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Week 9 in Morocco

Week 9 in Morocco

by Alan Gow |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africable of Contents

MAP

Just a short drive to Asilah and then up to Tangier Med for our departure, eventually.  The roads in this part are great but don’t offer the typically stunning scenery seen further south.

We are stranded and waiting for the gales to die out so we can cross back to Spain. We then endure the painful Moroccan exit procedures

 

After a short drive to Asilah, bad weather keeps us stuck in Morocco for a few extra days before returning to Spain via Tangier Med Port.  We use some of the time to explore the delightful Asilah medina.

 

Day 57; Asilah, Monday 25 March 2019

With our LPG gas tanks nearly empty, we drive north to be close to the Tangier Med Ferry Terminal.  From now on we will have to be hooked up to mains power or we will soon run out of gas.  If that happens we can’t cook, or have a shower and our fridge won’t work.

Our friends recommended the seaside town of Moulay Bousselham as a good spot to spend a few days before finally leaving Morocco.  After checking the reviews of various camping grounds we choose the one with the least bad reviews and head straight there.  On driving into Flamingo’s Camping, it just doesn’t feel nice.  Everything is overgrown and looks unloved.  There is nothing here that looks inviting.  We park, have a cup of tea then decide that if they want our valuable business, they need to up their game and at least make the place look half presentable. 

 

Asilah Medina

The quaint Atlantic seaside town of Asilah is only another 30 minutes up the road and 30 minutes closer to the ferry so we point Betsy in that direction and keep going.

Often being the first stop for motorhomers arriving in Morocco, Asilah is a great introduction to the culture and the people.  We missed this when we chose to drive first down the Mediterranean side because the weather forecast there was better.  Asilah however, would be a much nicer option (in my humble opinion).

Camping Echrigui  (GPS 35.47243, -6.02825) is close to the beach on the north side of Asilah and costs 80 dirhams a night including electricity.  Soon after we arrive, so do our friends Tommy and Zoe, who crossed from Spain to Morocco with us eight weeks ago.

The Asilah medina (old walled part of the town), is right on the port and some stone sculptures have recently been installed outside the walls.  The shiny, new modern sculptures look a little incongruous against the ancient stone walls but are nice pieces.

Asilah Medina Walls and Modern Stone Sculptures

Looking through the sculpture

Day 58; Asilah Medina, Tuesday 26 March 2019

We cycle into town to explore the Asilah medina and stop beside a set of vividly painted tiles fixed to the wall.  Each tile is a different representation of the Hand of Fatima, which is an ancient symbol believed to provide protection against the ‘evil eye’.  The concept of the evil eye is that it is a curse cast on you by someone giving you a malevolent look, usually when you are not aware of it.  I wonder how many malevolent looks we have picked up in the last nine weeks in Morocco.  It’s a little scary to think about it.

The ‘Hand of Fatima” is a common theme in Morocco – here on painted ceramic tiles

Caught Out by a False Guide

While we are examining the tiles, a man walks past and explains that these were made by a local artist in a nearby shop.  He motions for us to follow him.  As we have nothing better to do, we follow him around the Asilah medina while he explains about the different architecture and how to differentiate between the different types of buildings and doors.

After a little while we realise that we have managed to pick up a ‘false guide’.  These people are unregistered illegal guides.  They try to charge for providing tours after giving unsuspecting foreigners some historical information about their surroundings.  We had experienced this approach before however then we plainly told the person that we were not interested in a guide. 

This time, we had been caught out and it took a while before we twigged to what he had done.  As we neared the medina exit, the man asked for money saying that he had given us a ‘Asilah medina tour’.  We told him that we hadn’t asked for a medina tour and that he had just been walking with us and talking.  On this occasion, he went away empty-handed however we have heard of instances where tourists have been pressured into paying significant sums for something they didn’t know they were having.

TIP: If someone comes up to you and starts telling you about what you are looking at, they are likely to have an ulterior motive, usually involving getting money from you.  If you don’t want a guide, (or to be taken to their uncle’s carpet shop), then tell them this very clearly. Stop and wait for them to move on. 

However, if you do want this person to be a guide for you, then agree the price up front.  Do not wait until the end otherwise you leave yourself open to excessive charges and extortion.  If you are concerned then just say you will call the tourist police of whom illegal operators are very scared.

Having said that though, the Asilah medina is very interesting, containing some unique buildings and great street art.

