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TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

by Alan Gow  |  January 2019  | Reviews
If you are fortunate enough to have bought a motorhome with an inbuilt tyre pressure monitoring system then this review is unlikely to be of interest to you.

If however, you are one of the great majority of us who don’t, then reading this could save you a lot of money, and possibly a dangerous accident.

 

Why have a TPMS?

A TPMS constantly senses the pressure inside your tyres and alerts you to any changes which could be the result of air leaks.

This can allow you to pull over safely and change or repair your tyre before it blows out or deflates completely. If you carry a tyre inflator kit, you may be able to add some air and get to a tyre repair centre without having to have the wheel changed.

I had met several motorhomers who had experienced tyres blowing out at high speed.  Blow outs are often the result of slow leaks.  If the driver doesn’t notice and stop, the softening tyre gets hotter and hotter which decreases the strength of the side wall.  Eventually this just can’t take it any more and fails catastrophically.

Many motorhomes (including ours), don’t carry a spare wheel so any device that looks after your tyres and reduces the chance of blow outs or needing to call out your emergency repair provider has got to be worth considering right?

We also met a motorhomer whose tyre had been punctured by someone in a supermarket car park.  The perpetrator then followed them and flagged them down to ‘tell’ them about their flat tyre.  While they were ‘helping’, someone else slipped into the motorhome and helped themselves to some valuables.  A good TPMS would pick this up before you even leave the carpark.

Correctly inflated tyres use less fuel and incur less tyre wear so there is a direct cost saving for maintaining the optimum pressures.

I understand that some insurers offer discounts to motorists who have a TPMS system.  I haven’t investigated this but it makes sense because it can drastically reduce the chance of a serious accident.

Why did I choose TyrePal?

With no spare wheel, I have always felt vulnerable and with an extended trip to Morocco planned, I was looking for how to minimise our risks by being alerted early to any possible problems.  I put up a post on a Facebook technical site asking for recommendations and reviewed the responses.

Although there were much cheaper units than the TyrePal, they were set-up and calibrated for car tyres and reportedly gave a lot of false alarms at the higher pressures in camper tyres.  When it comes to safety, correct functioning is vital and in any case, these units are inexpensive especially when compared to a set of tyres, or the cost of an accident.  One poster recounted how his TyrePal had already saved him the cost of replacing a £160 tyre.

The TyrePal Solar is the appropriate current model and has the benefit of not needing to be plugged in or mounted on the windscreen.

Why did I buy this off Amazon?

I had the choice of buying direct off the TyrePal website or buying off Amazon, so why did I choose Amazon?

Firstly, although the item price was the same, there was no shipping cost with Amazon so it actually worked out cheaper.

Secondly, I was in a hurry to receive this and the Amazon shipping service and tracking system has always been first rate.  This was delivered within a couple of days.

If you click on the link in this review, you can buy it at the same price and a few pennies also come my way (if you think I am worth it).

First Impressions – in the box

The box is sturdy and quite plain and contains everything that you need, including the display panel with four sensors pre-labelled and coded for each of the four wheels.  Note that additional sensors are available in case you have a tag axle or caravan. Also in the box are the instructions, a semi-sticky dash mounting pad, a spanner for tightening the sensors onto the tyre valve stems, four batteries, a tool for opening and closing the sensors for battery installation/replacement, some spare O rings, dust covers, locking rings and a charger cable and 12V charger.

The sticky mounting pad is a great idea as this just sits anywhere reasonably flat on the dash and can be moved around (so you have room for your coffee).  It is way more convenient than having another suction mount on the windscreen or a permanent stuck on pad somewhere.

Everything looks good and fit for purpose.

Installation and Setup

I did this while we were parked by the beach in Valencia, Spain on a glorious winter’s day.

  1. Each of tlhe sensors needs to be unscrewed open, the batteries installed then retightened using the tool provided.

2. After removing the dust cap from the valve stem, and installed the dust cover and locking ring, the sensor is screwed on and tightened against the locking ring. In my case, the wheel trims didn’t have enough clearance due to the larger diameter of the sensor, but a little adjustment to the trims with a file resolved this.  A quick test with some soapy water and that part of the job was done.

