Category Archives: Trips

Morocco Overland Episode 3 – Journey to Christmas

Having spent time heading down through Europe and crossing into Africa in parts one and two, it was time to get off the roads and into the wilderness. Christmas was fast approaching and after driving off road for over 120 miles we found “the spot” for the big day. In part three we experience varied landscapes that were amazing to drive through and camp in. We go from Fes to the mountains and into massive cedar forests and snow capped mountain roads, then down into the start of some of the desert areas and into the palmeries at the source of the River Ziz.

And yep, we bagged the obligatory Moroccan carpet with a little help from our friends at Smiley Bobs.

So here is part three for you guys and please feel free to leave a comment.

Morocco E3Morocco Overland Episode 3 – Journey to Christams from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Morocco Overland in a T3/T25/Vanagon Syncro. (Part 2, entry to Africa)

We finally made it to Africa.

First stop was the amazing town of Chefchaouen. We were blown away with just how amazing this place was and how cool the people the people were that we met there. It was our first stay at a campsite so far and we stayed at the only campsite just up the hill from Chefchaouen town. It’s a pretty basic campsite by European standards with cracked sinks and dodgy looking plumbing but they do have hot showers and that makes it a good campsite by Moroccan standards. There is free camping to be had across the road at the football field next to the hotel, it looked like a popular spot for fellow overlanders.

Here is a link for www.campingchefchaouen.com

Having acclimatised in Chefchaouen we ventured south and onto Fez. The drive was a learning experience and we soon realised that the donkey was still a main means of travel for lots of Moroccans and road miles took double the time by European standards. You have to adapt your driving style a fair bit because if you drive correctly you would probably cause an accident.
We opted to stay at www.diamantvert.ma while in Fez, it was a really nice campsite that has just had a whole load of money spent on it and has good wifi. We opted to take a guide from Diamante Vert and we had a great day wandering around the city. This is the first time any of us had ever employed someone to show us around a place and it has to be said it was really worth while. We got taken through tiny doorways and into court yards that we would have definitely missed had we ventured out solo.

With Chefchaouen and Fez done and dusted it was time to head out into the wilds and off road but you will have to wait for part three so stay tuned and keep following.

Morocco Overland – Entry to Africa from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Morocco Overland in a T3/T25/Vanagon Syncro. (Part one UK and Spain)

Well here we go.

This is the first video in a series of videos we will be making of our recent trip from the UK to The Sahara Desert. We set off Friday 13th of December 2013 (Yeah I know but we are not superstitious! (yet)) after a busy year at CampervanCulture.com looking for adventure. We were invited by CampervanCulture.com subscriber Dave (AKA Orcecaveman or Dave L Orcecaveman) to call in on him in the south of Spain on the way down to North Africa. Dave told us he lived in a cave house in a place called Orce and he owned a VW Syncro like us and was keen to meet us. Orce was a couple of hours off route and after Alan and Jed spoke for a while about who would actually choose to live in a cave it has to be said we did have our reservations. I can’t remember who said it but one of us said, “When will we actually get an offer like this again?” so we agreed to go, after all we were looking for adventure right!

So we set off to Poole and got the LD Lines ferry to Santander on what turned out to be a vomit comet. It was 28 hours of the roughest seas any of the crew had ever sailed in with plates being smashed and what ever wasn’t screwed or stuck down developing a mind of its own and moving around the ship like it was possessed. To be fair to the LD lines staff and the actual ship they were both very nice with really clean cabins and at £267 each way it is a total bargain, its just the ship is too small for the rough as hell Bay Of Biscay in January. Saying that a few weeks later we met an English couple who were on the Brittany Ferries super dooper cruise liner style ferry with stabilizers that left 4 days after us and they got dropped off in Brest, France and left to make their own way down to Spain as the big ferry thought it was too dangerous after hitting “The Horn Of France”. Anyway… with that little mission out of the way we hit sunny Spain and after an amazing over night wild camp near Madrid we found the crazy guy who lives in a cave.

We would like to dedicate this first video to Dave and Carole, two of the most genuinely nice people you could ever meet. It’s refreshing to meet people this cool and after spending some time with them you know they deserve the amazing life style they chose because they are just so bloody nice… We left Orce with three new good friends, Dave Carol & Chuck (the dog). We are now the sort of people who would want to live in a cave house, they are amazing.