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Wall Mural in the Medina

‘Hands of Fatima’ Street Art

Traditionally painted Asilah Medina house

One of the many interesting alleys

Stranded in Asilah

Days 59 – 60, 27th – 28th March

The wind has been blowing a gale and we find out that nearly all the ferry sailing are cancelled and the ferry terminal is in chaos. It is overrun with hundreds of motorhomes (as well as cars, motorbikes and others) trying to leave Morocco.

We decide to wait out the storm and spend another two nights here until the ferries are sailing regularly again.  Asilah is a nice place to be and we really enjoy the last opportunities to experience the totally unique feelings, sights and tastes that are so different to what we know awaits us back in Spain.

Most businesses are closed on Fridays, so this makes Thursday an important shopping day for the locals.  We venture out on our bikes into narrow streets.  They are crammed with people selling everything imaginable plus a few things I could never have conceived of.  Making progress on the bikes is impossible.  We buy some pumpkin from an old lady and lock our bikes to the post beside her, reckoning that she will keep an eye on them.  Next it’s time to stock up on fresh chicken, spiced turkey mince, fruit and vegetables before reluctantly leaving.

Buying pumpkin, Asilah Street Vendor

The Coast is Clear to Leave

Day 61, 29th March

The ferries are running regularly and it’s time to leave.

I decide to save some money and see a little more scenery by taking the non-toll road for part of the way up the coast.  Bad move!  We don’t know whether it was a setup but as we are leaving Asilah on a straight road with an 80km/hr speed limit, an old car pulls out of a service station right in front of me and sits at 40 km/hr. 

Without thinking properly and with a clear road ahead, I pull out and pass him while failing to notice the two men at the side of the road a few hundred metres up the road.  Whoops, they are police and I have just crossed a solid white line. Twenty minutes and 400 dirhams later, we resume our journey.  Lesson learned.  My bad.  Nine weeks ticket free then on the last day I am pinged. 

TIP: There are a lot of speed traps in Morocco, particularly in the more touristy areas. Many motorhomers receive speeding tickets so beware.  They are also very hot on policing solid white no-passing lines.  Coincidentally, another person we met copped a ticket when he pulled out to pass a rickshaw in similar circumstances.  Maybe there is some sort of setup scenario where someone deliberately pulls out and travels slowly to entice vehicles to pass illegally? Or maybe I am just annoyed at getting a ticket myself?

We arrive at the Tangier Med ferry terminal about 11.00am hoping to catch the 1.00pm ferry however we were not prepared for the chaos that is the exit process.  Those readers who intend to visit Morocco in a motorhome may want to take note of this so they can prepare themselves emotionally for the trauma. There were still some ferries being cancelled or delayed and this may have contributed to what we experienced.

 

Exiting the Country – Morocco Style

Queue 1 – Boarding Passes

With a return ticket already in your possession the first thing needed is simply a boarding pass.  Upon arriving into the terminal, it is likely that someone will wave you over and ask for your ticket and passport.  They just want to get your boarding pass for you then try to charge you money.  Therefore, Don’t give your passport to anyone.  Just park, walk over to the booth displaying the name of your ferry company, and give them your documentation.  They will give you boarding passes for the passengers and your motorhome.  This is the first of many queues ahead.

Be aware when you are driving in the extensive terminal area that there are speed limits and usually police officers with radar guns.  So stick to the speed limits.

Queue 2 – Passport Control

Queue 2 is for passport control and once you make it to the booth, hand over your passports, which must still contain the slip of paper that was stapled inside when you entered.

Queue 3 – Vehicle Documents

On entering Morocco, you were given a temporary vehicle import document, which needs to be presented and verified when you exit the country. Processing this is the next step and we inch forward in Queue  3 until it is finally our turn.  The document is taken away, stamped and returned to us, and we are free to move onto the next step.  A lot of the local vans seemed to be searched here before passing this bottleneck.

Queue 4 – X – Ray

All vehicles leaving Morocco are X-Rayed (looking for stowaways, drugs and weapons we think) and Queue 4 for this step is long and slow moving.  Motorhomes are shuffled into the far-right lane and drip fed into place along with the cars.  About 20 vehicles at a time are lined up on a ramp beside the mobile unit.  We leave our motorhome and after about 10 minutes the X Ray truck trundles along scanning each vehicle.  Another 15 minutes later and we are allowed to hop back into Betsy and leave.  It’s no wonder that Queue four is so long when there appears to be absolutely no urgency in processing vehicles through.  I am sure they could have easily put through four batches in the same time if they had just tried a little harder.

