It is the morning of our only night at the campsite. We have had our swim and walk around some of the lake. It is mid day and like at a hotel, we need to be leaving. Interestingly, most of the campsite seem to have cleared out. I would have thought people stay for longer. Perhaps most people have been here for several days already.
We are packed and ready to leave when I turn the ignition key and the engine will not start. This is not a problem I have ever encountered nor expected to encounter. It is made worst by the small crowd watching our departure. How could a rugged truck like ours break down? All the white plastic motorhomes sailed out of the campsite whilst we remained grounded like a ship caught on the tide. The friendly handyman offered to call a mechanic. I fiddled with the engine pointlessly.
The battery warning light is supposed to light up, with the oil pressure light, for a few seconds whilst the glow plugs work. This time the light did not come on. Turning the key a full turn should bring the engine to roaring life. Instead nothing happened. Not even a click.
Then inexplicably the battery light came on. I turned the key and the engine roared into life. Hooray and relief – we were off! We meandered through the campsite and pulled out onto the road when in an instant the engine cut out and we came to a halt. We were blocking access in and out of the campsite. We were obstructing the road so that vehicles had to drive onto a field to pass by. In no time at all traffic backlogged up both directions, motorhomes, coaches, delivery trucks, cars. Angry tourists trying to get in or out of the campsite. Bemused truck drivers no longer able to move. The local bus decided to brave the field digging up the farmers grass. The campsite manager, a witch of lady, came out and shrieked at us. I would have expected a bit more sympathy. Its not like we did this on purpose nor was I particularly enjoying being everyone’s nightmare. The friendly handyman told us not to worry. She (the manager) is the recently made ex-wife of the owner and is still bitter. The mechanic was called again – only now he was at lunch. The handyman fetched a tractor and pulled us into the field (I got to use our tow rope for the first time – the irony is that I had imagined using it on someone else broken vehicle first!).
The mechanic arrived and could not solve the problem. The battery is fully charged. It could be the alternator. It could be the ignition barrel. It could be the starter solenoid. His diagnostics cost E50. But he did show me how to short-jump the starter and get the engine running. This vital piece of information was worth E50 just about if only to get us out of there! Then we were off again – fast to Austria!
We burnt through Germany fast. Passing Munchen the looming Alps were a tell tale sign that Austria is near. Approaching the Austrian border I decided to find a campsite in order to charge up our domestic battery and get some internet. The Domestic battery is fine on a sunny day but for most of the drive through Germany it has been overcast though the temperature has been warm. Consequently the battery is now reading 91% which is about as low as I am willing to let it go. One of the jobs in Austria is to wire up the battery2battery charger so that the domestic battery bank can receive some charge from the alternator. This will end our dependence on campsites for power.
We found a campsite on lake Chiemsee. Mara thought that this lake may have been the one her grandmother used to go to as a child. I was apprehensive about using a campsite. On one hand it offers us the chance to use the internet, showers, clothes washing facilities, re charge the battery and service the truck. For Anika it means meeting other children. Campsites usually have a playground and this one was no exception. On the other hand the I imagine the service users are predominantly rather conventional families that we would find difficult to bond with. Campsites are an expensive drain on our budget. I feel uncomfortable being stared at by, well, everyone. It is August and campsites are full. One wrong turn and trying to manoeuvre with the trailer could prove an embarrassing fiasco.
‘Panorama Camping Harras‘ cost us E50 for the night all inclusive. I actually quite enjoyed it. Yes we were stared by everyone. The only spot the handyman could find was right infront of the restaurant balcony. Perhaps he thought we could be a form of entertainment to the diners. Whatever I felt at the time – we certainly made an impression. Opening the rear doors of the truck was embarrassing as all the guests got the disappointing view of our possessions piled up. Who knows what they were thinking on that view. Cameras started clicking though and a few braver individuals came up to us and nodded respectfully. The campsite is a mixture of Germans, Hungarians, French, Italians, Dutch and a handful of other countries. Europe is so wonderfully mixed!
The campsite is located on a promontory of lake Chiemsee. There are several villages along its banks and a footpath that circumnavigates its shore. It is typically clean. I say typically because great energy is spent on regulating usage of the lakes. Miki loved it and gave no second thought to swimming out after a stick. In the morning Anika suggested we go for a swim. She was the first in the water! I also learnt about German drinking standards. When asking for a large beer at the bar the lady asked if I mean’t a litre! I settled for a modest half a litre and still feel I am drinking too much. Looking around the bar I noticed that in Germany mullets are definitely still in fashion amongst a generation of men in their 40’s.
One of the first things that Anika did was get her bike out and go exploring around the campsite. She is taking to the travels very well. Each new thing she discovers or tries she insists on us doing likewise. Here her independence is a great advantage. Whilst grabbing some food at the restaurant she happily went over to the kitchen window and asked for some lemons. Ofcourse the lady did not speak English so Anika returned with a biscuit!? She went back to the window armed with a new word ‘citrone’ and proudly returned to us with a plate of sliced lemons.