Will, Ben and Nevil


Nevil moves on by will
27 January 2008, 9:50 pm
Filed under: van

The unthinkable has happened, someone has bought our van!!

Jose from the Democratic Republic of Congo has completed an agriculture course in Reading and is buying up machinery to work on his farm in central Africa, he required a Mercedes van and so is taking Nevil… Yes that’s right, someone has bought our van and is shipping it to the Congo, paintwork and all! Not satisfied with conquering Europe Nevil has set Africa in his sites, I’ve got an email address so watch this space…

Our characterful van aside, it brings our adventure to an ultimate close, a little saddening but looking back it couldn’t have been more exciting. Can’t wait till next time!

Will & Ben

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We’re back (and have a campervan for sale on the cheap!) by ben
26 December 2007, 9:05 pm
Filed under: van, western europe

Ok, well, we’ve been back a while – myself (Ben) since early December and Will since the middle of December. We parted ways in mid-November in Paris as Will wanted to head to Spain to do a voluntary project near Barcelona and I wanted to spend some time in Paris with my girlfriend studying French. Since then we’ve both had a fun time living apart for the first time since August with other people, but now after some time to rest and recuperate we’re both occasionally missing van life!

We (I) have been a bit lazy in finishing off this blog (it was supposed to be my job!), but I feel it’s a bit late now to describe the end of the trip in detail after our last post. After Berlin we basically meandered along the North coast of Germany to Amsterdam, then took in Belgium, Luxembourg and some Champagne before returning to Paris. A bit of time in one place with a focus (french for me, making stuff out of trash for Will) was really welcome as we both felt we had sucumbed to “travelitis” by the last week or so. There are only so many sites, beautiful places and interesting people you can take in in one go. Fact!

We have now had a Christmas to reflect and remember and still seem to be talking; it must have been good! In the New Year we hope to get together for a party (any excuse) and perhaps put up a slideshow (non compulsory viewing:) for anyone who’s interested. There, its on the blog, we’ve got to do it…

We now plan to sell Nevil the van and move on… So VAN FOR SALE!! A Mercedes 308d with excellent paint work is available to anyone who fancies a camper/oddjob van on the cheap – its ready to leave on that road trip right now! England, Scotland, France, the world! I reckon it would be much nicer to go in the summer, but we want to sell it now as we have no further use for it and it’s just taking up space on Will’s parents driveway (Mum pressure). We wouldn’t be selling if we didn’t think it would make it a lot further – it’s got many more miles on it yet! A few hundred quid would be nice for it, make us an offer!!

Use my website to get in touch if you’re interested, all the photos of the van can be found on this blog so I’m not going to say any more other than if you’re thinking of doing a roadtrip sometime in 2008 THIS IS THE VAN FOR YOU!! 😀



Berlin – part 2 by ben
16 November 2007, 3:48 pm
Filed under: germany, western europe

Nikolas kindly put us up for our remaining three days in Berlin. He lives in Wedding (a Berlin district, not perpetual nuptials) in an amazing top floor flat that he’s been evolving for almost ten years! Wooden floors, wood burning heaters in every room, and the best selection of spices I’ve seen outside of mum’s nuclear fallout preparation pantry. We quickly discovered where the spices came from as the shop down stairs stocked them in bulk alongside hair extensions and coconut milk. I (will) attempted to create a classic english dish and succeeded in making a suitably bland pumpkin curry.

We could see much more of Berlin when it was actually daylight and made the first proper use of the bicycles that we’ve been carrying around with us. Ben learnt all recorded German and central European history in a large museum whilst I explored Berlin’s corners and entirely rebuilt neighbourhood of consulates. Saudi Arabia wins my vote for the architecture prize, although that’s not counting the Norman Foster dome on the Reichstag which was well worth the queue in the cold for. You can look down through the glass and see the politians making decisions, signifying the transparency of democracy and the openess of the German paliament. Very honourable. The free heavyweight pamphlet/small paperback which describes everything from the material of the seat covers in the debating hall to the percentage of people in parliament with Kenyan grandmothers almost makes you realise why politians don’t tell us everything. ITS BORING.

The extensive queue to the dome introduced us to another Berliner, this time someone under 25 actually living in the West of the city. She took us to a brilliant example of the annoying German habit of taking an idea from somewhere else and making it much, much better. Italian food that you pointed at the ingredients for and watched being cooked. Ben especially liked the swipe card we were each given to bill us for what we were eating, and the flashing, vibrating disc that when brought back to the table magically told him his pizza was ready.