Hopefully this should get your foot tapping…

Morocco part 1 from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Morocco Expedition – Chefchaouen to Fes

We left Chefchaouen heading south for Fes. None of us were sure what Fes would have in store for us as it would be the largest city that we would have encountered on our trip so far. The night previous we had used the campsite internet to have a look at what campsites are available in Fes and there are basically two main choices, the better of which was called ‘Diamante Vert’.
We were able to get a fairly good location for the campsite however you can never be sure how easy it will be to find somewhere once you actually arrive.

The journey down to Fes was a great drive with constantly changing scenery from mountains to wide open plains, many villages along the way with wonderful smells of food cooking by the roadside, of course there were the standard crazy drivers and slow trucks to deal with but once you are used to how the mayhem works it becomes fairly easy to negotiate the chaos. We happened to be traveling on market day which added a few unexpected road users into the mix, the most notable of which was a donkey and cart traffic jam near to a large market about two thirds of the way to Fes.

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Finding our way to the campsite in Fes turned out to be easier than expected, there were signposts for the camping all the way from the main roads to the site on the outskirts of the town. We followed the signs around the town but we passed by the campsite in search of a supermarket called Marjane and just before we reached our turn off much to our surprise Olly and Heidi pulled onto the road just in front of us! They were also heading for the supermarket so we parked up together and said hello. They were actually heading for the other less reputable campsite so were glad they had bumped into us and decided they would follow along to camp with us for the evening. (they were heading into Fes the next day as they had booked a hotel in the medina for a few nights over Christmas).

The campsite itself was nice and spacious with lots of trees offering shade. There were about 20 Dutch T5 owners there on a 10 day tour of Morocco, to see that amount of pristine looking near identical camper vans on any campsite would be quite strange but in the heart of Morocco it was very odd.

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We drove to the far end of the campsite and spotted a T3 that matched the description of a van we had read about on the internet a day or so earlier. A club80-90 member had posted a thread on the forum about how he had bumped into an American guy broken down on the side of the road in a yellow aircooled T3 Westfalia. It had been filled with Diesel by the guys at a garage a few kilometers away and inevitably the engine hadn’t like it very much.
We were pretty sure that it must be the one so when the owner strolled by and said hello we asked how his van was running now after being filled with Diesel, much to his surprise!
He was quite confused until we told him how we knew about his troubles! Turned out he had asked for Gasoline which the pump attendant had translated as Gasoil (Diesel), Sans Plombe was what he actually needed (Petrol).

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Later we were approached by the campsites official tour guide who offered his services for a tour of the Medina the next day. It seemed reasonable and he assured us that it wouldn’t be a retail based tour of all the local pushy carpet sellers. We took him up on the offer as we were all keen to go and see some of the historical sites of the town and be lead around the medina by someone who knows the way and can answer historical questions about the surroundings.

We collected up some fire wood from around the camp and got some embers burning, Olly and Heidi joined us for a few drinks around the fire too, telling us about the Roman ruins they had been to visit and the immense market they had been to the day before. We were feeling excited but also anxious about what our tour of the famous medina the next day would have in store.

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All of us having traveled in some quite hectic countries in Africa and Asia before we are all well accustomed to just how hectic things can be, but having never visited any city in Morocco so far the intensity of the hassle, hustle and bustle was completely unknown. All we could be sure of was that we would be visiting the leather dying tanneries that Fes is famous for, so with camera batteries put on charge and memory cards emptied ready for the day it was time for bed.

Morocco Expedition – Orce to Chefchaouen

We left Dave’s cave house full of ideas about saving money and finding a cave to live in, fantasising about a life full of olives, oranges, almonds and all the other delicious fresh produce available locally to Orce. But the draw of the desert was pulling and although six or seven weeks away seems like a long time, in the back of your mind you know time is precious so we said our goodbyes to Dave and Carole and began our journey to Algeceiras to board a ferry to Tangier Med, our entry into Africa.

Our next main port of call was to see a guy called Carlos who runs a ticket agency called ‘Viajes Normandie’ selling ferry tickets for our selected crossing. We had found Carlos via various online recommendations as being a price you can trust and it seems that the going rate is €200 for the return crossing. Feels quite expensive for a fairly short crossing, but how else are you going to get there?

