Our 2008 Dethleffs Travel Diary Part 2 - Gas Alarms Go Off !!
Well hello again to y’all. Wow, what an eventful time we’ve had since our first update. When we last left you, the camping/parking opportunities on the Slovenian Adriatic coast had disappointed, so we’d just departed from Slovenia. We’d parked up on a campsite called Camping Finida, just outside Umag on the West part of the Istrian peninsula in Croatia, where the story continues….. Like a true trooper, My Co-Driver managed to wash our entire laundry pile; we refreshed ourselves; refreshed the van; met some other Brits and for sure when we left the next morning we were much sweeter smelling than when we’d arrived 24 hours earlier with clean bedding, towels and not a smelly sock in sight! Actually, we’ve been living in beach sandals, so we didn’t have any smelly socks in the first place. The plan had been to spend a couple of days “Wild Camping” in some appropriate car park or bay on the Croatian coast and then meet up with the aforementioned Brits at another campsite near Pula. After a day gently touring local towns, we located our little spot – a beautiful bay, with a lovely small beach, with plenty of pebbles to remind us of home. We checked with the local restaurant owner and with his reassurance and approval headed off for a relaxing evening (and the odd beer) in the local town, thinking we were parked up for the night. Returning to Moby ready for a quite night, we were immediately summoned, rather harshly, by some thumping on the door, by the local area Security Guards and told we could not sleep here!!! Ah, well that’s a problem ventured I, as we’d been told all was OK, I’d partaken in a small beverage and would not be able to drive. (Croatia has a zero tolerance policy on blood alcohol levels)….. Can you imagine how long it took for that particular discussion to reach its conclusion? Exactly, so we left and headed for another Parking area we’d seen earlier and knew we were allowed to sleep in. Luckily I had actually had only had one small beer and there were no Police around, but it was still a more attractive option than continuing our friendly chat with the Security Guards. There were lots of other Motorhomes in the Car Park, so we snuggled down for a good nights sleep. Little did I know at that stage what was in store for us!! Fast asleep as all respectable people are at 03:20am, we were suddenly awoken to our CO2 alarm screeching away. Isolating the various appliances and opening all available windows, doors etc, the Alarm reading soon returned to normal. Checking around outside, there appeared to be no bogeymen waiting to pounce on us, so we returned to bed, sans Gas. The morning, a Saturday, saw more investigations and more reflections. Could the Security Guards have done something to our Van? Could we have been Gas Attacked as one reads about all the time, but to which I’ve never given serious consideration? Putting all conspiracy theories to one side, we thought some more logical diagnosis was necessary: It soon became clear the problem was with the fridge/freezer and moreover, it didn’t occur when it was running on 12v. It was likely it would be OK on mains power as well, so we went and met up with our new friends and stayed on a Campsite for 3 days, whereby we could make a plan whilst relaxing. The campsite arranged a local expert Gas engineer to attend, who in true Fawlty Towers style turned up with no tools, smoking a cigarette!! Yep, you read that correctly: He’s come to fix a gas leak with a lit cigarette. Needless to say, with his extensive expertise he didn’t find any problem! We decided that visiting a Dethleffs dealer was the best plan, particularly as the Van is still under warranty, so headed off on the journey around Istra and onwards to Dethleffs Ljubljana. As a young child I remember going on an overseas holiday, which was quite adventurous in those days!! We flew into Pula, which was then Yugoslavia, very much behind the Iron Curtain and were confronted by Customs men bearing arms and fighter jets shepherding our plane to its parking gate. We stayed in a hotel in Rabac, which I was determined to find all these years later. Despite the Security Guards trying to prove otherwise, Croatia is somewhat more friendly these days and after much walking around asking questions, I reckon we managed to “find” my holiday beach of all those years ago – although frankly it’s changed so much from how I remember it, that’s its hard to know whether my senility problems are worse than I thought, or perhaps Tourism means the area has changed in 35 years? Stopping once overnight on the way to Ljubljana, we presented ourselves to the Dethleffs dealer and begged for mercy; forgiveness and some help with our Gas problem. Bad Gas said the man. So I switched from our refillable Gaslow bottle back to our UK Calor bottle. Good gas said I. With the burner cleaned and all sorts of reassurances, we were sent on our way, only for the problem to represent that evening. Returning the next day, we basically wasted a day whilst they decided that they didn’t have the expertise!! Very friendly, very welcoming, very hospitable but ultimately they still hadn’t fixed our Gas problem!! Dethleffs Germany (Kathrin) was supporting us throughout the whole episode and with her guidance, we thought we’d visit a dealer just over the border in Italy who came recommended. Hey look, it’s a small world, Ljubljana to Villesse isn’t that far and we are on a touring holiday, so why not? In our time (so far) in Slovenia, we’d managed to see the amazing Cave system at Postojna, which is truly, truly incredible. Something like 60km of caves, stuffed full of amazing drip stones in all shapes and sizes. Cheddar Gorge is good, the caves I’ve seen in Nerja Spain are better, but neither compared with this place. They’ve even got a train system through some of the caves it’s THAT large. We then parked overnight outside a really cool castle, just down the road and called Predjama. Like most