It started raining a couple of days later, so after I’d quickly done the Bauhaus archive we decided to head for the famous German coastline…



Berlin – part 1 by will
3 November 2007, 8:21 pm
Filed under: germany, western europe

On nights spent in the van in the middle of nowhere, when it gets dark at six in the evening, when boardgames become bored games, when even the new games you made become old, when the extensive limits of the ukelele have been reached, we have found ourselves in bed asleep at ever earlier hours. Quarter to eight if its raining… Bearing this in mind, when we arrived at a (bloody) student flat in the trendy area of Berlin at past eleven o’clock being greeted by a flat full of electro, cold beer, cartons of wine and “we’re going out, are you coming?” was exactly what was required.

After being led through an unknown dark city in circles to ensure we definitely couldn’t back out, the second “club” come warehouse came good and we saw the night out to some techno – Mr. Oizo was there and so was some good sound and some inventive german dance moves!

Unfortunately the couch was taken and the flat floor was full so we slept the day in the van before making use of the bathroom facilities and the in house Berlin tour guide. Avril from Ireland is a good tour guide and we did her four hour walking tour in hyperdrive on bikes, I’d swear she was even talking faster, learnt a lot about the buildings and understood some of the reasons for bits of the city! When the second nights entertainment was aimed at surpassing the first nights our plans of seeing all the corners of Berlin in daylight didn’t look likely. Satisfied that we’d confirmed that Berlin is indeed party capital we executed an escape to somewhere with a better toilet to person ratio and a different city quarter.



Auschwitz by will
2 November 2007, 3:56 pm
Filed under: eastern europe, poland

This is all a bit post dated! We have not connected to the internet for a while and have been travelling a lot so there is plenty to catch up on…

The Nazi concentration camp complex near Krakow is an excellent reminder of peoples’ weakness. The two of the three main camps that are complete and accessible as a museum cover an area which took us an entire afternoon to meerly brush over. The monsterous size of it really hits home that one person did not create the thing or even dictate its construction, it must have taken an army just to dream it up. We spent an afternoon walking up and down lines of barbed wire taking in brutal examples of practical solutions and efficiency. The area is dead flat and the needle sharp wind has a lot of run up before it thumps you, this made it cold in the sunshine of October with a fleece on, let alone in January when its snowing and you’re naked.

We decided not to try that particular experience. Having organised an exciting place to stay in Berlin with our favourite social website we carried on West. The EU’s contribution to Poland (apart from providing work) is the superb roadside lorry parking facilities. The toilet was so nice and the mirror so effective that I promptly shaved the majority of my ginger beard off with a blunt razor. The nice attendant man even filled up three gallon water containers for me whilst I was doing it!



Washing our clothes (in Krakow) by will
1 November 2007, 1:49 pm
Filed under: eastern europe, poland

The roads have suddenly got a lot better and the scale on our map has increased; this means we suddenly seem to be travelling much faster! Krakow was amazing despite the drab background. We walked pretty much the entire city in search of a launderette before spotting one advertised: “The only Launderette in Krakow” it said. We reckon its the only one East of Krakow too as our washing was beginning to walk by itself! Make sure you visit this launderette if you go to Krakow with dirty washing (not that you’ll have a lot of choice), it serves coffee and tea and there is free internet and comfy sofas in a bright and inviting environment!



Border crossing from hell by ben
1 November 2007, 10:44 am
Filed under: eastern europe, poland, ukraine

So, after our 2 weeks of travelling by train it was great to be back in the van and have some freedom back. As L’viv is fairly close to the border with Poland (our next destination) we envisaged a couple of hours driving then maybe an hour or so going through the usual formalities to leave Ukraine and enter Poland. We had no such luck.

After enjoying our 2 hours of freedom driving west at 1pm we hit a queue full of Polish and Ukrainian vehicles, which we guessed to be the border crossing. We were instantly offered the chance (using a combination of Ukrainian, charades and pictionary) to queue-jump: only 30 dollars/euros/hryvnia (we had several offers from several different dodgy-looking guys). Being cheap and also from Britain – where queue-jumping is considered a social evil – we naturally refused their persistent offers. We were told therefore we’d have to queue for maybe 10 hours (until 11pm) to get to the border – we assumed they were probably exaggerating but still, this we could deal with.

After witnessing a frustrating number of other people paying to push in further up the queue and having lunch and dinner in the van it was dark and we started taking turns in getting some sleep on the bed in the back of the van. After 3 hour shifts through the night we finally made it to the Ukrainian exit border at 6am after a wait of 17 hours. (The queue from when we joined it to the front was only about 140 cars and maybe 500m long, so our average speed was an impressive 29 metres an hour!) Here we had the van thoroughly searched for the first time on the trip and then queued a further 7 hours waiting to get to the Polish frontier 200 metres away.

The shining, golden gates of the EU were so close! When we got to the Polish border we joined the queue for EU citizens (which of course the cheating, queue-jumping Ukrainians couldn’t get into. ha) and were through in minutes after a quick check and showing some photos of our trip to the Polish customs guy! I love the EU.

Total time to cross the border: 26 hours. Total distance covered: 1,500 metres.