Poor Mole! The Life Adventurous was so new a thing to him, and so thrilling; and this fresh aspect of it was so tempting; and he had fallen in love at first sight with the canary-coloured cart and all its little fitments.
Yes, we’ve hit the road again, in spite of all our reservations after our Motorhome trip in the autumn. This time we hired a nearly new Volkswagen California T5SE and it was a very different
experience. It was a lovely vehicle, but very black – it looked to me like a hearse, especially with its tinted windows.
Some tips for anyone thinking of trying it:
DO check that all necessary equipment has been included. We discovered on setting up at our first site that the lack of a hose made filling the water tank very tricky. A small whistling kettle is not the ideal utensil for doing this and you get wet.
DON’T reject McDonald’s as a place to eat when it’s pouring with rain and you need food, any food. This branch in Aberdeen also had a large, almost empty car park for me to practise reversing (good visibility and parking sensors).
DO dress and pack with comfort, warmth and staying dry in mind. There is a ‘wardrobe’ with hanging space but, like everything in this beautifully compact living space, it is small. We wore our warm jumpers, waterproof trousers, anoraks and socks in bed – just the socks in bed, with warm pyjamas. We chose a pub rather than a posh bistro for Saturday night.
DON’T believe the garage employee’s instructions about using the kitchen area. The fridge settings were the reverse of what we’d been told and we ended up with 2 cans of diet coke which fizzed and frothed alarmingly when opened, turning out to be frozen solid inside. He didn’t warn us that the plastic basin in the sink would melt if not removed before lighting the gas ring.
DO take your time turning the front seats round to become chairs in the living area. You can easily get trapped between van and seat if seatback is reclined, runners misaligned or arm-rests down. We were just about getting the hang of it by the end of our trip.
DON’T assume that you have to sleep in the fold-out downstairs bed if you are a bit arthritic. We tried out the upstairs version on night 2 and found it roomier and cosy in a weird way (you feel some air coming through the soft sides of the pop-up, but it feels less exposed than in a tent). Getting up and down was a bit inelegant, but it had plenty of headroom and a great little LED light. Not having a toilet meant a 5 a.m. clamber onto the driver’s seat. I really couldn’t put it off any longer. Torch in hand, wellies and hoodie over pyjamas, I make it to the loos, having managed to remember the entry code. I walk back, suddenly noticing light in the sky and the birds just starting to wake up, feeling good about being out, hearing the sea, imagining adults, children, and babies sleeping in the tents and caravans. There is an accessory called the Portapotti (it comes with its own little tent) but off-site we could improvise. Younger Daughter suggests the Shee Wee – just watched the inventor demonstrating it. https://www.youtube.com/watch I will follow this up.
DO enjoy simple pleasures, like cooking breakfast on the gas hob. We had talked about toast, deciding that plugging a toaster into the single 230v socket might not be safe. I improvised with a split roll on a fork over the gas flame. It was nicely charred, having caught fire round the edges. We realised there was no fire blanket or extinguisher. But it soon went out. We had a picnic lunch on a grassy bank by the North Sea, testing out the handy table and chairs which are stored cleverly away in the frame of the van. To be cleverly stored away again as the rain came on again.
DON’T depend on social media. As well as dropping my smartphone on a stone, cracking the touchscreen and rendering it untouchable (its inner workings carrying on as usual, including the 30 second recording of skylarks set as notification sound after getting less than positive reactions to the crow I’d had for a while, which made me jump so nothing could be silenced or switched off), there was no phone signal or WiFi for most of our trip. We didn’t miss the telly at all. It meant we talked, mostly about the campervan, although we did find the weekend papers in the Dornoch Co-op and had time to sit and read them.
This trip came much closer to my romantic notions and childhood memories of self-contained travelling. I loved driving the California – it feels not unlike our Golf – and can see us happily using it as a second car. We hope eventually the Wee Boy will be big enough to share some trips with us, and that his Mum and Dad will want to use it too. Sounds like it’s happening, doesn’t it? We’ve been getting quotes for insurance (not as bad as imagined) and Cannyrob has returned with renewed interest to his Campervanning magazines. If we do decide to order one, there’s a four to six month wait till we get it. Meantime, I’m looking at lightweight pans, plates, bowls and mugs, and fantasising about fitting them into the cupboards, working out how to pack my summer wardrobe for a trip abroad, maybe planning a picnic under the awning……we quite like Bamboo Garden (see picture), by the way.