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by GARETH WHITE | Sunday 1st April, 2007


Having had a soft spot for classic VW's since owning a bright orange 1972 beetle in my distant teenage years I was delighted when my wife Julie booked a four day break in the yellow peril UMA for my 34th birthday. This was sure to be a complete culture shock for Julie who, at the tender age of 28, has not experienced the 'comforts' of a 35 year old dream machine and is more accustomed to the luxury offerred by our touring caravan. We collected UMA from O'Connors campers on the Friday lunchtime and should have perhaps been slightly suspicious when Pete said he would watch us leave and 'laugh as we tried to locate the reverse gear.' Jubilant that we had located the reverse gear on the first attempt(similar, I suppose, to winning the National Lottery on the first attempt) we headed off through Okehampton, Cornwall bound. It has to be said that the transition from driving a modern vehicle to driving a 35 year old VW is not a simple process, nor was it beneficial to my life expectancy, especially as my first test was a right-hand hill start turn onto the A39. Simple enough one might say, but not with a 3 foot long gear stick and a hand-brake located in a position usually occupied by the CD player in a modern vehicle. Having experienced me struggling to find first gear, swearing, stalling, swearing again, reaching in vain for the hand-brake in the conventional (between the seats) position, swearing again, finding first gear, stalling, swearing again, finding first gear and the handbrake this time and completing the move (to the relief of the Devonshire commuters directly behind) Julie had started to believe that a bottle of aftershave and a curry may have been a more favourable birthday present. It appeared that Bill (our hybrid bull terrier-ish dog) was the only one of us who had adopted the stereotypical 'chill man - peace and love' attitude as he sat admiring his new surroundings on the rear bench seat. Like they say about learning to ride a bicycle, I eventually became accustomed to the gear changes and that familiar smell of hot oil from the beautifully melodic air-cooled engine soon took me back to my beetle days. We covered approximately 320 miles during the weekend and visted Looe, Mevagissey, St Austell, Lizard, St Ives, Newquay and Padstow to name but a few and found a much recommended site in Ayr Holiday Park, St Ives (see photograph) where we were somewhat ironically pitched up next to 'Kissinger' of O' Connors Campers fame. The view of the ocean and St Ives from the front window of UMA was simply awesome and had to be the highlight of our break. Although I never did master the reverse gear (and spent most of my time looking backwards whilst jolting forwards) there was an infectious attraction about the simplicity, versatility and aesthetics of this camper van and it was a strain to return UMA to her rightful owners last Monday afternoon.The journey back to Manchester was filled with discussion debating the pro's and con's of 'campervan versus touring caravan' and which way we should focus our future attentions. Needless to say, the campervan prevailed.

Posted in Experiences
on Sunday 1st April, 2007
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