Border guards, squealing trains and ticks!

So, last night I left Innsbruck after not really seeing anything. Why? Cos I booked my ferry ticket for Sunday night. So I have to get all the way to Calais and also get Jack sorted by a vet for the worming thing. By the way I used my Tesco vouchers for the first time for the ferry. I’d found the link somewhere ages ago so I logged on and used almost all of the ones I had to make up to £60 of credit. You can’t book online when using vouchers so I rang the lad and he had it sorted in a couple of minutes flat. In fact it took him longer to go through the legal stuff than it did to book the tickets!

I booked into the Calais sailing which I’ve never used before. I’ve always travelled from Dunkirk. Not from preference, I just tend to use whatever is cheaper. I doubt the journey is any different anyway, it’s matterless to me.

I filled up with diesel, set the sat nav, and within a few miles was climbing the biggest bloody mountain ever. It honestly went on more than a Tory minister and of course since Berchtesgaden I have a morbid fear of hills cos when you go up them you can guarantee you’ll be coming down them again and that’s when the brakes fail. 

Now I’ll stop my story and explain something here that not may know. When your brakes fail it isn’t the actual brakes themselves. I learned about this when I first had brake failure going through the Brenner pass in Switzerland. What happens is everything gets hot and if there is any moisture at all in the brake fluid or if it’s simply old, it prevents it working properly, and the hotter the fluid gets the less it works. That’s basically brake fade. 

What can also happen as well is if the rubber bits of the brake pipes are in poor condition, they swell, taking the pressure from the brakes. 

Steep bit
Steep bit

Now, I’ve supposedly had mine done twice since I was in Italy, (once here and once here) but clearly they’ve not been done.

However, coming down the other side wasn’t as bad as I thought, certainly not steep enough to make me need to use the brakes loads. It was madly twisty which you can see on the map, although some of the bends are way worse than they appear on the map. 

Also on Google map it doesn’t show that the whole journey was in deep forest. It’s actually a beautiful route to enjoy, perhaps I’ll do it again one time when I can actually rely on the brakes. When I get back to the UK I’m going to strip them all down and rebuild them properly that way I know it’s all done. Apparently all brake fluid needs to be changed every 5 years.

The rest of the journey into and then out of Switzerland was gorgeous. I went through Zurich and Basel and although I only saw them from the motorway I definitely want to visit them at some point in the future. 

Vaguely in the back of my head as I drove, I remember a sign I’d seen and it was only just dawning on me now what it was. It was a reminder that to use the class 1 and 2 roads in Switzerland you must buy the vignette. It’s much like Austria’s except you can buy only 1 year which runs from December 1st til Jan 31st and it doesn’t matter when you buy it, it runs out then. Personally I can’t get my head round how this works. If it is valid between December 1st and Jan 31st of the following year, that’s 14 months. So what if you buy it in February? Does it then run out the following December? It’s a barmy system to be honest but the vignette is only €38 so it’s not worth missing it out. 

Except I had. Oops. Let’s trust to luck that no cops stop me then!

The border guard

But come on, given my luck, we all know it was going to end in tears and sure enough I got to the Swiss/French border to find police active there and stopping all vehicles as they went through. Bugger. 

It would not have mattered if I’d come off the motorway and taken a lesser route through, it’s only class 1 and 2 roads that the vignette is needed for. Unfortunately I was on a class 1 road, the motorway. And so they stopped me and instantly looked at the windscreen in front of my rear view mirror, which is the place the vignette is supposed to go.

I quickly started thinking of a story, so when he asked me where I’d come from I said Innsbruck and that I was heading for Calais. He instantly asked where my vignette was and I pointed to the Austrian one which was still valid. He said “No you are not in Austria now you are in Switzerland yes?” I nodded. “So you need a Swiss vignette yes?”
So I hung my head in shame and said “I am sorry, I saw the sign as I left Austria and it didn’t register and I then forgot about it.”
He nodded but smiled and said “You know the fine is 200 Francs?” (€185)
I said “Yes, I can pay you now if you have a card machine?”
Then the most curious thing happened. An angel came down from heaven and tapped the policeman on the shoulder, and whispered in his ear. The policeman smiled and looked at me and said “The angels are looking after you tonight, so I am not going to fine you, but please make sure you pay when you return.”

