Trains past Baker Street

With the Covid Germ still out there still and it stifling our travel plans, I thought it would be a good time to revisit our month in  Europe in a  Motorhome  following friends Gary and Dianne a few years ago…  about 15 odd posts!

Enjoy

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The night we’ve been packing for finally rolled around and we were off to the airport for our almost midnight flight to Singapore from Auckland. We’d dropped the car off with daughter in law, Sarah earlier in the day and caught a shuttle to the airport.

What we didn’t know was that both of our sons, Drew, his girlfriend Jenna and Alex were on the same flight up from Wellington. We could have driven our car to the airport and they could have driven it home.. never mind. The shuttle was booked and paid for and it was too hard to undo.

At Singapore with our A380 about to take us to London

We left Auckland at 11:55 and about 2am, we both finally got some sleep. I find it really hard to sleep on a plane and dozy bouts is as good as it gets. I end up tired and grumpy at the other end and after a decent sleep, I’m right again:-)

Arriving at Changi at 6:30 odd, we had two hours before the next flight left at 9am. .. 13 hours !!

Both flights was pretty good though. I was watching the flight track and it was interesting to see that we flew over India and then up through Tajikistan and across to Moscow, out to the Baltic sea past Vilnius and then down to the English channel to Heathrow. .. well clear of the trouble spots!

The terminal transfer Train

Arriving at Heathrow was a doddle and what a massive airport. 5 Terminals all connected by trains in tunnels and you walk for miles between things.

Just to get our luggage was a hike through several buildings. I was expecting to get our bag and then go through Immigration. Not here.. you get in a queue, yep, they love their queues and once through Immigration, you get your bag. There wasn’t any customs that I could see.. we simply walked out, amazing. The immigration guy was a great guy and was more interested in having a chat about some of the strange photos he’d seen of people coming through than holding up a big queue 🙂 .. nice guy.

Click on the images for Hi Res or a slideshow

We were both knackered and made our way straight to the airport Hilton (terminal 4) where we were booked for the night and crashed.

At Paddington with the amazing roof

The next morning, we were up early and caught a train to Terminal 3 where we caught an Express train into Paddington station.

People going for it at Paddington

Paddington is amazing with one of the big wired WW2 looking hanger structures over the whole platform area. Just like you see in all the old movies. Great for piccies so I took a few here. It was busy too with people everywhere.

We caught another train from here to Kings Cross and then changed again to catch our prepaid train to Ely. Kings Cross station is very like Paddington with the huge Hanger like look .. amazing.

A visitor from Hawkes Bay checking out the Baker street sign

On the way to Cambridge was the Baker Street stop. My immediate thought was  Sherlock. When we stopped, the double entrance doors perfectly lined up for the Baker Street signs and while I took a piccy a young girl wandered into the shot to photograph it herself.. all this without getting out of my seat ! My lucky day.

After lunch, we rocked into Ely.  A few trains, cabs and stuff but we’re here and its fantastic.

Europe here we come

With the Covid Germ still out there still and the fact that I’ve been pretty much house bound with a nasty flu for the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good time to revisit our month in Europe Motorhome  following friends Gary and Dianne a few years ago…  about 15 odd posts!

Enjoy

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Rafe is in Taupo safely tucked up and snug in Gary and Diannes Shed and being very spoilt on carpet too!

Our last view from the place on the hill.

They have sold their Rosie and are waiting for their new “Basil” to arrive from Germany. Basil is a 8.8 metre Niesmann and Bischoff, with all the bells and whistles and yes, it will fit in the shed ! .. more on this later when it arrives.

Click on the images for Hi Res

Fiona with Boxes and Suitcases

We’re packing up for the trip and we’re also moving our of our room in Milford which we’ve been renting from our son Andrew.

We’ve also packed our bags for Europe. We’re heading first to the UK and after 10 days or so, we’ll be picking up “Ralph”, and yes really, it is its real name 🙂  Its a rental Hymer and we’ll be  joining our friends from Taupo, Gary and Dianne on a trip through Europe.

Empty Wardrobe

Gary and Dianne both lived in Prague for a couple of years and have done several motorhome trips through Europe so know it well.

