Saturday 13th October
I had slept like a log even though the rain continued to rattle off the roof all night. Sue, who is a light sleeper, had not faired so well. It was still raining as we sat there and had coffee. The night before we were looking at the CC camping book for our next site and being October and everything shut in September we had a choice of three…. two were way off our route and the third just north of Limoge. We decided to ask if the chap in the office could ring through and book us in. Our combined French was enough to decipher a menu or order coffee….. but definitely not up to the standard of making bookings over the phone. The small office for Risle-Seine did not open till 10:00… so we put the kettle on again.
The young chap was very helpful and left a message on the site answer phone including our details and confirmed we would be stopping that night. He assured us that as it was a municipal site, it would be open and they would be expecting us and there was nothing in the message given by the answer phone to indicate otherwise. With that in mind, we programmed the junction number on the A20 given in the directions in the Caravan Club book. We had about 310 miles to drive. At 10:20 we pulled off the pitch, in the rain, and headed east-ish… that was until the Sat-Nav came over all French again and decided it wanted to take us north back over that very nice toll bridge over the Seine. ‘Non’!. After some delicate navigating on a map that was obviously designed not to be used for navigational purposes (this map feature will become a recurring theme), and some suitable gesticulating by Sue who by now I swear was gesticulating with a French accent, we found ourselves back on track on the A13 and heading in the right direction.
We were getting low on fuel and I planned at the next Aire we would fill up. On the A13, the next Aire was just outside Versailles…. so we pulled in and I filled the Freelander to the brim – 53.85 litres. The mileage was 62029, so since leaving Morrison’s in Canterbury we had done 247 miles, which meant we had only got 20.9 MPG!. Driving through all the rain and the long hills had taken it’s toll on the MPG and the slightly higher cruise speed of just over 60 MPH instead of 55 had made a difference. It was 11:15 as we pulled out of the Aire and we still had a way to go. It was still raining. As I accelerated onto the Autoroute, the Freelander didn’t feel quite right but nothing I could put my finger on. I reduced our cruise back down to around 55 MPH.
We had only spent around 20 minutes in the Aire, just enough time to fill up and procure some nibbles for the trip and obtain two rather nice coffee’s that seemed to have added chocolate… wrong button pushed on the machine, but a result! The kilometres ticked by and by 2 pm the fuel needle was the wrong side of quarter full again. The next Aire was only a few kilometers up the road and we pulled into the filling station 20 minutes later. Brimming the Freelander again took 57.54 litres and the mileage indicator said 62309. So we had done 280 miles and achieved 22.1 MPG, so reducing the overall cruise speed was working but I’d not gained as much as I’d hoped I would reducing my speed. We pulled forward into a parking area designed for caravans…. or so the sign would have you believe. The turn in was impossibly tight and OK, I know we are 38’6′ or 11.72 metres as an outfit, but we are not that big. I managed to run over the kerb. Bugger. No obvious damage to the tyre, and thankfully the van did not contact anything. We parked up and had a leg stretch… and went in search of more of that nice coffee. The exit from the parking area was even tighter and two thoughtfully placed lumps of rock had my head spinning from mirror to mirror as we only just squeezed out.
As I went to pull away I stalled the engine. Not my normal driving standard. I restarted the engine and tried to pull away again, then the engine was rattling and seemed to have little power. I only just managed to pull away without stalling a second time. Once we were moving it seemed OK…. although it was sluggish when accelerating back onto the autoroute. Every time I came off the power…. I seemed to get “injector rattle” which isn’t a rattle at all but more akin to ‘pinking’ in petrol engines. I started to wonder about the last two fuel stops. The manual for my Freelander says ‘no biodiesel or biodiesel additives’. I was almost sure that the pump I’d used on both occasions were straight ‘gas-oil’. The lack of power was noticeable and I had to reduce our speed somewhat.
As we approached Junction 24 that we were to turn off I saw the signs for an Aire… one without fuel and services…. but it did have facilities, and my bladder needed facilities! It was 17:25 as we pulled out of the Aire and a few kilometers further on we exited via junction 24 to follow the directions given in the Caravan Club book. The directions were a bit flakey but we eventually found the entrance to the site and at 17:40 pulled into the car park.
Well when I say car park, it was actually a gravel area outside the entrance barrier where they stored all the rubbish bins. It was occupied by a couple of motor-homes and three caravans all pitched for the evening. It would appear the campsite was closed and a big metal barrier across the entrance confirmed this. That was it. I was tired and had been pondering the possibility of an engine issue for the last couple of hours. I swung the outfit round and reversed in a lazy ‘s’ back into the end spot next to a very small Dutch caravan. We had gas, a fully charged battery and plenty of water. The loo was primed with green stuff and pink stuff so we could survive the night. If there had not been any one else there, I guess my Britishness would have kicked in and we would have driven on into the night trying to find somewhere ‘official’. When in France….. shrug your shoulders, turn your palms upwards and go “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ” while shaking your head. I didn’t even bother unhitching. We were level enough, so Sue just dropped the steadies down to stop any movement. Within 5 minutes of arriving, the kettle… or in this case, the pan was on and a brew soon followed…. so did a large glass of wine or two and a few beers. At least it had stopped raining.