Now I know what you’re thinking…did angels really come down and whisper in his ear? Well my friend sometimes you just have to believe…

He waved me through and on I went and honestly, I don’t begrudge €38 so when I return I will indeed buy that vignette.

Squealing trains

I was more tired than I thought I would be so I looked for the next stop on my route which turned out to be an aire in Thann. I got there about 1am and it was deserted so I found a spot in the massive car park, 4 other vans were already there. It looked nice enough but I just needed to be able to work the next day so I checked I had an internet signal and went to bed. 
To be woken at 5am by screeching banshees from hell right outside my window. 

Ok, a train going through the points, but it sounded like screeching banshees. Or how I imagine a screeching banshee would sound, because I’ve never heard one, but anyway it was bloody noisy. Jack of course decided it was a threat to us so he set off barking ferociously at it and I did have to have a chuckle when he coughed, made a massive yawn and then carried on barking for all he was worth. Bless him.

That was it. I managed to get back to sleep but another train came 15 minutes later, and another 15 minutes after that. Until about 6:30am which is 7:30 their time when dozens of screeching school kids wandered past on their way to class. I knew I had no hope of more sleep so I took Jack out and we wandered around for a half hour. It turns out the railway is about 20 metres from the van and crosses the road and through the town. A bell rings whenever a train is due and once it’s passed the cars engines rev as they pull away. Noisy Nora!!

Anyway work was uneventful, the weather was incredibly hot and muggy, but I found a vet in Moosch about 3 miles up the road and rang to see if I could get an appointment after work that afternoon, to do the dog’s tablet for his passport. I was pleased I conducted the entire conversation in French and I thought everything was fine until she was saying something I simply could not grasp at all nor guess what she might have been wanting to say. 

Eventually she got a colleague to come and talk to me and she simply wanted to know how long we’d been in France. 

After work I found the vets no bother at all, parking out front, and the receptionist I spoke to answered in English so that helped. 

What’s more difficult than not speaking much French is when people speak to you and you continually have to tell them that you don’t speak French. In my case the truth is my French is limited but passable but I can’t understand what they say. So the young woman who came in after me and sat beside me and tried to ask about Jack just smiled when I said “Je ne comprends pas, desole.” I hate having to continually say that but, learning to speak French is difficult enough, far more difficult than reading it, but listening to it is the worst. 
I swear the French have a secret language that they only use between themselves!


The vet was very thorough though, Jack had a good going over and she asked relevant questions. She even confirmed that Frontline was no longer adequate protection for ticks in France and I should use Seresto instead. The collars are only about £20 and last for 8 months so it’s a much cheaper option than Frontline. France has a bigger problem with fleas and ticks than the UK does so if Seresto is good enough for France then it’s good enough for my dog.

I was happy that the bill was only €42 as well, because that chat she had with me constituted a consultation and they always charge for that. Just for the tablet alone the vet near Calais charges €55.

So all done, I set the satnav for Calais and headed off but we got about 200 miles short of Calais and I spotted a sign for an aire, the aire d’entrange so I decided that as I was working overtime today I’d pull in and get a decent nights sleep. 

After work I got another half hours sleep, and then sat wasting time on the internet, just because I could. 


Where I stayed: Haut-Rhin [68], Alsace, France, 68800, N47° 48.523′ E7° 6.341′ and Aire d’entrange, 57330 Thionville, France, N49.404965, E6.112637

Gois, Austria

Gois from Wals
Gois is a couple of miles distant from Wals but can be seen clearly over the flat farmland.

I discovered Gois while I was waiting for my van to be repaired in the garage in Wals. I dropped it off at 7:30am so I had the day to kill til 3pm which is when they said it would be ready.

Wals is tiny so it took me one hour to explore the village so I crossed the main road and set off for the foothills of the mountains I could see.

I walked through a group of a couple of dozen houses then came out the other side and could see more houses and a church about a mile away. Halfway there was a lone tree by a field, with a bench underneath and I thought to myself ‘That’s perfect for a sit in the shade to cool off. ‘

And sure enough it was. The sun was scorching at about 35 degrees that day so to get a little shade was great for me and for Jack.

