’m heading “home” and need to get to Calais. Luckily the motorhome has a GB registration. Scenes along the way looked like a typical “the world has ended” movie… Deserted shops, empty streets and only trucks, motorhomes, ambulances and on a very morbid note, noticeably more undertaker vehicles on the highway. The ferry I’m on now is virtually empty, only truckers and two other cars.

An empty ferry

This thing is serious and apart from the tragic loss of life, can we even begin to understand the economic impact? We are in unprecedented times.

There is though silver linings. People around me are genuinely more friendly, smiling, asking how you are. People are holding doors open (with their feet!) and in general, being nice.

For me, later today I’ll be reunited with my dog Olli who had to stay behind in the UK whilst I went on a long work trip to Qatar and South Africa. I’m picking him up and the heading to the big farmhouse near Cambridge we rented for our company team meetup, that has now been cancelled. I’m looking forward to the solitude of that and being able to catch up with Olli!

Stay safe but more importantly be kind to others. Together we’ll get through this thing.

Getting a feel for the new home

So as I’m preparing to sell my current motorhome, Rayquaza, I stopped at the motorhome show in Dusseldorf on the way to the UK. It’s an insanely big event (the world’s largest motorhome show) but exceptionally well organised.

I went to see the dealer who is selling me the new motorhome and also, to physically see a model similar to the one I’m buying, as I’ve never actually seen it in person.

I was not disappointed. Wow, this is going to be one massive upgrade. Everything feels just so fresh, new and spacious!

This is the size of the garage! I’m sitting in it and it still has a ton of space. What is especially good is that it has two big doors on either side.

I was concerned the two beds at the back might be too small as individual beds, but they are not, I tried them!

I really like the fact I can sleep like this and not require a ladder to get up and down.

The new motorhome (a Burstner Ixeo 728) is a “integrated” model meaning the front is as wide as the body. I was a bit worried about the new steering position but I tried it out and wow, this thing is going to be a dream to drive!

I also went to see some suppliers of solar and lithium and got some ideas on how to always have 230v available, and I’m going to see if I can squeeze this into the destroyed budget.

Exciting times ahead!

Starting life on the right foot

This magnificent truck camper conversion drew my attention immediately when I saw it parked near my plot last week. It confirmed the heavy sound that vibrated through the whole campsite when it arrived.

Wow!

I went to have a chat with the young couple who owns it and the story behind it is even more inspiring.

Christian and wife (Ina, I think I might have that wrong) recently became first time parents and decided they wanted to spend quality time with their daughter in her first 6 months. They combined that with their love for touring and Christian converted a truck he bought from the Danish army, with a container from Holland, and they set off on an extended trip which saw them spend nearly 3 months in Morocco.

They were experienced motorhomers and they could kit out the new truck just they way they wanted. It is a magnificent piece of touring equipment and I got to take a peek inside.

The container is the perfect height and size to provide for a comfortable, safe and well insulated living environment. They are very eco focused and had plenty of ability to stay off grid yet have all the power, clean water and environmentally friendly grey water disposal they could require and produce.

Very impressive. The cherry on top was their (now very happy) rescued Polish dog, Hubert, who posed quite happily from his favourite spot.

Wow, Switzerland!

After Germany I went to visit my friends Bryan and Sheila in Grimentz, Switzerland.

Wow.

Up, up and more up the moutain passes till I eventually called them to say I’m not sure Google Maps is leading me on the right path, and I’ll just wait for them to come fetch me from the village.

I could eventually park about 100 metres from their new, absolutely gorgeous house and again, wow.

Here’s what was my view …

It was an incredible experience and we did fantastic walks, much to Olli’s enjoyment (which he enjoyed almost as much as the attention he got from Sheila, with suggestions of ice blocks in his water bowl overheard at some stage! He was not complaining..)

I took some drone footage and it’s on my list to compile a cool video with the spectacular scenery there.

Driving up and down there I suspect is Rayquaza’s limit. It is very steep!

Thanks for a super visit Bryan and Sheila. Hope you get to use your house plenty as soon as possible, it’s really good there.

Ciao,

Surviving the Beast from the East

I’m currently in the UK and staying in Rayquaza, despite one of the coldest winters ever, and tons of snow!

I was curious to test Rayquaza’s ability to cope with conditions like these and I’m pleased to say she kept me warm and dry, without a problem.