We’re crossing on the Chunnel together and heading through Belgium, German, Poland and up to Estonia and back down again. Through the South of Poland, Czech Republic, France and then back to the UK.

Ralph the left hand drive Hymer

Once we get back from the UK in early August, we’ll pick up Rafe from Taupo, come back to Auckland for some final sorting out of our stuff and then we’re off to the bottom of the South Island until Christmas, effectively fulltiming ! ..yippee.

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Europe here we come 🙂

Great parking at the Coromandel Hotel

This is one of those real gems. We’ve stayed here a few times now and it although the facilities are a bit rustic, they’re clean, they work, its a reasonable price and they’re nice people.

Click on an Image to enlarge

The parking out the back.. early morning

We checked in at the hotel and after parking Rafe, we were pleasantly surprised to see it was pretty dry given the rain the area had been getting. The secret was that there is a good layer of scoria under the grass where you park. There was a couple of ruts from earlier people but they were easily avoided and it was easy peasy.

After having a look at the Coromandel Mining Museum up the road a wee bit, we went for another walk into Coromandel town for a look around for an hour or so and then wandered back. The shops were open yippee! The Mining Museum is run by volunteers and it is well worth a look at it.. really interesting with a lot of images of early Coromandel. I even found a list of the rules of being a Teacher in the 1870’s… quite funny looking at it now but they were deadly serious.

Coromandel Hotel

After getting back to the Hotel, we went for a drink in the Hotel and later had a meal there.

The Ablutions

The food is something else.. We both had Pork Belly and it was amazing. I even sent a happy snap off my phone to a mate in Taupo and he agreed by long distance.

The Pork Belly Yummmm!

Great hospitality, the food is fantastic and its an easy walk to town.

Rafe’s Tracker map to the Coromandel Hotel – Armada GPS

Long Bay – Great walks and right beside the water.

This can only be Long Bay about 3 k’s north of Coromandel town and an easy walk.

Click on an Image to Enlarge

It is also part of the Camp Saver scheme and although I’ve been here before on my own, it was Fiona’s first time here.

After checking in with Leanne, the camp manager, she advised us that as they had huge amounts of rain, they still had some sites we could use but most of it was roped off due to mud and slush. This is normally a magnificent part of Coromandel and to see it like this was a real shame for them… its only water and will dry out but with the Covid thing and everything else, they needed that like a hole in the head.

I was given the option of two waterfront dryish sites to park on and we easily got in without skidding but the mud was out there 🙂

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

Once we’d plugged in and settled Rafe, we set off for a walk around the headland towards Tucks Bay. You can also camp around there as well. Its an easy 15 minute walk each way and is well worth doing. There is also the Kauri grove as well up behind the camp which is well worth checking out too but we didn’t get to do that this time.

The track back to Long Bay from Tucks Bay
Tucks Bay

With the clouds blowing away later in the day, it was just amazing sitting on the side of the beach doing absolutely nothing but taking it all in.

Great sunset

A great destination with plenty to see and do… stick this one on your to do list.!

Rafe’s Tracker map to Long Bay – Armada GPS

Breaking the cabin fever – Coromandel

We’ve had a month or so of being housebound mostly due to Rafe’s Bumper project and also a full annual service. Getting it back meant we could escape !

Click on an Image to enlarge

Rafe in the park with newly painted bumper!

Coromandel is somewhere we both thought would be great for a few days before Fiona had to return to work. We only had 4 days so we figured somewhere not too far and where we haven’t been for a while!

NZMCA park

The Thames Coromandel District Council are making some great improvements on the coast rd from Thames. Every time I come up here its different. This time they’ve widened the road north of Waiomu.. there are still plenty of narrow bits but I saw they’re dealing with some of those too.

Star and Garter pub

We arrived in Coromandel early in the afternoon on a Sunday so many of the shops were shut. The important ones like the bars and one of our favorite ones, the Star and Garter was open and they had a special on Gourmet pizza’s $10.. that was us for a late lunch!