So I took my pack off and gave him a drink and I also had one for the first time from the Bobble bottle I bought. I first saw them in Tesco: plastic 75ml bottles with a filter cartridge in the mouthpiece. You can buy replacement cartridges and I thought at the time what a brilliant idea! However Tesco wanted £14.99 per bottle and £8.99 per cartridge. Lol I was never going to pay that. The idea was excellent but the product is simple and cheap.

A couple of years later I saw them again one day in Tesco, very much the same price except for some weird reason the blue opaque ones were cheaper. £4.99 and £2.99 for a cartridge. Supposedly you get 300 fills from a cartridge so that’s not bad value at all. I love the idea of not needing to buy overly expensive bottled water, and not creating yet more waste for landfills. But come on Bobble, you’re not exactly using brand new highly developed technology so I don’t get the silly prices.

So I bought one anyway and 2 cartridges and had filled it from a public fountain in Wals. I’d watched the council come around at about 8am and fill about 40 litres of god knows what chemicals into the fountain: bleach? Most of these types of fountains are not mains fed they use the same water over and over so they need to keep it clean. Anyway I filled my bottle more to try it out than anything, the water was warm, but sweet and fine so that was money well spent. It lasted about 3 fill ups then the lid split totally rendering it utterly useless. *sigh*

I note PC World of all places sell them too but they want about a tenner each pfft. Not that I would buy a thing from them ever again!

Sandwiches anyone?

On a day of 35 degrees I had been walking for hours when I spotted this lone tree shading a small bench. A perfect respite from the scorching heat. The village of Gois is in the background.

Anyway I digress. I was sitting minding my own business, watering the dog, making sure he was in the shade, checking his paws as we’d been on a hot pavement for a while, and answering the phone when suddenly this bloke comes out of nowhere and speaks in German to me.

I shrugged “No sprecken zie Deutsch.” And he says in lovely English “Do you mind if I sit with you?”

Well had this been the UK I’d have been suspicious and wondered if he was a dogger or scammer or something. But I noted the sandwich bag in his hand so I moved my stuff to make room and asked him to sit.

He of course had to fuss Jack a little, mainly cos Jack wasn’t going to let him get away without doing it. But he seemed happy to so I let him have his emotional fix and only intervened when Jack smelled the sandwich. The man sat and started eating it and Jack got bored and started digging a hole by the tree. He loves digging holes.

That sarnie looked mighty tasty so I said “Yum that looks nice!”

He laughed and said it was, although he’d have preferred chicken if they’d had it. And so we talked about sandwiches for about 15 minutes. Yes, 2 grown men, complete strangers, sitting in the shade of a single tree, in the middle of farmers fields, in blazing sunshine chatting about various sandwich fillings and then onto types of bread.

We agreed that Schwarzbrot is one of the best breads going and the American Max Super Soft sandwich bread which is all over Europe was about the worst.

I picked my rucsac up and got the dog and said bye as he was finishing his sandwich and he waved as we walked away and you know what? I felt amazingly relaxed and content after having a completely unexpected but innocent and pleasant conversation about nothing more than bread and sandwich fillings!

How odd life can be!

So we continued down into Gois and the little church on the little hill was looking rather pretty so I decided to have a wander up and see if it was open. They usually are not I have found here and I don’t know why that is, as God’s house is always supposed to be open. Anyway I wanted to try but on the way I found some horses in stables. They were beautiful, obviously not your normal old nag, more your classy equine.

I stopped to feed them cos like, if you pass an animal you have to feed it right? I have no idea why, I just know it’s true. How many kids have grown up feeding the ducks before they can even say quack?

Jack says hello
Jack really cannot contain himself when there’re other animals to greet. The horse was unsure about going for a full blown kiss but had Jack been 6 inches taller he’d have been over the wall.

Of course Jack wanted in on it as soon as I started to feed them. He made a very good effort to get over the little concrete wall so he could give the horse a big slobbery terrier kiss, and then probably tease it into having a little playful run around. Cos that’s how Jack thinks and that’s what Jack does.

Ask me to see the videos of him and the lambs. Go on ask me…

Anyway, feeding time was over so we continued on to the church and as we got closer to the dozen or so houses that surrounded it an old lady hove into view holding the hand of a little girl about 3 years old. Her other hand was dragging a little kiddies trike along behind her and I felt a pang thinking yup. All parents have gone through that ha.

Well dogs are really popular for some reason over here so I know they’d come over to say hello and they did. And Jack licked the little girls hands and face cos he knows they taste of yummy sweet things.

