I’ve got a terrible problem with gas. It started when we got to France and has gotten steadily worse and now, halfway down Spain, it’s out of control. It’s 4:30am and it’s kept me awake since 3am - It’s a real problem and we’re all suffering, no more than Chelle who’s sick of me incessantly talking about it.
You see, gas is vital for Frosty in 3 ways – it’s our heating (remember day 1 and it was -12 degrees!), we cook with it, and it powers our fridge when we’re not hooked up to electricity. So running out is a drama.
We started off from Germany with two huge gas bottles – you have two bottles to maintain a continuous supply – when one runs out it switches to the other and you replace/refill the first one at the next opportunity. Somehow we chewed through both bottles in no time at all (I suspect the bottles weren’t full when we got them) and shortly after arriving in France we needed to get more gas. Hunted around for somewhere to fill up our bottles but no joy. Seems France only do the replacement bottles – you bring your empty one, pay the money and swap it for a full one and no one was interested in looking at our German one.
So after hours of fruitless hunting around we realised we’d have to bite the bullet and buy a new French bottle. Filled out the paperwork (felt pretty good to write ‘SDF’ (sans domicile fixe) on the forms!) and a helpful guy helped me remove the old bottle and lock the new one in place into the complicated regulator system. He was so helpful he even found me a gas bottle that was only 1 Euro plus the gas rather than 30 or so Euros plus gas for the others!
By now we realised this was going to be an issue as we entered more countries. So this is where my obsession began. Every servo I’d go into, I’d be checking the car accessories section for adapters as I’d heard they could be filled with the right adapter (even potentially from the LPG pump at the petrol stations). We took trips to hardware shops, camping shops - I even made a 3-hour round trip to a specific motorhome shop that I heard definitely had the right equipment but no. I rang the rental company for advice, spoke to dozens of people with next to no progress.
Then the French bottle ran out so off to the supermarche to replace it. However they wouldn’t accept it because the 1 Euro deal, I’d been so happy about before was subject to a little catch – you could only use it at that particular chain… which of course was nowhere to be seen. So I bit the bullet again and bought a new one (this time paying extra for a universally swappable bottle). I was loathe to do so as this meant we now had 4 huge bottles onboard and the 2 useless German bottles were taking up serious room in the garage.
Anyway with one full bottle we carried on happily but I knew Spain was approaching so continued my furtive hunt for an ‘adaptateur’. Also spoke to other motorhomers for advice whenever I could but none of them were doing a multi-country long term trip like us so they really didn’t have the problem. They’d just fill up when they left and it would last a month or two- especially when they could get an electricity hook-up.
Next stop Spain. This is where it gets really tricky.
Problem 1 – they don’t accept French or German bottles for swapping
Problem 2 – they don’t fill them up
Problem 3 – you can’t buy a bottle unless you have an address in Spain and have had your motorhome certified by a Spanish engineer. And that guy has to install it, with extra regulators and all that stuff (and even then you don’t actually own it I think – you kind of have a licence to use it)
According to one bloke I met, there was a big accident at a campsite in the 80′s a camping gas filling station exploded a killed dozens of people and so they are very twitchy about the whole thing. EDIT: Jesus Christ! - just read up on what he’s talking about – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Alfaques_disaster - we’re only an hour or so away from there too as it happens.
Further investigations and another dozen or so conversations with motorhomers suggested the best was around it was to buy a bottle at a flea market, then hopefully find a fitting that would match it up to our motorhome. But we were running out of gas and hadn’t seen any indication of any markets going on – middle of winter in Spain is a bit of a ghost town apart from the many northern European senior winter escapers.
But then we met Bob & Tracy from the Netherlands. our Saviour Bob spends every winter down here – stays put for 3 or 4 months so he knows his stuff. But even he doesn’t use Spanish gas – he brings full gas bottles from home but by using an electric stove and a portable electric heater and the campsite showers etc he really minimises gas use. Being 4 of us and often not being hooked up to electricity or near public showers, we can’t really follow that method.
Anyway Bob gave up probably about 2 hours of his time helping me try to work out a solution. Over the years he had been able to acquire a Spanish bottle and somewhere along the line had picked up an interesting regulator which nearly fit his fittings. But a miss is as good as a mile so he’s not been able to use either.
However he generously offered to sell me his bottle if we could make it work with my setup. I’d bought a Spanish regulator from another campsite earlier which looked more promising than his, along with some hose and clamps. So we took off the bottles and took apart my system to see if we could make it work (using all Bob’s tools of course). Bob commented that he could smell gas – I said that it always smelled and I’d just assumed it was normal to have a little bit of a smell. Bob assured me it was not and was very dangerous. We discovered the problem – the French bottles! Whilst the thread matches nicely to the German fittings, the seal doesn’t and both bottles had been steadily leaking gas for weeks. A very scary thought…
So French bottles are now out meaning we are now completely without gas and committed to finding a Spanish solution (after all we’ve got a month or so to go in Spain/Portugal). Thankfully Bob & Tracy lent us their electric stove so we could cook dinner although it’s been a chilly night.
Working through the combinations until dark last night with Bob, we think we might have a way to make it work. It means buying Bob’s bottle, swapping it for a full one, cutting a couple of hoses and clamping them up and a regulator (Spanish) going into another regulator (German) but it might just work… unless the double regulating slows the gas down too much.
So with a bit of luck this might see us right in Spain. But we now realise we have a problem when we return to France. Plus, even to use in Germany we’ll have to replace the cut hoses which could be tricky. And we’ve now got 5 giant bottles rattling around Frosty for the foreseeable future.
There we go. Thanks for indulging me in my gas rant. It’s 5:30am now so time for a cuppa… boiled thanks to Bob’s electric cooktop.