Something fishy

In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. During the same year global e-retail sales amounted to 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars. Ecommerce in the United Kingdom increased in 2019 by 14.6 percent to over 200 billion euros. So I’m not the only one buying a few things on the internet.

Whilst at home over Christmas we decided to back up our batteries and solar panel output with a purchase of an inverter generator. With the idea for it to be shipped to the Ski 2 Chalet in Les Gets for us to collect when we arrived. Searching around the net for the best price etc, I found Generators Direct who had a good selection and lots of technical information. Before ordering I checked with Ski 2 to make sure they were ok to take delivery and rung the Generator Direct number to confirm delivery cost to France.

With all the arrangements in place I went back to the Generator Direct web site and ordered a Honda EU10i Suitcase Generator. Providing the delivery address in Les Gets. as required. Shortly after I received a payment confirmation email.

It was great to be home for Christmas and spend time with the family in Scotland and to enjoy a relaxing time being at home in Cumbria. Our good friends Gary and Jen who had collected us, transported us back to Manchester airport for our flight on the 3rd January and a couple hours later RyanAir landed us back into Bergamo. After a short wait we were transported from the airport and quickly reunited with Charlie II at Booking Camper‘s (local motorhome hire company) storage facility.

The winter daylight was fast fading as we arrived at the entrance to the Area Sosta Camper Città dei Mille in the centre of Bergamo, where we’d spent 2 days in before Christmas, so we soon settled into the familiar surroundings.

Having drained everything down and emptied the tanks before leaving, our first priority was fresh water. However in our haste the fresh water hose was passed into the van, just as Lesley was preoccupied with mopping up a mysterious liquid coming from the fridge area – a quick look into the freezer explained the cause of the smell we’d noticed on initially entering the van. Fish had been left in the freezer 😱 and awful liquid was leaking out.

So whilst Lesley is trying to deal with the smelly fish juice, at the same time filling the fresh water. Dave helpfully comes in, offers to stand on the water hose to keep it in place but instead stands in fish juice in his size 12’s, the hose flails about spraying water everywhere. What a mess!

After much mopping up, the watery re-acquaintance fiasco was ended, or so we thought. Needing food, we elected to make use of the 10% discounted pizza vouchers given out by the camp site. Arriving back Lesley tried to fill kettle – but no water. Someone had asked Lesley to close the outlet valve but someone had not specified which one. Lesley had closed waste water valve not realising there was a second fresh water valve. So, at 10:30 in the evening we were back out in the dark filling the water again so we’re able shower in the morning. 

Next day Dave spent the morning fitting the replacement solar charge controller he’d smuggled past the airport security on our return flight from the UK. Which, wait for it, gave us chance to catch up on our washing, yeah…..

As we drove west across Bergamo, our route to washerie was lit by gorgeous winter sunset.

I won’t dwell on small(s) talk, but we spent an interesting! time talking to a local Italian with OCD who spent 60 mins folding his family’s laundry! – Oh we know how to live it up on a Saturday night!

Avoiding the Swiss Vignette or the performance-related heavy vehicle fee (HVF)? or tunnel tolls. There are a few ways to cross the alps either via the one of the high alpine passes or the more expensive tunnels routes. We chose to enter the country via the Simplon Pass.

Making it to the top of the pass before it dusk, reminded of us of making the same journey a few years ago in a hire car without winter tyres. We emerged from a tunnel on the Italian side near the top of the pass to 4 inches of fresh snow. On that occasion we managed to spin, slip and skid our way over the top and on to drier tarmac on the other side.

On this occasion the snow ploughs had cleared the roads days ago including the summit car park, where we enjoyed a quiet night on our own under the stars, with only the early morning trans border commuters to break the silence of the mountains.

The next morning we headed down to the town of Brigg in the valley floor for supplies. 30 kms further on we climbed up again to find the motorhome parking place we’d identified near the small hamlet of Savièse, high above the town of Sion.

Disappointingly the parking area was for some reason fenced off. However we managed to squeeze Charlie on to a levellish spot close by with super views of the mountain villages lightning up the hillside at night.

The next morning we ventured off for a short uphill walk to find the Bisse de Savièse Torrent Neuf. Nieither of us had heard of a Bisse before but reading later up they remind me of the leats we have in the UK (artificial watercourses or aqueducts dug into the ground, more often to supply watermills).

A bisse is an irrigation canal, generally 5 to 10 kilometres long, taking its water from a torrent or small river at the bottom of a side valley resulting from the melting of glaciers. Its purpose is to supply water to various crops, orchards, vineyards or simply meadows for fodder.

