Condensation is a matter of fact, it’s part of life, it’s physics and as Scotty will always tell you, ‘You cannae change the laws of physics!”

So what is it? Simply put it’s when a gas turns to a liquid. The gas is warm air, the catalyst is a cold window, the result is gas turning to liquid ie: water. The warmer the air the more humid it is, the more water it contains, therefore the more condensation when the warm air and cold surface meet. The opposite of condensation is vapourisation, when a liquid turns to a gas. ie: water to humid air.


A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.
A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.

Condensation in a motorhome is of course unwanted as damp over time can lead to mould and can even affect the structural integrity of the wood frames inside, rot fabric and corrode metals. To try to minimise this happening the air humidity needs to be lowered, and/or ventilation in the van needs to be improved. You can do this simply by opening windows, using extractor fans but these tend to be power hungry, using dehumidifiers -and although there are some 12 volt dehumidifiers on the market, there efficacy is minimal- and using static dehumidifiers such as canisters of silica crystals, containers of salt based crystals and bags of moisture absorbing sand.

Of course not having damp clothes inside, covering pans and opening windows while cooking can help. A window is best left open when sleeping too as we give off large amounts of moisture as we breathe, it’s something like a half a litre per day. Constant ventilation is by far the best enemy of condensation but you could use some of the other methods mentioned to help you out.




  • The containers of crystals are relatively inexpensive but they are best used in static vans or vans that are in storage. The moisture in the air is attracted to the crystals and collects in a container underneath. These are very easy to spill when moving so are counterproductive for a van that is being used.
  • Some crystals are based on silica gel so as they absorb moisture they simply expand, these are effective but need to be replaced regularly.
  • 12 volt dehumidifiers don’t use a lot of power but they are an additional drain on batteries and they collect very little moisture. Also they’re quite bulky so it’s difficult to place them in small corners and places where condensation is worst.
  • The method I use is called DryBags. These are bags of a sand type material that absorbs moisture and you can see the material change colour from light to dark when they are quite moist. The weight changes too and you can easily tell a dry from a wet bag. To rejuvenate you simply put them in the oven on the lowest settings for a few hours to burn off the moisture and they’re ready to be used again.

All of these methods simply help you manage condensation, it’s a thing that is around constantly, but more or less on sunny, windy and rainy days: you can’t ever beat condensation completely. I know of one motorhome owner who blocked all of his vents and sealed every nook and cranny he could find on the basis that it would keep cold air out thus avoiding condensation. Of course what happened was the lack of ventilation made things worse because the water could not evaporate so he got much worse damp than he would otherwise have suffered. 

A 12 volt dehumidifier
A 12 volt dehumidifier

On cold days in winter I run my fire at it’s lowest setting pretty much all night. Part of the reason is to prevent pipes freezing and to keep ambient temperature reasonable. But because the fire is lit and producing heat which causes condensation when it meets cold surfaces, it’s best to keep a vent or window open. Even during freezing days I find with the fire turned up higher to keep me warm, it’s best to keep a window open for ventilation. If there is any movement of air like from a light breeze, this actually helps the warm air in the van move around, which helps reduce condensation but even without a breeze the meeting of warm and cold air creates it’s own movement. 

But if warm air carries moisture surely you’re making moisture by having the fire on? No, by having warm air you’re heating the cold surfaces to some degree, so that less water condenses. There are some who claim that they never suffer condensation and that you need extra insulation, or you have a leak, or some other excuse. It’s simply not true. Every motorhome gets it and as said at the beginning, you can’t change the laws of physics, Jim.

Most motorhome owners have a habitation service carried out annually and they always check for damp so take heed of any warning of dampness and deal with it quickly because the effects of damp can be unimaginably expensive. 
Do some checks yourself for cold spots in your van, these are likely to be the places that condensation occurs; little used cupboards, underbed storage, overcab bunks. When you find cold spots check them for damp when conditions are ripe, such as when waking on cold mornings in winter, late evenings in winter when the heating has been on for some time. 
If cupboards are packed tightly this restricts airflow, move some things out so that air can move. 
On warm and windy days open your windows. It’s good for window rubbers to have windows opened regularly anyway and gives you a chance to clean the windows thoroughly and clean the rubbers. Oiling the windows every couple of years is also advisable to help keep the rubber in good condition. 
Choose a method to combat damp, but check regularly and if it’s not working try a different method. 

