Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Post Trip Plans / Thoughts

So considering that this was our first trip apart from 4 days in Devon it went remarkably well. This was very much a trial or reconnaissance trip. A road trip rather than an overland trip in the conventional context. But then again what is the definition of "overland"? OK it's built to go off road but so what.

6,971 miles later.....

Our only firm plans were to get as far as Corfu, and that was only decided about a week before we left.
But we ended up going to:

We're so glad we turned right rather than left straight away when we got to the Greek mainland. The Peloponnese was probably our favourite, but we barely scratched the surface. We will definitely return.

We probably didn't do Albania justice, we missed the coast pretty much completely.

The van performed great, apart from a failed battery it didn’t miss a beat.

We still struggle a little with the entire free camping concept in built up or semi urban areas, but we're getting it. Following people like has been great. Even if their blogg does make my efforts look like a 5yr olds😀

Considering that we've been cooped up in such close quarters for close on 3 months we've  only had the odd falling out, Marie has only wanted to kill me 4 or 5 times but fortunately she doesn't like driving so I have a get out of jail card😎

It's an addictive life style for sure, we're already planning 2017.

Before then a few modifications to the van:
Sprinter To Do.
Maxxvent or Fiamma vent.
Truma vent through bulkhead
Additional storage:
Seat base by sliding door
Shelving above kitchen
Shelving in rear?
Convert cupboard to 2 drawers
Curtain between cab and rear for free camping
Table. Centre or swivel mount?
Drawer unit rear passenger side?
Additional solar panels
More efficient solar controller
Invertor switch by bed
Cassette toilet
Additional ventilation for fridge/freezer
Not too bad considering this was my first attempt. Fortunately I had some expert help from Stuart and Chris

Africa Prep. Probably Spring 2017
Racor fuel filter and water separation
Recovery points
Sand ladders
EGR / DPF delete

Heading Home

Yep the day has arrived and it's a case of "let's get it over with".

Quickest route is through Switzerland, and um not sure actually. Switzerland doesn't appeal and I fancy going through the Mont Blanc tunnel so we head West.

Maybe I should have checked the cost of the tunnel?? 58€. Ouch.

The cruise is set to 75ish, we certainly eat through the miles but stopping for diesel every 10 minutes messes up our average speed😂
It's doing 19mpg ish at this sort of pace. Down from the usual 22 to 26mpg. The DPF and EGR are going to be deleted when we get home.  Oddly even driving it like this it still does a couple of active DPF re generations.

At one point I convince myself that we could make Calais or Dunkirk in one go but by Dijon we've both had enough.

A remarkably good nights sleep at an Aires.

Tomorrow 4.5 hrs to Calais.

Hit the M25 just in time for rush hour, how does anyone do this every day of their working lives!?

Home by 8pm. I think anyway, I've lost the plot by now😁

Lake Como

Another slight detour. Partly because, well Lake Como sounds good and partly because there's a campsite open.
We may not stay on one now until we're home so the lure of a hot shower and other facilities sounds good.

The campsite is OK,  nice hotel showers, beautiful setting but somehow the rest of it leaves us unimpressed.

Maybe we're stunning viewed out? Maybe it's going home blues?

Tonelle Passe

So I found a wiggly road on the map that seemed to be sort of on the way home. Not much of a detour. I really am a slow learner when it comes to believing travel times on the sat nav🤔

Upside we found some snow and the scenery is stunning.

Our stop for the night, very peaceful apart from a couple of locals having some fun doing doughnuts in the car park at 1:30am😀

Woke to around -10C. The van was really toasty though. I'm really pleased with the truma combi heater. Very efficient, quiet and the temperature control is quite sophisticated. It isn't just an on / off control. It varies the air throughput as well as the temperature.
I'm quite impressed, the van was never built for this. We said that we would never go anywhere cold or wet or eat inside the van🤔


To be honest this isn't my thing so I wasn't looking forward to Venice to much. But in the end you can't help but get hooked by the place. A really full day but we both loved it (well apart from me leading us astray. I'd read a rave review online about Lido, so after 33€ on a ferry and a cold grey walk through suburbia we returned to Venice. So don't believe Wikitravel🤔)

Although it was a little grey and chilly November is a great time to visit, no vigorous crowds. We got into conversation with a local. Apparently 27 million people visit Venice each year. The average tourist stays 3hrs (and according to the local) doesn't even buy a bottle of water.

