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Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

by Alan Gow  |  June 2019  |  Italy

Tuscany evokes alluring images of vineyards, olive trees, good food, picturesque towns and loads of sunshine.  There is a good reason why Tuscany is one of the most visited regions in Italy – it is absolutely gorgeous.

Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Cortana, Pisa, Lucca…. the list of spectacular historic towns is seemingly endless. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano… the names of the unique regional wines just roll off the tongue as easily as the wine flows down the throat.

 

Tuscany’s Hilltop Treasures

We had three weeks, in May 2019, to nosey around this little patch of paradise and visit some of the well-known, and not so well-known beauty spots.  I confess that by the end of this time, seeing yet another ancient walled hilltop town ceased to be the thrill it was at the start.  There was always something however that was unique and made the effort worthwhile.

I’m not going to bore you with a detailed regurgitation of Dr Wikipedia’s facts about each place we visited.  Instead, there will just be a few pictures and maybe a sentence or two to explain the individual specialness (if that’s a word), that we found there.

For a change, we were not staying in our motorhome in Tuscany because Betsy was in for repairs. We stayed in AirBnBs in three towns and used them as bases for exploring others.

We will still give you some likely spots to park up your motorhome for free.  We found most of these, as usual, on Park4Night.  No guarantees but they looked good to us so should work unless the local authorities have an about face and start restricting the parking.

Colle Val D’Elsa

The views from this charming medieval walled hilltop town immediately captivated us.  The sturdy ancient stone walls, the delightful Tuscan countryside and the fresh vibrant spring flowers welcomed us to Tuscany. The low number of tourists visiting this less well-known jewel was delightful.

There is a large car park where you can park overnight near the old town (GPS 43.4226, 11.1140).  Most of the parks are better suited to smaller campers but there are some slots where you can reverse your overhang out over vacant ground (bring your ramps). Park4Night has some other places in the new part of town which may be better for bigger vehicles.

View of Colle from the old Convent

View down the beautiful Val D’Elsa Valley

Old Colle and the Church tower

Typical archways and narrow alleys

Plants anyone?

San Gimignano

The USESCO listed San Gimignano is one of the most well-known of the Tuscany hill towns and as such was brim full of visitors even this early in the tourist season (May).  The 14 tall towers that are a hallmark of the San Gimignano skyline were built by the rich families between the 11th and 14th centuries as a symbol of their power and wealth, and to provide protection from other families.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

Not far from here we had a great day out at Ulignano truffle hunting, wine tasting and scoffing delicious food.  Great value and a special day out that we thoroughly recommended.

There is an authorised camper parking area at GPS  43.4521, 11.0556  however at €1/hour (€15/day) it is pricy for a longer stay.  You can use the services there without going into the parking and a free alternative parking can be found on the other side of town at GPS 43.4716,11.0285. This place looked like it would be fine for overnight however we stayed just a few hours.

San Gimignano spotted through fresh spring growth

Typical towers of San Gimignano

Busy, narrow streets and arches

Siena

Described as one of the most perfect examples of a medieval town, the UNESCO listed historic centre of Siena blends almost seamlessly into the contours of three hills.  For us riding our electric bikes, it also seamed to have the steepest hills of any of the Tuscan towns.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

A parking area just outside the walls allows an opportunity for campers to park overnight but there is a bit of a gradient involved so ramps recommended (GPS 43.327561, 11.335099).  We didn’t stay here but spoke with other travellers who slept here without problems.

Siena and the Cathedral from the Medici Fortress

Piazza de Campo famous for the annual horse race

Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico

World Class Siena Cathedral

Montepulciano

We spent several nights in an AirBnB just outside the medieval town walls and had several opportunities to soak in the sights and feelings.  Of special interest were the underground towns carved out by the winemaking families of the region.  These chambers with interconnecting passageways were (and still are) used for making and storing the famous local red wines and cheeses. 

