Holding Pattern in Krakow

We had a day out as planned in Krakow on Thursday. The weather has been pretty variable of late but Thursday was sunny and scorching hot.

The bus trip in from the motorhome dealership we’re staying outside was pretty straightforward, though there was one slight quirk. We had to buy tickets at a machine located on the bus, no mean feat whilst bouncing along on Polish roads, then take it to another machine to stamp it for our journey. With no easy hanging-on points provided near the machines, this is not a task for those unsteady on their feet!

We awarded ourselves an easy day of wandering around, not bothering with any museums or the interior of the castle. There wasn’t anything in the guide book that grabbed Mark, and I was a diligent tourist when I visited Krakow a few years ago and recall the castle to have been disappointing (though I can’t remember exactly why – this was in pre-blog times so I have a collection of photos but no words to go with them).

Naturally, there were eating and drinking opportunities. We spent quite some time examining the menus at the many cafes surrounding the main square in the hunt for the perfect pierogi offering (Mark was not interested in poncy overpriced “nouvelle cuisine” pierogi; he was happy with his final choice of a place that did him a straightforward mixed plate of half meat half cheese pierogi and a beer to wash them down with):

Apart from the location, one attraction of staying outside a motorhome dealership (El Camp, to the West of the city centre) was that we had a few shopping requirements we thought we might take care of whilst here.

The dealership gets mainly very good reviews on Camper Contact from people who’ve stayed overnight, and one bad one from a Spaniard who reported that they were uninterested in helping with his motorhome problem. We think we’ve sussed out where the difficulty lies….. but of course we don’t know whether this is any reflection on Polish service in general or just a quirk of this particular dealer.

We spoke to two guys who were both very pleasant but completely failed to sell us anything at all in the end. They only want to sell what they want to sell (not necessarily what you want to buy).

We had decided that Kampington’s leisure batteries were getting a bit tired so perhaps we’d replace them before heading further South into Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The first chap (on the evening we arrived) informed me that they stock Exide batteries. Fair enough – I went away and later that evening checked the Exide range to find the battery of a size and spec to suit (why do leisure batteries come in such wildly differing sizes and shapes? “will it fit” becomes a huge part of the decision of what to buy). The equivalent Exide battery is more expensive and lower spec (in terms of number of cycles) than the Lucas batteries we have at the moment but so be it….. On returning to the dealership, though, it transpired that they only stock 4 batteries from the Exide range. The one we’d need (bog-standard lead acid, no fancy gel for us) wasn’t one of them, and no, they weren’t offering to ring their supplier and get our batteries delivered in a day or two. So that’s a missed sale of three leisure batteries for starters….

We had a look round their accessories shop, having come up with the idea that after 4 months on the road, this could be a good opportunity to stock up on toilet fluids and the like. The best way way I can describe it is that it looked as if the shelves had been fully stocked five years ago but not touched since. They had very impressive supplies of Thetford Seal Lubricant and Cassette Cleaner (both of which we have plenty of; they’re not items you need to buy very often), but stocks of basic toilet liquid were limited to a single bottle at the back of a shelf with no price on it and suspicious blue marks on the outside of the bottle….. We didn’t manage to buy anything at all…..

Undeterred, we asked if there was a place locally they’d recommend for two front tyres and a fuel filter. They didn’t want to give us details of anywhere else but made an attempt to sell us two chinese tyres they’d had in stock since 2014. They weren’t selling them cheap either….. When we declined they didn’t then offer to get any other tyres in…. So no sale….

It was a similar tale with the fuel filter; although we’d only asked for a recommendation, they insisted they’d be able to do it in their workshop… but then decided that they couldn’t get the necessary fuel filter (Kampington is a bog-standard 2003 Sprinter 311cdi).

We’d have happily paid a bit extra for the convenience of getting everything done in one place (as you’ll read below, we went straight ahead and paid for the convenience of a Mercedes main dealer), but if people don’t want to sell what you want to buy……

It was all quite comical really; surely the whole point of offering cheap overnight accommodation to passing motorhomers is that many will then part with money for other things? We tried, we really did…..

We haven’t mentioned Kampington’s fuel filter so as not to unduly worry anyone. A module on Kampington’s fascia, just to the left of the gear lever, has mystified us for the five years we’ve had Kampington. Is it a warning light? A switch? It never seemed to do anything and it isn’t shown in the manual, so we didn’t waste too much mental energy on it. One symbol is clearly a fuel pump, but what the heck is the other supposed to be?

Then the light under the mystery hieroglyphics flickered on very briefly in Sweden before going off again. Had we imagined it? Then in Poland it started intermittently flickering, so it was time to fire up the internet and start seriously investigating… In the meantime, Kampington seemed to be running absolutely fine, as usual.

Apparently it’s a “water in diesel” light and if you have a “modern diesel engine” (why do none of the websites then tell  you what “modern” is??) the water will blow up your engine, Life on Earth will never be the same again, etc etc. Gulp! 😱 We learned that there’s a little drain valve on the fuel filter (who’d have thought it?!) for us to drain out the “water”, and thankfully it turned out to be very easy to get to (open the bonnet and it’s right in front of your nose) but Kampington didn’t seem to have any water in there to drain – we just got smelly diesel out.

Now, we know nothing more than we can find on the internet, with all the reliability issues that entails, but it seems that the sensor doesn’t detect water as such but rather high pressure before or low pressure after the fuel filter (depending where the sensor is located). So perhaps we’ve just got some unidentified Swedish or Polish crud (a technical term!) in the filter? We figured we’d get the filter changed and see what happens. As we couldn’t get any water at all from the filter, we decided that the apocalyse was probably not quite nigh…. Mark did suggest that he knew exactly how to solve the problem of the warning light – with a bit of black tape! (men!). So that’s the not very dramatic background to our fuel filter purchase.

We headed out on Friday and made our own arrangements to get our front tyres and fuel filter fitted on Saturday morning, then sought out Tesco for some shopping. It wouldn’t do to pass through Poland without checking out a Tesco. Yes, it was very much like Tesco at home. They even had Tesco gluten-free breadcrumbs, which must count as a miracle in a country whose “free-from” offering is generally limited to soya milk.

Come Saturday morning, we arrived back at the biggest, shiniest (but by no means the fastest) Mercedes dealership we’ve ever seen and sat down to wait. Mark was very impressed by the coffee:

We also had plenty of time to amuse ourselves by looking at the branded tat. Mercedes perfume anyone? Or how about an official Mercedes nodding dog?

We’ve spent the rest of the weekend camped outside the motorhome dealership awaiting news from home. Mark’s mum has been unwell for a couple of weeks with a bad back but was suddenly taken into hospital on Friday following a blood test that didn’t come back as it should. We’re near an airport here and, according to sat-nav, under 13 hours from Calais. It seemed silly to move further South from here until we know what’s happening.

So that’s all our news for the moment, other than HUGE congratulations to Gavin (gmthinking) on passing his “Big Lorry” test 🚛🚛🚛🚛🚛

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