Vila Nova de Cerveira market day

I did say I was staying around for market day and although Trip advisor said it was 9 am til 11 am on Sundays, market day is actually all day Saturday in Vila Nova de Cerveira. (Which I’ve found out means New Town of the Deer.) It’s well worth going in search of the deer up the mountain too 😉

The very large car park where all the motorhomes park was blocked off this morning with bollards: both the entry and exit. I saw one lad carrying  a bit of fence along so I watched where he went and he was parked in a car on some waste ground that adjoins the carpark. He was putting up a sign that said people had to pay. So, block off the free, town car park, then open up waste ground and charge people for parking there? There has to be reasoning behind that but I’ve no idea what it might be. 

Anyway I took Jack for a nice walk then left him in the van as markets aren’t the best environments for small dogs. They’re crowded and bustling and he could easily be stepped on so he was left in the van with a nice chicken strip to chew on. I got such an accusing look from him too. I half expected to come back and find something chewed lol

Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I've ever seen
Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I’ve ever seen

I made this panorama shot so you can see just how big it is. The scale of the vans in the centre of the photo gives you an idea as they are quite large vans. It was designed with plenty of room though so although it was busy and crowded I never felt hemmed in. I noticed a monotonous regularity of stalls though as I went round. There were only a dozen or so different types of things for sale, but repeated a dozen times. The prices on each stall were pretty much the same too so if a pan was €200 on one stall, it’s price didn’t very by more than a euro or two on the other ones. Jeans were common for €10 and shirts for €14, and each stall that sold them was pretty much the same price. Leather goods I noted were fairly inexpensive and that’s the first time I’ve seen that. Belts however were still silly prices with the cheapest one I saw being €15 for a very plain and simple belt. 

As I walked round it was apparent people were haggling though. I did see one man haggling about a €10 pair of jeans lol Maybe it’s just what they do? I wanted a wire brush on a long stalk for some of the cleaning and rust proofing I’m doing to the van. I got a fairly robust one with brass bristles for only €2.50 which was a good price. I had one out of Poundland some time ago but it was rubbish and became useless very quickly. When I pretended to brush my beard with it and made a satisfied face and put a thumb up at the stall holder his face was a picture 🙂 Oh and a lady who was selling me a new wallet and haggling for all she was worth let off the longest fart I’ve ever known! She did not bat an eyelid and did not break stride with her chatter (whatever the heck she was saying) and even when I put my finger over my nostrils she simply knocked €1 off and wrote the new price on a piece of paper lol If anyone’s wondering I got it for €10 and as long as it is really leather than it’s a good price cos it’s exactly what I wanted.

Wild dogs and Englishmen 

A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira
A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira

An Englishman came up today to say hello. First time that’s happened to me I think in all the years I’ve been travelling. I was working on replacing the rocker cover gasket but sadly I don’t have the right tool for the bolts. It’s becoming increasingly apparent though that the head gasket might really be gone, so I may as well start biting the bullet and saving money up for this to be done. It’s a fairly large job and the garage in Germany wanted to do it for €2000! lol Anyway we had a good chat about all sorts so it was nice to meet you Martin and Pam. 

At least I got the exhaust sealed up properly and the EGR valve seated correctly so that’s a step forward. So, my mission until returning to the UK in April is save money so I can get the head done when I get back there. 

This is a pretty town with good enough shops and plenty of nice walks so I may stay around for another week. I’m off work this week so I can do as I like and maybe explore for a bit. 


As ever here’s a few photos I’ve taken so far. 