Betsy waiting to be X-Rayed at Tangier Med Port 

Finally, the formalities seem to be concluded nearly two hours after we arrived at the port.  We find our way to the dockside parking area associated with our ferry company.  It’s a good idea at this time to make a cup of tea and some food.  Maybe even watch a movie because the printed time on our boarding pass is merely there because they wanted to use up some ink and there was a blank space on the paper.  It bears no resemblance to any actual departure time.  The Tangier Med website suggests that all our ferry line sailings are cancelled until 3.00am.  We settle in for a long wait, glad to be in a motorhome where we can eat, watch movies or even have sleep.

Lo and behold, a Balerius line ferry turns up about 5pm (remember we’ve been here since 11am) and starts offloading cars and trucks.  Maybe we will get lucky?  We should have bought a lottery ticket because it appears that we will be actually leaving on this ferry this afternoon.  The stars must be in alignment for us today!

Queue 5 – Final Check

Immediately prior to boarding the ferry, they take a final opportunity to get us to wait in Queue 5 by doing one more inspection of our passports.  In our case, the officer also looked briefly inside the motorhome before letting us board.

“Finally”, we say to ourselves.  We are on board and on our way.  Sorry, but no.  Once you are boarded you should expect to wait anywhere from one to three hours before you actually get underway.  In our case, the 1.00pm ferry actually left about 6.30pm!!!!

 

Spain at Last

On arriving in Spain, the customs and immigration process is so easy and fast that it almost feels wrong.  Although we loved Morocco, the delays leaving, then the painful and prolonged exit processes mean we feel a deep sense of relief when we finally reach Spain.

We head straight to the nearest LPG filling station and fill up our gas tanks because we are now so empty that the fridge won’t start.  Luckily there is one just a few km from the ferry terminal.

A great place to spend the night after the ferry from Morocco is the camper parking at GPS 6.17897, -5.43916 (where we also stayed before crossing to Morocco).  There is lots of room, all the main supermarkets are around and the low stress night is welcomed after a long day escaping from Morocco.

So here ends our time in Morocco for this trip.

How did we feel about Morocco?  Would we go there again? What are the best points and what wasn’t so good?  Is there anything we would do differently and what were the key lessons we learned?

We will put together a summary of our trip, including interesting fact, top tips, and places you must see.

 

Costs for Weeks 1 – 9

A low-cost week costing us €193.51  slightly below the running average of €202.55 over the entire nine-week trip.

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How To Use Argan Oil

Week 7 in Morocco

Week 7 in Morocco

by Alan Gow |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents

Map

In Week 7 we crossed the High Atlas Mountains between Taroudant and Marrakech via the infamous R203 road over the Tizi N’Test pass.  The scenery was simply outstanding and the scary moments with other traffic were frequent.  Google Maps suggests this might take nearly five hours.  In reality, allow twice that.  Click to enlarge map.

As we climb the high passes of the High-Atlas mountains we experience new peaks of astonishment at the scenery around, then plunge to the deepest depths of despair and darkness at events half a world away in our home country of New Zealand.

We experience a roller coaster of emotions that have us loving Morocco and her people even more, but feeling that we should leave as soon as possible for our own safety.

While the events at home cannot be changed and forever scar our memories, we gladly report that any concerns for our safety are unfounded and we continue to feel safe, appreciated and very welcome here in Morocco.

The week’s post is different from previous chapters in that (apart from this opening), it is light on words and heavy on photos.

 

Taroudant to Tizi N’Test Pass – Climbing Goats and High Alpine Passes

The R203 road is known for being a little difficult.  Narrow and worn out, it winds sinuously up to 2,100 metres and guarantees the driver (and passenger) some interesting and hair-raising moments, especially when meeting on-coming traffic.  We are travelling together with our German friends, Roger and Andy, just in case either one of us runs into trouble.

Don’t just take my word on the R203 being a little suspect.  Here is a report from someone who is an expert on dangerous roads.

Soon after leaving Taroudant, we are privileged to see that ‘only in Morocco’ sight of a flock of goats grazing on foliage and nuts high up in the argan trees.  We saw this briefly once before, but this time we are able to get up close and take some great photos. If you want to read about argan trees, why they are so important and what is so special about argan oil then click here.

Haven’t you seen a goat before?

Getting close and personal with the goats

We ascend an unexpectedly good road with spectacular views back towards Taroudant.

The views as we begin our ascent

We spoke too soon about the good road and like the flick of a switch it deteriorates to a single lane of rough asphalt with some nasty drop offs.

The R203 deteriorates into a narrow strip of worn out asphalt

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Climbing higher, the views are even better but the air in the distance grows hazy, which often seems to be the case in Morocco due to dust whipped up by the wind.

