Mike has spent the past week researching what may have caused our gas flare from the cooker hob. It appears that somehow the gas tank has become contaminated. A motorhome engineer came out to have a look at the problem last week, he diagnosed the issue and advised that we should have a new tank fitted. So, that is what we are doing. Our hasty return from the Baltics has proved to have been justified as this is an very dangerous scenario! Mum is making great progress with her new knee.
It took us 3 nights to get here from Lithuania. One night at a TIR park in Poland and 2 separate Stellplatzes in Germany. A new motorway has opened running West of Warsaw to Germany and many of the TIR parks on the 'A' road running parallel had gone out of business.
We arrived at Lee and Lizzie's house when they were preparing to move house the next day. Only from one side of the camp to the other but we worked very hard helping.
Initially we thought we could get the gas fixed in Poland as they do a lot of autogas fittings there. However, the problem seems a bit more complicated with gas pressures, and living area sytems behaving erratically we decided it would be better to get the system looked at in the UK, in our own language. Germany was also a consideration for repairs but we're close and I was going back to see Mum after her knee operation. All round it has made sense for us both to go in the van.
Mum had her knee operation yesterday, all is well and we'll be back ready to help when she gets out of hospital.
We arrived at the Kaliningrad border at lunchtime. There were 18 cars parked ahead of us. 3 hours later 6 cars had gone through and a new queue of trucks and cars had formed to the right. At this rate the earliest we would cross would be 3am and we didn't know if the new queue made up of Russian vehicles would take presidence. An official give us a numbered ticket which we assumed would be to help stop queue barging. Mike has a chest infection and isn't feeling too good. Was Kallingrad worth visiting? Our list of considerations were fuel 50p a litre, Roubles to spend, double entry Russian Visa in hand, a cathedral or two, a Hitler bunker but we still had a potentially unsafe gas system. We turned round, I felt guilty, visiting this part of Russia within Europe was a point of the trip. However it was good to make a decision after so much deliberating and we were relieved to be free and not waiting for more bureaucracy
Mike very carefully tried the gas again this morning, just in case, and the fridge and hob were both fine. No problemo. This is bizarre. There must be some sort of issue with gas pressures. Unfortuantely we both realise that with this intermittent gas problem we need to get somewhere to get it fixed so we're not going to be staying at places too long.
Our first stop today was the Žemaitija National Park. Deep within the forest is the underground R-12U nuclear missile launching silo in the Plokštinė forest. The site has been turned into a museum. I thought it was brilliant. Just imagine, this place was still operating when I was a child, a nuclear warhead could be fired at Britain within minutes. I think you're supposed to get a guide but the girl at reception let us in on our own, giving it a more spooky feel. Anyway, it was a completely fascinating experience and the information was very well presented. It still had a heavy oil smell, giving it a real military feel.
For our meal we drove to Silute and went to the only restaurant in town that we could see. There was traditional Lithuanian food, Chinese and Italian. Our intention was to spend the remainder of our Lithuanian Currency as we would be heading in to Kallingrad, a part of Russia the next day. We had a delicious 2 course meal and 2 rounds of drinks for about £12.00. The food was delicious, service excellent and it was great to be eating out with the locals. And we still had change to spare.
After our meal we drove out to the coast and spent the night on a beach opposite the Curonian Spit. The area reminded me of the Norfolk Broads as there were waterways which looked like old peat workings. There were lots of boats and it was flat, however, unlike Norfolk, the roads were mainly tracks, not much asphalt.
There are some hot drinks machines at reception on the campsite and I went across to pay for our pitch and get change so we could have a coffee from the machine. The lad in reception was lovely and I chatted with him about his involvement in a folk dancing group and he showed me a poster on the door with him on it advertising an event. He had been dancing in the group since he was 6 years old. Having learnt some of the history yesterday I could understand why young people would want to keep their traditions alive. He boiled the kettle for us and I offered him cafetiere coffee. He accepted and we continued chatting as it brewed. A very terse woman came up to the desk and began checking over figures printed on a sheet of A4. Turns out she was in charge of the vending machines and coffee sales. OOPS. I hope the poor young lad didn't get into trouble.
