Thursday, 18 October 2012

Our luck goes from bad to worse

Day 157 27.09.12 Somewhere in the middle of nowhere

The aire’s sign said it was 5 euros for 1-6 hours and then free between 8pm and 8am.  We decided to get up early to leave before 8am so our stay would only cost us 5 euros.  We generally hate paying for aires but the security here along with the opportunity for a shower made it worthwhile.  When we woke up however we found that the barriers on the front of the aire were up and so I must admit we drove straight out with no need to pay!  The place was a hive of activity so I don’t think we were the only ones to have spotted this loophole!

Our plan was to drive for 3 hours or so north and settle down in a quiet spot we’d seen online before travelling on to Limoges the next day.  The van however had other ideas.  Everything was going fine until all of a sudden the accelerator pedal started making a hissing noise and the van itself started to sound like a tank. 

Given that we were on a toll road we made our way to the nearest exit before stopping.  For some reason, French toll roads have one (expensive) designated break-down company to tow you and no other companies are allowed to!  We called our breakdown company ADAC who advised us that once we’d moved far enough away from the toll booth to be considered no longer on the toll road, they’d send somebody to pick us up. True to form within the hour a local garage hour arrived with his tow truck and took us to his garage. 

He then in typical French style told us it was lunch time and buggered off for an hour and a half!  We were left in the waiting room were we watched Futurama reruns in French and drank over-priced hot chocolate.  We also made friends with the garage’s security, an overly friendly and very cute dog!

After a very long wait the mechanics finally spoke to the breakdown company with some bizarre comments.  They seemed convinced that the problem was with our turbo and that the turbo had been an after-market modification.  Given that we have all the original paperwork for the van we know that it was definitely built with the turbo on!!!!  The garage told ADAC who then told us (nobody there spoke a word of English) that they could bodge a fix in a weeks’ time or order a part that’d take 3 weeks to arrive and may not work!

ADAC said that we were welcome to wait for the part to arrive but given that they too were unsure about the prognosis of the garage and their ability to fix the van they had another alternative.  They offered to ship the van back to the UK and offered us up to 500 euros worth of transport costs to get ourselves back.  Given that either way we’d miss our ferry and we had no interest in staying in the middle of nowhere for 3 weeks we opted to head back to Blighty.  ADAC texted us with details of flights for the following day from Toulouse to Gatwick and we managed to organise a taxi to the airport through the garage.  Being in the middle of nowhere, getting public transport would have been a nightmare! 

Still reeling from this bizarre turn of events we headed back to the van to pack, suddenly becoming very aware that we only had two small backpacks between us!  The receptionist at the garage gave us a couple of ‘bags for life’ to use and we set about cramming everything we could into our minimal luggage!  I must admit this included filling my combat trouser pockets with several pairs of pants – fingers crossed they don’t search me at the airport!

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