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Travels with Nicolle
Introducing ourselves and Nicolle
We are retired schoolteachers living in Cambridgeshire, England. We are both keen travellers and toured Europe extensively as children with our parents, at a time when foreign travel was unusual for most British people. Sue's parents owned a shop so had to take holidays separately, Sue benefited from double holidays and stayed in hotels. My mother was a school teacher and my father had his own business with flexible working arrangements. We took long breaks with a tent and then caravan, often for a month or longer.
Sue and I met in West Germany when we were teachers serving in a British School. After marrying we continued travelling with our children, taking advantage of the long school summer holidays to visit France, Germany, Italy and Spain. We tried to balance a couple of weeks on the beach with an equal time of culture and history!
When the borders with eastern Europe came down we headed for Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria. Despite the hardships we loved it and our children still say it was the best holiday we ever had!
When we met, Sue was a keen tent camper but I had a caravan, bought with money left when my grandparents died. For 30 years we used Volvo estate cars and caravans for our travelling but once the children left home we bought a motorhome. We used this to tour extensively round Europe.
We tried a few package tours further afield but just couldn't stand being told what to do.
Whilst still working, on a one week trip to Morocco we saw French registered motorhomes and in Ushuaia, on our way to Antarctica, we saw French, German and Swiss registered motorhomes. We even saw a German registered overland truck in Kazakhstan on a Silk Route Tour. Clearly this was the way forwards for us.
We decided that we wanted to travel independently in our own vehicle. We visited the Abenteuer & Allrad Show in Bad Kissingen but everything on show was too extreme and too expensive. But at the Dusseldorf Show we discovered SeaBridge who specialise in shipping motorhomes around the world.
In 2008 we retired and bought a new motorhome ready for our new life. Since then we have travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. We spend at least six months of every year on the road.
We have now visited over 100 countries, (Sue is on 102, I'm a little behind her on 101) and we've visited 63 with Nicolle. In particular we love wilderness areas such as Northern Scandinavia and Alaska. We avoid campsites and prefer to wild camp whenever we can.
We bought our Chausson Flash 02 from Discover in Tyne and Wear in June 2008 just before Sue and I retired. As soon as she saw her registration plate, NK08 LLE, Sue said “We will have to call her Nicolle, especially as she’s French”. She was just what we needed. Short enough so that we could park her on our drive at home, reasonable ground clearance with big wheels so that we could manage the potholed roads of eastern Europe and the dirt roads in Scandinavia. I loved the Ford engine and 6 speed gearbox. She came with the Comfort pack which included an upgraded engine to 140 ch, cab air conditioning, large remistar skylight and cab seat covers to match the interior upholstery. .
Soon after buying Nicolle we added a few extras. We had a Fiamma awning fitted and I fitted a Fiamma three bike cycle rack, very easy to do as the fixing brackets were already prefitted to the ‘van. The gas bottle locker only takes one bottle so I decided to fit a Gaslow 11 kg refillable cylinder. Very little of our motorhoming is in Britain and, as we rarely stay on campsites I fitted a SOG so that we didn’t need to use chemicals in the toilet. This means that we can safely empty our toilet waste down a wc, long drop earth toilet or, if necessary when we are in very remote regions, bury it! I also fitted winter covers for the fridge, grill and cooker, not so much for the cold but to keep out the dust when driving on dirt roads, extra security locks and carbon monoxide and narcotic gas alarms. Sue made mosquito nets for the cab windows and sky lights and we screwed eyelets into various places in the cupboards in order to secure a mosquito net over the double bed.
Nicolle has coped well with some fairly extreme driving conditions. In the last eight years we have driven over 100,000 miles, visited four continents and 65 countries and she has taken it all in her stride. We have driven through eastern Europe, to the northernmost points of Scandinavia, through Syria and Jordan to the Red Sea and through the Sahara to Morocco and Western Sahara. In 2012 we shipped her to America and spent six months exploring USA , Canada and Alaska, driving Route 66, the Grand Sur up the coast of California, the Alaska Highway, the Top of the World Highway and the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean. In 2014 we shipped her to South Africa and drove through 12 African countries across the equator to Uganda. She performed exceptionally well on potholed and rutted roads and her progress on extremely rough corrugated dirt tracks was equally impressive. With only two wheel drive, sand and mud are a problem (we carry sand ladders, a shovel and tow rope) but we only got stuck twice. On the first occasion we were towed out by a huge Toyota pickup truck, the second time Sue with a little help from reluctant campsite staff pushed us!
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