After a walk around the town, we returned back to Rafe in the NZMCA park.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

You never get sick of Coromandel, the charm of the shops, even though most were shut as it was a Sunday, there were people wandering around and all of them very friendly. It has a great atmosphere with all the old buildings and everyone seems happy to have a bit of a natter.

We called in to an Metal Art shop which backed on to the NZMCA park and bought an amazing sculpture of leaves made using recycled parts of copper hot water cylinders. Clever use of old materials.

Where i was introduced to my first Husband Waiting chair 🙂

Later, it time to go down to get Fish and Chips for tea and we headed back to Rafe for the night.

A great Day in Coromandel town,  it never disappoints !

Rafe’s Tracker map to the NZMCA park – Armada GPS

The Sunburnt Bumper

It seems at this time of the year, there is an endless demand on outgoing funds for the Motorhome.. Service, Insurance, COF and a rattle or two you’ve discovered that could be silenced.

This year, the big one was repainting the Bumper just to add to the list.

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looks like a peely shoulder !

To be fair, a new vehicle where ever it is made should not have to have its bumper repainted after only 6 years so that grates a wee bit, but not being one to dwell on these things, it had to be fixed.

Before.. you can see the yellow tint in the lacquer from the sun.

The deterioration started about three years ago and when I raised it at the time with the dealers, I was told it came under the Fiat warranty which had by then expired.   ….Hey Ho as they say.. Lets get on and get it fixed…!

It started with the whole bumper going a yellowy colour and then the paint peeled off in bits. I progressively sanded parts of it to blend the colour and make it look a bit better as it got worse.

About to be taken off

After talking to one of my favorite RV repairers Peter at RV repairs who is also a qualified spray painter, he advised that I should leave it as long as possible so as much of the peeling paint would fall off and remove the need for a massive sanding job!

.. It couldn’t wait any longer !!

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

In Devonport where I live, there is a great family run business which many of my mates at school have worked at over the years, run by Dennis  and Nathan Hale, called Fleet St Panel beaters.  They have a great reputation for doing things properly and are well known around the community as being really nice people.

In getting the newly painted Bumper. reattached

Where they are next to the supermarket in Devonport is pretty tight for big vehicles so it was a case of getting the bumper taken off and taking Rafe back home until the painting was finished.

All sanded and primed.

The bad news came on day 1 when after taking it off, we found that the bumper was actually fiberglass, not plastic. This meant it couldn’t be dipped to strip the paint off and they couldn’t bake the new paint on. It also needed to be sanded thoroughly before applying a special primer for the fiberglass. The good news part of this is that fiberglass is really strong.

Sanded and ready for some colour

Nathan was telling me it they budget on a couple of hours to prepare a plastic bumper. This one needed a day and a half of sanding as a lot of it was by hand. .. I could see my budget being blown sky-high and Fiona giving me a stern talking to 😐

All finished and waiting for Rafe – pic by Nathan

Unfortunately, they had a couple of staff off sick  and with the extra preparation, the 4 day job turned into two weeks but the outcome was well worth the wait. The finish was just sensational.

Although I was given the German paint codes, Kris the painter used a fancy machine that could read the colour off the side of the van and match it wirelessly to paints in NZ that can deal with our UV.

All done .. – WOW – pic by Nathan

An amazing colour match and friends who have known the van from new and know a bit about paint reckon it looks better than it was at the beginning.. I agree!!

Yes, it cost a bit more but I’m not complaining with such a great paint job.

Looking really good.. also with the polished headlights.

I’ve ordered a new logo sticker from Dethleffs and have my friendly local signwriter Tom putting the blue and white decals on over the next few weeks.

Wow

Full Beam Ahead

Just recently, I noticed that my headlights were getting a bit foggy and getting a bit of a yellow tinge to them. After checking a few websites out for a remedy, I found that there were several kits available for restoring the headlights.

I bought one of these kits and it being one of the better well known brands, I applied it to my headlights and they came up like magic. .. but they didn’t stay like it for long. Then I found out that the sealer used in most of these kits only lasted a few months and the headlights reverted back to their hazy yellow look again.

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All ready to go.. (bumper off being sprayed too)

Looking up on the web again, I found a company that comes around to your Motorhome, professionally cleans up your headlights and applies a two pot sealer that lasts for 5 years or more. It is baked on using Infra Red lights which also makes a big difference.

