Kiri and


Bertha takes up drinking and smoking

November 11th, 2013 (by Steve)

Following our last blog post, we had lovely warm showers at the campsite near Interlaken the following morning, and as a result, decided to stay an extra night there as well. It might not have just been the showers that convinced us, but they helped. A little investigation (as a result of lots of help from friends in the UK) suggested that oil was probably getting into the carb through a breather pipe. but the clutch was ok. Placated by that news, we proceeded to have a lovely day in Interlaken; loving the stunning snow-capped mountains and appreciating the symphony of cowbells.


After another hot shower the next morning, we bought some engine oil (for our Swiss readers, there’s 20% off Mobil oil at Co-op Bau+Hobby), topped up, then set off to conquer Brunig Pass; the mountain road that would lead us towards Zurich. 2nd gear was required to get to the top, but Bertha climbed well and there were no signs of any smoke… at that stage. However, once past Lucerne we caught a whiff of burning once again, and spied smoke from the exhaust; clearly blue. This got worse and worse and the oil level was dropping, so we decided to take Bertha to a Peugeot garage. They fired her up and asked how long the engine had sounded like that… it didn’t sound any different to normal! Their reaction was that there might be an oil leak inside the engine, but they didn’t want to investigate, so they told us to top up the oil and get on our way. How encouraging… ummm… really?!


At this stage, our plans changed and we decided to head to Germany to see if any German mechanics would be willing to look at Bertha. However after a very long tunnel, which we polluted heavily with thick plumes of oily blue smoke, we conceded defeat, donned the mandatory reflective jackets, put the warning triangle behind us and called breakdown. I think the Swiss may have taken our smoke signals as a sign of invasion, but as they’re such a peaceful people, they just let it happen. I hope it doesn’t mean that we are inadvertently ruling Switzerland… only time will tell!

When the Swiss breakdown arrived, they took one look at the engine, said it looked terminal and asked whether we wanted to be taken to a Peugeot garage (which would probably be the one we went to earlier in the day… no thanks!) or their depot, prior to being sent back to the UK. A quick call to the UK breakdown people led to us being informed that we would spend the night at the depot, then they would decide in the morning whether Bertha would be repatriated or scrapped. Scrapped? Bertha? But she’s part of our family!


We didn’t sleep well that night, but began to adapt to the idea of going home; already planning how we would continue this adventure even if Bertha was condemned. The night brought heavy rain and hail, which dented Bertha a little, but not our resolve to fight against her being scrapped. And then the sun came out… in the form of Paschal the mechanic, who informed us that they would investigate the problem a little further to see if she could be fixed. To cut a long story short, a compression test revealed that all of the cylinders were sound (to everyone’s surprise), but a blocked air filter was leading to the carb sucking oil into the engine rather than air. With a new air filter and 300 Swiss Francs lighter (labour’s expensive in Switzerland!), we were off again; a little dazed and bemused by this turn of events


That afternoon we drove 80 smoke-free miles to Liechtenstein, where we stopped overnight in a stadium car park, overlooked by beautiful mountains. All for the princely sum of 1.50 Swiss Francs! The morning brought sunshine and although we were still a little nervous about Bertha’s health, we were able to enjoy the journey into Austria. We didn’t see much of the sun though, as we were mostly driving in tunnels. Lots of tunnels. And then a toll tunnel. And then more tunnels!


We stopped in Schwaz, just past Innsbruck, where we parked up for the night and had a little wander around the town. One thing we equally love and dislike is that our destinations are basically decided for us in terms of where we can park overnight. Without the limitations of finding somewhere to stay, we would have probably gone to Innsbruck… but then we would have missed the beauty of Schwaz.


So we’re on the road again and back to Plan A (carrying on south east), via Plan B (heading to Germany) and Plan C (being sent back to the UK). Happy times!

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