After purchasing Sassy, we spent a week hanging out at the bottom of England trying to figure out how to work all of her quirks. The thing about buying DIY campervans is that there are no manuals. Just a bunch of wires and passed on information and tips from previous owners. So we had a little bit to learn. We also wanted to get her serviced and make sure our purchase was living up to the agreed contract conditions.
The first thing we learnt was how little the leisure battery could actually power. The fridge drained it, tripped fuses and then the headlights also wouldn’t work. So we spent a few days trying to decipher Sassy’s complicated code. As it so happened, we actually needed a new leisure battery as the previous owners had cooked the one we had and that was why we were having all the problems. We tried leaving the battery on charge for a long weekend with a lovely English gentleman, but after that, we knew it was done for and that we would have to purchase and install a newbie. We spent our days of waiting using ice in the fridge just like an esky, but we were loving the freedom having a van was giving us. We pulled up wherever we liked, free camped, soaked up the serenity, enjoyed wine, cheese and dinners with some spectacular views of southern England.
We explored Brighton, Deal, Sandwich and Ham (the full baguette it would seem), and surrounding areas marvelling at the countryside and coastal towns as we plotted our future trip and fantasised about all the possibilities. Then we drive to Dover in preparation for booking and catching our ferry to Calais, France. We spent a day shopping at the gloriousness that is ASDA stocking up on all the household things we were missing (Sassy did come semi-stocked). We also did a big food shop before chugging up a large hill leaving Dover port behind us. Halfway up, as semi trailers easily flew past us, Sassy started grunting and Rhys puzzled over the loss of power. I kept commenting (probably unhelpfully) on the smell of diesel being SO strong.
Next thing we knew, smoke was pouring out of Sassy’s engine and we pulled off the main road and came to a stop next to an open field overlooking the port as sheep lazily raised their heads to see if we were threatening or not only to resume grazing. It would be an understatement to say we were a little bummed about our seemingly dud purchase. Eventually, we got onto a tow truck company and Sassy was hooked and winched up by a father and son team who could have passed as the Weasley family from the Harry Potter films, except for all the colourful, not so PG-13 language that was spilling regularly from their mouths.
Sassy was down for the count with a snapped fuel injector line and we were told it could be a three day wait before a replacement would arrive. We settled into the glamorous life of living in a van in a mechanic’s yard in southern England. Luckily enough, we had already purchased our bicycles and were able to venture out choosing to spend our time drowning our sorrows at the local pub, riding around town taking in the sights, shopping at Lidl and we spent a full day exploring Dover Castle (which exceeded expectations) before we were handed the expensive tow and labour bill and were on our way yet again. After the somewhat depressing previous days, our excitement bubbled as we booked our barge ticket with optimism in our hearts that maybe the breakdown was just a once off. Fingers crossed!