Fully prepared

Scott arrived right on time and parked right next to Rafe and immediately set about masking up the headlights and covering the front of the van with plastic to protect the van from muck and overspray.

Once that was done, he fired up the generator in the back of his van and sanded the residue of the useless sealer I’d put on and got the headlights looking quite clean but very cloudy as they now had no protection at all. After changing grits on the sander progressively up to 3000 grit, the headlights then felt like silk.

Sanded but not sealed

Out came the chemist in Scott and he sat down and mixed up the sealer.. it looked like three different parts actually and it all looked very precise.

Mixing the sealer

Next came the spray gear and the mask and as he sprayed  each headlight, it was like someone turned the clarity filter on.. the difference was amazing. He then set the IR lights on to bake the sealant on.. After about 30 minutes, on went another coat and it looked even better.

Before !
first coat

Scott’s a really interesting guy having worked in the UK as an engineer supervising the manufacture of Computer chips for many of the worlds biggest manufacturers. When he came out here with his Kiwi wife a long time ago, it was time for a change.. A really clever guy and looking at my headlights, I felt pretty fortunate to have someone like him cleaning them up.

The cost was a little over $120 which I thought was pretty good value given the setup involved and what he had to do.

Click on the Gallery below to see the Sideshow

The danger of not doing it and ignoring your headlights is .. you fail your COF when the line between high beam and low beam gets diffused by the cloudy headlights.. by then you’re also likely to have crazing in your lights which can never be sanded out. The only remedy then is to replace the headlights which in most of our vehicles is a very expensive exercise.

Drying

An amazing process and I have that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that our UV laden sun can go for its life on my now well protected headlights.

Scott’s email is scott@fullbeam.co.nz

Drying coat 2
All Done

One of those clever creations, the Water Pig

One of the nice things about doing a blog like this is every now and then, you come across a really clever person who has designed or invented a clever new way of doing things.. this time its Ross Parkes, an all round clever bloke who  after needing a spare part for his SOG system, decided he’d design and 3d print it !

The other side.. ready to go

From here, ho moved on to his Water Pig  Its probably better that I let Ross tell this in his own words as when you hear the background, its an interesting story…

Much tidier

Take it away Ross 🙂

The Water Pigs, it all started when the fan motor on our SOG started failing and I enquired as to the cost a replacement – some $162 – yikes so instead I looked into the practicality of making a replacement fan assembly using a standard 50mm computer type axial fan.

During that investigation I considered that 3D printing a fan unit might be fun so purchased an Ender 3 v2 printer. Spent a day setting it up and then designed and made the fan housings (pic below) and experimented with different fans until I found one that worked ok – a whole nother story…

Pic by Ross
Pic by Ross

After that I played around and made some other SOG parts such as the bayonet fitting that goes in the top of the cassette – really to get around the design issue with the factory fitting in that it allows liquid to get down the pipe to the motor if too much slosh going on. It also meant we could have a fitting on our spare cassette all ready to go when we do a swap and also played around printing our new house which is yet to be completed

At that point I had become fairly competent designing and driving the printer so started thinking what else could I make and the water filler attachment that we use on our van came to mind. Like many people I have something I made from bits and bobs that you can connect the hose to so as to not have to hold it when filling with water. (pic below) A bit of a consideration if you have larger tanks or if you are on your own.

Pic by Ross

And so was born the first “Water Pig” or “Poaka Wai” (pic above) which fitted the Fiamma brand fitting on our Traillite and out of interest I posted it on a couple of Facebook groups, “hey look what I made” and then had a flurry of people also wanting one but of course they were not all Fiamma…

So on with the R&D hat again and came up with 8 different piggy designs, some of which I am still refining.  It would not have been possible without the help of quite a few people out there who volunteered to be guinea pigs for the water pigs. There are still a few tweaks that I need to do to perfect some of them and I have quite a lot of “seconds” that I sell off for not very much, well actually, I sell the good ones for not very much as well 😉 It is important to note that there are “commercial” water filler fittings available on Amazon/Ebay for various filler types but these are quite expensive and from off shore sources.

