Bad Belly or Bad Battery?

How to tell when your leisure battery needs replacing.

One deep dark night, as we slept, all snug and warm in Barri, a massively loud and penetrating alarm sounded. We jolted awake. What was it? Where was it?

The Wailing Wallys

We had to scramble; it was so loud that it felt as if it was inside our heads, stopping our minds from functioning. Naked and disorientated, we fumbled for light switches, both horrified that the neighbours must be waking up too, and unstintingly cursing us. There was no way they could sleep through this, as the teeming noise forced it’s way, pell-mell, out of our open windows and ricocheted into every crevice in the campsite. We had to track down the source of the noise; and kill it.

We grabbed the obvious suspect, a carbon monoxide (CO) sensor from it’s home on the shelf. Held it close to our ears. No. It was not that one. We had another one at floor level. We grabbed it. Yes! Turned it off. Put it down and it started screaming at us again. We ripped out the battery and opened all the windows and cracked open the door, just a little. Back to bed. The next morning, we replaced the battery. Over the next couple of weeks it went off a couple of times.

The final straw? We returned from a night out, it was 2am, and the windows were closed. Even before we saw the van, we heard it. Some poor soul had gone into Barri and shut the windows. That bloody alarm. Those poor neighbours. Our shame. We let ourselves in and gutted the alarm, again.

The next morning Wally consulted Dr Google. Batteries can give off hydrogen and CO alarms will sound when they sense this gas. Well, that was news to us. We have no bottled gas in the van when we are parked up and we do not burn gas in Barri, so we knew our problem was not CO. So why had our alarm gone off? The batteries are leisure ones and should be sealed. Barris batteries live inside the vehicle, unlike most modern motorhomes, where the batteries are held in an outside compartment. As hydrogen is explosive in air, we decided we definitely wanted this gas out of our Barri. Wally vented the battery cupboard to the outside air. 

Everything was fine. We thought we had solved the problem, until one evening, as sat in Barri happily sketching and writing, we were hit by an appalling odour; rotten eggs. It floated across my nose in waves. Wally said he felt fine. Really? Were we breathing pure methane? Better not strike a match.

The smell was still drifting around the next day. Once again we asked Dr Google for a diagnosis and it turned out that the distinctive smell of stink bombs is a sign of a battery breaking down. A few checks later with a multimeter and we had our answer; one dead-ish battery. 

We teamed up with another person on site who also needed to replace his battery and secure a minute discount for a ‘bulk’ purchase. 

Bargain Leisure Batteries

I guess we learned a few things here that might be handy for all happy motorhomers.

Keep a CO sensor low down in your vehicle (CO is a heavy gas) and consider leaving one in the battery compartment.

Carry a multimeter. Never used one? Google for instructions. 

When you go to bed, consider opening a window at head level or lower.

If your CO alarm sounds, never assume it is faulty, ask yourself why it is sounding and sort out the problem.

Always wear bed clothes as you never know when you might be alarmed.

If you smell bad eggs, you have a problem. Try changing your diet, your partner, or your battery.

One Shiny New Leisure Battery

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KTM 390 Duke 3,000 mile review.

Like the Snowbirds in the USA we decided to fly south for the winter to avoid the worst of a British winter. As part of the plan we wanted a pair of lightweight motorcycles to allow us to explore our winter habitat.

After much deliberation and head scratching we settled on the 2018 version of KTM,s 390 Duke for our winter sabbatical. We intended to spend a few weeks in Morocco as well as overwintering in Spain. Our final destination was Morzine in France for a week of snowboarding in mid April.

We trailered the two bikes to Spain, towed behind our VW T4 Westfalia camper. Our intention was to use the bikes for local transportation, in and around Denia, on the Costa Blanca, and a camping trip to Morocco. There was also the possibility of a small amount of off-road riding on unpaved trails.

Why the 390 Duke?

We needed bikes light enough to be towed in an un-braked 7.5 tonne trailer.

Bikes with a low seat height.

Decent power delivery.

Trail potential

Other bikes considered:

Honda CRF 250 – too tall.

BMW 310GS – too heavy, lack of power, expensive.

Kawasaki Versys 300 – too tall, expensive.

First impressions of the Duke were favourable, aesthetically, a good looking bike with character.

A short test ride confirmed our pre-conceived ideas of what this bike would be like. Light, eager with a reasonable turn of speed.

Back in the dealership we chose 2 Dukes, one orange with around 600 miles and the other white, pre-registered with delivery mileage. We specified engine guards, and rear rack on both and hand-guards on Jen’s as an extra precaution. The white one was fitted with Oxford bar heaters.