Mike pulled in to a car park before we got to the repair centre which had a couple of motorhomes in it. The driver of one off them indicated that we should follow him. We did, but it felt strange. We went on to a housing estate and were being followed by another vehicle. Didn't seem much like a motorhome repair centre and Mike was getting a bit spooked. We parked in the front garden of what looked like a house with a large garage. The double gates were locked behind us. Very strange. Were they keeping us in or other people out? Anyway, a long, frustrating 3 hours ensued. They changed the regulator and we had to dump all our gas. They billed us over £120 for the pleasure which seemed very expensive. However, the gas was working! We could be independent and free again. First stop was the supermarket and we spent all our Latvian currency in Supermarket Sweep style. Lovely.
Our stop that night was in a church car park off the main road. We had been fantasizing about our hot meal. Mike fancied eggs and fried potatoes. I switched the fridge on and heard the roar of gas at high pressure. Mike tested the hob and a flame of gas shot out of the burner. Gutted. We had been done over by the motorhome version of cowboybuilders.com. Cold baked beans again for Mike, cheese and tomato sandwich for me.
We were up and on the road by 8am this morning as without gas there isn't the luxury of a hot drink to slow us down. Heading towards Latvia I was a bit sad to be leaving Estonia so quickly as it looked like a good country to spend some time in. However, getting the gas sorted has to be a priority.
Approximately 5 minutes into Latvia we were stopped by a police officer at the roadside. He wanted to check our passports, a relief as we haven't got a copy of our insurance with us. The policy has been renewed but we haven't had it sent to us yet. Our tax disc is out of date as well, again waiting to be posted to us from the UK. Luckily his main concern was that Mike was only wearing a T shirt and why wasn't he cold? Having just had over a month in Belarus and Russia, countries where we expect to have documents rigorously checked regularly. 5 minutes in Latvia, we had been pulled over! In the short drive to Riga we saw 2 more police cars checking people and a motorbike squad.
We found City Camping Riga and the guy at reception made an appointment for us to drive over to a motorhome repair specialist in the morning. Following lovely hot showers we walked over to the old town, on the other side of the bridge. Another very nicely restored town, with more of a buzz to it than Tallinn as there were more locals about.
We had a great day exploring the town including walking to the market, housed in old Zeppelin hangers. We also really liked the Art Nouveau buildings. The war museum was very informative but the rooms were a bit haphazard and not arranged in order. I have learnt so much war history on this trip and I keep thinking how fortunate we have been as an island nation. The people of these mainland countries have suffered so much over the course of history with wars, the despostic behaviour of their leaders during both the world wars and then the Soviet regime after that for the Eastern Bloc.
I couldn't find anything helpful on the internet searching for gas fitters, motorhome repairs or campsite suppliers. We were thinking we should either get a portable gas stove so at least we could have hot drinks and cook food, or get a new regulator. If we ended up with a stove we could do without a fridge by purchasing on the day or living off our food stores. The girl at reception said that we may get a portable gas stove in one of the supermarkets. As Tallinn is the capital we thought we may have more chance of getting repairs done so we headed there first. One girl in the supermarket spoke English and as they didn't have any stoves she directed us to Stockmann in Tallinn. On the way we saw an autogas fitter, Mike went in with our instruction manual. They couldn't help. Stockmann turned out to be like a John Lewis in the centre of town. I still went in, just in case and found gas barbeques, not camping stoves. As we left I saw a camping shop. Mike parked and went in. No again, this one was selling diving gear and hunting equipment. There was definitely a picture of a tent over the door. Next stop City Camping Tallinn. Not paying them 25 euros to park there over night. Gas or no gas. They gave us a sheet from a calendar with a picture of a motorhome on it. We drove over there. Shut. At least the 12v system was keeping the fridge cool as we drove around. Perhaps tourist information in Tallinn would be able to help? At least someone in there would speak english, or phone for us. By the time we arrived the office was shut. This was all getting a bit ridiculous. It's Saturday, in summer season there are 4 cruise ships docked outside and it had shut at 3pm. Undaunted by the fact that our game of hunt the gas stove or get the repair sorted just wasn't going to go anywhere today we decided to go site seeing around Tallinn.
We found the small very pretty old town. Very touristy, crammed full of restaurants and obviously catering for the cruise ships. It was impossible to choose anywhere to go and eat so we did a full walking tour. It was still early enough to drive out down the coast and find a campsite. As nightfall approached the only campsite I found had dreadful reviews so we found a secluded picnic area off the road. Cold baked beans out the tin for supper. The food in the fridge seemed ok, there wasn't a lot in there anyway.
I love travel, any type. There is always a buzz in finding & exploring a place for the first time, meeting and making new friends and if you return things are never quite the same.
Going away? Travel essentials from across Amazon
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