Vila Nova de Cerveira, Portugal

So, I drove at night to get to Portugal, and my Monzo card failed at the toll booths YET again Grr! But to be fair so did 2 Nationwide bank cards and a Santander bank card and my Revolut and Tesco cards. I was told in one shop today that they only accepted Portugese cards! Hmmm. 
Anyway as Monzo doesn’t have any security on the app on the phone I’ve decided to stop using it. What’s that got to do with being in Portugal? Nothing really!

The old town square
The old town square

But this little town is lovely. It’s just what you expect from an old Portugese town and although it’s small, it’s really nice to wander around. Wednesday is my first night off work so I’m going to have a try of some of the little cafes and restaurants and bars over a few days.

I found an amazing shop called Hiper Bazar where everything is dirt cheap, and they sell everything. I got a new ceiling lamp for the loft, new cable cutters, a brass brush for the drill, 2 new hose fittings and a few other things all for €12. I may even go back again and see what else they have haha

The van doesn’t seem to be using any less fuel now the exhaust is fixed, and when I first start up there is still that smell of exhaust comes through to the cabin area. I might strip down the EGR valve and pipe connections again and make sure they are all sealed and fastened correctly. Also at idle it’s rattling so I wonder if they’ve loosened the heat shield or something.

Anyway I found the aire ok and there’s tons of room so I think I’ll stay here at least til the weekend. It’s bloody raining as usual so maybe if I wait it out I might get a sunny day if I’m lucky!




Where I stayed: Vila Nova de Cerveira, Viana do Castelo, Portugal, 4920. N41.938103, W8.746711 Free with waste dump and fresh water.

Poio, Spain

The Hat at Poio
The Hat at Poio

We haven’t travelled far in a couple of weeks as I’ve been arranging garage visits and doing some of my own repairs too. I found I had a leak from somewhere so I found that and sorted it and have planned a full reseal of the entire van. 

Anyway, I came to Poio as it’s on the coast and me and Jack really like that but we found a garage here who agreed to weld the split in my exhaust pipe. We managed this with no Spanish at all from me and not one word of English from them, but the job is done now so all is good.

Where I am there is a lovely park right on the prom with some form of structure in the middle of the grass part of it. It’s obviously some form of art that has been put there probably simply for aesthetic purposes. Anyway, here’s the hat, on that structure, enjoying Poio beach even though it’s rained all day!

Poio, Pontevedra and another good garage

Paulo had also told me about an aire in Poio which he said was very nice. I decided to give it a try and sure enough it’s by a park and right by the beach of a lovely bay. I noticed as I drove in that on the main road is a huge fruit and vegetable market and a garage so once I was settled I walked back up to speak to them. 

The Peugeot garage had said £1300 to repair! Apparently their recommended cat is £1000, although they also allow a warranty on another one which only costs £500 lol There is an aftermarket one that Euro carparts do for £180 but I can’t get one out here. So, using Google translate on my phone I asked this garage if they could weld the broken joint in the cat. He immediately said yes and we arranged for me to come in after work the next day. A lot of Spanish businesses have lunch between 1pm and 3pm but then work until as late as 8 and 9pm at night. I’ve ordered that stuff from Amazon but I would prefer a permanent weld of course. 

Jack, chasing squirrels...*sigh* least it was a grey one.
Jack, chasing squirrels…*sigh*…at least it was a grey one.

He also, without a word of English managed to make me understand that if I walked around the park and crossed to the far side of the bay, there was a beautiful walk along the bay culminating in a great wide open scene. I spotted the path he was talking about and decided if the weather stayed good I would indeed try that route.

So next day I went in and he didn’t book me in, didn’t take my keys and say we’ll ring you, just pointed at the other cars inside and indicated that I wait lol It was almost 45 minutes later that he had me drive it in and they began the weld. They did it quickly and it looked like a good job and he charged me €60 so I was content with that. 

