There was a lot of snow as we got off the ferry in Boulogne, the
crossing had been delayed because of the poor weather and it was 11am
before we dis embarked, the port hadn’t been cleared at all and it was
every bit as thick as it had been in Dover,
still we were confident it would only be for the first few miles. We
stopped and filled up with diesel before we got the motorway and were
very surprised to find the petrol station thick with ice and the
temperature was still way below zero, indeed it was at this point we
discovered that the windscreen wipers had frozen to the wind screen and
the windscreen washers were frozen solid, on inspection the water
reservoir was frozen as well. Hopeful the engine temperature would
de-frost the water as we drove. We doused the wipers and jets with hot
tea from one of our flasks and drove on.
Amazed at the sight of snow in France
we took loads of photos as we drove out of Boulogne and missed our turn
at the motorway. 20mins and 10 euros later we were back, this time
fully focused, pumped up the trailer tyre again and set off in the
road was clear and dry for about 100 miles but the countryside was
white over, then slowly over the next couple of hours the snow
encroached on to the motorway from both sides until we were down to
single carriageway with soft snow on the hard shoulder and slush on the
About 6 o’clock
the snow started falling at a good rate and didn’t stop for more than a
few minutes until the following morning, by then we were out of
sandwiches and tea and were going snow blind.
stopped at 11pm at a service station to de-ice the wipers again and
decided to try and get a couple of hours sleep, we put on a two more
jumpers each and both laid out on the van seat, it took about 30
seconds to fall asleep and about one hour to wake up with pins and
needles and crick necks. The snow was thick everywhere now and what
road there had been was now covered but the weather was not going to
improve so we trucked on.
We drove on through the night sometimes reaching a nervous 40mph on the snow, then as the proper truckers woke up and got
rolling we would be passed by an enormous lorry every 15mins or so,
passing us at their usual 56mph spraying snow and freezing slush all
over our non cleaning windscreen. For the next few hours we stopped at
most of the “aire” stops on the side of the motorway to clear the
windscreen but by 3am the turn offs were too deep in snow to be
accessible so we moved ever on and ever slower, Toni was now having to
lean out of the side window an pour water from a bottle over the
windscreen as we kept moving.
made the end of the motorway south of Toulouse about 9am and turned off
on to the A roads, these made the motorway look easy, the last 12 miles
was what would be classed as a B road in Britain and had no sign that
any vehicle had been down it that morning.
had managed to avoid all the BIG hills because of the route we had
picked but on these little, totally snow covered roads even the smaller
hills were a problem, we had to take a run up, going as fast as we dare
on the approach an try to use the momentum our excessive weight gave us
to get over the brow before the wheels lost all traction and our
journey came to a premature end. This was also true of the deep drifts
that had formed on the more exposed parts.
only other traffic we saw on those last few miles was a land rover and
two people skiing along the road, had we not been familiar with the
local roads around Chalabre it would have been pot luck several times
as to where the road was.
daren’t stop until we were outside our house and when we finally
pulled up opposite our front door it was gone12pm, over 51hours since
we had set off, we parked in about a foot of snow and let out a sigh of
relief, we would dig it out again later, or so we thought. We’d been
parked up for about 15mins put the kettle on and started unloading when
the biggest snow plough in France drove down our little narrow road and
got stuck behind us. Fuckin hell! Had to dig the
van out to let the plough through then got stuck at the end of the road
trying to turn the trailer around and had to dig out again, then got
stuck at the other end of the road on the tiny hill and slid backwards,
jack-knifing across the road as I slid back. This one was a bit more
tricky and needed sand and gravel spreading as well as digging, then
only a minor ‘stuck’ in the local supermarket car park as I took
another run up at parking in front of the house. About an hour after
setting off from the house I was back and balls to any other snow
plough that may happen by, they can find another route.
My cup of tea was still in the entrance to our house but now had a layer of freshly formed ice on the top, man it was cold.
turned up and helped us unload the van and trailer, the scaffold poles
were frozen into one big lump on the top of the van roof and had to be
hammered to separate but we got everything inside then had a
celebratory whiskey with our mates, good to be home.