Features: Gibraltar Revisited
First of all, apologises for the rather spasmodic rate at which our updates are emerging. The last update, 'International Rescue' actually had to be re-written as the first draft was saved onto a floppy disc which turned out to be corrupt and as a result we lost the whole thing. I was none too pleased I can tell you but these things happen from time to time. As a result, it had to be written again. It has also taken us longer than expected to catch up with ourselves but going forward, we will try to update the web-site with features every 10 - 14 days. Back to the story-line;
Our somewhat extended travels in Morocco, 6 weeks in all, gave us a good test run for Bumble and various things came to light both mechanically and structurally that needed to be rectified before the next leg of our trip. Perhaps the most important being another fan to cool the oil. This had been one of our main concerns in Morocco particularly with temperatures up in the late 40's early 50's, when climbing the anti-atlas and middle-atlas mountain ranges, both the transmission oil and the engine oil temperatures were worryingly high. Another fan was absolutely essential if we were to avoid permanent damage - if that hadn't been done already - and we knew a garage in Gibraltar who may have just the thing. What we really needed was larger capacity oil coolers for the transmission and additional fans on the radiator to help cooling at low speed.
That night, our usual parking spot at 'the Point' beckoned and we settled down to a lovely cool night with high winds. Bliss! Was it really me who little more than 3 months ago had said that I couldn't wait to get into hotter climes? I take it all back. However, I am one of the unfortunate people who seems to be constantly cold and I find it difficult to go to sleep unless I have something with a bit of weight to wrap around myself ie: a sleeping bag or a duvet. In Morocco, I would religiously get my (-)15 degrees sleeping bag out each night and wrap myself in it despite the (+)40 degrees centigrade heat. Neil thought I was absolutely bonkers as he lay in a pool of perspiration in his wafer thin cotton liner. I have to admit that even I, who must have the coldest feet in Britain, felt just a tad too hot and so it was great to get back to temperatures in the late 20's - at night - and I could get the full benefit of my Wiggy's sleeping bag. Hey, so I am a creature of comfort. Another thing I have to have with me is my pillow. Neil on the other hand is quite happy with a small camping pillow. I read in Chris Scotts book, ' Sahara Overland' that if at all possible take a duvet and a decent pillow as a good nights sleep is essential when you are travelling long distances. Hear, hear, I say. I couldn't agree more.
Anyway, I digress. After a good nights sleep we awoke feeling a little rejuvenated. Even Chaka was beginning to calm down in the cooler temperatures. Well, cooler by Moroccan standards. It was still in the high 20's and far more humid than Morocco but quite frankly anything was better than the temperatures we had been experiencing over the previous 6 weeks. After the problems we had had with the transmission and engine oils getting uncomfortably hot, we needed to check the oils for any permanent damage. Neil donned his white overalls - very fetching - and was just checking the levels when a chap driving a Land Rover 90 pulled alongside us. We got chatting and discovered that each year he and a group of colleagues would drive down to the Western Sahara for 2 weeks - all that their wives would allow - and distribute clothes, pens etc to the needy. It gave them a chance to do a bit of off-roading and some goodwill work into the bargain. As a consequence, he knew Morocco quite well and we spent 15 mins or so exchanging stories and experiences. We asked if he could recommend a local garage who could fit a new oil- filter and do an oil change and immediately he got on his mobile phone, made a call and 10mins later a chap arrived on a motor-bike and escorted us to his garage. The chap also had a 1 year old German Shepherd called Major and he and Chaka instantly became friends, chasing around the garage like mad things, chasing sticks, knocking oil cans over - Major skidded into one and got absolutely covered in thick black oil which resulted in him standing in front of the hose pipe whilst his owner sprayed him down, he obviously enjoyed this but Chaka was not so sure. Neil and I were really pleased that they got on so well as Chaka's attitude towards other dogs had definitely changed since getting him back. He wasn't aggressive towards them, but he also wasn't as laid back as he used to be. By the gash on his head, we guessed he had been in some sort of fight and I think he was still in a defensive frame of mind.
With the filter fitted and oil changed, we set off into town to buy the short wave radio we had talked about. As we walked down the main street, we saw the other Rottweiler again being walked by his owner. The 2 dogs spotted each other straight away and by the time their paths crossed, there was a very nasty bout of growling, barking and pulling on the leads. I pulled Chaka one way and the guy pulled his Rottie the other. What had happened to my sweet little dog?
I needed to get a few things and so left Neil and Chaka sitting on a bench. By the time I came back a young couple had sat next to them and Chaka was lying flat out across the ladies feet. That was my sweet little dog, he just needed time to settle himself in again. It was so easy for us to feel as though he had never been away, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that he had been through a pretty awful ordeal.
We also needed to get 2 fans for the radiator and headed out Gibraltar's largest scrap-yard. They remembered us from 7 weeks ago and even had an oil cooler put to one side. Based on our experiences in Morocco, this would still be insufficient, so declined, leaving instead with 2 fans from a Fiat Uno for the radiator.
The following day we noticed that the oil was leaking and headed back to the garage to get it sorted out. .Major greeted us and he and Chaka enjoyed another fun-packed hour racing around. The chap told us that Major had been naughty that morning and as a punishment had made him sit on a table holding a milk carton for 45mins. Neil and I looked at Chaka and then at each other. No words were needed, we were both thinking the same thing. If we lived to be 110 yrs of age, we would never see the day when Chaka would sit still for 45mins, holding a milk carton as a punishment. The prospect was almost comical.