And she thought it was fabulous and laughed and danced. And the old lady laughed, so not to be left out I did too. And Jack was grinning.

Now people say dogs can’t smile. Load of horseshit. Ask anyone who has a dog and they will tell you they smile all the time. And Jack was smiling cos we were all laughing and we were actually having a really nice day.

So I continued on to the church getting a couple of photos of it from the bottom of the hill, then walking up the steep grass to have a look inside.

The main doors were open but there was a very substantial metal grille which locked the entranceway. I have no idea if it is a result of crime or respect for God that they lock the churches.

I snapped a shot off and then the old lady was there again with the little girl.

I baptise thee in the name of the Lord

She spoke no English and I speak no German but she managed to indicate that the child was baptised here. Oddly the font was in the porch, before the metal grille so I mimed baptising the little girl and we all laughed again. Apart from Jack. He was outside digging a hole.

So I pointed inside the church and told the old lady that it reminded me of the Italian chapel on Orkney. She seemed to be surprised and then made a face as if to say “Why yes, now you’ve said that I see the resemblance.“ Of course she had no clue what I’d said.

Anyway that was fun chatting to someone who has no understanding at all of your language but making yourself understood anyway, so I rewarded her by calling Jack over and asking him to give a left paw, then a right one to the little girl, who thought that was the best thing ever. So good in fact that she dropped her dummy.

I stopped Jack of course before he slobbered all over it and waved to the little girl and said “Bye bye” and she said clearly and strongly “Bye bye” as she waved a hand. Awww. No language, but loads of communication.

My little visit had been nice to Gois but it was almost time to move on now. I walked down the hill and past some new apartments, built in traditional style but modern materials and each block had their own underground parking. How cool?

Unexpected art
Another bench in the shade, another rest for me and my dog. And there almost in the middle of nowhere is an art structure. Talk about unexpected.

I found another tree with some seating underneath. The Austrian councils seem to actually care about their citizens unlike most UK councils. It was lovely once again sitting in the shade and cooling off.

I noticed a piece of artwork installed next to the seating. This is in the middle of agricultural land, with the nearest large town about 6 miles away. I was most impressed. A very small village but a beautiful one, some really do know how to live.

I spent a little longer watching the farmer set up some automatic sprinklers for his lettuce and then set off back to Wals. I’d finished the water so getting some more was my next priority.





Wals, Austria

This tiny village sits at the foot of the mountains in Walsberg Austria.

Wals…a nickname for Wall-E from EVE? Nope, a small town in Salzburg, Austria as it happens. I found it by simply doing a google search for Peugeot dealers so that I could get my radiator repaired. And the back brakes. Anyway, I’d rung them and luckily they spoke English cos I speak no German at all and as it turns out later, not one of the other 4 garages I’d emailed around the Freilassing area replied.

Anyway, they said drop the van off at 7:30am which, because I’m running on UK time here was 6:30am to me * sigh * Never mind I’ll just be happy to get it sorted as I’ve wasted days now with not being able to move.

Anyway, he said it’ll be ready by 3pm which to me is 2pm so I have 6.5 hours to kill in a town that has a population of about 2,000. Hmmm.

I set off to walk around the town, it was already 22 degrees so I was slathered with 50 factor and I had a bottle of water and some food for the dog. Walking along the main road I spotted a nice little village a couple of miles away which I visited later. But my first stop was at a little shrine by a field of lettuce. As I’ve written before these shrines are everywhere and some are very elaborate. This one was quite substantial but had a bench next to it so it was nice to sit in the shade of the shrine and watch the sprinklers for ten minutes.

I’m always conscious of Jack’s paws when walking on tarmac or concrete. In that kind of heat they can get sore really quickly. I’m getting him some boots when I get back to UK. I know you can get some which are good for both summer and winter. I bet he hates them but…

Church of no name
Many churches in Austria appear to have no specific name, this one even on it’s website being called the Parish Church of Walsberg. It was the cemetery I’d come to see with it’s very elaborate and well kept graves.

The parish church of Wals, Walsberg, Austria

Anyway, so I find the little parish church in Wals. Beautifully kept, the most lovely gravestones every one of which was well cared for and some quite elaborate. Back in Stazi UK none of that would be allowed. Plain old boring nonsense for the Brits.