Castles, there’s a great historic story, but this particular place is built into the front of another Cave system and from the front is totally inaccessible. Come and visit it for yourself; I promise you it’s like no other Castle I’ve ever seen in my life and the story just leaves me with a huge grin on my face whenever I think of it. Both of these places make Slovenia worth visiting in their own right. It’s a clean country, friendly in a way that disappeared in most countries decades ago and nearly everyone speaks English. The Capital is friendly and has another Castle, although this time of the more traditional variety. Why is it that Castles are always so inaccessible? It’s like they didn’t know when they built them that they’d all become tourist attractions!! Between Ljubljana and Villesse, we took in a visit to the Lipica Horses Stud. This is another incredible place and well worth a visit. The Lippizana horses are world famous and the Stud has been established well over 400 years. There was also a World Cup qualifying competition on the day we visited which added to the fun. Being less than well versed on the ways of the horsey world, our day was enhanced no end by meeting two lovely ladies, who compete themselves and took us under their wing explaining all the intricacies of the competition. They helped make a good day a great one. Moreover, one of them lives in Hungary and the other in the NL and we’re invited to visit both on our trip. Just to cap (pun intended) our day, Tina has a great Dentist at nothing prices and gave me their card. Dental tourism is a big thing these days in Hungary and I might take this opportunity to have a Crown fitted that I need whilst we’re passing through. We headed off that evening (Sunday) towards Villesse, for our Monday morning appointment – not that we’d bothered calling ahead as the Motorhome Industry seems well set-up to help people in distress and need. Back in Italy the Sat Navs had detailed mapping again. Whilst we’d been in Slovenia and Croatia, it was Cities and major roads only. To be honest, it’s a misnomer, it should be City and Road in the singular!! We found the Dethleffs dealer in Villesse quite easily. It helped a lot when we say a lady watering her plants outside her home and parked outside was another Dethleffs van. She pointed us in the right direction, offering us to park outside her house overnight if it was easier. Being polite and British (well, part Cuban) we declined and travelled the last 500 yards to the dealer. Parking was going to be less than ideal that night. The access road to the dealer was narrow and with us squeezed tight against their wall, another vehicle could just about have passed. Just as we’d decided it would have to do, the Garden watering lady appeared and insisted we went back and parked at her house. It wasn’t necessary to twist our arms too much and we followed her home. Met by her husband and Son as though we were long lost family members, they were truly unbelievably welcoming, offering us water, WC disposal, fresh water and even dinner. I was sort of waiting for the sacrificial daughter to be offered up and My Co-Driver the Italian Son, but we settled for Wine and Italian snacks in their house. Can you imagine that sort of thing happening in England, or many other countries these days? Or is it just something about Dethleffs owners? They even telephoned the Dealer the next morning to help explain our problems and pave the way for us to finally have our Gas problem resolved. The dealer did seem massively more experienced than the one in Slovenia: They diagnosed and fixed our problem, with appropriate remedial works and sent us on our way within 2 hours! Gas finally fixed, we felt relieved and drained in equal measures. If only we’d known we would of course have headed their way earlier, but hey, isn’t this the sort of thing that makes our trip an adventure? Given that Slovenia had so far astounded us, we thought we’d head back in and see some more of the sights. We’d been told about a beautiful river at Tolmin, which was sort of the direction of our original plan. It IS beautiful and a totally unique shade of Blue. Almost totally without pollution and with very little human footprint, this is Slovenia the way it’s been for centuries. Traditional villages and a smallish road detract little for the overwhelming natural beauty. Later on we came across a group of 4 Brits who were Fly Fishing on one of the rivers. They described it as good as it gets worldwide and seeing as though they had travelled the world in the name of their sport and were each paying 100 Euros A DAY to be allowed to stand in waist deep water, we took them at their word! We’ve now moved on up to Lake Bled in the Slovenian Alps. Lake Bled is a beautiful fresh water lake with and is a significant centre for rowing. The camp site is popular in the guide books and is our first Camp Site for 10 days. It’s also reputed to be one of the most beautiful Camp Sites around and early impressions would confirm that to be true in its setting and cleanliness. The fee is around £18 per night for both of us, which includes free Wi-Fi. My Co-Driver has worked wonders again today with the Laundry and I’ve had a chance to sort out all of the “stuff” packed into Moby’s Garage. Scooby the Scooter has been useful on a few occasions, whereas the bikes haven’t been used as much as we thought. The Air beds are yet to become anything other than folded canvas, the football remains unused, as does (luckily) the emergency equipment. The birds are singing away in the trees outside and there’s a glass of wine waiting for me. Tomorrow will see us cycling around the lake and hopefully getting into it for a swim…. Where we go from here is yet to be decided, but hopefully now the Van is working fully again, won’t involve too many detours. For sure we’ll be back in England 8th July, which is 4 weeks today and in turn means we’re over half way through our trip – how time flies. Love and best wishes to all