2011 – rOaDTriP sOUth, tHe bREAkDoWN edItiON

Drugs, sex, alcohol, traveling .. they all got one thing in common…

It’s addictive and you want more..

I’ve also experienced that.. and with a full time job it’s not easy to get what you want but after a few weeks stalking my boss I ended up with getting a months holiday.. as mentioned you always want more and so there were 2 route options for this years roadtrip .. it would be France-Spain-Portugal-Spain-Morocco-Spain-France with a big tour in Morocco, going to the desert, through the Atlas mountains all the way down south to the coast and then surf our way up north .. or.. it would be .. a future roadtrip ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Because both of us had never been to Morocco and the culture/vibe of this country sounded really interesting, our decision was made.. As usuall we didn’t plan anything except for a rough route and it was not until the week before we left, when a fellow bus friend said

“dude, are you actually insured for Morocco?.. what if you breakdown huh??”

Mmmm.. ย  this gave me quite a bit off stress because I am insured but there’s no recovery company (apart from one i found on the net) that supports getting your vehicle back out of Morocco.. they do have the service for people tho..

A few funny cigars ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย later.. ย  I got more relaxed and we decided to go with a good recovery insurance for us. And if the van would breakdown we would sort it out there.. besides I read on a few forums that they can repair your car often better and cheaper there than in most garages here. (knowing they replace parts rather than repair nowadays)

Anyway, we left heavily loaded on friday august 11th.. not long after we left we nearly experienced an awful accident, we took the access road onto the ‘ring of Antwerp’.. ย ย Just before we were actually on it we were passed by 2 big lorry’s and all of a sudden the van started swerving really badly from left to right ( we were only going 55 mph), it was that bad that if she would swing one more time we would be on our side.. Because of my quick response with countersteering and putting my foot hard on the break we stopped on the hard shoulder and were luckily left with only a shock..

Obviously I took the first exit off back home as I wasn’t driving thousands of miles like this.., it was because I changed my wheel setup specially for this trip and so I fitted some more meaty tyres. But the combo was far from good for my needs.. when changing the wheels I noticed another bolt gone funny.. great.. what a start !! ย It was about 9pm.. , I called Leslie my mechanic and he was stil in his workshop.. it felt like he was waiting untill I was definitely gone.. ๐Ÿ™‚

At the garage we redrilled all the holes of the spacer for bigger longer bolts and it must’ve been about 23pm before we were all set to go.. Aย few hours later we stopped somewhere just after Paris for a well earned night of sleep.

The next day we set route to the boarder of Spain, opposite to last year where we left in the same period we now experienced a lot of traffic jams and long stop/start queues, and as a result we arrived quite late in Hondarriba for our 2nd night..
The next morning we were up early for, guess what, another full day of driving, our goal is to reach beautiful Portugal. Tired but happy we arrived around 9pm near to Coรฏmbra looking for food we ended up in this road pub where there were quite a few people, so we decide to go in and get something nice.. ย  ย Unfortunately .. ย  ย I ordered a burger and fries ( I didn’t understand the rest of the menu and they didn’t understood me either ๐Ÿ˜€ ) and received a piece of meat with congealed fat and cold fries, doubting the quality of my dish but being very hungry I started to chew but after the second bite my mouth and tummy were heavily protesting.. I tried to explain that my dish was far from nice but the communication between us was similar to a dog talking with a fish.. after about 5mins a girl showed up who spoke a bit of English and to shorten a long story my dish was sent back and I ended up with the same piece of meat and new fries that tasted like fat sticks.. ย eeeuwww.. ย after that my appetite was gone!

