Gearing up for Our Next Motorhome Tour

Poor Charlie had to endure an hour-long check-up at the vets
Poor Charlie had to endure an hour-long check-up at the vets

Hi Folks

We’ve been back in the UK for a couple of weeks and, in among get-togethers with our wonderful families and friends, have been gearing up for another motorhome tour of Europe and North Africa. This post runs through the main areas of preparation we’ve done, bearing in mind we already have our Hymer B544 motorhome, and it’s kitted out with all-weather tyresself-refillable gas tanks, a Solar PV panel, always-on Internet and a chemical-free loo SOG unit. We really do have one hell of a luxury wagon to roam about in.

Motorhome Preparation

These are the areas of preparation we’ve done on our motorhome:

  • Service and MOT – to stay legal abroad the van needs to be legal in the UK, so even though it wasn’t due until January next year, we’ve renewed the MOT for another year. This highlighted the fact one of the front suspension struts was empty of oil, rendering it useless. Neither of us noticed any handling problems during our last tour, nor have we noticed any difference since the new suspension’s been fitted, weirdly. The MOT also spotted some the exhuast rubber mounts were decaying, and replaced them. It also highlighted small holes in the rear section of the exhaust, but our garage struggled to source the part so we’ll patch it up and get it fixed while we’re on the road and in the land of left hand drive vehicles.
  • Green Card – our insurers (Safeguard – here’s why) posted us a green card, valid for a year, which will extend our cover to Morocco. The last time we were there our insurer at the time refused to issue a green card, so we had to buy third party insurance at the Tanger Med port – expensive and provided little cover for us.
  • Windscreen check – we got Autoglass to check some small chips on the windscreen. They concluded they didn’t need repair, so we’ll keep an eye on them and get the windscreen replaced in continental Europe if they worsen and cause a crack.
  • Dust caps – a previous owner fitted metal dust caps to the tyre inflation valves, which looked nice but kept seizing on. The garage swapped them back to plastic for us.
  • We opted to replace the leisure batteries with the same ones already fitted
    We opted to replace the leisure batteries with the same ones already fitted

    Leisure batteries – we’d noticed our two leisure batteries were starting to regularly dip down as low as 12V. They were probably fitted 4 or 5 years back. Our approach was to go to Halfords and buy two starter battteries, as experience on our two year trip found a starter battery worked flawlessly for us for over 23 months with lots of free camping thrown in. In the car park outside Halfords we removed the driver’s seat to look at the existing batteries, finding them to be 86Ah Numax XV24MFs, which are badged as ‘leisure battteries’. A quick check on the Internet found they were about the same price as the equivalent Halford’s starter batteries (The Numax are £75 each on Amazon.co.uk), so we ordered two of them instead, which we fitted and are working well so far.

  • Cleaned the roof – finally, after many, many promises while staring at our filthy roof while on a ferry, we’ve given it a good scrubbing, taking advantage of my Dad’s ladders and hosepipe (messing up the side of his house in the process as I blasted all the dirt onto it – sorry Dad!).
  • Bike rack – we’ve refitted it (we removed it to get below 6m to avoid high ferry costs in Norway), and a kind blog reader’s offered us a couple of bikes for free, which we’ll pick up on our way back out.
  • We don't watch much TV, but we do miss the big events sometimes
    We don’t watch much TV, but we do miss the big events sometimes

    Satellite TV – again this one’s taken a while, but after struggling to get a signal using the existing satellite system in the van (240v TV and Sky+ box) we’ve treated ourselves to a Cello C22EFFTRAVEL 22″  TV, which cost £229. This enables us to pick up the UK satellites when in the footprint, but also other satellites when outside of the UK – sure they may be in French or Spanish, but chances are there will be an English speaking news channel or the odd film.

  • Wheel trims – after losing one of the trims crossing Italy (bouncy roads in bella Italia!), and scratching one against a kerb in Norway, we’ve ordered 4 cheap replacements to keep Zagan looking spiffing.
  • Rear light cluster – after cracking the original one by reversing into a tree while watching TV in the Spanish Pyrenees (ahem), we got a new one for £38 from eBay (one from Hymer UK was roughly double the price) and it looks perfect.
  • We’ve a few final tweaks left to make, like removing the carpets ready for the sand and dust of the Moroccan deserts, but the van’s just about there. It’s currently in our storage spot on a farm about a mile from the Cooler, with the water drained down to avoid freezing and the fridge door’s open to try and keep it fresh!

Charlie, Our Dog

Charlie’s been prepared ready for his next foray into the unknown:

  • Poor Charlie had to endure an hour-long check-up at the vets
    Poor Charlie had to endure an hour-long check-up at the vets

    Rabies – his booster jab was due in February next year to keep his Pet Passport valid, so we got our UK vet to do it because it extends his rabies immunisation for 3 years. If we had it done by a vet in continental Europe it would only last a year.

