Tuesday 9th – Thursday 11th October 2018
Little did we know when we headed south again that a weather system pushing up the SE would dictate not just our movements but our expenditure over the next few days. More of that later.
As you may recall, we had planned to spend some time climbing around Orgon, near Avignon in the south of France but the weather moved us on to Carcassone where we planned to spend a couple of days doing the cultural thing. Once again however the weather suggested that moving on might be a good idea. So, on Wednesday morning we decide that an early start should see us well into Spain by the end of the day.
But, safety first, if we are going to be driving in the forecast heavy rain we should give Gandalf the once over and check, fuel, oil, tyres, Pringles etc.
ASIDE: A minimum of 2 boxes of Pringles is recommended by all reputable breakdown services for any journey of more than 3 hours.
Gandalf passed all safety checks except tyres. The front near side looks pretty shoddy and a quick trip to a reputable tyre dealer confirms Mr P’s diagnosis. The tyre c’est mort. Bugger! Such eventualities are in the budget fortunately so, just like Mrs P, what Gandalf needs Gandalf gets and 1 hour and €219 later he is the proud owner of 2 new shoes and a good old wheel balance. We may not be able to afford to eat for a week but we will be safe on wet roads.
The nice man however tries to explain a small issue of [something in French] being seized but assures us that it is, ” No problem.” We should however keep an eye on the wheel balancing. (Or maybe he said we should buy some holy medals and start praying. Who knows? My French is not that good and Mrs P’s French ends abruptly at anything even slightly technical.) Anyway, unable to explain the issue to the satisfaction of our resident budding mechanic and serial worrier, Mr P, the nice man writes it down. We (read: Mr P) decide to take the problem to the local VW garage…
…who say that what he has written makes no sense – Miraculously they do this in a Scottish accent. (Turns out the receptionist spent her formative years in Scotland.)
They can’t look at it till next week but advise that it is probably, “No problem.” Just keep an eye on the warning lights.
It is now 2.30pm and we finally head off, a lot later than anticipated, towards Spain and sunshine. But, storm clouds are gathering. Big ones. REAL big ones.
We decide to do a wild camp and find a likely spot up a dirt track, up a hill near the coast just North of Barcelona. If you look at the above radar image of rainfall published the following day we were right under the purple bit.
The storm hit at around 7pm. No photos were taken but I really wish I had taken a bit of video even just for the noise and the continuous flashes. Some really close stuff. Flash! Start counting… “o…” too late. Boom!
At about 10pm my visions of Gandalf being the tallest metal thing around with his big metal roof pointing heavenward like some kind of invitation to the Gods of thunder gets the better of me and I wake Mrs P, (who can clearly sleep through anything!) and move us out of the pop-top and open up the downstairs bed.
At 2am the storm is showing no signs of abating and I am trying to remember the Faraday Cage principle. Should I remove my surgical truss or is it best to keep it on? Should we wrap our heads in tin foil or is that only during alien invasion? What if I fall asleep and accidentally touch the metal interior of Gandalf? Should I stop typing on this electrical device that is plugged into the electrical system? (Probably!)
The storm went on without let up until about 4am. The rain was incredible. I went out a couple of times to make sure we weren’t going to get washed away and check that the road still existed.
Come morning and a crepuscular darkness persists even at 08.30. It is still hurling it down with rain and, while the thunder and lightning continue, it has at least moved way further south.
As the morning and the rush hour traffic abate the weather improves and soon I have my sunglasses on. We pull into a small seaside resort to dry Gandalf out and treat ourselves to a very English lunch of sausage, eggs and chips. Yum!
A whole day of driving sees us 500 miles further South at a warm, dry campsite near the sea in Moraira.
The following day, Thursday 11th, we have a rather idle day playing spot the thin tourist and trying to guess how many of those elderly, overweight, leather skinned, underdressed (put something on please!) people scattered haphazardly across the beach would actually survive a brisk walk.
This is the Costa Blanca. A major draw for retirees who either live here all year round or spend the winter soaking up the sun and partaking of the local cuisine such as full English breakfast or (see above) sausage, egg and chips. Why are we here? Well, it is also widely regarded as one of the best winter rock climbing destinations anywhere.
So, time to move away from the teaming beaches, the unhealthy looking retirees, the street corner defibrillator machines and find a campsite that will suit our means and put us in the centre of the climbing. Quick, before we are assimilated…