Sergeant Pieter Vrolijk


Pieter Frank has been promoted to Sergeant in the Engineering Corp in September 2005. He has been working towards this for some time and is thrilled. Here he is with his Ford Bantam Bakkie (pick-up / utility) which he bought when he returned from the DRC.




Tuesday 4 October 2005, Genoa

The ferry arrived in Genoa about 9:00pm when it was already dark. I had my passport stamped (being non-European) and we were waved through customs, no formalities at all. Our first problem occurred when we tried to go onto the Autostrade. There were toll booths but no people and we did not have a clue how to get the barrier lifted. We figured it out by watching others. You take a ticket which has been automatically dispensed. Sometimes the height of the vehicle is also scanned and the ticket came out way above my head, the right height for a truck. The next problem was which way to go. We wanted to go to France. Luckily Pieter knew that Ventimiglia was on the French border. We spent the night at a Service Area on the Autostrade and although it was cold and rainy we were as warm as toast in bed

Wednesday 5 October 2005, North of Toulon

Of course in France you drink wine in the glassAlong the coast there were lots of tunnels one after the other, the longest we went through was 1,642meters. Small towns with white houses and orange / brown roofs nestled in the hills next to the sea. The country side is green and looks manicured. There was also snow on the mountains.

We stopped at a service area on the Autostrade  again. These have 1 or 2 petrol stations, a café, a restaurant, toilets, showers, parking area, ATM and occasionally a hotel. Unfortunately we had left our ATM card on the ferry and were pressed for Euro, then we realized we were in the land of plastic cards, cash is no longer king. So now we use the card for everything. We did go into a bank in Lyon for a cash advance on the credit card, after 3 tries to find a bank which would actually provide the service. In the towns cars stop for pedestrians, rather than slow down to allow them to slip between. This will take some getting used to.

Tonight we froze, the duvet will have to come out of storage.

Thursday 6 October 2005, North of Lyon

Grom still sags on one side so Pieter worked on the air ball again looking for an air leak. He didn't find a leak but replaced the air hose. This seems to have done the trick.

Friday 7 October 2005, South of Lille

Drove through to near Calais and stayed at a service area again.

The autostrade is very expensive in several ways: It cost 100Euro in toll fees on the trip through France; diesel is approximately 20 Euro cents more expensive than off the autstrade; we travel faster thereby using more more fuel per kilometer; you can only buy pre-prepared food not cheaper ingredients for a meal. On the other hand: you camp for free; showers are free; you can travel for longer and faster as driving is much less stressful than on normal roads; you know there will be a place to camp when you are ready; you do not have to prepare any meals.

England (and Wales)

 Saturday 8 to Sunday 9 October 2005, All Hallows

We took a special same day return ticket on the catamaran (SANEF) on the advise of an English couple. It seemed reasonably cheap, however we did not do any research to see if it is the cheapest fare for one way. The catamaran is modern and fast. The formalities are few. Our passports were checked before we went onto the ferry, I received a stamp in my passport (being non-European) and we were waved through customs at Dover.

Since it was Saturday we decided to stay somewhere on the way to London. We went off at Rochester and the visitors centre gave us directions to All Hallows.

Paul and Janet had purchased a derelict house and rebuilt it. They started a camp site to help with the running costs and because there was only one other campsite in the area. It is a lovely tranquil place. I managed to catch up on the washing, using a machine and the bright sun. Pieter pottered.

Monday 10 October 2005, Eaton Bray

Monday it was on to Ashcroft in Eaton Bray. We expected to be there early afternoon until Grom just stopped. The fuel pump which had been whining since South Africa finally gave up. Pieter put in the new one which we had purchased in SA. He had cut a hole in the floor of the canopy and covered it so he could access the pump easily. However putting it in was not quite as easy as the experts had led him to believe. After much juggling he succeeded. We found out later that many land rovers do not start immediately after a fuel pump is fitted and it can take over a day before they do start. I guess we are just very lucky.

Ashcroft only refurbish gear boxes so they sent us onto Auto Land in Houghton Regis who will only be able to work on our car next Tuesday. They have also advised that we should have a new gearbox installed. We will definitely discuss the situation with Land Rover first though, the gear box is supposed to be only a year old, unless......

