Photo above is just one of the many sites we wild camped in overlooking the stunning Piazza Armerina, Sicily
Wild camping, otherwise known as free camping, has been our main form of bunking down overnight, in fact for seventy five per cent of the time, hence the title.
Happy Birthday to our motorhome Betsy.
One short year ago from today (29th June 2017) we picked up our beloved, much anticipated Betsy. Eight months in the planning from conception to birth, every part of Betsy’s entrance into our world was meticulously planned and thought out. Like expectant parents, we had Betsy’s first year or two of her life roughly sorted. We knew she was destined for wild camping. We knew she would be our home away from home, and that we would have many awesome adventures together.
And she didn’t disappoint.
Italian built, French registered, and driven by two Kiwis who had been living in Australia for the best part of the previous decade, Betsy already had an international feel about her.
She continued in this vein.
Twelve months have seen Betsy visit sixteen countries including Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, San Marino, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and travel over seventeen and a half thousand kilometres.
|Total Cost for Diesel||€ 2,215.35|
|Average Cost per Litre||€1.34|
|Average cost per km||€ 0.1265|
|Average Miles Per Gallon||29.26|
|Total Kilometres traveled||17,511|
|Total Litres consumed||1,690.31|
Our Stopping Places
We stopped overnight in 170 individual locations over twelve months. This shows we moved every second day on average, although we stayed in one stop for a month in Istanbul alone.
Out of 170 stopping places, 136 (275 nights or 75%) were free. These were a mixture of car parks, beaches, and other public or more remote locations which we call ‘wild camping’.
We paid to park in 18 designated camper parking area (51 nights or 14%). Most of these were in Istanbul where we found an excellent base for exploring that wonderful city.
And we camped in 16 campgrounds for a total of 31 nights (11% of all nights). The only times we stay in camping grounds is when we had family staying with us, we were meeting up with friends who are there, or where it’s the law, e.g. Croatia doesn’t allow wild camping.
Betsy’s two large solar panels allow us to wild camp easily because we very rarely need external electric power. We also carry an extra toilet cassette just in case we are caught short, although so far we haven’t needed it. We can go for three-four days with our 100 litres of fresh water and before we need to discharge our black water (toilet). Not bad for each of us showing daily.
We usually turn up at a location in the late afternoon, dismount our bikes and ride into town, then go again into town the next day if there’s plenty to see.
Below is an interactive map of our stopping places for the year. If you click on the different stopping points you will, usually, see Betsy parked here and the details for other motorhome users, e.g. water, power, dumping points, costs for the night, etc.
People ask us ‘what is your favourite country’. I cannot honestly answer this, however, I would have to say my favourite city is Istanbul hands down. The vibrancy, energy, people, attractions, food, ease of cycling around and the cheap prices are just a few of the reasons why Istanbul gets my vote. Below you can see the different places we visited while there. The photos below are of the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern, (underground water storage built by the Romans). If you want an interactive map of this wonderful city, please email me.
Our Favourite Places
That being said, here are just a few of our other favourite places we have visited over the past twelve months.
Walking through the ruins it’s not difficult to imagine the buzz and excitement of the athletes training around the now silent and extensive ruins. A stadium and temple built here were dedicated to the gods Hera and Zeus. I managed to stand in the place where the Olympic torch is still lit today.
4. Delphi, Greece: This town is situated on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece. It’s the site of the 4th century B.C. Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary Oracle. You may have heard about “The Oracle of Delphi”. Well this is the place where the Oracle hung out, so look no further. The archaeological site is literally sitting on the side of a mountain and contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, as well as an ancient stadium and theatre and dozens of other buildings and structures. We managed to park off the road nearby, backed up close to the edge of a steep cavernous valley (a bit too close for my liking and I was nervous all night we might slip and wake at the bottom) and high mountains in front.
6. Erice, Sicily, Italy. The castles in Erice have been designed and built exactly how I would imagine kids would draw a castle nowadays. Erice, which sits at 750 metres on top of Mt Erice, is a medieval hilltop town located near Trapani, with superb views over the coast. A cable car joins the upper and lower town and although we didn’t use this because we rode our electric bikes, the cable car had just recently become operational again after a forest fire in 2005.
What I did like about Milan was the variety of architecture throughout this city. Some very old, some gothic, some ultra modern. The Gothic Duomo Cathedral of Milan, having taken some 600 years to build justifiably takes pride of place in the centre of Milan, check out the photos to see what I mean. But first, click on the video below to see the Cathedral.
On 4th November 1918 the New Zealand Division attacked and bypassed the fortified town of Le Quesnoy, consolidating positions beyond it and gaining around 10 kilometres. After the success of their advance, they determinedly turned their attention to the town itself, which had been invaded by the Germans in 1914 and held ever since.
The 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade penetrated the town’s outer ramparts. However, when a section of the 4th Battalion reached these inner walls they found that the walls were too high for their ladder. They positioned the ladder on a small ledge atop a sluice gate and scaled the wall one by one. After exchanging shots with several German defenders, they went in further. When the rest of the Germans inside learned that the walls had been breached, they promptly laid down their weapons and surrendered.