As we were due to leave the UK within 2 weeks of purchase, the white one needed to have 600 miles put on it in order that the 1stservice could be done before departure. This job fell to me, as Jen had had an operation on her thumb and was forbidden to ride for 6 weeks.

It wasn’t much fun riding the Duke sympathetically, the fancy colour display is set up to glow red as you approach the rev limit, which is prescribed by the factory, during the running in period. This is adjusted during the fist service and can be tailored by the rider thereafter. Whilst on the subject of the display, though thoroughly modern, it is a little disappointing. Much of the information is difficult to read if you have normal eyesight and not that of a teenager (Jen did not agree and found the display ok to read). It has a fuel-gauge with a clear warning when the tank is getting low. The gear indicator is a plus but the difference between 5th and 6th not easy to see. Although I had no problems with reflections, Jen found that the display was unreadable at times, especially with the sun behind her. The display has night and day display modes which it automatically switches between depending on light levels. The bike has bluetooth pairing for compatible devices.

After 600 miles of cold wet weather riding, the bike was ready for it’s service. During that time I had discovered that the seat was comfortable over fairly long rides, 250 miles one day. The heated grips were great. Wet weather handling was perfectly acceptable and the vibrations, though evident, were not overly intrusive and didn’t blur the mirrors at any rpm. The mirrors did have a habit of loosening off from time to time; quite annoying. The side stand is a little too long and unless on flat ground the bike, when parked, felt unstable at times. The rear hugger is completely useless, the rucksack I was using, not to mention my backside, were soaked in road grime within a few miles of starting out.

Initial impressions were that the bike was going to suit our purpose in most departments. Plenty of power given the small power unit with just about enough space to carry camping gear. Comfortable, especially given that we were not expecting to be riding in wet conditions thus making the hugger less of an issue. We doubted that we would be doing much off-roading though due to the unsuitability of the tyres and, probably, the suspension.

At this point the bikes were loaded into the trailer and we headed for sunny Spain.

On arrival in Spain we decanted the bikes and discovered, on the floor of the trailer, a 3 inch, 6mm bolt. It soon became clear that it didn’t belong to the trailer. To our horror we discovered the bolt was the top bolt from the rear suspension unit on Jen’s bike. It had vibrated out on the journey between Spain and the UK! Read more here.

We spent several months acclimatising to the new bikes ahead of our planned trip to Morocco. The seat remained comfortable and the riding position was ok, no aches or pains after several hours in the saddle. The brakes were adequate but provoking the rear ABS was quite easy and noticeable. I later found out that the ABS, when really pressed, was literally a life saver! I almost rearranged the back end of a classic Merc convertible, a ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ moment; he didn’t apologise.

The roads in the mountains around Denia are superb, long sweepers, tight S bendy climbs and descents, and so little traffic. The area is used by many international cycle teams for training so some caution was needed. These roads could have been especially designed for the bike. The rear of the Duke seemed a bit loose and I experienced the back end sliding out on many occasions. This may be due in part to the Spanish roads, often dusty and seemingly polished with constant changes in surface and holding the damp where the road was shaded. The standard Metzelers seemed to respond badly to transitional changes in the road surface, giving a little shift sideways as power was demanded. We had a tyre-wall failure after a particularly big pothole hit in Morocco and a nail puncture in the other bike.

During or trip to Algeciras and subsequently in Morocco we had to deal with some heavy winds. We both felt the bikes felt unstable in a cross wind but gusts were up-to 40k and the bikes are very light. Fuel consumption was pretty much what you might expect, refilling after 200k would take about 10 litres, less if we had been taking it easy. Fuel warnings were good leaving a useful range after the first yellow warning on the display.

In conclusion I rather liked my Duke and I think Jen did too. It’s a fun bike when pushed, that works as mini tourer too. Comfortable and light with useable power and great value for money.

In Morocco we were carrying camping gear plus clothing. We travel fairly light and the additional weight did not upset the handling. Apart from the tyre failure, the bikes stood up well to the indifferent Moroccan roads. An occasional spanner check did not reveal any loose fittings. The bikes attracted a lot of admiring interest in Morocco, especially with the kids.