The next day we were up early, what’d you expect with a happy chap in the hammock. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’d like to do the part we skipped last year, going south from Ericeira on the coast line to Lisboa. My intention was to surf in Ericeira but seeing the rocky sea bottom compared to my level of surfing it was a smart thing to leave as is.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was quite impressive tho, to see the locals at work on a very short wave, and dive back, before crashing on a big rock.. The nice weather was out there but because there’s some kind of a microclimate here you often get a very big low cloud as we experienced… In the late afternoon we found a very cosy field surrounded with bamboo next to the beach that seemed to be quite popular with other campers as well, we very soon got reminded to how crazy the Portuguese are about Old Splitty’s.. ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day we drove a little further where I finally could try out my new board, after a good 45 min fighting the waves I was satisfied and so we set off again, direction Lisbon, on our way we stopped again by the sea so Lowie could have his first ‘swim’ in the cold Atlantic ocean ๐Ÿ™‚ , a bit later we took off again and passed Lisbon on our way to Coast Caparica where we’re going to meet up again with Matt. After a bit of a search we ended up on a very nice and quiet spot on the beach, set light to the BBQ, put Lowie in bed and load our selfs up with some beers .. life is great !! ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day we got a rendez vous in the morning with Antonio, as per coincidence I noticed the day before something wasn’t quite right with the front right brake hose, it seemed that the wheel setup I installed for this trip made the front tyre rub against the brake hose.. And it was very badly damaged, knowing I had driven like this for almost 2300km gave me a very scary feeling.. Luckily Antionio had a few spare ones that he took off another bus the day before and were still in good condition! Problem solved!! After a great lunch we had a good nose around Antonio’s fresh customised Crewcab, took some pics and left to Matt’s. Later on that day we visited Matt’s new place that was still under going some refurbs and had a very nice BBQ in the dark ๐Ÿ˜€ .. Then it was time to say goodby and drive direction Algarve..

In the morning there was still a bit of driving before we entered Tavira, Antonio adviced this place as you can take a tiny ferry which drops you of on a small isle, a bit to touristy for us and I spotted a small place far away with only a few cars, a little bit of searching brought us on a great spot! After a nice chill out day we left of to Moncarapacho where Wintertrail pilots/friends Piet&Katrien invited us on there great Farm in the middle of an orange plantation. It didn’t take long before we noticed the big swimming pool and only a few seconds later we were chill’n in the pool with a cold beer.. ooh yeah!! ๐Ÿ™‚
Later that night we had a nice (but slightly burned, excuses for that ๐Ÿ™‚ ) BBQ and of course some local beers, thx again P&K!! the next day we left but it was not untill the late afternoon as we were waiting for the weather to cool down a little which didn’t happen in the end ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s friday and the plan is to be on the boat tomorrow before lunch time, after a long and very hot drive we pass Sevilla and decide somewhere near Jerez to call it night.

Andalucia, also known for the high rate of suicide, because of the strong wind which is out here continuesly ( people get fed up) , and we experienced it very good!! the whole night it seemed like we were on a storm on the sea, it’s hard to imagine but compare it to 4 strong blokes shaking your van the whole night, even going for a wee in the middle of the night was quite a job ๐Ÿ˜€ ..

Up early, as we had more or less 65 miles to go before we would arrive on the ferry to Morocco, making coffee was impossible because of the wind, quite prominent was the fact that it was still as hot as last night and that didn’t give me a good feeling, knowing we already had a few more stops because Stella was having a hard time with these temperatures.. As we drove on to the highway the very strong wind ( approx 8/9 Bft) was all up front.. not good.. I took it easy but even that was a difficult task with a very heavy highroof bus in these hot conditions. We’re driving about half an hour when we’re passed by a big lorry. I thought this is my shot to go behind it and slipstream so I can spare Stella a bit.. unfortunately the truck is too fast and there’s also a little hill ahead .. As we’re going up hill I can feel Stella’s losing power, I quickly switch into 3rd gear but it’s too late, I look back in the mirror and see nothing else but white smoke .. ouchh.. I turn on the hard shoulder and let her spin for another minute before I switch her off.. I look at Lucy who gives me a sad speachless look and say the party is over… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

After 10 minutes the shock is slightly passed and I try to start the engine again.. it still works.!.. Far away I see an exit (Medina-Sidonia) and decide to slowly run up there and park our selves safely off the highway, I can feel the engine is fu**ed and feels like she’s running on 3 legs. A quick nose in the engine bay tells me nothing apart from the breatherbox that’s covered in oil, so it must’ve been boiling?.. aiaiaia.. not good.. and who said a temp gauge only causes an extra bit of stress in the cab.. ooops..
Calling with my mechanic, he also thinks the combo ‘heavily loaded-wind up front-very hot ‘ has killed the engine and probably burned or melted something inside which also explained the white smoke and the very low oil level..