Panoramic view from the town walls

Wine cellar in the underground city

Montepulciano main piazza

Enter the underground city here

One of the gates into the town

Montepulciano walls and houses

Pienza

Pienza is a little off the beaten tourist track but also features a historic centre listed by UNESCO due to it being the first example of Renaissance-era town planning.  The pet project of the Pope at the time.  This resulted in a beautiful town square while still preserving the older medieval structure and walls of the town.  Pienza has been referred to as the jewel of Tuscany.

To watch a UNESCO video click here.

There are a couple of potential overnight spots for campers including these authorised camper parking spaces at GPS 43.079949, 11.673309.

Pienza main piazza with the Cathedral

Inside the Pienza Cathedral

Stunning views over the Tuscan countryside

Spring flowers among the ancient buildings

Back streets and cafes

Narrow cobbled streets with few tourists

Frescoed gate in the town wall

Cortana

Another delightful walled town is Cortana with now-expected imposing walls, narrow streets and medieval buildings.  The unexpected highlight was the gorgeous interior of the Basilica Santa Margherita which was reached after a very long and steep climb up ancient stone roads and paths.  Our bikes could only take us so far.  We love being surprised when we walk into somewhere new and have that ‘blown away’ feeling.  There are some possible overnight parking spots for motorhomes as you drive up the hill. We found a small slot at GPS 43.2733, 11.9860. There was an authorised campervan parking here but that was closed for renovation when we visited and may or may not reopen (GPS 43.272985, 11.987823)

The view from the walls of Cortona 

Steep road by the walls leads to the Cathedral

The Basilica di Santa Margherita is worth the walk

Tuscan cobbled streets and art galleries abound

Old buildings and new flowers

Looking up the hill to the town is like looking at a fairy-tale

Arezzo

Arezzo was one of those pleasant surprises because you don’t read about it being a top tourist attraction.  However, it had everything you would want.  A great spot to park a camper not far from the entrance (GPS 43.4725,11.8831 ), a stunning cathedral, Medici fort and plentiful narrow alleyways, piazzas, old buildings, parks and shops.

The gorgeous Arezzo Cathedral

The Cathedral frescos are mesmersing

Monument of Francesco Petrarca

View from the Medici Fortress over the cemetery and beyond

Bagni San Fillipo

The small town of Bagni San Fillipo is famous for the natural hot springs that flow close by.  These have been left largely undeveloped (thankfully).  A visit here allowed us the rare chance to sit in piping hot thermal water, surrounded by trees and towering structures of thermally deposited minerals including the renowned “Balena Bianca” or White Whale.  The best part is that it was all free of charge (apart from the parking).  It is a popular destination but we arrived later in the day and spotted some English people we had met a few days earlier in Siena.  They invited us to sit in ‘their’ pool, which was the best spot.  Nice having friends in high places.

The massive “Balena Bianco” (White Whale) natural sculpture

Soaking in a warm stream of thermal water

Volterra

This was another of the less visited Tuscan towns and one that we immediately liked. We stayed high up in sports ground parking area not far from the walls (GPS 43.3976, 10.8616) and close to great views of the surrounding countryside.  The Medici fort here is still used as a penitentiary so we couldn’t visit.  The large weekly market and the fantastic outlook over the partly excavated Roman Theatre were particularly memorable.

Early morning views over misty Tuscan landscape

A well preserved Roman Theatre is a highlight

Baptistery of San Giovanni

The old Etruscan Gate

Where are the tourists?

Volterra views

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Schengen Rules Explained

Schengen Rules Explained

Alan Gow Checked Out the hidden secrets of managing Schengen time restraints

***  UPDATED APRIL 2019 ***

Don’t Let Schengen Ruin Your European Holiday of a Lifetime

If you are contemplating an extended holiday (more than three months) around Europe then you may want to keep reading.

If either you or your spouse/partner hold a European passport then you definitely need to read this because if you rely on the usual information sources, then you might just miss out on the holiday of a lifetime.

Who am I and how do I know this stuff?

