The Battle to Leave #Nordkapp! – Part 2

Finally we are reaching a conclusion to this appalling story of recovery and Insurance companies Carol Nash and AXA Assistance.  The following is an email I sent this morning to the ‘senior manager’ handling my claim.  Let us hope that from this point on the case closes smoothly and we can get on with our lives in peace!

Hi Katie
Yesterday the van was hired, the bike was taken to the mechanic.  Fuel supply was diagnosed in first instance and long story short the fuel tank was emptied and some litres of 98 octane were added – there seems to be improvement in bike performance.  In my initial call I said that we may have a bad tank of fuel – the mind boggles that it took 5 days and at huge unnecessary cost to finally deal with it.  An oil leak was also discovered but not deemed serious or any risk to onward journey.  As much as can be done to get us on the road again has been done.
As per the reply to Sebastian, which I didn’t ‘reply all’ on as I was in a rush yesterday, there was no road closure and I now know that the Norway agent would not have charged you for it.  This is a serious breach of trust on your part to suggest that you had been charged and there there was only £1000 left in the recovery budget as a result.  I would like to request that this case is now passed on to another senior manager to handle.
I have attached the reciepts for yesterday including the night stay – expenses as agreed earlier and as well as the 440Euros, as agreed, to be processed in the next couple of days and in my account.  As I said on the phone, this is a matter of some urgency now as the unnecessary costs incurred these last several days have now put my monthly rent payment in jeopardy.
I have also attached 3 further accommodation receipts for the unnecessary expenses incurred as a result of the insurance company failing to find a mechanic, and organise appropriate recovery.  Indeed we should have been back on the road by Tuesday morning at the very latest.   If you feel a need to blame the Norwegian agent, that is not my responsibility it is yours.  If you are disatisfied with their service it is for you to pass the charge to them for the accommodation, not me.  I should not be having to say this, however, I would like to cut as much of the unnecessary conversation as possible and get the point.
I will also be claiming for mobile phone usage as all calls to a local number on a UK SIM are international calls and it was many phone calls to find a mechanic.   It is now the weekend, so I will start to discover this cost on Monday.
All hired vehicles have now been returned as of last night.  We will recommense our journey  to Gibraltar today.  Lets hope there are no further problems – with the bike and this claim.
Regards
Melanie
Note:  This is an open email and published on the internet for the benefit of our followers and sponsors.

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

Thank you to those who have helped with the cost of fixing the bike xx

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The Battle to Leave #Nordkapp! – Part 1

Having battled to get to Nordkapp (see post The Battle for #Nordkapp), we now battle to leave!

The following is an email I have just sent to the Insurance company regarding the current situation:  

To whom it may concern at Carol Nash/AXA assistance,

As there have been many phone conversations, it seems prudent that I should in someway to clarify in writing what has been happening in the current situation regarding the recovery of my motorbike (LV03 BWJ).

On Sunday, my bike broke down on the E69 Nordkapp Road in Norway.   Some 4 hours later someone arrived to recover us, however, it was not a motorbike mechanic and he could only take the bike as far as his garage in Honningsvag as that was as far as the recovery had thus far been approved and advised that the bike should be recovered to the BMW dealer in Tromso to be fixed.

You then advised that you needed a quote from your agents in Norway, and in the conversation is was made clear that I had to choose between accommodation or a hired car.  As it is impossible to camp  with out a vehicle as we would have done and did not know if it was possible at NordKapp at this time, despite the offer of a taxi to take us there, so we booked into a local hostel (80Euros)

I believe the phone call was about 10am Monday my time when I fully understood the conditions regarding accommodation and hire car and said that I would take the hired car but please deliver as soon as possible as we had to check out of accommodation at 12pm.  When I called at approx. 5pm my time, you advised you still had not recieved a quote to approve from your agents in Norway for the hired car or for the transport of the bike.

After threatening to claim for expenses for the night, a car materialised an hour and a half later, 500m down the road from where I was located with the bike.  Effectively it took a whole day to organise a hired car that was located down the road.  Clearly someone had woken up as I was then advised that the cost of transport to Tromso had been quoted in the region of 3500Euros (I forget the specific figure)  and that the policy only covered a sum of 2000 Euros – I then stated that then a more local mechanic will need to be found because the priority was the fix the bike and continue our journey as we were on a sponsored ride.   I requested a solution by 9am the following morning or I would start taking the matter into my own hands regardless of the costs that might result for the insurance company.