3. By following the clear instructions in the book, you then setup the display unit with the units (psi or kPa) as well as the minimum and maximum pressure setting for the alarms.

That was pretty much it really.  I was a little concerned that no pressures came up on the display but that was because I needed to ’wake’ them up by driving around the car park.  The sensors are designed to conserve the battery by only turning on when you are driving.

4. Once the sensors were showing me the tyre pressures, I used my Fix and Go tyre repair compressor in ‘inflation’ mode to bring the tyres up to the exact correct pressure.

 

TyrePal TMPS on the semi-sticky mounting pad

The Verdict

I have now driven a few thousand km with the TyrePal and love the secure feeling that this gives me.  We haven’t had any alerts (real or false), and the displays shows exactly what I would expect to see.

It is interesting how much your tyre pressures change with outside temperature, direct sun and particularly with driving.  We would often check out tyre pressure after we had been driving for a while but that really isn’t good enough because pressure checks should be done on cold tyres.  Our pressures increase by nearly 10% when the tyres are fully warmed up and the ones on the sunny side by maybe more.  I am sure we did a lot of driving in the past with incorrectly inflated tyres, but no more. We have TyrePal.

The display is clear and easy to read.  The display unit can be lifted off the semi-sticky pad and put our of sight.

(Photo of unit)

For me, I am really happy that I invested in the TyrePal Solar TPMS.  Many of the gadgets we have bought were to make our lives easier, however this one makes our lives safer while potentially saving us ruining tyres.

I have no regrets and strongly recommend this unit.

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

by Alan Gow  |  December 2018  | Reviews

Do Not Buy a 950i Motorhome Generator if the Following Applies:

  • You typically stay at camping grounds with an EHU (Electrical Hook Up),
  • You have a solar panel and don’t go away in the winter,
  • You don’t have an inverter,
  • You have very low power needs,
  • You are really short of payload and/or storage space,
  • You like having the biggest and best of everything (and are happy paying for it).

However, if the following generally applies then this may be worth having on board:

  • You love the freedom of wildcamping,
  • You don’t like having to go camping grounds to charge your batteries,
  • You like to travel in the winter,
  • You don’t have solar or your solar panels sometimes can’t keep you charged,
  • You don’t like having to limit your power usage according to how much sun there is,
  • You don’t want to have to tell your wife she can’t charge her phone or her computer,
  • You can make some room on board for a small bit of extra kit

How We Ended Up With A Generator

Buying a generator wasn’t on our radar at all but we ended up with the 950i Motorhome Generator.

We have two solar panels and two leisure batteries and most of the time, this set up meets our needs for power.  We are however living full time in our moho and that means having to manage the short daylight hours and low powered sun that comes with a Northern Hemisphere winter.

Our first winter was spent in the Peloponnese region of Greece, and later down in Crete and while Facebook was full of tales of bad weather in Spain and Portugal, we bathed in fine weather nearly every day.  It was only occasionally that we had more than a couple of dull days in a row and with a bit of careful power management, we got through the winter without having to go to any campsites to recharge.  We were fortunate on quite a few occasions to find a free power hook up just when we were starting to get a little desperate.  Anyone who has travelled in that region in the winter would know that an open camping ground is about as rare as hen’s teeth.  Anyway, we managed and then as usual, our solar setup was great through the summer and early autumn.

On reaching Norway however in September the succession of dull days and the shortening daylight hours put us into new territory and we suddenly had to start visiting campsites, or somehow find an EHU to keep our batteries charged.  In addition to thinking about where to find fresh water and dump out the old stuff, we now had to think about where we would find power and it started costing us a lot of money.

By the time we arriving in Oslo in mid October, the sun had little power even on a good day.  We believed that replacing the batteries with AGM batteries would help as we suspected our batteries were not working effectively and AGM batteries can be discharged to a lower charge state without damage, compared to normal flooded batteries, which would have given us more days between charges.  We found some excellent Exide AGM’s at a great price however they would not fit into our battery compartment.  We then spied this wee generator, grabbed it and now enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that comes with being fully electrically independent. 

If you are thinking that you would only use this in Scandinavia then I can tell you that we also needed it down through Holland, Germany, and France – the winter sun was just too weak and days too short to keep our batteries charged.  On a dull day your solar panel output can easily be less than 10% of their rated power so a lack of power can affect you anywhere and any time.

