Monday, 26 August 2013

Eastnor 2013

We were full of ideas of things we wanted to do following the Alps trip so we headed to Eastnor with anticipation of finding loads of toys to buy and some parts to resolve some of the things that have been needing sorting out for some time (and one bent bumper which is a more recent addition)

We found a new bumper, but not the other items we were looking for. I did find this very important part that is factory fitted to all new Land Rovers so it was good to see a large pile of them available for those who need a replacement

Katy as usual took her place on the club stand and attracted a lot of attention from people and we had a lot of visitors wanting to look over her insides and her undergarments (suspension) as there are quite a number of people out there who are either working on or thinking about a similar venture

One thing we were really happy to see was Katy's Great Great Grandpa Huey. HUE 166 is the first series 1 Land Rover and held in great reverence by all enthusiasts and this is probably the most sought after seating position in all Land Rover circles. Sadly it was out of bounds, but nice to take a look at it anyway.

 Here's HUE166 in it's full glory

And here it is in the open air as it should be seen

Our club did a line up in the centre ring, including us 

and one of our members won a prize for his efforts in the twist off competition and for his enthusiasm for Land Rovers which shone through... Well Done Ryan

Back at home today I've stripped and painted the new bumper and the bull bars ready for refitting when the paint has dried

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Alps 2013 The Movie

During our wonderful holiday Through France and up the Italian alps Rhian was filming scenes for me. I've now had time to download it all and edit into a video which is offered here for your entertainment

It starts with an introduction about our trip through France and the rest is the over landing scenes from about 4:25 in if you just want to get to Land Rover's off tarmac.

Alpine Overlanding 2013 from Andy Kendall on Vimeo.

Sorry it's only SD resolution I only have a basic Vimeo account so am limited on the file sizes I can upload. if you want to see an HD copy please get in touch. 

I would love to know what people think of it so please do leave a comment here or on Vimeo so I can learn more about what I'm doing well and what I need to think about working harder on for future video's

Monday, 12 August 2013

Quiet Thoughts and home

Our last stop in France was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a while and I felt that Katy, as an ambulance who has seen active service should visit as well it was the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme area.

The Thiepval Memorial is to the 72,191 missing British and South African men who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918 with no known grave.

My personal reason for wanting to visit was to see the inscription on the memorial to one of my ancestors Sergeant William Allison Barnett 

He was one of three brothers who went to war, one survived unscathed, one was taken prisoner and William was the unlucky one. he was recommended for the medal just 2 days before he was killed in action.

Even as we pulled up we gathered interest from visitors who understood what she was and I was really happy to be able to tell them that she had been saving lives in Croatia and she saved even more in Rwanda when she did active duty.

There is a new visitor centre and I was amazed when they printed a summary of information of Uncle Bill as he was known in our family.

The spotless nature of the war graves in France is testament to the work of the CWGC and to the people of France who maintain them in this way in partnership with them

What I had never known until I read the exhibition was that he had been killed on the first day that British Tanks had been used in action and that this day was a major offensive for the British Army.

No wonder he was lost somewhere in combat that day it must have been horrible

Thiepval is one of those places that everyone responsible for sending people to war should go.

Imagine if we sent every politician to sit and think for a day on the possible consequences

After that we needed something nice to end the day and so we stopped at a local store to pick-up some fresh produce for tea and settled down to our last night in France

Up early the next morning and some shopping on the way and then another uneventful day on the road and we were finally home by the evening of the 14th

So the trip in summary

  • We met some really fabulous people, especially the Alpine rovers crew, Mike, Mike and Mandy 
  • A major achievement for all of us and a set of memories to treasure
  • About 50 hours driving in total across 2 weeks 
  • No significant breakdowns 
  • A lot of learning so we do it better and easier next time
  • A sense of capability that will remain with us whenever we venture off-road in Katy again
  • Some fun with some very nice people, and stories to tell  

Some Stats 

  • 2020 miles round trip
  • 481 Litres / 105 gallons of diesel
  • 19.3 mpg on the runs and 19.4 on the mountain days (which did include road work)
  • Total cost in Diesel £655 approx. I haven't taken into account all the exchange rates and charges

To end This Adventure...

