More battery woes!

This trip lumbers from bad to worse!

The voltage needle had been fluctuating slightly as I used the computer so I decided to investigate. Checked all the wiring and stuff, went to check the batteries and…they’re bone dry! I can only assume that the slightly higher charge voltage on the battery to battery charger gave them too much juice on the way over here and boiled it all off.
As luck would have it I had about 5 litres of de-ionised water so I topped them all up, did a charge, then ran an equalisation routine. Sadly even after all that they’re not delivering as they should. I should get about 225 amps out of them but over the next couple of days it seems I’m getting about 200 or less.

I bought these specifically because they are a solid workhorse of a battery, 60 kilos of pure lead so cross your fingers that they improve.

Lost my wallet

For the first time in my life I’ve lost my wallet. I’d been busy the other morning going to the garage, getting water, shopping at Lidl’s, finding a new lens for the one I broke the other day, just those pottering about things that take up time. When I went to get my wallet on Monday it wasn’t where I normally put it. I fished around for a few minutes then got concerned and started a full organised search. After an hour it was clear it wasn’t here. So, the last place I used it was either Lidl’s or the camping accessory place on Saturday.
I used google translate to prepare a statement in Italian and set off but sadly neither of them had any knowledge of my wallet. I cancelled the debit card, not a problem. I’ll have to get a replacement driving licence, I think they’re a tenner. Post Office money card? It was useless so no loss there. But I’d just been to an ATM and took €150 out and there was €135 left Grrr.

I have an old wallet that I sometimes use abroad. It’s got expired cards in, €15, a Tesco club card and some stamps. The idea is if I’m mugged they take that instead of my real one. Bizarrely when I went to get it, it had €105 in! Excellent, makes the loss feel easier to bear now. Aside from that I had a plastic folder with documents in for coming abroad and I’d put my Santander debit card in there. I went online and transferred money to that account and I was again up and running. Pain in the arse, but it could have been a lot worse.

Bang! Clatter! Crash!

I found a laundry, that was good. Only about 2 miles from where I’m staying too so that’s even better. However when pulling away I broke one of the upper lights on the back. IMAG0352The hanging cable on the left is the one that feeds power to the number plate light. The bulb assembly on the top light is smashed too. I found a camper spares place by accident when I went to Lidl’s today and got a replacement, €10!! For a piece of plastic lol

As if that wasn’t enough I then pulled into Lidl’s car park and completely missed the ridiculous metal banner thing they have at the gate. IMAG0350You can see it below the Lidl sign. It’s twisted the satellite dish to one side so I hope it hasn’t ruined the motor gearing and has just bent the metal arms. I blame it on being tired and the bright sun :p

The rest of the day was spent uneventfully doing boring housework *yawn*

New shoes

I spent the whole of Tuesday in Venice with my shoes on. They’re pretty much worn out and were only cheap ones anyway. It was really hot and of course walking on tarmac all day does tire your feet out. However, check out these bad boy blisters which I still have from then:

IMAG0347IMAG0348IMAG0349God knows how I managed to get back to the bus stop lol but my feet are slowly healing and I’ll be wearing my Merril sandals from now on. When I got back I soaked my feet in cold water for a half hour but they’re still canny bad lol

Half work – half play.

Today was my first day back at work since last Friday so I was nervous as to how the MiFi would perform. It has seemed ok so far albeit slightly slow, but the work interface uses sockets so needs a very reliable connection. I had lots of problem sin the morning, with the interface lagging like mad and game info not opening. However later on I took the SIM card out of the MiFi and put it into and old dongle I had which is a PAYG one. Connection was MUCH better! Work that one out lol

I noticed that the voltmeter on the wall panel was jittery the last couple of days so I set out to check the batteries and connections. Amazed to find that all six cells in each battery were dry 🙁 Big sigh cos you would think I’d know better given all the problems I’ve had with batteries. However as luck would have it I had 2 large unused bottles of de-ionised water and along with some boiled water it was enough to restore water levels back to where they should be. I believe the only reason the batteries aren’t broken completely is the fact they are huge Trojan’s.


Venice finally!!

OK here it is, background info first.

Sosta does not translate into what we think of as an aire. Sosta means stop, layover or rest, and doesn’t necessarily mean you can park your motorhome overnight. Like the French aire it’s misunderstood and I can see why some go to a sosta and find nothing more than a paid for car park.

San Giuliano is a paid for car park but has dedicated motorhome bays on grass and gravel. It has at one time been a full campsite by the looks of it.
You get a ticket when you come in, then when you leave you put it in the machine and pay what it tells you to. €5 per night. The charging period is midnight to midnight so a 4 night stay costs you €25. Height barriers prevent you leaving overnight but I’m not sure what time they are closed as the guy who sits at the gates doesn’t speak English. It’s reasonably secure but there’s walking access into the massive San Giuliano park.

