Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Shiver Me Timbers

A common feature of my life on the road is the unexpected - read on!
After a couple of nights at Tarifa sorting out the van, laundry, emails, finance and paperwork I headed off as planned to Portugal starting with a vias verde west of Sevilla, one of many that exist on former railway lines across Spain.
On arrival in Portugal I undertook my routine check of the van and was slightly alarmed to find the oil level off the dipstick - a first in 8 years of ownership and 150,000 miles. I topped up and ran the engine for a while which seemed to confirm that it was not pouring out so sat down and considered my options. 
My original return date would have put me back in the UK just before the Easter break and only a fortnight before a planned trip to Scotland and thus I decided to head home slowly and get the issue resolved with plenty of time to spare. Thus at 9am on the Monday morning I began a series of steadily increasing stages, stopping to check the level each time and crossing over to France without incident late that evening. After a  few hours kip in an aire I headed north on the peages to Le Havre - high top vans pay more than cars so I will avoid them in future - but at least I arrived in time to get that evening's ferry to Portsmouth after a 1200 mile drive without incident.
After a brief stay in Coventry to drop off some kit I enjoyed an energetic badminton session in Brecon before heading to Bristol for an investigation of the oil issues. This turned out to be a failed vacuum pump and arrangements were made to replace it, change the cambelt and renew some anti-roll bar bushes that had led to various front end clunkings since the Kimberley. My leisure battery was also tired after 4 years excellent service so I sourced and fitted a replacement and traced a fault with the split charging system that should ensure it remains in tip top condition for further adventures.
A good curry on Saturday night with the remnants of the caving club was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion amusingly these days we seem more pre-occupied with reading glasses than beer glasses and no one was hoping for a lock in!
Work on the van has again been undertaken by Chris at the excellent  PC Motors in Bristol (01179 9424746 - ask for Dave) and all seems well once more. I think my premature return was justified as the linguistic challenges of Portugal or Spain would have been substantial and I had the generous hospitality and comfortable home of friends in Bristol to stave off the cold snap that marked my return to the UK : -4/5 degrees compared to plus 25-30 a fortnight ago......
So over the next couple of weeks I will finalise plans for this summer - Scandinavia looks the most likely option  which will be a marked contrast to Morocco but needs to be visited in the summer months. Not a cheap destination by any means and there are currently no direct ferries so a route via Denmark will need to be factored in. Prior to that I head to Scotland in early April with the length of my stay dependent on the waiting time for an investigation of my left knee that despite being largely rested for almost 2 months is still a source of concern.
Unusually no new photos since leaving Morocco but try this link anyway as a blast to the past and I imagine that Spotty Spot will return to duty as I head north after Easter.