A short break in a thing you push.

 A short break in a thing you push. A Summer Carawagon trip to Brittany where minor wiring issues fail to dampen the holiday spirit.

Since the downfall of Colonel Ghaddafi in 2010, my Carawagon has been
enjoying something of a retirement from desert adventure and has been
driven no further than the northern shores of France, with a trip to
The Normandy Beaches last summer and an exploration of rural Brittany
this summer.  Over the years we have perfected the ‘rig’ to exactly
suit our holiday requirements with greater comfort and increased
efficiency.  About three years ago, at the suggestion of Classic Land
Rover Editor and fellow Carawagon owner John Carroll, we added ‘The
West Wing’ in the form of an OzTent RV3 to expand the sleeping area
from the cramped interior of the Land Rover to something where the bed
can stay set up and bulky items can be stored.  We also seem to travel
with far more stuff than in my desert days; comfortable chairs, foam
mattresses, a Chiminea for chilly evenings and all the extra
paraphernalia for the Oz Tent that hinders the 30 second erection
(more like half an hour with floor saver ground sheet, side panels and
fly sheet).  Whilst the extra comforts are welcome when we are
supposed to be relaxing on holiday, they do add considerably to total
set up and pack up time which means that once established on a camp
site there is a reluctance to move!

This is built into our plans and we select a site central to the
location to be visited - about five miles inland from the D-Day
beaches last year and in Chateaulin, in the Finistere peninsula on the
west coast of Brittany this year.  To ensure we can leave the
Carawagon set up we tow a 1978 Honda C90 on a small trailer.  This
motor bike, more suited to Cabbies doing The Knowledge, or lads
delivering Pizzas, has covered more European miles than British and
has become as much a part of our holidays as a pair of sunglasses.
Day trips of 40 miles are feasible and its load carrying qualities are
legendary, if speed is not an issue.

Knowing August to be a busy month in France we did considerable
research in advance and booked ferry crossings to and from Brittany
with Brittany Ferries.  The big advantage of using Brittany Ferries is
that they sail directly into all of the Bretange Ports minimising the driving
whilst over there.  We took the Plymouth to
Roscoff sailing out and the St Malo to Portsmouth for the return,
giving us opportunity to have a look around Roscoff and St Malo whilst
there.  Researching a campsite we found a couple in Chateaulin and
booked a pitch at one close to the river.


In the week leading up to our departure I had a few problems with
starting the Carawagon’s 200 Tdi engine which I thought was either a
dud battery or a poor earth connection.  The battery was an Odyssey
one that had been doing stirling service for 14 years, so was allowed
a departure with full military honours to be replaced by a standard
battery from a Motor Factors which seemed to do the trick.  

We arrived in Plymouth without drama, but in strong wind and rain in the
aftermath of Hurricane Bertha we feared a choppy crossing over to
Roscof. Fortunately we had booked a cabin to which we could retire and the journey
was fine, depositing us in Roscoff and glorious sunshine.

We are all guilty of arriving at Airports, or Ferry Ports and rushing straight
through them to join a motorway to our destination, when actually many
of them are well worth a visit in their own right.  Roscoff was
utterly charming, with a pleasant promenade, good looking restaurants
and bars and a totally French population enjoying everything on offer.
We stretched our legs, practised our French, drank coffee and ate
Croissants before heading inland to Chateaulin and our chosen camp
site.  First impressions of the town were great, but the camp site not
so.  Very busy with only a small plot for our rig.  It was too late in
the day to find an alternative so we made camp and vowed to have a
look around the following day.  Leaving the Land Rover in situ we
explored on the Honda taking in both the town and the surrounding
villages and soon found Camping Rodaven on the other side of the river
- far bigger, plenty of room for us and cheaper - Perfect!

We made a hasty job of packing up for our escape and the Carawagon
picked the worst moment possible to not start! However hard I turned
the key, all was dead.  Fortunately we were on the slightest of slopes
and with Jo behind the wheel and me pushing we gained just enough
momentum to drop the clutch and fire her up.  An hour later we were
established in the other site, the Chiminea was lit, food was on the
table and a bottle of wine was open. Our holiday had started with my
ignorance that we were on totally level ground with no chance
of a bump start next time!

The days rolled by with a pattern of leisurely breakfasts and lunches
out in various outlying villages.  The beauty of being so mobile and
the unequalled parking possibilities available with a small Honda is
that we could stop wherever we saw something of interest.  Last year
in Normandy it was rusting WW2 Sand Ladders, this year it was food
related.  Arriving in the small town of Argol we stumbled across the
local Fete.  The road was closed to all but small motorcycles and
pedestrians and the entire population had turned out to eat and drink
together wherever they could find room to sit.  Unhindered by hygiene
regulations large men cooked whole hams over an open fire, whilst
others hacked the meat up and served it with Frites et Legumes.  The
wine was flowing at just €5 a bottle so we dived in, handed over the
€10 inclusive fee and ate with the locals.  I’m sure, back in the
Fifty’s and Sixty’s similar celebrations took place in rural England,
all now falling foul of Health & Safety bureaucracy.