About the 950i

The 800W 950i is about the cheapest generator on the market, weighs under 10kg and at 380L x 340H x 200W is small enough to fit into a small slot in your garage.  There is also a 1200W model but in my opinion, you don’t need the extra power in most cases and it costs more, weighs more and takes up more room – so why would you?

The petrol tank holds 2 litres which seems to be enough for at least 5 hours running so the cost of running this is almost nothing.  I just fill up the tank at the petrol station rather than carry around an extra fuel container.

There is a a normal household 230V outlet plus a 12V outlet so you can charge a battery directly using the connector cable supplied.  There are the normal overload protection devices and the specifications state that it is compatible with sensitive electronics – we have had computers plugged in with the genny on with no problems.  There is an economy mode which is what we normally run on and I presume this just reduces the power output and fuel consumption. 

 

First Impressions

The 950i is a tidy, compact bit of equipment which is nicely finished and looks like it will do the job.  Overall, we were impressed with the small size, the weight, the price and the appearance.

We know that these generators are rebranded under several different brands.  Ours is blue, the one available on Amazon UK is red.

 

Using the 950i

After filling up the crankcase with oil (these are shipped without oil), and topping up the fuel tank, there is a short starting sequence to follow.

1. turn on the fuel tap

2. open the air vent in the fuel cap

3. close the choke

4. turn on the engine switch

5. prime the fuel by pressing the bulb on the side

6. pull the starting handle

7. allow the genny to warm up for a couple of minutes before turning off the choke, and plugging your EHU lead into the 230V socket

That’s all you need to do and in practice it only takes a few seconds.  You can then use the 230V inside your moho as if you were plugged into a normal EHU and your batteries will be charging.

The genny nearly always starts on the second pull from cold but once warm it starts on the first pull.  It then runs smoothly with a noise level at 7m of 58dB. What does that mean in practice?  It is noticeable but not too obtrusive.  We think that it is fine but out of consideration, we do limit where and when we run it, and if we have neighbours we check with them and advise how long we will be charging for.

We were asked by one of our readers whether a woman would be able to move and start the genny. Ruth was easily able to lift it from the garage and her up so the answer to that was “Yes”.

We have had two electric bike batteries, two computers, two IPhones and two electric toothbrushes all charging off the genny, and the leisure batteries are still getting charged at the maximum rate our on-board charger can handle.  The 950i seems to have enough power for all of our needs. 

Recommendation

We obviously survived up until this last winter without having a generator and could still have managed by being extremely frugal with power usage and booking into camping grounds on a regular basis.  That didn’t suit us and since having the genny we have experienced a great sense of freedom and independence.  Cloudy wet forecast for the next few days – doesn’t affect us anymore.

Without direct experience of other units I can’t really make comparisons other than to say that most of the ones talked about on Facebook sites for motorhomers are much more expensive, have high outputs (2kW plus), are bigger, and are heavier (20kg plus).  Our genny may not be a ‘big name’ model but for something that is really just there for the odd occasion, why would you spend more and carry more?

So far, we have used the genny at least a dozen times, it has done everything we asked of it and we recommend it.

We have put a link up to Amazon  on this page if you want to buy one.  If you buy it after clicking through on our link, we will earn a small commission however the price to you is the same as if you found the page directly.  So if you found this review helpful and decide to buy one, then it would be great if you used the link on our website.

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews
Do Not Buy One of These if the Following Applies:

  • You only camp in the warm months of the year or,
  • You have external window blinds or,
  • You don’t have an inverter or,
  • You love wiping down your windows with paper towels or cloths or,
  • You prefer driving with windows you can’t see through.

The Story of our Past – Pre Karcher

Unfortunately for us, none of the above applied so I knew in my heart of hearts that a Karcher window vacuum would be ideal.  I saw them in shops in various countries, picked them up, fondled them lovingly, then placed them back on the shelves because in my mind I couldn’t quite justify the real estate they would occupy in our moho or the empty real estate they would leave in my wallet. The ones I saw were quite heavy in weight and price.

