for piccies see: www.eastmidlandsdea.co.ukA Motorhomer’s Lament
Having travelled full time for over 3 years and camped at over 135 sites in a dozen countries, we are no longer deterred, or really that surprised, when we turn up at an entrance and let out the usual collective groan.
‘Oh dear! Not another dodgy access!’
I appreciate that many campsites were designed and laid out in the 60s and catered for small caravans which could comfortable fit into a supermarket parking space. There were no overhanging tree branches, as most site owners had just planted new stock and young saplings were not an issue. Seeds had not yet dropped into the middle of pitches where they took root and sprang up to cause ridiculous obstructions. Lighting posts were a thing of the distant future, so weekend travellers could pitch up, move freely along the narrow campsite paths and slide easily onto their pitches.
However, things HAVE changed! Dramatically!
With the rapid growth in Motor Caravanning in the past decade, it is now not unusual for a Motorhome to be over 8 metres long, 3 metres high and almost 3 metres wide. Add a ‘Toad’ or a motorcycle rack or a top box and the entire outfit can be 12 metres long with relatively large turning circles. I will agree that the problem with access is mainly a European one, but many campsites in the UK are guilty of not ‘keeping up with the times’.
Only this week we drove up to a site on the Costa Del Sol, and even though we had done our research thoroughly – looked on Google Earth, read all our campsite guides and double checked the internet – the sight that met us caused our hearts to sink.
A really narrow access with a barrier which, when approached, leaves the rear end dangling out into the road. And then – a sign in 10 pt at the barrier which says: ‘Park outside till you’ve checked in’. Not the best place for that! Anyway, the girl rushes out from reception and says: ‘Go find yourself a pitch and report back for check-in’. No map – so no idea where we are going and since we tow – it's quite important not to get stuck down a blind alley or have to do a 180 degree turn or go up a really steep slope.
She lifts the barrier and we just hope she’s noticed the Smart Car on the back and doesn’t lower it again as we creep through along semi-tarmacked paths, which have about 3 inches to spare on either side, and vicious drops into gullies alongside the dusty and ‘not even remotely’ level pitches. That's not to mention the giant ‘sleeping policemen’ which scrape the sump as we crawl over each one at 2 yard intervals!
Then it's a cry of: ‘look out for that branch!’ Brakes slammed on as dangling tree branch scratches along the roof. In addition, there are now 2 other vehicles in the queue behind us with no way around.
‘You better get out and walk ahead to see if there is anything without a 12 inch drop onto the pitch’, I wail! Now there are 4 cars behind us. I peer into the gloom of a dingly dell, seeing the odd parked motorhome and only miniscule pitches which would barely suit a Eriba let alone our Autotrail Dakota!
So my scout sets off at a jogging pace as our traffic queue starts to get impatient and the odd horn is honked! I just sit and wait as there is no way I'm driving into the unknown – it's hard enough staying on this track going forwards let alone in reverse!
In due course, Chingachook appears out of the mist, arms flailing and out of breath – lucky she does keep fit classes – signalling that it's a nightmare of low branches, tiny pitches and kerbs from hell up ahead.
‘I think we’d be OK on this one here,’ she pants.
By this time cars are driving through pitches to circumnavigate our behemoth, so I jump out to survey the site in question.
It seems good enough and quite frankly I'd prefer the known to what may or may not be ahead. So I shrug my shoulders in a way I’ve learned from my Spanish hosts, and indicate to the line of cars that we may be some time sorting ourselves out! No shred of sympathy is shown by my fellow campers as they attempt to reverse away from the blockage. Also, you may note, no offers of assistance!
So, I brief my exhausted partner in crime as to the method of pitch entry and unhook the trailer, which we slide onto the pitch. Luckily, it's slightly downhill which doesn’t bode well for getting out in 3 days’ time! We then do a sight survey working out where the sun might be, which is tricky through a canopy of overgrown Eucalyptus and Avocado trees! Anyway, sun-shot done, we decide to back the 'van into the pitch, which of course involves asking our, by now seething, car drivers to back up as well. Because the road is so narrow and trees/lampposts edge the verge it takes a 57-point turn to get the 'van into the slot and then it has to be levelled. That's a job in itself as the pitch is like a ski slope! We do the best we can but resign ourselves to the fact that we will be hunched up against the back wall in bed due to the pull of gravity.:Eek!:
Really should get the leccie plugged in but of course, we haven’t checked in formerly yet, so proceed to the reception where one girl is now dealing with a queue of a dozen people! My white wine is getting warm! But there is no point in complaining as it will change nothing, so we go back to the 'van and try to connect up anyway. The electricity point is locked of course, so we get on with a few other jobs before returning to check in.
‘I’ll do a quick recce of the facilities,’ says the scout and heads off, whilst I get Smartie off the trailer. It would take a contortionist to get 'van, car, trailer and a couple of chairs onto the pitch but after much juggling I squeeze it all in – with just the hitch on the trailer sticking out into the road – which I alert passing traffic to by way of an orange bucket rammed on the end. It's not my car that will get damaged! 5 minutes later a Spanish caravan turns up, positions it on the pitch opposite and promptly parks his car on the NEXT pitch! Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!:shout:
She returns from her mission revealing that she cannot find the drinking water point, one of the 2 toilet blocks is closed – the nearest to us of course – and there is only one shower – and someone has nicked the head! There’s no paper in the loos and not a chemical toilet to be found. So it's back to reception to check in and the queue has dissipated and only 50 minutes later we are plugged in. Had to wait for a German chap to return the only plastic key to reception first. The fridge has now semi-defrosted and the 3 amp leccie blows every time we turn on a light. No microwave for us then to heat up lunch!