The big difference between the Bisse in Switzerland and the leats we have at home are the sections constructed with timbers fixed to the rockface. These channels and super scary walkways carry the water round the contours of the mountain. It is mad, crazy, gravity defying and completely awe inspiringly ridiculous.

As it was winter the walkways are closed (for safety reasons!) I think in all honesty we were rather relieved. Otherwise I may have not be writing this? Clearly we did make it safely back to the van and set off towards Martigny and the French border.

Having planned to just drive through Switzerland we had not stopped to change any euros for Swiss Francs, Stopping at the first bakery, Lesley had the embarrassment of ordering bread (and cakes) only to have put them back when she found they wouldn’t accept euros cor cards.

The route from Martigny over the Col des Montets and the Route de la Forclazto to Chamonix was a proper mountain pass with lots of hairpin bends to negotiate first up then down. Not a journey I would fancy in any vehicle in the depths of winter.

After topping with LPG and supplies in Cluses in the valley we made up the last 15 miles to Les Gets and the Perrieres parking lot, at the bottom of the red ski run making our home a ski in – ski out location for the next few weeks.

I hadn’t expected to hear from Generator Direct over Christmas and the New year holiday period, but as it was the now the 5th January I was beginning to think it strange I had not heard anything regarding a delivery date. Having sent an email the day before I decided to ring them.

There was no answer from the telephone number I ‘d previously used before Christmas. Finding the Generators Direct web site. I rang that number. They had no record of our order. Alarm bells started to ring. Soon all became clear.

Generator Direct it transpired was a clone website of the perfectly legitimate business Generators Direct.

We spent the best part of a morning on phone to the credit card company and registering an incident with Action Fraud (police team dealing with this type of fraud). According to Generators Direct the clone web site had been set up 6 weeks before xmas and we weren’t the only ones to be caught. After taking lots of details the card company told they had to give the scam supplier time to deliver and to ring back in 30 days and they will refund our money.

The moral of this tale then, if it smells fishy it probably is fishy…..

Toodle Pip

D&L

Dolomite Sprint

A report out this week found that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most. Therefore I’m ashamed to confess that I’m rubbish at languages and almost always defer to Lesley, that is except in the case of Russian. Where I have a handy phase or two “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!”

Travelling around the South Tyrol working out what the language is can be very confusing – as although part of Italy, the first tongue of the locals in the Süd Tyrol is German. So you end up not knowing whether it Buongiorno or Guten Morgen…or even some obscure regional Dolomite dialect.

Arriving at the pretty town of Brixen/Bressanone (the map producer is also confused) was a place, we realised later, we have been to before, although not a town with great memories. As on a ski trip a few years ago our friend Rosie O’Shaughnessy fell and broke her hip the very instance she first put her skis down on the snow. Which resulted in a air ambulance journey to Brixen hospital.

We walked into town from our motorhome car-park heading for the Xmas market and hoping (Dave) to find a place for a pizza. The market in front of the Cathedral was quite small and was selling the Italian variation of Christmas market gifts (plastic domes with shakable glittery snow scenes). Not tempted we wandered around the old town admiring the Advent calendar on the windows of a building in the square, but not finding pizza we ended up eating back in Charlie II.

Technically the bumps they call the Dolomites are in the Italian Alps, but they’re quite different in appearance from the rest of the Alps. Although in many ways when the sun catches the soft brown colouring it can make them more striking than say Mont Blanc, Matterhorn or or Eiger. That said, the Matterhorn is pretty stunning..!

The Dolomites, also known as the “Pale Mountains”, take their name from the carbonate rock dolomite. This was named after 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750–1801).

After 12 consecutive nights without mains electric, we decided we needed a bit of luxury. Biting the bullet, we paid €28 to the campsite in Corones for a hedge protected pitch, electric hook up and hot plentiful showers with toasty-warm heated floors.

En route we took a detour for some food from the market stall in Brunico (Bruneck). Here, there’s a new Mountain Museum created by a local hero, the climber Reinhold Messner, but unfortunately along with all the shops it was closed for a two hour lunch, maybe next time.

Slowly recovering from the shock to budget from the campsite, our next priority was a top up with diesel and what turned out to be another hit in the wallet. Looking back I think we were spoilt by the price of fuel in Belgium where diesel is typically €1.20 per ltr. So it came as quite a jolt, when at the first Sud Tyrol stop we had to pay €1.70, yes €1.70 per litre.

