Monday, 21 July 2014

Road trip.

So the road trip is almost upon us. I've bought my £300 left hand drive Ford Focus, its all on the road legal & ready to go. We decide to buy a few kitchen units from Wickes to take out as they were in a sale & the boxes contained everything i needed. The plan is kick the arse out of as many miles as i can on the Autobahn on the first day then 2 more days through Hungary & Romania as i don't know what the roads are like.  I buy a £30 Chinese Satnav from eBay to leave out there in the car. The Ferry is booked for 2am on a Saturday Morning & i have booked a hotel near Linz in Austria for Saturday night. The plan was to wing it from there on. I have aquired a new labourer to come with me under the false pretence of a free holiday!

Early shift at work Friday, i get home around 3.30pm & start to load the car with bits of kitchen & a bathroom sink I've pilfered from the skip at work. I am loading a few tools & bits to enable me to work & Liz has been stockpiling her own stuff for me to take. We have a few essentials for Sue & Paul, ie a huge slab of cheese & enough tea bags to enable Mr Typhoo to retire. I get to bed around 8pm & i'm up ready to roll at 11pm. Sleep not an option. I pick my mate John up in Dover at midnight & we head to the docks in the overloaded Focus. We check in at the port & are given the option of an earlier crossing, no queue, drove straight on to the ferry, a good start to the journey. During the crossing i program Lom into the untested Satnav, it seems to work ok.

We roll off the ferry around 3.30am Kermit time & we're off, we get a good start towards Belgium, then through a small corner of The Netherlands & into Deutchland. The sun is up, its getting very hot & John is in the passenger seat snoring, i'm feeling tired & shut one eye & then swap eyes from time to time in a bid to stay awake. John & i have both brought a flask of black coffee but its still not enough, eventually i pull over for a power nap somewhere short of Cologne. John wanders off to have a fag & a sausage roll so i can have a kip in the car. Half hour later i awake in a pool of sweat as it must be about 30 degrees & its only 10am. I didn't sleep too well as every lorry in Germany had driven past my car in the services. Back on the road again & i put my foot down to eat a few miles. We are now near Frankfurt & i need to stop again as my eyes are closing again. I find a bench in the shade & i'm out like a light. A hour later i'm awake, the sun has moved round & is trying to burn my face off through a gap in the trees. Now i have driven to Austria before, about 20 years ago, but i'm following the Satnav that's telling me to turn off the motorway, half hour later the signs are telling me im heading to the Czech Republic. My initial plans was once we were at the Austrian border i would look up the hotel address on my phone & use that to guide me to the hotel. I pull over to look at the Satnav to see why its sending me to Czech only to find a blank patch on the screen that were driving round, the blank patch was Austria, the Satnav showed all the countries around it but not Austria. I now have to use my phone to get us back on track. We lost about half hour but eventually made it to the border, I found the Village of Ansfelden on my phone & headed off to find the hotel. Ansfelden is a small town consisting of nothing other than hotels, there are dozens of them all together, after about 45 minutes of driving around we finally find the right one, it is now 6.30pm & i've driven 750 miles with very little sleep. We dump our stuff in the room & head out for food, no bar or restaurant so we go outside to find a Chinese buffet, everything else in town is closed but the Chinese has beer. Never has a Chinese tasted so good, 3 beers later & i.m nearly asleep!

After a decent nights sleep in a very hot room, we noticed as we left it had air con! Down to the cafe opposite the hotel we have a continental breakfast, we explained to the girl serving us that according to my Satnav Austria does not exist. It does she replied, you are definitely here. She also explained that Japanese & American tourists have asked her where the Kangaroos are! Its 8.30am & we decide to try & do the rest of the journey in one go, we top up with petrol & head towards Hungary. A quick cup of coffee at the border & we were off again. I must admit i was impressed with the Hungarian motorway, it was all new & much better than the Austrian roads, we headed towards Budapest & saw miles of farmland with hundreds or even thousands of wind generators gracefully turning in the sky. I also noticed that Tescos have made their mark in Hungary, we passed loads of them. A few hours later we've passed Budapest & the car has about a quarter of a tank left, I'm thinking a few more miles & i will fill up before we leave Hungary as i have some Hungarian Florint to get rid of.  Im now faced with the dilemma as the junction approaches, Romania or Serbia? Romania has small roads & villages to get through but Serbia has better roads but they are not in the EU, I've also heard that Serbian Police & Customs are quite corrupt & like to pick on British tourists as they seem to think were loaded. I had always favoured the Romanian route as it was supposed to be less hassle, too late, I'm in the wrong lane & heading to Serbia!

