Kiri and


Climbing every mountain

December 8th, 2013 (by Steve)

The second of our films about the trip is now available on YouTube

Climb every mountain

Posted in KIST 2EU, Video | 4 Comments »

To toll or not to toll…

November 24th, 2013 (by Steve)

Roads. They’re all the same. They’re all equal. You drive on them to get from A to B. Sometimes on the right. Sometimes on the left (not so much over here on mainland Europe). But maybe all roads aren’t equal… maybe some are “more equal than others”?

The trusty map that’s helping us find our way through Europe has a lovely way of marking toll roads as pink… maybe it’s to try to soften the blow of them? France has plenty of pink roads… as does Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia… basically all of the countries that we’ve been through so far.


What’s interesting is the variety of methods of taking the tolls:

  • Fixed period vignette – these are little stickers that you fix to your windscreen and they last for a certain length of time (in Switzerland it’s a calendar year, in Austria the shortest we could buy was for 10 days and in Slovenia the shortest period was a week)
  • Toll booth with payment – this is the standard one that we’re used to in England; the same kind of thing as the Dartford Bridge or the Severn crossing into Wales. We experienced this with Austrian tunnels… we thought it a bit cheeky to be taxed with both a vignette for general motorway usage, then tolls for specific tunnels!
  • Ticket and resulting toll booth – when you join the motorway, you take a little ticket, then when you leave the motorway, you put your ticket back into a machine (or give it to a person) and you’re charged for the distance travelled. We experienced this in Croatia and Serbia and this seems like the fairest method of them all.

When we set off on this adventure, we were determined to avoid tolls wherever possible, but from our little collection of vignettes, you can see that it hasn’t worked out quite as planned:


Actually, in France, avoiding tolls worked nicely for us; the route nationale roads are well surfaced and aside from taking you through the centre of little villages, they’re pretty fast. Switzerland was more of an issue for us; if we wanted to avoid tolls, we would have had to do lots of ups and downs. Big ups and downs. As it was, even with travelling on the toll roads, we had to do several large ups and downs, struggling to keep above the minimum speed limit on the motorways. Austria was a similar story with either toll routes through mountain tunnels and across the valleys on bridges, or non toll roads with ups and downs. We chose the tolls!

By the time we got to Slovenia, we had seen our first bit of snow and, wishing to avoid further snow, we opted for the fastest route… which involved taking toll roads. Then with Croatia, we had issues finding places to stop overnight that were close to each other, so we had to travel long distances in a relatively short period of time. Best option? Tolls.

So, are these tolls taking their toll? Did I actually make that awful pun? Maybe. Without retracing our route but missing out toll roads, it would be hard to calculate how much fuel we’ve saved by taking the direct route and avoiding long hill climbs. So far tolls have cost us roughly £116 … that’s a good couple of tanks of fuel. Is it worth taking toll roads? We think for now it probably is… but that might change once we’re on flatter ground once again and not running away from something!

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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!

Posted in Bertha, KIST 2EU | 4 Comments »

B-right side of the road

November 4th, 2013 (by Steve)

We’re on the road. We’re actually on the road. In Bertha. What a change of lifestyle it’s been as well; we’re only just beginning to settle into a routine and get our heads around how to travel, cook, eat, sleep and live in a 5.6 by 2.5 metre space. We’re rising to the challenge though and now have a daily routine of getting up, mopping up the condensation (our biggest enemy on the road!), getting dressed, brushing teeth, airing our bedclothes, having breakfast, reading our bibles, doing the washing up, then stowing things away and switching things off ready to drive. Oh, and checking the coolant level!

View from Bertha

So, where are we, and where have we been so far? You may have been following our timeline, from which you will have gathered that we pretty much sped through France (sticking to the speed limit naturellement… as if Bertha could speed!) and are now in Switzerland. We’ve had some absolutely stunning driving days with amazing sunshine and although we’ve basically been staying in car parks that allow motorhomes to stop overnight (to keep costs down!), the views when driving have made up for it. Neither of us have driven a right hand drive car on the right hand side of the road before, let alone a beast like Bertha, but it’s surprisingly intuitive and already it’s feeling natural for us both.


As we’ll be going back through France a few times on this trip, our aim was to get the kilometres under our wheels as efficiently as possible and head south and east before the cold weather sets in. For this reason, we spent most of the days in France just travelling (as well as adjusting to full time life on the road); not stopping to take in the sights. We did make sure that we bought a baguette, some onions and some cheese though!

Very french

Switzerland has been an altogether different ball game. Yes, we’re still aware that the snow could come at any point, and we’ve had a couple of cold nights to suggest it’s imminent, but we’ve spent time taking it all in. We had an amazing day next to Lake Geneva on Saturday, wandering around the autumnal vineyards before a bread and cheese lunch with an incredible view of the lake.

By Lake Geneva

Yesterday we worshipped at a church in Grandcour and were overwhelmed by the welcome they extended to us. We were a bit nervous about going to a random church in a small village and especially worried about the language barrier. As we got out of Bertha, we said “bonjour” to the first person we saw, to which she replied “Are you British?”. It turned out that she and her family were also British and have lived in Switzerland for 12 years. Not only did we then, very kindly, have a personal translation from French of a tricky passage (anyone fancy translating Revelation?), but we were also invited back to their house for lunch with them and some other friends from the church. We were really bowled over by such warm and inspiring hospitality; they even offered to wash our clothes for us (we hope it wasn’t because we smell!).

Lunch with lovely people

And how’s Bertha holding up? Well, she’s stayed dry so far. The waterproof mattress protector has made the world of difference on our bed over the cab. She’s also bravely chugged up some pretty long and steep hills; our highest altitude has been over 1000 metres so far. However, there have been a few suspect smells when she’s been climbing the hills, which we think may be signs that her clutch may be on the way out – we’ve got some investigating to do today!

If you’d like to know more details about our individual overnight stays or where we’ve topped up with fuel, we’ve also got a map of our route that we’re keeping up to date. For more photos, check out our KIST 2EU gallery

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