On France and Spain, for the sake of completeness

So that was it, Monday 16th August, time to leave and time to go. Having been up most of the night cleaning the flat, our D-day had dawned. It was strangely unreal to feel that finally it was our actual departure day. It had been a marathon of tidying, organising, and packing in order to leave Edinburgh. Now, it was time to be on the road ...

Of course, it was not to be that simple. With Murray discovering oil leaking from one of the wheel hubs, it was a matter of getting in touch with Alex Lindsay in Broxburn to get it sorted. Again, not that simple. The hub had been replaced not that long before, but now a new - rather than good second-hand - one was sought. That eventually arrived from the supplier at around 16:30, got fitted within half an hour and away. A quick shower and cup of tea at Joyce & Iain's (as opposed to the evening meal, overnight stay and lesiurely breakfast we had planned) we were away for around 18:30, bound for Leeds. (Thanks for your help)

All sorts of strange feelings made their presence felt at this point, dominated by, "just how mad are we, leaving the country for a year with our lives contained in this green box on wheels?" which soon gave way to, "wahey, we're off, really doing it now!" and, by Newcastle, to, "oh no, it's all going pear-shaped ...".

Moira was driving, feeling a sway of the Landy we both thought to be a combination of a high sided vehicle and fatigue. Soon the sway started to feel dangerous and we pulled over, on the M1 just before Newcastle, to find we had a flat tyre. Following a brief period of panic, we set about jacking up 3 tonnes of our lives and changing the tyre. It all took around 20 minutes, but was fairly scary doing it all 16 inched from the kerb on the M1. But that was not the last we would hear of that tyre, or inner tube, as turned out to be the offender.

The second Leeds ETA of midnight was further pushed back by some interesting double signposting and no one about to ask directions from - except the milkman, that is, who was very helpful. But it was just after 2am when we arrived at chez Andrew & Lisa (& Ewan, Seona & Ruaridh). Having meant to have a relaxed meal with Lisa and Andrew and the children , instead it turned out to be a brief chat in the morning, game of cricket in the garden and cup of coffee, and we were off again. (Thanks to you all).

Off to chez Lorna & Bryan in Essex, via Bedford to see about the tyre (the supplier happens to be there. Found a tyre place that confirmed what we thought - that it was the tube rather than the tyre that was the problem and it could be repaired. The problem was that these rims have been fitted with an internal collar, that raises the profile of the inside rim. This means, apparently, that one is able to drive on a flat tyre without it coming off the rim and is particularly favoured by the MOD, ambulance services, etc. The problem is that they make the tyre incredibly difficuly to get off and even more difficult to get back on again (even with machines) because the collar needs to be removed. Still, it was done and fitted onto the bonnet as a spare.

We spent a lovely evening and morning with Lorna & Bryan, and then left for Richmond, to stay with Jake & Mollie for around 10 days. The visit got off to a good start, with a party that evening only slightly hampered by rain.

The rest of the time there was spent sorting out things for the Landy while waiting for word from Butterworths about some writing Murray had expected to be busy with in London and en route, and helping with some DIY tasks about Jake & Mol's place. This included repairing the shed roof someone fell through whilst fixing stuff on top of the Landy!

It was very relaxing and useful to connect the shower and test it, and to repack the Landy as we'd been so rushed to get out of Edinburgh and the flat that some stuff was just thrown in. Since it was beginning to feel as though we had managed to break as much as we'd fixed it seemded time to go!(Thanks for being great hosts, guys)

Having finally got round to leaving Blighty, Muray's uncle Erryl came with us to their place (La Louvliere) in Normandy / the Loire valley, where we spent two days enjoying a less wet and more tranquil environment. We (finally) got to grips with the Primus stove that had been encarcerated in the rear locker until released once new locks had been acquired in Chiswick. And, for the first time, we unfurled the awning we had bought some moons before. Nothing quite like being fully prepared before one leaves the country ...

Anyway, after a fantastic couple of days of BBQ meals outdoors (thanks Erryl), we left "The Barn", (Odometer: 1,759km) dropped Erryl off at Le Mans train station and drove generally south through the Loire and on to Cognac, Ile d'Oleron and eventually into Spain. Here's how it went (a wee tent symbol shows where we camped for the night, with the capitalised waypoints of OLERON, BOURG and SEIGNOSE marked on the map from the GPS):

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Our route through France was determined by following a coastline, heading generally south and reaching Bilbao. Finding the coast was easy. Easier still was to find a campsite on Ile d'Oleron, which Murray had visited in 1982 on a family holiday, but which brought back no memories. Of note was the sunset over the Atlantic.