Light weight

Low seat height

Good power delivery

Adequate range

Nimble handling



Standard tyres not great

Display hard to read

Side stand too upright

Tank lock a bit stiff

Some plastics a little too plasticky

Mirrors tend to loosen

Not ideal offroaders

Reviewed by The Wandering Wallys

The Campsite As A Nature Reserve

With about 100 pitches, our campsite is small. It’s also fairly basic, sporting three shower/loo blocks, a laundry room, two places to hand wash clothes and a couple of sets of sinks to do the dishes. Apart from that, there’s not much here, other than the owners house, which also accommodates the small bar/shop and the social room. Like many campsites along the Spanish Mediterranean, it doesn’t need much more. Except, shade in the summer. On this site that is provided by a good variety trees and other tall plants.

Over the winter the clientele want as much light as possible and so the Eucalyptus trees are heavily pruned and yet still put on about a metre of growth a month. Buy the start of the high season the trees have a full canopy again, thus offering the goldilocks formula of summer shade and winter sun.

It turns out that this site is rather unusual, as the original owner, the mother of the current management, called this caravan park her garden and took great pleasure in selecting just the right plants for each pitch. Her first job was to give the land a skeleton, by marking off the boundary of each pitch with some low shrubs. She then had to punctuate the garden with some statement plants and to do this she hadto have date palms, the sign of a hot, sub tropical climate and so exotic to her northern European clients. The choice of a large number of Eucalyptus trees for their tolerance of the heat, their cool grey green colour, their aroma, and their shady, dappling canopy was inspired. She also picked trees for their berries and seeds and indigenous trees too.

As an underplanting, there are a range of succulents, including the sweet fruit and vicious needle bearing Prickly Pear. Beneath all these tall plants there are pots of plants absolutely everywhere.

When the ‘garden’ was planted, people arrived with modest caravans, small camper vans, or tents. There was no real struggle to negotiate these little homes around the the site and onto a pitch. Times have moved on, as has the motor industry. Caravans and motorhomes are generally much bigger than they were 20 years ago, when many of the regular campers first began to come here. Watching a modern vehicle or radio controlled caravan, shunting back and forth in order to turn a very tight corner bounded by four or five mature trees is a real treat for us.

What has all this got to do with nature?

The owners have created a lush garden that happens to be a campsite. Where there is a garden, there is life and this place proves that, as do the images throughout this post.

The Fun Of Cooking On The Run

There’s a problem with camper buses and a lot of motor homes, let alone back packing with just a burner for your hot meal needs; fuel. We never gave this a thought as mountain walkers and backpackers. In those days it seemed natural to carry a tiny cooker, a couple of pots and a few simple recipe ideas and ingredients. But, later, when we were looking for a motorhome, a HOME on wheels, it was obvious an oven was a necessity, until a salesman said something that was game changing, he said, “You don’t need an oven, you need to change the way you cook.” Suddenly, selecting the a motor home based on it’s kitchen kit became an irrelevance. We had been set the challenge of cooking on only a hob: and we loved it.

All of our ‘cooking’ posts are meals that are very quick to make and can be adapted by you for the kinds of food you eat. From baking to sushi, after the preparation of the ingredients, you can make these meals inside 15 minutes cooking, plus the boiling of about 2.5 cups of water (with hook up and an electric kettle, this is effectively free).

Curry with Couscous and Popodoms

There are a few rules that we follow:

  1. We cook for 2 people. If you have a different number of people, you do the maths!
  2. We eat shell/fish, but mostly we’re veggie. You can add meat and cut up as in no. 4.
  3. Carbohydrates should be no cook, or very quick cook.
  4. Slow to cook foods should be cut into 1cm cubes or julienned (thin strips).
  5. Utensils must earn their keep in the vehicle.
  6. Meals should be wholefood and intenselytasty. We may be on the road for a long time, so eating well to keep as healthy as possible is essential.
  7. Brownish meals? Yes, sorry! This is whole food not processed food – see no.6 above.


t = teaspoon

T = tablespoon

c = cup

.5c = half a cup

Here you will find – please give us time to post them – pizza, wraps, pies, breads, hearty soups, stir fries, pasta, noodles, sushi and so on and on and on ………

Not a traveller? Maybe this will save you time and money at home!

Weird ideas/substitutions? Yes, maybe, but taste any food about 10 times and you’ll get to like it!

Travel is about discovering things that are new to us. If you discover a quick way of feeding yourself on the road, let us know. We love to gather in ideas and we try to share as much as we can to our wider community. We will always credit you if you give us a great idea.

Here’s to The Fun Of Cooking On The Run

Christmas In A Can

While the rest of our fellow campers fished out turkeys from their freezers and made full roast lunches with all the trimmings, we went bijou.

With no oven and no room for a mountain of gifts, we came up with a plan:


It turns out that simple is good, unlike this movie, which is bad; sorry about that!