Annoyingly my Monzo card would not work to pay him. I got out my Nationwide bank debit card but that didn’t work either. This happened at the toll booths when I first got to Spain and I remembered that my Tesco credit card was the only one that worked. So I gave him that and that didn’t work either. Grrr. I managed to find the €60 in cash but it meant paying him partly in change from my purse that I keep for launderettes and parking etc.
When I phoned the bank later they said the card was probably faulty but as 3 were declined I suspected it was more to do with the charging system. I suppose that’s a reminder to always have some real cash on you no matter what. 

Anyway the van seemed to be fine so I went back to the aire and then walked up to the fruit and veg shop and went mad in there lol Oddly, their reader took my Monzo card fine.


Where I stayed: Poio Area de Autocaravans, Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain, 36995, N42.438383, W-8.693519, free parking with fresh water and toilet dump.

Every tunnel has light at the end

So Paulo who replied to a post on a Spanish motorhome forum turned out to be a great help. His mother is Irish so his English was very good. It also turns out that he is part of a management group for motorhome aires in Galicia. Not only that but his boyhood friend is Daniel, who happens to manage a Peugeot dealer in Pontevedra. 🙂

So off I went to visit Daniel who quickly established that the water pump had indeed gone but to replace it meant a whole new timing belt and kit. That’s actually fair enough, most non-dealer garages would recommend this too. Amazingly they booked it in for the next day and had the whole thing done in 3 hours flat. He showed me the damaged pump, it’s 14 years old and had simply worn out.
What I liked was that I already had an auxiliary belt that I was going to fit anyway and I also had a whole set of plates that protect the engine and timing gear, and they fitted those parts for me. I’d bought them after having the engine refurbished as at some stage of the engine coming out and going back in the top one had been cracked and broken. The timing belt was totally exposed to the open and in fact there were other problems with the engine going back in such as a damaged EGR cooler and downpipe, damaged fuel filter and a variety of other things. Chris Ritchie in Barrow is a decent mechanic but I think he simply took on a job that was too big for him.

Anyway, I’m very happy with the job the garage did and the overall price was a reasonable amount, less than I’d pay in the UK just for a timing belt. they’re at A Carballeira, 57, 36143 Salcedo, Pontevedra, Spain, and this is their website
I went back the next day to get a rocker cover gasket because I now think that’s the source of the oil leak. I also ordered 2 more FibreFix tapes. I was most impressed that I’d got this far thanks to the FibreFix bandage and the GunGum over the top. But FibreFix do a proper bandage designed for high heat applications so I ordered 2 of them from Amazon and some fire cement. I’ll pick them up at the weekend from the post office in Pontevedra. That should make a semi permanent repair to the split on the catalytic converter pipe.


Where I stayed: Pontevedra, Pontevedra, Spain. N42.43302, W-8.6356. Free toilet dump and fresh water, 72 hours max stay per month.


Arcade, Spain and aires

I’d never heard of Arcade in Spain and only came here as I found a parking place for motorhomes in an app I use called Search For Sites. SFS as most of us call it is a website and app put together by the motorhome community. One man runs the site and has commissioned the app, but what it does it allow everyone to contribute to it by adding sites both paid and free where motorhomes can park, reviewing them and uploading photos of the ‘aires’ as they’re commonly known and maybe things of interest around it. 

Aire is simply French for area and in France there are very many areas especially in small communities set up for motorhomes to visit. Most have fresh water, some allow disposal of toilet waste and some also have electricity available. Aires can be aires de repos which might simply be a parking place on a motorway for a rest, or an aire de service which has any of the range of services mentioned.

They’re numerous in France but also in Germany where they’re called Stelplatz, Italy where they’re called Sostas and most other European countries. In Spain they’re also known as aires and they’re often managed by the local mayor, or a community organisation, or the city or even by a group of motorhome enthusiasts. Most communities recognise that if you offer a place to park with sometimes basic services you will get a steady stream of people visiting even out of season, and those people will spend money of course. Unlike the UK where local councils wish to monetise everything with unrealistically high prices much of the rest of Europe see free or very low cost aires as an excellent way to bring people into towns and cities for very little cost.

looking back to town from the prom
looking back to town from the prom

Anyway, I found the aire which is like many, one end of a public car park and is right on the promenade of an estuary. There’s a pitch where locals play a game very similar to petanque, a kids play park, a skateboard area and a harbour wall where the fishermen keep their boats. There’s an oyster festival annually in Spring and Arcade is famed for it’s oysters. Many of the cafes and restaurants sell shellfish and other sea foods although shellfish leave me cold and my love of seafood is limited to fresh crab and some fish. 