In the next hour I make a bunch of calls with the question to look for possible VW garages/shops/fellow owners but they seem to be very rare in this area.. I then decide to call the recovery assistance.. it takes a while before we see a recovery truck but he’s picking up another stranded car near us.. The driver makes a sign and I run up to him, a minute or so later i’m speaking on his phone to my car assistance. They explain me it took them a while but they finally found a company and there’s somebody on there way..

We’ve been here now for 5 hours under a baking hot sun in the middle of nowhere (luckily we check our food stock daily and so there’s enough water/food on board). Finally a truck shows up, the driver is softly said an @$$hole that doesn’t care about classic cars and is swearing at my lowered van which causes frustration on both parts.. Eventually he calls another recovery truck which arrives an hour later and with a fair bit of scraping Stella finally gets on the truck.. Another hour later we get dropped off by some poor hotel in a small local town .. 60โ‚ฌ/night??!! ย really..? .. for a room with spots, tears and holes in the sheets and carpet, 1 loo roll for 3 days.. Breakfast is 3โ‚ฌ/pers (additional) and you get a coffee, a few cups of butter and jam and a piece of bread from the day before which has been toasted by the cleaning lady who was just cleaning the floor with her filthy paws.. and.. ย if you want another coffee or toast you pay another 3โ‚ฌ.. long live tourism..? Because it’s saturday we’re stuck here until at least monday.. but..

We are still happy.. ย ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s a small town built on a little hill, in the time we’ve been here we were quite disgusted as we noticed that people here are very disrespectful to everything that involves nature, theres dog poo everywhere, it’s dirty and on top of that they just dump all there sh*t across the street..?? It was terrible when we found dogs chained in remote places with nothing at all, cats that were literally dieing on the street ๐Ÿ˜ฆ and more of this misery .. All very sad and we remain with a very negative feeling about these people.. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

They say “bad luck comes in three” and so i’ve experieced it.. we brake down, a day later I crack the same tooth as on a roadtrip a few years ago and so my face turns into a smiling pirate ๐Ÿ™‚ (captain Toothpick is what Lucy called me), and a bit later I also found out I lost my paper driving license… mmm.. great.. ย but … we were still in a good mood ๐Ÿ™‚

With the engine not working properly anymore we asked ourselves .. what’s next ..?? Since we still had 3 more weeks of holiday there was NO WAY we were going back home.. Meanwhile there were a few options running..
It was quite noticable that for such a small town there where loads of Landrovers and look a likes (Santana’s), since we really like these cars the idea grow that we would buy a ‘landy’, order an A-frame towbar and continue our trip with our “house” being towed :-)But considering it’s illegal in a lot of countries (also Belgium) and the weight limit we pulled out of this idea.. unfortunately.. as after a few conversations in spanish/french/flemish/english sign language we understood they where quite cheap here..

A few calls later we where in contact with some more local people that could potentially help us out. There was one guy in Cadiz who owned a small workshop with a few V-dubs but unfortunately he was out on holiday, a guy in Sevilla who had a classic car rental business but he couldn’t help us out with parts (he did want to rent us a bus tho .. ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and we spoke with someone who was running a business with VW parts in Malaga. This last guy was quite honest on the phone and wanted to help us out, however he did say that if there’s damage inside the engine and parts needed some machining he wouldn’t know any company’s nearby who could sort us out and since we were not sure how long this was going to take, we didn’t want to take that risk since we then had to stay in Malaga for a while which we weren’t looking forward to.. So I called Antonio from Portugal to ask if he didn’t had a spare engine or could source one for us..

