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 tyres, self-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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.