Top Off Grid Vanlife Essentials

La Strada Regent S 4x4

TOP OFF GRID Vanlife ESSENTIALS

One thing’s for sure, we’ve had our fair share of motorhome’s over the years! So, it’s no surprise that we’ve not only made some costly mistakes, but also learnt so much from them along the way. It’s often those top off grid vanlife essentials that you think you need that turn out to be completely useless!

So, if you’re going to get serious about life on the road, it’s really important to do some research. Of course, in such a small space, the main priority should be making it comfortable. However, it’s also really important to remember that a van should be practical, reliable and above all functional.

Last but not least, if you want all-year round travel, think about those icy temperatures. Not forgetting batteries, which need charging without the need for a main’s electric supply.

So, it sounds simple, but just what do you need to make it work and just what are those top off grid vanlife essentials?

top off grid vanlife essentials
A wild camping spot with a view

1. Insulation – Top off grid vanlife essentials

This is our No.1 priority and when it comes to insulation, you just can’t have too much of it!

The most important thing to remember, is that it’s not just in the obvious places. Think about the floors, ceiling, walls and doors in addition to any surfaces that touch bare metal.

The construction of the walls, ceiling and floor should have insulated material built into the build. This of course, won’t be visible, so if you’re buying new, ask what the construction consists of.

It’s a good idea to check the build of any factory-built motorhome will withstand a European Winter. For example, Alpine temperatures, which can reach -17.

Internal wall and ceiling carpet-type Insulation

This is so important to help avoid condensation issues, as well as providing additional warmth. Usually, it will be a smooth carpet-type insulation, covering the walls, ceiling and if you’re lucky the inside of the doors.

It may sound a bit strange, but it should look and feel luxurious and blend well into the decor of the fitments. Usually, they come in a pale grey or light beige colour and will be warm to the touch.

Any form of plastic type coverings (similar to those found in caravans) won’t usually have the same insulation benefits.

Bed’s

The bed mattress should have air circulating below it, preferably raised above a solid bed base. This really helps eliminate condensation, resulting in less mould on your mattress.

The Froli spring system is perfect to allow both extra comfort and the circulation of air. Alternatively, wooden bed slats beneath the mattress will allow air through.

https://www.froli.com/en/bed-systems/

Double Floor

A double floor is really helpful for insulating the campervan. It will also add valuable extra storage space into the floor area.

If there’s a double floor installed, usually, the manufacturer will have laid the water and waste pipes within it. This is invaluable when it comes to preventing freezing and will save lots of heartache when those temperatures drop.

Flush Windows

When it comes to window’s we prefer the flush window’s such as Dometic Seitz S4.

These not only look modern, but there’s little in the way of visual distortion when you look through them. Most important is the insulation value on the PVC glazing. Due to the shape of the exterior, it’s also difficult for ice to form. This flush profile eliminates icicle build-up, which can lead to the window breaking on a protruding style window, due to the ice build up.

Finally, the locking system prevents opening from the outside, which is obviously really helpful for security.

Abenteuer and Allrad
Flush Seitz windows on our Regent S

2. Water Tanks and Pipes

One of the most important things to consider if you want to do any form of Winter travel is the water tanks. Or more precisely, where they are located!

The freshwater tank is always better inside the van, not least to avoid freezing. Although, if the temperature drops low enough, despite being inside, it doesn’t always stop the tank freezing,

For example, we had a water tank inside the garage of our Swift motorhome, yet the tanks still froze, leaving us without any water for a ski trip in the Alps! Adding extra insulation over the tanks before leaving home didn’t stop the ice.

External water tanks just won’t withstand cold Winter temperatures, so we would avoid these altogether.

Waste Water Tanks

Waste water tanks aren’t quite as easy to fit inside the van, unless it’s a really big motorhome with deep double floors.

In general, most waste tanks fit underneath the van. Obviously in Winter conditions, this is highly likely to freeze. The only way around this is to keep the waste valve open so the water will flow straight out – always keep a shallow bucket underneath to catch the water.

What you want to avoid is freezing in the first place, because once the water freezes, it will probably stay that way!

We had one ski trip where we had no fresh water as well as frozen waste pipes, so we had no water for the whole 2 weeks! That was one big live and learn moment from our early vanlife travel days.

3. Heating – Top off grid vanlife essentials

Gas

Heating the campervan is so important to keep you toasty warm and comfortable. To be able to have the heating on without needing to change a gas bottle every few days is even more important.

When the temperature drops, any gas heating system will eat through the gas in those gas bottles. This causes other problems, such as needing different gas bottles and regulators for different countries. Of course, on top of this, is the expense and hassle of changing bottles all the time.

Our first motorhome had a gas only Truma system fitted. It was fine in Summer, but during Winter, we had to change the 9kg gas bottle every few days.

A gas tank is an alternative option, although it does still involve having to find a retailer to top it up.

On the plus side, Gas heating is both powerful and instant.

A Hidden Downside of Gas heating

It’s worth considering that Gas heating also uses electric to power it! Consequently, there is a need for mains electric at some point or strong battery supply.

Electric

When it comes to electric heating, we always find it a bit limp. It’s fine for touring in the UK, where campsites generally have a good 16amp supply to plug into. But once you travel in Europe, the power supply often is only around 6amp.

So, what does this mean? Well, it basically leaves the heating struggling to cope. It will often manage on the lowest setting but won’t work on a higher heat output.

Then, there’s the problem of having to use an electric supply in the first place to power the heating!

Diesel

For anyone wanting to get serious about vanlife, then diesel heating should be up there amongst the top off grid vanlife essentials.

The heat is not only instant and powerful but the overall advantage is that it uses the same diesel that fuels the engine. So, as long as there’s enough fuel in the tank, the heating will work.

The other advantage, is that you can use the heating whilst driving. It’s a simple, fuss-free option, which can come with an electric option too, such as our Truma Diesel 6E. This gives a mix of both diesel and electric if required or the option to use either independent of the other.

One thing to take into account, in order to be self-sufficient, there has to be a really good habitation battery. Once again, the heater still uses an element of electric power, which needs an adequate battery supply.

Alde

An Alde system is a wet heating system, similar to household heating, which is silent in addition to having radiators.

Hot Water

The hot water system will usually use the same method as the heating.

4. Power – Top off grid vanlife essentials

Keeping the habitation battery topped up is one of the top off grid vanlife essentials to think about. The last thing most people want is to be relying on an electric supply to keep the battery charged. Not only that, but most people will need some sort of power, even if it’s just the minimum such as charging devices

There is one major item you’ll need to be self-sufficient and that’s a Solar supply. Solar panels on the roof will trickle charge the habitation batteries, which will in turn keep the the 12V system running for longer.

The bigger the Solar panel and battery or batteries, then the longer they’ll charge up and consequently, you won’t have to worry about an electric hook up.

Finally, with the correct Solar and battery set up, along with all the other off-grid essentials, there shouldn’t be any need to rely on regular charging off mains electric.

In our Sprinter campervan, we don’t rely on mains electric. It’s great because we can be on the road for a few months without having to worry about a hook up. Likewise, our self-build campervan in New Zealand has no mains power supply, instead it runs totally off 12V from Solar and battery.

USB Point

A few USB charging point’s is an ideal way to charge those portable devices. Running off 12 volt saves the need for mains power.

5. Fridge

A compressor fridge is superb, not only because it’s 12V but it’s also neat looking and keeps a really cold temperature with no effort. It works constantly on 12V, so there’s no need to switch it on when you stop driving.

They can look small, but are deceptively spacious. Above all, they don’t need mains electric or gas to keep the beers super chilled and the food fresh.

An absorber fridge on the other hand will work off 12V when driving, but once you park up, it will usually have to run off Gas to keep super chilled in extremely hot temperatures. Although it can use mains electric, this will need a power supply. The power supply in Europe may be a lower output than the UK, so it may not chill the fridge sufficiently in hot temperatures.

We used to use a mix of gas and electric when we had an absorber fridge. This would help keep it chilled in very hot weather.

6. Invertor – Top off grid vanlife essentials

An invertor converts the 12V supply into mains electric. It’s not on everyone’s list of top off grid vanlife essentials, but for us it’s important!

Yes, our invertor will power my GHD hair straighteners and even my household hairdryer, if I use it on low.

The battery has to be big enough, as well as the invertor itself, not to mention the all important solar charging. It’s a good idea to make a list of what you’d want to use it for and get professional advice on the size that would be best.

7. The Toilet

To start with, in an age where caring about our environment is so important, it inconceivable why people continue to buy or build campervans without a toilet. Worse still is the fact many then choose to use the great outdoors as their bathroom facility!

So firstly, one item on the list of top off grid vanlife essentials should always be a toilet and preferably one that doesn’t use chemicals.

SOG System

The conventional way of dealing with nasty smells in the toilet cassette is with chemical liquids. Not only does this not bode well for the drainage systems that they end up in, but also the environment.

The SOG system eliminates the need for a chemical. Instead, it uses a fan to dispel smells from the cassette, in a similar way to a soil stack vent pipe on a household loo.

So, this in turn leaves the campervan smell-free and the need for chemical’s a thing of the past.

https://www.soguk.co.uk/what-is-a-sog/

8. Shower Room

One trend in recent years seems to be the need to do without a proper shower room. This may be all well and good if you don’t mind using campsites regularly, but to to keep self-sufficient a shower room is the way to go.

In reality, most people want a daily shower. Although some may think it’s ok to take a shower outside, this isn’t good practice on a regular basis, not only because it upset’s the locals but also because the weather isn’t always hot and sunny. Add biting insects into the mix and you’ll be glad of the indoor shower room!

If a combined shower and toilet set up is all that will fit, then that’s fine to keep you fresh each day.

9. Storage

To make the most out of the van space, storage is crucial. Think about things such as an outdoor table and chairs, spare towels, blankets and any other items that you may have to take. Even basics like somewhere to hang wet coats or keep the laundry pile!

Tools and spares

It’s easy to forget about some of the more practical top off grid vanlife essentials. How about a spare tyre or air compressor, possibly a spares box with extra parts for any repairs that need doing.

Cupboards and drawers

Try and utilise the overhead space for cupboards and shelves along with plenty of drawers on the lower levels. Remember it’s easier to access the space in a drawer that pulls out rather than reach the back of a cupboard.

Fixed Bed

A fixed bed is perfect for that instant place to relax, as well as having the benefit of a full all in one mattress.

Also, any bed that needs making up from seating, then has the problem of where to store the bedding during the day. Best of all, a fixed bed will allow for plenty of extra storage below it, often having access from the outside, for those mucky vanlife items.

top off grid vanlife essentials
the fixed bed with storage above and below
Sports gear

When it comes to those ski’s, a bike, kayak or paddle board, there’s a whole lot more to think about. With a fixed bed, there should be plenty of handy storage space below, especially if you have a high transverse layout.

Otherwise, you’ll have to consider roof racks, allowing for solar panels and reaching up to lift things on and off.

Bike racks on the back are clumsy and can be heavy on the doors of a panel van, let alone get in the way of opening the back doors on one. We make do with folding bikes, stored underneath our fixed bed and compromise on taking too much bulky kit.

10. Interior

We love a practical layout and fitments with everything fuss-free and easy to clean. It’s good to have an industrial type floor covering, keep the carpets out and use a washable rug or two to add a touch of home.

Leather upholstery is a really good idea, as it’s so easy to wipe over.

Fly screens are so important to keep out unwanted guests and it’s not just on the windows! It’s just as vital to keep those open doors covered to stop those insects flying in.

Travel can be a dirty business and when the wind picks up, that dry dusty road can end up covering the inside of the van in a layer of dirt.

Keeping windows curtain-free and using washable throw’s to brighten up a seating area can really help on those cleaning duties.

top off grid vanlife essentials
The living area of our Regent S

11. Condensation

Condensation is not only annoying but it’s also destructive, leading to mould and warping of materials.

To eliminate it needs a careful balance between the crucial ingredient of excellent insulation, as well as ventilation and a steady constant source of heat in cold weather.

For poorly insulated vans, the condensation can build up inside the cupboard’s, making clothes and other items damp. On top of this, it can form on the walls and ceilings and underneath items such as the mattress on a bed.

Our first motorhome had soaking wet bedding every morning in Winter, all because of the condensation dripping off the walls and ceiling and absorbing into the fabric. Soon, the mattress was mouldy and the fitments warped from damp.

