Kiri and


The taming of Bertha

April 8th, 2014 (by Steve)

When we last wrote about our plans for loop 2 of our trip around Europe, they were all up in the air. You’ll be pleased to know then, that 2 weeks on, we’re still pretty much in the dark about plans, but we’ll come to that in a bit. The big bit of news is that Bertha is sounding like a totally different van… it’s amazing what a minor operation can achieve.

We left Bertha with our friendly mechanic just over a week ago and he soon came back with a slightly worrying diagnostic; the exhaust manifold gasket had blown… and the studs holding the gasket in place were heavily corroded. If the studs broke when trying to take them off, it would necessitate going in from the other side… which would mean taking the front off Bertha, taking the whole engine and gearbox out, as well as dismantling the front axle and suspension. Just a minor operation then! We waited with bated breath for a few days, then went around to see Bertha. We found her getting intimate with a small crane:


Of the 8 studs holding the manifold and gasket in place, only 1 of them didn’t break! Fortunately we have a very patient mechanic (as well as being friendly) who took everything out, replaced the gasket, had the exhaust manifold skimmed (as it was a little misshapen), put everything back together again and didn’t have any pieces left over! We went round today to pick our home up and he warned us that she sounded like a new van now. He popped Bertha into neutral. Switched on the ignition. Wow. No longer will we rock up to a petrol station and the attendant ask us if she’s a diesel. No longer will we have to shout over the noise of the engine as we drive along. No longer will we have to turn the music up to 11 just to hear it. Our tiger is now a kitten. The roar is now a purr. To be honest, it was a little disconcerting driving Bertha home as you could hardly hear the engine to know when to change gear!

Now we have our home back, there are just a few little things to do before we set out again, including giving her a bit of a groom to go with her new sound. Folks, we should be back on the road by this time next week! We know that we’re heading into northern Europe (probably Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark to start with), but we don’t really have a plan.

So, it’s over to you – have you any suggestions as to where we should go within these countries (or anywhere else within northern Europe)?

8 Responses

I’ll make one suggestion in the Netherlands – the Hoge Veluwe park and Kroller-Muller museum. Hoge Veluwe’s a huge natural park with an amazing art gallery in the centre. They discourage cars, so you park on the outskirts (or use their beautiful green campsite) then take one of the thousands of free ‘white bikes’ lined up at the entrance to cycle to the museum and around the park on lovely traffic-free paths. It’s very serene and peaceful, but also very Dutch. Highly recommended.

Well, well, well my little Hobbits! Seems like our paths will miss not once, but twice as Gandalf the Grey is travelling with Shadowfax over the water. We leave the shire Friday 25th and are heading south, through Mordor, past Helms Deep and onto Gorges due Verdon. Two stops in Reims and Annecy….

We’ll have plan a meeting of the fellowship some other time….. and that convoy would have been fun!

Thanks Brian, we’ll have to check it out; from Google Maps it looks really beautiful and well worth an explore.

Gandalf… it is obviously not to be this time, but we certainly must meet up upon our return to avoid a drifting apart of the fellowship. Go forth and enjoy the Verdon Gorge 🙂

Bring on round 2 guys! We travelled across northern Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, but my feeling is out of all of Northern Europe Norway is the place to be (have a look at Europebycamper and theworldisourlobster). Food, fuel and booze are not cheap, but word is you can stay just about anywhere FoC, and the scenery is stunning. Depends what you want to see of course, and I love mountains and the sea. We enjoyed the Dutch Naval Museum At Den Helder, and you can stay at the aire right next to it for a few euro. Cheers, Jay

Are you sure about this mechanic? Surely everyone knows that you can only tell it’s fixed properly because there are bits left over at the end.

Thanks Jay – we’ve certainly been using your trip for inspiration along the way (as well as Adam + Sophie’s). Whilst we’d love to go to Norway, with our fuel efficiency and top speed we just don’t think it’s practical (or affordable) in Bertha. We definitely want to go there at some point though as we love mountains and sea too!

James, we’ll come to you next time we need the engine taking out 😉


Love your videos on YouTube & glad that Bertha’s sorted.
You’ve been further with your motor homing in a few months than we’ve ever been in years, so only suggestion for NE is Amsterdam.

Our adventure starts soon-we’ve sold here in the UK & from August we’ll be homeless but not motorhome-less. Off in Hettie the Hymer looking for a personal, ? professional sanctuary in Aquitaine.

We intend to film on our quest & wonder what video camera you use in Bertha?

Coupla potentially helpful things-if you need an overnight-we are in South Lincs, Aquitaine this Autumn (God willing) & unhelpfully my wife is a midwife so if Steve gets pregnant they can make medical history together.

Thanks again for your contributions,


Hi Roger – thanks for the comments and offer of somewhere to stay overnight… your adventure sounds grand! We’re not sure that our journey will take us via Aquitaine, but who knows? Hopefully we won’t be making medical history together… but we’ll leave that in God’s hands!

The camera that we use is a Canon Legria HV40… provided by the insurance company when our last one was stolen. We’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with it; it’s a good camera and records to tape (which we like), however we have had the circuit board on it burn out twice (more info about that on our other blog).

All the best with finding sanctuary

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