Can you relate to waking up in the morning and drying copious amounts of water off the inside of your windows, then maybe having to clean the windows because of the smears left behind?   Then, when it is time to drive off, the windows have fogged up so you either have to wipe them down again or leave the engine running for ages to demist them.

Well, I did this grudgingly through our first winter but after a few weeks of cold dewy Finland mornings, I wasn’t looking forward to another four months of the same.

Time for a Dry Change

When I spied the VV1 in a shop in Finland, I immediately noticed that it was smaller and lighter than other Karcher models I had seen.  It didn’t come with so many fittings or fancy accessories but let’s face it, all we want to do is dry the inside of the windows.  Anything else is just extra volume and weight.  The kit included a window washing bottle with a microfibre cleaning cloth so that was really all I would possibly need.  Even though we were in one of the notoriously expensive Scandinavian countries, the price was reasonable.  So after consultation with my better half, who encouraged me to go for it, the VV1 made it into our motorhome, ‘Betsy’.

Experiencing the Karcher VV1

When we arrived back to Betsy we found a nice spot where the vac tucked into without getting in the way but unfortunately the windows were dry so I couldn’t try it out.   I woke up very excited the next morning and eager to test my new toy (I know, how sad is that).  You can imagine my joy when I peeled off the window blinds and saw the glass literally dripping and running with water.

I immediately whipped out the new device and watched in amazement as it hoovered off the water, leaving the glass spotlessly clean. A few swipes across the windscreen and side windows and the water was gone.  The vac has a small water container which was now full and this is easily detached and emptied out. 

The VV1 charges up quickly from a 220/240 socket and the battery lasts at least a week of water slurping before needing a recharge so there is very little drain your batteries. The weight is just over 500 grams (not much more than a can of baked beans) so it doesn’t put a dent in your payload.

I really didn’t appreciate just how much I would use the window vac.  Often, after parking up for a little while and making some lunch or a cuppa, the windscreen has fogged up again.  Rather than having to wait for the demister to do its stuff, a quick whip across the glass with the vac and the windows are crystal clear again.  It also makes short work of condensation on the habitation windows.

Recommendation

Although we could obviously live without the Karcher, it has added to our enjoyment of life, decreased our workload, and made driving safer (with crystal clear windows).  It was relatively inexpensive, not too heavy and not too big so for us it ticks all of the boxes needed to justify a place in Betsy.  It gets a 4 out of 5 stars recommendation from me.

These cool devices are available from many home appliance shops or you can buy one off our Amazon page for the same price (how good is that?).

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews

When we ordered our motorhome Betsy, she was supposed to come fitted with a full gas oven.  However, when we picked her up we were told that there was a problem and it wasn’t possible to install one without significant alterations and cost.  As we love to cook, this was a serious blow, so we immediately started looking for alternatives. We first tried an appliance called a Remoska, which many motorhomers swear by and consists of a roasting pan plus the lid that contains an electric heating element.  While this was excellent for roast dinners and other baking, it had three main drawbacks for us.  Firstly it was big and heavy and took up a lot of room.  Secondly, it was quite power hungry and as we live off grid we have to be careful not to drain our batteries, which limited how much we could use the Remoska. Thirdly, it just stopped working after three months.  Although we got a refund, it wasn’t replaced. After further extensive research, we came across the Omnia – an ingenious device from Sweden which we would now hate to be without.  It is not until you actually have something like this that you realise all of the great food that you are missing out on just because you don’t have the means to cook it. We have been using our Omnia now since October 2017 and have put a lot of other motorhomers onto them.  We mention them on social media a lot and keep getting asked questions, so we decided to put up a review here on our website so everyone can understand what an Omnia is, how it works, and how it would benefit them.

What is an Omnia?

An Omnia is an appliance that you use on your gas or electric cooktop.  This allows you to cook most things that you would normally make in an oven, without actually having one.  The Omnia greatly expands the range of dishes you can cook in your motorhome or boat. There are three pieces to the standard Omnia, (plus two optional extra parts which I will talk about later). These are:

  • the round steel base,  which sits directly onto the gas ring or electric element
  • the aluminium ring-shaped baking pan, which sits on the base and you fill with the goodies to be cooked
  • the bright red lid

The whole device measures just 250mm in diameter, stands 140mm high and weighs in at a paltry 500 grams.  It comes packed in its own neat little bag to keep everything together and tidy. The optional parts are a silicon mould insert which means you don’t have to butter and flour the baking pan each time you use it, and it makes washing up soooo much easier, and a rack which sits inside the Omnia for certain types of baking.

