Finally, we are on the road! Not without the usual list of issues and problems to solve but it really feels good to be on the move under our own steam.
I guess to put this into perspective, we have had 3 nights in the car… not a really great achievement but all great things start with little things and I am seeing this from where we have had to come from rather than where we are going. So where have we come from lately?
We moved out of the holiday park in North Wales from what felt like a month long stay… It wasn’t far off it, 2 weeks at Pontins Prestatyn Sands is a long time. If you ever feel like really knowing how our two weeks was, spend a little time reading the reviews left by other holiday makers on Trip Adviser. I am mixed about our decision to NOT read them before we booked. Had we read them we may not have booked and would have then been up for at least another 300 pounds of cost to stay anywhere else. We would have also missed experiencing a lot of new things, Pub Bingo comes to mind..
We finally received delivery of the car when Michelle got the cash from New Zealand. We think it went through a dozen banks somehow. It left our account straight away but took 4 further business days to reach her in Wales. Maybe the GCSB were looking at it? We then had the car! Straight away we sent it off to Phill at APB Trading. His business services Land Rover and Range Rover 4x4 cars and prepares them for overland trips like the one we are undertaking. We are not too sure exactly what he thought about having a Toyota in his workshop. He remained professional throughout and was happy that our money was the same as the stuff that came from the pockets of the Land Rover drivers. As we didn’t know when we would be receiving the car, neither did he. We were happy that he really did make an effort to complete all the work in less than 1 week and I think he picked up some tools himself to make sure the job was done quickly.
While the work was being done at APB, we moved to Birmingham. It’s closer to Phills workshop (and was the cheapest we could find.) It ended up being great accommodation. Room 8A at Manu’s Hostel. Simple but the room was close to the shared toilet and shower and the hostel has its own cat! Cool, a cat! I guess from that point it could have been a bed amongst a pile of rubble for all I cared. I did my usual thing and met the neighbors who were great people so the time passed quickly and we had a little fun as well, thanks Hayden. Birmingham also had all the ‘big box’ stores that we needed to fit out the car with useful things so before long we were ready to hit the road.
Our first stop was Stonehenge. It wasn’t too far from where we had been staying. When we arrived, we took the cheap option and walked down the road to see the stones from the poor man’s barricade. It’s the one 10 feet back from the 18 pounds each bussed in people’s barricade. You cannot get too close to them now days. It’s a far cry from when they used to use them for target practice in the 1930’s. Perhaps the best view of the stones was from the car heading to the site… One day they will work out what they are for. We think that they may have been erected by a wealthy person as a folly or a show of wealth! They don’t actually have to mean anything though, do they?
At the Adventure and Overland show when we were looking at roof tents, we wondered into a few campsites to look at peoples ‘setup’. One of the people we bumped into was Pete West who has a Land Rover all set up with the tent we wanted installed the way we wanted to have ours done. I just walked up and started to measure the tent and we started chatting. Well, it ends up Pete has a farm not far from Oxford and has taken in travelers like us in the past, so our very first night in the car on this trip was at his place near Oxford. We met at Wantage Market Place and had dinner at the lovely town square then headed to the farm. We had practiced putting the tent up, twice, so we managed to do it in under 10 minutes… The first night was excellent! We were warm even though it was very cold outside, we were comfortable and we slept really well… IT WORKS!! The next morning, we put on all the annex sides and rolled out the awning just to see it all set up. To have the first night at Pete’s place was something special.
So, why are we hanging around here then? We said good bye to the UK by spending the day in London. We did a park and ride and went into the city via the tube and did a double decker bus tour. Not normally our style, bus tours, but his one wasn’t too bad. All they did was drive around and around the city adding to the already mega congested streets but we got to see most of the sights. We also did a great river tour (well, 30 minutes floating down the Thames) as well. That night we slept next to the M4 again not too far from Dover and the Channel Tunnel. Do they call it the Chunnel still? We paid extra for the tunnel experience just so we could say we’ve done it. (I am glad the car went through facing the right way!) That same day we drove all the way to The Netherlands and spent the night in a small caravan park. We are now staying at Vanessa’s place in Amsterdam for a week while I finish off a few small additions to the car. Its nice to relax but we are both looking forward to the first trip we will make, Sweden to see the northern lights.
We sailed back from the wonderful Shetland to reality and mainland UK again. It was another smooth trip on the boat. We stayed up on deck for the trip out of Lerwick harbor. It was great and reinforced to us that it is a small island and community. The old part of town is a picture postcard medieval town and it still seems unreal that this is where my heritage lies.
We picked up a rental car and headed directly to Stratford upon Avon where we were to attend the Adventure and Overland show. We stayed right at the show grounds in our tent with a load of other adventurers and unlike most of them, we just slept in our tent, not our overland prepared vehicle! The best part of the show was looking at other people’s complete set ups. The exhibitors sadly were not too much help. Most of them had never travelled outside of the UK and when we asked them how the product would perform the best they could offer was about the last trip to the Scottish Highlands. But the crew from Overland Sphere who we were staying with offered some excellent advice and product info so from that respect the show was a winner. One of the worst aspects of the show… only 3 Toyota Hiluxes were at the show! It was all ‘Landies’.
