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‘If I had been driving a Toyota or Nissan in France, I would have been alone!’ observes Patrice, as I enjoy the camaraderie and hospitality of fellow Land Rover owners whilst sipping Pastis under the stars in a foreign land.

We’ve had 36 hours of solid rain, floods in Le Gers valleys, it fell as snow in the Pyreneese with subsequent avalanche warnings, floods in Barcelona which washed away streets full of cars and now we are back to a scorching 32 deg. C in the shade.

The logos are now complete on Bumble courtesy of my father, not quite the watercolours he is used too, just plane old Hammerite.

One on each side.

Whilst waiting for our appointment with the Land Rover Doctor in Nimes we took time to see Williams and BAR practising at Nogoro, a favourite Monaco warm-up track as it replicates the tight turns.

Standing opposite the pits where the cars are tweaked to optimum performance.

Jacques Villeneuve putting in blistering lap times.

Sue took the opportunity to spend time with her parents, taking the train down to Valencia while we awaited news on Bumble.

The Journey from the Pyreneese to Nimes was uneventful; Chaka and I arrived at 6 am and slept outside until they opened at 8.30. I quickly located Patrice, my contact there who I had spoken to on the phone and I was eager to get things underway.

Alas the usual Monday morning chaos and incessant ringing of phones was to dampen my enthusiasm for a while. Eventually DJ the Service Manager was free to discuss timing for the proposed work. My threat of camping on the spot until work was finished did nothing more than stress him more. Parts were available but labour was not so easy to come by and to top it off Jean Jacques the proprietor was not too keen on me camping in his garden as the workshop was attached to his house. A call of confirmation to David Ashcroft in England confirmed our plan of action. (Ashcroft Transmissions).

Patrice came to the rescue inviting Chaka and I to stay at his home for the night.

A new, larger capacity oil cooler was sourced from a Diesel specialist with delivery next day. I set about keeping myself busy for the rest of Monday still unsure of when labour would be available.

On the way back to Patrice’s home we stopped at the supermarket for food, buying 20 burgers, did I really look that hungry? It transpired that Patrice was expecting guests for supper.

Patrice is a story in himself. Originally from Belgium, travelled extensively throughout Turkey and Afghanistan in the 70s and 80’s with his trusty Land Rover Series 2A. He lost everything in Belgium at the end of the 80’s, packed up his Land Rover and trailer with tools and books heading South for the sun. He now lives as a caretaker on a plot of land where he has created a comfortable home in a simplistic style smothered in grapevines. His companion was Kim, a 6-year-old Rottweiler cross who had a great time playing with Chaka.

The guests arrived in a Land Rover Series 3, 109″ long wheelbase, was this a coincidence? Christophe immediately crawled under Bumble and had a good poke around. It transpired that Christophe had started out preparing 4×4’s for such events as the Paris Dakar, Baja etc and was now a self employed Fire Brigade Mechanic. He too had a plot of land but full of apricots. He was hoping to sell the first harvest and build a home for his family.

Over a BBQ supper 101’s were discussed in Franglais going on into the night as we enjoyed Pastis under the stars.

As the evening progressed many a word said in jest began to form a plan.

8.30 am Patrice, Christophe and myself arrived at Espace Land with a proposal to overcome the labour problem. By 9 am work was well underway.

Christophe hard at work in the passenger footwell.

Even Chaka played a part.

Another use for a dog – wheel chock.

Work did not finish until 10.30 p.m. when we all sat down for a well-earned beer.

I would like to thank Patrice for his hospitality, Christophe for doing a professional job and our new sponsors Espace Land

for providing parts and allowing us to use their facilities free of charge.

If you ever take your Land Rover on holiday to France take note of this number. Espace Land are unique in France and import a ton of parts each day from the UK.

Bumble sporting the new Automatic transmission oil cooler with fan under the Morelli sticker.

After finishing formalities on Wednesday morning Chaka and I packed up and left for Javea to collect Sue. The day was warming up the further south we drove. We stopped briefly for lunch at Perpignon where I managed to leave the keys in the shop with other thoughts on my mind of ‘what was Chaka demolishing inside Bumble whilst home alone?’ luckily nothing.

At the top of a long ascent to the Spanish border I stopped to change some money to be told that Pesetas were only available on the Spanish side. Just to rub the point in Bumble would not start. I thought the problem had been cured with a robust earth strap between chassis and starter – not the case!

The parking spot read ‘Parking not allowed for more than 20 min!’ Up came the bonnet; out came the centre floor and the Haynes Manual fell open at its usual page. Step by step I went through the fault finding, yet again blame seemed to lay with the solenoid. No amount of banging, tapping, direct voltage was going to get it to budge. There was nothing for it but to change the starter motor. The Haynes Manual reads ‘ Access to the motor is best gained from above.’ Not when fitted into a 101! that requires keyhole surgery. The starter is neatly buried under the turbo and behind all the hoses. Off with the turbo hoses and wiring to gain access to the starter. My socket set was too bulky for the job and my 15-mm spanner was only 5″ long. I tried every angle and every spare limb to get sufficient leverage on the nut – it wasn’t going to budge.

At this point there was a firm knock on the door. (all this work was going on inside the vehicle with no sign of activity from the outside, baring the occasional expletive.) I opened the door to the border guard who suggested it was time to move on. A glance through the doors highlighted my plight and he just left me to it. Chaka, woken from his slumber by the voice, jumped down from his perch.