How does the Omnia work?

The steel base sits directly on a gas ring, camp cooker or electric element (not induction though), with the baking pan, then the lid on top. The burner heats the air under the pan and in the top compartment, through the hole in the middle of the baking pan. There are small holes in the lid which let out excess steam. You simply butter and flour the baking pan (if you have the silicon mould then ignore this step and insert the mould straight into the pan).  You then fill the pan with your cake mix, lasagne ingredients, roast dinner ingredients, bread dough etc, pop it on the base, drop the lid into place and centre the whole assembly on your fired up gas ring or cooktop.  The gas is normally turned down close to the lowest setting and then the Omnia is left to do its magic.  Most dishes take the same time as they would in an oven. We had our Omnia for several months before finding somewhere we could buy the silicon mould (from the Jula store in Sweden), and after having used it with or without the mould, we thoroughly recommend the mould is purchased.  The only real pains with using the Omnia were buttering/flouring the baking pan then washing it afterwards, and the silicon mould does away with all that.

Homemade Breads, Cakes and Sweets

Freshly Made Bread

Hot Cross Buns

Omnia Apple Strudel Cake

Moist Orange or Lemon Cake

Chocolate Cake

Sticky Date Pudding

Savoury Dishes to Delight the Tastebuds

Tasty Authentic Lasagne

Sicilian Eggplant Involtini

Individual Quiches

Turkish Borecik

Tandoori Vegetable Filo

Italian Style Meatballs

Would an Omnia Benefit Me?

Well that’s a great question and thank you for asking it.

An Omnia is certainly a benefit for us and if I explain why, then you can decide whether your circumstances are close enough to ours that you would benefit as well.

1. We have no oven so without an Omnia we couldn’t cook cakes, roast dinners, bread, lasagne, scones, quiches, or any of the other beautiful dishes that have come out of our little Omnia.  If you have an oven then you probably don’t need an Omnia.

2. We are very rarely on an electrical hook up so we can’t easily use electrical appliances that consume a lot of electricity.

3. We actually like to cook ourselves and only eat out very occasionally.  If your preferences and budget suit eating out most nights, then you probably won’t use an Omnia often.

4. We wild camp a lot and generally setting up barbeques and Cadac style cookers outside is not permitted.  If you typically stay at campsites and possess these items you may have less use for an Omnia.

5. We really like eating good food and the Omnia makes spectacularly tasty tucker.  We are happy to make the effort to cook food that makes us happy.  If your camping tastes are satisfied by baked beans on toast and you can’t be bothered taking the time to put more than two ingredients together then again the Omnia may not be for you.

6. We are also sailors and recognise that an Omnia would be a great device to have on an oven-less yacht.

If you relate to our situation then you are probably getting just a little excited now and just want to know how you can get your hands on one of these life-changing tools.

But unfortunately (for us), we are not making money from this website or selling anything so we have no magic link we can share to let you buy one easily.  There doesn’t seem to be a current UK distributor however many of the camping shops in Europe have them in stock and there are a lot of authorised European online retailers who I am sure would ship to Great Britain and other European locations.  For an online retailer, we suggest you go onto the Omnia website resellers page.

We have seen Omnia and accessories for sale at many locations around Europe and the prices do vary.  The three-piece base unit ranges anywhere from €37.50 through to €60.  Then the silicon mould is priced at about €16 to €19.  The rack insert is another extra item, however, this isn’t something we use a lot and I wouldn’t really recommend this as being critical to your gastronomic success.  You can also buy a thermometer with a spike which passes through one of the holes in the lid to read the actual temperature.   We don’t have this so can’t comment on how well it works, however, we seem to do fine without it.

We have shared quite a few Omnia recipies on our Recipes page.  There is a great Facebook Omnia Users group which shares ideas, experiences and more recipes.

If you buy an Omnia, please let us know how you find it and share any great recipes you find or come up with.  We are always looking for new tasty stuff to try out.