That night we wild camped – as it was our expectation to do for this journey where ever possible.

I phoned approximately 10am my time on Tuesday morning to discover, once again that nothing had been done.  So I then spent the morning and at the expense of using my mobile phone to phone Norwegian phones, to locate a more local mechanic.  Once located, I relaid the information back to you, and you porceeded to find a new quote for transport.

The new quote to transport the bike a third of the distance than Tromso was 2053 Euros!

If the discrepancy is not immediately obvious to you, please advise and I will explain in much more detail to help you understand.  However, futher to this, the quote is 53Euros over the limit.  I am not prepared pay for a clearly fabricated quote, especially now that travel expenses are 300% up as a result of this situation.  I then offered to source a van myself and drive it and quote you for the job, and you advised that you would be happy to recieve the quote.

I sent you a quote for approval around 3pm (Tuesday) detailing the cost of the van hire for one day, the estimated cost of fuel, and the cost of my time – the quote totalled 600Euros.

I picked up a message from Matt, who was dealing with the case, around 5.30pm saying that the van and fuel had been approved, but the compensation for my time had not and it had be forwarded to other departments – ‘but at least I can now move the bike’

I phoned him back and explained, that I would not be moving the bike until compensation for me to do so was approved.    I am not fool to be used by the insurance company to do work for free that I pay them to pay for.

I recieved a call from you around 8pm asking if the motorbike had been delivered, and in response I made it abundantly clear that I would not do anything with out recieving compensation for it to which he explained that it was unlikely to happen.  I have already sourced a mechanic would will look at the bike immediately (or at least he would when I spoke to him yesterday morning) and researched and provided a quote to do the job of transporting it myself. This is all work that other people are paid to do and are clearly not doing.  I have now provided a quote that saves the insurance company 1400Euros and they now want me to rush the bike over to the mechanic so that they can then tell me they are not going to compensate me so they can reduced their costs further.  The poor chap got an earfull from me!  I was advised that the quote was with senior management.

We spent the night in the hostel (80 Euros) as the weather had turned bad and camping was no longer an option.

Approx 10am Wednesday morning, having still recieved no phone call, I call you to discover nothing had been done. I am called back some time later to be advised that the senior manager will not compensate me for my time, but I am welcome to transport the bike myself still.

I, understandably, am becoming very stressed and advise that you must now pay the 2053Euros as you have now refused a cheaper offer.  Further to that, I was now in a situation as the weather was till bad  and clearly nothing is being done for yet another day and I was forced to book yet another night (80Euros) at the hostel.

You are aware I am travelling with a child (11 yrs old) I have further made it clear in the last phone call that she is autistic that we are sponsored to do the journey to raise awareness for autism, that the costs are beyond us and that I will ensure that they all claimed back from the insurance company when we return because simply put – our plan was to come to Nordkapp, wild camp one night if it was possible, then leave and head south for a bike meet in Estonia.  That we are now still here is entirely as a result of the insurance company regardless of my efforts to help move the situation forward anyway I can, and in so doing saving the insurance company money – something that the company has now rejected.

So the current situation is that we are still in Honningsvag, I have booked another night at the hostel (80Euros)  the hired car will need to be returned in 12 days, the motorbike has not moved, and you the insurance company are not doing what you are contracted to do which is to provide recovery for the vehicle regardless of being given the options to do so.

My stress levels are high and increasing and I have not slept properly since this whole debacle has begun.  My daughter’s travelling preference is to keep moving towards the end goal, and she is now becoming stressed as she can’t understand why we have not moved from Norkapp in the last 3 days.  This is added stress for me as her carer for which there is no relief beyond being able to take out my increasing frustrations on the phone to your customer care agents that phone me intermitantly to tell me that nothing has been done or nothing will be done.

It is now 1.40pm Wednesday – almost exactly 3 days from my first call for recovery.