I am from New Zealand and I hold a dual citizenship, (NZ and Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU).  I am married to a New Zealander who holds only her NZ passport.  We are travelling around Europe in a motorhome for a few years and to ensure we could do this hassle free, I engaged in some extensive research before leaving home.  The potentially most limiting factor was the time allowed to be within the Schengen Zone, which I will talk more about later in this post.  There was so much misinformation and lack of clarity around my situation, that I felt compelled to put together this document to help others to find the answers easily.

I went on a real emotional rollercoaster ride as I would read somewhere that there would be no restrictions on us – yay!  Then an embassy official would say that my wife would be subject to the Schengen restrictions but I wouldn’t – oh crap!  Then I would get other information to contradict this, and so on.  This continued for some months but over this time, as I researched more, my absolute certainty in my conclusions grew stronger.

At the end of it all, I found no official website or publication that categorically 100% stated that my wife was, or wasn’t going to be affected.  However, I found many documents, directives and other publications that said my wife enjoyed exactly the same ‘free right of movement’ as me.  This will be explained later in my post however I can confirm that we have been traveling for two years non stop, in and out of Schengen, usually exceeding the 90 day in 180 day limit (also explained later) and without any problems or questions from the border officials.  So it works.

What is this Schengen thing?

The Schengen agreement had a great goal, which was to abolish internal border controls within the European Union (EU), allowing passport free movement between countries.  When originally signed in 1985, five countries joined. However, this has now been extended and 26 countries, including four non-EU countries now make up the Schengen Zone.

Tens of millions of Europeans enjoy freedom of movement within the Schengen Zone.

Which Countries are in Schengen?

EU Countries

Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Non-EU Countries

Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
Schengen Map showing which countries are in the Schengen Zone

Who has been left out?

Britain and the Republic of Ireland chose not to join Schengen.

Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania are in the EU but have not yet joined Schengen.

What Does This Mean for Short-Term Travellers

For most short-term travellers to countries in the Schengen zone, this is all good news.  Citizens from a long list of visa exempt countries, which includes New Zealand and Australia, do not require a visa to enter Schengen.  Once you clear immigration at the first port of entry, you are free to travel to any of the above countries without needing to show your passport at any borders.

Citizens who are not from visa exempt countries, will need to apply for, and obtain a Schengen visa.  I am not going into the process for this but there is a wealth of information available on the internet, including on this site.

So, what is the issue?

The problem comes if you are travelling on say a NZ or Australian passport, and want to spend more than 90 days within a 180 day period touring within the Schengen Zone borders.  Because that is forbidden.

That’s right, you can spend about three months within that whole block of 26 countries, then you will need to leave the zone for a minimum of three months before being allowed back in for another three months.  As a non-EU passport holder, your passport is (or should be) physically stamped with the entry and exit dates and all data is stored in the Schengen Information System.  When exiting or entering Schengen again, the dates are checked to make sure you have not overstayed your welcome.  Significant fines and re-entry bans can be imposed on those travelers who do not comply.

I guess it made sense back in the day when there were only five countries in Schengen club.  It was common for those counties to grant tourists a three-month entry permit or visa, so when Schengen came into being, it was probably easiest to allow three months within the whole zone to make sure no visitors exceeded three months in any one country.  As more and more countries joined however, this has become increasingly restrictive and senseless (in my humble opinion) for long-term travelers.

I believe that there are moves afoot to create a 12-month ‘ tourist visa’ for Schengen which will certainly ease the problem but who knows when they will get around to that.

For the average traveler shoehorning in a European experience around their annual leave, this isn’t going to affect them.  However, for the lucky nomads like us, who have the opportunity to take an extended time out, this can really restrict where you can go, and when.

What about travelling to Non-Schengen Countries?

