Introducing “Bertita”, our Not So New Mode of Transport

Introducing “Bertita”, our Not So New Mode of Transport

One of our first nights out - camping in Bertita in the Eifel.

One of our first nights out – camping in Bertita in the Eifel.

Why did we call a truck “Bertita”? Well, it actually wasn’t us. Our first truck was called “Berta” and, when we posted the first photos of our new vehicle on Facebook , one of our followers suggested “Bertita”, which means “small Berta” in Spanish. It immediately resonated with us and the name stuck.

You might ask why we decided to change trucks. There were several reasons:

  • Berta looked so big (although she wasn’t really) that many times when we stopped somewhere, people immediately reacted with, “you’re too big to park here”. It had a lot to do with her height and super-large wheels.
  • Which brings me straight to the second point: the large wheels, 365/85 22.5, meant that in case of a flat, we were never really able to change a wheel on our own without some strong help. The weight of one was around 160 kilograms. How often would you expect to find help in the middle of nowhere?
  • Berta’s big size and large motor meant that she was thirsty.
  • It also meant that Yasha never liked to drive her.
  • During our 4 years in South America Berta had suffered a fair bit, mostly from overnighting too frequently near beaches. Without some major work, she wouldn’t have passed the German technical inspection, the TÜV.
  • Finally, how often would we really need serious four-wheel-drive in Europe?
Side by side: Bertita and Berta. Look at the difference in tyres alone.

Side by side: Bertita and Berta. Look at the difference in tyres alone.

So I (Juergen) thought to look for a smaller truck to carry our self-built camper shelter. In the middle of 2017, I started searching online. Due to the shelter’s weight and size, only 2 models were suitable: the Iveco Daily and the Mercedes T2 or Vario.

It became apparent fairly quickly that it should be another Mercedes. Everybody keeps raving about the reliability of the old Mercedes T2 and Vario models. I used to have the predecessor (608D) myself in the mid 80s. Therefore, I was soon only looking for these. Of course, the main problem was that we were still in South America, and all trucks I looked for were in Germany…

A couple of times I missed out on what looked like a good truck; other times I asked friends to enquire about specific vehicles; and several quite decent and cheap ones sold so quickly that I had no chance to contact friends or the vendor.

Then, shortly before Christmas 2017, an advertisement caught my eye: a 2001 model 815D with only 125,000 kilometres. It was an ex-community works truck, with locking rear differential, Euro 3, and the right length. From all the photos, the truck looked reasonably clean and rust free – never a given with a Vario, even in much newer models.

By pure chance I have a Facebook friend who lives only 25 kilometres from where the dealer was. And he drives a Vario himself. So I asked him to have a look for us, which he did. Within 3 days, we had bought a new travel vehicle online – without ever having seen it!

Next came the task to find some place to have the swap over of our camper shelter done. This is where things didn’t go very well. Initially I had lined up somebody via Facebook, who sounded really enthusiastic and willing to do almost anything for us. At the last minute (or shall I say ‘after the last minute’ – we had already turned up in his hometown) he changed his mind and said “no”.

So there we were, in cold Germany at the beginning of March, and I spent my whole birthday online and on Skype trying to find an alternative solution. All the while Berta was sitting in Bremerhaven port, waiting to be picked up and driven to wherever we would make the change.

Berta waiting in the port of Bremerhaven - she had arrived safely from Cartagena in Colombia.

Berta waiting in the port of Bremerhaven – she had arrived safely from Cartagena in Colombia.

Fairly quickly we were contacted by somebody else, the junior boss of a truck garage in Hagen. Everything sounded really good, the initial contact was easy and without any sign of problems. We picked up Berta, drove her to Hagen, picked up Bertita (who was only 80 km away), and were ready to start working.

Unfortunately, very quickly we arrived at a point, where opinions and ideas about the best solutions went in different directions. And it got worse from there onward! Let’s just say, that we spent more than 2 months, stuck in the same workshop, working our guts out, and running up a huge bill for a conversion, which wasn’t really what we had wanted, and now proves to be less than optimal. The less said, the better. We moved on…

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

But now, since we’ve been on the road with Bertita for 6 months, we have discovered that our basic ideas about having a smaller truck have turned out to be correct. During our time in the UK, we constantly drove roads, which were closed for trucks over 7.5 tons – Berta was around 9, Bertita only weighs 6.5. In many places we would have had to take main highways, missing out on a lot of interesting small towns and villages .

This is also a Mercedes T2 with the same type shelter we have. But here the shelter is mounted onto simple steel brackets, similar to what we had with Berta (look behind the right chair). That's exactly what I wanted - but the boss of the workshop had different ideas and I wasn't in the mood to argue. Now I'm not 100% happy with the solution we have...

This is also a Mercedes T2 with the same type shelter we have. But here the shelter is mounted onto simple steel brackets, similar to what we had with Berta (look behind the right chair). That’s exactly what I wanted – but the boss of the workshop had different ideas and I wasn’t in the mood to argue. Now I’m not 100% happy with the solution we have…

Country roads in the UK are narrow – really narrow! And now we are finding the same in France. Anyhow, it’s very often a relief to be driving a truck, which is 20 cm narrower than Berta. It might not sound like much, but it makes a huge difference. The same is true, when it comes to finding parking spots. In England especially, they make them so narrow that even large “regular SUVs” can’t open their doors properly.

Although, when it comes to Yasha driving more, we will have to wait and see. I seem to be a better driver than co-driver on these narrow roads. Since I’m loathe to give up the driver’s seat, she still hasn’t driven much. We do stay off major highways (and all toll roads) as much as possible.

And guess what: Berta was noisy! Much more than we had realised whilst travelling with her. Now in Bertita, it’s actually possible to have a conversation at normal volume and to understand the directions of the GPS. And occasionally we even listen to the radio…

So, keep following our blog or Facebook page and see where else Bertita will take us!

Flamingos in front of Bertita. Photo taken in November 2018 in the Camargue.

Flamingos in front of Bertita. Photo taken in November 2018 in the Camargue in southern France. By now (Nov.18) we have travelled over 10,000 kilometres with her.

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