  • Arthritis – he takes Seraquin Joint Supplement and Loxicom to treat arthritis in his leg joints and his tail. We’ve got a year’s supply of Loxicom from the vet, and had a blood test done to check the Loxicom’s not damaging his kidneys. His Seraquin was cheaper to source on the internet (the vet told us this!).
  • New basket – my folks have bought Charlie a fetching new basket for his 10th birthday, so now he can rest up his paws while in foreign parts.
  • Chip registration – we’ve updated the address on his microchip as we’d forgotten to do it after we moved.
  • We now need to stock up on Advantix, which helps protect against Leishmaniasis which is endemic around the Med, and we need to get his general vaccination booster done while in Spain. Finally I need to source a big stick to wave at the wild dogs in Morocco to fend them off.

Technology

Our tech and general gadgetry was getting on a bit after not being replaced in several years, so we made a list of all the equipment we wanted to buy. As the act of actually buying the kit got closer, the list grew shorter as things we didn’t really need fell by the wayside. In the end this is the kit we got and why:

  • Camera – after much research and discussion, we opted not to buy a DSLR camera. From our past experience, desert dust and DSLRs don’t mix well, and they can be bulky. Our existing bridge camera (a Sony HX200V) meets most of our needs so well, that when we looked at the newer version of it (Sony DSCHX400V), we couldn’t justify the additional spend for very little difference in features, so we opted to keep our current camera. As good as the Sony is, it doesn’t do wide angle, time lapse or underwater shots, so we picked up a  GoPro Hero4 Silver (we got ours as-new from eBay for £205).
  • Laptop – the battery on our laptop died after a couple of years use. This might be down to us charging it via a cheap (modified sine) inverter, so we got a new battery. We’ve also dug out the 12V laptop charger we bought for our old laptop and it fits – winner.
  • Internet SIMs – we picked up two Three PAYG roaming Internet SIM cards, which each provide 12GB of data across all 42 Feel at Home destinations for £25 each, and are valid for a year.  As the cards aren’t meant to be used for more that 2 months outside the UK, they’ll actually cover us for about 4 months. While in Morocco we’ll buy a local SIM and have a couple more 3 SIMs that we used on our previous trip, so will top these up if we need to.
  • Phone SIM – Ju’s got an O2 phone SIM to replace her Three one, since Three don’t allow any of their SIM cards to be used abroad for longer than 2 months at a time, and sent a text stating they would disable roaming on the phone the following day. They never actually cut us off, which was helpful as it was the number we’d given everyone on planet Earth.
  • Back-up drive – taking tens of thousands of photos which we don’t much want to lose, we’ve a new 2TB USB3 portable Toshiba hard drive for £68 (this one). We also got some new micro SD cards for Ju’s phone and the GoPro, and small USB thumb drives for playing music, audio books and videos on the stereo and TV.

Us

We've also enjoyed a night in a Nottingham hotel - we even had a bath!!!
We’ve also enjoyed a night in a Nottingham hotel – we even had a bath!!!

We’ve fitted in a fair few overdue appointments with the bank, doctors, vets, accountant and letting agents. I’m stocked up on contact lenses and Ju’s enjoyed her first hair cut since having it all cut off for charity ten months ago.

Ju’s ordered a new Caxton Fx prepaid currency card and bank card as the current ones would have expired while we are away. We’ve also raided the local charity shops for some new gear, and I’ve been gifted a load of shirts and T shirts from Ju’s folks.

Finally we’ve got a few other bits and bobs like a 15 Minute Spanish phrase book, and have dug out our Lonely Planet Morocco and Michelin Morocco map to refresh our memories on where we’re going!

Cheers! Jay

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21 Comments

  1. Sounds like a busy couple of weeks and looking forward to following along on your next adventure. Do you have a departure date yet?

    Somewhat jealous of you guys. Particularly on a Monday morning as I thump up a motorway in the dark on my way to begin yet another week of w*rk.

    • This weekend we head under the channel and start heading south sharpish. It’s gone all cold and dark. We too hated the morning commute in the dark, but I strongly suspect you have an escape plan lined up, which surely makes the thump easier? Keep pushing on. Cheers, Jay

  2. Did you manage to get a pint in “The Bell”? seeing that you were in slab square. Off to the lakes again for a couple of weekends shortly in “Dion”. Looking forward to your wanderings south. Great blog.

    • Funny you should say that Eric, we did indeed enjoy a pint in The Bell, a tasty Porter as I recall! Happy memories wandering around the square and shops. Enjoy the lakes fella, cheers, Jay

  3. Looking forward to your next adventure; wonderfully written an d informative.
    We’re recently retired and picking up our first MH this week……. Hopefully be as enjoyable as your adventures!

