Europe 2018

So over the winter months the Post Office in Hungary have replaced all the braking system including new rear drums, brake shoes and calipers, front disks and disk pads. The suspension and steering they replaced ball joints, ant-role bar and all rubber bushes, all shock absorbers and tracked the wheels. They then went on to do a full service, I wanted them to do all this work after driving through Kazakhstan, to name just one country with very bad road conditions.

So Plodd is now ready for another trip.    

1st May 2018
We are now back on the move. We flew into Budapest to start our journey from there back to Blackpool (UK) via allsorts of places.

We spent a week sorting out small problems with Plodd on the campsite Niche camp in Budapest that we found in 2014, we stayed until 9th May taking a short trip to Lake Balaton in-between. Off we go, not a good start first the Leisure batteries stopped accepting charge, so on our way to Croatia I ordered new ones that we could pick up in Zarda Croatia a little later in the trip on the 17th May.

Sunday 10th May 2018
We drove for most of the day and entered the north of Croatia, not stopping until the Bosnian border in the afternoon, where the Bosnian side sent us back into Croatia saying our insurance did not cover us for Bosnia (Great Start). On our return to the Croatian side they were more than helpful, telling us that if we went up country about 70 Km we would be able to buy insurance at that border and cross there.  We went, arriving in the little Croatian town called Zupana, the town looked quite nice so we decided to stop for the night. We found a small but pleasant guesthouse that we could reverse Plodd into the courtyard. Afterwards we found a nice little bar just up the road for a drink before heading off to get some food at the restaurant Lambarda. The next morning we got up early (8.00am) and were ready to cross the border into Bosnia by 9am. Arriving at the border I got Plodd to the front of the queue and stopped the engine, got out and handed in our passports and vehicle documents – everything ok so I got back into Plodd and started the engine, which started immediately then stopped, so I tried again then again and again, the same happened started then stopped. The queue to cross the border behind Plodd was starting to build up so I told the customs office that Plodd would not start, he just shrugged his shoulders so I decided to get my warning triangle out and place it behind Plodd, then another officer came over and I asked him if he could call a recovery vehicle out. They arrived with a small normal size tow truck, when they saw the size of Plodd they went back to their depot for a HGV recovery vehicle. OMG I was thinking when they returned this is going to cost a fortune, they started to drag Plodd backwards to get her out of the way of the border crossing, then towed Plodd back to the depot. They tried to rectify the problem until about 2pm (14.00) Sunday afternoon, then said to us that they were stopping work until tomorrow (Monday) morning. Great! so we had to stay in the garage compound that night, we did manage to escape for a drink and back to Lambarda, seemingly the only place to dine in this small backwater. The mechanics worked on Plodd most of Monday meaning we could have been back on the road late on Monday afternoon but we decided to leave Tuesday instead. The bill including being towed by the HGV breakdown truck on the Sunday and all the work they did on the Sunday and Monday came to £135, it would have cost a lot more than that in the UK.

Tuesday 16th May 2018
Again we starting out at about 8am we headed for the border the plan was to head for Sarajevo the capital of Bosnia, staying 2 or 3 nights. Plodd started her little tricks again but this time the brakes started to overheat, the handbrake stopped working and when I tried to turn the engine off it just would not stop, the only way to stop the engine was to stall it by putting it in gear then holding the foot brake on and letting the clutch out. Plan B was to find a Merc main agent in Sarajevo. We found one but they were too busy to look at Plodd and suggested carrying on to Mostar, a further two and a half hours south, so we did just that. The main agent there was helpful and started work on the ignition problem straight way, it became a real big problem and we once again had to spend the night in a garage compound, well you should have seen HRH’s face 2 nights in a compound, OMG!!!!!! She was nearly as annoyed as when we was arrested in Russia.

Wednesday 17th May 2018
While the technicians worked on Plodd in the morning we went for a trip into Mostar, it was a really quaint town, there is a bridge in the centre of the town where they say East meets the West, we enjoyed walking round on the cobbled streets, Les had her hair done then we went back to Merc at 2pm as they had told us to. We were hoping we could continue our journey out of Bosnia and into the South of Croatia, again it was not to be, Merc had forgotten to look at the brakes, anyway they adjusted them and I was happy with what they had done, then just before we was about to leave the Merc garage Plodd started her party piece again only this time started to blow a fuse then when Merc replaced it blow it again and then she would not start. After about 20 fuses and about 12 hours up to now of Mercedes Technician time she suddenly stopped, it was now about 4pm (16.00) in the afternoon, the technician blamed it on one thing then changed his mind and then said another thing,  anyway I could see that they were pretty fed-up of Plodd and her antics, so I asked for the bill in hope we could get on our way without any more problems, the bill including parts and the technicians time was £120, I again could not believe it was so little, however I still have my fingers crossed for the morning, oh and as it got to 4.30pm (16.30) we decided it was to late to move out so we are now staying in (yes you guessed it Mercs compound for another night).

