(for Part 2 further down in text click here
Our plan is to return to South America in October 2015.
Due to the delays in building the camper back-section we delay our departure.
Additionally we change the departure harbour to Antwerp and are now due to sail on December 2nd.
We will leave Switzerland on November 28th right after Ruedi's mum's 92th birthday.
So far the plan .......
As usual travelling with a Grimaldi ferry is a bit chaotic ..... ships are exchanged, some added to the schedule some removed .... routes changed, harbors added .... all is very dynamic .....
After our agent updates us for the 5th time on which ship we are supposed to travel we tell him to stop telling us ... but Susi keeps an eye on the official Grimaldi schedule so we more or less know when we will travel.
The ship's departure shifts into December.
We don't mind at all as this way we get more time .... and we really needed it!
Not only is the camper still a chaos but on November 6th, when travelling to Switzerland for a party, we have a severe damage to the rear axle.
The wheel bearings overheat.
This causes over-pressure in the hub which presses the grease and oil out of the axle ..... onto the hot disk rotor ...... where it catches fire .....
Luckily we are able to extinguish the fire in time!
If the tires would have cached fire the camper would have burned down ...... 10 meters beside a petrol station!
The OKA has to be towed back to Germany .... the first time since we have it ....
There the mechanic is already waiting to find out what has caused this disaster: Too much tension on the wheel bearings ..... Why did this happen? Not a clue because the mechanics worked exactly as told by Ruedi and Ruedi did that job already several times without any troubles.
Luckily the damage caused to the axles is minimal .... the bearings and caskets have to be replacing, everything else is fine.
But due to the heat of the fire one disk rotor has cracked and needs replacing!
Within the time left this will not be an easy job as the rotors are OKA specific and only available from OKA in Australia.
Poor Ruedi is close to a nervous breakdown.
We have the choice of Susi flying business class to Australia so she can bring back 2 rotors in the 40 kg of passenger luggage .... or find somebody that builds them locally!
Luckily the company that refurbished our brake callipers has a contact to a good workshop and we are able to have 2 disk rotors made in Switzerland.
In the meantime the schedule of the Grimaldi has shifted so much that we can change our departure harbour back to Hamburg and still have plenty of time to get there .... We even get the ticket.
We will sail approx. on December 5th with the "Grande Nigeria".
On Wednesday, November 18th, Susi can fetch the new disk rotors.
They were manufactured from scratch in just a bit over 1 week.
Amazing! Thanks to all for the job done!
Ruedi is able to mount all outside the building on Thursday ..... just before winter hits Europe on Friday .....
The bleeding of the breaks just does not work ..... it is just never ending stress ...... no fun at all ....
But we still have one week to get all fixed .....
On Tuesday and Wednesday Tobi and Ruedi work feverishly on the breaks. The fittings are no good anymore and need replacing. Susi drives to Zürich to fetch new ones.
Then all is ok, breaks work, test drive is completed, all is well.
The Grimaldi schedule on the internet gets updated more or less every 2 weeks.
Susi realizes that the schedule given to us does not match the position of the ship on the internet. The ship will be delayed by at least another 2 days.
This is good news as the crew at Alu-Star wants to paint our bull bar yellow.
To reduce weight holes were cut into it and the bull bar looks a bit like Swiss cheese ...... so they want it to not only have wholes like a cheese but also the correct colour!
On Wednesday, December 1st, Susi checks the location of the ship on the marine traffic webpage and calculates that schedule of Grimaldi is at least 5 days off.
She calls the agent and asks them to please enquire.
According to Grimaldi the new departure date in Hamburg is now December 7th, 10 AM.
On Saturday, December 5th, 2015, Susi has one last hectic internet session.
There she sees that the Grimaldi schedule had been updated again showing that the Grande Nigeria is only due in Hamburg on December 8th, another day later than the time given to us by our agent.
We send an Email to the Grimaldi agent in Hamburg informing him, that we are now on the way north and he should please send us an SMS should anything change.
We leave AluStar in Murg and have a pleasant drive north ... not much traffic ..... until we reach the area around Karlsruhe .... what a traffic jam!
As we have plenty of time we decide to call it the day and find ourselves a good spot for the night.
On Sunday morning we stop at an Autobahn restaurant to check our email on the internet.
As there is no email from the agent and we have not received an SMS either we continue on north without any hurry.