If I have miss-understood the events that have transpired these last 3 days please clarify, and like wise if you would like me to clarify further on any points I will be happy to do so.

Please note that this is an open email and is published on the internet as part of our (myself and my daughter’s) on going journey to travel from the UK to Nordkapp to Gibraltar and back to the UK with in 8 weeks.

Kind regards

Melanie Cowpland

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If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

We don’t know the costs for fixing the bike yet but any help towards that will be GREATLY appreciated!

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The Battle for #Nordkapp

When ever you watch a movie, there is always that point where the protagonists are in a house and common sense says that one would leave, but they never do, they stay and invariably the worst happens.

I wonder sometimes if Norway is our house, and we should have left at the first sign of trouble, but like those characters, we ignored all the warning signs and are now paying the price!

It started off so beautifully.  Wonderful weather, great roads, and awesome scenery.  It was on our third day, heading towards Bergen, that the first sign of trouble began.  Rain.

Not normal rain, short heavy showers, or light and long, but heavy and long, like monsoon in India.  At these degrees north it is only warm or hot when the sun is out, put some clouds in the equation, thick low, freezing clouds, and it is considerably cooler.

Day 3

So on that 3rd day, we rode the high mountain passes when the snow never fully melts at super cold temperatures and intermittent rain, and descended into monsoon lower altitudes that drove us to find proper shelter for the night.

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Day 4

I checked the forecast for Bergen, which was only another 100miles down the road, and it was heavy rain for the next 3 days, so I made decision to head back to the main road to head north towards our goal of Nordkapp.  The weather agreed with us, and we had a lovely ride in the sunshine on our 4th day, stopping at a campsite for the night after having an altercation with a truck on a hair pin bend sending my nerves in hyper drive and draining all energy from my soul to cope with finding a wild camp for the night.

Day 5

we only covered about 150 miles in large part because of traffic. July is holiday month for Norway, where 80% of the working population are on holiday (for Sweden it is August) and entire factories will close down.   The vast majority of these holiday makers have camper vans or caravans, and have to where to go quickly as they have seen it all before, Norway being their place to holiday every year.  A camper will travel at about 40-50 mph, slowing down over time, and then speeding up if there is a straight section in the road.  They have no consideration that a line of about 100 vehicles including lorries has built up behind them, and that the road is the only main road north, or rather very few showed consideration and gave opportunities for people to pass.  Throw in some really bad weather, and average speed will drop dramatically!  The weather was cold and cloudy and rained 60% of the time and again we stayed in a campsite that night.

Day 6

The following day, the heavens opened so we packed up early and set off.   We must have been on the road for about 5 hours with the rain pouring down the whole time, but only travelled about 100miles that day.  In part the weather, but also the traffic was now particularly slow and we were taking a stop about every hour to warm up with some hot chocolate.

So drenched again, we pulled into a place and got a room to dry out including all our camping kit.  In the process my jacket got oil paint on it as they decided mid-season was the best time to paint with no signs up.  They refused any compensation, and whilst ‘you can hardly’ see the paint on the jacket after they scrubbed it, it is none the less damaged and I insisted that they must take some responsibility for it.  But we don’t have time to hang around and argue about it all day so eventually we hit the road and got soaked again!

We were lucky this time to find a really cheap cabin by the side of a river, however, again the distance travelled was only about 150miles.

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Day 7

Today I had to make a decision – do we cross into Sweden or battle on with Norway.  I had been scanning wind, satellite and rain maps for the last 3 days to determine the direction of the weather systems, as I didn’t want to have the weather follow us and it was clear that the forecasters had been caught off guard as well, as the forecasts were rarely correct!

It was clear the weather would move west so we made the run for Sweden through cold wet mountain passes and once again we were utterly drenched!  However, this day was better than the rest because for the first time I had some conversations with people!   Norwegians are very closed and not prone to being interested in strangers, no matter how exotic they may be (a GB number plate is pretty exotic in these parts!), and even the foreigners vacationing are so wrapped up in their own world they are not interested in others either.  For me this was a strange as travelling people, in my experience, tend to be more open and enjoy the experience of meeting others on the road – yet even my attempts at engaging conversation seemed to fall flat on its face.

