Last weekend was the bi-annual Series Land Rover meet at the Army base in Biere, canton Vaud in Switzerland.
Loaded up with some camping gear and waterproof jacket, I set off on the motorway in the mid-day heat of Friday, the GPS counting down from 265km. (164miles). The motor purred along at a steady 80 – 85km per hour.
I stopped to stretch my legs with 100 km to go and saw another Series owner go passed the rest stop… horn blaring. This was my friend Jeremy, in his 6 cylinder Series 2a Doormobile, a mighty vehicle in itself. As the Doormobile is accommodation for him and his family for the weekend, he was also towing his Series 1 for the safari and the off road course! That’s nearly an additional 2 tonnes!
After catching up with him about half an hour later, we drove in convoy cross country (far less stressful than the motorway) to the event at the Casernes de Biére. Later in the evening, I collected my wife from the railway station and the group was complete.
Friday evening sees the event kick off with a huge free for all buffet laid out on a farm trailer. Everyone brings food from their region. Given the event is attended by mostly folks from the French speaking part of Switzerland, cheese was a key ingredient. The organiser happens to own a vineyard, so there was also some amazing wine available.
Saturday sees the whole group go on the “safari”. Everyone lines up down one side of the event field and with a lead car, set off in groups of 10 at 10 minute intervals. The safari takes place with kind permission of the Mayor, land owners and the Swiss Army. It’s mostly off road or on roads that are not normally open to traffic. It’s by no means extreme (neither is it supposed to be) although there are some mild axle twisters on the first gravel section.. low box 2nd gear saw us roll through these without any issues.
First stop was to partake in a short hike to look at the view, listen to alpine horns and a glass of some white wine. I prefer not to mix alcohol and driving but I’m assured it was very nice. Then it was back into the vehicles and short trundle to the lunch stop.
The lunch stop was marred by a couple of things… one… a huge thunderstorm hit the top of the mountain we were on and two… the synchromesh between 3rd and 4th gear had jammed so I only had 1st and 2nd. This was OK as we were not traveling at any great speed and I could still drive the tank course later. But was extremely annoying as it would mean I’d have to have LGL trucked home.
The outdoor lunch quickly decanted into a handy barn to avoid the weather and we all enjoyed the camaraderie of all being slightly damp tucking into bratwurst, mashed potato and onion sauce.
After lunch it was on with some more scenic trail driving along the ridge and then a nice lumpy decent through the trees back to the road. We took a short cut back to camp at this point so as to avoid holding the whole convoy up. There’s a rule that you have to keep the car behind in your rear view mirror… so if we can only do 40 kph, then everyone has to do 40kph which didn’t seem fair.
After the apero stop it was a pleasant walk back thought the forest to the vehicles and on towards lunch and some heavy weather…
After tidying up a bit after the storm, it was off to the tank track for some fun. LGL only needed 2nd gear low range for this so it didn’t matter we were down 2 gears.
A fire hose is conveniently provided to clean the mud from those hard to reach places after playing in the mud.
Saturday evening saw a meal of raclette and beer… but mainly beer and the game of Kubb... which I’d never herd of. First game was with Jeremys wife who showed me the ropes then with his son and some of our Belgian neighbours. Great fun.
There were two tremendous storms in the night. The first blowing our tarp away (again) and the second just keeping us awake. We were out in the pouring rain at 1am taking the tarp apart and stuffing it under the Land Rover. The Hilleberg tent is bombproof and we weren’t concerned that we’d end up homeless or wet as a result of the storms.
Sunday morning, we called the TCS and we agreed to the meet a local mechanic at the railway station in Beire for an “assessment”. The gearbox doesn’t work, what’s he going to assess?
Anyway Francois (who was very helpful) showed up exactly when he said he would with his flat bed truck and explained that as it was Sunday, they couldn’t take the car back home that day but it would arrive some time in the week! Hmm not the service I expected from TCS but there you go.
With hindsight, I should have left LGL where it was and hired a trailer on the Monday (as I had the day off) and driven down and collected it.
After showing Francois how to start the ending, we loaded LGL onto the truck and loaded ourselves onto the waiting train and headed home from a really fun weekend with friends and Series Land Rovers.
This years event will sadly be the final Les Séries en Helvétie 2019.
Yvres, the organiser of the last 5 events (10 years) was telling us that all the previous editions only needed the permission of the mayor of Biere (and I assume the Swiss Army) which was granted with no problem.
Now the canton have got involved and refuse to discuss having the event again in 2 years. This is a shame as its a unique event in Switzerland and was held in high regard People would drive a long way to attend. Whilst there were no British number plates at this years event, (there were 2 year ago) the same Doormobile crowd I met last time travelled from Belgium along with the converted ambulance we followed on the safari as well as some Dutch in Series 1s.
Many thanks Yvres… Capo.