We found Viajes Normandie agency quite easily, it’s also right next to a few supermarkets meaning its a good place to stock up on the little home comforts that might not be available whilst on another continent.
After a few tense moments of misunderstanding and sense of humour failure Jed had purchased his tickets for the crossing, Harriet was next and with her slightly better language skills she had purchased ours with relative ease.
We took up on the opportunity to stock our cupboards with essentials, some of which being some select items of booze….well.. you cant have a proper Christmas day without a glass of booze in your hand really can you?

Shortly before arrival on our route to Algecieras we had spotted somewhere on the beach that looked like it might make a great place to camp up for the night. We backtracked along our route and pulled into the spot to find a few other vehicles there that looked as though they might also be on their way to or from Morocco.

That evening turned out to be the warmest on the trip so far. We all sat outside to eat and conversation was unsurprisingly gravitating toward what our next day would have in store.

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Not only were we going to be entering Africa, but we had another ferry crossing ahead of us and if there’s one thing with Ferries its that you can never really know what’s going to happen. Different ports, different staff, different languages, different protocol etc etc. It all boils down into a big melting pot of ‘Not knowing what on earth is going on’. This ferry was no different.

After passing through tickets, customs and passport checks we were set free into that no mans land of ferry queuing lanes that every port has. It was a little harder than usual at Algeceiras to find your lane as it was hidden behind loads of parked lorries, but having found the way and boarded the ferry, forwards this time, we grabbed our various documents that we thought we might need and made our way up to the passenger lounge. It quickly became apparent that we needed to fill in some forms while aboard so Harriet and Louise took the filled in forms to the police counter where there was a queue tailing back a fair way already.

Approx 15 minutes later a flustered Harriet arrived back to where we were sitting ushering us off to the police desk. Unknown to Louise and Harriet each individual passenger had to be present with their respective passport. After a few tuts and moans we got what we needed and were one stage closer.

The crossing lasted around one hour, by the end of that hour i think we were all bracing ourselves for what lay in store. This time all the vehicles had to turn around whilst inside the ferry before disembarking…see what i mean about ferries?

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Passport control etc wasn’t too difficult but its worth noting that whilst on the ferry to Morocco and going the police desk onboard they stamp a number into your passport along with a stamp for the country. The stamped number needs to be filled out on your D16 vehicle importation document before you reach the people who want to check it upon arrival in Morocco.
Vehicle insurance is available in a small white hut amongst a load of others offering money exchange. The insurance isn’t cheap by any means but compulsory so we went ahead with it. Three months insurance was approx £200.

With everything ship shape we set off for our first campsite in a place called Chefchaouen roughly a couple of hours from Tangiers. If you looked on a map at the route, you also would probably think the time estimate for it was quite accurate however, once you factor in Moroccan roads and drivers you might as well double it. A mixture of complete lunatics over taking on blind bends, generally driving on both sides of the road and heavy trucks moving at 5-10kph on the steeper roads makes for interesting driving!

It was quite overcast when we arrived and some time after dark we had a couple of hours of rain, not quite what we were expecting but we were quite high up in the mountains after all. The next day the sun was out, temperatures were still quite cold though, below zero at night and not much warmer in the mornings.

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Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif mountains and the name literally translates to ‘look to the mountain’ Chef meaning ‘look’ and Chaouen being the ‘mountain’.
Its a stunning town with a mixture of white washed and deep blue walls. The medina here is not large but is a tightly packed maze of ups, downs, in’s and out’s and just enough hustle and bustle. The population here isn’t big which makes the town very pleasant to meander around.

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We met a couple called Olly and Heidi who were parked next to us in a long wheel base Sprinter with UK plates, the first we had seen in a long time. They had also just arrived in Morocco but had been in Spain and Portugal for a few months previous. They gave us a few bits of info they had found out about the town and we had the usual chats about the UK and how we were all glad to be in a slightly warmer climate. Ollie and Heidi had already been at the site for a day or so and were leaving to head south, so we said our goodbyes and wondered if we would see them again on our travels.

