Thursday, 29 June 2017

NEST - A final hop, skip and jump through Denmark, Germany & The Netherlands


So this is the last bit. We are picking our way back to the The Hook down different ways where reasonable detours allow so not loads of proper sightseeing to report. Eve so there are a few thing worth a mention so here they are...


The buried lighthouse - A lighthouse that is being slowly buried by moving dunes and is facing a sorry end with the eroding cliffs speeding a few metres a year towards it. I reckon the place has 5 years before it's gone and good riddance to it. It's shit. It's a crumbling light house with a smattering of sand covering the lower floor due to the doors being removed. The surrounding buildings have been knocked down and the place resembles a disused building site rather than a tourist attraction. There are a couple of scabby dunes nearby and these do, to be fair, stretch off into the distance. But all in all it's just a good place to have a piss and move on.



The singing trees of Aalborg - Now I thought these two might be rubbish but we were pleasantly surprised. Sir Cliff Richard... The radiant one. Did a concert in the town in 87 and planted a tree. The town put a little interactive speaker beside the tree and at the push of a button you get to hear one of his songs. This then became something of a tradition and there are now dozens of these trees and speakers dotted about in the Music Park. Artists come to the town, play a gig and then plant a tree and get their little bit of recording established beside it. The result is that there are trees and music dedicated to BB King, Beyoncé, ZZ top, Placido Domingo, Willy Nelson et al.



The Afsluitdijk Causeway - The A7 road sits atop this impressive dam that was created in the twenties to protect the existing coast by forming a huge lake. It runs between two pieces of coastline in the Northern Netherlands and is 32 km long, 90 metres wide and 7 metres high. This then forms an enormous lake by pinching a load of the North Sea. It's very impressive. Look on a map and just wonder at the engineering involved! Wikipedia quotes figures that are simply staggering.


Edam - Nice place. Small historic centre that not surprisingly has lots of cheese shops. We stayed for free in a cheese and clog making factory-cum-museum. All a bit cheesy - ha ha aha!? But free for us to stay and get a little tour. in the morning. Ended up buying some Pesto flavoured Edam and Marijuana favoured Edam. That second one will make a hell of a joint!



Zaanse Schans - I visited this place years ago and apart from a giant yellow clog going missing nothing has changed. But thats the point of the place I guess. It's a 17th century renovated village with working windmills and lots of lovely green and white wooden buildings to wander about. I am still astonished about how many gift shops they used to have!

So thats it. 3,700 miles of road travelled. We have laughed, oohed and arrghhhed, sworn, spent far more than was good for our bank account and like all good adventures we fell in love with an unlikely heroine - Crawlie The Wonder Van.

Until the next journey....



Wednesday, 28 June 2017

NEST - Norway 3 - Campers please keep your trousers on!


Following our walk from the previous post and before our boots are even dry we hit the Ryfylke route. Its a great drive which offered up plenty of wow factor right to the end of the day when we bed down in Sauda on a harbour wharf and did clothes washing... Thank goodness I am getting right old washer woman's hands from washing in sinks all the time.

I think having a good walk really lifted our spirits and although all is mist and rain and up and down and winding roads seen through fogged windows, it's still all very impressive. And especially today because we are doing the Prekstolen walk. Pulpit rock, as it's known looks down down down to the waters of a fjord. It's impressive and the view is awesome (Here used as the English superlative meaning awe inspiring and not the passé American usage which can be applied to a cat shitting on a doorstep or someone eating two Big Macs). 


Unfortunately it's a bit of a cattle market to get there and back. A sort of human banger racing event. Coach loads of struggling, sweating, limping, tourists keen to keep their trainers clean. There are of course many able bodied folk but throwing all the different capabilities into something this strenuous on narrow paths is bound to cause congestion and a wearing of patience. I must add I do not count ourselves among the elite by a long chalk But seeing impending rain heading our way we took no prisoners on the downward leg. Literally reaching the van as a torrent fell about us.

Another night of free camping. This time on a charming waterfront overlooking a bridge and large mound that was magically lit by a late evening breakthrough of sun at 11.00pm. 