On a well built and insulated campervan, condensation shouldn’t be a problem. To help prevent it, open the roof vents when cooking and showering and generally allow as much fresh air to circulate as possible. The only place that condensation will always remain is the cab windscreen.

In cold weather an external silver screen will help stop any condensation overnight.

12. Oven and Hob

In a small space something has to give and for us, this meant having no oven. As outdoor and stove cooking is more of our thing, it didn’t matter to us to give up the gas oven.

One thing we did want was a diesel hob, but when we looked into buying one we discovered that they can be rather slow to use.

So, unfortunately, we couldn’t be totally without gas altogether, so our only gas item is the hob. However, gas for cooking uses a considerable less amount of gas than heating and hot water. So much so, that our huge French gas bottle lasted an incredible 5 years!

The only downside is that we do still have a gas bottle and that takes up space in what could otherwise be extra storage.

top off grid vanlife essentials
Our gas hob and kitchen sink
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Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Dachau Concentration Camp Germany

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Haunting images at Dachau

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Situated in Dachau, close to the German city of Munich, lies the incredibly moving memorial site of The Dachau concentration camp. This former Nazi concentration camp, established in 1933, is probably one of the most important World War II sites in Germany.

For us, our visit brought the historic element of the second World war alive in a truly dignified manner. Most importantly, Dachau is not only a modern day memorial but also a worldwide education and research centre.

Although the pretty town of Dachau boasts an 18th century palace. Admittedly, due to its past, it’s not somewhere you’d associate with beauty. However, this historic town was once the home of artist’s and painter’s, who came here to paint.

It was during March 1933, that the first Nazi imprisonment camp opened here. This would see this historic town of Dachau change forever.

Dachau Concentration Camp Germany
Haunting image of the gates into Dachau

Arriving at Dachau Concentration camp memorial

In 1959 a campaign began to keep the former concentration camp as a memorial site. Then in 1965 it officially opened as the Dachau concentration camp memorial site.

In the year’s that followed, there was a programme of gradual improvements, including restoration works and further exhibits. The current visitor centre opened in 2009 and provides plenty of informative resources for the visit.

As we arrived at the site, we found the large parking area adjacent to the entrance easy for parking the motorhome. There’s a small parking fee, so after paying, we made our way towards the visitor centre building.

We chose a self-guided tour, simply because we’d missed the guided tour option, but remarkably admission to the site is actually free. For those preferring the guided tour, the cost was just a few Euro’s.

Entering Dachau concentration camp memorial

When we left the visitor centre, a path soon lead us toward the entrance of the concentration camp grounds. Above us, the clouds rolled in, soon bringing a Summer rain shower with them and a dull, heavy feeling to the air.

Somehow, this mirrored our thoughts, not least due to the fact that a staggering 41,500 inmates had perished here between 1933 and 1945.

As we continued along the stone walkway, we soon came across the place where railway tracks once stood. This had been the route to the camp from the railway station at Dachau, even so, we found it hard to imagine.

Haunting image of the gates into Dachau

Where rail tracks once lay

It had been during one such train transportation of prisoner’s, in April 1945 that one of the most distressing events occurred. We learnt that worse still, was the fact that this happened just two days before the allied liberation.

The harrowing events unfolded during the transportation of 4,480 prisoner’s from another camp at Buchenwald. The long journey to Dachau had taken a staggering 21 days, as a result, by the time the train arrived, only 816 people had survived. To add further harm, when the train finally stopped in front of the Dachau camp, the SS guards refused its entry.

When the US army liberated the camp, they discovered the occupants of the train, but it had been too late to save the thousand’s who perished.

“Work sets you free”

Before long, we found ourselves in front of the original iron gates of the Dachau concentration camp. The harsh reality of the inscription within the metal work left a haunting impression.

Here before us, lay the words “Arbeit Mact-Frei”, meaning “Work sets you free”.

As we entered through the large black gates, a feeling of unease came over us. In truth, nothing can prepare you for stepping in the footsteps of those that suffered so much. Particularly when the surroundings seem so unremarkable in many ways.

One could only imagine those walking through these very gates. It must have seemed like they were entering the gates to hell.

Dachau concentration camp Germany
The gates leading into Dachau

“The path of prisoners” at Dachau concentration camp memorial

The main artefacts of the memorial are housed within the former maintenance building. It’s here that a range of displays and exhibits guide visitors through the various stages of the camp.

This part of the exhibition is known as “the path of prisoners”. Most of all, it’s an interesting but graphic account of Nazi rule that, not surprisingly left us feeling emotional to the scale of the atrocities that went on here.

The model of Dachau

Early Beginnings

In January 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, within 2 months, Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS opened the first concentration camp here at Dachau.

Initially, Dachau was only used to contain political prisoner’s, although punishments were still extremely harsh. By 1934, political opponents to the Hitler regime were brought to Dachau, where many were shot dead.

During this period, Dachau was used as a model concentration camp, ultimately setting out the design for all future camp’s. It was in 1936 that the SS began their reign of racial ideology and cleansing. Soon the imprisonment of other innocent people began to take place, including those whose only crime was their sexuality or race.

The lead up to war

By 1937, the camp was too small, resulting in a mass expansion, so building work soon began to house up to 6000 inmates. Once again, slave labour was used for the construction project.

After the occupation of Austria in 1938, an incredible 11,000 Jewish men were sent to Dachau. Eventually, when war broke out in 1939, the prisoner’s, used as slave labour, made weapons for the German war effort.

The buildings now form part of the museum

War breaks out – Dachau concentration camp memorial

When the war broke out in September 1939, prisoner’s were re-located to other concentration camps. During this brief period, the Dachau camp was used as a weapons factory, but soon things would change again.

Within a few months, Dachau was once again was in use as a concentration camp. Over the course of the war, the camp that was supposed to house 6000 inmates, instead had around 30,000 people within its walls.

Those that were sent here, were crammed into the most horrific conditions, where typhus spread fast and disease killed many.

The entrance to Dachau camp

Medical experiments and death

Dachau was not only a place of tyranny, death and disease, but also a centre of medical experiments. These were inflicted on inmates in the most inhumane circumstances.

For those who broke the rules or other groups, such as the thousands of Soviet’s sent to Dachau, often many faced death by firing squad.

The Barracks Exhibition

The visit to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site is one of reflection in many ways. Although the facts are haunting and often hard to comprehend, by contrast, the format here is educational and dignified.

Replica buildings built on site

Rows of wooden Bunks

As we walked down “Camp Road”, the rows of concrete kerb stones lay ahead, marking out the location of the former barracks. There would have been 34 huts here, all built in a symmetrical manner across the site, seemingly stretching on as far as the eye could see.

Seeing the reconstruction of the original barracks that once stood within the grounds is a moving experience in itself. The memorial site has built two barracks for visitors to enter, replicating both the size, as well as the layout and the fitments found in the original huts.

Inside our thoughts once again turned to the inmates. How crammed they would have been in there, living with so many others, but also having to cope with disease, death and unimaginable suffering.

Life on one of these hard, wooden bunks would have often been almost unbearable within such circumstances.

A reconstruction of bunks inside the huts

The Former Crematorium

We made our way back outside and into the vast open space of the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Ahead of us, the path soon brought us to one of the most harrowing buildings of all, the former crematorium.

Through a tree-lined path, the crematoria buildings came into view. These had been saved from demolition back in 1955 at the insistence of the committee in charge of the site.

Once again, the normality of the surroundings brought a strange detachment from what lay in front of us. How could such a beautiful area, surrounded by trees with birds singing, actually have been one of the darkest places in wartime Europe?

Inside, the brick built furnaces lay virtually intact, yet there came an element of peaceful reflection here. The exhibition had maintained a dignified and respectful feeling throughout, no more so than here, in what was once the depths of deepest human deprivation.

Dachau concentration camp memorial
The former crematoria is a harrowing sight

The death march and liberation

During April 1945, just before the end of the war, the SS ordered the death march of over 7000 inmates from Dachau. Those too weak to make the 6-day long journey were either shot or died from starvation or disease along the way.

When the US army began liberating the Dachau camp at the end of April 1945, the surviving inmates were extremely close to death.

The true figures of those that passed through or died at Dachau will never be known, but it’s estimated to be hundred’s of thousands. The actual reported numbers of those registered were over 200,000 people.

Reflection and Rememberance

Today, the Dachau concentration camp memorial site brings a time for reflection and remembrance. The site holds many educational visits as well as commemorative events, ensuring that history and the people who perished through the Nazi regime are not forgotten.

For us, the visit brought both an educational perspective and gratitude to all those who gave their lives. Today, we hope that the lessons of the past have been learned and that no one has to endure those horrific circumstances inflicted on so many.

The moving memorial at Dachau

Map

Thank you for reading “The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial”

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The German Alpine Road

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The German Alpine Road

When a driving route has a name, as a rule, it becomes instantly transformed from ordinary to extraordinary. This couldn’t be more true of The German Alpine Road. After all, it’s a worthy recipient, particularly as this is the oldest touring route in Germany!

The dramatic 450km route begins at Lake Constance before winding through the incredible scenery of the German Alps, ending at the breathtaking Lake Königsee.

Suddenly we feel the urge to take to the road and see for ourselves exactly why such an honour was bestowed. If nothing else, usually, it’s very clever marketing from the local tourist board!

The walkways leading to beautiful Lake Königssee

Lake Constance – The German Alpine Road

Otherwise known as Bodensee, Lake Constance lies on the border of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. At 46 miles long and 9 miles wide, it certainly offers more than just a day trip.

We’d arrived at the German town of Lindau, soon realising this historic town was actually an island! By the way, as usual we’d arrived in the height of Summer, consequently it was packed.

The whole area was beautiful, so to begin with, we set about finding a place to park for the night. Along the lakeside we found a selection of private Stellplatz, in other words, motorhome parking areas. They all offered lovely grassy pitches and some had toilet facilities as well.

After finding a suitable place to stop, we got the bikes out and cycled off back into Lindau itself. The weather was on top form, scorching in-fact, incidentally, Germany does get very hot at times.

Germany The Alpine road
Lovely German architecture

Lindau and The Lido – The German Alpine Road

Lindau offers plenty of interesting nooks and crannies for the average tourist. Especially noticeable were the Gothic-style historic buildings, providing plenty of shade too. Very welcoming, as we ate ice cream amongst the coach loads of day-trippers.

A walk down towards the old harbour gave a lovely outlook across the water. Here, the large marble Lion of Bavaria guards the town whilst opposite stands a mighty lighthouse. Both the views of the Alps and the backdrop of the lake setting bring an irresistible charm.

Not to be missed was a rather interesting interlude at the local lido. I always love a good swim, no more so than when a pool location was as good as this. Situated alongside the clear lake itself, this mix of inviting swimming pools and grassy sunbathing areas was just too tempting.

The German Alpine Road
The Lion of Bavaria at Lindau Harbour

Car Ferry to Konstanz

Before leaving Lindau, we couldn’t resist a ferry ride across Lake Constance from neighbouring Meersburg. Arriving at the largest town on the lake, Constance or Konstanz in German.

Typically, we’d decided to take the car ferry, consequently, taking with us the motorhome! This wasn’t out of fear of having to walk everywhere, but incase we loved it and wanted to stay the night!

As it turned out, in our opinion Constance wasn’t that great. It lacked a certain something, especially the vibrant lakeside vista’s of the opposite shores from where we’d come.

After a walk around the centre, followed by a meal alongside the harbour, it was time for the ferry back to Lindau. Fortunately, it hadn’t cost the Earth, in addition frequent crossings, every 10 minutes, meant we didn’t have to wait!

Lake Constance Germany
Taking the Ferry across Lake Constance

We Begin The German Alpine Road

Climbing the winding roads on our ascent out of Lindau, the scenery and the landscapes began to change.

The German Alpine Road skirts the border of Austria, especially close is this first section. Surrounding us lay the mountains of the Allgäu as well as Vorarlberg, soon the outlook became simply beautiful.

Alpine meadows, quaint log cabins and the finest cattle lay before us, the sounds of cattle bells ringing out through the open window.

When the sun is shining and warmth blows through the air, simply said, there is no better place to be. Somehow, the mountains bring more solitude than the sea, generally, we always feel at home in the hills.

Lake Views and Hairpin Bends

You often know you’re on a good driving route by the number of hairpin bends it involves! Before long, we’d begun to turn the wheels along the best of the bendy bits – to be exact, 106 of them!