Thursday 18th May 2018
We decided to head off to Croatia, to a little camp site that we stopped at in 2014, we refuelled Plodd before leaving Bosnia as fuel was much cheaper there (85p a Lt) and off we went, not a murmur out of Plodd – running like a dream, brakes working good, the engine brake working better than at any time in the last 3 years and the ignition good, we did not use another fuse, so what the blowing of fuses was about I do not know. I have not mentioned anywhere we have visited as we have spent most of our time in Garages. We were looking forward to arriving at the little campsite we had been to previously, it had deteriorated like you would not believe, but we stayed 1 night anyway and then the next morning went north to Zadar to collect the batteries. We left the shop and headed further North following the SatNav the views were stunning following the coast roads for about 3 hours then we arrived at a dead end! The Satnav had taken us to a ferry terminal the cost of the ferry was £25 so not so bad after all, on the ferry 15 minutes and then1 hour drive down the road and we arrived at the campsite we had chosen that morning. Les said that is it; we are stopping here for a few nights so we are now at a seaside town/village called Secse in Croatia a nice place for us to relax for a few days.

Saturday 19th May 2018
This morning I decided to fit the new leisure batteries, the terminals on the new batteries are different to the old batteries so they don’t fit, job stopped until we leave here and find a car accessory shop somewhere on our way North.

Tonight we are off out to the nice little harbour to find some good food and a nice restaurant for dinner.

Sunday 20th May 2018
The restaurant last night was excellent and I am sure we will be paying it another visit before we leave. This morning I decided to get on my bike (Electric that is, the one we exported from China without an export licence) and go for a look around the area, the roads are quite hilly but the bike coped well with them.

While I was out I found a shop that will probably stock what I need to fit the new leisure batteries, it is about 5km away from the campsite so I will go there tomorrow morning (Monday) when they are open.

Tonight we have decided to have a barbeque so Les asked me go on my bike to get some provisions Wine, beer, meat for on the barby, salad stuff, silver skin onions etc, a large 7lt bottle of drinking water and some toilet rolls, well the basket on the front of the bike is pretty small but I managed to get the important things like the beer and wine, but I did not have room for the water and toilet rolls.

By the way you are all invited.

Monday 21st May 2018
8.30am I went to the car accessory shop to buy the bits I need to fit the batteries, great they had everything I needed so the batteries are now on, I left the old batteries next to the rubbish bins on the campsite they had gone within 15 minutes, someone must have just fancied them.

 Tuesday 22nd May 2018
We decided to leave the campsite and go to the Croatian island of Krk we found a campsite at the town of the same name, I had to do a 10 point manoeuvre to back Plodd in to the space they designated. The place was packed, kids running round screaming and shouting, not really our scene, anyway in the evening we went into the old town, it has cobbled streets and quant little shops, we found a nice restaurant to have dinner and enjoyed a few drinks in the evening in the old town.

 Wednesday 23rd May 2018
With the kids generally running riot we decided Krk was not for us, so we set off in Plodd and finished up back on the campsite we left only 2 days before at Selce, when we arrived there was another Overlander vehicle parked up, it was a big Man truck just like Guido and Paula had on our first trip through China, the couple that owned it have bought it to start around the world trip in a few years time. I had a good chat with them about their ideas and plans for their trip and about our trips.

Les and I decided to go back to the great little restaurant that we visited last Saturday and again we lwere very happy with the food and service.

 Thursday 24th May 2018
Christoph and Uschi are leaving today and slowly heading back to Germany, via Slovenia and Italy, we have said that we will meet up later in the trip at the biggest meeting of 4×4 and Overlanders in the world in Germany. The meeting is at the end of May in Bad Kissing and we have arranged to meet Horst and Berget there, our friends that also have a home in Thailand.

Friday 25th May 2018
We have decided to stay on the camp site for 1 more night before heading off to Slovenia and then Austria and Germany

 Saturday 26th May 2018 
We have decided to have an early start setting off at 8am. We drive for most of the day through Slovenia to the Austrian border. We had no problems at the border and then went on to the first petrol station where I tried to buy a Vignette for Plodd, however, the assistant in the fuel station said she could not provide us with a Vignette or a Go box as our UK registration Document did not have any weight details on for Plodd. She suggested going on to the next service station.

We arrived at the second service station and exactly the same thing happened, then we went on to the third petrol station. I knew that I must buy something, however, again after speaking to the casher he told me the exact same thing again, so I asked to speak to the manager who said to me he could not help me. I said but I cannot keep going down the Autoban as I had not paid anything to use the Autoban. I then asked him to please contact the police to ask there advice, he then said that there was a police station about another 20 Km down the Autoban I could go there and speak to the police so I did just that.

