Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Under and Over the Mountains

The tunnel was many kilometers long. We don’t have many road tunnels in Finland and none of them are in Lapland. Driving underground has been a new experience. This time we had the Pyrenees on top of us. We had decided to leave Spain while the weather was still good. Forecast promised rain and more snow to northern Spain during the weekend.

When the tunnel ended, I was again able to see the mountain wall climb high on my right side and… nothing on the left side. There was a railing though. The road even had two lanes, but it was still narrow. We were in a S-shaped tricky curve, when a truck appeared. We couldn’t pass each other – the road was just too narrow for our caravan and the truck.

The Spanish truck driver jumped out and started yelling. He determined that we need to back up. Uphill, in a curve, with a caravan that barely managed to fit in the curve. No way. The smaller cars behind the truck had also stopped and reversed some meters to make way. I listened the Spanish yelling for some minutes, lost my temper and replied in Finnish: peruuta nyt pari metriä, niin me mahdutaan ohi. That worked. The guy returned to his vehicle, reversed a little and we managed to pass, thanks to Timo’s good driving.

The Fourth Opinion

Statue in Zamora.
We had returned the rental car in Spain after 1599 km trip to Portugal. On our way back we had stopped in the old city of Zamora. Timo had booked us a hotel room. We found it was a hotel with a single room. Actually just an apartment. But it had shower, washing machine and WIFI – exactly what we needed.

Due the car repair we had to skip our planned vacation in Valencia. We had agreed a business meeting on the French side close to the border for next week. Even though the car was thoroughly fixed, the brakes in the caravan did not work properly. Perhaps something had been damaged during the towing? Thanks to the long tunnel, crossing the mountain area was surprisingly easy. Anyhow we needed to get the brakes working as soon as possible.

For important issues it is always good to have several opinions – just to be sure. For the brake problem we got many. First place noticed a bent bolt on the caravan coupling. That might prevent the brake system in the stabiliser coupling for working. But fixing it requires an expert. So we went to see caravan repair guy who announced the whole coupling needs to be changed. It would take two days and cost nearly 1000 euros. We didn’t have neither, so I googled another place near Toulouse. They noticed that the bolt had nothing to do with anything – it was not physically connected to anything! They tested the brakes (read: pumped the caravan to the back of the car several times) and announced that the coupling itself was ok, but the brakes not. They didn’t have time for fixing, but booked us a time to a caravan garage near Lyon, for the next morning.

So we drove 600km through the Massif Central. We spent the night somewhere between. I woke up during the night because my nose was cold: we had run out of gas – again. Come on Mr. Murphy, we dealt this already! Caravan batteries and electricity heating kept us warm even the night was very cold. In the morning we had to scrape the car window!

Our navigator didn’t recognize the garage address, but with Google Map we made it there – just 10 minutes delayed. So – in French culture that would be just in time. We left the caravan there and went to buy food and gas. The supermarkets in France are amazing combinations of services. You can find bakery, gas station, and laundry machines in the area. This time we found also a circus with lions, a tiger, monkeys and a zebra.

After two hours the caravan was ready. I paid 78 euros and we were back on the road. This time heading to east, to Switzerland, to La Chaux-de-Fonds where Ludesco is held. And afterall, it was not the brakes that were at fault, but the brake cable support strut had bent during the towing in Spain.


We have plenty on time, it takes only one hour to drive there.” Timo announced when we started next morning from a camping place. It was pouring rain. He soon noticed a weird sound. The car didn’t feel right. Could it be that one of the brakes is jammed? Or worn out? He seemed very worried so googled the closest garage – only 1,5 kilometer ahead.

We stopped in a tiny village. Right after we stopped, a truck was honking a horn and the driver yelled: ”It went off about a kilometer ago!” And then we noticed the caravan had only 3 tires left. I stared at the empty place. There was still some marker paint after yesterdays repair. They must have forgot to tighten the bolts! It felt surreal. Yesterday, after the repair I drove us to the camping. On a highway. What if this would have happened then?

We disconnected the caravan. Timo and Väinö drove back to look for the tire. My job was to explain to the carage owner why we had blocked his yard with our caravan. I had to use hand signs and my theatre skills because no-parle-angle.

It feels stupid to repeat in situations like this that ”we were lucky”. But we were. Timo found the tire, intact. It hadn’t hit any other vehicles or people. The only misfortune was that we didn’t have any bolts to install the tire. Two wise men – some local road workers – came to help: take one bolt from all the other tires, so you will have 3 bolts in each. Solutions for tricky situations can sometimes be simple!

Murphy Go Home!

Next bigger village had a garage which sold us the missing bolts. They also checked the brakes of our car. Now that the vehicles were working all right and had all parts with them, I was able to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery. The road we were driving – from Pontarlier to La Chaux-de-Fonds – followed a small river. It had eroded an amazing canyon to Jura mountains. All of a sudden Timo stopped the car. There where signs to a cave.

The cave was quite large, eroded by water. There were several small waterfalls in it. Signs announced it was a holy place. It served as a chapel. To whom, I don’t know. We were in the middle of nothing. There was only one restaurant next to the parking place.

I’m not a religious person. But after all these events I’m convinced we have several guardian angels, -fairies and/ or -dragons with us. Obviously very much needed. I thank you all for sending those to us. Could you also please call Mr. Murphy back home?

No comments:

Post a Comment