Arcade itself is quite a run down town. Everywhere you look there is waste land, empty and derelict buildings, places for rent and for sale and businesses that have closed down. Clearly it’s suffering economically although there is always plenty of people about and the shops that are open seem to do well. 

However, like most places, if you wander around enough you can find nice things. The beach is tiny, but nice enough and me and Jack loved playing on it many a time. There was only one day when it did not rain in Arcade, but we always managed a half hour at least on the beach. There’s also a lovely walk along the estuary which was very popular with locals too, so we enjoyed that many times. There’s a brand new launderette and a couple of garages but although one of them could easily have taken the camper, when I asked them to do the exhaust they said no. Oh well. 

Where I stayed: Arcade Aire de Autocaravanas, Pontevedra, Spain, 36690. N42.33944, W-8.61333. Toilet dump and fresh water.

Here’s a few shots I took while in Arcade. 

A visit to Arcade, northern Spain

Arcade in Spain
Arcade in Spain

This is my first visit to Spain in a camper, and I’ve had all sorts of mechanical problems with the van which I’ll not describe here. Anyway, of course the hat came with me and although I’ve been on the continent for 3 weeks, this is the first day of real sunshine we’ve had and the first day I’ve explored properly. 

I’m in a little town called Arcade in Spain and although it’s a bit run down it’s a nice enough town and the people are friendly enough. I’ve got all the shops I need here although a van garage would be the icing on the cake! I’ll probably be driving to Pontevedra soon to get the van repaired. 

The view here is from the shore line of Arcade looking west toward the impressive Puente de Rande (Rande Bridge). 

Radiator brackets fitted

One of the new radiator brackets
One of the new radiator brackets

When I was at Molyneuxs I noticed the lad was leaning against the front of the van and the radiator was moving quite a lot. When I had a closer look there was a metal bracket with a rubber bush inside holding it to the upper cross member. The rubber as barely staying inside the bracket, it was clearly old and worn out. 
I found a please on the other side where a second bracket should have been, but there was nothing there.

That surprised me as the radiator was replaced brand new at Brotzner Automobile after it sprung a leak in Austria. So given that they charged me a whopping €427 for a new radiator you’d think they would have put a couple of new brackets on eh? Especially as they were only I think £4 each from Guy Perry Peugeot dealer in Barrow. 
Interestingly the brackets were a few £’s but the 2 bolts each bracket needed only came in packs of 5 and 10, so would have cost me nearly £60 or so. Even more oddly a random Peugeot dealer in Canterbury sold me the 4 bolts separate for about 60p each the week after. Hmmm. 

Anyway, they’re on now so that’s one more job done.

Arcade, Pontevedra

Well I left Santiago for 2 main reasons. Firstly I could not find a garage that could do my van, and secondly because I am heartily sick of the non stop rain!

So I got to a little place called Arcade near Pontevedra. It’s a nice enough little town although quite run down with empty and derelict shops and houses. It’s got everything I need, but the main street is a little depressing.


At least the exhaust bandage held til I got here that FibreFix is a lifesaver. However on the first fine day we had without rain -which was a full week after I got here- I jacked the van up to find that the bandage was drying out and starting to crumble. I’ve got some gun gum so I used that to smear all over the exposed parts of the bandage. Gun Gum is pretty good gear so I am hoping it’s enough to seal the bandage properly until I get the cat replaced. 

