Julia Pickering – From the desert to the mountains

The onset of the European winter, for me, was spent in the heat of the Middle East. While UK temperatures plunged and the Western Alps were getting superb early powder, I was visiting my brother in Israel, where they were having an unseasonably warm start to winter! I had arrived in Jerusalem just days after yet another conflict. A ceasefire had been called but the feeling of unrest was definitely still prevalent. My brother, Jonathan, had been working out here since the summer and I had been dying to see where he was and what he was doing. Jerusalem is without question a beautiful and fascinating city and I met some amazing people out here. As well touring round the city, we visited Jericho, the Dead Sea and Mesada, the Red Sea, the Judean desert and Tel Aviv.

Back on UK shores it was a mad rush to get everything ready to leave for winter. With early season snow conditions looking so good we wanted to be a part of it. Yet again our leaving date was delayed by a series of mishaps but just days before Christmas we finally hit the road.  A stuttering engine which seemed to right itself along with pouring rain and a strong headwind marked the start of our journey south.  As we neared Dover a sudden crash from the roof made us think the Mayans may have been right. As we looked around nervously the rest of the traffic seemed to be in normal full flow. Oh crap, the solar panels must have come off the roof. Now, as we hadn’t caused a crash behind we could only assume this was not the case until we had an opportunity to pull over. The solar panels had indeed come down but were intact and still attached. The van roof however looked as if a hot knife had sliced through it and we were now leaking in water everywhere. As we had a ferry to make, a quick temporary solution was required. Duct tape, the answer to all of life’s problems.  (The roof was later fixed with a fibreglass repair kit).

We pulled off into the nearest Aire after Calais. Our headwind had not ceased since entering France and all night howling winds battered our little haven. Images of the wind tearing off the roof and the van being turbulently swept across the motorway plagued an already restless sleep. Day dawned to marginally calmer weather and North Eastern France rushed past the windows until out stuttering engine decided to un-right itself. It was Christmas Eve before we were heading into the Alps, through the Mont Blanc tunnel and into Italy. I woke up on Christmas morning in a lorry park somewhere along the SS26 in the Aosta valley.  After a day of traipsing around ski resorts, struggling to find free parking areas for motorhomes and realising the snow was better back across the across the border, by nightfall we were back through the tunnel. Christmas Day 2012, for me, fell on the 27th instead of the 25th. Wood burner fuelled with mulled wine warming on top, Christmas dinner in the oven and snow falling heavily.  Board legs are now back, the dogs are loving it and I’m ready for another awesome season.

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