Breakdown in Basque Country

by Jan 8, 2019Mishaps & Misadventures, Spain, Spring Tour 2017

On Saturday the 29th of April we woke up to the sounds of mountain birds singing in the trees beside Iggy. Yesterday’s long, tiring day on the road had been evaporated in our wander around Beassain last night and we were eager to get back on the road again. 

Our daughter and her family would have arrived in Lagos last night. We planned on spending three more days driving down, and would meet them at the apartment we’d booked on Tuesday.

If only we’d remembered to say “Inshallah.”……

Our spirits were high as we set off on the road towards Valladolid, our planned stop for the night. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and we were loving every minute of it.

If anything was a bit of a black cloud on our day it was that funny little engine management light.

Apart from the odd flicker, on and off again, the dreaded “spanner” ( as I liked to call it) had been quiet since Edinburgh. But yesterday, first during the long drive from Bordeaux, and then again between Donostia and Beasain, it had come on, and stayed on. For a good few minutes both times.

And then we all felt the drop in power. As though the engine just cut out for a second. We were going uphill on a motorway mountain bend. For one second, maybe two, there was nothing. Iggy immediately lost speed, the light flashed off again, the engine smoothly cut back in as though nothing had happened and we shot forward once more.

Inshallah. We should have said Inshallah. Though I guess the result would probably have been the same.

We didn’t get a chance to decide what we were going to do. As we turned another bend, just past an entry slip road, the power went again. There was almost zero hard shoulder, but there was a bit. Visibility wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. The van was just about moving at around 5 miles an hour. It was either stop right now and call our Breakdown, or try and continue to get off the motorway and risk getting totally stuck somewhere even worse.

We plumped for not taking any more risks than we had to and pulled in to the side of the road. I felt terrible. Everything kept going wrong, and it was me who chose the van at the end of the day. Everything was turning into a disaster and it was all down to me!

But thinking like that was going to help nobody! So we cracked on our best jokes, dug out the warning triangles and hi-vis vests, called the Breakdown service and diced with death by making coffee in Iggy and getting out the chocolate digestives we’d brought from Scotland.

The sun may have been bright, but the wind was blowing strong up here, and it was freezing! After an hour with no breakdown truck Jay called them back and we found out why it had been so busy in Donostia the day before. It was only the May Day bank holiday weekend!

Luckily for us that doesn’t affect breakdown services. Unluckily for us it meant there were an awful lot of people driving around all over the continent. And a lot of them were having breakdowns…

Did I mention Jay is rather fond of cakes?

If we had to go and breakdown, at least we’d picked a nice view. I would really have enjoyed this, from inside, as we drove through, without breaking down please! But Jay’s phonecall seemed to do the trick and thirty minutes later a diminutive breakdown truck appeared on the motorway behind us. They’d had a bit of trouble finding us because the French office of AA hadn’t been able to work out what road we were on. Insisting it wasn’t on their Google maps, and wasn’t called what it was called on the road signs.

Still, no harm done, and it was lovely to be in the warmth of the cab after the cold wind. I tried to ask the driver where we were going to. He couldn’t speak English, but he was a friendly, affable sort, and was more than happy to drive facing backwards so he could chat with me.

Needless to say the cat soon caught my tongue as I was overwhelmed by a strange and sudden sense of shyness. I felt quite sorry for the poor guy as he continued to race at breakneck speed through the mountains while talking to Jay who also quickly lapsed into a grimacing, pale-faced silence.

After what seemed like a lifetime, but was only about fifteen minutes, we pulled up to an agricultural garage in a tiny mountain village. The owner explained that we couldn’t stay in the van as it had to go in a secure lot and they would be closed until Wednesday. He was speaking to the Spanish breakdown people on the phone and told us a taxi was coming to take us to a hotel. We were to wait in a taberna in the village. He was going to take us there now.

And so began our introduction to the infamous Spanish sense of time. The taxi would be here in half an hour we were told. No problem. We had a coffee.

They were having trouble finding an hotel with the bank holiday, but the taxi would be an hour they said.

No problem. We’d have a drink and some Tortillas.

Five hourslater, after many, many drinks, more tortillas, six new friends in the bar,one drunk DM,  a reservation made on and the barmaid phoning us a taxi , we finally hugged everyone goodbye on our way out of the Taberna.

The French office said the Spanish office weren’t answering the phone anymore. They could pay us back for the taxi and hotel later.

And so it was with rather rosy cheeks and slightly unstable on our feet that we finally checked in to our hotel in Pamplona.

It would be four days before anybody could even look at Iggy, and there was nothing at all we could do about it.

So for now we would have a hotel dinner, and a rather ill advised last drink to go with it. Then we would splurge on hot water in our massive shower room. And fall in a heap in our massive hotel bedroom.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow would still be there when we woke.

Fi. x

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