Saturday, 14 September 2013

Van troubles and silver linings...

After leaving Port Grimaud we took a slow meander along the coast of southern France. In my opinion one of the most spectacular coast lines in the world. (From what I've experienced!)

Every turn of the road yielded a new cove or lagoon to explore. Small beaches manifested themselves and a short jaunt down a steep cliff side was rewarded with the most beautiful and secluded section all to our selves.

The clunking noise we'd heard back in the Dordogne wasn't cured by replacing the wheel bearings. After a quick google I feared the worst and succumbed to taking the van to a garage. Luckily we found a local Brit who owned a garage not too far in Mouans Sartoux and after some investigative work it was deduced that the steering rack was worn on the outward bushes.

The part had to be sourced from the UK as we have a right hand drive van and so we were to wait for a few days for it to be delivered.

Mouans Sartoux itself is quite a pleasant little town with a particularly old section of narrow roadways and alleys. Some of the buildings here were 400 to 500 years old. Unfortunately we seemed to just miss the end of lunch at 2 oclock so had to resort to food in the van.

The part came a few days later and the mechanic Phil phoned to inform me, asking if I would do him a favor on the way. He had a car that he needed to move across town and he picked me up in his landrover as we finished a little walk on a strange derilict piece of land.

Phil pulled alongside this lovely white Toyota MR2 and asked whether I was ok driving left hand drive cars. Of course never having done so before in my life, but eager to drive the little sportster, I proclaimed that I was a professional! Toured year round in a left hand drive camper once! Fibbing to secure my place in the shit car. Because thats what an MR2 is in French. M - er - deux ... merde.

After I safely delivered the Toyota to Phillip's nice villa with infinity pool his mechanic set to work replacing the steering rack on our van. It was getting close to Mia's departure as she had a flight booked for the next day, Friday, and we had our van booked in for the tracking to be done the same morning so we drove the van towards Nice airport and enjoyed lunch in a roadside cafe.

10 miles later and there was a rattling under the van again. Further inspection showed that one of the retaining bolts holding the steering rack on had sheered. We couldn't move the van for fear of us losing the steering and plumeting off of one of the mountain roads to our deaths! Our new breakdown cover was to now come in handy.

After a few phone calls and about an hour and a half we were doing one of the strangest, and I suspect most dangerous, thing I've done in a long time. The recovery truck driver asked all 3 of us to jump in the back of the van whilst he whinched her up on to the flat bed and drove the 25 miles back to the garage. The combined suspension felt like we would tip over at any point. People on the pavements spotted the girls sitting in the driving and passenger seats and laughed or waved. All while I experienced the van from the back whilst moving along. Fellow motorhomers passing in the opposite direction would also greet us with the obligatory wave when they spotted the girls in the van. All while on a flat bed recovery truck!
Two new high tensile bolts and nuts were sourced from Ford and we had a 5 day wait before they'd get to us. The breakdown company, a German firm called ADAC, were fantastic. They took care of organising the recovery vehicle and advised us to get a hotel whilst we wait for the repair to be made. We had an allowance of €65 per person per night for a maximum of 3 nights as well as a €52 per day allowance for a hire car for up to 7 days.

We settled in to the hotel and its pleasures like running hot water, swimming pool and massive beds before sinking a bottle of wine with Mia and watching a few episodes of Breaking Bad.

We said our final goodbyes to Mia that evening as she had a taxi booked to the airport at 4:30am the next day. We have really enjoyed Mia's company on our jaunt through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Now the time has come to head our own ways. It is exciting to hear of Mia's plans to build her own van and start touring. The days of questionable looks from fellow campers, bar owners, petrol pump assistants and mechanics as 2 girls and only one guy jumps out of the van are over.
Kerry and I enjoyed the hotel for the few days we were there, relaxing by the pool and using the internet to our hearts content. On the Saturday evening we took our little Toyota Yaris hire car out to crawl the streets of Monaco. The little car was a godsend. Id never dream of trying to pilot a motorhome around the small country so it gave Kerry a chance to see the decadence for herself as well.

We even drove through Monte Carlo, right infront of the famous casino with hundreds of people gathered round Lambo's and Porsche's,  their owners inside squandering their millions. It really is fascinating. Its a country in its own righr but only covers 0.78 square miles. 35, 000 people live there making it the most densily populated country in the world. And they all benefit from 0% income tax!

The bolts came in and it took literally minutes to replace them. We dropped the hire car back and headed out along the coast to a garage with a big enough ramp to do the Gyometry adjustments. Then a long drive up and in to Italy, aiming for Genoa or Genova (I'm not sure which is correct) for our ferry ride to Palermo...







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