I've often been asked if we've taken Katy on any adventures and I feel I can now look people in the eye and say


She's been over the Alps and I don't mean on the Tarmac, I mean up and down mountain tracks and it won't be the last adventure we have. Just watch this space.

Heading home in the Mountains and Onwards

Saturday. It had been a wonderful time, but it was time to say goodbye to the team we had spent the last week with and head off again on our own.

The De Frejus Tunnel had been a nightmare on the way here and we would have to face the 13 km (8.1 mi) going uphill this time so we were keen to hear about alternatives.

Mandy recommended the route through Briancon to Grenoble as being one worth considering for the views if nothing else. We had plenty of time for the route home so we decided that a gentle start would be good to calm our nerves from all the driving we'd been doing, I mean, roads have got to be simple after all the things we'd taken on. 

We waved goodbye to the Chris, Gillian, Mandy and the Mikes and set off up the valley from the camp site and up to the French border just past Claviere. From there a right towards Briancon where we stopped for a browse around the antiques market that was open. Rhian decided she had enough old things with Katy and me so we headed off again.

From Briancon the roads heads up through the Col du Lautaret (2058 m.) past some wonderful peaks with hanging glaciers. It just cried out to be admired in the sunshine so we stopped for a coffee and relaxed in the sun.

I didn't climb up I used a long lens


Here we stopped and took a picture of the third member of our crew, Cosgrove, who had come along to give us moral support at critical moments.

He'd hidden away a bit because of the marauding hounds (actually they were well behaved, but he may have been too tempting)

From there down to Grenoble was down, down, deeper and down until we levelled off nearer the status quo of sea level. 

With the route we had taken it was nice to have an early stop so we headed just north and selected a campsite from the Sat Nav and settled down for a nice meal and bottle of wine.  

The next day was Sunday and we planned for a long drive. In retrospect this was a wonderful idea because the number of lorries on the road was much reduced, which reduced the amount of overtaking we had to do and made for a much nicer drive. With no bad headwinds we were able to get to our cruising speed of about 65 and stay there for miles on end

We'd decided to visit the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau on our way home as it was somewhere Rhian had always hoped to visit so we picked a camp site just south of there in the Fontainebleau forest which was really nice and a good place to spend a quite night

Apart from the nice door and library the Palace did not live up to expectations as it was expensive, noisy, busy and frankly could have done with a good clean so we were soon on our way again north to our last planned stop of the trip... 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 6 on the mountains Lac du Mont Cenis to Gran Bosco

A cold morning after another rainy night, but the day did look better so We started with a brief trip over the reservoir at the end of the lake to get some breakfast at one of the excellent cafes overlooking the reservoir,

Expresso & Croque-monsieur was welcome after a cold evening / night and  and then up into France for a look-see/shopping trip.

The next stop was one of the most impressive forts on the trip. Good drive back towards our list nights campsite, and then Mike, Chris, Rhian and I went for a stiff walk up the hill whilst German Mike went to check what would be our last green lane of the trip for suitability as the guys were aware of some rocks that needed to be climbed over.

Fort de Variselle was truly stunning with multiple levels and rooms to explore once you had navigated the drawbridge which was some very flimsy looking beams in my opinion.

On our return German Mike had returned and declared that the trip was probably ok for Chris and Gillian, but we were simply not going to make it over the rocks on the track without removing some of Katy’s underside.

So the party was split and we headed off with Mike and Mandy. Once they had been spotted as having made it past the obstacle we went to do the old Roman road they call Jurassic from the other end to meet the rest of the team for lunch. A real cracking route and a real highlight of the trip even if we only did part of it, and took more video on that run than pictures so you will need to wait for the video if you want to see more of it than I have here

We stopped on the way back for a couple of pictures

and whilst we did Mandy located some really nice wild strawberries

Then back through Susa and up the hill where we passed a personal milestone for Katy 150,000 miles on the clock. As I've noted before this mileage may not be real and she may well have done about 50,000 miles less than this figure

We then went to Fort Excilles on the way back to the campsite as it was on-route and enjoyed the lifts up rather than the long walk up the old roadway, It’s probably best if I don’t mention who locked who into the loo or the castle.. The guilty know who they are.

