The plan was hop, skip and jump through northern Germany and get stuck in to the adventure proper. So why are we still in Germany nine days later? That's the unfortunate story for this blog, it would seem our luck finally ran out!
After spending a fantastic evening with Aalreike and Arian in Rjissen in the Netherlands, we decided to try and get as far as Hamburg. Doesn't sound too bad. About 250 kms. We took it easy, sailed across the border. Which I might add at this point was a dreadful let down after crossing the borders in Central America. No one to try and con you out of a few dollars for a completely unnecessary piece of paper. No one asking questions about where we've been, where we're going, how long are we staying, do we have a flight booked out of the country, have we any drugs in our bags. Then we hit the autobahn. Crawlie was very appropriately named. We were plodding along at 60mph with the lorries and everything, including other motor homes, whizzing past us at god knows what speeds. But we stopped for the night by a weir near a town called Ottersberg. We were there by three the afternoon and I was introduced to Backgammon which we played whilst drinking our tea and watching the German dog walkers arriving and leaving. Only dog walking, no dogging, before any of you make any comments!
Next morning we wake up to glorious sunshine and are ready for the next day's drive of about 250kms across to the north east coast to a town called Flensburg. Still no signs of bad luck, I hear you cry. Hold on, it's coming!
On the way we need to refuel so we stop in a garage which has about five different types of fuel. Being the tight arses that we are we put in the cheapest, which is something called Super E10. It's got super in the name, it's unleaded, should be ok. But almost as soon as we pull away Crawlie feels different. She's struggling for power and is making a tinkling noise. She's always been a bit slow and a bit noisy but something is wrong. Not having much mechanical knowledge we just carry on regardless. Taking it real slow and hoping that it's just a minor sickness. You know, like a tickly sore throat. As soon as there's room for more fuel we top up with a better quality petrol and hope that might help. But the tickly sore throat is still there. We make it to our next destination and find a motorhome parking spot along the river just outside of town. No facilities but lots of other MHs and they were still turning up at 10pm that night!
Note on Flensburg here. Really lovely town just about 15kms from the Denmark border. On a river with a cobbled pedestrian high street and a dead posh Marina. It's also famous for Flensburger beer.
Next morning we decide to hit Denmark. We take the scenic route to give Crawlie a chance to warm up and cross another border. Well, we actually limp across and again, don't get stopped or asked any questions. But at this point we are both terribly uncomfortable driving the van and decide we should get her looked at as it must be more than a fuel problem. So 33kms into Denmark in the middle of nowhere is a Citroen garage. We stop. A mechanic looks. He tests. He looks. He tests again. He says sorry, it's broken. Two of our four cylinders are not working. We are a little shell shocked to find out Crawlies sore throat might be pneumonia and could be life threatening. What to do? It's now Wednesday and the garage explain that they can't do anything until Monday because, guess what? It's a national holiday Thursday and Friday. Ok, let's go back to Germany, they don't think it's a holiday in Germany. So we limp very slowly back to the nearest town in Germany.
Note about Niebull. A tiny town but it has all the stuff you need. Three cheap supermarkets, Lidl, Aldi and Netto. A few cafes and restaurants, a swimming pool and a fair is in town.
We call our breakdown cover out and a big friendly German man arrives who spends a couple of hours testing Crawlie before making us follow him back to the workshop. He looks. He tests. He looks again. He says, it's Kaput! We need a new engine! Then he continues to tell us that it's a holiday in Germany tomorrow. So no hotels available, no hire car. We feel like Mary and Joseph with no room at the inn. So Heino, we're on first name terms with the mechanic by now, says we can stay in the carpark of the workshop. He even leaves the toilet unlocked for us. Bless him. And so there we stayed for three nights. Making lots of calls to the breakdown insurance company, local garages looking for a new engine, even phoning England for advice. Eventually, with the help of Alan as translator, it's explained to Heino we are just poor peasants and Crawlie is our home, can he help us avoid the €3000-4,000 we are being quoted for the new engine. Unfortunately this all happens late on Friday and we have to wait until Monday before Heino can look at her and see what the damage is. We have a nail biting, excruciatingly painful wait of almost three days before we know. During that time we drank and ate, and ate and drank, got some washing done and became Backgammon masters whilst we stayed in a chocolate box thatched cottage hopefully paid for by the insurance company. Then good old Heino steps up to the mark. He works his magic and gets her going with parts from Germany and Denmark and a much, much cheaper bill. He is happy (Job well done crate of beer and lots of his favourite fags) We are happy! And so is Crawlie with her new timing belt, head gasket, cleaned, smooth cylanders, water pump, fresh oil, coolant and plugs.....Vrooom!
So here we are one week later than we would have liked and we have crossed the Danish border for real. Let's see if Scandinavia is all that we've been waiting for.