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The Ultimate Eurotrip: Touring round Europe in an awesome campervan

It’s the ultimate road trip. A van packed with mates and a summer packed with as many destinations as you can fit in. For some expats the legendary Van Tour Europe is the reason they moved to London – to be on the doorstep of Italy’s ancient cities,  Switzerland’s mountains, Portugal’s surf, and Spain’s crazy festivals, to name but a few.In a nutshell, this chaotic rampage across the continent involves tonnes of travel-hungry, beer-thirsty Aussies and Kiwis hiring camper vans and spending the summer driving and partying, stopping off at messy festivals, big gigs, hot surfing spots, cool cities – in other words, everything great about Europe rolled into one epic journey. 

The culmination? The notorious 100 Club Munich, which is when the biggest blow-out of the whole tour happens. More on that later. Before you get there, you’ve got some miles to cover. For inspiration, we caught up with two Van Tour veterans, whose journeys took them across the continent, and left them with travel stories and memories to last a lifetime.

The routes

There’s no fixed route, but Van Tour Europe unofficially begins in June at Pamplona for the San Fermin festival (better known as the Running of the Bulls festival), and endsat Oktoberfest, in Germany. In between those points? You can go wherever you want, although most Van Tourers like to keep in touch on Facebook and arrange meet ups andconvoys along the way.

Matt Verocoe, 25, from Melbourne, Australia, took a route zig-zagging across Europe with a mate in 2010. “We cruised around Europe for four months. We started off going from London to Paris, and down through Switzerland into Italy, down the east coast, back up the west coast and onto the French Riviera. From there we met mates in Biarritz and followed them to the Stoke surf camp (stoketravel.com), just out of San Sebastián, which was the official Wicked Campers (wickedcampers.co.uk) camp for the San Fermin festival.

“We cruised along the north of Spain into Portugal, watched a World Cup match in a surf shack and met up with some people who became our travelling mates in Lagos. Then we headed down the southern coast of Spain The ultimate Eurotrip Summer doesn’t get much more epic than a tour through Europe in a van with your mates – journey veterans give us the inside scoop into Barcelona, where we split with the group and stayed two weeks with my mates’ family in a small town in the Netherlands called Apeldorn. Then it was Amsterdam andonto the [now defunct] Love Parade festival in Dusseldorf.

“We spent some time in Germany and Austria visiting the major cities and from there we made our way up into Poland. Then our mates phoned saying that they were in Budapest, and then the month of partying started! Prague, Krakow, Berlin, Munich for Oktoberfest and finishing with Amsterdam on AFL Grand Final day.” 

Think that sounds a fair bit of ground to cover? Blair Cowan, 25, from Marlborough, New Zealand, went even further on Van Tour last year with five other Kiwi friends. “We travelled 11,000 miles which was the most out of any vans last year, including every country in Europe except for Poland. We were at the heart of all the Van Tour park-upsand organising, stopping off at Amsterdam, France, Spain (for Running of the Bulls), then to the surf camp at Lagos, Portugal, and to Morocco – the only van that did that!

“Then we drove up the other side of Spain to Barcelona, onto Nice, Switzerland, Venice, down through Italy, passing Pisa and Rome. From Athens, we took a boat to the GreekIslands, including Mykonos and Ios. Our group split in Eastern Europe – some went to Albania and Macedonia, and almost everyone went to Croatia. We all met up again in  Salzburg, Austria, before ending up in Munich for Oktoberfest.”

The vans

Clearly, the van is going to be your home for a couple of months so you’d better get a good one. Matt and his friend bought a 2000 Ford Transit in London, converting it into ahome, including bunk beds, 240V power, a portable cooking bench, speakers and so on. Her name was Wilma (everyone’s van gets a name, apparently).

