The first two days since leaving England have been quite eventful. Hopefully things will settle down now for a while.
Monday got off to a good start after setting off from Dover, I took a two-hour ferry to Dunkirk and put in over ten hours of driving through France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, so five countries in the first day. Most of the driving was on motorways/autobahn, chugging along around 85kph (55mph) – it is a Defender after all, and not a BMW or Mercedes!
Despite passing through these countries I didn’t get to see very much of them – only roads and adjacent fields. The intent of the trip is to experience countries and cultures, not simply drive through them, but these first couple of days were simply a transition to get me to Berlin to pick up Klaus, so putting in the mileage was necessary.
I tend not to drive the Defender at night, and won’t be doing much night driving throughout the trip. However, I made an exception on Monday in order to bang out some extra miles, knowing that the German autobahn is a good quality road. My night driving was brought to an abrupt end though, about 9.30pm, when my headlights suddenly went out whilst driving at 85kph in the rain, on an unlit autobahn. That was the first scare! With only my side lights illuminated, I tucked in behind a truck and followed it closely for a couple of kilometres until I could pull into a truck stop/parking area.
Having checked that the fuses were OK, a bit of fiddling revealed a dodgy connection in the indicator/high beam stalk. The headlights do work, on low and full beam, but they can abruptly go out when using the indicator or switching between high/low beam. Discretion being the better part of valour, I decided not to chance my luck by heading back out onto the autobahn with dodgy lights. There were quite a few trucks parked up for the night whilst the drivers get some sleep, so I decided to do the same. The back of the Defender is kitted out with mattresses and sleeping bags, so all I had to do was climb in the back. Space is tight in the back but it’s possible to get some comfortable sleep. It will be interesting to see if Klaus and I can both manage in the back together if another emergency situation crops up.
I was up at 6.00am today to complete the remaining 3.5 hours of driving to get to Berlin. By 6.30am, the vehicle was warmed up and I set off on the autobahn, only to see the low coolant warning light come on. I pulled off the road at the next parking area to check out the vehicle. There had been no loss of coolant, the vehicle was running at normal temperature and everything under the hood/bonnet seemed to be in order. The warning light was coming on intermittently, causing me to wonder whether the water pump was operating sporadically. This was my second scare. If the water pump was defective, it could cause significant damage to the engine and radiator – expensive repairs and a long delay to the trip. Due to the potential consequences, I erred on the side of caution. I was able to get advice from my ‘support team’ (David and Matt) via e-mail and decided to get a garage to check that the water pump was working correctly.
Whilst stationery at a parking area sorting this out, along came the Polizei who decided to run my licence plate through their database. Unable to get any info, they then decided to check me and my documents. However, as they had never seen a Bermuda driving licence before, they were concerned that it might be a fake! I was not surprised when one of them told me that they didn’t have an example of a Bermuda licence on their database either. All of this meant that I was delayed by half an hour whilst the various checks were conducted before I was allowed to go on my way.
I located a Land Rover service centre in Magdeburg and they gave me the thumbs up. The water pump was working properly. It seems that the inexpensive after-market coolant alarm may have a fault or a short, causing it to keep illuminating. They didn’t have a new switch in stock to solve my light problem though. With the all clear on the water pump, I made my way to Berlin.
We have since called one of the Land Rover service centres in Berlin who have ordered the part for the light switch. By tomorrow, the part should have been fitted and the Defender should be fully functional again.
In the meantime, it’s good to be with friends in Berlin. The next stop should be Krakow, Poland.