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.


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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. 

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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.

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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.


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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. 


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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 searchforsites.co.uk. 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.

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