Our last night in the Harz Mountains was in a little town called Schulenberg (about 320 residents). There was a nice little camp spot with a view over the mountains and a lake which was very pretty.
While we were here we experienced what people who live in cold climates have to endure.
Our first experience was when we pulled up for the night. I went to get the ramps out to get Max level but could not open the side bin because the door was frozen shut and there was no way it was coming open – I decided we were level enough.
I have said before that it has been very cold, but here it was very, very, very cold. At about 9 am it was minus 6.5 degrees Celsius outside. All of the icicles that had been hanging on Max from Christmas were still there and had grown bigger and been added too, we even had ice on the inside of the windscreen – which MiniMandM took some good photos of.
Earlier in the year we discovered that Max has a feature which protects the boiler (yes we have a boiler and central heating – just like a European house) from freezing should you leave the motorhome and the battery goes flat during winter. The feature will drain all of the water out of the system if the battery goes flat – we learnt this when we heard the pump working and noticed all of our sometimes hard to source water flowing down the hill.
While we were at Schulenberg we discovered a further feature of this system. If the temperature gets too cold it will again dump all of the water. We discovered this in the middle of the night when I heard the switch go off, the pump come on and then water running on the ground – a nice wake up call. In hindsight we should have had the heater running all night, instead we have just been running it before we went to bed and then it has been warm enough while we have been in bed; earlier in the year we would leave it on all night but then end up hot. So since we could not do anything about it we turned the pump off and then went back to bed.
In the morning the first job (after turning the heater on) was to swap the toilet cassette. Warning: This may be too much information for some. Anyone who has spent time in a motorhome knows that the toilet will fill up at the most inconvenient time (I have learnt to check before going to bed to make sure there is sufficient room). On this morning the loo was quite full and Legoboy needed to go so I braved the cold and went out to swap things over (with a family of five we can need to swap cassettes fairly regularly so we have two spares in the boot). So I swapped them and Legoboy did what he needed to and then went to flush. In a motorhome loo part of the flush mechanism is in the cassette. Unfortunately as the cassette had been in the boot where it was very cold the mechanism was frozen up and it would not flush. I won’t give you the detail of how I had to rectify this situation, but needless to say I was glad it was a number one.
Next was to put some water into the tank. In the boot we carry a couple of 5 litre bottles so we always have some water because you never really know when the water in the tank will run out. I got the bottles out which were partly frozen, but I figured that I could get some water into the tank. Next problem was that the lid on the tank was frozen on and I could not get it open – so I just took the 5 litre bottle inside and bypassed the tank.
Next issue was that even though we had water inside now (thanks to a big water bottle) the drain pipe from the sink was frozen so the water in the sink would not drain and we had to scoop it out.
Once we had overcome these obstacles we headed off to the service point to empty things and hopefully fill up with water. Things had warmed up a bit so we were able to get the cap off the tank now so that was a good start. We got the hose out which was very stiff. After putting our money in no water came out, all service points are different so it sometimes takes a few goes to get things working, considering that all of the instructions are in a foreign language. But nothing we did would make things work so we decided that it must have been frozen up.
So we headed off with not too much water and the hope of finding some later in the day.
During the day we decided to have a bit of a snack, someone asked about the packet of chips that we had bought before Christmas but hadn’t eaten. We looked in the cupboards but couldn’t find them anywhere. In the back of one of the cupboards in Max there is a gap at the top. I got a mirror and was able to see down the back and discovered that the chips had fallen down there, so the only option was to pull the shelf out and the back of the cupboard out – so we could have some chips. I have no idea why someone would build a cupboard with a huge gap at the top which would allow things to disappear, possibly never to be seen again.
After visiting the Christmas/Winter Markets in Goslar (another post) we headed out of the Harz Mountains.
We found a camp spot which had water so we went to fill up. Once everything was hooked up and we paid our money, there was still no water. We discovered that our hose was not only stiff it was actually frozen, so we had to use our bottles to get the water into the tank, but we didn’t get too much in before the money ran out (some pumps measure the amount of water and cut off accordingly but others, like this one, are timed so if you are not organised when you put your money in you don’t get much water). We brought the hose inside and sat it in the shower so it could defrost in the warmth.
The drain pipe in the sink was still not draining so I thought that maybe there was some issue other than the pipe being frozen, so for the second time I had to pull out the tools and pull the back of the cupboard out. After doing that I was able to confirm that the pipe was in fact just frozen as it ran outside uninsulated underneath the floor (another dumb design feature), and the next morning everything had defrosted and worked again.
Even though it was warmer here we were surprised to wake up the next morning surrounded by snow again.