Days 12-14: Our longest journey yet, with no air con

Despite getting our air conditioning serviced before we left the U.K, it broke again within 2 weeks of leaving. Not a good situation just as as the weather starts to warm up, and a heatwave is about to hit. Especially when you have long slogs in the car and a small baby. And you don’t speak the language beyond ordering lunch.

Despite having an extended warranty and breakdown cover (what do you mean no aircon doesn’t count as an emergency?!), Nissan left us to fend for ourselves. We enlisted the help of a Spanish friend (Hi Elena!) to phone the local dealership and try to explain the issue. The one nearest to us had no appointments til the day we left, but the one in Santiago could fit us in when we arrived. Result.

Luckily the day we drove over 200 miles to Santiago de Compostela was fairly overcast, to the point that in some places we were driving through thick mist. The weather changes fast in these parts. These were the types of journeys we were worried about with E, long hours in the car with no choice but to plough on to your destination. With a camper van you could stop in a place en route, get some lunch / air, stretch your legs and make a day of it. But with a caravan, we just had to pull in to roadside garages (there are no real service stations like in the U.K.), eat our packed lunch, do a nappy change on the back seat and get on our way again. 

When babies get bored, they get borrrrrred. I’ve already lost track of the amount of times I’ve sung “5 little monkeys” (the current favorite), played “head, shoulders, knees and toes”, and had to unbuckle to kamikaze dive over the far side of the car seat to retrieve a dummy or Mr Fox. And we’re only 2 weeks in. Nursery rhymes suggestions and car games for 6 month olds on a post card please….

There were a couple of fraught parts to the journey. Firstly was pulling in to the wrong lane at a toll, and having to reverse the caravan back out again, luckily it was quiet and there wasn’t a queue behind us! We’ve subscribed to a French toll chip thing which charges your bank account to avoid the queues in France in the summer. The French website says you can also use it on Spanish tolls, but that’s only for French residents, this exemption only being revealed to us when I phoned customer services to ask why our chip didn’t work. Still at least we now knew before we attempted it at a busy toll. 

Second was a sat nav mishap that sent us down a tiny, winding country lane. We were confronted by a huge lorry loading logs on to the back. He kindly brought in his stabilising legs, but then insisted we had plenty of space to pass him. Except there was a small ditch on the other side of the lane and I was convinced the car and caravan would tip in to it. After getting so close we pulled his rear view mirrors in the wrong direction, he finally got in the cabin and moved the lorry the few centimetres necessary for us to squeeze past. Cheers mate.

Our campsite was the only one in SdC. So unfortunately we couldn’t be put off by the reviews that said it was on a hill. With our caravan being at the max recommended weight for our cars towing capacity (we didn’t think we’d be doing this adventure when we bought it), we’ve avoided steep inclines where possible. The campsite was basically terraced as soon as you turned off the road, with a steep path up to the terraces, and being densely wooded, really not that much space to turn. Excellent. Simon had already tested the handbrake pulling up on the hill as I went to check in and did a reccy of the site to find a spot we might be able to fit the caravan and awning in. We’d only be here 3 nights, but as the car was going in the garage, we couldn’t store all the usual guff we had in it so had to be able to use the awning as a dumping ground. There was one spot suitable, next to the toilets, around a sharp bend. 

After a couple of false starts, Simon got up the hill. I’m not sure if it was the tyres or the clutch I could smell burning, but it’s an experience we’re keen not to repeat in a hurry.

Still, the spot was shady and we got the caravan level-ish. Except I broke the mallet getting the awning pegs in. Note to self- don’t buy a camping mallet from the pound shop. 

It was late in the day so we went to find the bar, only to find a well reviewed posh restaurant in place of the usual burger shack. Some excellent tuna/ steak/ rioja later and the day didn’t seem quite so strenuous.

We were booked in at the Nissan garage at 9am the next morning. Elena had explained the situation to them in Spanish, but I was still nervous about getting the repairs done. A tentative “habla ingles?” at the reception found us a lovely gent from the sales room who perfectly spoke “only a little” English, and made the whole experience much easier. The mechanic said it would be a couple of hours, so our lovely salesman offered to drive us in to town, although I imagine this was to stop us cluttering up the show room (I had just done an in-buggy nappy change). 

Handily we’d seen a Decathlon on the way in so blagged a lift there with the intention of getting a) a new mallet b) some way of fixing the broken awning pole. Mission accomplished on the mallet, but the only tent pole needles came in 30 euro packs of replacement poles. A quick trip over to a hardware store across the road got us not only some stiff wire for tent pole threading, but also a new spirit level for good measure (who knew an £2 eBay spirit level would be wonky?!). 

It turned out the car needed a new part, so we had to bring it in again on the morning we were supposed to be heading on to Vigo. They assured it would only take a couple of hours to fit, so we stuck with the plan and hoped for the best.

I’ll cover off our time in SdC in another post to stop this one getting too long/ convoluted. But in the meantime, the garage recharged our aircon gas to see us through the couple of days we had to wait and the part was replaced in a couple of hours on the day. So round of applause to Careiro Rey Nissan garage and it’s brilliant staff, hopefully also to head office when they (hopefully) refund us the e550 for the work under warranty.

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