High on the R203, the views are spectacular

There are a couple of places along the road where you can fill up with crystal clear mountain water. It’s worth taking this road with empty water tanks just so you can fill at this mountain waterfall.  The local man sitting by the side of the road was selling herbs for tea.

Some more great photos can be snapped especially where the rocks overhang the road.

Our motorhomes by the waterfall

Betsy under the overhanging rocks

The R203 – How long will that rock stay up there?

At 2,100 metres we reach the top of the Tizi N’Test pass and find our sleeping place for the night at Mustapha’s Auberge (GPS 30.86839, -8.37922), for 80 dirhams.  Mustapha apparently makes one of the best Berber omelettes in the business and after dinner, there are no arguments from us.

 Motorhome parking on Tizi N’Test Pass

Berber omelettes for all

In the early morning, the air clears to allow some photographs down both sides of the Tizi N’Test Pass.

Pink skies looking south from Tizi N’Test

Golden light as the sun hits the peaks

Looking north to the road ahead

Tizi N’Test Pass to Asni

Our journey continues from the Tizi’N Test Pass on the R203 which is still very narrow at times and with some nasty broken shoulders on both sides.  The traffic however is a lot heavier which means some careful passing is required.

As we continue, the evidence of long-ago geological events appear,  We suddenly have a rainbow of colours showing in the rocks and strata of the mountains around us.  It reminds me of the pink, white and chocolate ‘Neapolitan’ ice cream we used to buy in two litre tubs as kids back in New Zealand.

Neopolitan ice cream mountains

We wind down following a wide river valley, passing ruining buildings and seeing slashes of green terraced hillsides wherever the life-giving water has emerged for humans to exploit.

Abandoned restaurant – someone’s lost dream?

Terraced hillsides wherever water shows

Looking down the R203 and the green river valley

Bottoming out in a wide flood plain we look back up at the mountain range we just drove through.

View back up the High Atlas Mountains towards Tizi n’Test

The Tinmel Mosque, a short diversion off the R203, is a historically important structure.  With roots dating back to the 11th century, it is lovingly restored and well worth a visit.  (GPS 30.984639, -8.228157).  A small donation to the guardian for the mosque is expected.

Tinmel Mosque – now restored

The arches provide interest for photographers

As we follow the river Oued N’Fis downstream it gradually swells from a mere trickle to something substantial, finally terminating in a large hydroelectric lake.

The Oued N’Fis River becomes a hydroelectric area called Lake Ouirgane

We haven’t wild camped (read our general guide to wild camping here) much in Morocco, but tonight looks like a good time to give it a try.  We set our sights on a nice looking picnic spot from the App Park4Night.  Parking up, we gaze into one of the most awe-inspiring valley views we have seen. (GPS 31.185601,-8.064748 ).  However, sleeping here was not to be…..

Ouirgane – one of the most awesome views so far

Within 30 minutes, the local chief of police rolls up with an interpreter to explain that they cannot guarantee our safety and we can’t stay.  This spot is only about 16km from the area where two Scandinavian girls were murdered a few months back and the local police are now very cautious.

They fortunately offer to give us a police escort to a local auberge or hotel, ‘Chez Momo II’ which allows us to spend the night in their car park.  We were a little aggrieved at not being able to stay in our chosen location but on the other hand, we feel ‘looked after’ by the police and locals.

Chez Momo II is a lovely private auberge with stunning views and decorated with original Berber artefacts.  We find out the next day that ‘Chez Momo I’ was submerged nearly fifteen years ago, along with three villages under the nearby hydroelectric lake.

Betsy’s scenic parking spot

The view from Chez Momo II over Lake Ouirgane

Tragedy Strikes at Home

Today we are in mourning for New Zealand, Australia and Muslims around the world.

An Australian living in New Zealand murders 50 Muslim men, women and children in two mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Totally senseless and horrific, this event is touched with irony for us.  Yesterday we were being treated with the utmost respect by the local Muslims who were concerned about our safety.  Today, in New Zealand, Muslims were being slaughtered.  Disgusting.  We are absolutely devastated to hear this news and spend the day in a state of shock.

Our reaction is one of shame, and also concern that there may be some in Morocco with extremist leanings feeling that a revenge killing of New Zealanders would be appropriate.  We take measures to hide our identity by covering over the ‘New Zealand’ decals we have been so proudly displaying on Betsy. Maybe this is an over-reaction, but it is how we feel at the time.  We remove the camouflage a few days later.

Sadly de-identifying ourselves as ‘Kiwis’

We ask the manager whether it is okay for us to stay another night as we are too upset to drive.  Once again, the gentle Moroccan hospitality shines through as he commiserates with us and allows us to stay.