Thursday 2 September 2004

Although we tried to swim where the sunset pic was taken, the tide was out and it was rocky. The beaches are on the other side of the island ... Instead, we elected to continue driving, through the cognac region. More by luck than by design, we happened on a distillery in the prime region of cognac producing area: the champagne cognac region. We were given a private tour and tasting and learned that cognac is also used in long drinks, with ginger ale, etc., which is just not the association we'd previously had of the stuff as an after dinner, with-coffee thing. After that, and in the absence of a spitoon, it was time to find a campsite along the back roads of western France. That we found at Bourg, among the vineyards (see map). So far, incedentally, it's been shorts and T-shirts weather, with temperatures into the late 20s celsius.

Friday 3 September 2004

Just driving today, after a gentle start and slowly getting to and following the coastline south as far as Seignosse near Bordeaux (Odometer since Edinburgh: 2,506km), where we set up camp on the estuary (because we missed the campsite and followed signs to where camping is allowed (which is different!) and joined two camper vans there. We still went to municipal the camp site about 500 yards away for showers in the morning.

Saturday 4 September 2004

By now we were feeling the need for a swim in the sea, such was the heat and fatigue of driving this monster - and such was the appeal of the Atlantic ocean, look: We eventually found a beach far from buildings, but which was a proper holiday-makers' beach, with shops selling the usual tat worthy of Brighton in July. It also had very vigilant lifeguards, who didn't let one swim beyond the breakers. Still, a very refreshing swim was had and a campsite found. What was lost, however, was the remote for the car alarm, for which a great search was put in place, to no avail. We found it in the morning, but the whole epiode turned out to be ironic as the alarm pretty much died shortly after that.


Our route through Spain was determined by two "must-sees": the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Alhambra castle / Palace in Granada - and, of course, a port to provide us with a ferry to Morocco. Sadly / negligently, infrequent downloading from GPS has meant that we've onl got data from Valencia onwards. Not much to report on that front from further north, apart from a stop in Granada that was a day longer than planned - something about a starter motor ...

Saturday 5 September 2004

Into Spain today, to Bilbao to the Guggenheim (259km)art gallery which had a large exhibition of pop art (Lichtenstein, Oeldenberg, Warhol, etc.), but it's the building we were there for - though it is impossible to miss the daft dog sculpture outside, which is made of real flowers! And what a building it is too: fantastic exhibition space, impressive design ... and airconditioned too (temperatures into the mid 30s celsius)!. We spent a couple of hours there, fascinated, interested and amazed, before leaving with the soon to be fading light, in search of a campsite. This we found, in the hills near Alto de Barazar, after asking locals for directions using pidgin Spanish and a hand drawn map. (Odometer: 2,506km since Edinburgh)

Sunday 5 September 2004

The alarm: it is a Viper alarm and needed some professional seeing to. Viper no longer trades in Britain but we found an agent in Valencia and thought a drive through Andalucia would be just fine. It was a long drive towards Valencia (469km) and we got as far as Albaracin, by Valencia, with the intention to find the agent the next day (Monday). Difficult driving and many gear changes, including overdrive in most gears, up and down hills and around steep bends. This is a (rather smelly) part of Spain that produces a lot of jamon (ham), which is very good indeed, but involves the breeding of pigs. We drove in the dusk to a campsite in the hills near Totana. On the up side, when looking for a place to camp, we happened on a medieval festival in a wee village called Cella, but given the pressure of failing light we didn't stop - just watched for a time and felt like imposters on a festival where locals were dressed up on medieval garb and serving presumably local delicacies.(Odometer: 3,261km since Edinburgh)

Monday 6 September 2004

Using mainly the GPS, we managed to navigate to the part of Valencia in which the Viper agent had their office. Then we asked for directions. We got there for around 14:30, but had to wait until after siestas for someone to turn up. He said they no longer serviced Viper alarms, but his friend Hassan could take us to a dealer who could quote to install a new alarm for around 200 Euros. So we followed Hassan, with no idea of where were in Valencia we were and got a quote for 370 Euros which after some discussion we said we'd sleep on, eventually deciding against it on the ground thet with limited Spanish, we would not be able to either ask the questions we needed answered, or to understand the service manual - and the fact that we're driving a tank. Let's hope that was the right decision. We drove on a further 286km, to a campsite on the other side of Valencia (Odometer: 3,3261m) - El Perello.