On our walk into the town we met a man called Mustafa who showed us the way down the hill to the medina. He took us past some of the towns famously beautiful spots on our way and took us to meet a friend of his that runs a carpet shop in the town.

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At this point we thought this might be turning into one of the many cunning ploys the Moroccan culture has developed to empty money from travellers pockets, however this turned out to be nothing like it, we were offered our first mint tea (whisky berber as they call it, it does not contain alcohol) and to our surprise the shop owner spoke perfect english.
He was very knowledgeable and a pleasure to talk with and not once did we feel pressured to buy anything in the shop. Jed, Louise and Isaac had gone off wandering so once we left the shop we headed for the main square to find a cafe, sit down, relax and after getting a taste for it, drink some more mint tea.

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In retrospect we would have all liked to have spent a bit more time in Chefchaouen and i think in the future we all will but this time we decided to leave the next morning. Christmas was looming and there was a unspoken pressure to get to somewhere warmer at least for the celebrations.

Morocco Expedition – Madrid to Orce

From the Gorge near Madrid we headed South towards a place called Orce to meet up with a fellow Syncro owner and Campervan Culture subscriber Dave, we nickname him Dave the Cave, makes perfect sense as he lives in a cave but more on that later.
The journey was smooth and interesting, passing through many beautiful and mountainous regions as we knocked mile upon mile off of the journey.

We finally arrived in Orce in the early evening just after dark. Dave had said it would be difficult to find his house (no surprise there really) but he had previously sent us his address which Alan had put into his Sat Nav. Unsure as to whether the Sat Nav would actually manage to get us to Dave’s actual address we decided it would be worth a go, so we set off into the hills from Orce.

Twenty minutes later we had arrived where the Sat Nav suggested Dave’s house was, but it didn’t look much like a cave. We gave him a quick phone call and found that we weren’t in the right place, we were close but not close enough. Now that Dave knew we we’re nearby he said he’d keep an eye out for us on the road and after about 5 minutes a man leapt from the darkness out into the beams of our headlights wearing a Campervan Culture Difflock T-shirt!

We did some quick hello’s on the road and set off for Dave’s cave. One dusty dirt track later we pulled up outside and were warmly welcomed into Dave and Carole’s gorgeous dwelling. The houses in and around Orce were originally ancient farm workers homes carved into the hillside. But when the water dried up in the valley everyone left in search of better working and living conditions. Since then the cave houses have been gradually bought up by people wanting something a little bit different from the norm for a home or holiday accommodation.

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The idea of someone living in a cave conjures up all manner of images in your minds eye, but none of which would probably be close to the reality of these houses. From the outside they have an almost ‘Hobbit’ house feel to them in that they are a fairly normal looking house frontage, however all the rest of the property disappears into the hillside. Inside they are cosy, warm and very welcoming. Barely a straight line is to be found with the render on the walls gently smoothed into arched ceilings, original features such as a large bread oven carved into wall of what is now the bathroom (originally the kitchen in times gone by).

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Carole had prepared us a delicious feast of chicken and chorizo paella ready for when we arrived so we all sat down for the meal and swapped stories of the local area for our account of the ferry crossing over to spain. Amongst these stories was talk of a place nearby called Castril and a spectacular walk that follows a deep gorge along the path of the river that formed it.

With full stomachs and after probably a few too many Rioja’s we all left for our respective beds with thoughts of what the next day would bring.

The next morning, once the sun was up it was possible to see everything in the area surrounding us. Once again whatever it was that we might have imagined wouldn’t have come close to the reality of it. There are literally hundreds of cave style dwellings in the area, all blending subtly into the landscape with only the chimneys giving away their locations.

The town of Orce is also a stunning place with it’s large and very impressive church, well kept castle ruins and unspoiled streets with people going about their daily business. We happened to arrive on market day which provided a good mornings worth of meandering and perusing of all the produce on offer, later we headed to Galera to have a look around the most densely populated area of cave houses. There’s barely a piece of hillside without some form of house built into it, every inch of the rock faces seem to have a house frontage.

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Castril is positioned just on the edge of the Parque Natural Serras de Carzorla and was our place to visit. Dave took us to a walk along a gorge that he had been to many times, he asked if we were all good with heights before we set off so we wondered what was in store for us when we arrived.
The heights weren’t too bad, but we could still see why he asked. An elevated boardwalk along the cliff walls of the first half a kilometer or so of the trail, providing a stunning aspect to the steep sided gorge carved from the rock by the river below.