The Oberjoch pass, used to be a trading route over the Alps. Incredibly, that was in the 17th century, when horses were the only mode of transport. Back then, salt was one of the main commodities.

Don’t worry, the road is a little different now, thanks to the construction of a wider, less steep new route. The views of Alpsee lake made a welcome change as we drove on thinking of times past.

Remarkably, some mountains in the Alps still have salt mines open to the public. There’s a really good one just outside of Salzburg, where on a different trip, we slid down huge slides inside massive caverns – completely crazy but fun!

Berchtesgaden towards the end of the route

Fairytale Castles On The German Alpine Road

The next section of the route led us towards Füssen, a delightful town surrounded by lakes and mountains.

It’s well worth a stop to explore the historic centre, as well as the fact that it’s the highest town in Bavaria. Towering above the River Lech, the old centre is dominated by the palace, once home to the Lord Bishops of Augsburg.

A short drive away from Füssen is the best fairytale castle ever built! Of course, this is Neuschwanstein, the famed Disney castle, where Walt and his wife got their idea for the subsequent famous icon of film.

Alongside Neuschwanstein sits another incredible castle, Hohenschwangau. These amazing palaces dominate the landscape and are quite simply astonishing. Both were home to the Mad King Ludwig II.

We’d already visited during our tour of The Romatic Road, unsurprisingly, they are both outstanding. Furthermore, you won’t see another like it, so be sure to get there early and take a tour!

Clouds form and rain falls heavy

So far, the weather had been on our side. Only breaking for the odd thunder storm, otherwise, the sun had shone with intensity. Unfortunately that was soon to change, as thick clouds descended and the heaven’s opened.

Our views across the mountain ranges disappeared beneath a thick low cloud. What should have been a scenic drive through the panoramic vista of the Ammergau Alps and onwards to Karwendal resembled pea soup!

This whole region should have been glorious. Instead, as we drove towards the most well known resort in the Bavarian Alps, the rain just seemed to get heavier and the clouds thicker.

Olympics and Garmisch Partenkirchen

If you see a place in glorious sunshine, you’ll always remember it in a better light. In contrast, when it’s wet and dull even the most scenic locations can look somewhat dreary.

As we approached the Winter sport hub of Garmisch Partenkirchen, the appeal just wasn’t happening. What should have been surroundings of the biggest mountain peaks in Germany, were hidden in a thick, wet foggy haze.

This resort has an amazing sporting history. Home to the 1936 Winter Olympics and various high profile events thereafter. It’s also the gateway to Germany’s highest mountain, The Zugspitze.

We had planned to take the mountain railway followed by a cable car up to the 9720ft summit. Instead, we pulled up at a Stellplatz at the base of the Wannbank cable car and put the kettle on.

The “Eddie the Eagle” style Ski Jump high above Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Outdoor Paradise and Motorhome Parking

This whole region across the alps is superb for hiking, biking and just about any other outdoor pursuit. Stopping along the route, could have you exploring on foot at every opportunity, there’s an abundance of marked trails to suit all abilities.

At Garmisch-Partenkirchen everything you need is available. From stocking up on extra kit or sourcing maps and hiking guides. It’s a perfect place for any preparation before hitting the hills.

Motorhome parking or Stellplatz are really excellent throughout Germany. The Alpine Road is no exception, particularly good are some of the private Stellplatz available, some of which will have basic facilities such as a shower and toilet.

If you want more than a Stellplatz, there’s a brilliant selection of campsites too. Above all, no matter which you choose, the location will often be really scenic.

Waiting for our boat trip on Lake Königssee

More Lakes and Rain

As the rain continued to fall so did our drive along the German Alpine Road. Leaving the mighty Zügspite mountain behind in the cloud, the route now led us out towards Tölzer Land.

This area should have offered glorious lake side picnic spots at Lake Walchensee but all we could see was mist!

A mecca for water sports enthusiasts, in good weather, this would have been dreamy! One section of the route has 14 bends over a 6 mile distance, perhaps no surprise it used to hold a car race in the early 1900’s.

The route wind’s on through alps alongside is Austria and the Tyrol region. For us, the thick mist was still with us, such a shame for this incredibly beautiful route.

Reaching Lake Chiemsee

Thank goodness as the signs for Lake Chiemsee came into view, the skies were clearing.

Chiemsee is fairly close to the Autobahn, as a result, it’s one of those places that we pass quite often. We’ve always thought it slightly disappointing compared to many other lakes. Probably, it’s a little too big for our liking, after all this is the largest lake in Bavaria.

Nonetheless, if you haven’t been it’s worth a visit. At 80 sq km, there’s plenty of it to see. In addition to numerous water activities on offer, there’s lots of little towns and villages to explore.

After a lakeside picnic it was time for us to continue on our route. Soon we’d be reaching the most interesting region of all but first there were some amazing views coming our way.

Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Alpine Base

The scenery grew ever more beautiful as our route climbed the mountain passes of the German alps. This whole region is regrettably often overlooked by us British, yet it’s mesmerising and breathtaking.

Providing everything you need from an alpine trip, the German Alpine Road is the icing on the cake. Utlimately, it’s the mountain activities on offer that attract many visitors. But for us, this section of the route brought the most incredible historical element.

After finding a private Stellplatz for the night above the town, we settled in amongst the owner’s gracious cattle. There’s nothing like mixing with the locals, especially when it involves cows and goats!

Berchtesgaden is stunningly beautiful, possibly one reason why Hitler chose to have his 2nd headquarters to Berlin located here. The Nazi connection of WWII is very much remembered in an incredibly poignant musuem. We were able to park here the following morning before spending a few hours immersed in the symbolic history element.

It’s set amongst the location of Hitler’s Berghof, his home during his time spent here, subsequently bombed by the Allies following the liberation. Many other buildings of the SS are still standing, it’s quite unbelievable to be surrounded by what was such an horrific seat of power.

The Eagle’s Nest German Alpine Road
Rain and cloud bring empty outdoor dining at The Eagle’s Nest

The Eagle’s Nest

Another fascinating piece from historic events was yet to come. The Eagle’s Nest was actually built as a gift for Hitler for his 50th birthday. Nestled on top of Mt Khelstein, at over 6000 ft high, this was no easy construction project. Not only that, but a 4 mile long road was also needed to lead up the mountain side, quite amazing in itself. To top off the feat of engineering, not content with a road, they built a brass-lined lift inside the mountain!

The Eagle’s Nest is now a restaurant, to reach it you have to take an organised bus tour, we booked our tickets and settled in for the ride. The tour bus dropped us off at the entrance to a 400 ft long tunnel, carved into the mountain side and leading us to the brass lift. How strange this felt, to be following in the footsteps of one of the most evil dictators in modern history. Another 400ft inside the mountain, this time in a vertical direction and we emerged into the busy foyer of the Eagle’s Nest itself.

The Eagles Nest The German Alpine Road
The tunnel entrance into The Eagle’s Nest

The Rain Clouds Descend

Just as we ventured out into the mountain air to take in the views around the Eagle’s Nest, the cloud came in and the rain began.

Our mobile phone’s pinged “welcome to Austria”, a reminder of how close we were to the border and Salzburg. Unfortunately the rain spoiled the views, barely a mountain in sight, our only outlook being thick grey clouds.

In fine weather, this place would be phenomenal.However, the location along with the surreal facts surrounding the construction and subsequent use was spellbinding.

The Eagles Nest
Hitler’s Eagles Nest, Shrouded in low cloud on our visit

Lake Königssee

The best thing about Berchtesgaden is the complete variation it offers. One minute you can be in the depths of WWII history, the next you can be gliding in a boat along the most beautiful green lake imaginable. This would be our next stop, as we headed to the end of the road on the valley floor, before reaching the fabulous Lake Königssee.

There was a large grassy parking area just before we reached Königssee itself, so we found a spot and parked the campervan. It’s a lovely little village, if not, a bit touristy, due to numerous souvenir shops and inevitable coach trips. Nonetheless, there’s no mistaking the beauty here, especially as we approached the large paved walkways leading to the water’s edge.

From here, we took a boat trip across the lake, taking in the scenery, which became more visible as the clouds lifted slightly. The main attraction is the Church of St.Bartholomew, a pilgrimage site but a pretty building at that.

The boat dropped us off at the far end of the lake, here you’re able to walk around and soak up the scenery before catching a boat back at your leisure.

Beautiful Lake Königssee
The pretty church at Lake Königssee

Bad Reichenhall and A dip in the Spa

After a gorgeous afternoon lazing around on the water, the time had come to move on. Winding our way back through the Berchtesgaden, soon a tempting Therme caught our eye.

Bad Reichenhall is set amongst the glorious Alps of the Berchtesgadener Land, in addition there’s also salt! The brine and minerals from salt found inside the mountains is piped direction into the thermal water’s of the Rupertus Therme.

This is where we chose to relax for the evening, soaking in the natural outdoor mineral pools, under the night sky, surrounded by the Alps. Simply stunning and when the steamy mist of the outdoor pools got too much, all we had to do was switch to some indoor bathing, such difficult choices sometimes!

Best of all, as usual at these natural thermal spa’s found throughout Bavaria, there’s also a Stellplatz or dedicated overnight motorhome parking! Now you really can’t get better than that!

The German Weather

We may have had a mixed bag of weather on this trip but don’t be down-hearted! Despite having returned a few times to Bavaria, experiencing some pretty wet weather along the way. In actual fact, we’ve had some really hot weather too. The chances are, if you’re on the road for a few weeks, the weather in Summer, should bring a mix of intense heat followed by spells of heavy rain.

We’ve visited between May and August and overall have been blessed with some fabulous hot and sunny weather. Good enough to keep us retuning to Germany and the incredibly beautiful regions it has to offer us motorhome travelers.

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Germany The Romantic Road

Romantic Road Germany
Germany the Romantic Road
Lovely character towns and villages dominate the Romantic Road

Germany The Romantic Road

When we came across a route in Germany called The Romantic Road, immediately we knew it was too tempting to miss!

The 460km long route, known as the “Romantische Strasse” in German, appeared completely idyllic. Not only because it passed through the stunning countryside of Bavaria, but in addition, the name itself sounded almost fairytale.

Our journey would begin in Würzburg, being the most Northerly start of the route. Afterwards, the drive South would take us through vast rolling countryside, amongst traditional villages. Before eventually finishing in Füssen and probably, the most romantic section of the route.

It’s here beyond green fields that you first see the most magical sight, the incredible fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein.

Of course, there’s plenty more to see along the way, including sampling a good German beer or two! Then there’s the lively locals, including plenty of music and the all important German sausage!

So, let’s dust off the Lederhosen and the Dirndl, because we’re about to begin our tour of Germany and The Romantic Road.

Bavaria Germany
Incredible scenery towards Hohenschwangau Castle

Motorhome Parking – Germany The Romantic Road

Offering rich scenery, dramatic river’s and vibrant vineyards, Germany is all about the land. In addition, it’s easy to reach from Calais and most importantly has an excellent motorhome parking system.

The German people love motorhome life, as a result, the country has an excellent network of places to stop the night. They also provide essential dump areas across the country.

This system for overnight parking is known as a Stellplatz which can be free, although sometimes there’s a fee of between €10-€20 per night.

Germany The Romantic Road
A Stellplatz in Germany

German Therme’s

Our first overnight stop in Germany brought us to the town of Merzig and Das Bad Therme, complete with a motorhome parking area.

If you haven’t heard of a German Therme, you’re in for a real treat! They are just fabulous and can be found throughout the Bavaria region. So, what is a Theme exactly? If you imagine a swimming pool complex with more emphasis on relaxation than physical exercise, then you’ll get the picture.

Most have several natural, hot mineral pools, ranging in temperature from super hot to completely freezing! It’s all about wellbeing, relaxation and soaking up all those minerals for silky smooth, thoroughly cleansed skin. Usually, the aroma of essential oils fills the air, whilst heated recliners, water jets and bubbling whirlpools treat those aches and pains.

A range of treatment rooms, a sauna, steam rooms and variety of other physical pampering options, make you feel like you have a new body by the time you head for the exit!

Best of all, they’re open into the evening and generally have a Stellplatz for motorhome parking attached. This let’s you have a good soak under the stars, ensuring a really good night’s sleep afterwards. If you keep an eye out for any town with ‘Bad’ meaning ‘bath’ in the title, there’s a good chance it will have a therme.