Each individual country has its own rules and visa requirements and you are best to research these for the countries you are travelling to.  Britain, for example allows a six months visa free stay for many visitors while most Balkan states (e.g. Croatia, Bosnia, Albania) allow a three months visa free visit.  Turkey also allows a three months stay however most travellers will need to obtain a Turkish visa on-line (New Zealand passport holders are one of the few Turkish visa exempt countries).

Planning around Schengen

Unless you or your ‘registered partner’ are European citizens, there are just a few options available to you.

Plan your travels

The most common approach, for those who don’t have an EU passport, is to plan your travels around the ‘90 days out of 180 days’ restriction.  This means that you must exit Schengen on or before the 90 days expires, and stay out for 90 days.  You can then re-enter Schengen for another 90 days.  In reality this may mean flying over to Britain for 3 months, or driving/ferrying across the Schengen border to countries such as Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Morocco or even Turkey, and enjoying their charms for a spell.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and pushes many travelers to experience countries they wouldn’t otherwise have given a second thought to.

You can go out of, and back into Schengen during that 180 days period but you need to keep careful track of where you have been and when so that you don’t exceed 90 days in any 180 days.

Keeping an eye on the seasons while doing your planning is important. We met a lovely Australian couple in Thessaloniki, Greece in December 2017, who were planning on driving up into Bulgaria and Romania for the first three months of winter because they needed to get out of Greece within the next few days.  Now, those countries may be nice during the summer but they aren’t the ideal spot for a small motorhome in a Northern Hemisphere winter.  We suggested they consider Turkey instead and they experienced a fantastic and much warmer time exploring the south of that wonderful country.

Residence Permits

Another alternative is to apply for a residence permit in one of the Schengen countries.  However, these are not handed out easily, normally require you to have a fixed address with a property lease agreement, and a valid reason for being there.  These only give the right to stay longer than 90 days in that one country and aren’t intended for the purpose of then hopping from country to country.  You could theoretically then travel within Schengen and eventually exit from the country from which you obtained a residence permit however this isn’t strictly legal and if caught you could be in serious trouble.

So, short of quickly marrying a local, or having an EU spouse, are there not many ways of being able to extend the Schengen period.

One option that can help Kiwi’s and Ozzies, is to take advantage of the historical Bilateral Agreements our countries entered into with many European countries.

Bilateral Agreements

These Agreements are historical agreements between two countries to abolish the need for visas for non-working stays of up to three months.

New Zealand and Australia for example, established Bilateral Agreements with most European countries up to 50 years or more ago and these have never been cancelled.

Because these agreement pre-date the Schengen agreements, most Schengen countries will still honour them and allow a visitor to have up to three months in their country even if they have just spent three months in other Schengen countries. 

The catch here is that the individual countries seem to have different ways in which they allow these agreements to be utilised, for example, France will allow another three months under the Bilateral agreement only after you have spent your 90 Schengen days outside of France. Germany appears to be very flexible but some, for example, Hungary, require you to enter their country from a non-Schengen country and leave to a non-Schengen country.  Others, such as Italy are no longer honouring these agreements at all.

I strongly recommend that if you want to make use of these agreements, researching them thoroughly should be an important part of your travel preparation.

Contact the embassies concerned to advise them of your travel plans.  Here’s what to ask for in writing:

  • ask for confirmation that the Bilateral Agreement can be used for additional time in their country without reference to time spent previously in Schengen
  • ask about the process and any conditions around how to use the Agreement

    Keep records to prove that you did not exceed the 90 days in any of those countries, i.e. keep receipts.

What if My Spouse or Partner is an EU Citizen?

In this case, travel within Schengen just got a whole lot easier, especially once you know what I am about to tell you.

Firstly though, a simple defacto relationship will not be good enough here.  You must be either married or have a partnership that is ‘registered’ in an EU country, and the EU country you are entering has to treat ‘registered partnerships’ as equivalent to marriages.  Check the individual country requirements as to registered partnerships.

If you qualify, then the overriding European legislation that gives you the right to exceed the 90 days in Schengen is ‘European Directive 2004/38/EC’ which states citizens of the Union, and their family members can move and reside freely within the Member States’.

