How to have fun in Europe with a broken car

…welcome on a road trip with Llamateurs

Planning, planning, planning. That is where holiday usually starts. If you are not on Bahamas now -you do all planning, if not yet – you’ll definitely start in a second, if you’ve already started – you won’t finish soon. Therefore planning. This is a fairly common theme in Llamateurs’ life, but we must admit that we are strange creatures. On one hand, we plan everything, on the other we allow spontaneity to rule our lives… But hey, there must be balance! So, how did we come up with the idea of ​a holiday in car without a car, what was the plan and reality and is broken car on holiday really as bad as they describe?

It started with idea of ​​a friend. ‘Hey, there is a climbing festival in Italy in May. What about going there?’ Taking into consideration that neither Pawel nor me had stabilized position in work (Pawel worked for a few months, I started a new one), annual leaves were let’s say… questionable and generally we had a little mess in our lives, the only correct answer could be: YES , WHY NOT? Sometimes, the less stable the better.

We started preparations. Due to the fact that we started climbing quite recently and only on the climbing wall, we decided to have more recreational approach to the trip instead of setting sport goals. As soon as we made this decision we asked ourselves three fundamental questions:

  1. Are we taking a dog (at that time we had only Narcyz)?
  2. Are we driving or flying?
  3. Accommodation?

After a short brainstorming we got the answers:

  1. Yes
  2. Driving our own car
  3. We’re sleeping in the car. Wherever we’ll stop.

The only issue was that … we didn’t own a car. Of course there are a lot of options to solve this problem nowadays. You can ask a group of people going in the same direction and share the petrol costs, hitch-hike or completely change the plan and select a flight. However, due to Narcyz (we didn’t want to cause him unnecessary stress) we chose option to buy a car – we planned to do so anyway, but in following months… And it happened. After a few weeks we were proud owners of small mobile four walls, which soon showed their true face … But who cares, another adventure to our collection! 🙂

We started a trip. As the journey from couple of days (and eventually without a dog for various reasons) turned into twelve days, on our ‘must see’ list appeared a few destinations:

  1. Fontainebleau – a vast wooded area with hundreds of boulders and stones of different shapes, approx. 60 km on south from Paris. We decided to see how the area –main destination of all climbers – is like and spend few days there.
  2. Chamonix – Mont-Blanc. Well-known tourist destination in France with a view on Mont Blanc and Aiguille du Midi. We thought it is worth stopping here for a few hours and admire panorama if weather allows.
  3. Switzerland. Itself. We’ve never been to this country, and we knew that we would not have enough time for sightseeing, so we planned return route to enjoy the views from the car window.
  4. Melloblocco festival and Val Masino. A four-day bouldering festival (bouldering – type of climbing where climbers are close to the ground and ropes are not typically used) held in Northern Italy every year, bringing together crowds of boulderers from around the world. We wanted to go, feel the atmosphere and see what people are able to do on the rocks.

The first point turned out to be amazing. Journeys through the woods, climbing, enjoying the rocks, peace and quiet when you need it, socialization with people on the other side, exploring forest’s subdivisions (you have no idea how huge the forest is!). We will definitely go back there! Especially because it is quite close to UK where we are based. I would like to point that Fontainebleau is not only a climbing destination. This is the area which offers a lot for non-climbers too. There are really nice places to go, you can walk hundreds of paths, or even… end up on a ‘beach’. In the middle forest:

A few photos of us having fun:

Charged with positive energy we left the forest and heading Italy we visited Chamonix:

And after Chamonix … we stuck in traffic jam before Mont Blanc Tunnel for couple of hours. This is where our poor car for the first time began to gently rebel and show dissatisfaction to the fact it needs to go up and up in full sun … grunting, steaming and releasing not-really-pleasant smells. We stayed positive, making the old sponge near engine responsible for the smoke and smell and continued the journey to Italy. Along the way, car moaned a few times, but finally we managed to get to festival(smoke appeared only once, before Val Masino). Here we gave vehicle a rest for a few days, spending a nice time, mostly chilling:

Time to return came. We had 20 hours driving to go, but we took as a good sign the fact that car at least started. With this peace of mind we passed Switzerland (stopped in traffic jam for 3 hours before another tunnel), even relaxing and playing footbag on breaks:

Car said ‘no, I am not going further’ only halfway home. Actually it was us when we saw its condition and breathing problems. The only right decision was to go to mechanic, and then after consultation call for help. Eventually we decreased our budget for the cost of new pipe, which turned out to be broken, and luckily we got home!

To sum up, in spite of the car ‘accident’ trip was great. It rained only once, we spent time in both active and non-active way, met interesting people and returned enriched with new experiences. Car gave us the opportunity to visit many places in a short time and served as a house with a warm bed in the form of seats every day. As tired walkers we appreciated the warmth of car-home bonfire, oh yes! 🙂

Finally, a few tips for those who are going for a long road-trip in the near future. Remember that sometimes not everything goes according to plan, and car is only a thing that can break. And believe me that it is never a good time for it (we witnessed several incidents on this trip), so it is worth to prepare in advance, just in case:

  1. Make sure that you have emergency kit in your car (warning triangle, vests, fire extinguisher), if not – buy it. If you are planning a trip to more than one European country, check their individual requirements, for example here: tutaj. It also worth to read about stickers you apply on lights if you change the driving side and what sticker you need to apply near registration.
  2. Print, write down, carry a phone to the insurer or have an access to wi fi. In this way you save time and reduce the stress factor when the car breaks down in the middle of the road. We didn’t have wi fi access and we knew we would not have, so we printed all the information and had it the car at hand.
  3. Oh, your car is not insured? Hm… 🙂 (by the way European insurance is worth to consider as well)
  4. If, during the trip you feel that there is something wrong with the car stop at the nearest petrol station or garage (we knew that our car was really bad and we found nearest service on GPS). You can also pull over / stop in safe place to give a rest to the engine, but remember that it is your safety and you decide whether car is fit to continue driving.
  5. Do not think that the smoke of the mask is nothing. Most of the times it is SOMETHING. Believe us!
  6. If your car stopped in the middle of the road and said definitely ‘no’, remember about safety. Vest always first, then the warning triangle and then making phonecalls. Never panic.
  7. Always keep a charged mobile phone.
  8. If you predict a breakdown in France – learn French. Otherwise, sign language becomes your best friend 🙂 Fortunately, it works in every country. At times, even over the phone!
  9. And to avoid unnecessary stress just before leaving on a long trip service your car (surely it will reduce the likelihood of any accident).

That’s all from our side. Have you ever experienced an incident on the road? What did you do? Where are you planning another trip and how do you prepare for it? Let us know in the comments!

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