Classic BMW Car
A classic BMW on the streets at Füssen

Tauberbishofsheim and Tauber Valley

We weren’t too sure where to take our first stop on the Romantic Road. However, before long we were passing the historic town’s of Tauberbishofsheim and Lauda Konigshofen, so decided to take a look.

Located in the pretty Tauber Valley on the first stretch of the route, brought our first glimpse of what was to come. As well as lush green meadows, vineyards with ripening vines, provided an upmarket feel to whole area.

After a good stroll around, the local Stellplatz seemed an ideal place to spend the night.

Weikershiem Palace

The following morning, our route took us to the incredible Weikershiem Palace and gardens. In the meantime, the heat was building up, becoming incredibly intense. Make no mistake, Germany can get super hot in Summer!

First mentioned in the year 837, this incredible palace took over 100 years to finish! This wonderful structure is full of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture. Best of all, the indoor tour within the cool air of the ancient walls provided a welcome break from the strong sun outside.

After a quick drink under the shade of a tree, we were ready to explore the immaculate gardens. These are huge and laid out in colourful array of floral delights, mixed with neatly mowed lawns and the backdrop of palatial splendour.

Röttingen and Creglingen

Our next stop’s took us to Rottingen and Creglingen, the latter being the first main town on the Romantic Road route.

The Jewish museum here has historic details of the town’s strong Jewish links. Most harrowing, is the fact that in the 1930’s, this was the first town to murder its own Jewish inhabitants, including members of its local council.

Germany The Romantic Road
The Castle of Neuschwanstein

Rotenburg ob der Tauber

The fabulous fortified town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber was one of the main highlights for us on the Romantic Road. Undoubtedly, one of the oldest and unique towns on the route. Before long, we found ourselves exploring intricate alleyways, evidently showcasing the ancient medieval roots and historic architecture.

When a town is this popular, equally there’s very often a downside. The worst part for us, was the coach loads of tourists slowly walking through the old town.

Nonetheless, when you visit anywhere during peak season, you have to acknowledge that it’s going to be busy. So, despite the crowds, we just made the most of the atmosphere and began to mingle, after all, if you can’t beat them, join them!

Finally, a tour of the town walls beckoned, so we followed a 4km trail which took us around the historic sights. In addition, we came across some rather lovely towers, reaching high into the sky and a landmark of the ancient town.

Bad Mergentheim

Our next stop involved another therme, at the delightful spa town of Bad Mergentheim. This is the largest spa resort in the region. If I’m not mistaken, the theraputic thermal water’s were founded here back in the 1800’s.

Obviously, this was too good an opportunity to miss. So, with this in mind, we gratefully parked up the campervan at the neighbouring Stellplatz before heading inside for a good soak!

No wonder we like Germany and the Romantic Road was so far proving perfect for those Spa treats.

Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen

Our drive the following day took us through Dinkelsbühl and onwards to Nördlingen, where a rather unusual event had taken place.

Apparently, it was here that a meteor had fallen to the ground, creating a large crater in the process. Not only that, but the locals decided it was a good idea to build a tower out of the rock that fell to Earth!

We soon realised, that most of the town’s along the Romantic Road had a sort of familiarity about them. Indeed, they are typically German in appearance, as a result, many have the charming half-timbered designs you’d expect, as well as being painted in an array of fresh pastel colours.

We thought it was all actually quite idyllic and certainly made a refreshing change. Undoubtedly, The Romantic Road is popular with tourists of all descriptions. Not only does it attract the motorhome folk, but the motorbike fraternity are here in abundance too.

Evidently it seems if a region puts a name to a route, for some reason, people want to drive it even more!

Harburg – Germany The Romantic Road

Winding along the route we headed on towards the town of Harbourg. It’s here that a hilltop fortress dominates the skyline, no other than a Medieval castle rising above the Wörniz River below.

Stopping at lovely villages on the Romantic Road

Donauwörth – Germany The Romantic Road

A little further along from Harbourg lies Donauwörth, where the rivers Danube and Wörnitz meet. This typical German town hides a hidden past.

That’s because, despite 75% of the Medieval historic centre being destroyed in WWII, it remains relatively original looking in appearance today. This is a result of post-war re-building, resulting in the replication of the colourful pre-war architecture.

It’s position alongside the junction to the two rivers, is an ideal spot to stop en-route South.

Landsberg am Lech

Back on the Romantic Road after a good nights sleep, our next destination was the pretty town of Landsberg am Lech.

Our approach into the centre of town, had us pass the River Lech, gracefully flowing over a gentle weir. By contrast to the scenic cascades of the river, Landsberg am Lech is in-fact an important crossroads for Munich.

In addition, various routes branch off from here for other parts of Bavaria, including the road to Lake Constance, otherwise known as Bodensee in Germany. This in other words, makes exploring further afield, an option, for those not continuing the Romantic Road.

Schongau

As we continued the route, once again, a lovely fortified town appeared. This time we’d found Schongau located within a region known as “Priests Corner”, because of a flurry of little churches surrounding the area.

Here, we found a Stellplatz parking area beside a swimming pool, ideal for our last night stop before hitting the final stretch South to Fussen.

The scenery becomes Alpine

Driving on after breakfast, the beautiful scenery began to change from gentle rolling hills to majestic mountains. This section of the route was stunning, in my opinion, simply the best part of the journey and well worth the wait.

In addition to the view from the campervan, for those wanting to explore by bike could use one of the cycle path’s meandering through the countryside.

Thankfully, the weather was still on our side. As a result, giving an extra beauty to the landscape as we drove along under the hot sun.

Views across the meadows on the Romantic Road

Neuschwanstein Castle Appears

Next, we came across the most incredible sight on the trip, as the biggest fairytale castle imaginable came into view, at Schwangau.

The amazing Neuschwanstein Castle, is a castle like no other! So much so, that when Walt Disney and his wife visited here, Walt got the idea for his own Disney castle. Of course, now it’s instantly recognisable at the start of each Disney movie and the rest is history!

Neuschwanstein is also famous as the home of the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria and is actually situated alongside Hohenschwangau Castle, where the mad King grew up.

We couldn’t wait to take a look inside, but first we had to find somewhere to park for the night. As time was getting on, we decided to drive the short distance and final leg to Fussen.

Stunningly beautiful, the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle

Füssen – Germany The Romantic Road

Our journey along the Romantic Road came to an end as we reached the last town on the route, Füssen. Here we found a few Stellplatz to choose from, parking up at one that happened to have a washing machine! Always useful to do a bit of laundry, it gave a perfect opportunity to catch up on some chores.

Just as we got settled with a cup of tea, the storm clouds gathered and the heaven’s opened. As soon as the rain eased off, it was time to set out on foot into Füssen itself. This lovely town would have looked even better a few hours earlier, in the hot sun, but then again we can’t always be blessed with sunshine.

As the rain came down again, we had to retreat back to the campervan for the evening, hoping that the following day would bring the sunshine back.

Romantic Road Germany
Hohenschwangau the other Castle at Schwangau

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

Rising with the larks the next morning, we drove the short distance back to the Schwangau to visit the castle.

This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, bringing crowds from all over the region. Including day-tripper’s from Austria and the large cities of Germany. To beat the crowds, an early start was essential.

Fortunately, the car park was relatively empty on our arrival and short queues at the ticket booths were a welcome sight. The castle is huge, with the walk just from the ticket booth taking around 40 minutes, although there are buses if needed.

A guided tour lead us on a journey through the castle interior. As you’d imagine, it was as just incredible inside as those first impressions of the outside. Our guide gave us an in depth account of the castle’s history along with the connection between King Ludwig and the compose, Wagner.

Outside, the Castle grounds provide walking routes as well as the perfect picture postcard spot. As we stood on a cute little suspension bridge, named the Marienbrucke, the castle proudly gazed back at us. With clouds still lingering, but the rain holding off for now, we managed to take a good look towards the King’s masterpiece.

Capturing the Fairytale Castle of Neuschwanstein from one of the beautiful walks in the grounds

A Holywood connection

The fabulous exterior of the castle was featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, more recently, you may recognise it from the Holywood film, The Monuments Men. It tells the true story of how the Nazi’s used the castle to hide stolen artwork. Incredible paintings and other valuable pieces had been removed from museums and hidden in the castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle bridge
The photo bridge above Neuschwanstein castle

The end of our Romance

It was the perfect end to this Romantic Road journey. Glancing back at the most romantic setting and the fairytale dream castle, no wonder Walt took inspiration from here.

We all need a little sprinkling of magic from time to time and we’d certainly found it in Germany on The Romantic Road.

Map – The Romantic Road

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The Abenteuer and Allrad Show

The Abenteuer and Allrad Show
Abenteur and Allrad Show
Camping out at the 2018 Abenteuer and Allrad Show

The Abenteuer and Allrad Show

Everything may have come to a stop because of Coronavirus, but it does seem like a good time to reminisce! So let’s look back at a trip we took in 2018. When we drove to the biggest off-road camper exhibition in the World, The Abenteuer and Allrad Show.

The Abenteuer and Allrad Show began in 2015 in Bad Kissingen, Germany. This spa town in Bavaria is host to thousand’s of 4×4 and off-road campervan’s, when they descend upon the area in May or June. A separate location, a little further out of town is where the actual exhibition takes place. Here, you can buy anything from off-road maps to the biggest 4×4 camper truck’s. It’s certainly an event like no other as well as an exceptional sight to see.

UK to The Abenteuer and Allrad show

This is a campervan show like no other and we couldn’t wait to see what was in store. Leaving the UK on a hot Sunday during the last week of May, little did we know it would be one of the hottest Summer’s ever. Our route took us on the ferry from Dover, enjoying access to the Premium Lounge for the bargain price of £12 each!

We spent our time eating nibbles from a buffet, washed down with a sip of Prosecco! Then we were ready to disembark at Dunkirk. Just over an hour later we’d arrived at Brugge, a familiar favourite and perfect for our first overnight stop. There’s a really good motorhome Aire a few minutes walk from the centre, making it even more ideal.

The Aire at Brugge

Reaching The Rhine

The drive from Brugge to Germany is any easy one. As the Rhine came into view, we soon found ourselves at the historic town of Koblenz. The great thing about Germany, like many European countries, they have an excellent system for motorhome’s to stop the night or Stellplatz. We found a perfect one outside a campground, looking out across the water where the River Rhine and Mosel meet.

We paid our €18 which included electric and access to the campsite dump area and settled on the large parking bay. No sooner had we sat out for lunch, than our friendly German neighbours came over with some local cooked meat as a welcome gesture!

The afternoon saw us heading off by ferry boat across the river to the centre of Koblenz. I’d last been here on a school trip, as a teenager and was amazed by just how nice it was. The historic old town was bustling and lead us to beautiful gardens, ornate buildings and the glorious river.

A cable car took tourists across the water to a high Fortress on a hill, it all looked intriguing.

A Quick Detour To La Strada

An early start beckoned from Koblenz, taking us to Echzell an hour and a half drive away and home to La Strada. The weather was intensely hot again as we pulled into the forecourt of the factory, where our Regent S was made a few year’s earlier.

We’d come to collect a replacement control panel and received a warm welcome from the manager, Mario. It was a good opportunity to take a look around the showroom, before leaving for Bad Kissingen and the Abenteuer and Allrad Show itself.

Arriving at The Abenteuer and Allrad Show

A further hour and 30 minutes from the La Strada factory and we arrived at Bad Kissingen. It was now Wednesday, the day before the Abenteuer and Allrad show officially opened it’s doors.

It was midday as we pulled up to join the queue of mega trucks arriving. The organisers had specifically stated that here should be no arrivals before Wednesday. We wondered how many had ignored this request, as we caught sight of fields full of 4×4 camper vehicles of every description.

We’d heard from a few fellow British enthusiast’s that the camping fields were already full. As usual with these things, this turned out to be nothing more than either scaremongering or mis-informed judgement, either way there was plenty of space.

People had been arriving for days

It soon became apparent from the team on the gate, that people had just turned up early. These were now pitched up amongst the fields nearest to the town. This was where we’d come to, the first set of fields alongside the town centre and a handy supermarket.

Finding an ideal spot to camp was a little more difficult than we first thought. Despite there being loads of nooks and crannies, many were already full or fenced off.

Plastic tape had been put across some areas, saved for friends of those already on site. Large groups took up other sections, many had set up camp some time before we’d arrived! We felt like we may have missed the boat!

