All Change to “twoinatruck.co.uk”

We are off on our travels in the next couple of weeks. Our first stop will be Poznań, Poland to see the progress on our expedition truck. We then plan to drive to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and then ferry to Italy before returning to the UK.

Just when I felt I had finally got the hang of posting blogs on “mopelia.me” and having finally mastered the tricky art of uploading photographs to that site, it now appears it is time for a change.

We have a computer guru called Emile who has designed a new site and has cleverly exported all my existing blogs to the new site.

So, this is my last post on “mopelia.me” . All subsequent blogs can be found on:

twoinatruck.co.uk

viaTOLL

Polish roads were notoriously poor. Except for the two main motorways, one going west to east and the other north to south, there were very few trunk roads, in spite of Poland having received £billions from the EU, initially to improve roads in time for Poland hosting the World Cup in 2012. We were told that bribery and corruption meant a lot of this investment ended up in people’s pockets rather than used to build motorways.

The road surfaces, even on the motorways, were often sub standard making the ride bumpy and noisy. There were potholes and uneven patches and repatches as well as long ruts created by heavy lorries in hot weather – which made for interesting steering. We saw some lorries running along the hard shoulder to achieve a smoother ride.

On this visit to Poland we realised for the first time that all vehicles over 3.5 tons had to pay road charges through viaTOLL, the Polish system for collecting tolls from HGVs. After two days of searching we eventually found a viaTOLL office hidden away in a DAF truck dealership where we were able to purchase two electronic boxes (one for truck and one for camper) for £20 each (refundable). We then could preload our account with toll money. Thereafter, our mileage was recorded as we travelled on the main roads, our box giving a single beep every 10 minutes or so as we passed a sensor. When our balance ran low, the box gave a double beep reminding us to top up our balance. This was easily accomplished on line later in the day.

We drove east almost to the Belarus border (we were the blue dot) to visit the DanWood factory where they build prefabricated houses. We got a warm welcome and were shown around their modern premises and saw several examples of show rooms. We were very impressed. They even gave us lunch in their staff canteen. On the way back it was getting late and we were a long way from any camp site so we parked up for the night in a lorry park outside a café; someone came round and collected ZL10 for our overnight stay (£2).

Chefchaouen To Ar-Rachidia

Chefchaouen (the syllable in the middle rhymes with cow – Shef-show-en) was a city the Rif Mountains and our camp site was at the top of the town.  It was a pleasant twenty minute walk down through the narrow cobbled streets of the old town.  To get back to the camp site we would cheat and get a taxi.  The weather was warm, 25° but cooler at night.

We visited Maroc Telecom to buy a card for internet access (£8 For 20 gigs).  The town was teeming with street markets, the pavements covered with things for sale.  In one area we saw piles of dead chickens, feet tied, feathers on – then we saw a head move and we were horrified to realise that the birds were still alive, but only just.

Chefchaouen

Azrou was our next stop, we only stayed one night as we wanted to get further south.  The camp site was beautiful, set in an orchard and we had a warm welcome from the guardian who left a breakfast baguette outside our door the following morning.   The cost of our stay was £6, including a hot shower.  There were ducks and chickens and a parrot on a perch in the tree.  The guardian also had a little fluffy dog that had lost the use of its back legs in an accident.  The dog managed to shuffle around, occasionally barking, reminding me of those battery operated toy dogs that yapped as they moved moved in circles.

View From Camp Site At Azrou

The journey south the next day took us through the Middle Atlas Mountains, the terrain was desert-like until you came to the river valleys.  Here the land was verdant and there were roadside stalls selling their local produce of apples, pomegranates, dried herbs and honey.  We stopped for lunch at a classy looking hotel with tourist buses parked outside.  We paid £24 for a beer, delicious Moroccan salads made with finely chopped tomatoes, onions and herbs, dressed with oil.  Then Tony had pasta and I bravely chose a camel tagine which was extremely tasty.  We finished off the meal with pomegranate and satsumas and coffee.