Croatia to Venice

I love ACSI😀

Great site at Fusina, conveniently called Fusina. You walk out of the gates and about 100m away catch the ferry to Venice. 13€ return, and 30 minutes. Dead easy.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Posting Comments

I think I've altered the setting so that anyone can post comments, who knows though. I'm a cheapskate, this is free where as from what I've seen WordPress seems to be the favourite and most professional looking.


We're on the island of Krka for a day and 1 night.

Stopping at Camping Bor, really well run site. The best bit though, new plush, heated shower block. Luxury 😀
I'm not sure if I would recommend it beyond that though. The owner didn't make me feel very welcome (I think if I spoke German it may have been different) and when we checked out in the morning there was €8 added to the bill for Internet access x2. She didn't mention that when she handed over the codes the previous night.  Unnecessary Profiteering.

It's on the outskirts of the town called Krk, nice place which I would think is quite a happening place. Not now though, has that closed feel. Ah well we need to return.

Spoke to another couple on the site and they've just returned from the island next door, Cres. They say it's stunning, another one for next time.

Thoughts on Campervan Life

In case you haven’t noticed we’re complete novices at this, it's our first trip.

It's quite addictive, although we stopped at Navarino Bay for close to two weeks we now start getting itchy feet after 1 or 2 days.

Although most people we spoke to before we turned North were baffled as to why we would travel through Albania in particular rather than getting the ferry to Ancona we're really glad that we chose to drive. That’s what the camper is built for after all.

Having said that since we have turned North and the implication being we're going home, combined with the change in the weather I think I'm getting post trip blues early😀
It's 50:50. Drag it out as long as possible or input home to the sat nav and set the cruise to 80 and just get it over with.

Anyway after a break, a few tweaks to the camper layout and additional ventilation, and a trip around Asia we'll be back in the camper. Morocco and further south, not sure how far. Although you think you're off road in Morocco, it's all a bit of an illusion. Most of the routes are well used tracks. Doesn’t mean to say some aren't tough and we will need to get the shovel out I'm sure😀

Slight Detour to Roski Slap

Slap is waterfall I think. We really didn’t do the entire National Park area justice really. Day light hours too short really. We'll need to return when we come back to Croatia. It's that late in the year that just about everywhere has a closed up feeling.

The road out of the park, Roski to Varivode, was pretty desolate. A bit like moorland but strewn with boulders. Lots of abandoned houses and plenty of evidence of the war. Bullet holes peppering the exteriors.

Pakostane and More Food

Free camped on the harbour at Pakostane, a very peaceful nights sleep. Best bit, however, was dropping on a great restaurant.

The sort of restaurant that doesn’t really have a menu, you get what he’s cooked that day. Today was wild mushroom soup and wild boar stew. The hunting season started on Saturday. I’ve had wild boar  in the UK but of course it’s actually farmed boar so completely different to this. It was a pretty amazing meal. 

So much better than the number 2 rated restaurant in Dubrovnik, you really felt like you were eating genuine Croatian food rather than generic European stuff.

The owner is a real character, he’d had a high end fish restaurant in Holland for 15 years or so. He had loads of anecdotes from his time there. The one I liked best was when a cardiac surgeon arrived with a bunch of friends. Long story short he convinced them all that they should have the steak (in his fish restaurant) at the end of the meal the surgeon asks “why did you suggest we had steak rather than fish?”. Reply “we’re  very proud of our fish but you wouldn’t understand or appreciate it”

So we were quite privileged to be considered worthy of his wild boar stew😀

For anyone stopping off here the restaurant is called Grand Cruise Classe. Easy to find its very close to the harbour.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Game of Thrones

Went to the old town of Dubrovnik today. Its a little bit surreal, you do feel like you're on a movie set.

Of course we had to find the "walk of shame" steps😀

Plenty of recent history in evidence, from the 1990's war between Croatia, Montengro and the Yugoslav National Army. Dubrovnik was under siege until 1995.

No decent options for a campsite, the only one being a car park / coach park for 27€. So we booked a hotel for a couple of nights. Pretty reasonable at 43€ per night.