Stavanger. I have long harboured a wish to go to Stavanger. It sounds so cold and desperate. Battle horns will be heard and mighty axes will be found embedded in oaken doors. Or... There will be many British tourists fresh off a P&O cruise all looking around the very quaint styled old harbour town area buying everything from troll figurines to Norwegian hats. We spend a pleasant hour or so then skiddadled off to find what the tourist books describe as "A charming stretch of endless beaches and quaint industry"... The cynic in me might suggest that the more obvious attractions of the copious stench of spray on cow shit hovering over the fields and lots of slow moving tractors would be more accurate. 


We did turn down one little path from the main road to enjoy a picnic in some woods but found the proliferation of 'no bum sex' signage a little too suggestive of what might me expected if not indulged in. Suddenly this route came to the end with a thank you notice bidding us goodbye. Strangely only after this sign did the odours and tractors go and were replaced with fantastical smooth rocky mounds and boulders. The sort of vista you might see in a spaghetti western with a Stetson wearing cowboy shooting his rifle in. Pools and grassy mounds stocked with groups of different farmyard creatures huddled together with all the camaraderie found only on the cover pictures of The Jehovah Witnesses 'Awake' magazine.

Just arrived at a lovely little campsite in a bay. The sun is shining, irds are tweeting and the view is gentle and relaxing. We take time to clamber over rocks and look at the colourful array of seaweed and sea anemone visible in the clear, lapping water

We finally reach Kristiansand sometime after this. It's got a huge natural park area where we rambled for 6 or 7 km before getting to the ferry point only to be told it would be delayed for 2 hours. Denmark will have to wait but we are eager to leave Norway. It has been an interesting time and undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places on earth but come on Norway. Sort your shitty weather out if only for a couple of months in summer. There is little point of having long days if they are dingy and wet! We complete the 2 hour crossing sometime after midnight and catch a few hours in a noisy truck stop before I literally pull Rachel from her bed at 6.30 and we head off. There is no real plan for the next few days because we have to get through Denmark, Northern Germany and half way down the Netherlands in 5 days. Not a huge distance but it is us, we don't like to hurry and with our 60mph sort of limit it will take time. More in the final chapter next time.

NEST - Norway 2 - Crikey Kate



It's mid June and we are driving through ice fields, still covered with metres thick drifts of snow along a high plateau with a frozen lake stretching before me. It all takes your breath away and frazzles the brain trying to concentrate driving through the rain with poor visibility on narrow roads and take in all that is around you. Today has been bleak once again and it seems only right to settle for the night somewhere equally bleak. Namely on a spit of land that divides an ice lake. Our view in either direction is frozen water surrounded by snow covered valley walls. It's pretty dramatic and after cooking a hot pot and drinking hot chocolate we hunker down in clothes under our duvet and sleep like logs.



Wow. That was a fresh night. But man is it good to open the blinds to all that nature!
Today turned out to be a day of mixed emotions. The good ones were that we were driving along the beautiful route of Guartfjell. This takes in spectacular valleys and waterfalls although it is tinged by the ever present rain or drizzle that seems to be a permanent feature in Norway. We thought this drive would be less taxing on Crawlie after the strains of the previous two days and so it proved to be until rounding a corner Rachel discovered the accelerator wasn't working.

"Oh now what?" We both cried. We pull over to the side of the road, put out our warning triangles and did some swearing not unlike John Cleese in Faulty Towers before he starts beating the car with a tree branch. 

Luckily, After a couple of minutes, a friendly mechanic comes by, identifies the problem and puts a clamp on the throttle cable which has come loose. Good as new! We start the engine. Expecting a welcoming roar but instead are greeted by misfiring. It sounds like a repeat of Germany. And since we are in the middle of nowhere we decide to limp to a nearby village and call out breakdown...AGAIN!



We go through the rigmarole of Rachel's phone not working and my Skype reception being poor on my internet only phone sim, then we give up and seek assistance from the local store. The manager lends us her phone to call England for about 20 minutes, allows us to stay in the closed shop until the breakdown lorrry was sorted and even gave us cakes for sustenance. Thank you to that incredibly kind person.