According to the CC book, it was open all year round. According to the Dutch club’s guide it was open all year round. According to the French…. it was shut due to holidays.
Sunday 14th October
We were up and ready to go… well all we had to do was wind the steadies up and connect the 13 pin plug. We pulled out of the car park sounding like an old Lister engined tractor. Thankfully everyone else had either gone or was ready to go, so it gave me chance to leave the engine idling a few minutes while it warmed up. We only had around 110 miles to go to La Tournerie Ferme near Montignac and taking it easy I guessed it would take around two and a half hours.
We pulled back onto the A20 and the Freelander just about managed to get us up to speed before the end of the acceleration lane arrived. The rattle was still noticable at 1500 RPM but once up to speed in top gear at around 2000 RPM, the Freelander seemed OK. We sailed through Limoge. We had been here before many years earlier in a Piper PA28. We were low on fuel and it was the days before chip and pin…. the refuel guys wanted Francs so we had to go into the centre to find a bank that would allow us to draw cash on a card….. and we arrived just as the banks shut for their customary 2 hour lunch. At least it was 38 degrees and sunny then.
At 9:40 we pulled into another Aire. It was piddling down yet again and some of the car park was flooded, so since you could not see the parking bays I just pulled up along side a kerb. If anyone said anything I decided I’d shrug my shoulders, turn my palms upwards and go “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ” while shaking my head. Sue found the big brolly and we made a dash for the shop. As we had a speedy departure this morning, we didn’t have chance for a proper breakfast…. and up to now, I still had not had a traditional French breakfast where I could sit and eat my butter thingy’s while sipping a strong black coffee and watching the world go by. This stop would still not allow me that luxury. However, once again we obtained coffee from one of those nice machines, and some breakfast type French sticks with salami and cheese. By 10:10 the rain had stopped and the car park was draining nicely, enough to show we had parked across eight or ten bays…. but by then we had started a trend. A German outfit was parked across the way and a French car towing a trailer was behind us. Before anyone could point a finger and say “They started it” we were on our way, rattling back on to the autoroute. An hour later we were passing through Terrasson on the D6089 looking for the D704 that would take us into Montignac.
Phillip has put a detailed set of instructions on his web site on how to find the site as some of the roads were not suitable for towing. Unfortunately I’d assumed that we would be able to access the internet in France to be able to download these, but despite having between us two iPhones (Thanks Everything Everywhere… at least when you were Orange I could make and receive phone calls abroad – now all I got was “no service”), a 3G Dongle with international roaming and a Vodaphone PAYG Dongle with international roaming, we, or rather I, had failed miserably to access the internet. The outcome of this was we didn’t have the instructions given on the web site on how to find them via suitable roads. The saving grace was that a few months earlier I had programmed all the turn by turn instructions into our Sat Nav so it was just a matter of connecting the dots.
We eventually rattled our way onto site at 11:45. At least it looked like it hadn’t rained here and it was actually quite mild temperature wise. We were the last to arrive out of the group of “soft roaders” (if you follow the caravan forums you will know “Megladon” “Indoors” and “Doosan”) As Phillip wasn’t there, we waited a while and got chatting to Chris (Megladon) & Fran and were swopping tails of the trip… they had had a tyre blow out on the van while travelling down (everyone safe) and I was relating our rattly diesel issues and Chris said it might be the fuel as he’s had previous experience of something similar with dodgy fuel. The symptoms he described were exactly what we had been experiencing. Chris suggested adding some diesel additive to see if that improved things. After half an hour of chatting, Chris directed us on to a pitch next to Ray (Indoors).
It didn’t take long to set up… the pitch was well compacted and level so it only needed the steadies dropping. The electric connection was 6 amps and a continental style connector… not a problem – we did trip it a few times, but that was down to us not turning things off before turning something else on…. mainly Sue’s megawatt hair dryer and hair straighteners that seem to get to a temperature that allows them to smooth the ripples out of sheet steel.
We filled up the water container, deployed the waste hog and took the opportunity to check out “the facilities” which I can only describe as “Manifique”. After a spot of lunch we decided, although it was Sunday, to have a run into Terrasson and maybe there would be a garage or filling station open that would sell diesel additive.
Next time…… Some off roading, some fuel additives, and will we manage to deploy the Cadac?
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