Saturday, 5 November 2016


In case you haven’t noticed we’re foodies, so here’s my thoughts on the recent countries. In reverse order:
We’re now in Dubrovnik. We’ve just been to the number 2 restaurant in Dubrovnik, according to TripAdvisor. I’m not a big fan of tripadvisor, you have to be so careful in your interpretation of the ratings and feedback.
But anyway we went with it. Food, pretty average. Compared to Albania or home I’ll give it a 5 out of 10. Of course it cost an arm and a leg.
But what really messed up the evening was having to sit within 10 metres of 3 English-speaking women (not from the UK btw,  I’ll leave you to figure out where they were from). I really didn’t need to know about HRT or masturbation or that one of them had only had 12000 calories today. I assume she was on a diet.
Marie did threaten to leave when I asked in possibly a too loud voice if they were deaf or just dumb😀 do they really have to shout about everything?! Interspersed with shrieking.

You’ve seen the photos. I’m going to give this the benchmark of 10 out of 10. Not saying it’s the best we’ve ever had. Just using it as a benchmark. It’s not that it was cheap, it was genuinely good. But it’s a very restricted sample. 1 restaurant.

Stupidity good value. It’s  a 7.
Best place was the bar / restaurant attached to the campsite. We only wanted a snack but ended up with a sort of Pizza / pie the size of the Sprinter wheels.
Best bit, however, was when I asked about the carp on the menu. The owner goes over to a bunch of locals on the next table and takes some of their carp. I’ve never tasted this before, it’s so good. I buy them a round, cheers all round😀
So they then send over more fish, balushka I think,  again really good. A great night!

Really good, fresh and great value. I’ll  give it an 8. Probably better than most area's we've tried in Greece. Apart from 1 restaurant on Corfu (Agni, near Nisakki) but that was seriously expensive.

Our Cooking.
Loads of fresh produce, meat in Greece weirdly difficult to find though. When we did (it’s almost like buying alcohol in certain countries, how come when their diet I’d so meat biased?!) it’s so good and cheap. Anyway when we cook its a 10 of course.

Three Countries in a Day, By Accident

Our campsite in Northern Albania is great, well to be more precise the restaurant is. We like our food, that’s why you don’t see too many photos of us on here😀
We don’t normally eat out twice a day, but it was so good we had to go back in the evening .

The people here are very friendly and the owner of the campsite is really trying to make it work. They’ve owned the restaurant for 15 year’s but only opened the campsite just over a year ago. They will help you with places to go, suggesting days out, road trips etc. She speaks really good English.

Before we left I took a walk up to the castle, so soon as I told the guy taking your money (1.50 euro) that I was Welsh I was his new best friend. Football I guess, I wasn’t about to tell him that I seriously dislike football of course😀

By the way you can use Euros everywhere, they don’t rip you off on the exchange rate.

North to the Montenegro border. The main industry here seems to be car washing. Every town or village has them every 100m or so. At first I thought that the hosepipes squinting water in the air were there to keep the dust down, but no it’s their way of advertising.

Crossing into Montenegro took forever at the Albanian side, no problem though. Montenegro quicker and easier, they are very keen on car insurance though. Quite rightly so.

It’s  weird, literally 1km in and it’s obviously a completely different country. It feels an easy place. Roads, OK, the first 30km or so you could be on back roads in mid Wales . High hedges, sheep and freezone cows.
The coastline is beautiful, maybe we’ve been starved of the sea for too long, its been maybe 5 days😀
Oh and if you like 1980 / 90s VW Golf's  (I do) this must have the highest density of Mk1 and Mk2 Golf's of any country I know of. Plenty in really good condition too.

OK it’s definitely a tourist trap, see the cruise ship. The place was packed with Americans and Canadians. But so what if it’s a tourist trap, it’s  beautiful. A bit like Cinques Terres in Italy but more appealing, less packed and far more friendly.

We were feeling quite smug with ourselves that we had parked up so easily, within metres of the old town. In a standard car slot, less is more sometimes. That’s until we had to pay. 90 cents per hour so 3€, um no. He wants 9€ for a large car. No receipt, no point arguing.