So far we have had to replace a blown head gasket, get new water pump, timing belt, 4 new sparks, new coolant and oil, ran out of cooking gas so had to buy Danish bottle and adapter and the zip on Rachel's coat we bought a few weeks ago broke. Now we have a broken throttle cable and the van sounds like it's going to die again. Great!

The breakdown guy arrives and is not worried about the throttle as the temporary fix and says it is as effective as getting the new part. However he cannot figure out what the misfiring is about. He hopes that one of the new spark plugs is faulty but hasn't got a replacement and can't get the right one until morning so we are treated to another night in a garage forecourt.

Next morning we try the spark plug. It's no better and so we have to go to a proper garage nearby. They are busy so can't look until 2.30pm and since they close at 3.30pm  are unlikely to fix it if it needs something expensive. So they look and are still not sure so order new HT leads and ignition system that will arrive midday the following day. We love spending holiday time in garages so treat ourselves to yet another one and spend our time reading, playing backgammon and hoping that it will only be the leads and not the ignition system or something worse in the most expensive country in the universe.

Bloody hell! It was just the leads. And now Crawlie is running like a dream. Better than ever and she is like a young Colt wanting to get on the road. We therefore pay the still ludicrous cost (although cheaper than we had mentally prepared for) price. £150 and get the hell out of Dodge (Forde).

You know with this latest fix our confidence has risen. Crawlie purrs along. Sure she isn't fast but she is fast enough. And without doubt we are still thrilled to have her. She trundles up and down mountains undeterred. She goes for hundreds of miles smiling the whole time. The enormous interior space hidden in a comparatively diminutive exterior is so, so .....Tardessy. We look at big fancy wagons and scoff. Yes scoff! All that wasted space...pah!. Even so. The incessant rain and strain is getting us a little down and we need to pick ourselves up. This trip has not turned out as we expected. We have not had the opportunity to socialise since it has often been drizzling or cold and due to those mechanical faults our schedule is shorted by over a week. Yes, yes Crawlie. I know you are sorry and it's all in the past....... How did I ever get to love a car? 39 years of driving and never once saw any car as more that a a vehicle and now, here I am having imaginary conversations!



We have given ourselves a talking to and we head off over the Vikafjell plateau which is all far away views and mountains and beauty and camp near a town called Voss where we decide to buy some waterproofs for a big walk we have planned. Norway prices are too pricey as you know so we find a Salvation Army store and Rachel finds a wacky three quarter length, purple, sou-wester material coat and I buy a lightweight rain jacket that turns out not to be waterproof!

The Hardanger Tourist route has all the usual suspects. Waterfalls, tunnels, views etc.
and, in one tunnel, a space agey roundabout which Rachel is very impressed with. See video in gallery. We park up in a carpark that is not meant to be 24 hours but is just a few km from the walk we are doing the next day and as other campers are staying we decide to join the herd. It's a nice quiet spot surrounded by soaring rock faces. Luckily we get talking to some Netherlanders who are driving up to the top car park to pay the exorbitant £30 parking fee in the morning and are offered a lift. We in turn offer to pay half for the parking...everyone's a winner baby ain't no lie. Come 4.45 they arrive but have themselves got a lift from their hotelier so it's all free. Good. I was regretting the 50% offer.


Trolltunga (trolls tongue) is an amazing walk. It starts with a 400 metre climb on a very steep rocky path so gets the blood flowing good and early. Overall it's 22km from base back to base and is a fantastic trek - picking your way through rock strewn flats, crystal clear mountain tarns shimmering in this day of rare sun. Past colourful lichen, ice lakes and fields of snows that are still only muddied with a single trodden path. The route only opened two days before we did it. Our early start means that most of the time there are only a few people dotted around heading the same way. Later on for our return it is a very different story with the majority starting around 9 or 10 in the hope of finishing by 8 or 9 that evening... About 3 hours before sunset. We therefore swam against the tide. A good feeling. Each hill we crest brings a new sight and the path is so diverse that even when there is nothing new the walking still keeps you focused. After 8 km of walking Rachel breaks through an ice cap over a stream and stumbles down a couple of feet. Banging her knee really hard on some rocks. It swells dramatically and fast and causes her to limp quite badly and requiring frequent stops to apply ice - luckily we got lots of that! The last 3 km was a lot slower and because there is a lot of snow and ice in this part of the trek she was rightly nervous.