We did meet up with the most helpful exhibitor from the show, Phil Bond who has APB Trading. They, like everyone at the show, specialise in Land Rover modification but thankfully will do modifications to any vehicle. We looked and looked and looked. We kept heading back to his display for chats. He offers all the products we needed so armed with his details we packed up and headed to a hotel to decide on the vehicle. We booked into a Days Inn via hotels.com then headed to the location on the map. It was next to the town of Chester. We had a nice surprise to discover that Chester is an amazing town that is full of history from the Roman times, and a nasty surprise that the hotel is located in a ‘service centre’ with the M6 motorway on one side and a compost making plant on the other! Although our room was not on the motorway side, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and for the first couple of days we had the smell of compost wafting into the place! Man that stuff smells really, really bad! The hotel had no air con, only heating, so on the warmer days we had to leave the place and drive around to stay cool… But that’s why we were there anyway, to drive around and look for a car. A Toyota Hilux, 4x4 double cab diesel to be exact. We used eBay to narrow down the selection. Most of the car dealers use eBay to advertise their vehicles which made things somewhat easy to browse a specific selection. We found a few, and went for a few drives, then found one and was ignored by the dealer, so ended up finding a better one and just like that, we have a car!
Buying a car in the UK is not difficult. Buying it correctly for export is. The VAT tax system over here is complicated and the vehicle we bought is classed as a commercial vehicle so subject to VAT. What that means is the previous owner had not paid VAT on the vehicle, and because of that, it’s still owing on it. If the first owner had been a private owner, paid VAT at the time of purchase, it would all be over and we could have bought it including (or exempt of) VAT. It’s like buying a new car in New Zealand for company use and getting a GST refund which is normal, but when you sell it, the exemption status stays with the vehicle, not the company. So the Hilux we bought had not had VAT paid, so it was up to us to sort the VAT side out. No problem when you export the vehicle from the UK though. So all of a sudden we are UK VAT tax experts. This VAT refund will apply to all the major items we put on the vehicle as well, so it’s well worth it for us and will amount to a refund of over $6,000NZD as VAT is 20% here!
The car we found was in Wales! You don’t really know you’re in Wales, it’s not like they have a border crossing or anything but you sure know you’re in Wales. The road signs are in English and Welsh. It’s a strange looking language and most of the words look nothing like the English ones at all. Michelle from Mavic Commercial Vehicle Solutions was very helpful (and spoke English) and we were able to wrap the deal up really fast. We had looked at a few Toyotas and knew what we wanted though. We paid the deposit and sent the rest of the money from the New Zealand account. We are now waiting for the VAT refund status to be approved by the tax department before we can take delivery.
We needed a place to stay nearby in Wales, and where better than by the seaside! We also needed somewhere very cheap. We found the absolute cheapest place and booked again via hotels.com. THEN we read the reviews on TripAdvisor and tried madly to cancel the booking. We could but we would lose the entire cost of the accommodation! Oh well… so off we went to Pontins, Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park in Prestatyn, Wales. Check in time was 4pm and we got into the queue that was about 50 deep and growing every minute! WTF?? We had managed to book our stay to coincide with the national Morris Dancing championships for 2016. One might imagine that staying with 500+ Morris dancers would be a nice thing. Lots of pretty girls and ladies prancing around, singing and dancing? Well it wasn’t too bad but let me tell you these ladies know how to party and party right into the night they did. The holiday park really did cater for this as well. I have never seen a place like it either. The camp has its own Olympic size pool, a full size English pub with restaurant, 2 large halls with full bar service, a very large arcade next to it with coin games and casino machines all in the same place (yes that’s right, we were playing slots with a 10 year old girl right on the next machine..!!!) a go-cart track and it goes on and on. Each night they would have very boozy functions, and what to do with your kids when the function is on?? Well, have them in the pub with you of course! Give them a few pounds and tell them to play the slots? Wow, it was a real eye opener for us. We managed to witness brawls, drunken people all over the place, very young ‘ladies’ done up to the 9s and more. Sadly, all the dancing was done behind closed doors in the halls so we missed the fun! On the last night they all started to drift back to the rooms at 1am and it was screaming kids (and adults) until 2 or 3am… We managed a sleep in the next morning as they were very slow to rise! Morris Dancing eh.. Who would have thought? North Wales is really a big surprise. It’s a holiday destination because of the coast, but the coast also offered a lot of opportunities for early settlement so it has a lot of history to look at as well. We are actually enjoying the time here that we have been forced to have and although it’s been a cheap place to stay, we are richer from the experience. The day trips have been great and we have seen some amazing places that we will forever remember. Thanks Wales!
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!