  4. Do you use Dropbox as extra backup for those valuable photos and vioes, as well as copies of important documents (passports, insurance, etc)? If you give the Dropbox password to a family member they could download photos.videos as extra backup back home so you don’t go over the Dropbox data limit.

    • Hi Andy, cloud services like Dropbox are hard for us to use, partly down to unavailability of broadband and partly down to the huge volume of photos we take. Dropbox would work, and being ‘off site’ be a safer solution, but would be less convenient than a portable hard drive we can carry with us and I suspect we’d not back up so often as a result. Cheers, Jay

  5. Busy bees you are! Good preparation for the next trip and lots of tips for us, your followers. A big thank you for keeping this blog and sharing all that information. Have a safe crossing!

  6. Hi Jay, Not sure if you have gone yet but I have a complete set of CD’s published by the “Mail” to learn both French and Spanish. I have managed to get them on mp3 so cd’s are available if you want them.
    Keep on enjoying enjoying.
    Robert

  7. Wheel-trims!! I just lost one 2 days after thinking, “I really must Zip-Tie those wheel trims on”. You have been warned.

    Looking forward to your blog starting up again!!

    I’m getting used to driving Humberto now, I don’t refer to my insulation tape “Lane Markers” as much now….only when I meet the dreaded rural bus on country lanes (I find it helps if I breathe in when that happens.. just a tip).

  8. hi! Ref Exhaust, we had a C564 Hymer (now sold) and holes in exhaust that had been patched, after the tail end fell off!!! we had a desperate search to source a LH one before a trip, we ended up ordering 2 as panic set in when the first was delayed from Poland so, end result is that we have one spare, still in box. The original listing we bought it from on Ebay is 390275317689 and I work in Dover, so would be quite easy to collect on your way out,I don’t know if it will fit Zagan, but thought you may want to have a look as you have had issues sourcing one :)

    • Hi Carolyn, thanks for the offer! Looked at the listing and sadly it looks a different shape to the one we need. Thanks anyway, happy travels, cheers, Jay

    • Likewise! Rain’s on, here comes the big storm… We’ve had to move to the other side of the aire as the rig next to us has fired up a genny and was smokin’ us out. Taps are working – the safety valve on the heating had dropped and I was pumping all our water into the floor – doh. Take it easy, happy travels, Jay

  9. Hi guys! @ourvilllalife here again! Just searching your page again for any help you can offer us for Morocco. Unfortunately this ‘on the road’ life has relaxed us so much we’ve left it until the last minute to get Green Cards (assuming we could have them emailed) we were half planning on leaving here (Torrevieja) tomorrow and making our way to Morocco. Safeguard can only post our green card which could take 2-3 weeks!! but hey at least whilst we are here we have an address! Second problem our car (which we tow) insurance do not cover us for Morocco! :( Third problem i’m not overly convinced we will get our dog back to spain when we come back. Although he has his passport, (Rabies jab valid until next year), and microchipped….I would die if there was an issue with him coming back and I don’t seem to be reassured even after checking with a spanish vet who looked online and then stamped his passport…but I read online this needs to be done just before you travel!!? If you can offer any help or encouragement we look forward to it! Safe Travels. Emma, Dean & Joel @ourvillalife

    • Hi guys, sounds like fun… Hopefully the green card will be there more quickly? You could get third party insurance for the car at the Tangerine Med port when we passed through, but it wasn’t cheap and we assumed was ‘keep you out of prison’ only level. Maybe store the car in Spain if it’s a big issue. We had the same doubts and fears about Charlie. I read the EU law with regards to taking a pet out of the EU and back in, and as far as I could tell the pet passport was the only legal requirement to get back in. There was no need for a vet visit in Morocco to get in or out. As far as I know that’s still the case. Vets in Spain should know the law but we’ve found vets sometimes aren’t fully up to speed on the passport, only really knowing the process for issuing it. We’ve been out of the EU numerous time and back in using only the passport. When we re-entered Spain from Morocco, no check of his passport was made at all. Could have been luck (I’m certain they’ll do spot checks), so I’d have to suggest taking expert advice (second vet opinion perhaps, or contact an escorted tour organiser) if you’re concerned. We’re going only with his valid passport if that helps. Cheers, Jay

      • Thanks Jay puts my mind at rest a little with regard to our dog, its all very confusing when you look online with regard to the rabies but I think we’re safe. Yes I think we will look to store/park the car somewhere in Spain although this is an extra expense we could do without. We could leave it here in Torrevieja but that means driving back 6/7 hours to get it which is the opposite direction that we want to go once we come back from Morocco!

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