Oil filter sorted out - it was actually punctured - we were invited to join him for a cup of coffee and discovered that he was Moroccan and had moved to Gibraltar 13 years ago. We chatted for a while, said our goodbyes and headed out of Gibraltar en route to my parents in Javea for a few days before heading back to France to Neil's parents and then on to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan……….
Following the coast road to my parents, we had to pass through Malaga and we had read in a newspaper that they were celebrating their Summer Fiesta and Antonio Banderas was setting off the fire-works at mid-night. Yes, I said Antonio Banderas! We thought we would give it a try as the fireworks at Spanish Fiestas are quite spectacular and Antonio Banderas isn't bad either. We made good headway until we reached Estepona, where a huge traffic jam suddenly took hold. We spent around two and a half hours moving at a snails pace and we debated whether everyone was heading for Malaga to see Antonio, but as we reached an island on the out-skirts of Malaga the traffic suddenly dispersed, for no apparent reason and we cruised into the centre. It was absolute mayhem, people, cars and mope-heads everywhere. We followed the only route possible towards the port - where the fireworks were due to be set off - and sure enough in traditional Spanish style they were about half an hour late - but no Antonio! He was obviously perched on some tall building somewhere in the clutches of Melanie Griffiths where only those in spitting distance could see him. Oh well, his loss.
As soon as the last firework had exploded, we set off to try and beat the rush. I have never seen so many mope-heads in all my life, dodging in and out of traffic with the teenagers of Malaga in all their finery perched on the back. On our way down the same coast en route to Morocco, 6 weeks earlier, we had spent the night on a beach along with hoards of other campers. Feeling tired, it was now around 1.30am, we found the same stretch of beach and set up camp for the night.
We awoke the following day to another hot sunny day on the Costa del Sol, and got talking to 2 French guys parked alongside us in a car. Rather than try to have a sit down all over flannel wash in a confined space, hoping that nobody decides to peer through the windscreen at the same time, they do what most forward thinking Europeans do, they pick up their towel, shower gel and shampoo and head for the nearest beach shower. OK, so they are supposed to be for washing the salt off, after you've had a swim, but who cares. It's free and it's a shower!
The 2 guys had been travelling around Morocco for 3 weeks in a Peugeot, their Land Rover having broken down and left in Perpignon. They had actually been driving past that morning, spotted the 101 and pulled over to have a closer look. The camaraderie between Land Rover owners never fails to amaze me. I feel as though we should have a special signal like a hand-shake under your right leg or with one arm behind your back, so that we know we 'belong'. Being relatively new to the world of Land Rovers, well 2 years, I find it fascinating to listen in on conversations between fellow enthusiasts and I never thought I would hear the day when I proudly said that my rear differential had blown! But I did, loud and clear.
After a bite to eat and my obligatory coffee at a nearby beach café, we carried on the long drive back to Javea, finally reaching my parents at around 11.30pm that night.
After a good nights sleep and a 'ooh, you look thin, haven't you been eating properly' from my mother, we settled down to a few days of good food and no driving. Well, a week and a half actually, where does the time go? We caught up on some paperwork, correspondence and 'e' mails and enjoyed a taste of what ex-pats get up to on the Costs Blanca;
Is that legal?
Our next port of call was the Cheshire Home in Barcelona and we waved goodbye to my parents and headed off.
Around 30km out-side Barcelona, we started to look for a place to spend the night. We spotted a beach with numerous camper-vans dotted about, found a suitable pitch and parked Bumble. The next urgent requirement was to find a loo. This is something often overlooked in travel books. Its all well and good giving directions to the local art galleries, museums, restaurants and public transport, but where are the loos? Also, as any female traveller will confirm, it is not quite as easy for us girls to find a secluded area as it is for the boys. In Meknes, the public toilet was a wall down one side of a small park. A bit unfortunate if you wanted to spend a quiet evening on the park bench watching the locals go about their business - excuse the pun! Anyway, Neil dived off into some bushes whilst I scanned the immediate area for a suitable location. Spotting a possible site, I trotted off only to be confronted with what must have been the largest public toilet in Europe - if you catch my drift - obviously half the Costa Blanca had had the same idea. Pretty damn revolting I can tell you but when needs must and all that!
Suitably relieved, our thoughts moved on to other important matters such as supper and as I sat preparing the food, a police car pulled alongside informing us that we couldn't stay there the night. Blast, that would mean a further drive along the coast and as we were nearing Barcelona, the prospect of finding another public beach that you could camp at was pretty slim. After searching without joy, we agreed to drive into the centre of Barcelona and try to find a parking space for the night. As we drove through, we picked up signs for the Marina and thought we would give it a go. It turned out that our 'camper-van' instincts had led us to 'camper-van' city. Rows of them lined the parking spaces adjacent to the Marina and we guessed this was the place to be. We found a parking space and started to get the bed out in the back of Bumble when we heard a noise at the rear of the camper-van parked next to us. We looked out of the window and there stood 3 young boys trying to take the bicycles off the back off the camper. I quickly told Neil to open the side door, Chaka poked his head out and proceeded to give them the fright of their lives. Apparently, this sort of petty crime it quite common in Barcelona and whilst relating the events to the young couple in the van the following morning, they said that it was not the first time it had happened and they were so sick and tired of it, they were heading home. We were also told by a passing policeman that we could only park there for 3 nights - he probably thought he was telling us bad news, but we were surprised that we could stay there at all and for free.