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Friday, 28 September 2012

Back to Africa

Following our sad trip back to Australia, we returned to the UK on 21st September. Steve Marshall made the heroic deed and got up in the wee small hours to collect us from the airport.

We tried to get over the jet lag for a couple of days in the UK and did some maintenance on the vehicle. The battery was flat and we could not jump start off our spare battery. Turned out the jumper leads were not performing. We eventually got the vehicle running and used the alternator to charge the battery. We also put it onto a battery charger overnight.
Unfortunately all this did not work and we did not bother to check. The vehicle would not start as we went to leave for the ferry on Sunday night. Steve to the rescue: he did a quick soldering job on the jumper leads and we were on our way.

We elected to take an overnight ferry to Le Havre (Sunday 23rd) to try and make use of night time. Fortunately we were on HD Lines. Brittany ferries were on strike – the Euro crisis clearly has not increased peoples’ desire for work. We left the UK in the middle of a fierce storm (apparently this was the worst September storm for 30 years). Gale force winds had been forecast, but fortunately they did not eventuate or the ferry stabilisers were working overtime. We slept all the way and were rudely awakened by the vessel’s PA telling us we were already meant to be out of the cabin.

Despite leaving late, the ferry arrived on time. However, due to the loading sequence, we were the last off the ferry.  Still we had time for breakfast.
We looked unsuccessfully for a new battery at the Le Havre Toyota. They kindly organised one to be available in Bordeaux, so we headed down there. It was a long drive in pretty terrible conditions with heavy rain and strong winds the whole way. The good news was that we managed to work out how to use the tollway credit card machines and we got the new battery fitted the same day.

With the rain, we decided to take a cabin at the Village de Lac where we had previously camped. We are happy to report a quiet night – no gypsies and no need for the police this time!

We headed out of Bordeaux on 25th in pouring rain and managed to get caught in a mega traffic jam and it took us ~ 2 hours to be completely free of the heavy traffic. Rather than take the recommended freeway route, decided to go via the Pyrenees Alpine NP. A great decision. The scenery was absolutely stunning. Too bad we were on a schedule as we would have stayed a bit longer.

The vehicle had started to make some “clunking” noises when hot and on cornering.  When we got to Zaragoza we tried to see the Toyota people. However, we discovered that street names in Spain have multiple forms and landed up in a lower socio economic residential district (was that PC enough?). So, we decided to give up on the vehicle and look for the camping ground. Again, the street names got us disoriented. We ended up in a nice residential area. A very friendly man saw we were totally lost and though he had no English (and of course, we have zero Spanish) he went out of his way to get us at least headed in the correct direction. After a further hour or so and calls to the camp ground, we finally found the camp. Whew! Some other Aussies from Qld were checking in and had also had the same problem finding the camp ground. So, it was not just us.

Zaragoza Municipal campground: N 410 38’ 26.1’’ W0000 56’ 42.6’’  

We set off very early to the Valencia Toyota garage, again in rain. The service chief there took the vehicle out for a long run, but of course there was no noise. So, we headed off to Alicante. As we hit town the noise started again. Thanks to home office, we had the Toyota address in Alicante, so we went directly there. But, it was siesta time! So, we headed off into town to try and find about campgrounds in the area. The Tourist Office was closed for siesta. We approached a policeman to ask directions and he made some calls via his 2 way radio and gave us some general information. After asking some other folks along the way, we managed to find the camp ground. But, of course the office was closed for siesta. As we drove back to town, we found another campground, with an open office so marked that place. It has to be said that we found the Alicante road system really confusing, we got lost multiple times and even the normally reliable GPS found it hard.

We returned to Toyota after siesta and they took the vehicle out for a long run. They said it seemed to be an issue with the hand brake. Both Valencia and Alicante said it was not “dangerous” and importantly there were no issues with the drive train/differential. However, it was now too late for them to look at the brakes, so we returned to the open campground for an excellent night’s sleep.
Jardin Campground; N 38 23.584 W 000 24.911

Thursday 27th; another early start to be at Toyota by 08:00. The good folks there removed the rear tyres, brakes etc and reset everything. Then only charged us for 1 hour labour. Very kind.

We were instructed to be at the ferry terminal 3 hours before departure i.e. at 16:00. With the rain pelting down we went a bit early. The counters opened at 17:00 and there was a general mad rush to get the boarding pass. Back to Africa. It has to be said that the women were ruthless at this and had no qualms about pushing and shoving their way to the front. Ray eventually got the paperwork done whilst Avril looked after the vehicle i.e. rested in the driver’s seat and watched all the activities going on at the terminal.
After boarding, Avril watched the Algerian merchants bringing their goods on board. This was done manually and they made many trips from shore to vessel with big loads. Hard yakka.
So, on board a Greek ferry we departed at 22:00 with promises we would arrive on time (versus scheduled departure at 19:00) from Spain to Algeria.

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