Three countries in 15 minutes, freezing weather and two lucky finds

We had diverted to Hainburg an der Donau in Austria on our road trip between Turkey and the Netherlands in order to fill up with water. Finally successful, we had a good night’s sleep outside the local sports centre.

We had a good night’s sleep at the
local sports centre

We woke to freezing temperatures – the pond which we had camped next to was completely frozen and there was a layer of ice on the bonnet of the van! It had been very cosy and warm inside the van despite the plummeting temperatures.

There was a layer of ice on the
bonnet of the van
Even the puddles were frozen

Since the beginning of our trip we had driven through four countries – the Netherlands, Germany, Czechia and now Austria.

Since the beginning of our trip we had driven through four countries – the Netherlands, Germany, Czechia and now Austria.

Four countries in a couple of days seemed pretty good going but that morning we managed to visit three countries in just the first quarter hour of driving – Austria, the Czech Republic (Czechia) and Slovakia!

On our way out of Austria
Entering Slovakia

An hour and a half after that we were in Hungary which was very bleak – deep snow everywhere and leaden skies. Within another three hours we were Serbia!

Hungary seemed very bleak
Then we were in Serbia

We found a very pretty place to stop the night by the beautiful, calm but chilly Lake Palić. We went for a lovely walk as the sun was setting but we were very glad to get inside the van out of the bitter cold.

We found a very pretty place to stop the night
The beautiful, calm but chilly Lake Palić
We went for a lovely walk as the
sun was setting
A lovely setting to wake up to

The following day we motored through some stunning snow scenes – the sky was blue and everything was sparking white. The fir trees were weighed down by snow and I was reminded of those fir tree decorations on the Christmas cakes of my childhood.

We motored through some stunning
snow scenes
The fir trees were weighed down by snow
I was reminded of those fir tree decorations on the Christmas cakes of my childhood
A stunning snowy vista
Everything was sparkling
The snow looked so beautiful

By early evening we were in Bulgaria and negotiating a very narrow, slippery and treacherous road.

Arriving in Bulgaria
Negotiating a very narrow, slippery and treacherous road

Fortunately, it became a little wider and not quite so slippery and within an hour we were in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. We found a small camper stop just off the main road. Thankfully a couple of workmen were doing some building work there (despite the frigid weather) so the gate was unlocked.

We found a small camper stop just
off the main road

Other vans at the stop were being wintered over there – we were the only crazy ones to spend the night in our van!

Despite everything being completely covered in snow we were very grateful to have a safe place to spend the night – what a lucky find!

We were very grateful to have a safe place to spend the night – what a lucky find!
Everything was completely covered in snow

Before we left in the morning we wanted to fill up with water again but the hose belonging to the site was completely frozen! No amount of hot water would unfreeze it!

Jonathan working on getting water

Eventually Jonathan managed to get our own hose attached to the tap in the bathroom inside and we were able to fill it up that way. Meanwhile, we discovered another water issue of a different kind! While washing up I found that the kitchen tap had broken. First of all it just caused a small amount of water to leak onto the floor but the crisis escalated quickly and the tap wouldn’t switch off at all! Arghh!

We needed to get it mended as quickly as possible. I thought I’d seen a camper van store on the way into Sofia and a quick look on line showed that there was indeed one quite nearby. We couldn’t find it at the location marked on the map but we continued retracing our steps of the day before and at last found it. What a stroke of luck (our second lucky find!) to find assistance there, particularly as we discovered that it was a brand new business and hadn’t actually officially opened!

What a stroke of luck (our second lucky find!) to find assistance at the Campershop

The proprietors of Campershop, Katerina and Luben were absolutely delightful and extremely helpful. Keen camper van travellers themselves, their new business officially opened on 3 February 2022. It includes camper van sales and rentals, repairs and an excellent store to supply every need for campervan enthusiasts. They told us of future plans to make a camper stop there as well.

Katerina and Luben

While the technician repaired our tap (he did an excellent job!) we browsed round the show room and bought a really well designed collapsible strainer and matching fruit bowl.

While the technician repaired our tap we browsed round the show room
It was an excellent store with every need for campervan enthusiasts
We bought a really well designed collapsible strainer and matching fruit bowl
The bowl and strainer in their collapsed state

By the time we set off again it was well after midday and fortunately the roads were in a much better state.

Fortunately the roads were in a much better state by the time we left

Although the roads were clear there were plenty of snow scenes at the side of the road which were really beautiful.

Such beautiful snow scenes

That evening we finally made it to the Turkish border! It took about three quarters of an hour to get through the immigration process. We were expecting to be asked about our vaccination status and to produce negative test results but Covid wasn’t even mentioned. The main thing the officials were concerned about was getting proof that the van was truly ours.

Entering Turkey
There was a mosque right at the border

Just over the border we stopped at a shop to buy phone credit for Turkey and obtain a vignette for the toll roads.

We stopped at a shop to buy phone credit

We were successful in getting our phones topped up but the toll payments had to be made at a post office. We didn’t have to rush to do this as there was a grace period during which we could access the toll roads and pay later.

While we were in the store a man had washed our filthy van from top to bottom! It was positively gleaming.

We came back to find our van gleaming!

We asked the shop keeper how much we should pay him. He told us 20 Turkish Lira (two dollars)! Of course, we paid him more but it was still an absolute bargain!

It had been a long day so we headed straight for a side road near the Tunca River where according to Internet advice, overnight street parking was allowed. Apart from the road being one big mud slide and we couldn’t even see the river, the location seemed OK. However, as our heads hit the pillow we discovered that it was extremely noisy!

The road we camped in was one big mud slide!

We heard trains trundling by, screeching to a halt and shunting; trucks going up and down the road at speed and people calling out to each other on top of their voices! We seemed to have landed in an alternate universe where people stayed up at night and slept by day!

Our parking place was next to this
innocuous looking cottage

Despite all the noise, no one asked us to move or disturbed us in any way and eventually we managed to sleep, ready for the last push to get to our destination – Didim Marina where we have our catamaran S/V Sunday moored.

Nearly there!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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