We find a place to pitch

After driving round the whole of camp 1 a couple of times, we finally settled on a grassy place to park up. Some areas had already turned to mud, despite the hot weather. Other places were dry and dusty, what we didn’t want was to be covered in a cloud of dirt every time something drove by.

It wasn’t long before the empty spaces filled up. Huge overland trucks of every type towered above us as they passed. There seemed to be something for everyone here.

As we took shelter from the sun under our sun umbrella, the ongoing arrivals provided our entertainment. Our Sprinter 4×4 seemed tiny compared to those big boy trucks now surrounding us. Although plenty of smaller off-road camper’s soon slotted into the left-over smaller spaces.

Abenteuer and Allrad Show
Our camping spot

Day 1 At the Abenteuer and Allrad Show

The following morning we were up with the larks to head off to the actual show ground itself. Shuttle buses from the entrance of our camping field ferried people back and forth. The queue for the bus was huge, we must have waited 30 minutes before finally reaching the front and boarding a bus.

Soon we were on the road for the 4 mile trip to the show. The route took us passed fields of overland trucks and 4×4 campervan’s, all camping at more of the show’s camping fields, surrounding the town. It soon became apparent why this is the World’s biggest overland camper show!

The heat was intense, so humid by the time we got to the show ground. We’d bought our ticket online in advance, so we were straight in to the exhibition where we soon realised just how many vehicles were on sale.

Every kind of overland campervan was here on display. If you were starting from scratch, goodness know’s what you’d look at first!

We spent the day wondering round, taking in the amazing world of overland travel. It wasn’t all about the outfit either, the accessories were well worth a look. The only problem was the heat, we love hot weather, but this had us searching for shade and queuing for water, but so was everyone else!

By late afternoon, we were exhausted so retreated back to the van for some rest. The bus ride was about 15 minutes from the campground, too far for us to walk in the heat.

Meeting like-minded travellers

During the evening, the smell of campfire’s and BBQ’s filled the warm air. The camping ground became a hub of activity for people sharing information and admiring each-other’s van.

Being sat out on a main thorough-fare provided us with an ideal location to engage in conversation. It was great to hear people’s stories, some who’d come from all over the world to the show.

One couple stopped to talk, who’d flown in especially from South America, where they’d left their own overland campervan. They were fascinating, having been on the road for years, crossing into various countries in the process.

Other’s were just starting on their overland journey, taking the first steps into buying a truck. Then there were those who dreamed of getting on the road, but just couldn’t spare the time. Too many commitments but an ambition to one day be able to travel in one of these amazing vehicles.

Abenteuer and Allrad Show

Day 2 The Abenteuer and Allrad Show

After making use of the €2 hot shower’s at the temporary shower block on the camping field, we headed off for day 2. The campgrounds were now full to bursting, every field filled as far as the eye could see with every conceivable 4×4 campervan.

Getting water to the van would have been tricky from where we’d parked up, so every bit we could save seemed wise.

Strangely enough, there were no queues for the bus, so getting to the show was quick and easy. This time, we concentrated on accessories first. We needed an outdoor table and soon found a lightweight one that would do the job.

We couldn’t resist another look at the huge range of 4×4 campervan options, wondering if people were buying or just dreaming!

The prices ran into hundred’s of thousands of Euro’s, nothing here was cheap and everything was big on quality.

Landrover campervans to Big Beast Trucks

Nigel was in Landrover heaven here. He’s always wanted an overland camper that’s a Landrover, but I’ve been reluctant. As the Landrover’s kept rolling on in, he was more than entertained.

The good thing about the Abenteuer and Allrad is that you don’t have to go into the show itself to enjoy the experience. Just wondering around the camping fields provides enough enjoyment. Checking out the various layouts, designs and quirky ideas, it’s just a joy to be a part of it all.

Then there’s the big beast trucks, these in some ways are the real attraction for many. I suppose it’s not every day that you get to be up close to these spectacular homes on wheels. There’s something exciiting about the thought of riding off across the dessert in one of these huge trucks.

Abenteuer and Allrad Show

Day 3 The Abenteuer and Allrad Show

To be honest, as we weren’t buying a vehicle, by the time we got to day 3 we’d seen everything we needed to. As the weather was so perfect, we decided to have a lazy day at the van to start planning for our next destination as we headed towards Italy.

It was still fascinating watching the colossal and unusual come and go. The fields were still full, as one van left another filled its place. The grassy roads had become either a mud bath, despite having no rain, or else just clouds of dust from the dead grass.

Apparently the previous year had rained cats and dogs, the place was a mud bath and we could see how if it was so bad in some parts now.

It got so dusty, that we began to wish it would rain, to dampen the clouds filling up the air. Oh well, I suppose it would get us all into the realistic life of overland travel!

The Abenteuer and Allrad Show
Off-Road trucks of all sizes arriving at the show

What’s on Site

With everything available on site, this show is really well planned out. We were lucky with our camping field, being within walking distance to the town, it was easy to pop out for the odd bit of food at the supermarket.

Plenty of fast food stalls, coffee outlets and bars meant we could easily grab a quick drink or a hot dog! Most people seemed to mingle within groups, so we felt a bit left out being here on our own!

Portable loos were placed around the fields, but you’d have to be quite brave to use them! Overall we thought it was really well organised with everything we needed for a few days pitched up.

As the overland market grows and the 4×4 campervan trend increases, the Abenteuer and Allrad can only go from strength to strength.

Finger’s crossed next year will be virus-free and we can once again return to the biggest overland camper show in the World!

Map of Route

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The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria

Hallstatt The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria

The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria

The beautiful village of Hallstatt

The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria

There aren’t many places we describe as a little piece of Heaven on Earth. But, the region, just 30 minutes drive outside of the city of Salzburg is one on them. Admittingly, we’d never heard of the place, until stumbling across a photograph of it on the cover of a guide book. This is The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria.

Coincidentally, we’d previously got talking to an enthusiastic Austrian at an Aire in France. He soon asked for the Michelin Map that was on display in the motorhome cab. Before we knew it, he was circling with his pen what he described as a ‘must see’ place to visit – The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria!

Upper Austria

That was it, we were soon driving off in the direction of Austria and the province known as Upper Austria. As the breathtaking mountains of the Alps came into view, we knew this was going to be an exciting trip into the unknown.

The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria consist of no less than 70 different lakes! Just imagine the majestic Alpine mountains falling into the still, blue waters and you can pretty much picture the scene!

Mondsee

Driving through the picturesque landscapes from Salzburg was fabulous. Then the first lake at Mondsee came into view. By now, the rain had set in. Most days in Summer, the Alps give way to a fierce storm and we’d arrived just as the lightening struck!

The rain pelted down on the motorhome, so the view of the lake didn’t appeal as much as it would under a clear blue sky. Mondsee Lake is the warmest of all the lakes and is famed for windsurfing, so presumably gets a bit windy in the process.

As the sky cleared, we took a look inside the other famous attraction, the church of St.Michaels. It was here that Maria married Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music classic. A beautiful, classic lemon coloured building with no less than 7 alters inside!

The church at Mondsee

Lake Wolfgansee

Leaving Lake Mondsee behind, our wheels took us in the direction of St.Wolfgansee. The scenery en-route became more dramatic at every turn. As the lake itself came into view, the colour of the water was simply amazing – true blue and beautiful.

The high mountain peaks stretched out above, casting reflections onto the still water. It was here that holidays of the rich and famous were taken, in particular, the Chancellor’s of Germany and Austria.

St.Wolfgang is the main town here, this quaint little place is a low-key affair situated on the Northern shore. Cycle paths made exploring easy, marked routes linked various parts of the lake and towns.

After parking up, we rode off to see what was on offer. A good selection of campsites along with pretty lakeside picnic areas provided plenty of recreation space. Time we thought to find a place to stop for the night.

The Shores of Lake Wolfgansee

Campsites

We didn’t know of anyone who’d toured Austria in their motorhome, so didn’t really know what to expect. It soon became apparent that campsites were the best option for places to stop. Wild camping is frowned upon and unlike neighbouring Germany, there’s no motorhome Stellplatz system.

Soon, we discovered, that campsites in Austria are both modern and immaculate. As we pulled in to our first stop for the night further along the shore of Wolfgansee.

First we had to wait for the campground to open! Most campsites in Austria have a daily quiet time, a little bit like a Siesta for everyone, including reception and the campsite guests. They close the gates for a couple of hours every afternoon to recover from the stress of the day.

So, whilst we waited at Camping Romantik for the gates to re-open, we used our time wisely, speaking to some fellow motorhome owners about their travels.

https://www.lindenstrand.at/campground.html

A First Dip in the Lake

We soon realised the campsite we chose was fairly full, but luckily a large pitch was available with gorgeous views of the mountains.

The campsite owner took us on his golf buggy to show us the pitch. The grassy area was neatly mowed, resembling a prized garden! Ahead of us, we could just make out the steam train of the mountain railway, heading up the 5,850ft Schafberg or Sheep Mountain in the distance.

As the heat became more intense, our first dip in the lake beckoned. A refreshing way to end the day before sipping a cool glass of wine in front of that view!

Traunsee

Leaving Wolfgansee behind the next morning, our route took us towards Taunkirchen am Traunsee. Situated on the shores of Lake Traunsee, little did we know that this is one of the main tourist areas.

The sun shone down as we approached, making the stunning backdrop of the 1691m Taunstein Peak ever more dramatic. Plunging like a rock face into the lake, the mirror image of the reflection was simply idyllic.

We managed to park a few minutes outside of the town. Although this was peak season, nowhere seemed overly busy with tourists. We soon found ourselves on a footpath towards the famous landmark of a pretty little chapel, named Johannesbergkappelle.

Below us, people swam in swim pools in the lake, where picnic areas provided a perfect spot for a lazy afternoon.

A wooden jetty jutted out into the water, from where we watched boat trips glide along the calm water of the lake.

The dramatic peaks falling into Traunsee

Hallstatt

Just when we thought things couldn’t possibly get any better, we stumbled on Hallstatt. Ahead of us came into view the most scenic lake of all. Nestled alongside the shores of the lake itself, this picturesque Alpine village was the photo on our guide book! We’d found it and it didn’t disappoint.

This area is surrounded by the Dachstein Mountain ranges, plunging into the Hallstatter See or lake. We’d arrived at dusk and needed a place to stop. At the end of the village we found a small campsite, Camping Klausner-Holl, which had just one pitch available so we snapped it up.

As the coach tours departed for the day, we strolled into the quiet centre. Traditional alpine buildings built along narrow streets lead to the water. Whilst timber boat houses with their pitched roofs sat below, many housing the rowing boats that adorn the lake.

Hallstatt is one of the most photographed places in Austria and we could see why! It’s also home to the oldest salt mine in the world, no wonder so much salt is for sale in the town.

The idyllic Hallstatt village and lake

Attersee

All good things must come to an end and our stay at Hallstatt had to be cut short. The campsite was full the following night, so after wondering around briefly during the morning, we then moved on towards Attersee.

The lake of Attersee is rather large! Infact, it’s the biggest lake of all. Driving around the shoreline, led us past the Mountains of Hell or Hollengebirge. We didn’t have time for mountain walks, but this whole area is an outdoor paradise.

At the small village of Uterach am Attersee, we found a gorgeous campsite, Intel-Camping. Fortunately, they had a free pitch for us to park up and relax. Lakeside sunbathing areas, ladders into the clear water and wooden jetty’s made it a water lover’s haven.

Even more conveniently, we could stroll into the village centre. Here, some lakeside cafes and restaurants proved too good to miss. As the sun went down, we took a water-side table, enjoying a wholesome meal under the star light.

Lake Attersee

Time to Say Goodbye

This whole area is simply incredible, but we had to head home. As it was time to say goodbye, we vowed to return again soon. That we still haven’t managed, simply because we’ve been pre-occupied elsewhere!

There is so much more to explore in The Salzkammergut Lakes in Austria, we barely touched the surface.

This trip was several years ago, before social media changed how we share travels. When we return, we may be a bit surprised at just how much busier the region has become.

There’s no mistaking the natural beauty of the area will never change. So, we can’t wait to return soon!

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Austria and The Sound Of Music

Austria and The Sound of Music

Austria and The Sound Of Music

Austria with The Sound of Music and one of those classic movies that just makes you feel so much better. I’d been a huge fan since childhood, happily singing along to those famous songs. Like so many, I was mesmerised by the genius musical score and famous lyrics.

