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

Citystop Barcelona Camper Stop

Given me and Olli’s current passportless state, I have to come and see the British consulate in Barcelona first thing tomorrow, and was intrigued when I saw a camper stop in Barcelona’s Sant Marti district.

At first it does not look like much (effectively a truck and motorhome car park) and at €39 per 24 hours for a spot with electricity, not cheap, especially as its winter.

But what a pleasant surprise. Great security (which now is a major comfort) and a central building with nice kitchen, TV room and super showers with very hot water.

It’s right next to a metro stop and for exploring the city whilst knowing your camper is safe, it’s a bargain compared to what you’ll pay for a hotel in the city. And it’s quiet!

Highly recommended, and the graffiti on the wall is actually quite nice, for a change.

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

Andalusia to Algarve and back

Wow! Where to start – so much has happened since the Tarifa stay.  The stretch from Tarifa to Ayamonte, where my brother lives, is in an area called Andalusia, which covers quite a large chunk of Southern Spain.Screenshot 2017-12-27 21.20.58                                                                                   It’s a great area and the drive from Tarifa to Ayamonte was super. In Ayamonte it was OK to park Rayquaza on the street outside my brother’s place, and no-one bothered us there. I kept on making good use of this over Christmas and well into the New Year even. After a few days though it’s good to have a drive to re-charge tbe batteries.  (of Rayquaza!)

We took to exploring the area around Faro on the Portugal side a bit more and ended up staying in a super campsite (Camping Olhao). It’s a very large campsite and packed with sun-seekers from Norway, Sweden, France, Germany and the UK, all sitting like lizards outside in the sun in the day, and drinking/eating in the superb little on-site restaurant.

There is plenty to do around here, and Faro itself is a short train ride away.  The food in this area is also great and especially fish is a common meal, in some restaurants even BBQ’d right in front of you, and as tasty as you can imagine. I will certainly go back!

A drive further up the coast of Portugal was also great and we ended up in Porto Covo, a small but really quaint holiday town with amazing cliffs and views out to sea. Wild camping here was spectacular and will feature in a properly edited video at some stage….

For Christmas I went to my brother again and we enjoyed the silence 🙂 Had a good meal with local friends and then I had the McArdles – Edd, Kinga, Dominik and Dylan visit for a week of fun in the sun and stayed in my brother’s house.

It was a busy, hectic time with the kids but they loved every minute of it. They’ve all gone back now and Olli and I have been preparing to leave and find a camping spot in the sun for a month or so, to serve as a base, before we will head back to England with a stop at my storage in Barcelona, over February.

I have a ton of video footage but need to find the time to produce a “winter in Spain” video. In the meantime, you’ll have to do with the pics and one short unedited clip. (this being from a spot at a nearby beach at Isla Cristina where we went with Rayquaza as our base and spent the day there.)

For now, greetings from sunny Andalusia in Spain.