As for Blair’s van, “Frank the Tank”, it’s been travelling Europe since 2000 and has the names of past Van Tourtravellers on the back door.“We have recently sold our van to some other Kiwi mateswho will be following the tradition and doing VT again thisyear,” he says. “A lot are bought and sold on Gumtree – a lot of them tend to stay within the same group of Van Tourers. I’d advise getting something reliable! You’re covering longdistances and there’s nothing worse than breaking down in aforeign country when it costs a small fortune to get back onthe road or back home.”

Other Van Tourers who don’t drive just put requests outon Gumtree to travel with an already established group,while some prefer to hire camper vans from companies suchas Wicked Campers or Spaceships.

The experiences

At the end of the day, Van Tour Europe is about seeing as much and doing as much as you can, bonding with your mates and having an absolute blast of a summer. For Matt, the best bit was getting off the beaten track. “One of my favourite memories is driving through thesouth of Spain, three vans in front of us, three vans in the rearview mirror, surrounded by mountains on another 30°C-plus day on the open road, windows down and tunes pumping, nowhere to be but just enjoy the day,” he says.


“Another is when we drove through Switzerland and found a small town at the bottom of the Matterhorn, a beautiful place surrounded by mountains called Zermatt, 1600ft above sea level. It was getting late so we found a small mountain patch off the road, set up camp, lit a small camp fire and cooled our beers in a run of freezing water from the snow. It was just so quiet and beautiful.” 

For other VTers, it’s the party aspect that’s the most fun. Blair says the highlight of his tour was the final stretch of the journey from Salzburg to Munich. “About 50-60 of us were in the same campsite in the days before Oktoberfest, just drinking and chilling. Then we drove to Munich in one huge convoy. The atmosphere was highly energised, everyone was partying. It was coming to the end of the tour so people were trying to out-do each other, play the loudest music, just going wild.”

The ‘Hundy Club’

Speaking of wild, you’d think being at one of the world’s biggest and most famous beer festivals would be enough of a drinkathon to satisfy anyone. But for some Aussie and KiwiVan Tourers, even that is just too tame. So about 15 years ago, the 100 Club Munich tradition took off. It takes place the day before Oktoberfest opens, at a designated site in Munich where all the vans are allowed to park up. Watched by 100-200 spectators, a crazy group try and drink 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes (plus extras). It makes Fight Club look like a geriatric knitting circle.

Having completed the challenge last year, Blair is going to be one of the judges for 2013. He says the rules are strict: “No underwear is allowed, otherwise it gets ripped off. Nopissing or vomiting is allowed, although if you vomit in a beer bong and fi nish it they let you off. You must fi nish with a clean beer bong funnel, or what’s called an ‘iken.’ 

Last year

I ate and drank judge’s urine, bird seed, ketchup, pickles, tuna, sardines, chilli sauce, raw eggs, spirits, fl our, loads of beer and leftovers from vans.” Uhh, why? “Its a Van Tour tradition,” he says. “You get caught up in it, and it gives you bragging rights once you’ve done it – you can tick it off the bucket list.” 

For others, drinking other people’s piss just isn’t an option, so they watch or avoid it altogether. Matt says: “The 100 Club for us was disgusting … a train wreck. But we went to catch up with good people we met along the way that were converging for the biggest beer festival. Van Tour for me was the start of many great friendships and I’m thankful every day for the experiences I was able to do, see and undertake.

“We saw Europe in the best light, in a van, waking up at a beach, or in the middle of a city, driving beside the Rhein, next to a canal, on a car ferry, meeting the locals or other travellers in a caravan park. That is the real Van Tour.”

TOP VAN TOUR STOPS

• La Batalla del Vino, Haro, June 29
• Running of The Bulls, Pamplona, July 6-14
• Bulls to the Sea, Denia, July 6-14
• Exit, Novi Sad, July 10-14
• BBK Live, Bilbao, July 11-13
• La Tomatina, Buñol, August 28
• Oktoberfest, Munich, Sep 21-Oct 6
vantoureurope.com