Sadly that’s been difficult so far. I checked for garages around this area and could find none that would take a 3.5 ton van. I even visited 2 but they said no. (Thanks Google translate!) I also joined an ex pats forum online and put a shout out in there to ask for help. I was very surprised and quite disappointed when the only replies I got were “learn the language”, “find a translator and pay them to help you” and “Do a google search for mecanicos”. I was so disheartened by this and I spoke to the group owner and expressed my sadness that there was virtually no interest in helping me out. I left the group, so much for friendly, helpful Brits eh?

More bad news. 
After slathering the bandage with Gun gum I started the engine to heat it up and noticed quite a lot of dripping from the front. It turns out the water pump is leaking! *sigh* I would definitely say this van has been a pig on a poke for me, it’s cost me an awful lot of money from day one and being ripped off by garages, even the dealer I always used in the early days means I’ve probably spent more fixing it than I did buying it in the first place. I doubt I’ll ever own another Peugeot again, or indeed an Elddis as the van has had a massive amount of problems as well as the engine. 

I have found one truck garage and emailed them so hopefully even if they can’t speak English they can read the email (Google translated into Spanish) and reply. Most garages don’t reply to emails though but it’s not far so I can pop over there with stuff written down in advance.
However this evening I got a PM from a friend who is near Malaga right now. She is a member of a Spanish motorhome forum and had asked for help in there for me. A guy called Paulo who speaks good English and lives about 5 miles from where I am agreed to help so we spoke on the phone and he is going to check garages out for me. So at least there’s 2 potential solutions. A very positive result given the negativity so far.


Update from Santiago

The weather hasn’t been very good since I got here, so apart from walking the dog and getting my bearings I’ve not really walked anywhere. It’s about 40 minutes into the old town from here and because the rain is on and off I decided to leave it for now. I’ve got tons of photography work to be going on with especially due to managing the change of not using Lightroom and moving over to other software. *groan* 

Broken exhaust
Broken exhaust

Anyway, I looked under the van to find out what’s going on with the exhaust and spotted that there was a clean break in the front part of it. It’s where the front pipe connects to the catalytic converter and the weld has just completely sheared, almost as if it’s been cut.

I wondered if it had as years ago I heard of people cutting cats off cars because they were worth so much money, but it feels as though the break is quite rough and although I can see clean metal most of it is dirty so nothing suggests that it has been cut with anything and thinking back it’s been a while since the van was last left long enough for anyone to do it. Also by the look of it there’s not tons of gas marks, so I suspect it hasn’t been broken long. One thought was I wondered if this could be the culprit for my excessive fuel consumption but again due to lack of gas marks which suggest a long term leak I doubt this has been a real problem. I suppose it’s worth finding out though if a faulty cat can cause other problems?

Anyway I was thinking of what I might be able to repair it with. The break is clean so I can’t use gungum, which may be too flimsy anyway as it’s more of a sealant than an adhesive. Exhaust bandages aren’t much good in my experience and I don’t have one anyway, but I found something I’d bought ages ago to try out called Fiberfix. It’s some kind of tape that you activate in water and then wrap around whatever and it apparently seals hard enough to be able to be used to fix garden fork handles! It actually states it can also be used for exhausts so I tried it out. 

Bandaged exhaust
Bandaged exhaust

They were right too, after 5 seconds in water I started wrapping it around the joint and I could feel it curing n my hand. I was forced to use pliers to get the plastic core loose as when I got to the end it was sticking so strongly that I could not tear it free with my fingers. Bloody amazing stuff. 

I checked it next morning and it appears to be as hard as steel. Whether it’ll be enough to seal the gases in and hold the two parts together when driving is another question. As you can see it’s not the neatest job in the world, the very end is curled over somewhat and that’s where it was curing as I worked so I could not flatten down the last half inch. As I said it was curing in my hand as I worked so from opening the packet to it curing in my hand I’d say it cured in about 3-4 minutes. To the touch it is very hard and at least it looks as though I’ve managed to get enough overlap of each segment of pipe. 

