The Magic Bus
The task was not easy. Finding a car that we wanted took some time, effort and again exceeded the budget. But we ended up with a VW T4 syncro with a camper-like build-up including extendable bed, some luggage space and a solar panel. Perfect to start the vanlife adventure! We equipped it with some boxes and appliances, packed our stuff that we had with us on motorbikes and set off to Belgium, to pick up our bicycles and sport equipment that we had left there.
We thought about the name for the bus, as all our vehicles have names. There were numerous ideas, some brought up by our friends. Our initial thought was Rambo. Why? Simple: silver -> Sylvia -> Sylvester -> Rambo. Or Rocky. And then Joris said that because it is registered in Poland it should have a Polish name. So we went on: Rambo -> Rocky -> Stone. Kamyk (Flemish: Kei). So please meet Kamyk 🙂
Travelling together in a bus is far more difficult than on two motorbikes. The surface is small and your personal space bubbles interfere with each other 24/7. On a motorbike you are alone with your thoughts, breathing your own air. You are still able to talk through the intercom, but it is just different. Even though there is some more luggage space compared to what you can take with you on a motorbike, it does not make it easier to pack, as you tend to take more things to make you feel comfy. Yes, some items come very handy – a bigger and higher table, fridge, toilet, real pillows and normal bedsheets, more food, more water and heating. There is no need to put up the tent and when you really don’t feel like cleaning everything before you hit the road you can just throw the things as they are into the bus and go, and worry about them later. And when it is raining or snowing it is less miserable. But you really need to move the things around and keep everything organised and tidy as otherwise you are buried.
Vanlife Day 4: we still haven’t killed each other 😉
We had about 10 days to complete our maiden voyage with the VW (as we needed to be back in Poland for some admin stuff again), and we took the travelling slowly. Not more than 300 km per day, finding a spot to stay overnight early enough to still be able to enjoy the afternoon sun while cooking dinner. We also visited a few nice cities and met with friends. And we even had a small Halloween party 😉
Dresden / Germany
Joris always wanted to visit Dresden, so we went there. We stayed at a campervan parking in the city centre (15 EUR / 24 hrs), with a walking distance to all attractions. We took a stroll in the Altstadt, but also tasted some nightlife (well, early evening life) in the Neustadt, in the region of the Aulaunstrasse.
Ghent / Belgium
We also hopped to Ghent and had a walk there. Agata has never been there before so finally she could see how nice the city is. We ended up for a beer in “the most eccentric beer café in the city” and as it was a very special experience, because the cafe looked more like a lumber-room, the owner like the leprechaun from a label of La Chouffe beer, and all would be OK if the amount on the bill for two beers was not that extremely high (14 EUR for two Orval beers was just an exaggeration). That left us with an unpleasant aftertaste. We should have asked for the price upfront and we strongly advise to do that if you ever want to try out the place.
Bonus: Gdansk / Poland
We are not sure if this can be listed as the first city we visited on our vanlife stage of RTW, as we picked up the VW in Gdansk. That was also an opportunity to have a small tour around the beautiful City. Actually Joris was very surprised how beautiful it is, as in Belgium the city is only “known” for Lech Walesa, Gdansk Shipyard and good welders. We also managed to meet our friends from Krakow, who were there for a family event 🙂 and went to the northernmost point of Poland.
We still have 100 ideas per hour in our heads. Maybe we should just be tough and take our bikes instead of the bus for the winter in Southern Europe? Maybe we should sell everything again and purchase new bikes giving us less worries? If yes – which bikes to choose so that they are reliable, relatively light and not too big, not too expensive but capable of long term travels on and off road? We are dreaming of a bike that is around 500cc, with a tank holding 25 or more litres, good suspension, easy handling, comfy and not too high seat, weighing not more than 180 kg. Actually our X bikes meet most of the criteria, except the height and we recently lost some trust in their reliability (but as we fixed or replaced with new parts everything that was possible, maybe we should be more optimistic?). Joris’s heart is always with the 1200 GSA, even though it is big and heavy (but comfortable, reliable not maintenance intense and Joris is capable of doing some serious off-road with it). Agata is not actually fully confident on any bike (and per Joris it is not about the skills, but about the switch in the head that is not in the right position). We also are aware that you can travel the World on anything, but since we still want to enjoy it, we want to minimise the worries, if possible. So we have some food for thought for the upcoming weeks…
- iOverlander app – again proved to provide some good ideas for staying overnight
- If you can’t find a good place to stay overnight try the gravel roads leading to windmills – usually it is in the middle of nowhere, far from everything and nobody should bother you (although once we apparently stayed in a shortcut to the neighbouring village and a few cars/bikers were passing, taking the filed as the road since it was smoother than the gravel road, and in the morning we were woken up by some diggers and trucks from the nearby archaeological site… ;))