All this changed when we entered Sweden.  The Swedish loved talking to travellers!  and even the travellers seemed more open.   So after over a week of what felt like total isolation in our own experience, the world started to open up.  That night, soaked again, we stayed in a cabin.   Our costs of this trip had now officially spiralled out of control!

Day 8

The weather was splendid!  Sunny day, beautiful roads, and hardly a camper van in sight!  We covered about 450 miles and could have kept going, only I found a beautiful camping spot by a river at about 7pm despite its swarm of mosquitos and some sort of fly.  Luckily some finnish fishermen were camping near by and lent us some coils which had a magical effect!  None the less, I did not sleep well as the ‘brightness’ of the light at night started to bother me.

We passed the line for the Arctic Circle this day, and a big tick in the box of goals as Sofia wanted to go to the Arctic Circle.

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Day 9

Our final push to Nordkapp!  the weather was great, even at Nordkapp where the winds promised to be light, which was a relief after one altitude pass on the way had such a howling cross wind it was a battle to keep hold of the bike!

Turning on to the E69, the Nordkapp road, we were filled with excitement, we were finally there, and only a couple of hundred kilometers to go – the sun was shining and the winds were light!

And then disaster struck, the bike broke down!

Rescue finally arrived 4 hours later, and when I went to show the mechanic the problem (the engine cutting when there was no throttle applied) and the engine idled no problem at all.   So I drove to the garage with the truck following, thankfully in the direction of Nordkapp rather than away from it – but still, all hopes of making it to the furthest point North on the European continent were by now dashed.

The bike made it to the garage, however the vibration was really bad and the power was weak, this was not a simple fix and the mechanic advised that BMW were the best placed to deal with it – BMW whose closest dealership was in Tromso, some 600km.  So the discussions began with the insurance company, that have become more ludicrous as time has gone on which is for another post, however, just in this evening alone – they seemed more determined to pay for a Taxi to Nordkapp 35km away and bring us back the next day, than pay for our accommodation where we were even though is would be cheaper – thankfully the battery went flat on my phone before we came to any conclusion!

Once the phone had some charge, we waited for them to call – they didn’t – I called them – there was no answer.  Finally we gave up and by this time had booked into the local hostel (a shocking 80 Euros for one night is the cheapest accommodation in the area!)  only to have the garage owner offer us a car until things got sorted with the Insurance company!  What a star! So we dumped our stuff, got something to eat (we hadn’t eaten since 10am that morning) and with 30mins to spare, made it up to Nordkapp so see the midnight sun!

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After such battles, our elation was palpable – and Sofia did something she has never done before, grabbed me round the shoulders for the selfie photo with a big grin on her face!  It is the first time she has ever done that, normally she hates to be hugged and it is extremely rare that she may hug, and even then she hates being hugged in return.   So the picture of us grinning a is a particularly special one at is denotes not only a shared experience and achievement, but that she felt that experience as a shared one and expressed in an appropriate way 🙂

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

We don’t know the costs for fixing the bike yet but any help towards that will be GREATLY appreciated!

Donate here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

 

A huge ‘Thank You!’ to Rev’it who sponsored our riding gear!  It has done a tremedous job in the weather we have had to deal with!

Our Jackets and Jeans were the Horizon range

Our boots – Outdry Discovery

Maps, phone, GPS! what could possibly go wrong?

We set off feeling very organised, even the navigation, after all a GPS and a phone with Google Maps with a plan to get a map of Europe on the other side.  Not that our first few days were going to be hard map wise, or at least that is what I thought.

Then we arrived in Antwerp around midday on our first day and it started to rain.   All ready exhausted, I made the, perhaps not so wise decision, to exit the ring road towards Brussels, just to keep going and thinking I could turn on my phone to navigate (only to find that data wasn’t connected for Europe), or check the GPS (but the battery was flat from using it to check our route along the way and to find a campsite earlier as Sofia was struggling to stay awake) and a map of Europe that would be waiting for me at the next services (my expectation being that all highway services in Europe have a road map of Europe) only to find that they only had a Belgium map available.