Jump on a roro ferry, I always like ferries. They seem to add a sense of adventure to any journey. This one is only 9€.
I’d found an open all year campsite, except it isn’t. Lucky really their drone photos conveniently left out the ship yard next door.
So free camping. Um, it’s  the first bit other coast that’s  really cramped and built-up. So we take a side road that seems to follow the coast and end up at. The Croatian border. Ah well not quite the plan but we carryon. Montenegro border take their time, want to see car insurance even though we’re leaving but eventually wave us on.
Croatian border control. Strange, he’s happy to see us, doesn’t grunt and waves us through in minutes😀
So that’s why its 3 countries by accident.
We’ve eventually find a great spot, it’s  early though as it goes dark at 6pm so snacks and movie time. We’ve not got the usual satellite TV you see on most MH of a certain nationality. We do have a 1Tb hard drive with maybe 500 movies and TV series on though. We’ve maybe

watched 10 or so so plenty left.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Back to Albania

The crossing back into Albania was a doddle, way easier and quicker than getting into Macedonia, go figure.
I was slightly concerned as a German couple parked next to us at Camping Rino had had a load of grief. Camper searched and he thought they were after money. No problem for us though, again go figure!

Albania is a weird place.
Some good, some complete shit holes. Take a look at some of the photos, maybe we took a wrong turn and ended up in Chenobyl😀 and the railway bridge photo is there because they looked so, well communist😀
Some places just like Africa.
We drove through the centre of Tirana, that was interesting but they weren't complete twnts like Naples.
Unfortunately some towns you drive through make you feel a little uncomfortable.

Arrived at our campsite which was open but no one around so we went to the restaurant.
Wow, I'm not kidding it's like fine dining at home but 6Euro for a main meal :-) we're happy, for now!
We're here:

The owners are so welcoming and helpful. Thankfully they both speak perfect English.


Well Macedonia has turned out to be a bit of a let down. We went to the UNESCO world heritage site town. It was, well, grey. Weirdly bland, soulless and I suppose what you would expect a stereo typical Soviet union era place to be like. Thank god the sun was shining :-)
It's difficult to describe, 1970s shops, Casino's and lots of dog shit! :-)

Ah well, the campsite is great. And thats why I feel bad not being more positive about it. The owner of Camping Rino is a fantastic host, his place is just great and in fact everyone we've met have been so friendly. Take a look at the photos of the campsite.

Sorry, childish I know but it appealed to me. I think it means "FOR SALE"

Moving on first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

1st Night in Macedonia

OK I can tick carp off my list. I asked the owner of the campsite about it. He went over to one of the locals table, nicked some of theirs and gave it to me! :-)
Very tasty, but boney.
Apparently they send the trout from here to queen Elizabeth. It takes 7 years to grow to 1kg.
I'll try it tomorrow.

Oh and they then donated some baluska. Again really tasty.

So we've drunk and stuffed our faces all night.
Bought a round for the locals who donated their carp and belushka. The bill? 29Euro :-)


Made it to Macedonia for lunch. Not bad going considering a good portion was off road :-)
Someone said the roads were bad in Albania but jeez. Maybe tomtom leading us astray  :-) the locals gave us some weird looks for sure!

I'm using a Samsung tabS2 with navigator and osmand for navigation. They've been
OK Navigator has Tomtom maps and this was the app that sent us off pieste. It was a bit uncomfortable even in the Sprinter.

Maybe I'll splash out on a new Garmin sat nav for normal road use.

I was a little concerned when the road basically disappeared 60km from our destination!

Stopped by Albanian police 3 times, first was because I hadn't put my headlights on, after a bit of confusion he just reached through the door and turned them on for me. Doh! Anyway he didn't do the "let's earn a few euro of the dumb tourists" So happy days😀

Downside is that it's cost us 100euro for insurance in Albania and Macedonia, our green card doesn't cover us here.


Beer less than a Euro.

Local wine tastes like 30quid a bottle quality at home (not that I'd know really). We even Google the winery as we thought a trip there would be fun. It's 3hrs North East of us though so maybe not.

Steak and chips less than 4quid.

Oh and we're next to yet another UNESCO world heritage site, they're as common as muck :-)
Ohrid. We're off there tomorrow.

Staying at Camping Rino, just wonderful. Free coffee and raki as soon as we arrived. Beautiful setting.

A few photos of the trip here, rubbish quality as the camera was on some weird setting.