A few hours later there was finally some better news, first we got offered a refurbed 1600 DP all new engine but at 2000โ‚ฌ it was too pricey for our budget and a NO GO but a little later a 1300 SP was found which was used in a shop as a spare engine to keep other VW’s going .. It was not cheap but it would get us back on the road with a little help from the flinstones ๐Ÿ˜€

A few calls later we got everything sorted, transport back to Portugal and the engine would be shipped..
The drive back to Lisbon was a nightmare on it’s own.. The guy showed up 5hrs later than we were told with the tiniest recovery vehicle ever with about 1,5 space in the cabin… ?? frustration all over since we count 3 .. ? The driver looked like he had seen better days and eventually we decided that Lucy and Lowie would go in Stella and I would sit in the cab next to the driver. I made it very clear that I wasn’t happy with this situation and that he had to drive extremely careful with my family in the back.. !
Once driving I noticed he was a bit exhausted from the drive up and he also started swerving with eyes half shut, I got pissed and made it very clear that he needed to stop on the first service station or we would end up having major problems in the cab.. Fortunately after a break and some caffeine it went a lot better and so we arrived late and tired in Lisbon..

When we walked into the workshop in the morning they where already busy finishing off an engine in a baywindow pickup before we could start on Stella.. In the late afternoon Matt arranged an appointment at his dentist to sort captain toothpick :-), what a great service, in and out in 35 mins with a brand new tooth, I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.. ๐Ÿ™‚

When we arrived back in the workshop Stella was all ready to go, Antonio moved the 1745cc onto the roofrack and they installed a new carb on the 1300cc as the other one was no good, they also fixed the dent in the rear corner without me asking for it.. (thx again guys!!) After a little test drive it seemed the clutch was no good and so we where back the next day replacing it with a new one, we ended the day with a nice dinner at Matt’s.

Being independent again and Stella all cleaned up we left south again with a fresh start.. Because of the new tiny engine and the heavily loaded bus (now with extra engine on top), we decided to take the highway as little as possible and do the Algarve again, seeing as much as possible off the seaside.. So we took a little ferry in Setubal which took us straight to the start of the algarve coastline, I remembered a conversation with a surfer back in Ericeira and he mentioned Sines so that was out first destination.

Once arrived this was everything we didn’t want .. an industrial area.. but driving a bit further we arrived in Porto Covo where we parked right at the beach again, it didn’t take long before we had a massive row with the ‘neighbours’ because they thought we parked too close (approx 2,5 mtrs!) to their van and took away their view off the ocean,even though everybody was parked like sardines in a tin.. ?? Anyway we didn’t stay here too long and drove a bit further..

Fortunately as only half an hour further we stumbled on this amazing spot, heaven on earth.. you know a spot you wish you could stay and not leave .. We parked ourselves on top of a cliff and had a beautiful view on a tiny bay with a naturally created swimming pool.. really really nice.. We decide to camp out here, obviously the BBQ comes out! The next morning we went straight down like early birds for a nice walk on the beach, Lucy can’t hold herself anylonger and takes a ‘skinny dip’ in the water .:-D ย We enjoyed this amazing place and after a few hours we said goodbye.. We continue our trip on a little local road which all of a sudden becomes a very steep little dusty road with large pot holes, not ideal with my bus but the Wintertrail experience gets us down safe and easy ๐Ÿ™‚ , we pass another very local quiet beach, unfortunately we can’t stop everywhere but then you can’t be disappointed here as a few miles later we run into a few very nice locations again.. We found a very nice remote spot right on a cliff where we spend another lovely evening.. what a beautiful place!!

The next day we decide to drive a fair bit, we’re somewhere south in Portugal and our mission is still Morocco, because our top speed is about 45 mph and 4th gear became a luxury option, every mile seemed twice as long.. we stop at lunch time for a break by the beach near to the very touristy place called Albufeira, it’s hot and Stella needs a rest!
A bit later we move on and try the highway, we manage to use the 4th gear on the downhill parts and top speed reaches 60mph ๐Ÿ˜€ after a long tiring drive we stop in Bonares near Sevilla and find a spot to sleep..