Unexpectedly Awesome South-West Sweden

Unexpectedly Awesome South-West Sweden

by Alan Gow  |  July 2018  |  Sweden

We came to Sweden with no real expectations of what we would find here.  From our distant home in NZ, my preconceptions were of Volvos, snow, herrings and blondes.  However, we have been delighted to find a country rich in varied and beautiful landscapes, with friendly people and some really tasty food.  Oh, and yes, the blondes are here too.

Gothenburg

We arrived in Sweden at about 3.30am on the late night cheap ferry  (€113) from Frederikshavn in Denmark to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city.  A little lost sleep to save €120 in comparison to the daytime fares seemed a fair deal.  Now desperate for sleep we found a likely looking car park, pulled in, set the alarm and grabbed a few hours kip (with the cunning plan of leaving before the arrival of any overzealous parking wardens looking to get some early parking ticket runs on their board).

On rising way-too-few hours later, the first order of business was to fill our depleted LPG tanks.  For such a large country, Sweden doesn’t have a lot of LPG filling stations but luckily myLPG.eu directed us to the only one near Gothenburg which was just 4km away.

After securing our gas supply for the next month or so we decided to head out of Gothenburg as we were already a bit tired of the big city feel and too sleep deprived to feel up to cycling into the centre.  This, however, presented another hurdle as Gothenburg has an unusual congestion zone which pings you even when bypassing the centre on the motorway.  Ultimately this meant we needed to detour about 45km to avoid getting snapped by the cameras.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to pay the fee but more that because the fee demands get sent to the registered address of the vehicle we were not confident that would find its way to us in time to avoid us getting a 250 SEK (about €25) late or non payment fine.  After reading up on the zone and confirming our concerns with some Swedish motorhomers, we took the safe, albeit long route around and out of the city.

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Bohus Fortress

The roads were good, the traffic light and the driving easy.  The Swedish countryside was quite scenic with more ups and downs than Denmark but no particularly big hills.  As we approached the town of Kunglav we spied an impressive looking castle up on a hill and being in no real rush, we decided to turn off and investigate.

Bohus Fortress from the Road

Festung Bohus (Bohus Fortress), was built from 1308 and has a particular claim to fame.  It was besieged on 14 separate occasions but was never captured.  There has been a lot of restoration work carried out recently.  Much of this was made necessary because after it was no longer of military value, from 1786, the locals were encouraged to take the stones to build houses and gardens and the fortress was allowed to fall into ruins.

We had a glorious warm and sunny day for our visit and because we arrived just an hour before closing we were allowed to pay the student rate rather than the full adult entry cost €11.55 – a savings of 80 SEK, very nice.

We entered the fortress through the large doors of the ‘Blockhouse Gate’ – doors which were locked when we tried to leave the complex just a little after closing time.  The path led us past the Commandant’s quarters and into the courtyard where there were some people playing old instruments and there was an opportunity to have a go at some archery.  My old skills quickly returned and I managed to place some arrows in the black, impressing the young girl in charge (at least I reckon she was impressed).  Ruth marched up for her first ever go at shooting a bow and arrow and also managed to hit the black after a few pointers from the hired help.

The Entry Gate Locked – Whoops

Robin Hood Ruth in Action

Climbing up a steep path to the top of the fortifications, we were treated to fantastic views over the surrounding waters and countryside.  Bohus was strategically built on an island on the fork of the Nodre and Gota rivers which made it an ideal defensive position.

View from Bohus Fortress

The ‘Red Tower’ is where the fortress was saved from being captured when one of the defenders blew up the tower, himself and several hundred attacking Swedes with explosive charges in 1566.  The Swedes reportedly “flew into the air like crows”.

The ‘Fars Hatt’ tower contains a dungeon which is a 6m deep pit, where no natural light penetrated and into which prisoners were lowered.  Can you imagine being left there for years in the total blackness?  On the next level up were some medieval suits of armour including some pieces we could try on ourselves.  With just a breastplate and shoulder/upper arm protection on I already felt weighed down and with the addition of a heavy helmet you could start to appreciate how strong the knights and soldiers of the time must have been.