A few pictures of some obscure parts of the castle

Like many old buildings the lime mortar was being redeposited

One thing they had done really well was these shadow graphics. this one showed the Alpini's practicing rope work on the mountains

And this one their emblem, the Eagles soaring

Back then to campsite where the formal bit ended and we enjoyed a meal with the group and shared thoughts and experiences.

So what more have we learned in summary
  1. We can do it – a total of about 216 Km / 134 Miles on green lanes with no serious issues
  2. Travelling with people who know the capabilities of people and vehicles was really useful. Mandy related how the Mikes take a close look at people on day 1 and decide from there what they are capable of. They were impressed with how well Katy coped and I take that as a compliment on the work and upgrade we've done, because she would not have made this in the state we got her 
  3. Picking a tour company based on how much you trust them to look after you is important. I’d got a head-start because I’d talked to Mandy on the Land Rover Addict and Land Rover Scene forums. 
  4. We have things we want to do to improve Katy, but we need to take German Mike’s advice seriously “only add things that add value, knowledge of how to cope & fix things is more useful than any gadget”. I think he was approving when I said my most important things on board were a toolkit and a Defender Haynes manual
  5. We really need to look into fridges again. Chris and Mandy both gave us advice on compressor fridges and I’ll take a look into that again
  6. German Mike offered advice on the relay problem I had identified and agreed that this really did look like it was allowing current to flow even when the ignition was supposed to be off. A typical Land Rover fault apparently is the ignition switch allows some current through (post trip review has identified that there is definitely something wrong with this as the switched feed is permanently live and causing battery drain) - Need to add multi-meter to the going away kit list
  7. The only negative was we had in the week was 2 camp fire nights washed out – nothing anyone could have done, and not enough to spoil what had been a fantastic adventure 
Damage / Problems so far
  1. None


We had some more adventures and saw some more scenery on the way home through France which I'll add, but this was the end of our mountain adventures so I would like to thank 
  1. Mandy, Mike and Mike from Alpine Rovers for looking after us and all the positive comments and advice
  2. Chris and Gillian for being good company along the way and their good advice
  3. Rhian for putting up with me and taking many of the pictures and all the video which I still have to cut into something watchable
  4. Steve Walford back in Cardiff for the work he put in to help me get Katy ready for this first adventure
  5. John. Toby and all the other people who used to own Katy, but let her move on to us so we could have these adventures
  6. All the people who dropped by to marvel at the strange apparition that is Katy as we wended our way back and fore 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Day 5 on the mountains Rochemolles to Lac du Mont Cenis

We started the day in Rain and we packed up our camp looking out on our fellow campers who were in tents whilst we were dringking tea inside. I took this from our side window having not had to get out of the camper at that point of the day

From the camp site we had to cross the river we had crossed to get here last night. Not a deep one thank goodness because we would have got our bed wet. First across was German Mike who took Rhian with a camera so she could record Chris doing the crossing in his Land Cruiser

And then it was my turn in Katy

Then Mike and Mandy came across so fast it was hard to get a picture

We were also rained out of the high tracks today as they would have been miserable in low cloud like that below so with our agreement we descended and spent the first part of the day in Susa town playing tourist around the Roman remains.

First stop was to find a nice coffee shop (not the one below) and have lunch, but before we could do that we lost Mike and Mike again, and where were they ... a cake shop of course.

Then it was back in time for the Porta Savoia Roman walls and amphitheatre

After that we headed north from the town into France and around the Lac du Mont Cenis reservoir where the weather improved a little and we stopped to investigate some really interesting underground gun emplacements and tunnels

From there it was a quick downhill run to the camp site and on route we stopped again for firewood.

Rhian drove the last section into campsite and did a really great job in her first experience of Katy offroad driving in Italy

We made camp at a lower than planned camp-site because of the remaining low cloud and settled in for our last night of wild camping on this trip to a nice pork & onion risotto cooked by Rhian

Whilst Rhian did the cooking I spent 5 minutes cleaning up the back cupboard and affixing the Alpine Rovers stickers we had been given. When I told Mandy what I was doing she said "Katy was the type of vehicle she was proud to have her company name on." I was really touched by this generous comment

Because of the rain only 3km (2 Miles) non tarmac roads today

What more have we learned
  1. Gardening gloves would be useful for firewood collection as would have been the jungle knife I have, both will be added to the going away list
Damage / Problems so far / Things to do
  1. None
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