The people from Auto Land arranged for us to stay on Park Farm which used to have a caravan park.

Tuesday 11 to Wednesday 12 October 2005, Shrewsbury

Grom would not start this morning and the new fuel pump makes the same noise as the old one. Peter, the owner of the farm, helped out with jumper leads and we were finally on our way to Birmingham to LEGS to see what they had to say. Of course it took much longer than expected, especially after such a late start. We did make it to Shrewsbury on the Welsh border though, bought groceries and spent the night in Oxon Touring Park. The facilities were magnificent. Hot showers built so that shoes and clothes remained dry; clean, clean, clean and organized. The downside was the drizzle from Tuesday night until we left Thursday morning..

On Wednesday we went to LEGS in Oswestry. Allan, the owner, drove the car to see if there was anything he could do without incurring costs. He suggested we fitted a new gear-selection housing. The old one was badly worn. This seemed to fix the problems with the gearbox. What a relieve!! Did we really come all this way in a hurry for a simple repair like this? And the oil leak: not too bad at all, said Allan. Phew!!

Thursday 13 October 2005, Nawton near Helmsley, North Yorkshire

One of the gates of Castle Howard


Now it was off to the other side of England to buy a new cover for the tent. In Egypt we had had some plastic sown over the tear from the tunnel in Ethiopia but this was only a temporary repair. Trek Overland Limited are the agents for Howling Moon in England and they are north of York Just a days drive from Wales. We went through rolling hills with fields defined first by hedges, then by stone fences, all beautifully maintained. We also passed by Castle Howard which is open to the public. It must have been a large holding in times gone by. The road goes through the old gates

We had just driven the second one when the gearbox did something that convinced me the trouble was not yet over. There is  no technical description I can think of to explain the feeling; it just wasn't right. We would have to spend some more time to finally get the problem solved. And first we would have to find out if we could claim from a warranty .

The trees were wearing their autumn colours. I had never been this far north in autumn and it was glorious. I have never seen such a display of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. We had breathtaking sights one after the other but nowhere to take a photo. In any case a photo could never have done the display justice. It is something that I will always remember.

Tim with Pieter at Lund Court Farm


The cover with a new zip to be attached to the tent base was ready when we arrived.  Within 30 minutes it had been sorted out. Tim and Claire run the company from Lund Court Farm and as it was getting late they agreed we could stay where we were. They and their 2 sons Thomas and Jack are a lovely family.



Friday 14 October 2005, Market Rasen

This morning Claire allowed me to use her washer and drier to catch up on the laundry. Tim spent time talking to Duckworths, a Land Rover Service Centre to find out if the gear box was still under guarantee. They also called South Africa to have a copy of the service record faxed through. We really appreciate the time and effort they put in for us.

Eventually we headed south to Duckworths in Market Rasen. Once there we discussed the options. Apparently South Africa did not have the number of the gear box in our Land Rover, their records showed only the repairs we had paid for. This meant there was no guarantee. It also means we do not know what went wrong where. Did we get a new gearbox in SA which then went missing while sitting at the Land Rover service centre in Egypt or did we only have a repaired gear box in SA? What ever! I felt we could not live with the risk of getting stranded somewhere in the unknown because of a faulty gearbox. We needed a proper repair job or a new one, whichever was the most economical .

Duckworths quoted for a reconditioned gear box which they would only be able to install on Tuesday. We also obtained a quote from LEGS which was half the price. The decision was obvious. Neither could provide a new gearbox as Land Rover are not producing them at the moment. LEGS could only work on the car on Tuesday so we had some time on our hands. What is it about Tuesday?

Eating dinner, it gets cold in the afternoon


We stayed in a caravan park in Market Rasen called Walesby Woodlands. The facilities were good, but they were full so we parked in the grounds but not in a designated spot. At least it was not raining and everyone was saying what wonderful warm weather it was for October in England. 'Warm' is a matter of perception!



Saturday 15 October 2005, south of York

We took some time to visit my favorite city of York. Inside the walls, old York is still as I remember it with Tudor style buildings and narrow streets lined with shops. The cathedral still dominates the old section and is still as impressive. We did not go through it though as it now costs for a tour. I assume this is because of the drop in attendance at churches with reduced offerings from the congregation. The church has to find other means of obtaining the money required for maintenance.