You should print out, and carry a copy of this Directive with you on your travels.  Highlight and be familiar with the sections that apply to you.

I apologise if this now gets a little detailed but it is vital that you understand your rights and why you have them, if you want to travel freely around Europe.

European Directive 2004/38/EC is a EU wide directive or instruction that the Schengen rules have to comply with, therefore all of the Schengen rules, codes, and regulations are written with this in mind.

Directive 2004-38-EC

In my experience, there is a lack of information, and in fact there is a lot of misinformation about how this applies to the spouse travelling with an EU citizen.

One of the fundamental freedoms of the EU Treaty is that citizens of member states can freely live and work in other member states, within the restrictions laid out in the Treaty.  However, there is no point in a citizen being able to move to another state if their spouse and children are not allowed to join them.  Therefore, Directive 2004/38/EC clarifies that all family members of a Union citizen have the same right of free movement as the citizen themselves.

 

What this means for you is:

  • You and your non-EU spouse can travel to any EU member state (Schengen or non-Schengen) and stay for up to three months with no restrictions. This is known as the ‘Community Right of Free Movement’ – remember this phrase as it’s important.
  • The only travel documents you need are your passports and marriage certificate
  • After three months, you can travel to any other EU member state and live in, or travel there for up to three months
  • This process can be repeated ad infinitum, i.e. forever
  • If you want, you can return to a member state you have previously visited, provided each visit does not exceed three months – again an important point.

What happens at Schengen Borders?

The guards at Schengen border crossings have to abide by Directive 2004/38/EC.  To assist them in correctly processing people passing through the border, a handbook, Schengen Handbook for Border Guards has been produced in all major European languages.

Although the border guards are supposed to know their job, there are still stories around about some of them not being aware of the rights of spouses and trying to deny entry or impose penalties for overstaying the 90 days Schengen restriction.  We ourselves have had three such border crossings so far where we may have been questioned by border guards and we had no problems whatsoever.  The first was from Greece to Turkey and back.  The second was leaving Finland for St Petersburg after eight months continuously in Schengen then returning to Finland a few days later.  The third was leaving Spain for Morocco then returning nine weeks later.  On all occasions, my wife and I exited and re-entered Schengen with no questions and without even being asked for our marriage certificate.

You should also print, and carry a copy of this Handbook with you on your travels.  Highlight and be familiar with the sections that apply to you.

 

Schengen Border Checks for Spouses of EU Citizens

As a spouse accompanying an EU citizen you should expect the following at a Schengen border:

  • You should only have to show the guard your spouse’s EU passport, your passport and be able to show your marriage certificate if requested
  • The guard should give your documents only the ‘minimum check’, which is defined as just checking that they are valid documents and show no signs of tampering, forgery or falsification
  • They should not ask anything about your travel plans, where you are staying, how much money you have to support yourself or question your Schengen entry or exit dates.
  • You can only be refused entry on genuine grounds of national security or public health.
  • Your passport is likely to be stamped unless you yourself have an EU or EEC identity card.

Note

If you are from a non-visa exempt country, you must obtain a visa to enter Schengen in the first place.  The documents I obtained were not clear on what would happen if your visa has expired and you are exercising your rights under Directive 2004/38/EC.  However it is clear that you still have the right to freedom of movement and if additional visas are required, they should be provided promptly and without charge.  You will need to do your own research in these circumstances.

Schengen Borders Code, Regulation 2016-399

EU Regulation 2016-399 defines defines how Schengen operates, however it clearly state that the rules “neither call into question, nor affect the rights of free movement enjoyed by Union citizens and their families….”.

What this means is that the Schengen Border Code cannot be interpreted in any way that affects or over-rules your rights outlined in Directive 2004/38/EC.

That sounds clear so what’s the problem?