From here, the GPS map has the records:

Tuesday 7 September 2004

Time to pack up and leave, Granada-bound. Didn't do much, but did try out our "washing machine", which is a diving "dry-bag", which we fill with detergent, clothes and water and strap to the roofrack. A couple of hours driving and we change the water. On the way, we stopped off for a swim in the Med at Altea, and a very nice lunch of prawns, calamari (loads of garlic) and beer. The Med is sooo much warmer than the Atlantic, though there were actually waves on this part of it. Then change the water in the washing machine and drive on. Drove (286km) down towards the coast through Alicante just looking for a campsite on the way to Granada. Found it (by Totana), like most campsites, relatively unoccupied except by those who have a permanent site on them. Hung up laundry. (Odometer: 3,559km).

Wednesday 8 September 2004

Time to get to Granada, the intention being to get there today, and have a look round the Alhambra castle / palace, and head for Gibraltar on the morrow. Sadly, it wasn't to be. Stopped to some juice about 6km outside of Granada, car restarted and then lost power in first gear in traffic behind an accident on the motorway. We pulled over onto the hard shoulder with an accident in front of us and a digger behind us, that was gradually digging up the road towards us. Not surreal at all. Car then failed to restart. So it was a matter of getting the red triangles and tool boxes out and find out what's up. Eventually determined that it was the starter motor as everything else was working or had power to it. It seemed as if it had failed to disengage and so needed a service. This is easily done, but not on the side of the motorway and in traffic with fading light.

While Murray toiled in overalls in baking heat, Moira went in search of help to at least get us off the motorway to a place we could pitch the tent and sort it in the morning. In the end (we're talking 2-3 hours later), she found a Ford dealer. Not that they could fix it. However she did discover that there was a guy (Michael) who new a guy (Pedro) who could fix it. After much discussion and telephoning he agreed to come to the motorway to have a look at the car. Pedro agreed to come in 5 minutes, however after waiting about an hour Michael kindly agreed to give me a lift back to the motorway, hoping that Pedro would show up shortly. In the meantime a kindly local man had stopped to help. Everyone agreed it was the starter motor. So we got a tow to Pedro's garage. By this time it was getting towards dusk so we resigned ourselves to the prospect of staying at a local hostal, to await the repair work being done the next day. On the up side we found a friendly local bar who 'did not do food' but proceeded to bring us excellent and varied tapas at each round of beers.

Thursday 9 September 2004

The day was mostly taken up with waiting for the starter motor to be fixed and hoping that the whole process was not going to take to long as we kept seeing the owner/mechanic in the local cafe. Deciding it was too painful to sit and wait we went off to explore Granada. We purchased tickets for the medieval arabic palace of Alhambra for later that day (long queues prevailed) and then travelled back across the city to check on the progress of the repair. The repair job was finished off and we rushed back to Alhambra to to have a look around this must-see palace. It is difficult to discribe the spleandour of the place, containing as it did elaborate marble and wood carved walls and ceilings and waterworks & fountains that must have been quite a feat of engineering in their day.

By nightfall it was, once gain, time to fine a camp site -which we did about 20 km out of Granada in the Sierra Nevada. (Odometer: 3,826km since Edinburgh)

Friday 10 September

The drive to Gibraltar was not so bad, once out of the mountans and windy roads. It was, however, very hot (mid-thirties C) and tiring as well as quite long (363km). In Gibraltar, everything was closed due to 300th anniversary of British occupation and everyone was dressed in red and white. It was very strange to arrive to fine a Royal Bank of Scotland, Safeway and Winston Churchill Drive, but to work in Euros and drive on the right. As part of political posturing, there is a border post that is quite out of place even as between two European nations. Be that as it may, we didn't stay in Gibraltar because of a lack of campsites on the cliff-side.

We headed back into Spain and stayed for 3 nights (over the weekend, as we need to do some shopping and upload this page on a week day) at La Casita -a noisy well-populated campsite witha nice pool. This was also to do some vehicle maintenance such as grease linkages for the gears, checkoil levels in engine and gearboxes and top up as necessary, as well as replace the oil in the air filter and put a rubber glove over the distributor to keep out dust / water.

Odometer: 4,209km since Edinburgh

From Spain, it seems there is a multitude of ferry routes to Morocco ...

We will be taking one from Algeciras to Ceuta (which is part of Spain in Morocco, so why are they grumbling about Gibraltar?!)

just testing this out now bold, italics, etc. ... and making a table to be used from time to time to record data.

Updated Information
Date Place GPS Weather Food & Drink 14 Sept. '04 Mauritania somewhere 20.5677 N 15.2456 W Hot and humid

Max 45 deg C Min 21 deg C

Killed a goat and ate it. Serious thirst in this heat

Water not so good

Camp Distance & conditions since last update 345km Bush camp gravel Odometer 4,562km Latest petrol price $0.31 / litre Av. fuel comsumption 3.6 km / litre