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Further along a small suspension bridge has been built and tunnels have been carved through the rock face to enable the path to continue following the river as it winds it’s way along the valley floor.

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After a good wander around we made our way back to Orce to get some dinner on, sort out a few maintenance niggles with the vans and hide away from the cold night by Dave’s toasty wood burner.

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Morocco Expedition – Poole to Madrid

After a busy year planning everything for our trip across Europe and into North Africa we made the decision to take a ferry to Santander with LD Lines from Poole. We did this for a few reasons, the main ones being that it would get us further south in a shorter amount of time and it would mean there would be less stress put on the vehicles before we reached Morocco. A new ferry crossing had appeared that was a much cheaper price than the usual Brittany ferries offerings, £270 one way including a cabin. We couldn’t really resist trying out this option as it seemed as though it would even work out cheaper than driving down once the fuel and tolls etc had all been added up.
We worked out our dates of travel taking into account when we wanted to arrive, how much time it would all take and when Jed and Louise’s son Isaac was able to be taken out of school……Friday the 13th of December……unlucky for some they say…

We arrived in Poole the night before our ferry to overnight at a place called Sandbanks. The 13th of December also happens to be Isaac’s birthday which was celebrated in style with presents and a cake with candles. It took Isaac a few go’s to blow all the candles out but he got there eventually. We have no idea what he wished for but it would seem that it wasn’t a calm ferry crossing.
The next morning everything looked great for the crossing, the sunrise was beautiful, skies we’re clear and we were all in good spirits.
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We boarded the ferry with no real dramas, customs ran some sort of check on our passports that many others didn’t experience and much to our surprise we had to reverse onto the ferry!

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Shortly after this is when everything changed, almost as soon as we left the harbour the seas became quite rough. A few hours in and we were rounding the horn of France, Harriet, Louise and Isaac were all feeling very ill and the waves were getting worse.

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Some time later we all decided to retire to our cabins to lay down but even this was difficult as the motion of the ship was so extreme by this point just staying in the bed was difficult.
What felt like an eternity later after much broken sleep, colossal vibrations through the ships hull and a change of course nearer to the coast to try and get out of the enormous swell we awoke to calmer conditions, there was still quite a bit of movement going on, but nothing compared to the night of what felt like purgatory we had been through.

We spoke to some of the staff on the boat and they told us it was the worst they had ever experienced.
Unfortunately the change of course meant that the crossing was now going to take even longer than the original twenty five hours, it actually took twenty eight in the end. The sight of Santander and dry land was certainly something to behold….we couldn’t wait to get off. Poor Isaac has probably been put off for life!

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The exit from the port was uneventful and we got straight on the road heading for our first wild camp destination of the trip, a park up by a large gorge just north of Madrid that we found on the Furgo Perfecto website . The roads heading south from Santander have to get over the Cantabria mountain range, this is no mean feat, we were climbing continuously for around 2hrs by which time it was also dark and the last hour we were driving in the clouds, finally crossing the range at over 1300m just skirting along the snow line of the dramatic peaks.

A few hours more and we eventually arrived at the camp spot after a bit of head scratching to make sure we were on the correct dirt track to lead us there.

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It was a spectacular evening with the moon and stars out very bright in the night sky, it was also cold, below zero in fact which flagged up the first equipment issue of the trip, Alan and Harriet’s Eberspacher heater was refusing to keep running for more than about 10mins. But after the ordeal we had been through to get ourselves that far it seemed fairly insignificant at the time. So we all hunkered down to get a well earned nights sleep in our familiar, stationary comfy beds.

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Wiltshire weekender vehicle shake down.

Having had a really busy few months at CampervanCulture.com setting up the web shop selling our cool clothing range and all the other stuff that followed, and trading at The Adventure Overland Show the time has now come to get the vehicles ready for our planned North Africa trip starting in December.

We met up with some fellow Syncro owners from Club 80-90 at a camp site on Salisbury Plain to put the vehicles through their paces to flag up any problems as well as try out some new camping gear we bought for the trip.

As usual feel free to leave any comments and we will do our best to answer any questions you guys have.