The next day we continue but I don’t want to go through Sevilla by highway as there’s a massive bridge and i’d like to avoid that. We drive through small villages whilst looking for a bridge we end up at a tiny old school ferry boat that brings us to the other side. Eventually we get back on to the motorway and arrive in Chipiona a little after lunch. A bit of searching takes us on to a small dusty road to a local beach, a great location and of course out comes the BBQ again together with some cold beers .. Many bottles later we’re running naked on the beach ๐Ÿ˜€ oh dear, can life be anymore beautiful !!

Because we’re really close to the most southern point of mainland Europe we decide to leave, and a little later we arrive in one of Europe’s most popular kite/windsurf locations, Tarifa. We park right at the beach and see Morocco.. We discuss what we’re going to do, knowing that we have a booked a flight on saturday to fly Lowie back from Malaga to granny in the UK and its Tuesday.. Doesn’t give us much time.. The rest of the day turns out very stressful, we drive over the hill to Algeciras to compare tickets and eventually around 7pm we’re back in Tarifa in a ticket office.. about to pay but our card doesn’t work.. We would have to go back to the centre, take out some cash and return but I had enough off it, we were all tired, it was hot and obviously Lowie was about to jump out of skin so we parked up at the beach and called it a night..

After a good night of sleep we get up and decide to leave Morocco as is, we would only have 2 days to travel and that’s not what we planned, besides we already did a lot of traveling (at very low speed in hot temps) and so a little rest and relax is well earned.. Meanwhile another Belgian bloke parked next to me, Filip, a diehard (kite)surfer who’s here together with his lovely dog Jenni. He plans to stay here for a few months before he goes to Portugal for the winter season (me very envy). The next days are very relaxed and we meet a lot of other likewise travelers and eventually I gave in to kitesurfing. I had always avoided this sport knowing I would like this alot and it being an expensive sport would’nt make life easier ๐Ÿ™‚

On Friday we leave to Malaga, on our way we decide to visit Gibraltar but because of the long queues to get through customs we leave it and head off to the awful busy Costa del Sol. The next day I drop Lucy and Lowie off on the airport and kill my time with giving Stella a proper clean, do some alcohol shopping and a powernap on the filthy beach of Torremolinos. In the evening I pick up Lucy again and we set course back to Tarifa.

In the last week we make a very important decision, not travel home with Stella.. I have the feeling it’s not a good idea for the hard working 1300cc, also the gearbox is whining a lot more and I’m not looking forward to 4 full days of driving at 45 mph.. What follows is a mountain of phone calls, a trip to the local garage and everything is sorted.. a flight for us, and Stella get’s a ride back home!! woop woop ๐Ÿ™‚ this means we can spend our last days here..
In those last days we meet more nice people, we all laugh our heads off with the amount of people taking pictures and think about the idea to put a sign in front of the van that reads “1โ‚ฌ for a picture” so could we gain some money back from the engine.. But we never got that far .. ๐Ÿ˜€ a few BBQ’s and party’s make an end on this amazing adventure..

Friday, they pick up the van and we take the taxi to Malaga where we fly back home, tired but satisfied we arrive in Antwerp, unfortunately without Stella..

It was another great adventure and unfortunately we never made Morocco but nevertheless our trip took another ride and made new friends and we have a new sport we’re going to practice..
I’d like to thank my mechanic Leslie for helping me out on the last minute before we left and keeping up with all my phone calls, Patrick for the advice regarding the recovery service, Arnold & Matt to help me out looking for VW garages and Antonio to get us back on the road!

And al of you who just read the full story .. ย ๐Ÿ˜€

Right time for some pictures!

All packed

A true belgian always takes his beer ๐Ÿ˜€

Mrs busdriver @ work.

1st night stop ย (no that’s not my solar panel ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Hey Dad, it can still go lower..

Where’s the sun.. ?..

Stretching legs.

Aahh the temperature gets better.. ๐Ÿ™‚

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