For many of you reading, you would be well aware that this is my second attempt at #VanLife. I won't reopen old wounds. Let's talk about this second, more effective outing instead. Around the end of August, I caught a flight to Tarbes, a French town just north of the Pyrenees, to become reacquainted with my dear van. It came with some heavy improvements, seeing a VW Transporter chassis underneath the box. Turbo diesel. It dances well for a fat guy.
After cleaning it up over the weekend, I took it for a ten minute test drive and snapped the plastic window. I clipped it off a pillar and was numb from embarrassment. The van is big, okay! We did a patch-work job on it and off I went towards Toulouse to pick up Bianca from the airport.
It's been just over two weeks since the dear departure. Here's what we have to show for ourselves (not that much.)
1. Had a quick stop off in a small French town called Venerque for a night.
Not too much to report. Gorgeous little town. We were busy trying to find every inch of space where Bianca could put an item of clothing. We never had a practice run in the van, this was it. We were doing it live. There are pros and cons to this, as with anything in life, but it wasn't so bad at all. Every time we opened the back of the van after driving, we found a new item to add, a bungee to be used or a hook to be placed. Over the course of the week, less things were ending up on the floor after each drive. That was encouraging. It started to feel functional.
2. Visited a free campsite in Chalabre.
Again, a village even closer to the Pyrenees. Beautiful, free and calm. It was van life. We stayed two nights. The van battery died there. I had to use our mountain bike as a donkey and walk the van battery up a hill to exchange it for a new one in a garage 500m away. It was punishing in the heat, but it was another problem fixed.
The solar panels that were installed two years ago had failed. Being in the middle of nowhere, and with Friday being the next day, I decided to make a push for Perpignan in order to find a technician who could fix our problem... So off we went.
3. Drove to Perpignan (Quillan was an excellent drive)
Winding roads through the mountains, vineyards and the sun beating down on us (and our broken solar panels). It was that real classic 'on the road' feeling. For anyone driving from Toulouse to Perpignan, I wouldn't miss these roads. It will take a bit longer, for sure, but is absolutely stunning. It actually reminded me of South Africa at times, which I wasn't expecting.
4. Spent a week in Perpignan.
Well, not exactly Perpignan, but the small towns surrounding it. It wasn't really the intention to be there for so long, but our earliest appointment was in one week's time We stuck around. Besides, we were still acclimatising to the van.
The highlight was Plage de Pins. Anyone in to their beaches will enjoy that one.
One week later, our appointment came and it took all of ten minutes for him to tell me they were no-good. We booked another in Girona with the intention of getting new panels on the roof.
5. Crossed the Border in to Spain
We stayed on the coastal route as we border jumped down south. Cerbere is a town worth mentioning. It is juuuust north of the border in France, and has that prestigious, boujee cliff side housing. Just typical picturesque high-fashion southern Europe on display.
After that, we cruised down to Roses, a town on the Costa Brava. Think Cerbere, but larger, and maybe a tiny bit less boujee. It is hard to really recommend or break down these towns. We are merely passing through. We don't stop and eat out, rent the jet skis and all of that good stuff. We cook, clean, try sort out van problems and all of that normal day-to-day stuff. It's great. We go to the Lidl bakery almost daily and the Europeans have it covered. A truly exceptional spread of pastries on offer.
I want a Lidl sponsorship by 2021.
A quick summary...
- Started in Tarbes, picked up Bianca in Toulouse, drove to Perpignan, now driving to Girona.
- Spent 50e between Tarbes - Toulouse - Quillan.
-Then 50e from Quillan - Perpignan (same tank for the full week in Perpignan).
-Now 50e from Perpignan - Bellcaire d'Empordà (about 125km with half a tank remaining.
- Need to build a bike rack and fix solar panels asap.
- We spent about 12.50e on food a day. But at the moment there are many one off weird purchases on top of this (cleaning stuff, boxes etc)
- We stop at campsites every second or third day to use their electricity (and a hot shower). These range from 11e - 17e a night for us, the van and services. We won't be needing this anywhere near as often once the solar panels are fixed, however.
Thank you all for being interested in this trip. With the inception of this voyage, Gnarvana has become a registered company. The plan of attack is to travel and create for the next few months, ideally building a network while doing so. I am extremely excited by all of this after what has been a project that took me years to finalize (which is weird as the project is really only starting now..)
I'm rambling. See you on the blog for lengthier posts, see you on Instagram for shorter, but more frequent posts, and if you have any questions (about my trip or your own) feel free to ask.
Also, right underneath this post is a link to subscribe to our newsletter. It would be awesome to allow me to slide in to your old school dm's with an email every two weeks or so.