The bus into Venice and most of the buses round here don’t take cash. They use a ticket which you buy from Hellovenezia cabins or most papershops, tobacconists and other outlets. You add on whatever trips you need and validate them by swiping them on an electronic console on the bus. The validation simply ensures you have a valid journey left on your ticket and marks that you have ‘paid’ for that journey.

Water taxis and Vaporettos have a similar ticketed system. You pay €18 which lasts for 12 hours. You want more time you have to pay more.
There is a water taxi stop 100 metres from the San Giuliano sosta, however it’s seasonal and it hasn’t started yet and there is nothing anywhere to say when it starts. It is privately run and charges pretty much the same as most Vaporettos, about €7 per journey. However it is private so you can’t use the standard tickets. They start at 06:20 but finish around 19:20 which is not a problem as the last No 12 bus leaves Piazzala Roma (The main square at the end of the causeway, the ‘start’ of Venice, at about 1am.

As they aren’t running yet, and the sosta is at the very end of the causeway in the one way system, it means there is a 1.5 mile walk to the nearest bus stop on Via Forte Marghera in Mestre. It’s a very pleasant walk through the park especially in pre 7am sunshine as I made it this morning 🙂 The first bus stop you come across on Via Forte Marghera has a newspaper stand next to it which sells tickets. Handy. I bought 2 journeys, (they go on one ticket) for €2.60 which meant I validated one to get over the causeway into Venice and one to return. The Number 12 bus returns to the Red car park in San Giuliano park which means it’s only a little less than a mile to walk back to the sosta. Good news for aching feet!

That’s a lot of info, but I hope it helps anyone planning to come here. In a nutshell, €5 per night parking, and €2.60 return per person on the bus. That’s bloody cheap for round here and I doubt anyone can find a cheaper method of visiting Venice.

If your brain isn’t addled by now, in Venice expect to pay €1.50 for all toilets, €3.50 for a small coffee and €4.5 for a small bottle of water. I did see one person told off loudly for daring to ask to use a toilet in a cafe, and another who was told to buy something. My rucsac has a bladder in thank goodness so I saved a lot by filling that and a flask of coffee.
I bought a very tasty veg salad for only €5 though down a backstreet and most pizzas off the beaten track were about €7 so not wallet busting. The cafes and restaurants in the main tourist areas have racks as you enter so you can leave your shirt 😉

The Basilica di San Marco in San Marco square like most churches in Venice does not allow photography even without flash. They do not either allow rucsacs in so if you are carrying one like most people, you either have to leave it with someone or be refused entry. The queues are massive too.

I’ve had a fabulous day in Venice, I’ll post some of the almost 500 photos I took later!

Exploring Mestre

I woke early and set off to find a way into Venice. I ended up on Punta Sabbatini which is on the eastern edge of the lagoon. There is a car park which charges €6 per 12 hours for campers, one of the few that does. No sleeping in it though. However about a mile away there is a free car park where a blind eye is turned to sleeping. However signs warn you that if you leave your step out or even a window open that constitutes camping and you will be moved on or fined or both. I have seen a motorhome being towed away so they’re not idle threats. It appears to me that this area of Italy doesn’t actually like motor homes. I have indeed heard before that wild camping is in fact illegal in Italy: they simply turn a blind eye to it most times.

So a sleepover in the car park, then in the morning go to the more secure, manned car park for €6 and pay €18 each for a 12 hour pass on the boats into Venice. Seems like a plan. The journey is about 45 minutes each way so factor that in to your 12 hours. I actually fell over when checking out ticket prices as there was a decorative painted floor and after the rain it was slippery and I went down heavily on one knee. Check out the bruises! IMAG0340

I went back to the van frustrated, in pain and a little down as so many things have gone wrong over the last few months and cost me over £4,000 so far. (Laptop breaking, wheel bearing, rear brakes, lights, brakes fading, money card etc etc etc) Anyway I had a coffee and a nap then opened Google for a long session to see what I could find. I found a campsite that sounded heavenly. Right at the end of the causeway to Venice, laundry service included, free wifi, free electric, it’s own jetty and boat to Venice, and all for only €20 euros a night. I set off sharpish to find it but it appears to have closed down! Nevertheless I found San Giuliano car park and here’s hoping I can access Venice tomorrow.

Pass problems

I was going to say you may not believe it but, you might…my brakes burned out on a pass in Austria lol

It was a 16% hill and in 2nd gear the rev counter was going over 5,000 so I went into 3rd but then had to continually brake on and off most of the way down. The brakes got so hot that by the half way mark there was smoke coming from the wheels and the stench was awful. I pulled into a restaurant car park that offered itself and noticed a camper about the same size as mine but about 10 years older pull in after me. They didn’t have problems 🙁  Here’s the car park: MK3_2601

So, I decided to sit here and have some lunch. It’s blazing hot and I have no idea how much of the hill is left, I suspect a lot. I may not even reach Italy tonight grrr

*Update: I had to stop once more on the way down but from then on it was flattish so no problem. It’s concerned me though so I’m getting the brakes checked out when I return to UK.

