Sunday, 11 November 2007

Adventures of a Little Megane

Our first venture out of Siurana in the car turned out to be more adventurous than we bargained for. Four of us (me, Caroline, Dave and Keith) headed for Margalef, a beautiful quiet valley with more climbing than you can shake a clipstick at. We found the right crags and had a great day’s climbing on pocketed conglomerate. I think the highlight of the day for me was onsighting 6b again, even though my feet came flying off at the top. [As an aside, I’m finding that the real sense of progress and improvement for me is coming not from climbing harder grades but from keeping my cool on routes that are well within my limit. I am still struggling to fight the panic that wells up when I’m standing above the bolts and can´t see the next hold. If I can keep that under control the route is all the more enjoyable. Progress is much slower than I had anticipated and hoped, but at last there is progress.]

Having watched Dave redpointing 8b+ with impressive smoothness, we headed back to the car in the twighlight. It started fine, but did it’s usual jerky stuff until it warmed up....except it didn’t warm up and the jerkiness didn’t go away. We drove all the way back to Siurana (which is about 25 miles of roads akin to Lakeland passes – Hardknott springs to mind) in second and third gear and a state of heightened anxiety. No phone signal, no laybys, no light, no people, no houses. This truly felt like the middle of nowhere. The car was "chugging" and losing power and I was increasingly worried. The car has become like my home, even though I’m not living in it. It’s the one bit of stability and continuity as we have moved around. The fact that it was sick was very unsettling.

Fortunately, we had invested a considerable sum of money in AA European Breakdown Cover. It seemed extortionate at £175 for a year (which we needed because our trip is more than 90 days), but now that I’ve had to use it, it seems like a bargain! The call centre was very helpful (once they had finished freaking me out by suggesting our cover was invalid because we were staying out longer than 90 days – she didn’t see that we had "long stay" written on the policy!). They arranged to tow the car from here to the Renault garage in Reus.

After a Spanish 45 minutes (aka 90 mins) the car was loaded onto the back of a tow truck by a greasy Spanish truck driver in expensive (looking) shades. Keith very kindly came with me and the car since he speaks pretty good Spanish and I don’t. The drive down from Siurana in a tow truck was almost as scary as the 13 hour bus ride I once took from the mountains in Chachapoyas at 3000m to Trujillo on the coast, in Peru. The driver spent more time looking at his two mobile phones than at the road. I don’t know which I was more worried about: us or the car. Fortunately, he wasn’t going very fast.

The two signs inside the tow truck left us in no doubt what kind of truck driver we were dealing with. My only regret is that I didn't get a picture of the man himself.... I'll leave that to your imagination.

Watching the Renault people manoeuvre my car inside the garage was torture. For starters the chap kept climbing into the wrong side of it (since it’s a right hand drive rather than left hand drive - at least he found it as funny as we did). The problem was simple – a busted spark plug coil – and took less than two hours to fix, and we were able to drive back to Siurana ourselves. The car is now fine, and it was cheaper to fix here than it would have been at home. An epic day, which I don’t wish to repeat. Many thanks to Keith whose translation skills were invaluable and a huge comfort. Cheers Keith!

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