Heading southwards, we passed through the Italian ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo (the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics). This reminded me of one of the very first special cars I owned a 1966 Ford Cortina MK1 GT. 

The Ford Cortina wasn’t always destined to be named after an Italian ski resort. It started life as Project Archbishop and could have been Caprino, until somebody realised the latter is a slang word for goat dung

It was just lovely driving through Dolomites, carefree in the sunshine and although some of the roads were narrow there wasn’t much traffic. So we were both woken up with a fright, when after a bit of climbing to go over a high pass, (with Sat Nav trying to make us turn round) without any earlier warning a 3.0 m high tunnel sign appeared immediately before a hacked out hole in the rock with the road going through it. Our Carthago is 2.85m high so all we could do was close our eyes and keep to the middle……!

Charlie and I admiring the views!

I wonder how long this piece of tarmac string would be if it were stretched out straight?

After a couple hours of climbing up the twisty stuff we found our target for the night, the small ski town of Arabba. We didn’t stop to ski (a mistake in hindsight) and left early the next day after a free overnight carpark (including free hookup!) care of the very generous people of Arabba. With a bit more up to come we made our way on to toward Selva Val Gardena. As we reached and descended down from the highest part of the route we passed an attractive looking ski town of Corvara and Colfosco on a high plateau with some great looking ski runs.

Back once again to familiar territory, we stayed one night in Saint Christiana (one of the smaller satellite villages of the Selva Val Gardena). Finally Dave had his pizza wish in a posh hotel preening itself for the big influx of visitors at the weekend when the Ski World Cup Series comes to the area. We missed that but were entertained by daft locals practicing handbrake turns and Lewis Hamilton style doughnuts on the snow around a pole in the centre of our huge carpark at the ski station.

Finding free (or low cost) places to park in this region are rarer than hens teeth. Having been to this area a few times before our aim was to go ski at Alpe di Siusi. We weren’t permitted to park at the ski station but we discovered ‘The Sporthutte’ – a small out of town pizzeria restaurant in Kastelrotto with parking for campers including hook up but no other services for €25.

The upside was ‘The Sporthutte’ gave us a €10 meal voucher for each night (2) we stayed. Dave had pizza and beer two three nights in a row. Happy man.

The Seiser Alm is an easy part of the Sella Ronda ski circuit with lots of easy reds and blue runs, just perfect for us to get our ski legs going.

One of my favourite places to stop and eat/drink when out skiing is in this small hamlet with a pretty church. When we’ve been before, the warmth of the atmosphere pours out of the door when you go inside. With a large traditional green tiled oven being the centre piece of this cozy welcoming spot.

Alas no more, I haven’t got a photograph of what it was like before. But it has been gutted and completely modernised, all very trendy and chic with spot lights and coordinated coloured seating with matching throws! But they have ruined it. I’m utterly bereft. sob, sob

The car park at the base of the Seiser Alm gondola gets very busy and we were concerned that it might be tight for Charlie to make his escape after our last day, but he managed ok and we set off for an overnighter at Trento or is it Trentino?

After a couple of really enjoyable days of perfect skiing weather in the Sud Tyrol it was time to make positive tracks towards Bergamo and to find the storage place we’d organised for Charlie whilst we returned home to the UK.

Before leaving for Manchester, we caught a train just outside the campsite and the ticket (very cheap) entitled us to go on the buses and the funicular railway up to Bergamo’s picturesque old town, where there was time to explore the cobbled streets and catch up on some last minute Christmas shopping.

Shopping complete, our last task was to wrap a parcel for the rellies in France. With an attractive combination of tourist maps sealed with gaffer tape the package was ready for dispatch. Ah but don’t under estimate the frustration Italian postal bureaucracy can impart. One hour and many yards of brown tape (to cover the maps) and €44 lighter and the gifts were finally on their way.

I thinking he’s having a last minute sit down waiting for his sleigh to arrive before heading off to do the rounds.

There we go a quick Sprint round the Dolomites brings an end to our 2019 Rundfahrt. With Charlie safely berthed for the next 2+ weeks at a motorhome storage place. All that’s left to do is to maintain our sanity as we negotiate the joys of the RyanAir check-in experience for our flight home to Manchester.

Thanks for reading – please leave your comments. The next post will be in 2020, lets see where the new year takes us….

Toodle Pip

Dave & Lesley

Any Russians speakers will have translated “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!” to My hovercraft is full of eels” and Monty Python fans will no doubt wish to point out the phrase was from the 1971 sketch ‘Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook’ so in fact not Russian at all …….