I ran the engine for well over an hour and for the first time in ages my exhaust smelled *bleachy*. That’s a dead giveaway that the cat is working now, so I know it hasn’t been for some time as the exhaust has smelled awful for weeks. It’s still running and although there was quite a bit of smoke in the first 20 minutes, that seems to have disappeared now, so I;m hoping that was burn-off from the cat. This Fiberfix is a minor miracle! Although I still need a garage to sort it out properly.
Cat’s aren’t stupid money anymore now though, I’ve seen them anywhere from £60 to £160 and this one is the original from 2004 when I bought the van so if that’s what’s needed then so be it. Now it just remains to find an English speaking garage near Santiago…


Where I stayed: Sports complex car park aire, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain, 15707. N42.87627, W-8.53082 No services. 


All the way to Spain

Arriving in France

I stayed at Rouen for about a week and it rained every day…I mean every single, solitary day, and most days it rained non stop too. I’ve never seen the river so high there. Anyway, I was wasting my time off work so I decided to do work in between the rain. I finally got the new engine coolant sensor fitted despite it being a 5 hour job because of the rain, and because it’s so difficult to get to. I changed the air filter while I was there and checked the EGR valve solenoid which is working fine, and the valve itself appears to be working. Nevertheless I disabled the valve as it is causing all sorts of smoke and consumption issues. The steel seal seems to have worked in that there is no more smoke coming from the exhaust, but it is still using water and oil much more than it should. I am beginning to believe that the head gasket is gone.

I also got the radiator brackets fitted  and generally tidied up a few things. I did a test drive for an hour and everything was working brilliantly, the temperature gauge is showing the correct temperature finally after a year of being wrong. However unknown to me if you go through a toll booth, turn round after 330 miles and come back through the same plaza, they don’t know what to charge you so they charge you any old thing, in my case €78 lol I emailed them and within a couple of days they had replied and said that this was normal practice and they would refund me most of the money but I should not do that again. Sure enough I got all but €7 back eventually so that turned out OK. 

I was so confident that everything was ok I took off having spent a week in Rouen and now wanting to move on. I headed for Santiago di Compostella which is a town in Spain I’ve long wanted to visit, planning to stay there a day or two then move on to Portugal. The van was returning 22 mpg as if it was a religion so clearly I’m no further forward to finding out why that is. 
The drive down was awful too. I split it over 3 nights in the end because the weather was so bad. The rain continued all the way ranging from really bad to torrential, and the wind started getting really bad. By the time I got to Bordeaux the wind was so bad I had to pull in again and I had to pull in twice more over the next 2 days in Spain for the same reason. It’s really no fun driving in such weather when you’ve got so far to go: it’s tiring and frustrating and when there’s always somewhere to park it’s unnecessary.

Anyway I got to Santiago on Friday afternoon and the van had driven perfectly albeit at 22 mpg as usual (Grr!) and as I pulled into the car park near Santiago I realised the revs were stuck at 1000 rpm. *sigh!* What now! I got out and the engine sounded awful and I could hear a rattling. Looking underneath it seemed that the exhaust was barely hanging on! I’m parked now for a day or two so I’ll have a closer look later.

Portsmouth to Santander
Portsmouth to Santander

Anyway, if I measure my entire journey from Portsmouth, through Rouen and down to Santander in Spain, it’s 857 miles. At 22 mpg that’s 39 gallons of diesel which is 177 litres at roughly €1.32 per litre (because motorway fuel stations overcharge the same way as British ones do) comes out at €233.64 plus the ferry at €117.29 is €350.93
ViaMichelin says the entire journey should be €97.55 in tolls. That’s a total of €448.46. Now I haven’t counted up but I think the tolls amount to much more than €97.55, I’d hazard a guess at around €160 which means a total of €510.93 to get from Portsmouth to Santander. Of course that’s 17 hours of driving too split over 3 days if you want to enjoy the journey and of course there’s wear and tear on the van. 

Now, the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander is £304.50 and takes about 6 1/2 hours. Potentially that’s over €200 cheaper than driving, and if you include driving breaks it’s 2 days faster. It also saves the wear and tear on the vehicle so if you’re not touring for the sake of it, it’s the most sensible route to go. So when I return to the UK, that’s the route I’m taking. 