Finally we reach Trolltunga, which is a fantastic geographic feature of granite in the shape of a poked out tongue that sticks out from the side of a sheer drop over a long wide mountain lake many hundreds of metres below. Here like everyone else we click pictures , watch a wedding proposal and apparently missed a male stripper before setting off down to the comfort and shower inside Crawlie. Going down takes forever! Rachel hobbling. Me trying to steal some of the thunder coz my newish hiking boots had given me several painful blisters. We take a slight wrong turn at one point and end up following a french family with a GPS who tell us that we are actually on the quickest route to the car park. Only after following this fast walking demon for about 45 minutes do we discover he has gone completely wrong and we are forced to walk an additional 2 kilometres. 




This in turn causes us to miss our rendezvous for a lift back to our van so then have to start walking another 5 km and thumb a lift after about 20mins with a heaven sent angel from Australia on a driving holiday. A long and challenging day but once back we make hot pot, turn on the heating and sleep the sleep of the righteous.

Monday, 26 June 2017

NEST (Northern Europe & Scandinavian Tour) - Norway 1 - Oh my giddy aunt!



Without doubt the jewel in the Scandinavian crown. Norway builds upon the lush lowlands of Denmark, the heavily wooded ...er...woods of Sweden and then adds in mountains, fjords, craggy rocks, torrential rivers and pricing gone mad. £36 for 4 kilos of washing!!! It's true. Plainly we didn't pay it But the launderette place woman didn't even crack a smile when she quoted the price. Why would she? With chocolate bars at £2.50, 10 small cans of Heineken at £26 (in a supermarket) and pretty much everything requiring a mortgage to purchase this is the normal. So anyway let's talk about this beautiful country...

Day 1. We cross the border and within a few miles a huge moose lumbers out of the forest. Very exciting seeing one up close. Apparently the adult male weighs about 700 lbs and grows to 2 metres to the shoulders which leaves a whole load more to be concerned with if you count the neck, head and yearly renewed antlers (or paddles as they are know) which span nearly 2 metres across...... Good example of England crazy weights and measures system there miles/kilometres/pounds/kilos. 


We were going to stop in Trondheim and head up to the Artic Circle but the consequential loss of a week with a sick car would take up too much time and petrol  money, so we content ourselves with getting to within 300 miles and bank 4 days to keep our pace more leisurely to work our way down the west coast.

The trouble with driving long distances is that it becomes difficult to stop. You get sort of wrapped up in the drive and the need to cover miles so upon reaching Trondheim we decide to keep going until we eventually stop on a path to a disused quarry for the night. Quite pretty even if it doesn't sound it.


Oh yes. We are experiencing the weirdness of the  Scandinavian summer. Sunsets at something like 11.40pm, then it's a little bit darkish for a while then everything is bathed in light again 3.15am. It really messes with your head and times when we would normally hit the sack we are thinking shall we go walking or running or whatever.

The scenery becomes more and more impressive as we start to move south again and lakes and rivers, fjords and mountains are now always in sight. We stay on the marina in a sleepy little village called Vinjeora one night and just as we are about to go to bed - it's 11.15pm - some fishermen/towns folk start moving stuff about on the dock like its midday. Why not? It's bright enough. It's in this same spot that the next morning we spend some romantic time with with the sliding door wide open, looking out on the lake and do some post coital otter watching. two of them frolicking on the banks.


There are recommended tourist routes dotted around Norway. Driving or biking routes that take in exceptional scenery and from Kristiansund we take the first of these on our list. the Atlantic route. A beautiful drive where we stopped at pretty much every available pull in to click pictures and gasp a bit. The winding road twists and turns through land and seascapes. Trees and lichen covered rocks are reflected upon crystal clear water of lakes or the placid fjord waters from the Atlantic. Along the way there are numerous short hikes where you can leave the van and head off to get lost in stunning views across the ocean from a craggy height or over the water splashed land that is dotted with channels and ponds. Our drive meanwhile takes us through tunnels, over bridges and upon ferries - each slowly ramping up the charges we will have to eventually pay for all this loveliness. We finally park up for the night in Isfjorden (ice fjord) for the night and end the day with a bike ride up the fjord to look at the scenery - starting at 10.15pm.