(Not so) Magnificent Marrakech

The R203 continues onto Marrakech but without the stunning mountain and gorge scenery we have been used to.  The river bed at Al Haouz with the view back to the snow capped peaks was worth stopping and admiring.

Al Haouz, with vendor stalls, horses and snowy mountains

We are looking forward to seeing the fabled city of Marrakech but having heard mixed reviews from other travellers, we are determined to make up our own minds.  We find some guarded parking (we wouldn’t recommend) not far from the Medina and take our cycles in for a look at the markets and souks.  We have to try a sugar cane and lemon juice drink – it’s just one of those things you need to do once in Morocco.  How cool is it when they run the sugar cane through the rollers and the juice comes out?  As we drink, we know that the sugar content is off the charts but the lemon juice keeps the sweetness down.

Clothes Market

Mouthwatering display of olives and lemons

A dentist’s dream – sugar cane drink

Some of the backstreets are very picturesque and it’s worth waiting for everyone to clear off so you can take an unobstructed photo.

Marrakech backstreet gem

Once we hit the UNESCO World Heritage site of the main Jemaa-el-Fna Square, everything is rather chaotic.  The square abounds with snake charmers, monkey handlers, fortune tellers, fruit juice sellers, people wandering around in their national costume and crowds of tourists.  However, it doesn’t take long to realise that most of the people have just one thing in mind – to separate you from your money.

Over the two days we wandered the streets and markets of Marrakech, at times we really enjoy the atmosphere and sights.  More often however, we are weary of the attention from beggars, the continual efforts to rip us off and the busyness, hustle and bustle.  It is in Marrakech that for the first time we had to put our bikes into guarded parking, as well as lock them up.  We couldn’t go to an ATM because there were very aggressive beggars hassling anyone taking out money (four of them)!  We eventually retire to the top floor of the L’Adresse Café where a bird’s eye view gives us ample opportunity to watch the action from a safe, unharassed distance.

Marrakech – Jemaa-el-Fna Square

We visit the El Badi Palace which is worth a look for the incredible painted woodwork, intricate masonry and extensive mosaics.  Try to get there early and avoid the crowds if you want to takes some ‘people-free’ photos.

El Badi Palace courtyard

Amazing intricate painted wood ceiling panels

The local car park tried to overcharge us for parking our bikes.  Then an elderly fruit seller first overcharged us, then didn’t want to hand over our change (we got our money back and bought elsewhere).  After two days of this type of thing, the level of annoyance with the negative experiences outweighed any positive feelings we had.  That was enough of Marrakech for us!

Sorry that this hasn’t turned into a ’12 Best Things to Day in Marrakech” blog but you can find lots of those on the internet.

Weekly Costs

Food, both groceries and eating out, expenses were higher than usual due to hanging out with friends.  We managed to taste all sorts of things that we wouldn’t have otherwise, which was fabulous.

Our running average cost of living for a week in Morocco is about €220 (NZ$365 or £188).

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Tune in next week as we leave Marrakech and visit the impressive waterfalls and monkeys at Ouzoud, the lovely town and medina at Meknes, and the unexpected extensive Roman ruins at Volubilis.

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TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

by Alan Gow  |  January 2019  | Reviews
If you are fortunate enough to have bought a motorhome with an inbuilt tyre pressure monitoring system then this review is unlikely to be of interest to you.

If however, you are one of the great majority of us who don’t, then reading this could save you a lot of money, and possibly a dangerous accident.

 

Why have a TPMS?

A TPMS constantly senses the pressure inside your tyres and alerts you to any changes which could be the result of air leaks.

This can allow you to pull over safely and change or repair your tyre before it blows out or deflates completely. If you carry a tyre inflator kit, you may be able to add some air and get to a tyre repair centre without having to have the wheel changed.

I had met several motorhomers who had experienced tyres blowing out at high speed.  Blow outs are often the result of slow leaks.  If the driver doesn’t notice and stop, the softening tyre gets hotter and hotter which decreases the strength of the side wall.  Eventually this just can’t take it any more and fails catastrophically.

Many motorhomes (including ours), don’t carry a spare wheel so any device that looks after your tyres and reduces the chance of blow outs or needing to call out your emergency repair provider has got to be worth considering right?

We also met a motorhomer whose tyre had been punctured by someone in a supermarket car park.  The perpetrator then followed them and flagged them down to ‘tell’ them about their flat tyre.  While they were ‘helping’, someone else slipped into the motorhome and helped themselves to some valuables.  A good TPMS would pick this up before you even leave the carpark.

