Home extension on wheels – Our little project.

We have embarked on a journey. A journey towards a better camping life. Hopefully. Might of course also be, that we are turning into Dutch people, or German tourists. I hope not, but you never know.

This all started when we spotted one very cute teardrop caravan speeding on a French highway. My eyes met Waffle’s, and there was a moment of common understanding. We were moved by the gracefulness of that little house on wheels. It did not take long for us to start planning on getting one of our own.

After a thorough search online and a visit on a fair we came to conclusion; building our own was the best option to get something that would really meet all our needs, and be somewhat affordable.

I have received quite some wishes from people to write a report on this project, so I will. There will follow a series of posts on this project as it moves along. I hope to write a useful guide for other people who might consider building a small caravan themselves.

The rest of you, who think we are a little crazy, let alone stupid, welcome to follow our project too, maybe you get to laugh at the end, or on the way.

 

 

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How What and Why – Guide to Terceira, Azores

I fell in love with Azores, the nature, the ocean, the food, the people and the night sky. What is there not to love? It used to be one of those destinations I dreamed of visiting and as I finally did, I was not disappointed. I would like to see myself back in the Azores one day still.

In the meantime, as I am not there, I think you should be. So here is a guide on How, What and Why. This is an additional part to the previous posts Green Paradise and Volcanic Beauty, which describe our holiday more in the detail.

Terceira is not at all difficult to get to. Especially if you manage to get to Porto or Lisbon in the mainland Portugal. From there you can fly to Terceira with Tap, Sata or Ryanair with rather cheap prices and usually with direct connection. There are island linking connections as well, but by plane that might get pricey. Good thing to remember is, that Terceira has no boat connections to other islands during the winter season.

Once you have reached the island I do recommend renting a car. The car rentals are plentiful and you won’t loose much more than a 100 euros per week, plus of course the fuel. The traffic is nothing to be afraid of, although the rules seem to bend a little with the locals, the roads are calm and biggest causes for jams are cows. Theft and criminality is apparently minimal.

The island has an adequate offer on hotels, hostels and other accommodations. Also, the picnic and camping sites are gorgeous and easy to be found, some of the campings are also free to use! It is more or less tolerated to camp wild on the island, if you prefer that.

What to do there then? For us the main goal was of course hiking. The nature is amazing. The amount of green stuff sprouting from the rich volcanic ground is just ridiculous. Trails are mostly well marked and relatively easy, they are clearly investing into that area. The remnants of the volcanic past offer a lot of interesting sites all around the island. The volcanic caves and furnas are definitely worth visiting, as well as the coast.

The sea surrounding Terceira is full of life, so whale watching tours are offered widely. Some companies do better than others, so better keep your eyes open and read some comments. Usually you get a tour for 50 euros a pop. In the winter season it is not certain that you can sail, thanks to the storms, this is what happened to us. Might be better to not book online, but to confirm with the company first, whether it is even possible to have a tour.

The island also has the honor or having allegedly the most beautiful city in the Azores. That would be Angra do Heroismo. It is cute. Bigly cute. The houses are painted in pretty colors and they are decorated from top to bottom. Even the tiling on the streets is beautiful. I can’t compare with the other cities in the other islands, but I am convinced, it is difficult to get any prettier.

Angra is not the only beautiful place of civilization. Most of the smaller villages are also cute as candies. Terceira is known as the island of the Holy Spirit, so churches and chapels – or Impérios – can be found in every village. They are often painted in magnificent colors, to compete with the surrounding houses. During summertime there are also bull fights. On the streets, with a bull on a leash. Crazy people.

And the food! Fresh seafood is of course available, except for when the fishermen can’t sail, especially lapas and cracas. Look them up. Since cows are everywhere, you will expect nice milk and meat products. You most definitely won’t be disappointed.

Are we still wondering why on earth would I want to go to a small piece of land in the middle of the raging ocean? Well there you have a reason. It is a special place with a micro climate, nature like nowhere else and night sky to die for!