That would have to do – and so the navigation by traditional map began.   It wasn’t so bad, even if irritating having to stop and check which ment Sofia having to get off the bike every time (keeping her awake) the detail being too big to have just one page showing on the tank bag, until I took a wrong turn and couldn’t stop for about 30mins to check the map!

Thankfully once correct we were not too far from where we were aiming for and around 8pm we finally rolled into a campsite.

The next day didn’t feel like a big navigation issue (we had a solid map now!), the plan was to potter around the area until about midday, getting lots of map practise as well, and then start planning our route to Cologne where we were staying with a good friend we had not seen in many years.    Luckily we stopped where a friendly local made the plan for me right up to her front door, wrote it all down, and helped me to memorise it (there was still no data on the phone – maybe just Belgium?).  It was at this point I discover that Garmin, in their desperation for money, have designed the USB cable to NOT charge the device directly from a power socket! it will however charge through the laptop (phew!) We arrived in good time in Cologne with the GPS winning the day for those final street directions, and still no data on my phone now we were in Germany.

The following day I phoned up my UK provider and it turns out that despite the 10 minute conversation about travelling in Europe for 2 months and increasing my data allowance, the customer service didn’t think that turning on data roaming was necessary!  Now turned, all was well, we had google maps, bluetooth into the helmet, a GPS fully charged.   I plugged in my destination via various stops that had been recommended and we set off in high spirits!

The thing I love about technology navigation is that all you have to do is plug in the destination, set preferences to avoid highways, and boom!  you find yourself on some amazing roads, no stopping and checking, no getting lost, nothing.  ‘Turn left in 200metres, TURN LEFT!’   is all that is needed, and if you take a wrong turn, no problem, it recalculates… no stopping and re mapping the route.

To be honest, I have no idea how people cope on motorbikes with maps.  Yes, I think one should always be handy (though I still hadn’t learnt that lesson yet), but to have all that effort removed is such a joy.   Lots of people have said they see more with a map, but what exactly?   I’m just as likely to take a wrong turn using technology (yes really!)  but at least I don’t have to stop and re plan.  And stopping for me is a mission with Sofia in the back – it has to be a place where it is safe to stop and for her to dismount the bike if she needs to.

So there we were having a wonderful ride through the German country side when the battery on phone started running low, I plugged in the charge adapter only to find it had finally given up the ghost and didn’t work at all, about the same time the phone froze so even my desperate stop at a gas station to plug it in to fast charge enough to get us out of the back roads was pointless.  And they had no maps.  I used the GPS as much as possible but again battery ran dry.

Finally I found a map, limited to the area we were in, and decided to take the fast road to our destination (we needed to start chewing up some mileage now!) picking up a new charge socket for the phone and a European map at a services.  Finally!  all bases were covered just in time to find another awesome road before arriving at the camp site.

The following day was the best ride thus far,  with blue toothed instructions to a destination, no highways, I was finally relaxing and enjoying the journey which took us up the east/west divide of Germany.  When navigation works well, it is fantastic!

I think in conclusion to the debate on what to have, all forms are good to have at the ready.  But for people who prefer to use a map on a motorbike, perhaps their destination is the journey itself?  For me, I like to have a destination and then enjoy the unexpected journey getting there, which the tech navigation takes care of.   We don’t always stay exactly where planned, those decisions happen on the road, ultimately though, direction is important to me, and not having to worry about any of the ‘getting there’ is, for me a load off my mind so I can enjoy the journey so much more.

 

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

Donate here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

The night before launching The Crooked Foot Adventure

Until about a week ago, I thought everything was tickidy-boo – and then we took a day out on the bike with some cameras so I could work out how I could use them more and bring you more film footage.  (our Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdwRUgfgP2LG1rCokiCt4Gw)

The main problem that arose out of it was that my navigation solution was unreliable and so a new plan was put in action to buy a Garmin – sadly the blue tooth into earphones are deliberatly over priced, so settled with one without and hope that it will work out ok.  At the very least, I am hoping that with Google maps and a Garmin, I will hopefully start feeling a little bit more confident about driving through cities and major intersections with out heading off in the wrong direction!

The other issue was the charging solution for devices on the bike doesn’t seem to be very good, so as the charge socket is european I’m hoping that I can sort that out on the road.