The opening scene to the film, was filmed high above the dramatic beauty of the Austrian Alps. This is a moment of cinema magic that captivates you in an instant. It’s here that the audience see’s the lead character, Maria, as she sings her heart out in the wild flower meadows of an Austrian Summer.

This one piece of movie history has drawn tourists to those Austrian Alps long after the camera’s stopped rolling. This is one country where the hills are still very much alive with The Sound of Music!

Tour of Austria and The Sound of Music

When we did our first tour of Austria back in 2012, the captivating locations from the film were too enticing to miss. I couldn’t wait to visit those well known sights around the incredible city of Salzburg. How fascinating it must have been for the locals to watch this Hollywood masterpiece come to fruition, when filming began in 1964.

Here I’ll share our own tour of The Sound of Music sights with you. Although dedicated tour operators in Salzburg offered organised tours, we preferred to do our own. Of course, it was free this way, but we also loved the ease of doing our own thing.

All we needed was to buy a few postcards and a map and we were ready! The postcards were a great way to get information on the famous sights from the film. More importantly, they gave details of where the locations actually were.

We then had to study the maps and do a bit of online research to double check the facts. Fortunately, we had transport with us in the motorhome – our bikes! So after putting the wheels in motion, we were soon transported back into the magical world of The Sound of Music.

Salzburg
The captivating city of Salzburg

The Sound Of Music Story

Those of you familiar with the film and those Rogers and Hammerstein classic songs, will know that The Sound of Music is just enchanting.

If you haven’t seen the film yet – goodness, where have you been?

The storyline is based on a true story and is set in the shadow of World War II. Featuring the handsome, yet stern Captain Von Trapp, left to raise his lively brood of 7 children, following the death of his wife. Along then comes Maria, a young Nun, sent by her convent to be the new governess for the Von Trapp children. Love soon blossoms, amidst the intrusion of war, bringing drastic decisions to the singing-loving family, resulting in a heart-stopping escape across the Alps to Switzerland.

The Sound of Music is a film full of timeless musical renditions, mesmerising scenery and stunning locations. We only hoped that the real life locations didn’t spoil the dreamy image.

Salzburg Alps
A view towards the Alps surrounding Salzburg

A Perfect Campsite in Salzburg

As usual, we hadn’t booked a campsite, so as we approached Salzburg we thought we’d best find somewhere to spend the night.

Austria isn’t the best for motorhome parking areas, so we played by the rules and headed to the nearest campground, Camping Nord Sam.

The cheerful campsite owner came out to meet us as we approached the locked gates. “It’s July you know, you should have booked”. We weren’t sure if he was joking, but before we knew it, he’d offered us his last pitch of the day!

The site turned out to be really quite nice – small and low-key but it had a good swimming pool and excellent shower block. A selection of neat, grassy pitches, surrounded by privacy hedges, made it feel like we were sat in our own little garden.

There was a cycle path alongside, which lead directly to the city centre. It would take around 25 minutes by bike and because it was lit at night, it seemed a perfect way to access the main attractions.

We decided to take a bus from outside the campsite entrance, first buying tickets at the reception. The bus route took us to the main railway station, where we then had to change to any bus marked ‘Zentrum’.

Mingling with backpacker’s and other weary travellers, reminded us that Salzburg is high on the list of European sightseer’s.

https://www.camping-nord-sam.com/die-gruene-oase-der-mozartstadt-salzburg.html

Stylish Salzburg

Luckily, we’d dressed in some of our best attire – a dress for me and chino shorts for Nigel! Of course, nothing too fancy, but about the best we had in the campervan wardrobe!

As we stepped onto the cobbles of the city streets, we realised that Salzburg in Summer is something of a theatrical experience.

Greeted with the most amazing sights of ladies and gentlemen, walking around in the most immaculate ball gowns and tuxedo’s! This place was mesmerising – we felt like we’d walked out onto a movie set.

Those first impressions of excitement and intrigue, left us eager to see more of this classy Austrian city.

Salzburg
The Hohensalzburg rising above the historic old town

The Salzburg Festival

We’d arrived in the middle of the renowned Salzburg Festival. This incredible musical event takes place each Summer, bringing the city streets alive.

Temporary theatre’s are built, setting the stage for various performances from opera to musicals. The emphasis being on classic, musical entertainment, enticing the masses. As a result, the locals and tourists flock here to experience the ambiance and take in a show.

As we meandered along the narrow streets, window shopping provided us with enough entertainment for one evening!

The shops displayed a fabulous selection of local costumes, many with hefty price tags. Here you could buy the traditional Austrian dress – the Dirndl for the ladies and Lederhosen for the gentlemen.

Stunningly beautiful fabrics glistened in the evening sunlight, where glamorous ladies wore their own masterpiece creations. Adding to the ambience came the truly vibrant mix of pavement dining. Here, under a canopy of fairy lights amongst candlelit tables, those elegantly dressed individuals indulged in fine cuisine.

A Tale of 3 Cities

Salzburg is a fairly large city, dominated by the River Salzach through its centre.

It’s divided into three separate districts, making it easy to navigate. Firstly, there’s the right bank – a modern area which is home to Mozart’s residence and the fabulous Mirabell Gardens. Conveniently, the bus route from the campsite arrived at this side of the city, making it a perfect base to start exploring.

The historic old town is located on the left bank of the River Salzach and is reached via a footbridge from the right bank. This area is a World Heritage site, consisting of intricate, upmarket shopping streets linking character alleyways. Impressive city squares with ornate fountains tower above the cobbles, whilst romantic types pass by in horse-drawn carriages.

Finally, there’s The Hohensalzburg, a towering fortress positioned high above the old town. This huge castle-like structure with its gleaming white walls, looks down on the whole city.

salzburg
Strolling through the Mirabell Gardens with Hohensalzburg ahead

The Hills Are Alive in Austria with The Sound Of Music

Surrounded by the incredibly majestic Austrian Alps, Salzburg is a dreamy location.

It’s no wonder that part of the huge appeal and success of the film was due to the actual scenery as much as the soundtrack and storyline.

Even if you’re not a fan of the film, Salzburg is still a beautiful place to visit and The Sound of Music film locations are just part of this wonderful city.

The Mirabell Gardens – Do Re Mi

Starting early the next morning, our first full day in Salzburg began with a cycle ride into the centre. Reaching the bright red floral displays of the Mirabell Gardens, it was time to lock up the bikes and set out on foot.

Here, we found one of the most famous locations from the film, The Pegasus fountain. Surrounded by scented Rose gardens that meet well-manicured lawns, this is so much more than just a movie set. The Mirabell Gardens are a jewel in their own right – a grand statement of opulence, within the grounds of the Mirabell palace.

Although, this is now home to The Mayor, the former grandeur of it’s history is certainly very much still evident. Built in 1606, it was once a place where the young Mozart and his family created music. Today, it’s used for weddings and musical events, but the elegant architecture remains.

Fast forward to 1964 and this is where you’ll find Julie Andrews as Maria, singing ‘Do Re Mi’ whilst energetically dancing with the Von Trapp children.

The gleaming Pegasus fountain became home to well choreographed routines. Then towards the end of the scene, the stone steps of Rose Hill bring a fabulous finale to the song. Oh the joys of recreating those lively routines!

Mirabell Gardens
Mirabell Gardens home to “Do Re Mi”

Residenz Platz

Time to get back on those bikes and cross the bridge over the River Salzach to the old town and the Resident Platz. This is where Maria can be seen singing “I have confidence in me’, as she rides around on a bus!

It’s also a very lovely pace for a romantic horse and carriage ride around the city. We spent a little longer here, heading for the Cathedral Museum to explore the remains of an old Roman Villa.

Here, the underground excavations of a Roman heating system and some rather lovely mosaics made a fascinating break from the heat of the Summer sun.

Keeping the bikes parked up, it was time to explore the old town and find some more special locations from The Sound of Music in this wonderful part of Austria.

Salzburg by night
Salzburg by night is simply beautiful

St.Peter’s Cemetery

Who can forget the scene’s from the film where the family are hiding in the Abbey? Entering on foot into St.Peter’s cemetery the familiar iron gates crossing the tombs came into view.

This is the site of a 7th century Benedictine Abbey and is famous as the resting place of Mozart’s sister. It’s also one of the oldest cemeteries in the world and there’s something about it that’s quite fascinating.

Amongst the rows of gravestones, in this elaborate setting are intricate rock dwellings. These are carved out of the stone, where narrow stairs lead to tiny windows, giving a view point out across the graveyard.

Visitors can also pay to enter the Catacombs, dating back to early Christian times.

St Peters cemetery
St.Peter’s Cemetery home to rock dwellings and Catacombs

Stift Nonnberg Abbey

Stift Nonnberg Abbey with its red turret type tower can be seen across various parts in Salzburg. The Abbey was used as the external film shots for the convent, supposedly home to the nuns and Maria.

There’s no access to the Abbey, as it’s still a working convent, but you can enjoy a good view point from the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Saving our legs, we took the tourist route on the Funicular Railway, gliding us up the side of the rock formation above the old town. There were brilliant views from up here, across the mountains of the Alps to the winding river and city below.

stift nonnberg abbey
Stift Nonnberg Abbey with its red tower

Hellbrun

A short distance from the old city is the very unusual castle of Hellbrun. We arrived at the imposing gates on our bikes, following the excellent cycle paths out of the centre.

The huge, yellow coloured frontage of Hellbrun resembled an aristocratic Villa. An entrance fee for a guided tour brought us into the gardens, where plenty of surprises were waiting! The eccentric tour guide quickly got to work, showing off some of the rather wet features, hidden amongst the hedgerows.

We soon got a bit of a soaking – what fun! This place is a magical world of fountains, ponds, hidden grottoes and delightful water gardens. What the unexpected visitor doesn’t know, is that each area has a sort of sprinkling system to keep the visitors wet!

We’d come here for other reasons though – the glass Gazebo sits proudly in a quiet corner of the gardens. It took us ages to find it, maybe we couldn’t read the map well enough, but eventually there it was in all its glory!

Famous for the scene from the movie “16 going on 17”, where the young Liesl and Franz dance along the benches under a rainy night sky.

Hellbrun Salzburg
Here we are at the famous Gazebo in Hellbrun gardens

Schloss Lepoldskron

Cycling along the Austrian countryside, it felt as if we’d stepped out of the film ourselves! The house from the film, where The Von Trapp family lived, was filmed at Schloss Lepoldskron and we’d just arrived at its gates.

The elegant mansion house, has some of the most well known scenes in the film, possibly because the house itself enjoys a magnificent backdrop across a serene lake. The location is simply idyllic and we could clearly see the rear of the palatial architecture from the lakeside walk.

We sat for a while, picturing the scenes of Maria and the Von Trapp children running through the gardens. The lake is where they fell out of the rowing boat, much to the dismay of Captain Von Trapp!

A public pathway leads round the lake, but on our visit we couldn’t go into the house itself. I believe it’s now an upmarket hotel – something to think about for the future maybe?

The Sound of Music
The fabulous backdrop of the Von Trapp family home from the film

The Church of St.Michael – Mondsee

Our last location on our tour of The Sound of Music, took us to the Salzkammergut Lakes region – a 30 minute drive from Salzburg.

This area of over 70 lakes is absolutely stunning and worthy of a whole blog post in itself. The town of Mondsee is situated alongside one of the warmest of the lakes, but we weren’t here for swimming!

Instead, we’d come to visit the alpine church of St.Michael. The scenes were filmed here for the wedding of Maria to Georg Von Trapp and we couldn’t wait to take a peak inside.

The pale yellow exterior is simple and traditional, yet inside there’s no less than 7 alters! These are all carved by the famous Swiss sculpture, Meinrad Guggenbichler and are quite beautiful.

As we remembered the wedding ceremony, it was hard to believe that Julie Andrews, as Maria, had walked down the aisle. We could almost hear the Rogers and Hammerstein music playing dramatically in the background as if we’d been in the congregation!

Mondsee Church
The Church at Mondsee

Auf Weidersehen Austria and The Sound of Music

It had been a magical movie experience through the top sights of one my favourite things (pardon the pun!). As we waved goodbye, so long, farewell to our tour of The Sound of Music, we couldn’t wait to watch it again!

If the film isn’t on your list of all time movies, Salzburg is still a wonderful city to visit. We loved it so much that we returned the following year.