The problem for me was that before undertaking dozens of hours of research, I didn’t know any of this and most embassy officials don’t know either.  If I had taken the first responses I received as the gospel truth, we would not be experiencing the amazing journey we are on now.  Luckily, I am a bit like a dog with bone about this sort of thing and kept digging deeper.

I’m not sure whether it is deliberate or just ignorance, but the embassy officials were the worst offenders at giving out wrong or incomplete information.  For example, the Italian consulate in Melbourne insisted my wife could only have 90 days and directed me to websites to back this up.  When I pointed out that the websites actually backed up “my” position he quoted lines from the website but added in extra words to support his claim.  When I pointed this out, I heard no more.

During this time, I was also in contact with other potential travellers in a similar predicament and they were getting different advice than me.  For example, the website ‘Your Europe Advice‘ is an official public service from independent lawyers giving advice on EU law.  After asking very specific questions, I finally got the advice that:

“Every Union citizen has the right to reside in the territory of a host Member State for a period of up to three months without any conditions or formalities other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport” and

“The EU national and family members can move to another EU Member State after three months if they wish and repeat the above process and continue to do so”.

A link to the full response is provided at the end of this document.

However, Paul who is an EU citizen married to an Australia was told by the same organisation that:

“This means that your spouse would be entitled to travel to an EU country and stay up to 90 days. The 90-day limit on short stays applies to stays in the Schengen area as a whole, not to individual countries. The limit is not applied so that a visitor can spend 90 days in each country. Instead, the limit is applied so that a visitor can only spend 90 days in the Schengen area as a whole (Articles 3 and 6 of Regulation 2016/399 apply).”

Same question, totally different answer?  How can this be?

People are making massive decisions about their holidays of a lifetime and you can’t get a straight answer!  Fortunately, I was able to provide Paul with my research and documents and as a result, he and his wife travelled freely into, around, out of, and back into Schengen for many months in 2017 and 2018 with no problems.

Once I was very sure of my findings, I started asking direct and focused questions of the various embassy officials.  I was able to reference the Directives and Legislation and ask for their confirmation that I would have no problems crossing their Schengen borders.  It seemed that most just found my questions too hard, and either fobbed me off or ignored me.  I eventually had a satisfactory response from the German consulate in Berlin:

“You as an EU citizen can stay in Germany for up to 3 months without any further requirements. No matter in how many EU countries you have stayed prior to your arrival, you and your wife can stay in Germany for three months.”

The Hungarian official, after sending the question to the FREMO expert committee on Free Movement, in Brussels advised me unofficially that:

“I have received the official confirmation from Brussels that you and your wife can stay up to 3 months in each country without any administrative restrictions.”

It is always a little scary approaching a border crossing and not being sure what will happen.  Be prepared for the worse and 99% of the time you will just sail through without being questioned.

The bottom line is that as long as you clearly understand your rights, you are in a strong position.

I Have a British Passport – What about Brexit?

Great question and I wish I had an answer for that one, however at the time of writing that is up in the air.

It would appear that if and when Brexit actually happens, the British will lose their rights to freedom of movement.  I have not seen any proposed agreement or framework that will preserve this right.  After all, when you leave the club you can’t expect to keep enjoying the club privileges. 

There may, or may not be a delay to implementing the changes depending on the deal or no-deal that eventuates..

Who knows what the final result will be and it is a time of great uncertainty for British passport holders wanting to spend large chunks of time abroad.

My advice, get the hell over here before it all turns to custard.

Many British are trying to obtain Irish passports which would bring the right to free movement for them and their families. 

Document Links

Here are the links to the most important documents referenced plus some others I haven’t mentioned but gives you some more background.  I have highlighted parts of the relevant sections in some documents.

Directive 2004/38/EC

Schengen Handbook

Schengen Border Code – Regulation 399-2016

New Zealand has Bilateral Agreements with:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Austria
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Freedom to move and live in Europe – A guide to your rights as an EU citizen

The RIght of Union Citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the Union

Response from Your Europe Advice questions re Schengen

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.

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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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.