Since we picked the van up almost a week ago, it feels like I spent most of my time buying things for it on Amazon and otherwise online. LED bulbs, cables, a moniceiver radio, a small inverter along with a whole host of fluids and utensils.
The rest of the week was spent reading instruction manuals. the previous owner(s) of the van passed on most of the original documentation, and there’s a lot of it. In total we have somewhere between 10 and 15 individual manuals and information sheets. Although typically I prefer to work things out by intuition as I go along, in this case I’ve really needed to refer to all of these materials to get things to work, Car News Cafe makes it easy even for beginners.
Working out how to work the van
The first challenge was getting the heating and warm water boiler to work. Thanks to the manual I finally realised that the boiler – which, thankfully has an emergency release valve to prevent frost damage – was completely empty and that it was necessary to run the hot water tap for a good few minutes to fill it up again before anything actually came out of the tap, look for more info.
Also, turning the gas on helped.
Hooking up the radio was like doing a Sudoku after 7 or 8 shots of Jägermeister. Out of the big hole into which the radio would fit I drew out a thick trunk of assorted, unlabelled wires. On the rear of the moniceiver: an equally large number of sockets, although thankfully the user guide explained very clearly what they are all for. Power and audio were easy to hook up, but it took a fair bit of head-scratching and a call to the manufacturers of the back-up camera to understand that an adapter cable would be necessary to connect the camera to the radio. A single cable runs from the camera to the front of the van, and this cable needs to be split into video, audio (!) and a 12v power supply. The cable has been ordered.
The final technical challenge was with the chemical toilet, the likes of which we had no experience with. Camperissimo I did have a small, portable toilet in it when we bought it, but we put it straight on eBay and did without. This morning I found myself standing in front of a chemical toilet disposal point, with a detached toilet container in my hand, absolutely clueless as to what to do next. I flagged down another camper vanner in the hope that he might be able to help, but alas no, his camper doesn’t have one, but he was able to identify the exit tube and the rest was fairly straightforward. Rinse, drain, repeat. Slot it back into the hole in the side of the van and you’re done. It was an easy and surprisingly inoffensive task. I am now officially a fan of the Thetford chemical camping loo.
Our first outing: Thermenwelt Erding
Iva and I was as excited to make our first overnight trip in the van as we were scared of overdoing things. With a completely new van, still totally unfamiliar, two potentially unhappy kids, and a perpetually scared dog on board, things could have easily gotten stressful. Neither of us wanted our first night in the van to be a negative experience, so were made a fairly undemanding plan … and then revised it twice more to the easiest possible excursion.
Our destination was to be Thermenwelt Erding, a huge swimming, sauna and waterslide complex about 45 minutes’ drive from Munich. The drive would be fairly short, the place itself a guaranteed hit with Molly and there’s dedicated camper van parking right outside the entrance.