If you had asked me after that ride how I felt about riding a motorbike, I probably wouldn’t have sounded too confident.  I was off my game that day, but to be honest, before that, I was still feeling like I wasn’t quite nailing it well enough to feel good about taking Sofia on foreign roads.   It seems a bike service, more than a ‘me’ service was the issue!   A valve adjustment, new chain, break pads and tyres, and BOOM!  I’m riding a completely different bike!   It is amazing how a bike that isn’t on top form can affect your whole experience of riding.   Returning from Mick’s (the mechanic) workshop yesterday was the best ride I’ve had so far on this bike.

Am I feeling ready for this repsonsibility of driving with my daughter as pillion? I am now!  so much so, for the first time today (after the stresses of last minute changes to my insurance provider)  I started to feel butterflies in my belly.   Even more so seeing Sofia come home from school looking how I felt – excited!  🙂

 

If you enjoy following our travels, please make a donation – We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –  £5 will help us cover 50miles, £10 = 100miles  

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Europe 2017: Sofia does a short interview

Sofia has changed so much since this time 2 years ago.  Since then she has travelled across Africa in a sidecar and the most notable change has been her level of inner confidence.

Since our return she has literally flourished and matured and started to develop as an individual, less negative, embracing new experiences, and whilst depressive thoughts will always haunt her as a part of autism, she strives to find the positive and make the best out of most situations.

Socially her confidence has served her well along with the help of a social story that was read to her everyday at school to help her stop her animal behaviours at the slightest provocation.  From feeling unable to make any friends when in the stressful school environment, she now feels like she has lots of friends and seems very content in her social abilities.

It took a little persuading, but I managed to do a short interview with her as a baseline for our Crooked Foot Adventure and look forward to doing another on our return, I’m wondering if Europe will still be ‘cliché’ 🙂

Please make a donation to our foundation by clicking the Virgin Money Giving icon and help us continue to raise awareness for autism.  

We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –   a donation of £5 will help us cover approx 50miles.

Europe 2017: The Crooked Foot Adventure

After having a good discussion with someone who has done the route we are planning in Russia, I’ve decided that it isn’t going to be worth the £350 it is going to cost in documentation to do it.   Whilst the save is then how cheap it is in Russia itself, the truth for that section of Russia is that it is flat, flat and more flat surrounded by trees.  Villages of old women (low live expectancy means the men die early) and towns that were built and remain very much in the industrialised soviet era – I was left with the impression that there is a better cultural experience of Russia to be had and perhaps we can do it another time.

The decision now is to go to Nordkapp in Norway, the northern most point in Europe, via Norway, then down through Finland to the Baltic states, Romania, then start heading towards Gibraltar then back to Calais.

Total distance estimate is:  14200km (approx 8900 miles)

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I am working to a plan that we will average 300km per day on the bike, if we manage this every day it will take us approx 48 days to complete the tour, leaving us with 12 days wriggle room.  This is not much – So the caveat will be that we may not make it to Spain & Portugal and if we do it will be done via the fastest route.

Mapping out the route Sofia and I had a laugh about it looking like a crooked foot, which was quite pertinent as I managed to tip the bike on a cattle grid the other day ( I had no idea it was there as I came round a blind bend and ended up being on it at the wrong angle)  whilst the worse we suffered were bruises thanks to the fantastic boot protection my foot managed to twist in the opposite direction of the bike when it went down – I don’t know the detail of the sequence of events but suspect I put my foot down to steady the bike and it slipped.  If not for the boot my foot would have been crushed from taking the weight of the bike, which is a scary thought!

Sofia for her part screamed blue murder so much so that an ambulance was called to get the all clear… she has since realised that she may have over reacted a bit, but considering it is the first time she has had a fall beyond a grazed knee when she was 5, I think she did well, and whilst I don’t want her getting hurt at all, I think it was a good experience for her to have in realising that falling is necessarily a death sentence. I don’t think that even the pain she felt in her foot has developed into a bruise! (it will definitely be an embarrassing mother story to tell when she is older :D)

So Europe 2017 will be the crooked foot adventure – I have a good feeling that it will be a lot of fun!

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