The relief of the French inhabitants was immense. Not only had their town been liberated, but it had been done with relatively little impact on the local population. The armistice was signed a week later, and to this day, Le Quesnoy people remember and honour the New Zealanders who rescued their town.
(a) Hiring a yacht in Volos, Greece and sailing with our good friends Pip and Ross (Kiwis living in London)
(b) Paris – who can go to Paris and not mention something wonderful about this city. We didn’t spend a long time here but managed to see the Eifel Tower (Alan says my facial expression was priceless when I first saw it), the Louvre (to see the Mona Lisa), and the beautiful gardens and buildings.
(c) Ghent in Belgium is worth a mention. We stopped here to watch the second All Blacks test against French in an Irish Bar (yes, you can find one of these in every city). Ghent was a surprisingly vibrant city and a great alternative to the usual tourist trap of Burges. (We will probably go here another time).
(d) I must mention the churches. One would think we would get sick of going into so many churches but every church is so very different. I will endeavour to post some photos (and I have lots of them) in another post so stay tuned to see these.
That’s where I’m going to stop on this subject. Needless to say, we have seen and experienced so much in just one short year. We are looking forward to what this next twelve months will bring us on our travels.
Hiccups or unsettling experiences
• Putting a hole in Betsy’s head. When hearing a crunch from a low hanging tree branch, it’s best to take a good look as there could be more damage than you think! Then when it rains there could be a water leak inside! Dhu!
• My Worst Fear Realised (you will need to click here to see what it was, as that’s all I am saying.)
• Ruth turning on her bike in front of a Tram in Amsterdam – don’t try this at home kids. Thankfully no damage done to Tram, Bike, or Person ☺
• Not knowing to turn the gas off when traveling on Ferries (why wasn’t this obvious and why were we not told by authorities that this is a requirement?). All sorted now.
• Scary roads in Italy – watch the video below
• Scary roads in Greece thanks to our GPS, Emily, who forgot how big we were and how narrow the roads could morph into.
Additions to Betsy
• Air suspension fitted in Greece to help smooth out the potholes around Greece and in Italy
• Omnia cooker – negated the need for an oven to be installed, saving us over €800
• USB/powerpoint in the living area has made the world of difference.
• Household Dyson Vacuum cleaner (don’t look at the price Alan, it will be worth it). This proved accurate when our stovetop glass exploded leaving splinters of glass splattered all through the kitchen, floor, sink, bench, and of course stove top. Grrr!
• Portable washing machine – the convenience of having this on tap has been priceless. Typically the cost of laundry is about €16-20 per time and it is often a hassle finding one that we can get to easily. It’s an equation between time and money. When travelling for an extended period of time we have time, however we don’t want the money to run out just yet and don’t want to spend half a day hunting for a laundromat. Therefore being able to do our laundry in our washing machine has been a godsend. We just need a water tap handy, a sunny day to power the solar panels and a place to hang out the washing line.
Best Buy Ever!
If you’ve read any of our other blogs it is possibly obvious, especially when we were in Turkey. Have you guessed it yet? Our best ever buy has been our electric bikes, by far. These allow us to park up where Betsy can fit then cycle in to see the sights or top up on groceries. We are particularly grateful for these in Paris, Belgium and Holland where the cycling infrastructure is fantastic.
Before starting our adventures, we read a few blogs about the costs of being in a motorhome. We wanted to get an idea of what we should expect to spend.
However, the reality is that everyone is different and they will adjust their spending to suit their available money, the type of travel they are doing and what is most important to them. Whether you are just on a holiday or full-timing in a moho also makes a difference.
You can live the life of Riley, drive thousands of kilometres, stay in flash camping grounds, eat out every day and visit every attraction known to man and you will spend a small fortune. At the other end of the spectrum, you can hole up in a free parking area for months on end and live on pasta and water and spend bugger all.
We sit somewhere in between, where we choose to spend our money on what is most important to us. We avoid camping grounds, toll roads, eating out and anything that feels overpriced. We spend gladly on quality experiences, diesel to get to cool places, quality groceries and things that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
We track ALL of our spending on an App called ‘Moneywise’ and review it regularly together. Luckily Alan is still working part-time while we travel which helps to keep us on the road longer.
When reading this you must remember that we live full time in our Betsy; we don’t have rent or mortgage payments to pay, or another vehicle at home, or any other typical costs of living, e.g. electricity, rates, water, etc. It also means that all our costs are lumped in here somewhere.
I’ve averaged the weekly costs into Euros (€’s) as follows. These are sorted by most to least expensive:
|Repairs & Maintenance||29.3|
|Transport, ferries, parking||18.82|
|Pharmacy and Medical||14.71|
|Books, tools, insurance||3.73|
Phew, that was a lot. If you want any further information, please feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We are happy to share our experiences with you.