Alan in Armour

Fars Hatt Dungeon – 6m deep black hole

We lost track of time as we took our own journey back through the history of this remarkable place and before we knew it, closing time was upon us.  We chose to head back walking around the outside of the main walls however by the time we got back to the Blockhouse Gate, the doors were closed and locked.  There was another exit door however that also appeared to be locked shut.  A few choice words were said and we shared our predicament with another couple who sauntered down the path even later than us.  Just as we were starting to get a little concerned, one of the staff came down the path and demonstrated that the exit door just needed a really hard tug to get it open.  Phew!

Festung Bohus was the first attraction we have visited in Sweden and was a nice introduction to what we will be enjoying over the next month.

That night we stayed in a quiet car park near the beach on the island of Tjorn.  It was so nice and quiet in fact, that we stayed two nights.  The local blackberry bushes were prolific enough to provide enough blackberries for apple and blackberry crumble made in our Omnia cooker – yum. We nearly went for a swim but the wind picked up and put us off (we must be getting soft in our old age).

Our free parking spot: 57.98369, 11.68679

Tjorn Island Evening

The next night we spent tucked into a comfortable Rastplats (Restplace) with a stunning view overlooking the sea, parking areas designated for motorhomes and with a toilet block.  This was our first experience of what appears to be a standard Swedish design of toilet blocks sited on the public rest areas, where there is a separate room at the back setup for emptying and washing your toilet cassette.  We found a lot of these along the main roads and I was very excited to see them.  Isn’t it interesting what becomes important to you when you are wild camping in a motorhome?  Convenient places to empty the loo or fill up with fresh water are godsend to folk like us.  This is another example of how motorhome friendly these Scandinavian countries are.  The reality is that there are going to be thousands of motorhomes travelling the countryside so it makes sense to have facilities to deal with the waste they produce.

Our free parking spot 58.262700 , 11.680155

View from Restplats near Henan

Toilet Cassette Empying Point – Swedish Style

Bovallstrand

I should rewind here and explain how we ended up being in this small part of coastal Sweden.

Back in last January as we were whiling away the winter in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, and we found ourselves parked up on a pier in the small town of Pilos with about four other motorhomes.  This was a novel experience for us, as motorhomes in Greece in the winter were rare and we could go for days without seeing another.  We all introduced ourselves, then went out for dinner that night, which was followed by a potluck shared dinner the next night.  We made our famous Mediterranean stuffed squid which went down a treat with the others.  Haken and Helena are a retired Swedish couple with a gorgeous wee dog Louise – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle.  They had a photo on the back of their camper of the blue seas and islands around their hometown of Bovallstrand which looked nothing like what our naïve conceptions of Sweden could conjure up.  That evening a tremendous storm hit Pylos and their motorhome, in particular, was hit with massive volumes of spray through the night.  The story of that storm is told in this blog. As often happens when you are on the road, they invited us to come and stay when we made it up their way.

The great time we had with Haken and Helena on their home turf just reinforces how important it is for us to connect with our fellow travelers whenever possible because it can lead to the most enriching experiences.

Anyway, fast forward about six months and there we were, rolling into Bovallstrand, following Emily’s (our GPS) directions to their house.

Bovallstrand is a small seaside settlement with a population that winds down to under 800 in the winter and swells to over 5,000 in the summer.  Smorgen, one of Sweden’s most popular seaside resorts, is just a few kilometres down the coast.  Heading further north to Norway is a procession of historic fishing villages now reliant on the summer holiday trade for their prosperity.  We all visited Hamburgsund, Fjallbacka and Grebbestad which all were bustling and attractive with uniformly traditional building designs and colours.

Sweden is having the best (for tourists, not farmers), summer for 250 years and the seaside is swarming with locals and visitors enjoying the warm days and reasonably warm waters.

Bovallstrand Harbour

Bovallstrand Sunset

Smorgen Harbour

Smorgen

Granite

If there was one word that comes to mind about the region, that would be the word ‘Granite’.  Granite is everywhere.  From around Bovallstrand, the famous red granite was shipped around the world to decorate the finest buildings, such as the Empire State Building.  Houses, wharves and other buildings seem to be perched on top of the immovable granite worn smooth from thousands of years of being ground down by the massive glaciers which once covered this land.  Deep cuts worn into the granite now form natural habours which offer protection to the many boats hidden away here.  Granite is used everywhere – for house foundations, piles and columns, as fence posts, and to support wharves.  Although the peak time of the stone cutters has long gone, the evidence of their activity remains in the vast piles of waste stone and the drill marks left in the surviving bedrock.