As usual the church was locked and a thing I’ve found over here is that many churches don’t appear to have a name. They’re simply known as the Parish Church. I noticed too that they chime in a different way to the UK. There’s a low, single note which denotes the hours, and a higher toned, single note which denotes 3 of the quarters of the hour. So 2 low, 3 high is 02:45am 

I did spot something though I’ve never seen anywhere before. A candle vending machine! Yes for 1€ you can have a candle in a coloured plastic jar, or for 2€ you can have a candle in a coloured plastic jar that has a printed design on. Ingenious. There’s also the most perfect public loo here, cleaner than in most houses I dare say! And an outside sink with watering cans so you can tend to the graves easily. Everything is pristine and perfect and fairly new by the look of it.

There’s a lovely public fountain which was nice just to be beside and I did consider dunking Jack in but wondered if someone might complain: they wash their faces and hands in these fountains.

Kiss and Go
I loved this official school drop off point which indicates in the nicest possible way that there’s no waiting.

Kiss and Go

The thing that made me smile in this little square though was the sign saying “Kiss and Go”. It was the drop off point for the school. What council do you know would consider a sign saying Kiss and Go to hint that there’s no waiting? I love the idea and I love the attitude.

Another thing that struck me was that sometimes it’s difficult to determine which buildings serve what function. From the shots I took you can see that a dairy farm, a horse farm, an apartment block and a normal house all look almost identical. I love the chalet type style that is predominant around Austria and even modern built properties still try to adhere to the same style. But my first wander around Wals left me with the impression there were no shops or other businesses.

My second trip around it showed a cafe, deli, bank, hotels, garage, garden centre, DIY store, restaurants, farms, plumber and a wide variety of other businesses.

I suppose I can be guilty sometimes of walking through a place quickly and thinking I’ve seen it all, whereas if I look harder or go through twice I might find hidden gems.

Anyway, I went back to face a bill of almost £730 for a radiator and a rear brake cylinder (which I don’t believe was faulty) and a few feet of brake pipe. Absolutely massive bill for fairly simple jobs and that’s what I get for using main dealer. I do actually know better than to use dealers and to go to independents but sadly I have to go with what I can find out here as I don’t speak the language. As it turned out not one of the other 4 places replied to my emails so I suppose at least I got the work done and am back on the road now.

Later on I found that of the two radiator top brackets the bush on one was worn and split, and the other was completely missing! So much for quality work from dealerships grr!

Hello Innsbruck, I’m coming to see you!

Königssee, Germany, and the trumpet man

I’d long wanted to visit Konigssee, it’s renowned for being the cleanest lake in Germany so since 1909 only rowing boats and electric boats are allowed on the lake in order to prevent pollution. It’s about 5 miles long and at one point a mile wide and the tourist boats sail every 10 minutes or so, so if you visit you never queue long to get on a boat. 

As you can see the lake is formed in a deep and sheer valley
As you can see the lake is formed in a deep and sheer valley

Like most valleys it was supposedly carved out by a glacier and the highest mountain there rises to over 9,000 feet. 

I was quite shocked when I looked at the photos I’d taken from that day out. Normally I take some as simple records. They’re not arty in any way, they’re just to give a wide or overall view of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. When you leave the car park there is a walkway to the jetty that is several hundred metres long and winds it’s way through an absolute throng of gift shops and other small types of shops. It’s bold with colour and noise and there’re some fabulous things for sale, such as the most amazing cuckoo clocks, and Lederhosen for him and her, starting at €600!

And yet I didn’t take a single photo to show all these amazing shops. That’s not like me and I’m a bit bamboozled as to why I didn’t but hey ho, it’s not the end of the world and I can recall what it was like anyway. I could easily have spent thousands of pounds in an hour so beware if you go. 

Quite often when travelling I don’t do tons of research about where I’m going. I knew Konigssee was there but I hadn’t googled it so finding everything out while there was a pleasure. I know some prefer to know all about it when they go but each to their own right? Anyway, so I didn’t know about the Flugelhorn. 

Being Flugelhorned.

A flugelhorn is basically a trumpet. So if you look at some of the pictures you will see that on the lake the valley walls rise sheer for hundreds of feet all around you. We stopped in one part where they seemed to go on forever and the feeling was almost smothering. Once we had stopped altogether one of the crew came to the middle of the boat and opened one of the doors. He then opened a locker and got out a trumpet. Germans call these Flugelhorns.

