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.
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
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.
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.