A whole bunch of piggies – Pic by Ross

The process of printing the pigs is not quick with each taking 5-7 hours depending on the size. (pics below – A piggy for Rafe) I could print them quicker but they would not be as pretty and probably not as strong.

The one for Rafe hot off the press – Pic by Ross

Sometimes things go wrong (pic below) so the printer does need to be monitored during the initial stages to ensure adhesion to the build plate is good and also if I have messed with a design I sometimes get it wrong and create some mutant pig…

Pic by Ross

Anyway, its been good for my brain developing the eight little pigs (so far) and hopefully is helping some people out by making dump station stops more efficient and easier due to not having to hold the hose….

In summary.. I’ve tried it on Rafe’s water filler (I had to wash it first before I could photograph it !) and it works really well..

For those looking for one, Ross is an administrator of the Facebook group RV Happy Travellers.  You can contact him here

Well done mate   a nice bit of Kiwi ingenuity!!

The Real Oil

Its amazing who you end up meeting in campgrounds! After our first night in the Greytown Motor Camp, we moved to a sunnier site with more room next to Karen and Ian who were staying in their new Eldiss Caravan while they have their house built in Masterton.

Click on an Image to Enlarge

Ian and Karen with their Caravan

I popped my head in the door and introduced myself. Later in the day we got chatting and I discovered that they too were an Army family along with hearing about their huge success in the Olive industry.

They started their Olive business around 2001 by planting their first 1200 trees and later added more in 7 different varieties to bring the total trees up to approximately 1900. Over the course of the last 10 years, they have won numerous awards for the quality and flavours of their oil.

The Eldiss

Last year they sold their business, Juno Olives, bought a caravan, are building a new house in Masterton and retiring!  A busy year… All going well the house will be ready in July.

The caravan is a brand new Eldiss Explor with a rear bathroom and Karen’s favorite part, the HUGE shower. Downsizing from their house to their first experience in a caravan, they found the awning an absolute necessity along with the motor movers for shuffling it around at campsites.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

Ian spent 20 odd years as an officer in the NZ Army specialising in Ammunition’s and Ballistics. He later spent many years in project management before the Olive industry beckoned. Karen was an Editor with TVNZ for years and later became a Technical Writer after doing a degree.

Its fascinating talking to people with these different backgrounds and working out how they both got from there to growing Olives 🙂

I’ve always liked the Eldiss caravans and their one is very comfortable with plenty of room. A lovely couple enjoying their caravan.

We popped into Juno Olives later.

Dinner at the Door

This is one of those places that you will remember for being super slick.

Click on an Image to Enlarge

This site was originally developed a few years ago by a chap who was really into Jetsprinting and set up the whole back area with a lake with obstacles for his hobby. I think since then it has changed hands and the new owners have developed the campground and Cafe. The lake is still there behind the campground area which is nicely set out with toilets and showers at one side. Plenty of powered sites to service them all and hop, skip and jump to the Flat Hills Café right next door.

Where the Jetsprinting used to be

We pulled into the massive carpark just a few k’s north of Hunterville and checked in at the Café. The lady there couldn’t have been more obliging and gave us a map showing where everything was.

After we’d ordered a coffee each and bought something to snack on, she explained that if we ordered tea and paid for it then (it was about 3.30pm then), we could specify a delivery time to the Motorhome at tea time. The options were 5pm , 6pm or 7pm. Wow I thought, I haven’t ever come across this before.

Inside the Cafe

We quickly ordered a meal each and after our coffee’s and a look around went back to Rafe.

Friendly Donkey

Our meals arrived right on the dot of 6pm and they were nice and hot and good food. A knock on the door and in it came. We washed the dishes and returned them in the morning.

The campground is on State Highway 1 and directly over the main road is the main trunk line to Wellington so you do hear the odd train and truck going past but at $22 Campsaver prices, its still really good value.

Nice parking

Its a great place for kids being well fenced with a great playground and plenty of farm animals for them to see.

The play area

Nice people, great value and very easy access and parking.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Flat Hills Cafe – Armada GPS

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