Today we really put Crawlie through her paces by following the Trollstigen route that rises up and up and up through loads of hairpin bends to a magnificent viewpoint....in theory. However once again theory spites practice and today it used the mediums of rain, mist and dark cloud to do so. 


No sooner had we set off the skies darkened and stayed darkened and moody all day. On the one hand somewhat disappointing but on the other it makes everything look menacing and foreboding. With everything bathed in half light and shrouded in mist it makes you think of trolls, Norse gods and Kirk Douglas as a Viking. This route has it all - steep drops, lush pastures, thick forests, ribbon lakes and tumultuous waterfalls crashing down hundreds of feet. Crawlie soldiered on, no complaining, slow and steady, up and down, on and on soon taking a long downward road where her brakes were overheating and the gears crying out for some relief. It's strange that you get so disorientated here. You feel you are near sea level because of the lakes and you suddenly come across a vista that shows you to be hundreds of metres up and similarly thinking we were still a long way up on this day we rounded a bend and are suddenly confronted by two huge cruise liners that are unloading passengers into a long string of coaches. Soon they too will have the magnificent views of cloud, rain and mist to enjoy..



All of this loveliness all blends into one. And , since I wrote this daily in rough at the time, I realise I may be over stating or repeating my feelings. this is something you will have to forgive. As I have said before. These blogs are to capture our thoughts and feelings and memories so we can look back at them one day and relive it all again.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

NEST - Sweden - Land of trees



I'm not sure if I mentioned it before but the Netherlands is flat, Northern Germany is pretty flat, Denmark makes Essex's rolling countryside look like the Alps. We did think that Sweden may offer us some relief, although concern for Crawlie's capabilities up hills was also at the back our minds. But unfortunately the bits of Sweden we saw were not exactly mountainous. There were winding roads and forests. Lots of forests, lots of Lupins, and of course, lots of Volvos. The highlight was definitely seeing a Moose...crossing the road in the forest near some lupins. 


We stopped off in Gothenburg as I had been there a few years ago on a girls weekend and remembered having a fantastic time. But seeing it not through drunken beer googles was a bit different. It's a pretty enough city, with trams and a river but after the diversity of Denmark's buildings everything here looked like a bank. 


The outdoors eating and drinking, even in the cooler weather wrapped in blankets, is something I remember and is really sociable. Unfortunately long term travelling means you have to think about the costs and Sweden is pretty damned expensive so we didn't wrap up in blankets with glasses of red wine, shame. We had to make do with the cheap Pinot Grigio we'd bought from Lidl in Germany while looking at the forests from our van window.


We did stay in a couple of interesting places in Sweden. One night was on a lake front in a little town called Mariestad. That day was National Sweden day so everyone was out picnicking and enjoying the good weather but the lake was cleared by about 9pm. We put our black outs screens up, it's light till stupid o'clock, and nodded off only to be woken by squealing of tyres and the boom boom of music from a couple of boy racers at 2.30aM in the morning! It as like trying to sleep in Sainsburys car park in Braintree on a Saturday night but prettier. 


Our final night, as we decided to leave the forests of Sweden, was spent in a closed ski resort. We pulled in hoping they might have somewhere for us to stop and the woman on duty was so kind, she gave us keys to the toilets and showers and said the electric was on all the hook ups so go wherever you like. And when asked the cost, she replied that as it was technically closed not to worry. One word here on the Scandinavians, they have all been incredibly friendly and helpful. So in true pikey style, we filled our van with water, we had long hot showers in the evening and the morning ( a true luxury), we charged up all our appliances and did a few loads of washing in the shower block sinks then strung it all up to dry on the guard rails of the terraced chalets

One last really funky thing that we've never seen before...a hands free lawn mower! Yeah, I know. It's like the vacuum cleaner you can get that just wanders around bumping off of trees and bushes but it cuts the grass. Brilliant. 

Oh yeah! I got breathalised on a lonely forest road by a friendly Swedish policeman. Lucky for me it was only 11.00am and as those of you who know me I never start serious drink driving in forests until 11.15....Phew!!



