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Van Life – Heather Kay – Part 5

I returned from my northern road trip ready to start my second semester in Bergen. I was starting to reach the point where I’d had enough of van life: the damp, the constant search for a spot to call home for the night, having to think about how much drinking water you have, how full your toilet is, how much charge your leisure battery has. The rubber washer on my toilet was starting to wear out and I couldn’t find a replacement, I had to line the toilet area with sawdust and lavender in case of a slight spillage. Every evening I would get back to the van and all the water would be frozen, I would have to defrost it bit by bit by the fire in order to cook, drink, wash up etc. It had reached a point where it was physically and emotionally draining. Then the release catch on my bonnet broke and I couldn’t get it open, that was fine when I was only missing screen wash but eventually the oil light came on and I knew I had to fix it.

Lacking motivation I had parked up in town near the University, I stayed in the same spot for weeks, on weekends I went to a nice study area in the University where I could take my dog, there were comfy seats and a supply of hot water. But I knew I’d have to move at some point, especially after the evening the fire brigade came and knocked on my door: A local resident had spotted the smoke coming out of my chimney and for some reason thought the van was on fire, I got a knock on the door and was surprised to see a fireman. I showed him the installation and he was happy with what I’d done. I then had a visit from the police (customary after a visit from the fire brigade), they checked my details and shook my hand! It was time to fix the van though. Turns out this is a design flaw on my van and I ended up having to saw through the grill in order to feed my arm up behind it and release the catch… I was soon headed out of town to find a nice spot in nature where I could re-energise myself and pray for spring.

Heather Kay van life part 5
Heather Kay van life part 5

Eventually the days started getting longer, but the rain kept coming and I started dreaming of Easter: I was heading back to the UK in order to get my van MOT’d. I left Bergen on a typical rainy day and drove straight onto the ferry that would take me to Denmark. The next day I drove off the ferry into glorious sunshine, as I drove south I beamed a smile at the sun beating down on my face, the heat on my arms, the breeze coming in through the window. Heaven.

It was great to catch up with family and friends and get all the mechanics done, but I was soon back on the long road to Bergen, ready for Spring.

Heather Kay van life part 5
Heather Kay van life part 5

Spring in Bergen is a glorious thing, the rain eases, the days are as long as summer days in the UK, and as soon as it gets warm enough the plants go crazy, making the most of their short growing season. I had a visit from Little Miss Hannah Escott and took her to all my favourite places. Suddenly life felt good.

Heather Kay van life part 5
Heather Kay van life part 5

All too soon my time in Norway came to an end, exams were over and I had a wedding to get to back in the UK. On the journey home the van started playing up: the engine would just cut out, luckily it would start up again but it became a nerve-wracking drive. I had to get to the UK so that my AA cover could save me. As I approached The Hook of Holland, I could see the ferry in the distance, and the van quit on me. I would start it up, pull on to the road and it would cut out again. I somehow made it to the ferry and parked up, relief flooded over me. To cut a long story short, the van died before I got to the wedding, so I turned up at the venue on the back of an AA truck. Luckily the venue was only a couple of miles from my trusty mechanic friend and we fixed what turned out to be a hole in the tubing between the fuel tank and the diesel filter: the air being sucked in caused the engine to cut out…

Summer is a fantastic time to be living in a van. I spent it in Devon working for my brother, camping in stunning locations, recuperating from my Scandinavian experience and preparing myself for my final year of Undergrad. Little did I know that I was about to tackle the toughest year of vanlife yet.

Heather Kay van life part 5

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