The Middle Atlas Mountains

We arrived at Ar-Rachidia in the late afternoon and decided to drive a further 20k on to Meski where we regularly stayed en route for the Sahara.  Here we were welcomed like old friends, ushered to our favourite spot on the site and invited to visit the community shops that sold the usual tourist bric a brac.

The Blue Dot – Our Location At Meski

Return To Morocco

Our (Tony’s) new project, changing our Laika motor home for a heavy goods vehicle converted into an expedition truck, was gathering momentum.  The 2003 ex Fire Brigade tender we purchased from a dealer in Preston was being shipped to Poland in May 2017 and we reckoned the conversion would take six months or more to complete.

John Sharples’ Yard At Stockton

Meanwhile we planned to drive to Morocco, our fourth visit since 2012.  We left the UK by Eurotunnel in the middle of May 2017 and stopped overnight at Montbazon where the evening temperature was a balmy 20° and we were able to enjoy an evening meal sitting outside beside the river Indre.

Supper By River At Montbazon

We stopped briefly to have our wheels balanced in Poitiers before travelling on to Monségur to say hello to Caro and Charles in their sunny spot near Bordeaux.

The Lamb Residence at Monségur

Our next stop was at Navarrenx, an ancient fortified town in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  We had just managed a brief walk through the beautiful old town when the rain started and it continued raining for the next 36 hours, making our crossing of the Pyrenees much less spectacular and spoiling our overnight stop by a lake near Zaragoza.  That evening it was 13° and we were glad of a burning log fire in the local café where we had a glass of wine and shared a pizza.

By the next evening it has stopped raining and we were able to enjoy a meal outside by the river Tagus at Aranjuez, south of Madrid before driving on to Córdoba where we stopped for three nights at Santaella, a site we have visited many times in the past.

La Campina, Santaella

Vallon-Pont-d’Arc

We arrived at Vallon on a Saturday afternoon and it wasn’t until the Sunday that we unloaded the bikes and visited the local town.  As a rule Sundays in rural France are quiet days with the shops and homes hidden behind closed wooden shutters with just the occasional sight of a black clad octagenarian shuffling in the shadows.

Vallon was a pleasant surprise.  The small town was situated at the head of Les Gorges de l’Ardèche and was the centre for outdoor activities, walking, cycling and canoeing.  The town on Sunday afternoon was open for business and was full of people.  The restaurants and cafés were busy and all the little touristy shops were open and doing good trade with folks enjoying Le Weekend.

The Pont D’Arc – 30 metres high

Sunday Afternoon In Vallon


The next day we cycled up the valley of the river Ibie that flows into the Ardèche.  At that time of year it was mostly a dry river bed but there were a few pools where people were able to take a cooling bathe.  Unfortunately we didn’t have our bathing costumes with us.

Not Me Swimming In River Ibie

We stopped for lunch at Lagorce, a small village set at the top of a hill.  We were panting and puffing when we arrived but it was fun after lunch travelling downhill at a breakneck speed.  We were careful to have only one small beer and a tiny glass of red wine with our meal.

The South Of France

The weather forecast for the Jura area was heavy rain lasting several days so we decided to leave our already soggy campsite and head south west towards Montpellier.  The route out of Ornans was steep and the road ribboned on endlessly up through the valley, following the line of the meandering river.  For over an hour we carefully negotiated hairpin bends on narrow roads which seemed to be getting us nowhere.

At last we reached the A39 and began our journey south towards Lyons.  We spotted many British registered vehicles on the motorway, some flying the English flag and obviously heading for the Euro 2016 football.  Five hours later we had arrived at our campsite at Vallon Pont d’Arc at the head of the gorges of the Ardèche.

By pure coincidence we had a surprise visit that evening from cousins, Gill and Robin Snelson, who had continued their holiday after attending our Bardolino wedding and were cycling in the Ardèche.  They had backed into a street sign and smashed the rear window of their car – something we had done on more than one occasion so Tony was experienced in making a temporary repair using a plastic table cloth and duct tape.  We had no idea they were in the area.