Correctly inflated tyres use less fuel and incur less tyre wear so there is a direct cost saving for maintaining the optimum pressures.

I understand that some insurers offer discounts to motorists who have a TPMS system.  I haven’t investigated this but it makes sense because it can drastically reduce the chance of a serious accident.

Why did I choose TyrePal?

With no spare wheel, I have always felt vulnerable and with an extended trip to Morocco planned, I was looking for how to minimise our risks by being alerted early to any possible problems.  I put up a post on a Facebook technical site asking for recommendations and reviewed the responses.

Although there were much cheaper units than the TyrePal, they were set-up and calibrated for car tyres and reportedly gave a lot of false alarms at the higher pressures in camper tyres.  When it comes to safety, correct functioning is vital and in any case, these units are inexpensive especially when compared to a set of tyres, or the cost of an accident.  One poster recounted how his TyrePal had already saved him the cost of replacing a £160 tyre.

The TyrePal Solar is the appropriate current model and has the benefit of not needing to be plugged in or mounted on the windscreen.

Why did I buy this off Amazon?

I had the choice of buying direct off the TyrePal website or buying off Amazon, so why did I choose Amazon?

Firstly, although the item price was the same, there was no shipping cost with Amazon so it actually worked out cheaper.

Secondly, I was in a hurry to receive this and the Amazon shipping service and tracking system has always been first rate.  This was delivered within a couple of days.

If you click on the link in this review, you can buy it at the same price and a few pennies also come my way (if you think I am worth it).

First Impressions – in the box

The box is sturdy and quite plain and contains everything that you need, including the display panel with four sensors pre-labelled and coded for each of the four wheels.  Note that additional sensors are available in case you have a tag axle or caravan. Also in the box are the instructions, a semi-sticky dash mounting pad, a spanner for tightening the sensors onto the tyre valve stems, four batteries, a tool for opening and closing the sensors for battery installation/replacement, some spare O rings, dust covers, locking rings and a charger cable and 12V charger.

The sticky mounting pad is a great idea as this just sits anywhere reasonably flat on the dash and can be moved around (so you have room for your coffee).  It is way more convenient than having another suction mount on the windscreen or a permanent stuck on pad somewhere.

Everything looks good and fit for purpose.

Installation and Setup

I did this while we were parked by the beach in Valencia, Spain on a glorious winter’s day.

  1. Each of tlhe sensors needs to be unscrewed open, the batteries installed then retightened using the tool provided.

2. After removing the dust cap from the valve stem, and installed the dust cover and locking ring, the sensor is screwed on and tightened against the locking ring. In my case, the wheel trims didn’t have enough clearance due to the larger diameter of the sensor, but a little adjustment to the trims with a file resolved this.  A quick test with some soapy water and that part of the job was done.

3. By following the clear instructions in the book, you then setup the display unit with the units (psi or kPa) as well as the minimum and maximum pressure setting for the alarms.

That was pretty much it really.  I was a little concerned that no pressures came up on the display but that was because I needed to ’wake’ them up by driving around the car park.  The sensors are designed to conserve the battery by only turning on when you are driving.

4. Once the sensors were showing me the tyre pressures, I used my Fix and Go tyre repair compressor in ‘inflation’ mode to bring the tyres up to the exact correct pressure.

 

TyrePal TMPS on the semi-sticky mounting pad

The Verdict

I have now driven a few thousand km with the TyrePal and love the secure feeling that this gives me.  We haven’t had any alerts (real or false), and the displays shows exactly what I would expect to see.

It is interesting how much your tyre pressures change with outside temperature, direct sun and particularly with driving.  We would often check out tyre pressure after we had been driving for a while but that really isn’t good enough because pressure checks should be done on cold tyres.  Our pressures increase by nearly 10% when the tyres are fully warmed up and the ones on the sunny side by maybe more.  I am sure we did a lot of driving in the past with incorrectly inflated tyres, but no more. We have TyrePal.

The display is clear and easy to read.  The display unit can be lifted off the semi-sticky pad and put our of sight.

(Photo of unit)

For me, I am really happy that I invested in the TyrePal Solar TPMS.  Many of the gadgets we have bought were to make our lives easier, however this one makes our lives safer while potentially saving us ruining tyres.

I have no regrets and strongly recommend this unit.

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

by Alan Gow  |  December 2018  | Reviews

Do Not Buy a 950i Motorhome Generator if the Following Applies:

  • You typically stay at camping grounds with an EHU (Electrical Hook Up),
  • You have a solar panel and don’t go away in the winter,
  • You don’t have an inverter,
  • You have very low power needs,
  • You are really short of payload and/or storage space,
  • You like having the biggest and best of everything (and are happy paying for it).