I had been conveniently ignoring the starting issues of the Carawagon,
but by day four realised that I must sort it out or we could be
stranded in rural Brittany indefinitely, (could be worse!). It was a
warm and sunny morning and the grass was dry so I pulled out my tools
and circuit tester, opened up the dashboard and took a look.  Evidence
suggested the ignition/starter switch, which has given trouble before
and has been replaced within living memory.  As I turned the key, the
ignition light came on, but no power seemed to be going to the starter
solenoid.  The last time I had this problem the whole switch fell
apart in southern Libya and I hot-wired the windscreen wash/wipe
switch to replace it - the botch got me home and remained that way for
a further year!  This time it was only half the problem so I took a
fresh wire from a powered spotlight switch down to the solenoid.  The
trouble with trying to do this is that Land Rover, in their wisdom,
put the spade connector for the solenoid on the engine block side of
the starter motor, hidden underneath the turbo and first section of
exhaust pipe.  If I had 8 inch long fingers no fatter than pencils
this would not be an issue, but my chunky Merguez Saucisse had no
chance.  After a liberal spray of WD40 and a fresh cup of coffee it
was off and I clamped a new spade connector to the wire and fitted it.
It worked!  I have always been very lucky with all three of my Classic
Land Rovers in that my simple understanding of how things work, some
tools and a box of mixed repairing junk (wire, cable ties, gaffer tape
and WD40) have always kept me going. That is the beauty of running old
cars of course!

With our time in Brittany coming to an end we had to plot a route back
north to St Malo, a good four hour drive from Chateaulin and we had a
10.00 am ferry to catch the next morning.  To ensure we did this in good time we
decided to stay a night in Dinan, a well known holiday destination
with a great reputation and just a stone’s throw from the port.  I
still did not fully trust the Carawagon starting as it had shown signs
that perhaps the actual solenoid was faulty, so we parked outside town
on a slight slope - just in case - and rode into town on the Honda
with minimal luggage, found an hotel and explored on foot whilst
slightly concerned about the lack of security on the Carawagon and all
our possessions on full view in the back.  Our fears were unfounded
and clearly the average French thief was not attracted by old bits of
foam bed, well used plastic carrier bags and a sack of unused logs.
The next day, the engine started perfectly and within half an hour we were parked on
Brittany Ferries Bretange ready to search out the excellent restaurant
on board for a final feast.

We arrived in Portsmouth by late afternoon relaxed and refreshed and
were home by 10.00 pm., reflecting on how we had yet again enjoyed the
combination of Carawagon and bike giving us the freedom to stay
wherever we wanted and seek out the places other tourists miss


Brittany has a climate similar to Cornwall. Expect showers mixed with
sunshine and a similar coastline.

Toby and Jo sailed with Brittany Ferries www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
who offer cruise ship comfort to France and Spain.
There are plenty of campsites in Brittany, but the coastal ones can
prove windy. Despite being a UK web site www.ukcampsites.co.uk lists
European sites as well.
After a false start, Toby and Jo stayed at www.campingderodaven.fr
which had all they needed.


About to face the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha Toby and
Jo ease their 1970 Carawagon on to Brittany Ferries Armorique

The Ferry Port of Roscoff was a delightful little town and
a great start to the trip

Roscoff was all you would expect of a small French
seaside town with good restaurants and bars

Toby’s Carawagon has done 10 major Sahara trip, but now
enjoys semi retirement with an annual jaunt across the Channel

Toby and Jo selected Chateaulin as their base in Brittany
- a pretty market town within easy reach of many interesting villages

The ‘Rig’, once fully set up gives plenty of living space,
but does take about an hour to erect

Rural Brittany  has many good little restaurants. This one
in Plomodiern offered a Plat du Jour at a very reasonable €12 for
three courses

Chateaulin on market day was stacked with tempting fresh
produce from local farms

Few experiences can match sitting out in the fresh air in
front of a log fire enjoying a bottle of wine and some good food

A few hours spent underneath with the tool kit soon solved
the problem

It was all happening in the little town of Argol where the
whole village had turned out for a feast unhindered by hygiene

Well practised men carved up the hams continuously for
over an hour to feed Toby, Jo and about 300 locals

One final blow out meal on board Brittany Ferries
Bretagne, then a major diet when home

Toby Savage September 2014