A Tale of Trouble & Tallers (mechanics)

Today, I (Jochem) am writing from our campsite next to Els Ports natural park. A week ago I wrote about our relatively smooth ride to France and left a bit of a cliffhanger for the last day into Spain. Let’s start there again shall we?

February 16: France-Spain

Everything started great this day – for me, at least. I went for a run with Juna before sunrise through the forest and had a nice but very short shower in the caravan. For Alba, the day did not start as well: I accidentally used up our all water with the shower, oops! Even worse, she found out only when she was actually in the shower… Truly sorry Alba! 🙂

Anyways, we packed up and went on our way: destination Spain! Exciting!

We made our way through a windy road with the sun still slowly rising over beautiful French countryside. Amazing!

Despite Alba’s lack of a shower, our moods were as good as the weather. We had quite a few kilometers to drive that day, but made for good time as we left early. We were over halfway there at lunchtime!

But of course, you felt this coming: it was not to last.

Alba took over the driving after lunch, and only 15 minutes later we suddenly heard a very low pitch buzzing noise when driving uphill. It was as if our car’s engine had suddenly decided to become a truck engine. We looked at each other, looked out the window, and saw that there was an Aire (rest stop) just 300 meters ahead.

“Should I stop there to have a look at what’s wrong?” Alba said.

Of course I immediately agreed with her. She parked the caravan at the first available spot and we got out. Was something wrong with the engine? I opened the bonnet and checked. I could not see anything obviously wrong, but then again, what do I know about cars?

(That’s a rhetorical question by the way. The answer is absolutely nothing)

So we did what anyone in the situation would do nowadays.

We googled it. And we found the issue within a few minutes:

Loose exhaust pipe under car

Even to our untrained eyes, it was pretty obvious that a pipe, which seemed to be the exhaust pipe, is not supposed to hang loose like that.

For a moment, I thought maybe the bolts holding it simply had come loose, but we weren’t that lucky unfortunately. I called our roadside service, ANWB, and they said we had to call the local police to get the car towed.


We went back and forth: even contacting the mechanic that serviced our car in the Netherlands to get a second opinion. Couldn’t we just contact a local welder? Couldn’t we just risk driving to a local garage? In the end, we decided that we would be better off taking the ‘official route’: Alba called the number given to us by ANWB and requested a dépanneur (tow car) to come to our location.

We did not have to wait long.

After about half an hour, a large tow truck showed up. I took Juna a good distance away: she does NOT like people coming close to us, she hates it when people come close to “her” property (before our house, now the caravan), and loathes strange men in particular. In other words, she would have barked and growled so much that we would not have been able to talk to the repairman at all. And since Alba’s French is a million times better than mine, I had Juna-duty this time 🙂

He did a small, improvised repair and told us to follow him to the garage – towing was not necessary fortunately. We got in the car, went after him… and lost him immediately. This guy did not seem to understand that we do not (and really, cannot) travel at 130km/hour with a 1.5 tonne caravan behind our car!

We had his direct phone number fortunately, so we called him and he sent us the address of the garage. He was nice enough to wait for us at the highway exit. From there, he went just a little bit slower so we actually managed to follow him this time.

We arrived at the garage, backed up the caravan into a parking lot (with some help from Benoit, the repairman), and gave the car keys to the garage. We were prepared to stay the night there in the caravan, but fortunately they said they would make time right away. We were a bit suspicious about the price – what if Benoit lead us to some dodgy place? – but they said it would only cost around 60 euros. And ANWB paid our towing costs!

Waiting for the car to be fixed
Waiting for the car to be fixed

At 6:30PM, when the sun had just set, they were done. They did a great job, especially since we came unannounced. We would make it to Spain today after all! We paid, hooked up the caravan, and drove off.

An hour later, we crossed the border. Another hour after that, we arrived at a campsite. It was very dark, the night guard showed us a spot where we could park, and we unpacked. We were tired but elated at the same time: we made it! We were in Spain!

Crossing the border to Spain
Juna was a little tired from all the travel!
Juna was a little tired from all the travel!

February 18 to 22: Costa Brava

We woke up to a beautiful day the next day. I know I said that earlier about the day before, but this was even better. Sun and about 20 degrees Celsius – it felt like summer! It is not the ‘normal’ temperature for where we were in February, but not exactly extreme either. Despite that, we still felt lucky to have a day – what turned into a few days – of feeling that we were really in Spain, weather-wise. It would have been a pity to arrive here during torrential rains, right?

To recover a little from the trip, we decided to take things a little easier these coming days. We booked the campsite until Tuesday the 21st (eventually extending out stay until Thursday the 23rd). We spent those days eating out, meeting some of Alba’s family and friends, exploring the area by car, and also just… relaxing a little. I went running and cycling a few times, we spent some time reading, and we went to the beach together on some days. We felt a little bit as if we were on holiday during these days!

Alba and Juna at the beach
Alba and Juna at the beach
Our "camp" at campsite Montori in a place called "Ultramort" - yes, that means Super dead in Catalan!
Our “camp” at campsite Montori in a place called “Ultramort” – yes, that means ‘super dead’ in Catalan!
Working hard.. :-) Jochem in a hammock relaxing!
Working hard.. 🙂
Alba "working" even harder! :-) Alba in the sun relaxing as wel!
Alba “working” even harder! 🙂
The whole “family” enjoying the beach!

February 23-now: Going further south

Well, that more or less sums up our time staying in Ultramort and at the Costa Brava. Right now, we are already further south at the very edge of Catalonia. The adventure of getting here also involved a taller after some more car trouble, but I will write about that in the next post as this one is already quite long. The next update will follow sooner than this one!