Stories

 

From Belgium to Switzerland,
the final stretch before Zorro's naturalization


From May 13th to June 12th, 2012

After three weeks of navigation, Zorro was about to reach the country of the French fries, beers, waffles, Tintin comics, not to say the country of the chocolate.

On Sunday morning, we woke up an hour late, but managed to board on an Easyjet flight to Brussels. We strolled through the narrow streets of the city as hundreds of other visitors. It was much cooler than it was in Geneva, but the incessant rain that Belgium has known over the last few weeks has given way to a beautiful sunny sky. Pigeons took the opportunity to bath in fountains while the local people were having fun wandering on flea markets.

    

In the afternoon, we joined our friends Sarah, Nicolas and their daughter Elea, met in Belize over a year before. It was a good opportunity to relax in a park for some beer tasting while enjoying an outdoor concert.

We spent a pleasant evening with our friends who had also traveled in South America for a few months. After a short night's sleep, Nicolas drove us to Gare du Midi.

    

It was time to meet again with Lucette, Dirk and Wolfgang who had kindly offered to drive us to the port of Zeebrugge, recovering their vehicles too. We made a short break with a customs agent, before reaching the port Wilhelmsen office. After over an hour of waiting, Wolfgang's vehicle was the first to arrive. A short inspection and he returned with a smile, everything was in order. We couldn't see it yet, but could already hear the engine's noise, Zorro had arrived! Aside from our two batteries which were flat (they inadvertently switched the fridge on...), there was no damage nor theft. It's time for the verdict of the Lucette and Dirk' s Sprinter. The back bumper was broken and despite the added wood panels between the driver and the rear part, they did not think about the small button which unlocks all doors from the driver's seat. The living area was visited, their belongings were scattered and Dirk cloth were missing. Hopefully their insurance won't scroll to the payment of the bumpers.

While driving on the French highway, the battery indicator turned one. It seemed that the dynamo wasn't charging anymore. We had almost forgotten what it was to travel with a VW combi from 1974 ... We switched off everything which could use energy. No radio, no GPS and we stopped before nightfall in order to avoid using the lights. Fingers crossed, we arrived at the French-Swiss border where formalities were quickly done before reaching Geneva.

Zorro was imported into Switzerland as personal effect, no customs duties nor VAT, only 32 francs for administrative fees. Next step, the technical inspection. But all this will require some preparations.

During the trip, over the phone my father has often proved he knew the VW combi mechanic on the fingertips, it was time to see him at work

    

Everything started with the dynamo where the bolt was inaccessible and kind of damaged. It was time to put the engine down for the first time (but probably not the least) on the Swiss ground. After identifying the spare parts to be changed, we drove to Serial-Kombi (www.serial-kombi.com), a classic VW specialist located in Grenoble (France). The installation of the parts could begin. We finally found an oil cooler to replace the old one which we leaking since a long time. We changed the installation of the horn which wasn't adapted to the Swiss standard. Found a way to change the original windshield washer which has never worked. Cleaned the housing of the accelerator cable and changed the accelerator cable which gave us hard times by freezing at subzero temperatures. We changed the windows of rear lights which were damaged, changed the headlights which were not compatible to the Swiss rules. We changed some parts in the steering column in order to remove a small gap. We found a second-hand steering wheel at Garage Populaire, a VW specialist near Morges (Switzerland).

Zorro has been widely tested on the roads of South America, he obviously had minor colds and he deserves a special treatment. That's why we decided to take him to the SPA for a massage, manicure, pedicure, at a car bodybuilder. While Enrico (78 years old, but still has the head on his shoulders) took care of the grinding, welding, sanding and painting, we took care of bumpers, rims, hump caps and other details. It was also the opportunity to install the new windshield which Aless bought before leaving Colombia.

    

We took the opportunity of having the car on the lift to put my father back to work. We changed a steering bar, some parts on the central pivot, the steering damper, a suspension ball joint and VOILA !

The technical visit is scheduled for 12th of June and we keep our fingers crossed !

Not without some last minute surprises to resolve, the technical inspection successfully passed. Zorro is- officially Swiss. What a relief to know that we were not completely wrong in our decision.

I would like to thank my dad who despite his busy schedule, helped and guided us on the mechanical part.

Click here to read the following story of Zorro in Europe.

From Belgium to Switzerland - May-June 2012"