We stayed at a service area again, only this time we had to pay for it. Then again there are no tolls on the highways in England.

Copper model of old York  Tudor buildings in York

Sunday 16 October 2005, Shrewsbury

The White Horse Hotel, SwintonToday we headed towards Wales. On the way we visited the White Horse Hotel in Swinton near Manchester. Pieter spent 3 months here as a young boy in 1945 to help him recover from the effects of a poor diet during the war.

We also visited Chester. Like York it is well preserved with a wall, cathedral and Tudor style buildings. There is an unusual copper statue of Mary with the toddler Jesus as he is learning to walk, usually Jesus is depicted as a baby. The ceiling of the Lady Chapel is painted in dark green with gold trimmings. In medieval times the churches were brightly painted apparently in contrast to the drabness of other places.

Stayed at Oxon Touring Park again

Chester Cathedral with tour bus in front  The crucifix is very detailed  The stalls in the Quire have delicate carving dating from 1380 and is amoungst the finest medieval woodwork in the country.  Chester Clock Tower

Monday 17 to Tuesday 18 October 2005, Oswestry

Monday was spent in Shrewsbury shopping etc. We again asked for an advance on our credit card and there was absolutely no problem for any amount under 100, for 100 or more identification is required. What a difference from France.

Tuesday, LEGS removed the gearbox, looked inside and Pieter decided that we really did have to have another one installed. They finished late Wednesday morning. This meant we were locked in on the premises for the nights without access to the toilets. Finally the Porta Potti was put into use. We had carried this with us from SA and Ann was finally convinced I had been right to insist on having it with us..

Wednesday 19 October 2005, English south coast

Traveling through the English country side again with the narrow roads and manicured fields. Eventually stopped at a service area for the night. There was no charge but we did eat at the Little Chef Restaurant.


Thursday 20 October, Belgium

We took the Norfolk Line ferry to Dunkirk. This is a relatively new company and is providing competition to the existing lines, much to the delight of our budget. Again spent the night in a service area in Belgium. It was raining.

Friday 21 October to Saturday 22 October 2005, The Hague

What a horrible morning. While we were busy with breakfast (in the rain) the wind blew the tent cover over and we ended up with half the bedding sopping wet! We will be much more careful next time and will definitely zip down the rain cover over the tent opening.

We visited with old friends of Pieter and stayed with another friend, Joop for two nights. What a pleasure this was. Pieter helped with the cooking and we had a lovely relaxing day. We had some cake for my 58th birthday.

Sunday 23 October to Monday 31 October 2005, Groningen

We arrived at Harjet and Kees's house just after they did. They had been baby and house sitting for Thea and Hans for the past week.

It was very relaxing in what Kees described as 5 star accommodation. We were able to catch up on all the family news. Thea and Hans with their sons Koen and Bent came to visit on Saturday. On Sunday Anne-Jolijn and Wim with their children Ellen and Stephan came. The children have grown since we last saw them. Ellen is now an adult with Stephan growing tall like his father.

It was such lovely weather we managed to dry out the mattress, and Harjet washed and dried all the blankets and other laundry. Definitely 5 star service.

We visited British 4x4 in a little village near Groningen plus had the gas refilled. Originally it seemed there would not be a place anywhere in Holland, or maybe even in Europe according to Kees, where our Cadac bottles could be filled. But a chance meeting with visitors we met at a large camping shop changed that. We were directed to a gas filling station in Sebaldeburen, also near Groningen.  That business, Smeding has many different gas connections and they were able, at a very reasonable price, to fill our three bottles and so we are set for another three or four months.

We had some cake for our 30th wedding anniversary.

typical dutch sceneKees and Harjet

Rob and his workshop




Averages Rand Euro   Averages Rand Pound Sterling

Back to North Africa

Next to Spain

Cost per litre diesel 9.11 1.14   Cost per litre diesel 11.63 1.00    
Kilometers per litre 7     Kilometers per litre 8.8      
Camping per night  0.00     Camping per night  174.45 15.00    
Toll fees in France 992.36 124.20            
Total       Total        
France       England        
Kilometers traveled 1,278     Kilometers traveled 2423      
Days in country 4     Days in country 12      
Kilometers traveled 1,204              
Days in country 12