Let’s hope the hills are still alive in Austria with The Sound of Music!

Map of Route

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An Early Goodbye To New Zealand

An Early Goodbye To New Zealand

“Whatever we decide to do now, we just have to go with it. We can’t look back with what if’s, have regrets or wish we’d done things differently. We don’t want to say an early goodbye to New Zealand but the outlook isn’t looking good.”

These were my words to Nigel as the events unfolding across the world suddenly took a turn for the worse. Sitting in our Son’s tiny apartment in Wellington, we knew we probably had to say an early goodbye to New Zealand.

Nigel’s 50th Birthday

The week of 16th March should have been an exciting one. Down in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, we’d gathered with our boys ready to celebrate Nigel’s special birthday – The big 50.

Unbeknown to Nigel, we’d secretly booked a lovely Airbnb for the following weekend. The boys had arranged a cake and planned to get to the Airbnb house before us. They’d arranged to prepare a food feast for the weekend, all I had to do was get Nigel there! A sign outside saying “Honey for sale” would do the trick!

We’d planned to drive up to Martinborough, for the day, a lovely wine growing town and perfect for his special weekend. I just had to walk him past the booked Airbnb – a lovely timber frame house with plush interiors and plenty of space to chill. The honey sign would be enough to get him to the front door where the boys would be waiting and the surprise weekend would begin.

Well that’s what should have happened, before global events took a fast turn for the worse, bringing an early goodbye to New Zealand.

Family
Family Time

UK Foreign Office Alerts

The Covid-19 outbreak had been well and truly on our radar for some time. I should say, more Nigel than me, he’d been following the news reports from when it first emerged in Wuhan, so we knew this was bad.

What we didn’t know was just how bad this was about to get. Things seemed to move so quickly and soon New Zealand had confirmed cases on their home soil.

Realising the situation was unfolding rapidly in countries across the world, I’d already started to check the UK Foreign Office website and began following the Facebook page.

As the the virus became more prolific and the threat of border closures ever more real, I decided to sign up for e-mail alerts on both Singapore, our transit route and New Zealand.

This ensured we had a back up, incase I’d missed any information on the website. It was just helpful to know we were getting the right information from the UK authorities as the announcements came. Soon, there was so much information released, it was difficult to follow on social media alone. By now, we also knew we’d probably have to say an early goodbye to New Zealand.

Coronavirus
One of the e-mail alerts from the UK Foreign
https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Changes To Singapore Transit and Worldwide Travel

When a UK Foreign Office alert popped into our mailbox, advising against all but essential travel worldwide, we knew this had reached a whole new level.

At the same time, another e-mail announced changes to transit through Singapore. The new rule meant you could no longer transit without isolating for 14 days – if your connection involved a change of Terminal or collecting baggage before the connecting flight – the alarm bells now rang loud and clear.

New Zealand had just changed it’s rules on entry to overseas visitors, all arrivals had to now go into isolation. Australia had changed it’s transit rules too, basically, the routes back to the Northern Hemisphere were narrowing by the day.

Trying to Hold On For Our Booked Flights

If we could just hold on for another 10 days, we’d be home on our original booked flights. By the 18th March, we knew this wasn’t going to happen, events were unfolding far to rapidly to all countries and airlines involved. Any prospect of getting us back to the UK after the end of the week seemed remote.

Instead, we took the bull by the horns and made the decision to at least try to get an earlier flight home. This was a horrible choice, as it meant leaving our boys behind and abandoning our 50th Birthday celebrations.

It was also to prove a case of easier said than done!

Staying Seemed Idyllic But We Had To be Realistic

Staying on in New Zealand and chancing that our booked flight the following week would go ahead was an option. In reality though, it was pretty obvious from what we were seeing and hearing, that by then, borders would be closed.

The thought of staying on and taking our chances initially seemed quite idyllic. After all, we had a campervan, our boys were in New Zealand, it’s a beautiful and safe country to be in and there’s no language barrier.

The bigger picture though, foresaw a different story. If international borders closed, airlines were grounded and lockdown did happen, then we could be stuck in New Zealand for a long time.

We had no idea what impact this would have – would campgrounds close? Could we get accommodation and if so what cost would that be? How much would flights home eventually cost when flying resumed? Would lockdown be for a month or several months? What if the UK borders closed? The list goes on when you analysis the situation.

We also had to think about our family and our house back home. When we thought it over in the few moments we had, we decided we needed to get back to the UK.

Changing Flights – An early goodbye to New Zealand

After 2 days of trying to change our flights with the call centre in Singapore, we finally got a result. Singapore Airlines had very few seats left. Looking online whilst waiting for hours in a call centre queue, seats were disappearing before our eyes.

Eventually, we got through to someone. Luckily they found available seats on a flight leaving on the 20th March, the only free date. They agreed to swap our booked flights for an $800 fee but then as we eagerly tried to pay, a problem with their payment system meant the payment wouldn’t go through.

The chap we’d been speaking to promised to look into what the problem was and phone us back. 3 hours later, we were still waiting and thought we’d never hear from him again.

By this point, economy seats were still showing available online for the 20th, so we decided to just pay for a whole new booking. There was no option to amend our booked seats online, hence having to phone in the first place. Paying $3300, we clicked buy and had confirmation of our booked seats back to the UK.

A Midnight Phone Call

Low and behold, the phone rang at midnight – it was the Singapore Airlines call centre. The chap had changed our original flights and was phoning back to try for payment again for the $800 amendment fee – their payment error now resolved.

We couldn’t believe it. Explaining we’d booked online when he didn’t call back, he told us he’d sort it out and call us back again.

A few minutes later, he called again, he’d cancelled our online booking and told us he’d refunded the $3300, although we’re still waiting for this to come through! We paid the amendment fee of $800 then came the confirmation e-mail and attached tickets and our online booking was erased. We’d be home for the weekend ready or not.

Domestic Flights Cancelled

New Zealand’s airline Jetstar had cancelled all domestic flights. This is Europe’s equivalent to EasyJet, an awful prospect that they were no longer in the air.

We needed to get to Auckland from Wellington, an 8 hour drive by road. Booking a flight with Air New Zealand, added more expense but we had no other option. Thankfully, they were still flying some domestic routes.

Saying Goodbye To Our Boys

At 6am on Friday 20th March, 2 days after arranging the flights, it was time to say an early goodbye to New Zealand and our boys.

Leaving our eldest Son in Wellington, where he was about to start the beginning of the new work from home rules was hard. Our youngest Son joined us on the 10 minute journey to the airport. Flying up to join colleagues at his pilot training centre in Hamilton, he had a separate flight booked, allowing a few more minutes of quality time.

Leaving in such unprecedented circumstances was actually quite difficult. Both boys were due back to the UK before Coronavirus came into the world.

We’d been looking forward to our younger son being based in Oxford, after almost 2 years down in New Zealand. This was changed out of the blue due to the ongoing situation.

Our other Son had been due home for a few week’s holiday, we’d so looked forward to welcoming back. Now, as with so many other families, we are unsure of when we’ll have our family time again.

New Zealand
Saying Goodbye to Wellington below

Leaving Auckland An Early Goodbye to New Zealand

Auckland airport was busy but calm. There was nothing to indicate the crisis unfolding, other than long queues at airline desks and the frequency of people wearing face masks.

Right up until boarding, we were fearful that the flight may not get off the ground. The worry that Singapore may cancel transit totally was in the back of our minds.

As the wheels of the colossal A380 left the runway, a strange feeling ran through our veins. Just the not knowing of when we’d be able to return and the uncertainty of what lay ahead both in New Zealand and back home in the UK.

Singapore Airlines
Our Singapore Airlines Flight

Singapore Transit An Early Goodbye to New Zealand

Landing in Singapore was a relief. Fingers crossed our onward flight to Manchester would go without a hitch.

We knew that passengers who had to collect baggage before boarding a connecting flight, had to go into 14 days of isolation. When we switched our phones on in Changi Airport, a text message told us to collect our bags from the carousel – NO!

Heck, had we got it wrong, we’d double checked this at Auckland and online, our baggage should be going straight through to Manchester. If we had to go into 14 days isolation just to collect our bags, it would mean we wouldn’t get home, borders would be closing and we’d miss the boat (or plane!).

Finding an information desk, once again we checked the situation. Thankfully, it was confirmed that our baggage would be going straight on to Manchester, purely because both flights were with the same airline.

Checking e-mails as we waited to board, two urgent ones came to my attention. The UK Foreign Office Alerts – both for Singapore, stating the imminent closure of transit routes – we’d just about made it.

At 2am, 5 hours after arriving in Changi Airport, our flight left the tarmac. The information boards in the departure lounge made for sobering reading – so many flights cancelled. This is one of the largest and busiest of airports in the world, yet it was deserted.

Singapore Changi Airport
The Information Board At Singapore Changi Airport so many flights cancelled

Landing in Manchester

Early morning, cloudy Manchester skies eventually came into view. Strange how from above everything looked so normal, yet how far away from the truth this would be.

I’m not sure if we were pleased to be back or not. For practical terms it seemed the best place to be, arriving to an uncertain few months was less appealing.

A fleet of grounded Ryanair aircraft lined up alongside the terminal building. Only one of the three terminals was open, how incredible that this was echoed in airports across the world.

Singapore Airlines
Approaching Manchester Airport

Home

As the key turned in the front door, it did feel good to be home. After 4 months of travel down in New Zealand, I have to confess, I was ready for our little house.

It didn’t take long for the news announcements to come through. Singapore had in-fact closed the transit route, our flight must have been one of the last if not the final one to depart back to Manchester and the UK.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand announced a Covid Level 4 status, meaning lockdown for at least 4 weeks. International and domestic flights were stopped too, if we hadn’t left when we did, we wouldn’t have got a flight home.

Here in the UK, we’re all under a lockdown of our own. As Coronavirus takes hold, none of us have any idea when we’ll be back to any kind of normality.

An Uncertain Future

One thing’s for sure, there will be life before and after Covid-19. What a wake up call for the world this is, let’s hope we can all resume where we left off.

The UK and global implications will yet to be seen. In the meantime, we all have to do our best to keep safe and well.

Obviously, Summer travel plans in our Sprinter camper here in Europe are on hold. Who’d have thought we’d all be facing such a dangerous and hidden enemy in the year 2020.

I guess, when it’s over, we’ll all be a little more appreciative of each other and those incredible locations awaiting exploration.

For now, stay safe wherever you are and we look forward to joining you out on the road soon!

New Zealand
Me and my boys!

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A Poem For The Year Of 2020

Uluru sunrise

As many of you will know, this post is not my normal type of travel blog! Instead, the need for something a little different seemed more appropriate today.

The picture is from when we watched the sunrise at Uluru, Australia, reminding us of how good life will be once this is all over.

A Poem For The Year of 2020

The Year of 2020
💜💜

Welcome to the year of 2020
Forget the cushy life of plenty

💜
Hidden away behind closed doors
Time to do those DIY chores
💜

Working from home as busy as ever
Between episodes of The Crown, The News and Weather

💜
Keeping us safe is the name of the game
From a virus immune to fortune and fame

💜
That panic buying was just all so sad 
It made matters worse and got us all mad

💜
It’s not much to ask to walk once a day
And shop for essentials in a sensible way

💜
Whilst embracing our world of self-isolation 
Scientists race against time on a new vaccination

💜
To beat Coronavirus that’s circulating the globe 
We must unite as a nation to lighten the load

💜
Let’s all join together to fight this disease
Look out for our neighbours and those in need

💜
The day will soon come when this will all end
Our healing will start and we WILL all mend

💜💜💜💜💜💜 

                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                     Sonia - Campervan Castaways 

Stay safe and keep well

Sonia

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Coronavirus Nightmare LIFE ON THE ROAD

Freedom Camping

Life on the road in this Coronavirus nightmare

When we left home back in late November, if anyone had told us that the World would soon be seeing a catastrophic event like no other, we’d have thought them mad. It’s shocking how quickly things change immersed in idyllic travel plans to suddenly living life on the road in this Coronavirus nightmare.

Singapore Stopover

Our fabulous Singapore stopover en-route to New Zealand now seems like a distant memory. Whilst we strolled the humid and historic streets of this fabulous metropolis, over in China, the events that would change all our lives were already beginning to unfold.