The people. They are great. Friendly and helpful, creating a welcoming atmosphere. They are proud of their home, proud of who they are and what they do. And they have every reason to be.

A unique experience. That was Terceira for us. That should be a reason enough to go there. If Terceira is not the number one for you, there are plenty of other islands to go around in the Azores. All special and unique in their own ways. We are planning to get all the way to Flores the next time.

The cost for our trip in total was about 700 – 800 euros. This includes the flights from Brussels (180€), to Porto and Terceira – and back. The car rental and  fuel (200€), food and the occasional hotel (250€) plus some extra goodies here and there. You can do it cheap, if you like camping outdoors.  

 

 

 

How what and why – Montenegro?

As there already are 3 posts about our trip to Montenegro, I figured a fourth one wouldn’t hurt. Much. This is going to be a little guide for you who maybe want to visit this pearl of the Balkans, maybe even go and hike the wilderness of the mountains. So, why to go, what to know and how to make it happen?

What and Why? 

First of all, it is one of the last places in Europe where the mass tourism hasn’t yet taken a steady foothold. You get to see the real life of the real country, rather that be stuck in a tourist bus and visit souvenir shops.

It is perfectly beautiful. The mountains are so green you wont believe it, there is pure and wild nature square kilometer after the other. The people are wonderful. Honest and hard working, welcoming and helpful, you rarely see any signs of corruption. I have never felt safer on a holiday!

The country has many faces. Small though it is, every valley and river bend offers something new. It has bits of Greece, a good heap of the Alps, French canyons, Italian Dolomites and the good old Mediterranean coast. All with a Slavic twist. There is plenty of nature to go about, including some medieval forests and bears, wolves and lynxes roaming in them.

It is a young country, Montenegro. Getting its independence from the union with Serbia as recently as 2006. It is full of history and culture though, you see the recent marks of Soviet times everywhere, especially in cities and more ancient history too, in ruins and so forth. The country is somewhat famous for being a perfect melting pot for cultures. Christians and Muslims live side by side in harmony. It is also a mixture of old and new, with modern things like WiFi connections everywhere and people doing their farming by hand in every village.

It is definitely worth wile to get a car and drive through the country, rather than stay at the coast and do the tours your hotel might organize. The coast is just as it would be in Greece or Italy, nothing special about that. The inland is something more unique and worth experiencing.

How to? 

Well, more about how we did it. There sure will be plenty of other ways to spend your holiday too.

You can easily fly into Podgorica. We took Ryanair from Brussels south and traveled only with hand luggage. Yes, you heard it, ten days of hiking gear, food, tent, camp, everything in hand luggage. The key words are small packing tent and vacuum bags.

You can also rent a car right off form the airport. During the peak season of tourism, I recommend booking early enough, otherwise you might end up paying some sweet money for it. Try searching from the companies local sites. The ones that end with “.me”. The traffic is nothing to worry, roads are for the most part safe and locals are careful drivers.

For us it became apparent rather quickly that maps over the less popular areas were difficult to find, and once we managed to get one, it was not too accurate or reliable. They are also very thin and fragile, do not open while up in the mountain.

We had to come up with a solution. It was offered by a marvelous service called Wikiloc. It is a social service where users can upload routes from GPS trackers and then just anyone can download them to their own device. Which is fabulous, no maps needed. There is plenty on offer and after creating your own account you can start sharing too. After you have downloaded the route, you can ask navigation to the starting point with which ever map service you happen to use. Google and a Garmin device served us well.

As far as the cooking goes on the trail, I recommend you take a good look at wood gas stoves. They are very compact and extremely reliable. Make sure you have a good pot to go with it! with it you do not need to worry about finding the right gas ever again. We did see a couple of hikers who were desperately running up and down the stores looking for that precious fuel. Not the way you want to spend your holiday.

Our hikes were the following:

Zla Kolata  – Story here

Bobotov Kuk – More or less. In Durmitor maps work too, story here.

Maglic – There is no worry about the bad markings here anymore, story here.

There are quite some nice hikes on the coastal are too, but with our timing, it was just way too hot there to start climbing anything taller than a street curb.