However, if the following generally applies then this may be worth having on board:

  • You love the freedom of wildcamping,
  • You don’t like having to go camping grounds to charge your batteries,
  • You like to travel in the winter,
  • You don’t have solar or your solar panels sometimes can’t keep you charged,
  • You don’t like having to limit your power usage according to how much sun there is,
  • You don’t want to have to tell your wife she can’t charge her phone or her computer,
  • You can make some room on board for a small bit of extra kit

How We Ended Up With A Generator

Buying a generator wasn’t on our radar at all but we ended up with the 950i Motorhome Generator.

We have two solar panels and two leisure batteries and most of the time, this set up meets our needs for power.  We are however living full time in our moho and that means having to manage the short daylight hours and low powered sun that comes with a Northern Hemisphere winter.

Our first winter was spent in the Peloponnese region of Greece, and later down in Crete and while Facebook was full of tales of bad weather in Spain and Portugal, we bathed in fine weather nearly every day.  It was only occasionally that we had more than a couple of dull days in a row and with a bit of careful power management, we got through the winter without having to go to any campsites to recharge.  We were fortunate on quite a few occasions to find a free power hook up just when we were starting to get a little desperate.  Anyone who has travelled in that region in the winter would know that an open camping ground is about as rare as hen’s teeth.  Anyway, we managed and then as usual, our solar setup was great through the summer and early autumn.

On reaching Norway however in September the succession of dull days and the shortening daylight hours put us into new territory and we suddenly had to start visiting campsites, or somehow find an EHU to keep our batteries charged.  In addition to thinking about where to find fresh water and dump out the old stuff, we now had to think about where we would find power and it started costing us a lot of money.

By the time we arriving in Oslo in mid October, the sun had little power even on a good day.  We believed that replacing the batteries with AGM batteries would help as we suspected our batteries were not working effectively and AGM batteries can be discharged to a lower charge state without damage, compared to normal flooded batteries, which would have given us more days between charges.  We found some excellent Exide AGM’s at a great price however they would not fit into our battery compartment.  We then spied this wee generator, grabbed it and now enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that comes with being fully electrically independent. 

If you are thinking that you would only use this in Scandinavia then I can tell you that we also needed it down through Holland, Germany, and France – the winter sun was just too weak and days too short to keep our batteries charged.  On a dull day your solar panel output can easily be less than 10% of their rated power so a lack of power can affect you anywhere and any time.

About the 950i

The 800W 950i is about the cheapest generator on the market, weighs under 10kg and at 380L x 340H x 200W is small enough to fit into a small slot in your garage.  There is also a 1200W model but in my opinion, you don’t need the extra power in most cases and it costs more, weighs more and takes up more room – so why would you?

The petrol tank holds 2 litres which seems to be enough for at least 5 hours running so the cost of running this is almost nothing.  I just fill up the tank at the petrol station rather than carry around an extra fuel container.

There is a a normal household 230V outlet plus a 12V outlet so you can charge a battery directly using the connector cable supplied.  There are the normal overload protection devices and the specifications state that it is compatible with sensitive electronics – we have had computers plugged in with the genny on with no problems.  There is an economy mode which is what we normally run on and I presume this just reduces the power output and fuel consumption. 

 

First Impressions

The 950i is a tidy, compact bit of equipment which is nicely finished and looks like it will do the job.  Overall, we were impressed with the small size, the weight, the price and the appearance.

We know that these generators are rebranded under several different brands.  Ours is blue, the one available on Amazon UK is red.

 

Using the 950i

After filling up the crankcase with oil (these are shipped without oil), and topping up the fuel tank, there is a short starting sequence to follow.

1. turn on the fuel tap

2. open the air vent in the fuel cap

3. close the choke

4. turn on the engine switch

5. prime the fuel by pressing the bulb on the side

6. pull the starting handle

7. allow the genny to warm up for a couple of minutes before turning off the choke, and plugging your EHU lead into the 230V socket

That’s all you need to do and in practice it only takes a few seconds.  You can then use the 230V inside your moho as if you were plugged into a normal EHU and your batteries will be charging.

The genny nearly always starts on the second pull from cold but once warm it starts on the first pull.  It then runs smoothly with a noise level at 7m of 58dB. What does that mean in practice?  It is noticeable but not too obtrusive.  We think that it is fine but out of consideration, we do limit where and when we run it, and if we have neighbours we check with them and advise how long we will be charging for.