Full Flights and Bustling Airports

As we landed in Auckland during the first week of December, there was no indication of what lay ahead. Our Singapore Airlines flight was full, the airport bustling as excited travellers happily went about their transit though the hectic terminals.

Passing through immigration and customs was quick and easy. The only questions asked were the usual cleanliness of our camping and hiking equipment and if we’d packed any food in our baggage. Cheerful officials and not a face mask in sight, things couldn’t be more relaxed.

First Reports Of A Strange Virus

Looking back now, I’m not quite sure of the exact moment when Nigel started reading to me the reports of a strange virus spreading through China.

My guess would be early in the New Year, when he began to follow news bulletins coming out of Wuhan. He became a little bit obsessed with it, so much so that I told him to just read to himself and spare me the details.

It all seemed so distant, something that was happening so far away. Although awful reading the reports of those people infected, we felt no need to worry about it here in New Zealand or anywhere else outside of China for that matter.

Spreading Beyond China

Before long, Nigel began finding more information of the virus spreading within China. Then the inevitable, it had started spreading beyond China and out into other countries, Singapore included.

Still thinking, this thing would just disappear as quickly as it came, I was rather blasé about it. Nigel, though was fixated, relaying to me every bit of information he found. The more he read, the more terrifying it became, yet despite this, I still felt things wouldn’t effect us – how wrong I would be.

In New Zealand Normal Life Carried On

Just one month ago, the thought of the whole world immobilised by this virus seemed like something that only happened in movies. Here in New Zealand we were carrying on as normal, with no confirmed cases here and ban on people entering from China, surely New Zealand would be safe?

Then things started to get really bad, Italy and Iran badly effected, as well as so many other countries with the virus rapidly spreading.

The ever growing reports still seemed slightly out of our reach, although ever more disconcerting. Certainly life here on the road in this Coronavirus nightmare wasn’t making much difference at all to our movements or daily lives.

How Quickly Things Can Change

When the first case of Coronavirus was announced here in New Zealand we knew things were about to change. This was only a couple of weeks ago, the person had come in from Italy and we knew things were going to get bad.

Trying to forget about the virus began to get really hard. In the ever changing circumstances across the world, we were forever checking for updates. Things were moving so fast we were beginning to loose track of what was happening.

With a 13 hour time difference between the UK and NZ, the first ritual each morning comes with checking the news and social media bulletins.

New Zealand news we’ve found to be really limited compared to our UK counterparts. I now follow official Facebook pages of everyone and everything from The Foreign Office to the NHS, The Prime Minister to the Welsh Assembly Government and so much more in between, including all major UK news channels.

Watching The Nightmare Unfold

When you’re away from home, sometimes things seem so much worse than they really are. This is one occasion when we don’t think but know things are bad and getting worse by the day.

As soon as the UK announced it’s first confirmed case, which seems like ages ago, the nightmare has just spiralled, in what is just a little over a week ago.

More and more countries began introducing travel bans, self-isolation and lockdown. Now our minds are focused on home and getting home, rather than travels in New Zealand.

Trying To Remain Calm

I’m not sure if the New Zealand folk just didn’t realise the severity of the virus in other parts of the world or if they just didn’t think it would effect them here. Whatever their reasons, we can’t believe how incredibly naive some of them have been.

When talking to locals, all those we spoke to just didn’t think that it was a problem. Many times we’d heard them talk of “over exaggeration”, “they don’t get things like that here” or “it’s only like flu’.

Whilst we’ve tried to remain calm but with the sense of reality that is coming, some of the locals have definitely had an air of complacency around the situation.

It’s Now Hitting New Zealand

Over the weekend, we’ve seen more and more flights cancelled, New Zealand introduced a 14-day isolation period for anyone coming in from anywhere in the world with just a day’s notice. Things have really hotted up here now.

More cases of Coronavirus were confirmed, cruise ships were told to leave New Zealand waters immediately and all are now banned. Queues at the supermarket have begun, empty shelves of soap, pasta and arguing amongst the frustrated shoppers.

Across the world in the UK and Europe, the news is just getting bleaker by the day. As we heard the first whispers of introducing self-isolating of the over 70’s for 3 months, the unprecedented events took to a whole new level.

The list of countries in lockdown or with closed borders or both and others with strict entry requirements, even for transit, will make our journey back to the UK an interesting one.

Spending Time With Family

Our whole reason for trips to New Zealand is to visit our children. Having spent the past couple of weeks around Wellington, we’ll stay here now until our departure, spending quality time with our Sons, one of whom lives here in the capital.

The weather has been beautiful, hot and still, oblivious to the pandemic now circulating the globe.

Walks are a perfect way to get away from it all, as we try to have a piece of normality before things become more difficult for all of us.

Nigel would like to stay on here in New Zealand until things get better. I, however am unsure, it sounds idyllic but often in times of crisis, home is the better antidote. When lockdown comes, I’ll want to be home and ready to help relatives and the community.

Life on the road in this Coronavirus nightmare

Life on the road in this Coronavirus nightmare is at the moment somewhat unchanged for us. Yet, there are some big differences under the surface.

There have been so many Europeans in campervans that we’ve come across in recent weeks, many who’d just arrived. Normally, we’d happily exchange travel notes and polite conversation.

For us though, our habits changed dramatically. Keeping our distance to avoid talking and any close contact, we must be coming across a bit stroppy. Everyone seemed to be coughing, or were we just getting paranoid?

Hand washing, as with most people has become an obsessive ritual, whilst eating out or social drinks are a thing of the past. It feels strange to be so unsociable, yet sensible is the order of the day.

Countdown To Departure

With our flight pre-booked, the countdown to departure is never far from our minds. Will it be cancelled? Are borders going to close? Could New Zealand tell all overseas nationals to leave? Are further restrictions going to prevent transit through Singapore?

The list is endless, but for now, we’re trying to hold on as planned. This though, is probably unlikely to happen. If we have to make a sharp exit, we’ll pack our bags and prepare for any flight we can get.

In the meantime, New Zealand is coming to terms with an inevitable recession. The tourist industry here is huge and is about to be wiped out almost instantly, as will many other countries around the world.

Wishing all our fellow Campervan, Overland and Motorhome travellers a safe road ahead.Wherever you are right now in the world, take care and look after each other and let’s hope this Coronavirus nightmare is over very soon.

New Zealand
Keep Smiling

New Zealand’s North Island In A Week

Sunset

New Zealand’s North Island In A Week

So many fellow camper travellers blissfully announce their mission to tour New Zealand’s North Island in a week!

At first, we thought these people slightly mad-goodness, where would you start? The normal 6 week trips of yesteryear, seem to be now dwindling down to just 3 between both islands.

In our opinion, this country has too many amazing sights to limit to just a few weeks for both Islands. After several trips lasting a few months at a time, we still haven’t seen it all! Deceptively lengthy distances between main sights could make short trips rather tedious.

Having said that, if that’s all the time you’ve got and you’ve made your mind up, we’re here to give our insight into those best places to see in New Zealand’s North Island in a week!

Kerikeri Bay of Islands
Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands

Jet-lag and where to start

Firstly, don’t forget if you’re arriving from Europe, you’ll have Jet-lag to get over. Then you’ll be either arriving in Auckland or Wellington, which will determine which city you visit!

The drive time between Auckland and Wellington is around 8 hours without stopping. Therefore, it makes a big difference where you start your trip and finish it for that matter!

Wellington

One of the coolest capitals probably in the World, Wellington is just fab! With enough coffee culture, arty vibes and tempting beaches to add to the youthful appeal, it’s a capital city like no other.

Spend the day on foot, everywhere is accessible in this compact city from strolling the waterfront to shopping on Cuba Street. Take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens for views across the city.

Wellington
Take a stroll along Wellington Waterfront where city meets the sea

Tongariro National Park

Around a 4 hour drive (add time for drive breaks) from Wellington is the Winter ski resort hub of the North Island. Home of the famous Summer one-day hike The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Mt.Ruapehu, is not only the North island’s highest mountain at 2797m but it’s also one of the worlds most active volcanoes. Dominating the landscape, it’s surrounded by Mt.Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe, the latter being the youngest Volcano on the North Island.

This volcanic mountain range has some excellent shorter walks from the main centre of Whakapapa village. The Department of Conservation visitor centre there has details.

Tongariro National Park
Walking in Tongariro Natonal Park

Lake Taupo

About an hour’s drive from Tongariro National Park is Taupo, one of the main resorts on the North Island.

This is New Zealand’s largest lake, formed from a huge volcanic eruption around 25,000 years ago! It’s still very active, with thermal hot spots throughout the area.

There’s plenty to keep you busy, too much for this short trip so you’ll have to decide! From Bungy to Jet boats, Sky Diving to walks, soaking in Thermal pools to watching thundering river rapids.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo New Zealand’s largest lake

Rotorua

A thermal wonderland at every turn, Rotorua is about an hour and a half drive from Taupo. You’ll be mesmerised by the steaming, bubbling and boiling natural attractions beneath your feet!

There maybe a smell of Sulphur in the air but that’s all part of the experience. Rotorua is located on Lake Rotorua and it’s phenomenal! This volcanic thermal area is full of natures natural thermal dynamics.

Soak in thermal pools, stroll the steamy Kuirau Park in the town centre, or explore one of the thermal area attractions that are open to visitors.

Rotorua
Steamy water in the public park – Kuirau Park, Rotorua

Coromandel Peninsula

About a 3 hour drive from Rotorua will take you to one of the biggest natural attractions in New Zealand – Hot Water Beach.

This busy but sort of “must do” sight must be timed around 2 hours before low tide (check times with tourist sites). Take a spade to the relevant section of beach and start digging your own thermal pool in the sand! You won’t be alone, it’s no longer the quiet little spot it used to be, but it’s a great experience all the same. Watch out though – that water gets boiling hot, don’t burn those feet!

The Coromandel offers a whole lot more than just hot water! This area is stunning, there’s walks galore, fabulous beaches and the other very well known tourist sight of Cathedral Cove.

We could and have spent weeks on The Coromandel, so if you only get a sneak peak, be sure to go!

Cathedral Cove Coromandel Peninsula
Cathedral Cove on The Coromandel Peninsula

Auckland

If I’m honest, Auckland isn’t one of our favourite cities. It has a bit of a claustrophobic feel, but maybe the ongoing infrastructure works in the centre don’t help. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Thames, the main town on The Coromandel.

Nonetheless, if you’re coming all the way to New Zealand, it’s only natural to check out the most well known Kiwi city. Not to be be confused as the capital, the “City of Sails” is also a city built around volcanoes.

The waterfront is the best bit, bustling cafe’s, bars and all those boats with the cityscape and that well known sky tower as a backdrop.

Auckland
The Auckland waterfront with the Sky Tower in the back ground

Bay of Islands

I really wouldn’t want to miss The Bay of Islands off a trip. This sub-tropical paradise is full of stunning little inlets, bays and laid back towns.

The crunch thing is that it’s another long drive North of Auckland, around 4 1/4 hours before adding on any stops to reach Paihia, the main resort town.

There’s so many beautiful locations around here, Kerikeri and Russell are just the main ones. A simply beautiful region, stunning beaches, blue seas and incredible fresh produce.

Bay of Islands
The beautiful Bay of Islands – Paihia

How to Choose

With 7 locations in 7 days, something has to give! Our pick of places to see in New Zealand’s North Island in a week, is a difficult one.

It’s not possible to do them all, and much will depend on where you begin. If you’re coming from or going to the South Island by road will be a big factor, as Wellington will be the one location that you’ll have to be at to get across the Cook Strait!

Whatever you choose, we hope you have the most amazing time. Hopefully, like us, you’ll be able to return again to see those places you didn’t quite manage to reach!

Map

Wellington
Looking Across The Cook Strait from Wellington – The Mountains of The South Island In The Distance

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The Forgotten World Highway

The Forgotten World Highway

The Forgotten World Highway
It’s a Sign! The Forgotten World Highway

Driving The Forgotten World Highway

The oldest Heritage Trail in New Zealand is by no means forgotten. This 155km route took us on a journey over 4 Saddles, across 12km of unsealed road, through a 180m long tunnel and best of all….to a Republic! Yes this is The Forgotten World Highway and as we were about to find out – things got a little dirty!

“Let’s give this a go” one of us suggested at the iSite in New Plymouth. We always think if a route gets a name it’s got to be worth the effort! When it’s called The Forgotten World Highway, our imagination really got the better of us, without doubt, this was a ‘must do’ to take us back in time.