I run the gas heating throughout the night on a low setting, boosting it a bit with the warm air blower from the aircon before bedtime. And then I invested in a really good electric mattress topper that is heavenly.

That made a big difference and again I keep that on a low setting overnight, just to keep the edge off. (we’ve had nights of – 5)

I can’t exactly tell how quickly I’m consuming the on board gas but with the snow melting quite fast now I’ll go to the local garage tomorrow to fill that up again and then I’ll know. I suspect however I’ve not used much.

I even managed to get a run in this morning, I’ve not been able to go for almost a week now.

All in, I’m well pleased with the way the motorhome retains heat and how well insulated she is. Easy to see how one can use her ever for a winter ski holiday. Well done Hobby for the good German engineering.

However I am very much looking forward to warmer times ahead and am dreaming of my Balaton summer already!

Desperation in Bilbao

I am catching the Bilbao to Portsmouth ferry today, with a special cabin booked where Olli can come inside as well. Its a 24 journey.

The ferry company allows you to check in the afternoon before, and then sleep in your motorhome in the Q. Having done this journey before and trying to get the timing right in the morning, I thought the overnight stay would be a good idea.

However during a quick Olli walk I started seeing a few suspicious characters weaving through the lines and when I saw one guy feeling the lockers on some motorhomes I knew I would not sleep much. (despite my garage being so full you won’t get a mouse in there)

It turned into a busy night with lots of police activity. I easily spotted up to 20 wannabe migrants being escorted out of the port (which is all they seem to be able to do with them)

It was upsetting in multiple ways since (and I took a short video of me talking about this but will have to upload later) the sheer desperation of these young people to get to England is very sad to witness. Their home situation must be utterly rock bottom. It’s freezing cold, the ferry will take 24 hours and you are very likely to be caught… This morning every motorhome is being inspected by the Guardia Civil.

My heart goes out to these people. In the motorhome two slots in front of me they removed a young guy from the boot and the look on his face was just so desperate.

But what can one do?

Bilbao, Spain

When your home gets stolen

Yesterday early evening Rayquaza, my motorhome, got stolen from a public car park in my old stomping ground of Castelldefels, near Barcelona.

To return to the spot where you left all of your belongings and indeed your house no more than 30 minutes ago, to find it all gone, is as horrible a feeling as you can imagine.

Short story, I got her back. Minus cash, wallet, passports (both my British and South African), Olli’s papers (a huge concern as I’m not sure how I’m going to get him back to England now) and my beloved, new Macbook. (now remotely set to auto destroy itself when it comes back online, enjoy, bastards)

They did not steal the drone, other cameras or the harpeji or even the bike, as they simply did not have the time, but it obvious from how we find her parked in a dark alley, they were going to take it all.

And here are some lessons.

Car safes can be open. I kept passports and money in a floor car safe thinking it’s safe in there. Would have been better having it under my pillow!

Use the wheel clamp, always. Even if just leaving for 10 minutes to pop to a supermarket.

I had Olli with me, luckily, but it could have been 50/50, I do sometimes leave him in the motorhome.

Spending more on really good stuff worked – the 4g router I have has a bult in online tracker. (which till now I thought was a really expensive add-on with no real value) With that, I was able to guide the police and take part in quite a hairy police chase, sirens going and all. That allowed us to get to the motorhome before they could rip it further apart, and they only got away with what they could grab.

Luck. I could have been out of phone battery, and I would have missed the opportunity to track them, or call the police in time, or call friends (thanks Edd!) to help with the tracking. (I had 12% battery left)

Luck. They could have turned off the 12v feed or unplugged the router, and I would have had no way to trace it.

Luck. I could have stopped for dinner in town, and totally missed the timing mentioned. I came really close to stopping at an international beer bar I know in town.

They did absolutely trash the inside but damage wise its only one window that’s missing. With some rain forecast I’ll have to board it up.

Obviously checked the insurance. Does not cover laptops or cash. How convenient.

The local police in Castelldefels has been absolutely brilliant. They must have bad 10 cars out tonight, lights blasing, giving chase.

So my week next week is going to be filled with visits to the counsulate and hoping there is more good luck in getting Olli back to the UK.

I had zero sleep (parked outside the police station at their request) but obviously mind spinning and with the broken window, extra noise etc.

Could have been much worse.

– Riaan