Heading back South from Nordkapp, we stopped at a great little spot we’d seen on the way up; Mark went fishing and caught another fish (smaller than the last one but just as tasty).
This was only the second place we’d stopped in Norway without any ‘phone signal (in each case just due to being tucked away in a cove or similar; there was great signal again a few minutes’ down the road). Oh how spoiled we’ve become 😉
Heading South into a big empty space on the map, we stopped at the last reasonably-sized settlement (Karasjok) for fuel and to spend the last of our Norwegian coins. Mark was pleased with his haul of three ice creams (I was allowed a pack of rice cakes to bring the total to exactly the amount we still had in our grubby little mitts).
Below Karasjok really was a big empty space. There’s nothing but a gently undulating landscape covered in trees, initially very stunted but getting slightly bigger as the kilometres go by. You can drive for an hour without seeing a house.
We were eaten half to death by mozzies on Monday night; thankfully they don’t carry any nasty diseases here and the bites don’t even itch (unlike the ones we got further South in Norway the day we walked to the stave church). Enough was enough though; we’ve finally dug out the mozzie net we brought with us and added the appropriate fixing points to Kampington to make sure we can deploy it in seconds each evening.
On Tuesday we left Norway, crossed a thin finger of Finland, and entered Sweden. We parked up for the night in a clearing in the trees; we didn’t have any ‘phone signal but figured there was probably one nearby on the main road so we’d just pick up our emails when we set off the next morning (Norway really had spoilt us rotten). The good news was that it was raining so there were no mozzies out and about. It’s no real surprise that the Northern part of Sweden is so incredibly sparsely populated; it’s dark for a huge part of the year, then it gets light and you get bitten to within an inch of your life. It brings a whole new dimension to “It’s Grim Up North”.
Things got very grim for us on Wednesday morning. It was cold overnight, down to about 5C, and Kampington wouldn’t start….. The WD40 trick didn’t work….. Mark got the French “blow up your own van” starting spray out and that didn’t work either. What a marvellous place to get stuck – in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with no ‘phone signal…
Bugger. Mark decided to have one last go with the French starting spray and miraculously, Kampington struggled into life…. Hurrah! We agreed that we would not stop anywhere without a ‘phone signal from now on; our £400 AA breakdown cover is all well and good, but it does rely on you being able to contact the friendly call centre back in the UK……
Our next problem slowly became apparent as Mark drove us South through the unchanging landscape of trees. Neither of our mobiles were connecting to a signal. After 100 miles or so in Sweden, surely they should gave connected to something by now, even intermittently? But no….. On further investigation, we discovered that they could see three networks but just couldn’t connect. Double Bugger. You can never be 100 percent confident of what is going to happen when you move from one country to another, but with an ailing Kampington, this state of affairs could be a big problem.
We did what all motorhomers do when trouble strikes: empty the loo. Things always seem better when you have a full tank of fresh water and empty waste; at least then you can be confident of being able to sit out your problems in comfort (normally a full cupboard of food would be mentioned here, but we’re still pretty well stocked after cutting short our time in Northern Norway).
At this point, the day started to go in our favour 😀 There was a small single-storey hotel next to the picnic spot where we stopped to fettle, and possibly due to being seriously in the back of beyond, its wifi network was open.
I got straight onto Three via their online chat (masquerading as Mark: Mark has a contract sim with Three, whereas I have a contract sim with ID, which uses Three’s network, and a Three PAYG data sim). We got a helpful person (Sagar) on the other end who, quite unusually, seemed to actually read what I wrote rather than just firing out the prepared responses in random order, as so many seem to do. He accepted that the problem was most likely with Three if we had a Three phone and an ID phone with the exact same problem, both of which worked fine until we crossed into Sweden. We’d tried everything he could suggest other than physically taking out the sim card then replacing it (which, as you’d expect, did nothing) so he referred it to Three technical support and said they’d fix it asap. He even gave Mark £5 off his next bill without us even asking…. Then, a short while later, there was a cacaphony of bings in Kampington’s cab – problem fixed! Thank you, Sagar at Three!!! 😱 Update (Friday): We take it all back. Our ‘phones have stopped working again! We must’ve coincidentally driven out of the area where the problem is; we’ve now driven back to the same place we stopped to contact Three on Wednesday…. and back to exactly the same problem 😱 Three, you’re as useless as we always thought you were 🤡🤡🤡
Armed with the internet, we hunted out the details of a garage at Gällivare, the first place with more than 5 houses in Northern Sweden. It’s actually quite a sizeable town. The garage was clearly the one that ran the recovery trucks in the area (but said they specialised in VW and Audi), so we figured that even if they couldn’t fix Kampington they’d be able to tell us exactly where to take him, which they did 😀
We arrived at ten to four; the garage closed at 4. The best English speaker was summoned, the problem was explained, and then the four guys in the office just stood and looked at each other for what seemed an interminably long period of time, like some kind of strange Swedish staring contest. We resisted the very British urge to shuffle off politely rather than trouble them further. It was easy to read the “oh, but I’d almost got my coat on” on the faces of the younger lads.
Things brightened up when they ascertained that yes, Kampington is indeed a “camping car”, and that in response to the question of were we staying in town, we were very keen to stay right outside on their car park. Hunky dory (or whatever they say in Sweden), that’d be fine, they’ll look at him in the morning.
So here we are, parked up on a garage forecourt. It’s July and the outside temperate is 4 degrees….
The Swedes seem willing, but I can’t help but think that the French mechanics from February 2015 were ahead of the game at this point. Rather than a corner of the car park, they had us park up for the night right in front of the workshop doors so that when Kampington failed to start the next morning, they could easily push him inside for treatment. We’re not quite sure how the Swedes are going to tackle that problem. Perhaps they have a team of reindeer on standby to tow him in? Or some competition huskies in need of summer training? Time will tell….