Around Hannover the traffic is very heavy and only moves extremely slowly.
As it already gets dark shortly after 4 PM we decide to leave the traffic jam and have a quiet evening.
On Monday morning, December 7th, we head to McDonalds to check for emails.
As Susi checks the marine traffic web page to see the location of the ship with horror she sees that is has already reached Hamburg .... actually already the evening before .....
So the Grimaldi schedule was off again, but for us in the wrong direction!!!!!
Quickly we get into the OKA.
We are still some 90 km away from the harbour and it is already 8 AM!
Ruedi pushes it a bit and the good OKA drives north on the highway with 110 km/h.
There is plenty of traffic but it moves fast.
Then we reach the crosses.
The traffic is very heavy and slow.
At the A7 cross of the A1 the routing of the GPS sends us onto the wrong highway.
We have to turn and queue up again ..... slow moving traffic ..... the minutes go by fast ......
Susi calls the agent to find out, if 10 AM still is the time where we are supposed to be in the harbour ..... yes it is .....
At 10 AM we are still some 10 km away from the harbour.
Nothing moves on the highway, emergency vehicles drive past .....
We call the agent again and inform him, that we are stuck in the traffic jam.
He is already aware of it and says that we still have time.
We have the GPS-track from the last time where we had embarked on the Grande Costa d'Avorio in 2013.
According to that track we should use the road # 253 to reach the harbour.
The traffic drags past the # 255 exit and slowly, slowly we get close to the exit to the # 253.
We see a sign that the next exit is closed due to construction work.
We turn around and queue up on the highway again in opposite direction.
The traffic moves one car at the time .... then the next one .....
From the bridge we see that there is not much movement ..... we call the agent again and tell him, that we are close ... but stuck .....
Our nerves are just flying!
We are just a few hundred meters away from the ship and still so far away from it!!!
Shortly after 11 AM we make it to the O'Swaldquai and get the formalities done.
Now we are in the harbour area, we have reached the ship .....
Due to the wish of one passenger for privacy on the Internet we have deleted all passenger names in this journey.
We get on board, are shown to the cabin and then it is lunch time.
There are 3 more parties on board:
- a German couple with a Sprinter (2WD) on an open-end trip .....
- a German couple with a Bremach (4WD) with 9 months' time ....
- a German-Paraguayan family with their 6 years old son with a huge Winnebago and a Renault Kangoo (both 2WD) immigrating to Paraguay .....
After lunch we hurry back to the OKA.
We have not packed yet, nothing is ready.
We had thought that we have all the time in the world ..... now it is rush, rush!!!!
By 4 PM we have most of our gear ready .... PC, guitar, clothes, books, shoes, etc. etc.
But Ruedi is still removing things from the driver cab, turning the power off, adding the security features to the windows .... and already we are asked to drive onto the ship!!!
We are shown to deck 6.
There we finish all the work and finally can go to our cabin and get organised.
Already it is 6 PM, dinner time!
What a day – actually one of the worst we ever had!
Not really what we had expected as the beginning of our trip!
During dinner the Grande Nigeria sets sail ......
Even though it is dark and fogy some of us stand outside and watch Hamburg glide past.
What a shame that it is dark; it is such a nice trip down the Elbe
Then the feet get cold and soon we are in bed.
On Tuesday morning there is not much to be seen outside the window .... it is a grey, rainy day .....
At 9 AM we have the "familiarisation" meeting ..... information from eating times to how to use the life west to when the Malaria prophylaxis is given ....
The steward demonstrates the usage of the survival suit.
Let's hope that we will never have to use it ....
At 1 PM we have to turn our clocks back by one hour.
In the afternoon we show our South America 2013 movie to some of the other passengers.
The cook is not as good as the ones we have had on previous trips.
But he and the steward will finish their tour in Tilbury and Antwerp.
Let's see how the new ones are ....
During the night we sail up the river Thames and reach Tilbury, the port of London.
This time the ship does not go through the lock and docks at the old cruise terminal where the cars will be unloaded / loaded.
The Grimaldi Grande Abidjan glides past us down the Thames .......
On Wednesday morning a blue sky and sunshine greats us.
Some of the passengers go into the city.
We decide to stay on board and start working.
Plenty of paperwork has just been left "to be processed on board of the ship" ......
And this is the end of this ship trip and journal.