We were asked by one of our readers whether a woman would be able to move and start the genny. Ruth was easily able to lift it from the garage and her up so the answer to that was “Yes”.

We have had two electric bike batteries, two computers, two IPhones and two electric toothbrushes all charging off the genny, and the leisure batteries are still getting charged at the maximum rate our on-board charger can handle.  The 950i seems to have enough power for all of our needs. 

Recommendation

We obviously survived up until this last winter without having a generator and could still have managed by being extremely frugal with power usage and booking into camping grounds on a regular basis.  That didn’t suit us and since having the genny we have experienced a great sense of freedom and independence.  Cloudy wet forecast for the next few days – doesn’t affect us anymore.

Without direct experience of other units I can’t really make comparisons other than to say that most of the ones talked about on Facebook sites for motorhomers are much more expensive, have high outputs (2kW plus), are bigger, and are heavier (20kg plus).  Our genny may not be a ‘big name’ model but for something that is really just there for the odd occasion, why would you spend more and carry more?

So far, we have used the genny at least a dozen times, it has done everything we asked of it and we recommend it.

We have put a link up to Amazon  on this page if you want to buy one.  If you buy it after clicking through on our link, we will earn a small commission however the price to you is the same as if you found the page directly.  So if you found this review helpful and decide to buy one, then it would be great if you used the link on our website.

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews
Do Not Buy One of These if the Following Applies:

  • You only camp in the warm months of the year or,
  • You have external window blinds or,
  • You don’t have an inverter or,
  • You love wiping down your windows with paper towels or cloths or,
  • You prefer driving with windows you can’t see through.

The Story of our Past – Pre Karcher

Unfortunately for us, none of the above applied so I knew in my heart of hearts that a Karcher window vacuum would be ideal.  I saw them in shops in various countries, picked them up, fondled them lovingly, then placed them back on the shelves because in my mind I couldn’t quite justify the real estate they would occupy in our moho or the empty real estate they would leave in my wallet. The ones I saw were quite heavy in weight and price.

Can you relate to waking up in the morning and drying copious amounts of water off the inside of your windows, then maybe having to clean the windows because of the smears left behind?   Then, when it is time to drive off, the windows have fogged up so you either have to wipe them down again or leave the engine running for ages to demist them.

Well, I did this grudgingly through our first winter but after a few weeks of cold dewy Finland mornings, I wasn’t looking forward to another four months of the same.

Time for a Dry Change

When I spied the VV1 in a shop in Finland, I immediately noticed that it was smaller and lighter than other Karcher models I had seen.  It didn’t come with so many fittings or fancy accessories but let’s face it, all we want to do is dry the inside of the windows.  Anything else is just extra volume and weight.  The kit included a window washing bottle with a microfibre cleaning cloth so that was really all I would possibly need.  Even though we were in one of the notoriously expensive Scandinavian countries, the price was reasonable.  So after consultation with my better half, who encouraged me to go for it, the VV1 made it into our motorhome, ‘Betsy’.

Experiencing the Karcher VV1

When we arrived back to Betsy we found a nice spot where the vac tucked into without getting in the way but unfortunately the windows were dry so I couldn’t try it out.   I woke up very excited the next morning and eager to test my new toy (I know, how sad is that).  You can imagine my joy when I peeled off the window blinds and saw the glass literally dripping and running with water.

I immediately whipped out the new device and watched in amazement as it hoovered off the water, leaving the glass spotlessly clean. A few swipes across the windscreen and side windows and the water was gone.  The vac has a small water container which was now full and this is easily detached and emptied out. 

The VV1 charges up quickly from a 220/240 socket and the battery lasts at least a week of water slurping before needing a recharge so there is very little drain your batteries. The weight is just over 500 grams (not much more than a can of baked beans) so it doesn’t put a dent in your payload.

I really didn’t appreciate just how much I would use the window vac.  Often, after parking up for a little while and making some lunch or a cuppa, the windscreen has fogged up again.  Rather than having to wait for the demister to do its stuff, a quick whip across the glass with the vac and the windows are crystal clear again.  It also makes short work of condensation on the habitation windows.

Recommendation

Although we could obviously live without the Karcher, it has added to our enjoyment of life, decreased our workload, and made driving safer (with crystal clear windows).  It was relatively inexpensive, not too heavy and not too big so for us it ticks all of the boxes needed to justify a place in Betsy.  It gets a 4 out of 5 stars recommendation from me.

These cool devices are available from many home appliance shops or you can buy one off our Amazon page for the same price (how good is that?).