So Sweden was a little bit more than forests but what there is you can't see for the trees.

NEST - Denmark


After our delay we were ready for our jaunt into Scandinavia proper and Denmark was waiting. So we went whizzing across the border, Crawlie purring the whole way. We decided a big of coast might be a welcome change so went to Rømø, a little island off the south west coast of Denmark.  It was raining and a bit grim and we really wanted to be uplifted but the tension, and cost, of last week was taking its toll. So our first night wild camping in the only spot we could find was a bit bleak but we woke the next morning to brilliant sunshine. The bikes came off the rack and we cycled round the island, oohing and aahhing at the huge, flat, wide beaches full of kite surfers and land yachters and a quaint little, white church filled with all things boat related! 


Spirits lifted we continue to another fantastic sight I'd found in Esbjerg called 'Man at Sea'. Giant white sculptures that I imagined in the sea, randomly dotted around but...this 100kms diversion to a nondescript town led us to a line of four huge, white men looking out to sea on a grass verge all in a line. A little underwhelmed. Shame really cos had the town been a bit more inspiring we might have stayed for a Rock festival that weekend featuring Mel C and Ronan Keating, especially after a lovely Danish man tried to lure us with lots of beer!
Brief mention of our next stop simply for the kid in us, because it was a place called Middelfart. Heehee. We actually stopped in a service station and got chips and ice cream from Burger King, lush.  


Then another diversion to see some spectacular white cliffs. We cross three little islands and head down to one of the most southerly points of Denmark passing sweet little cottages with thatched roofs and wooden tops. Mons Klint, the reason for our being here, were down 600 steps to a 3 foot wide stony beach. Literally 3 foot wide!!! We looked up at these white cliffs and both said, "not as impressive as the White Cliffs of Dover". But we walked a 5km loop along the beach and through the forest, it was pleasant enough but that's about it!


And finally, Copenhagen. What a great city. Different architecture, cobbled streets with a cafe culture, spectacular churches and cathedrals, street performers and the Danes like to party. We saw several party buses cruising around and groups of hen and stag parties all on bicycles with the hen/stag in a basket at the front being pedalled around. The area around Nyhavn was particularly interesting with the canal boats taking groups cruising and a picture perfect street of multi coloured houses. Apparently this area was regenerated in the 70s by some hippies but it actually felt quite cool, maybe I'm a hippy at heart?! 


We also saw the other obvious tourist attraction, the little mermaid. Another underwhelming sight that was completely over powered by so many tourists clambering over it for their photo opp. 

  
While we were in Copenhagen we stayed in a marina and had our first experience of motorhome racism. Maybe a bit harsh but the big old wagons certainly have some disdain for us smaller vans, even to the extent of being plain ignorant about double parking and not wanting to move to allow other vans in or out. But  we managed with our English charm and the help of some Germans in a little bitch VW and a friendly Portuguese couple in a slightly bigger MH.


We decide to take a bit of a short cut and head north in Denmark to Helsinborg and get a ferry over to Sweden. It saved us paying the €56 for the Øresund bridge and a few hundred kilometres of driving. Incredibly easy, 40 kms drive from Copenhagen, literally straight on to the ferry, last vehicle and 20 minutes later we're in Sweden. Let's see if Sweden is actually just the forest that we've been told it is. 


Sunday, 4 June 2017

When good Crawlies go bad!



The plan was hop, skip and jump through northern Germany and get stuck in to the adventure proper. So why are we still in Germany nine days later? That's the unfortunate story for this blog, it would seem our luck finally ran out!

After spending a fantastic evening with Aalreike and Arian in Rjissen in the Netherlands, we decided to try and get as far as Hamburg. Doesn't sound too bad. About 250 kms. We took it easy, sailed across the border. Which I might add at this point was a dreadful let down after crossing the borders in Central America. No one to try and con you out of a few dollars for a completely unnecessary piece of paper. No one asking questions about where we've been, where we're going, how long are we staying, do we have a flight booked out of the country, have we any drugs in our bags. Then we hit the autobahn. Crawlie was very appropriately named. We were plodding along at 60mph with the lorries and everything, including other motor homes, whizzing past us at god knows what speeds. But we stopped for the night by a weir near a town called Ottersberg. We were there by three the afternoon and I was introduced to Backgammon which we played whilst drinking our tea and watching the German dog walkers arriving and leaving. Only dog walking, no dogging, before any of you make any comments! 