Arriving in Spain

San Sebastian to Bilbao
San Sebastian to Bilbao

Fresh from the rattle of toll booths leaving France, I faced the same in Spain. A brief flurry of 3-4 booths left me a dozen euros lighter and I wondered if it was going to be this way all the way to Portugal. I reset my satnav to avoid all toll roads from now on, I was paying small sums but every few miles and it was all adding up. 
Added to that was my despondency generally as Spain was not what I expected. Granted of course my view was simply from the road, but it was non stop industrial areas, graffiti everywhere and a general run down feel about it. Everything seemed grey and dirty and old and when I came off the motorway to avoid tolls it was worse. I got to San Sebastian as planned to find the aire was seriously jammed, so no staying there overnight. But the journey through town left me almost pleased that this was the case. It was a run down area, old dilapidated buildings, graffiti covering almost everything in sight including vehicles, and empty and boarded up buildings. There was no feel good at all about this place and I decided tired as I was I was going to head on further to Bilbao. I let the dog out for a wee and I made a cuppa and off we went.

Near Bilbao
Near Bilbao

Some time later I decided to go back onto the motorway. The weather was awful and the roads were as windy and steep as any I’ve encountered in Switzerland or Austria. I was already tired and really couldn’t enjoy it so I decided the motorway was the way to go even if it cost me. In fact the next few hours to Bilbao cost me only one toll of about €3 despite ViaMichelin telling me it would cost about €13.  Anyway I found the aire at Cobaron just outside of Bilbao and it was a car park right above the beach, so I swiftly got my head down for some much needed sleep, of which I got plenty 🙂

This was my view the next morning. I heard the waves last night and I could even feel them thumping against the shore, despite being about 30 metres above the sea level!

There was loads of people about and the sun was out so it was a lovely change, the first time there was no rain for about 9 days. Jack and me made the most of it of course, including Jack having a sniff of the 4 horses that someone was feeding in the picnic area. 
So far the only resource I’ve used to find somewhere to park for the night has been I have others but have not needed them yet. I’ve used SFS to find somewhere to park near Santiago di Compostella. I’ve wanted to go there for years so although I’m heading for Portugal, Santiago is definitely my next stop.


Tolls and banks and mechanical problems

So I don’t hit another toll booth until I’m almost at Santiago, and it’s only €5.30 so I go to pay and *shock* my Monzo card is declined! Now I know I have about £150 on it so maybe it’s the magstripe? I hand over my main bank account debit card which I’ve had to do from time to time, *horror* it’s declined! WTF?

So in desperation as I’ve got no cash at all, I hand over my Tesco credit card. *surprise* it works! Well that I just don’t get. So I rang the bank and said not only was it declined, but I can’t log in online and I can’t login via the app. After 40 minutes of being online a techie informed the agent that for some weird reason my account did not exist on the system lol Could only happen to me eh? They’ll ring me when they get it sorted. 
As I’m stuck if I don’t get some money, I tried my Monzo card and luckily it was able to top it up, so I put a few hundred on to it just in case the bank can’t sort everything out in a timely manner. Oddly my Revolut card said it could not authorise a deduction from that card, yet Monzo did? I wonder if Monzo sort of ‘trust’ you and allow the transaction until it can go through properly?

Anyway, I found the parking spot in Santiago, or about a mile outside of the old town, and as I went to park I noticed that the engine would not drop below 1000 rpm. It’s supposed to idly at 750 and always has. I stopped and got out to have a look and the engine sounded odd, and there was a whiff of exhaust gas. I went to the exhaust and heard it rattling slightly so I looked underneath and it’s proper rattling as if it’s not even attached! So, that’s another problem to resolve in the morning!

Time for a little light entertainment methinks….*goes to put a film on*


Where I stayed: Free AMPDOR, Muskiz, Bizkaia, Euskadi, Spain, 48550. N43.350374, W-3.143053. No services.