We queued at the border for about 20 minutes, the Hungarian border police clocked the UK number plates & head to the right hand side of the car, I'm in a left hand drive & feeling rather smug at this point. He walks round to my side & takes the passports. Asked where we were going & why, asked if there was anything to declare, we said no & were on our way for 2 minutes when we get to the Serbian border control. They seemed to be pulling vans over & making the drivers empty them out so they could look through the stuff. We were just waved through & were on our way. So now i have hardly any fuel & no Serbian currency, 2 miles up the road was a huge services & they took Euros so panic over. I must admit i was Expecting Serbia to be a bombed out dump after the war a few years ago but it was just 3 lanes of empty motorway through miles of countryside. We drove at about 95 miles an hour & passed another car every 2 or 3 miles, it was great. The motorway went through the capital Belgrade which was strange as the motorway through the city had bus stops on it. It was busy for a few miles then back into the countryside & up through a few mountains where we has our first bit of rain. We turned off the motorway to travel few miles of mountains that followed the river Danube towards Bulgaria.  We made the Bulgarian border in about 10 hours from Austria, I text Paul with an ETA of around 9pm but i was not entirely sure at what point in the journey the clocks moved on another hour. The Bulgarian border Police took our passports & the car documents & disappeared for about 10 minutes just leaving us at a barrier in the road. They came back eventually after probably cloning our passports, had a nose in the back of the car & seem surprised that we were there for 2 weeks. We headed into Vidin & found the Kaufland supermarket & stocked up on a few essentials, beer, bread & some dodgy looking ham. I text Paul to say we were just leaving Vidin, he seemed amazed at the speed we got there. An hour later we were at Sue & Pauls drinking a nice cold beer & scoffing a nice curry.

So 11 & half hours from Austria to Bulgaria was pretty good, i worked out that the 1600cc Focus had done just over 40 mpg & had cost around £220 in fuel.

So after 2 days of intense driving, we did bugger all on Monday!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Another dodgy hire car!

So after spending a week wiring, concreting floors & trying not to get raped or shot we head for home. Ive broken Ray or destroyed in his words & he decides he may not want to be my labourer again!

Back home & I've managed to book another week off work in May as Liz still has not seen the house. So another early start is upon us & were off to Heathrow this time as I've got a last minute flight with BA cheaper than Easy Jet believe it or not.

British airways indeed, so i thought a better class of crumpet working as stewardesses, well i got that wrong as we were greeted by a bruiser! But leather seats, more leg room & complementary food & drink, which was typical as i had to drive. This is far better than Stelios & his £5 sarnies on Cheesy Jet, well worth the extra 30 minute drive.

Usual stuff, we land & get collected to get our hire car. Ive opted for a budget car this time & budget it was, a battered Renault Clio. So first stop is Ikea for more household items, none of which i can remember. Back on the road now into rush hour as the BA flight was a bit later than Easy Jet. Were now stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Sofia, me being a smart arse tries to detour off the main road in towards the city to miss the the traffic, big mistake.  So were now lost in a mass of traffic & road works & i have to switch the data back on & use my phone & Mr Google to get me out. Destination of Montana set & we make our way back out of the city. Ive have now driven from Sofia to Stanevo a few times & thought at some point I'm going to recognise a road, it didn't happen. The most sensible route is mainly major roads but a bit longer, the shortest route that Sat Navs use is over the mountains, lorries & busses seem to use the mountain route too, so when you are in a 1.2 Clio the chances of overtaking anything are pretty slim. It was a beautiful scenic route with lots of hairpin bends & streams running beside the roads but you need a car with a bit of grunt on the hills or you do most of the journey in second gear. We arrive in Montana & hit Lidl for supplies & eventually reach the house around 7pm.

This is the first time Liz has seen the house & bare in mind we was working on it up until we left it looks like a building site, the look on her face was priceless, i think we need to go for a beer were her first words. We go & find Sue & Paul & head to the bar.

So we spent our first night in the house together listening out for anything that might be living in the roof, but all was quiet. I had previously bought a bog to install & had the waste pipe in but the 2 were not connected. First job then was fix the pan to the ground & connect the waste. This was done with no drama but we still had not water supply to it so we fill a bucket from the sink. First thing i did was flush it then run down the garden so i could listen to it falling into the cesspit, i really am a sad bastard aren't i! The only problem now was that the bathroom was being built at the end of the hallway & there was no wall up so as you walked into the house you could see people on the bog, this was called a poo with a view!

From this:

To this :

Not too bad after a weeks work, but theres plenty more to do. So we have a few trips to Lom & buy a fridge freezer & a cooker to sit on the worktop that we haven't got yet. Ive salvaged 3 tables from the out buildings, one table seems to have been in a fire but we have carrier bags to cove the tables & now have a makeshift kitchen. 

Getting towards the end of the week & we have heavy rain, come out next morning & the lane is flooded & the car won't start. I finally get it going but its miss firing so i limp it round to Sue & Pauls to higher ground. Paul has some WD40 type spray which i cover the plug leads in & it starts better. We run it into Lom & it coughs & farts a bit but seems ok. We park it outside Sue & Pauls overnight just in case we flood again. More heavy rain over night which has highlighted a slight leak in the porch roof. We walk round to get the car & again it won't start. I finally get it running but its not well, i ring the hire company & they agree to send another car out as we have an early start the following day back to the airport & i don't want to be under the bonnet in the dark trying to get it running. So they send a man out in an identical red Clio to swap it & off he goes. Not bad service really as its a 5 to 6 hour round trip.

So I've spent the week plumbing, Liz has been weeding. We've cooked a meal on our £50 cooker & we have cold beer in the fridge, its coming together slowly.

We have a nice drive back to Sofia, a nice flight back to Heathrow & the M25 at 5pm, back to reality.  We gat back home at 7.30pm & i have to go to work at 10pm straight onto a week of nights!