European Escapades

Scaling Mount Abberville without water.




Front view of our first campsite in France Port-le-Grand Front view of our first campsite in France ‘Port-le-Grand’

Well we have started our trip across the sea to France and before we leave our last stop “The Green Welly” in Chatteris we decide it would prudent to book our first two nights over the channel to enable us to recuperate from the long trek from Cambridge to Calais and beyond. Lucky we did as our first port of call “Port-le-Grand” on Abbeville was according to the owners going through an upgrade to the pitches and were running a little behind schedule. They suggested we would be better arriving the week after. This posed a small problem as we wanted to go to France via the Channel Tunnel, because it meant that Missy Moo would be able to stay in the van for the whole trip. We felt this was the least stressful option as we were going to be travelling a fair few miles on the first real day of our travels. The other reason for the concern was that from our first look at the ACSI Guide we had so eagerly awaited, it seems all the nearest campsites to Calais apart from this one were marked as closed till 1st April (The term nearest ACSI site, means within 100km of Calais). This one was 115km away.

Fortunately after a few emails it was agreed we would be able to stay overnight and they would offer us a reduced rate of 5 Euros. The first night sorted we were happy to proceed. The one issue that still concerned me was our lack of water. Don’t forget I had cleaned us out for the public weighbridge two days earlier (see related “We need to lose some weight”).

The campsite when we arrived was as the lady said, in the middle of refurbishment. (Hence nice picture of front, I don’t want to embarrass them) Slowly grinding up the hill past the unfinished sanitary blocks and the playground on our left we entered into the war zone. With large trenches dug along the entire width of the plots, blue and yellow plastic pipes rearing out from them and coiled up on the grass. Tree roots pulled from the soil and mounds of chalky white gravel littering the landscape. Intermixed in the fray were the construction vehicles that moved ponderously up and down the now rutted and chewed up tracks that were once the access roads to the pitches. The pitches themselves, once we had avoided the large yellow digger were grass, but at an angle not welcoming to a motorhome. The first one I tried to take the van up onto, allowed me only three quarters of the distance needed before yielding. The heavy tires spewing forth grass and mud from beneath due to the dampness of the soil. I was going no further on this pitch and my arse was still out on the rutted roadway. With the yellow digger moving up towards me I decided the attempt was futile and allowed the motorhome to succumb to gravity and roll back down the slope. Feeling foolish and defeated, I decided to move back down the track and up the site road to the next row of pitches. Now away from the construction traffic, we had breathing room to decide what to do. Something stupid was called for and I came up with the solution in a flash. If I couldn’t get up the slopes onto a pitch I could go down the slope. The object lesson here is if you go down a sloped pitch, do it arse first. This way around at least your towing ring is facing the road and if required the camp owner can pull you out again. So with no water yet in the tanks I pull alongside the chosen pitch and precede front ways to a halt. Ass in? YES. Can I get out again now I remember the object lesson above? NO! So we are stuck at a 45 degree angle, with the motorhome’s levelling feet the wrong end of the vehicle and the kitchen at the top of the now created steep slope. After an evening of sliding dinner plates and wine glasses, along with the challenges of cooking pasta on a wonky stove we retired to bed. Me on the outside so as not to crush Frances in the middle of the night as gravity took its toll.

The next morning after sleeping on our issue, I had come up with a cunning plan. The pitch next to me was free and there was a gap between the trees that acted as a border between them. Having still at least six foot in front of us before we encountered one of the gaping Chasms that presumable was to be used for trench warfare later that week. I decided that we could reverse back and sideways as much as I could and if I got enough speed up as I went through the gap we could at an angle get enough momentum to get us to the roadway “Read churned up dirt track” and once there the front tires would have enough traction to pull the rear off the grassy pitch. It almost worked but as before I was three quarters of the way there when the tyres refused to grip any longer and the wheels just spun ruts into the spongy grass. The camp owner was very friendly and had already offered to pull me out if I was stuck so off to the reception to gain some help. At least I was almost facing the right way and had at least a tow ring for them to hook onto facing almost in the direction required.

At reception after paying for our first nights camping in France, the receptionist said that her husband would get his 4×4 and pull me out. As we walk around the corner to the Vehicle a bemused me, gets in what can only be described as one of those Noddy type Suzuki 4×4’s that you give to the kids to play with in the summer. I could just make out as I squinted, the large brass wind up key fitted to the top of the cab. Arriving at the campervan in our rescue vehicle, Frances gave a look to say “That’s thing couldn’t pull a mussel, let alone us up hill out of the mire”. I smiled encouragingly at her and said silently “I was thinking the same thing, but let’s humour them please”. Suffice it to say by the time we were connected up with me sat in the motorhome revving away in first gear, with mud and grass moving all directions and both motorhome and the Noddy 4×4 not moving anywhere, but making a lot of noise about it. We had finally all come to the conclusion that the toy 4×4 was not going to cut it and that the big guns would need to be called. Bring in yellow digger, the bain of yesterdays escapade. Well with it big chunky wheels it was not going to say no as we scrapped a large groove across one pitch as we slowly moved upto the road and beyond onto a higher pitch. With me straddling the roadway the digger relaxed and rolled back to allow the towrope to be disengaged and me to use gravity, slowly reverse and turning down onto the awaiting track. Success we finally got traction and the with the Frenchman in front of us pulling on the rope, we moved along the mud road to the safety of the gravelled track that sloped down towards reception and the exit. Here is where we with a firm shake of hands said our goodbyes to our first European Escapade.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 5:36 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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