Stopped, while we got Flugelhorned
Stopped, while we got Flugelhorned

I suspect a few others too had no idea what was going on because they were looking at him blankly, wondering if we were going to be treated to some music. Well, we were. He played a very simple tune on his trumpet, a few bars at a time, and THE most amazing echos were bouncing off the walls of the mountains over and over and over again. It was the most simple tune but the most beautiful thing to hear it in the deathly silence, echoing back and forth along the lake.

I was so taken aback by it all I didn’t even consider taking my phone out to record it and as I looked around only 2 people did actually have their phones out. It was stunning and so unexpected and when he finished we all applauded because it was actually quite a moving experience. If you ever go to Konigssee make sure you get Flugelhorned!
They did have a little collection afterwards and of course we were all feeling so nice about it we were all giving a couple of euros, on a boat of maybe 40 people, so the two crew didn’t do so badly out of it. I wondered how many times a day they’d do that too…

I’ve got a file so you can hear the tune but there appears to be only 2 echos in this recording, we heard 4 at least. It’s here anyway if you wish to hear it. 

When I got back I spent more time in the gift shops because it was a blisteringly hot day and I was in no hurry to be anywhere. It was fun just seeing all the lovely stuff which if I was wealthy and had a large house I’d probably buy. As it happened I didn’t spend a penny. 
Oh by the way dogs are allowed but they charged me €3.50 for Jack which is a bit much considering he’s so small. They say your dog MUST be muzzled as well but I didn’t see a single one that was, so Jack’s muzzle stayed in my pocket and no-one said a word to anyone.

I drove up for the day early in the morning and paid for their car park, but the night before, and for several nights while I got my leak repaired I’d stayed in the train station car park at Berchtesgaden. 
Where I stayed: Unnamed Road, 83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany, 47.627236, 013.001140

As ever here’s some photos.

Freilassing…my saviour!

Freilassing aire
The formal main aire is closed for refurbishment, so this car park serves people for now

So, you remember when the hose split in Germany and the Peugeot man repaired it? Well a while later it looks like he did a bad repair, because the radiator is leaking now. 

OK you could say the radiator may have been damaged when all the coolant leaked out but all I can say is, at no time did any water or coolant leak from the radiator, it leaked from the split oil cooler hose. However I could be wrong…

So I found a small aire at Freilassing in Germany, 3 minutes over the border from Austria. It’s just a car park with no services as the main aire is being refurbished at the moment but it was perfect for not moving anywhere til I found a garage. I sent out numerous emails hoping I’d get a response but one thing I have found is that sending emails to garages seems to be like throwing sand at the sea, or spitting in the wind, or peeing in a river, or trying to keep a wife in shoes…well you get my drift, it’s a pointless exercise where the return is miniscule for the effort you put in. 

However I luckily got one response from a Peugeot dealer in Wals, Austria. I got it booked in but as it was the weekend coming it meant 4 days before I could get it seen to. 

Just behind Freilassing aire was this lovely view of a nearby mountain
Just behind Freilassing aire was this lovely view of a nearby mountain

Never mind the weather was fine and the car park was right next to some fields and the lovely little village of Freilassing so it was easy to fill my time. In fact exploring Freilassing I found 2 Peugeot dealers and emailed them also on the off chance. I never did get a reply from either of them. 

When I email anyone abroad I always write the message in their language and then repeat it in English. So there can’t be any case of not knowing that the heck I’m talking about. To be fair even in England I rarely get replies when emailing garages to ask about jobs and quotes etc. 

Never mind, I’m booked into the place at Wals so all is well. 

Where I stayed: Freilassing, Bayern, Germany, 833395, 47.84085, 12.98478

Berchtesgaden and the broken hose

Getting there…Just! 

Berchtesgaden is a lovely little village very close to Konigssee in Germany and to get to it you must drive up a very steep mountain and then drive down the other side. You know what’s coming don’t you…

Driving up I was forced to go right down to 1st gear. It was still a struggle and half way up I noticed the temperature climbing. I still have awful memories of when the engine seized so when I saw the needle rising slowly I felt utter dread. I watched it rise from it’s normal halfway point to the 3/4 point and I prayed under my breath to a god I don’t even believe in that I might make it to a flat bit. I knew I wasn’t far from Berchtesgaden and I needed to make it into a town in case I needed repairs.