Wiltshire Weekend in a T3 Syncro, Vanagon, Westfalia. from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Dungeness to Dover, A CampervanCulture camp out in the UK’s only desert.

Dungeness is one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world and is classified as Britain’s only desert by the met office. There have been five lighthouses at Dungeness, at first only a beacon was used to warn sailors, but this was replaced by a proper lighthouse in 1615. As the sea retreated, this had to be replaced in 1635 by a new lighthouse nearer to the water’s edge known as Lamplough’s Tower. There are two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, the first built in 1965 and the second in 1983. They are within a wildlife sanctuary deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest and birds flourish in the warmer water created by the station’s outflow.

It seems an unlikely area to head off to for a weekend in any camper van but the area is in fact really interesting and feels like your in Arizona in one of those places that mad people go and live when they want to be alone.

We really liked it, what do you guys think?

Working away and using a camper van in every day life.

The Morocco trip is sneaking up and money for it needs to be earned. Jed was approached by a guy who lived quite a way off who was having trouble finding anyone local with the confidence to take on some tricky plastering work. It meant working away for a few days so his Westfalia Syncro was used as accommodation and some cool wild camping spots were sniffed out. All three of us use our camper vans in our every day lives. Alan lives in his van in his job setting up and taking down all the staging and structures at the music events that some of you might attend in the UK. Jake’s work is web based and he can often be found using his van as an office on one of the many beaches in Cornwall.

This was a great chance to test out some of the new kit we have and once again the Trasharoo has turned out to be one of the most useful bits of equipment for wild camping, I really do wonder how we all managed before without one.

So grab a beverage and check out this latest video and feel free to comment,

Working away and using a camper van in every day life. from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Business meeting, CampervanCulture style…

Given the weather has been so good, we decided to take the opportunity to meet up and discuss our new range of clothing that should be with us on Thursday this week as well as sorting some new designs to follow right after. Amongst many others the new reversing light option we are due to take delivery of next week was also discussed, the new cool sticker range available next week, totally amazing Westfalia Joker roof bed pillow/kiddy guards in grey and brown, all the cargo docking systems that Al has been working on so hard plus lots more. I think we might have a summer trip planned to visit Jake@ CampervanCulture.com in Cornwall so that will be an epic video to share.

Oh and we spoke a bit about the North Africa trip later this year….

In CampervanCulture.com style we whipped out the cameras around the board room table and had serious talks about spread sheets and sales margins while filming it all…

Enjoy!

Amazing weekend in Surrey with birthday celebrations and Heathrow Campervan Hire.

This time we stayed quite near London and hooked up with good friends H, Ringo, Rob and youngsters Fern and Jules. Jed Louise and Isaac were in their Westfalia Syncro and Ringo and H were in their usual ride, the mighty VW LT Westfalia Florida. Rob left his Westfalia Syncro behind on this trip and turned up in the new high roof rental campervan that his company www.HeathrowCampervanHire.com have just got ready for you to hire and have an amazing time in. I have to say being a Westfalia nerd I was a bit taken back and slightly envious of the massive fridge, grill and this van even has an oven as well as Propex heating, extractor fan and get this…

It’s only done 60,000 miles!

As you can guess by the name Heathrow Campervan Hire is based right next to the UK’s main international airport and when you rent from them you have the option of picking up your fully kitted out campervan from the airport arrivals lounge. This is a great chance for all you guys in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the rest of the world to visit the places we like to go in the UK without the hassles and expense of importing your own vehicle. It’s also handy for all you guys in the UK and Ireland to just grab a cheap flight, pick the camper up and be off on your adventure.

Our first night was spent in a very nice country pub then a short but very steep drive up a gravel track in the VW LT to one of our favorite wild camping spots. After a really nice nights sleep it was off for a quick walk then off to find a random campsite we booked into from the internet. Osney Lodge Farm Campsite was only £45 per night for the eight of us in three campervans and it is a great place to camp with kids. Off the ground open fires are allowed and they have a basic toilet block and a place you can empty your chemical toilet if required. They have a farm shop that does loads of local produce and BBQ items as well as beers and veg. We all had a great time and celebrated H’s birthday in style.

Surrey camping weekend with www.HeathrowCampervanHire.com from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.