We arrived at the police station and they raised the barrier to let me drive in. I entered the police station and spoke to 2 police officers, explaining my problem and showed the 2 officers my Registration Document. The second officer explained that they the police in fact had no jurisdiction over vignette or Go box but he would contact the department that was responsible for them, he tried to telephone the department several times but got no answer on the phone, so he then called the next service station and explained our predicament to the manager of this service station, the manager told the police officer that if we drove to his services then he would issue us with one or the other (a vignette or Go box), so we started to drive further down the Autoban then before we reached the service station we came to a set of toll booths that was at a tunnel. I noticed that just before the toll booths on the right hand side there was a set of offices and on one of them they had a sign saying something about Go Box, I stopped to ask for there help. I explained to the gentleman in the office my predicament and showed him my Vehicle Registration Document, he was very helpful and asked where our vehicle was I pointed to outside and he came to the outside door of the offices to look at our motor-caravan and said yes, you must buy a vignette from the booth and also pay to use the tunnel.

I was so relived that we had solved our problem and drove our motor-caravan to the booth and purchased a vignette and paid the toll. We had spent approximately 3 hours trying to solve the problem, now we were happy to continue on our way to Salzburg as planned.

Sunday 27th May 2018
Sunday morning we set off for just outside Salzburg to go to the German border. We then spent 3 nights on a camp site just outside Nuremburg. It was good to get my bike off the back of Plodd and ride around Nuremburg. Les and I went out for dinner most nights except for Monday night when I put my chefs hat on and we had a barbeque.

Wednesday  30th May 2018
Again up early to take Lesley to the airport, as she was to fly back to the UK. Les is not a great lover of Overlander meetings and there were a lot of things that she wanted to prepare before we fly back to Thailand on the 21st June.

I then continued on to the Overland meeting at Bad Kissing about 200 Km north of Nuremburg to meet our friends Horst and Berget. Horst and Bergit are German and have 2 houses 1 in Germany and 1 near our house in Thailand they have been Overlanders for many years and only 2 years ago made a trip overland from Germany to Thailand.  

The meeting ground was so big, I think over the 3 days I must have walked 30 km around the site, there was more than 2500 vehicles there and they where all shapes and sizes. I manage to find Christoph and Uschi from the campsite in Croatia and we sat and talked again about their up and coming trip.

 Saturday 2nd June 2018
 I left the meeting about 12 noon to go to Nuremberg airport to meet my friend Horace who was going to continue on the trip back to the UK.  

That night we stayed on a campsite in Germany close to the Austrian border then on the Sunday morning we entered Austria knowing that our vignette expired Sunday evening, our plan was to get to Hungary before it expired. We had not been on the Autoban long before I needed to stop to buy fuel so I turned off the Autoban and found a fuel station, I filled up with fuel and returned to the Autoban, a few minutes later a grey van came in front of us and on the back it was flashing a message, we could not read it as neither I or Horace could speak or read German, but I presumed that the vehicle wanted me to follow it, so I did, both vehicles stopped on the fuel station forecourt where the officer explained who he was and what he wanted, he firstly asked to see my passport, vehicle registration paper and then explained that I should have a Go Box in our vehicle, I told him the above story and that Lesley and I had spent at leased 3 hours after entering Austria trying to solve our problem. He told me that we had been seen twice in the Salzburg area on a camera and just now on his camera so we would have to pay him a total of 820 Euros (240 + 240 + 240 plus 95 + 5 for the Go box) I could not believe that after trying to do everything possible to pay for using the Autoban and being told by the officer at the tunnel that we needed to pay for a vignette and did so, that this officer was saying that I would have to pay all this money, there was no way he would allow us to continue on our way without paying so I had to pay the 820 Euros.

We continued on to Lake Balaton in Hungary and arrived about 18.00. We did find a nice campsite by the lake at Revilop. In the evening we went for dinner with Judit and Adel our family that had travelled from Budapest where they live to be with us.

Monday 4th June 2018
I spent most of the day writing an email to the Austrian department explaining what had happened and am waiting to hear from them.

Tuesday 5th June 2018
Just before we set off for one of the most beautiful city’s in the world Budapest I went for a swim in Lake Balaton at 6am.

We plan on staying at a little camp site called Niche, Lesley and I have stayed there so many times, it is a lovely little camp site, it is a family run site and there Hungarian hospitality makes up for anything that it is lacking from the big sites.

Les and I have spent many days here walking round the city and spending a lot of time with our family, they are wonderful people, when we arrive they just want to be with us and please us.

Wednesday 6th June 2018
Judit has made an appointment for me to see a dentist at 8am as I have broken a tooth. Adel arrived at 7.15am to take me to the dentist she then drops me back off at the camp site where Horace is having his breakfast, we decide to get the local bus in to the city to have a walk round. In the afternoon Horace did all the ironing outside of Plodd, he looked so funny with his pink piny on. Tonight we have been invited to have dinner at Judit and Adel’s house.

Horace can’t believe how hospitable they are towards us, nothing is too much trouble.