The road flattened slightly, enough for me to get into 2nd gear and ease off the revs. After a short while the temperature needle started to drop and I allowed an enormous sigh of relief!

That didn’t last long though as I turned a corner and the road rose again, so steeply that I had to not only drop to 1st gear again but gun the engine to gain some momentum. I was tickling the throttle with my foot to give it only enough to make the van go but trying not to let the heat rise again. Sure enough it did and this time it quickly went past the 3/4 mark. Oh god…no wonder I don’t believe in you you cruel bastard!

Then when I actually had my hand on the key ready to switch off (which would have been hell to manage as I was still climbing a very steep mountain!) the road began to flatten again and within seconds the revs dropped and the temperature gauge started falling. (These DW10 engines were designed to run very cool anyway, that’s one thing in my favour.) 

This time thank god the road actually started to fall away quite quickly and within a couple of hundred meters the temperature gauge was dropping nicely. This engine has very large dual fans on the radiator and I could hear them going like the clappers. Unbeknown to me at this point there was very little coolant left in the system so this proves how important good coolant is rather than filling with water or cheap stuff. 

So I’m now headed downhill quite fast and I hope that there is enough downhill to last me until I find somewhere to pull in and turn off. Quite fast turns to very fast, and I have to drop a gear and use the brakes. The road curved gently and then flattened, so I slowed to a crawl at this point and continued slowly in first gear until the road dropped again quite steeply. It remained like that for quite some distance and I was trying to think how far up I’d gone when it was overheating…it felt like a mile but maybe it was half that?

As I thought about it the thing I’d been worried about happened, the brakes faded. *sigh* Yup, those same brakes that have been ‘fixed’ 3 times by 2 different garages, and are still crap. Brake fade is usually old fluid that has moisture in it reducing it’s ability to compress and therefore making it ineffective when it gets hot. And here I was again, memories of the Brenner pass a few years ago and the brakes getting so hot they were smoking and the discs were actually warped from that. I had to change discs and calipers eventually. 

Anyhow, so I’ve come up the mountain with a coolant leak and managed to get to the top without the engine seizing, now I was going down the other side with the brakes fading out and no sign of anywhere to pull in. Get in…another exciting tale to tell the grandkids lol

So there I was, quickly accelerating down a steep mountain with barely no brakes and I was scanning the sides of the road thinking I was going to have to crash the van into some trees in order to stop it. I would choose smaller trees so the sudden halt wouldn’t be too brutal and the damage might be less. Everything happened fairly quickly really: I spotted a transverse road and realised I was at the bottom and as I was clearing trees I saw that I would be joining a main road and beyond that were buildings. I pulled the handbrake on one notch and used the foot brake for what bit of braking was left so I could slow before meeting that road and as it happened when I got to it it was clear, so I took the brakes all off and joined the road, at the same time seeing a train station ahead so I turned into it crapping myself cos I thought the van was going to tip over with the sudden turn, then hauled on the handbrake and managed to easily slow the van in the middle of a car park. 

Fuck me. 

I had a look under the bonnet but couldn’t really see anything. It was a boiling hot day so I thought…be cool…Get Jack and go for a walk. So I called the breakdown people and then took furry face for a walk along the path to see where it led and he acted like nothing at all had happened. In fact thinking back, throughout the whole drama he’d been asleep on the front seat!

Anyway before the breakdown man came the engine had cooled so I was able to put a little water in and I saw almost instantly where it was coming from. A split oil cooler hose. So I let that dry then taped it up with some aluminium tape thinking if need be I can manage to move around a little bit. As it happens when the breakdown man came he pointed to a cottage on the side of a hill about 300 yards away and said behind it was a Peugeot garage! LOL

I filled the coolant system with water and sure enough managed to get over there and he just happened to be coming out of his house next to the garage to go cycling. This was Sunday so he was closed but he said he’d take a look at it in the morning. I managed to drive back to the train station car park easily although the water was beating the aluminium tape, but I got parked again no problem. 2 days later he had the replacement hose and sorted it out. Bugger me…life is very rich lol

Exploring Berchesgaden