Anyway, half an hour later we are sitting by the 'van with a sandwich when I remember about the free Wi-Fi advertised in reception, so I try out the computer and lo and behold – we are just 10 yards too far away to get it in the 'van. So we have to drag the computer down to the Wi-Fi area by the shops and try to log on whilst potential Spanish Ronaldos are smashing their footballs against my chair. Deep, deep joy!
Think I’ll go for a shower now, as I'm a bit hummy after the arrival fiasco. So, I walk the 3 miles to the far end of the camp and guess what….the cleaner is on duty. No dice! So I traipse back, getting sweatier as I go.
Well, I’ll just relax a bit and do a crossword before a nap…….oh no I won't! Out come the little darlings with their footballs and bikes and start swarming around our 'van like locusts. Not round their 'van, mind you, as their parents have told them to scoot as they want a bit of peace and quiet for a siesta!
It appears that the toilet cassette needs emptying so I set off in search of the mysterious hidden drain location. I ask campers and staff whilst humping a 25kg cassette around the site – but no joy – until some helpful fellow says : ‘Oh, you know that little grey pipe on your pitch – it's for emptying your cassette’.
‘What?’ I explode – it's only 1 inch in diameter and points horizontally out of a concrete slab and is only 3 inches off the ground. There is no way in a million years that I can empty my doings into that without fouling the entire area!’
‘Get a pipe, mate’, come the cheery and really helpful reply, as he slinks off to the bar.
Never mind, I think, I could be up to my knees in snow in Blighty, so I should thank my lucky stars. And what else have I got to do?
By this time the cones and drippy, sticky stuff have started dropping off the pine tree above us and it's literally raining ‘goo’. €10,000 it cost our Danish friends to repair the damage done by this stuff last year. Of course, all Spanish pine trees are protected by law and if you so much as look tetchily at one, the tree police are on you in a flash. It's not as if there aren't about 650 billion trillion of the things in Spain anyway. Why can’t they clear just a few from camp sites? It would also save the Processionary Caterpillar attacks we have to endure every January and February!
‘Right, dear, think we’ll have a Barbie tonight. Been a while’. So I get all the grub ready and set up the BBQ. It's gets lit and within 5 nanoseconds an extremely irate tugger lady runs up screaming that her caravan – 30 metres away - is in danger of imminent conflagration. I politely ignore her until a fellow camper nods his head sagely and confirms that charcoal BBQs are strictly ‘verboten’. So, I pour the remains of my beer on the flames and tell the cook to open a tin of bully beef. No choice, as the shop on camp is shut and the restaurant is closed for repairs!
So later, around 11pm, we are sitting around outside, chewing the fat and up drives a French 'van and proceeds to park in the slot next to us. There are dozens of other slots free, but no, it has to be this one. And is he close?…..quite! And so much for the rule in big letters on the gate stating that no entry to the campsite is permitted after 8pm. I bet they'd turn ME away! Of course, then the dogs from the local kennels start their nightlong howling….bliss!
Never mind, tomorrow is another day and I can top up the water stocks. Or can I. Try getting a 25L container under this baby! And especially at the rate the water drips out at!
Well, it's time to go, so we load up the car onto the trailer and tie it down. I do yet another site survey to discover an exit strategy and decide to move the trailer onto another pitch, temporarily, so that I can actually create the space to be able to hook it on! So after a delayed shower, yes it was closed for cleaning, and stashing all of our kit, off I go to pay the bill. However, the German still has the only key to the leccy box, so we won't be going just yet. The receptionist then reveals that they don’t take ‘cards’, so it's another walk back to the 'van to get cash. On my return she asks cheerily, ‘Did you enjoy our wonderful annual town celebration with free food and wine last night?’
‘What celebration was that?’ I query.
‘Oh, didn’t I mention it when you checked in, oh, never mind. Adios!’
Eventually, I get fed up of waiting for the leccy key and decide to break into the power box with a pair of pliers. No damage done, and at last we are ready for the off. I go through the exit strategy with my helper and she inserts 6 extra eyes in her head.
I nudge out and after 15 minutes and 6 reversals we finally evade the trees, lamp posts, ditches, other vehicles and overhanging branches and get out onto the path without damaging the 'van. We then hitch up and away…until we reach the gate. The exit is at a 45 degree angle and we need to turn through 135 degrees to point in the direction we are going. Once again the barrier post hovers threateningly above Smartie as we manoeuvre onto the highway….where a considerate local is parked in the middle of the road blocking us. So, yet another reversal manoeuvre, a loud graunch from the trailer as it contacts the tow bar, severe cursing from me and finally we are ready. Onwards to the next debacle!
So, am I being unreasonable when to counter all of this minor inconvenience we have sun, sand and Sangria until we can take no more? Or perhaps, camp site managers could take a look at their new-style customers and start to become a little more pro-active. I vote with my feet – as do many people when they have a bad experience. There are many, many camp sites across Europe and word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool. Come on, get your act together…how difficult can it be to:
1. Trim a few branches so that they don’t scratch and rip at our expensive vans.
2. Widen your roads and get rid of high kerbs. A few tonnes of stones would do it.
3. Position lamp posts sensibly and don’t let trees grow in the middle of pitches.
4. Put the children’s play park in a remote corner of the site.
5. Make sure that the camp shop and restaurants are OPEN and stock the stuff we need.
6. Sort out your showering facilities so that we can get a decent wash and brush up.
7. Employ more helpful receptionists!
8. Level the pitches and make them rain proof!
9. Beef up your power supplies.
10. Ban all children from all camp sites.
Now, how difficult could all of that be? Some sites do it. Look at Eco-Marjal! Why can't they all?
PS. Have you had your pinch of salt?:Wink:
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