Outside Ottersburg
Next morning we wake up to glorious sunshine and are ready for the next day's drive of about 250kms across to the north east coast to a town called Flensburg. Still no signs of bad luck, I hear you cry. Hold on, it's coming!

On the way we need to refuel so we stop in a garage which has about five different types of fuel. Being the tight arses that we are we put in the cheapest, which is something called Super E10. It's got super in the name, it's unleaded, should be ok. But almost as soon as we pull away Crawlie feels different. She's struggling for power and is making a tinkling noise. She's always been a bit slow and a bit noisy but something is wrong. Not having much mechanical knowledge we just carry on regardless. Taking it real slow and hoping that it's just a minor sickness. You know, like a tickly sore throat. As soon as there's room for more fuel we top up with a better quality petrol and hope that might help. But the tickly sore throat is still there. We make it to our next destination and find a motorhome parking spot along the river just outside of town. No facilities but lots of other MHs and they were still turning up at 10pm that night! 

Flensburg
Note on Flensburg here. Really lovely town just about 15kms from the Denmark border. On a river with a cobbled pedestrian high street and a dead posh Marina. It's also famous for Flensburger beer.  

Flensburg
Next morning we decide to hit Denmark. We take the scenic route to give Crawlie a chance to warm up and cross another border. Well, we actually limp across and again, don't get stopped or asked any questions. But at this point we are both terribly uncomfortable driving the van and decide we should get her looked at as it must be more than a fuel problem. So 33kms into Denmark in the middle of nowhere is a Citroen garage. We stop. A mechanic looks. He tests. He looks. He tests again. He says sorry, it's broken. Two of our four cylinders are not working.  We are a little shell shocked to find out Crawlies sore throat might be pneumonia and could be life threatening. What to do? It's now Wednesday and the garage explain that they can't do anything until Monday because, guess what? It's a national holiday Thursday and Friday. Ok, let's go back to Germany, they don't think it's a holiday in Germany. So we limp very slowly back to the nearest town in Germany. 

It's broken!
Note about Niebull. A tiny town but it has all the stuff you need. Three cheap supermarkets, Lidl, Aldi and Netto. A few cafes and restaurants, a swimming pool and a fair is in town.

Niebul
We call our breakdown cover out and a big friendly German man arrives who spends a couple of hours testing Crawlie before making us follow him back to the workshop. He looks. He tests. He looks again. He says, it's Kaput! We need a new engine! Then he continues to tell us that it's a holiday in Germany tomorrow. So no hotels available, no hire car. We feel like Mary and Joseph with no room at the inn. So Heino, we're on first name terms with the mechanic by now, says we can stay in the carpark of the workshop. He even leaves the toilet unlocked for us. Bless him. And so there we stayed for three nights. Making lots of calls to the breakdown insurance company, local garages looking for a new engine, even phoning England for advice. Eventually, with the help of Alan as translator, it's explained to Heino we are just poor peasants and Crawlie is our home, can he help us avoid the €3000-4,000 we are being quoted for the new engine. Unfortunately this all happens late on Friday and we have to wait until Monday before Heino can look at her and see what the damage is. We have a nail biting, excruciatingly painful wait of almost three days before we know. During that time we drank and ate, and ate and drank, got some washing done and became Backgammon masters whilst we stayed in a chocolate box thatched cottage hopefully paid for by the insurance company. Then good old Heino steps up to the mark. He works his magic and gets her going with parts from Germany and Denmark and a much, much cheaper bill. He is happy (Job well done crate of beer and lots of his favourite fags) We are happy! And so is Crawlie with her new timing belt, head gasket, cleaned, smooth cylanders, water pump, fresh oil, coolant and plugs.....Vrooom!


So here we are one week later than we would have liked and we have crossed the Danish border for real. Let's see if Scandinavia is all that we've been waiting for.