What no floor!

Unfortunately the floor was leant against the inside with tools and parts precariously perched on the transmission. The more he knocked over the more he struggled until there was nothing left to fall onto the tarmac below. The clanging subsided as the last nut rolled to a standstill 10 feet from Bumble. Could it get any worse? Biting my tongue under a blistering sun I collected the parts bit by bit.

There was nothing more that I could do but put it all back together and phone a garage. One last try, Bumble buzzed into life as if nothing was wrong – that’s it! I’m not stopping the engine until I get to Javea.

We drove on to Barcelona where I phoned Sue (engine still running). I didn’t let on where I was, hoping to surprise Sue earlier than expected. I jotted down the directions, a little confused but full of optimism with my mischievous plan. We continued to Tarragona where I stopped for supper – cuppa soup, filter coffee and a bowl of dog food (not for me of course). Unfortunately the cooker gas ran out when the water was only luke warm. I just about managed to dissolve the soup granules and wandered what ice coffee would taste like?

I tried to drive on but only managed an hour, took an hour rest, tried to drive on again but had to stop after half an hour to retire from 2 am until 6 am.

I arrived in Javea at 9 am, tried every permutation and combination of the directions. 45 min later I found the villa to everyone’s surprise (I’m not sure if it was because I was earlier than expected or because I actually found the villa).

When not driving there seems no end of chores to do. First and most importantly change the starter motor, second fill up the cooking gas bottle then numerous paperwork and admin tasks.

Bumble sat proudly on the drive creating a stir among local residents. (One referred to it as a caravan!!!!).

In the space of 3 days we explored every Fereteria (DIY store), car parts store, sheetmetal workshop, key cutter, autoelectricians and even a swimming pool pump workshop in search of parts. Once assembled we set about our tasks.

Well, not quite all of us. Chaka acclimatising to 30 deg. C.

Whilst out and about we were flagged down by Alan Fone, a Land Rover enthusiast and resident of Javea. He wandered why he hadn’t read about us in his favourite magazine Land Rover World. Well that’s a question for the editor, as we have written to them and told them what we are up to. Alan gave us a warm welcome and invited us for supper on our return from Morocco. Another example of the camaraderie amongst Land Rover owners.

Keyhole surgery – somewhere in here is a starter motor.

The culprit – Oh look it says made in Spain!

A trip to the Bosch agent for a new solenoid – surely they are cheaper in Spain – no! Over £90 for just the solenoid. If anyone from Bosch is reading, all we need is a little solenoid (part no. 9 330 331 006-506 or indeed the complete starter motor part no. 0 001 218 168 Land Rover 300TDI 12V). For the moment we have a replacement unit supplied courtesy of Gumtree Enterprises in our spares pack. I don’t relish the thought of proceeding without a spare though, as there is no other way of starting an automatic diesel!

Sue’s father Eric kindly gave us a cassette deck with 3D sound. It turns out to be one of the first megabass systems, badged by Lucas and dated 1976, the same age as Bumble. A small internal solder repair to the cassette deck where a wire had burnt out brought music to our ears.

Soldering requires the use of hand, mouth and left foot to bring heat, wire and solder together in one place.

The mess gets worse and…….


Chaka keeps an eye on proceedings…..

between grooming sessions……

It’s a dog’s life!

And guard duties……

We now have a car that starts first time (touch wood), stereo cassette deck with 3D woofer (pity we didn’t bring any tapes), water on tap, stainless steel splash back to the cooker, 2 x 2.75 kg gas bottles (no more luke warm cuppa soups) and we have shed a few more surplus items.

On Sunday we took a day out from chores to see some of Javea and the surrounding area. If you look at your atlas, Javea is the most Easterly point of Spain reaching out to Ibiza. Both the North and South extremes are capped with lighthouses where the cool sea breeze brings reprieve from the blazing sun.

Chaka riding shotgun.

Javea from the Northern Lighthouse

Sue and Chaka taking in the view:

Chaka’s new role as a chastity belt!

Too much sun and sea air makes for a hot dog (or mustard as he gets called!):

We are now packing up once again ready for the next leg of the journey to Morocco. We left England 5 weeks ago and are only 3 days drive from Dover. We have missed our deadline of reaching Sudan before the rains start in August. During the rainy season roads become impassable and temperatures reach 55 deg.C, not a place to get stuck. We will see how things go in Morocco with Bumble and decide on a revised schedule.

Keep the feedback coming; it is great receiving messages from friends and new followers. We hope to be at our first Cheshire Home next week and will show you what this is all really about.

I would just like to mention Tim and Clare de Wit, (, whose journey we have been following closely since the end of last year. They have been taking the same route and are currently in Sudan. Much of the information posted on their website has proved very useful in our preparation and will continue to do so as they move further south. We hope to catch up with them in Uganda where they intend to stay and work for a while. They showed that it was possible to travel with a dog and were the confirmation that we needed before committing to Chaka. They have experienced more mechanical upsets than us and are much further behind schedule. We wish them the best of luck and hope they reach Uganda as planned.

It’s Sue’s birthday on Thursday 29th June, (21 again!) if you fancy sending an old fashioned card we hope to be at the Meknes Cheshire Home:

C/o Michael Cloud
Av. des FAR – Rue “A”
Imm Sbai
Appt No 1,

Until the next update, adios (that’s Spanish you know!)

Neil Lawson – expedition team

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