Spare a thought for poor Niki. No sooner has she mastered Italian in order to find our way down the boot, but now she has to master a new alphabet AND language – and a new Navi system. More on that shortly.
So, how do we get around? Before starting on our trip I spent some time plotting on Google what seemed to be a reasonable itinerary from Switzerland to the UK, quick swing across France, Germany, Denmark, a rapid drive through Sweden to eventually arrive at our destination of Norway, or, specifically, Narvik. In this I had tremendous help through using websites of travellers who have, almost on a daily basis, blogged their experiences. Quite naturally, perhaps, we tended to stick, there or thereabouts, to campsites / parking spots that others had recommended or used. As we became more comfortable we tended to find more of our own out-of-the-way spots. We weren’t particularly fussy, so roadsides, train stations and supermarkets have featured quite heavily, so too forests and harbours. Our navigation system in the van spat the dummy early in the trip – it’s occasionally recovered, but all in all, pretty bloody useless. It doesn’t help that we have maps from 2012, that the system itself is clunky and slow, nor that error (out of memory) notes just shut the system down, including the CD player, Bluetooth, radio and iPod (yes, I still have a number of those).
We’ve really had no planning for Greece, apart from knowing we would do the Peloponnese peninsula, and not rush. Again, using other blogs has given us a brief overview of some beautiful places to see. So, planning looks like this: We (Niki, mostly) decides on the next key spot. We check for distances and then look up the place using our home MiFi (10Gb per month). Niki refers to a very useful app: Park4Night. This app is free (Thank You), but if you want to use it offline it costs €9.99 per year. The app marks, on a local map, different categories of places to stay: Free stops, paid stops (sometimes campsites, sometimes stops with services, including Aires in France and Stellplatz in Germany), the types of services available, dumping services along the way, laybyes and forest stops, beaches etc. The information is generated by users and generally very accurate, with comments being especially helpful. The GPS coordinates have proven to be very accurate.
This info is now put into our Samsung tablet, taking the place of the absolutely useless Pioneer (you can tell we’ve had issues!). Niki recently purchased CoPilot (€15 per annum) which allows us to enter the van dimensions. So far this has been helpful in preventing us from going down teeny roads, or under bridges <2.8 m high (my nightmare). Of course, no software is going to account for parking in Greece that sees drivers park 3 deep while going to the shop … Really important here is that CoPilot runs offline once you have downloaded the relevant regional maps for the country you are in. This has also been manageable on MiFi as the maps are not huge (but still very detailed and up to date – so far).
(On the navigation bar go to Travels / Our Trip Mapped and click on ‘here‘. All our overnight stops, with photos and comments are there.)
A very helpful British couple have also given us all their pins on Maps.Me. They spent 5 months in Greece, so not short of marked spots! In addition, they have added pins from other travellers they’ve met, so, at this point, we have a huge range of possibilities. Now if the weather just played along we could really make use of those pins at beaches.
We remain limited to less than three days without any services – if we had a spare toilet cassette this would be extended, but not possible in our little van. Water is good for three days (daily showers for both of us) and our waste water has never been an issue. Electricity has also not been an issue as our single 100W solar panel just keeps giving. Even with charging a computer at night and using as much lighting as we wish we never approach our limit. Gas has also been much better now that it’s warmer and we don’t have the heater going all day. I expect our 2 x 11kg gas bottles to last around 5 weeks, and at €30 a fill, who cares?
OOOH – Just had to share this!! We are having sliced boiled eggs on salad for dinner tonight and, after battling with shelling eggs for ever, Niki has just shown me this: Crack and peel the top of the egg, do the same for the bottom – now just push the egg out from top to bottom – the shell comes off like a sock! Ha – if we learn something new every day … Hmmm – perhaps some caution with soft-boiled eggs!!