**Update 2: I was chatting on a motorhome forum and a guy gave me this link It’s an article that basically says brake fade is due to old and poor condition brake fluid and not pads. Bad pads cause brakes simply not to work. I am dubious as to the authenticity of this but I’ll be checking it out.

I decided that as it was over 2 hours quicker using the toll roads through the Brenner Pass, I’d pay the fee. It was €19.80 to get through the first few miles of the pass, but the next 150 miles or so of Autostrade into Veneto was only €5.60. Total tolls paid since leaving Calais including the French ones is a wallet busting €71.90 Thanks in part to my SatNav which although I told it NOT to use toll roads, it did. So after the second time it did it in France I bought a map and stopped using the TomTom. I’m heartily fed up with TomTom’s unreliable mapping so that’s my finish with it. It’s useful for marking POI’s and that’s about it.

Total mileage covered from Dover is 1006, which equates to about 156 litres of diesel which at the average price is just less than £250 or so.

Anyway, I got into Mestre and headed for Punta Sabbatini as I’d been told there was a sosta there. I found a free car park and parked up and went to bed shattered.

Oh update on the money card. I rang them and they said the last transaction had not worked as he had not sent it through as the correct transaction type. It needs to go as chip and pin and not a swipeable card. Well he managed to do my Visa card OK…anyway, the stop before that she said did not work as the Money Card does not work at automated fuel pumps and it says this clearly in the terms and conditions. What about the previous time near Strasbourg? Oh wait, it doesn’t matter, just put all the money back on my bank card as this has cost me dearly in time and stress so far and failed to work so I don’t want it any more. Yes Sir, that’ll be up to 5 working days to go into your account, or £21 if you want it immediately. I wish I could say “You useless, greedy robbing bastards!” but it wasn’t her fault she simply works there.

Post Office Money Card

Post-Office-Travel-money-cardThe Post Office Money Card has proved to be useless so far. Here’s the story:

I applied months ago after walking into a branch and getting  a pack. Supposedly you top it up online, then when you use it as a Mastercard abroad there are no fees. You are allowed £750 per year or £5,000 if you prove your address. I gave my address but their system did not find it (Typical!) so I had to send in ID. I don’t have a scanner so I took a high quality photo of my passport and the header of a bank statement.

I got an email back about a week later saying the header is no good. They need to see all 4 corners of the bank statement clearly, including any transactions. I baulked at this as the transactions don’t prove my ID, and are private. However a quick call to the data commissioners office and a very abrupt and blunt man told me that it is not against regulations to ask for this and if I don’t like it I can find a different card supplier. WoW!

Anyway I sent in a copy of my drivers licence instead of the bank statement. About a week afterwards I had heard nothing so I called again and guess what? The image of my passport was no good as I had obscured one corner where I had held it down for the photo. No they replied, we would not contact you for this, you’d only find out when you call. Oh wait, but they did when my bank statement was incorrect? Anyway, can I make a formal complaint please, yes Sir I’ll log it and a manager will call you within 24 hours. (I’ve heard that before too!) Anyway, I sent in another copy of my passport. 2 days later it had not been processed, I’m patient, I can wait.

In the meantime I can still use the card, and I put a second £100 on it just to make sure it works and there is enough diesel money to get me to Venice. 1st fuel stop in France, near Reims. Top up the tank and a jerry can and buy a map (cos the stupid TomTom is useless) for €97. Only problem, card not accepted. (Sigh) Thank goodness for my Visa. I check in the garage and yes they accept Mastercard. Next stop juts outside Stuttgart. A little more diesel and fill up the 5 litre diesel container and guess what? Yup: card not accepted. I checked and they take Mastercard.
Next stop isn’t til Munich in Germany. A half a tank and guess what? Hahahah you’re right, card not accepted and yes they take Mastercard! So, when I get a signal on my phone I’ll be checking to see if there is some problem I’m not aware of.

*Update…here’s a random photo of a lovely scene in Austria. The benefits of coming off the toll roads and using a map instead of TomTom! MK3_2585


Sitting at Dover waiting to board the ferry, Excited much!!MK3_2584 Guess what? After visiting my nephew in Hastings I was sitting around waiting til late Friday night when I could board the ferry to Calais. However, it dawned on me after a comment from someone else that I was in fact due on the ferry on the Thursday night not the Friday! An error on my part but…
So I rang the ferry company who charged a tenner to change it to Friday night and all was well. What a panic.