There is a fantastic local art collective which makes sculptures out of the granite.  The skill and imagination of the artists was immense and there was something almost sensual about feeling the soft, yet hard, polished granite.

Sculpture at the Collective

Meeting the Granite Sculpturer, Linda

The waters around here once supported a massive fishing industry built on the seemingly endless stocks of herring (sil).  The vast fish stocks were depleted by the late 1800’s and now there is only a scant handful of boats operating out of these harbours.  Our hosts generously procured fresh prawns and langoustine straight off the prawn boat for us and we had a feast fit for a king that night with the seafood served on fresh bread with homemade dill and garlic aioli.  We were also served up a range of pickled herrings which to the surprise of both us, and Haken and Helena, we really enjoyed. The herring flesh was firm to the bite but was not fishy at all and the flavour went really nicely with the various herbs and spices that went into the pickling liquid.

Haken Purchasing Fresh Prawns straight from the Boat

A Feast of Prawns and Langoustine

Haken and Helena took us out on their small runabout where we secured the rope to the shore by hammering a wedge into a crack in the rock.  We had a relaxing Bovallstrand style afternoon swimming, eating and exploring.

Traditional Style Boat

Unique Granite and Flora on the Islands

Ancient Vastergotland

Bovallstrand and the neighbouring towns are in the Vastergotland region of western Sweden which has a record of continuous occupation for thousands of years.  Numerous archaeological sites tell the stories of the Bronze Age farmers around 2000 to 500 BC through to the marauding Vikings from 1000 AD.

One of the benefits of having local tour guides is being taken to places that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise known about.  One of these was the rock carvings and museum at Vitlycke.  There are a staggering number of these images engraved into the granite dated from 1000 BC through to 1 AD showing a vast array of scenes and shapes of ships, people, battles, hunting, gods, animals and so on.  For example, there are over 10,000 images of boats or ships recorded in the greater area.  The Vitlycke Rock Carvings, however, are the most famous collection in the area and the free museum of the ancient culture and carvings gives an in-depth insight into the people who inhabited this land.  They really ‘do’ museums well in Sweden with lots of interactive displays and learning opportunities for adults and children.

While most of the world is worried about rising sea levels, Sweden has the opposite thing going on. The whole country is actually rising by about 1cm a year.  Most of the sites for the rock carvings were coastal when they were first cut into the granite but the land has risen about 25m since then and the sea is now many kilometres away.  This is due to the country being pushed down by the weight of the ice during the ice age about 15,000 years ago, and now, like a rubber mattress which has been compressed, it is slowly springing back to its original shape.  This means that some of the ports are facing expensive dredging operations if they want to stay in business.

The ancient church of Svenneby Gamla in Hambergsund (GPS 58.499662, 11.324094) , which dates back to around 1000 AD is well worth a visit and is open most days.  Of particular interest are the racks where the parishioners were supposed to hang up their weapons before entering the main church and the beautifully restored paintings on the wooden roof.

Svenneby Gamla Church

Wooden Ceiling Paintings

We spent our last evening in the area in the town of Fjallbacka wandering the streets of historic buildings, enjoying an ice cream and live music down on the foreshore then finding a flat safe area set aside for motorhome and bus parking just on the outskirts of town.

Rain was forecast for the next day and we were heading inland.  The coastal region of Western Sweden is certainly worth a visit (especially in the summer).

If you are a wildcamping motorhomer like us,  you sometimes have to look around to find free camping spots around the tourist hotspots in the high season but they are there if you look hard enough and take advantage of the on-line Apps available.  The main one we use is Park4Night which has built up a massive database through user contributions.  We always try to do our bit for the rest of the motorhoming community by adding new sites and relevant reviews.

Our free parking spot 58.262700 , 11.680155.

It is also important as full time motorhomers to talk with other people who obviously enjoy this lifestyle.  We want to say a massive thanks to Helena and Haken for their incredible generosity, opening their home to us, being wonderful tour guides, and providing the most delicious food for us to sample.  We look forward to returning the hospitality in the future.