Trials & tribulations

It is fair to say that our first couple of days in Portugal haven’t quite gone as hoped.

Plans to head to the coast on Wednesday were scuppered when Hans refused to start. A couple of calls to our insurers and European breakdown people and help was soon on its way. So nice to be able to make the call from our mobile and then retreat to the back of the van, turn the heating back on (Guarda isn’t known as the coldest place in Portugal for nothing) and make a cup of tea. It brought back memories of arriving in Florence late one evening on our 1997 trip and the radiator pipe decided to burst as we pulled over to check our map. Our first job was to work out where to buy a phonecard as the public phones didn’t take coins – we then sat in the freezing cold in the car, waiting for breakdown to arrive. Much more civilised in 2011!

Anyway, the breakdown guys got us started but indicated (through their limited English, our limited Portuguese and the international language of mime) that more needed to be done if we had a hope of starting again, so they told us to follow them back to their workshop. Once there, the English-speaking boss told us that the glowplugs were shot – Thursday was a public holiday so they were going to replace them straight away so we could get on the road. Fantastic!

They also tell us that they think there is a problem with the starter motor too – they can’t do that unless we are prepared to hang around for a couple of days, but we should get it looked at. Not so fantastic. And they have a quick look at the leisure battery for us, which doesn’t seem to be charging very well – again, they don’t have time to do a proper job, but they think it is no longer charging from hookup or the alternator which means it is relying purely on the solar panel. So we need to get the battery charger looked at too. Not at all fantastic.

By the time we are finished at the workshop, it is too late to move on so we headed back to the campsite feeling a bit miserable. A hot meal, a couple of games of Mapominoes and several glasses of wine cheered us up no end.

Yesterday, we decided to head for the coast anyway – Guarda was just too cold and, if we were going to break down again, we wanted to do it somewhere a bit warmer. The drive, again, was incredible. The road was virtually empty, possibly because of the public holiday and wound around and between endless mountains.

Again, where is everybody?

We headed for a campsite just outside Aveiro, a canal town that we want to explore and big enough for us to be able to find a mechanic. Everything we had read about the campsite suggested that it should be open, but it was most definitely closed. The campsite further down the road looked like a shanty town. Never mind – there is an aire in Aveiro! Except it has been fenced off and turned into a recycling station. Right, running out of options now. We head for another aire at Pardilho about 40 minutes north of Aveiro – it doesn’t have a great write up in our book, but it only costs €2 so must be worth a look. On the way, we inadvertently stray onto a toll road, so now have to work out how to pay the toll (which is recorded electronically) through the Portuguese post office website – and you’ve guessed it, the instructions are in Portuguese.

On the way, I try to call Vodafone about some odd charges on my bill – their automated system cuts me off 4 times, costing me 75p each time, until I finally get through to someone and get it sorted. Little things like that don’t stress me and make me want to strangle someone at all. Not at all.

The aire turns out to be great – on the outskirts of the village, next to a little park and on the edge of huge marshes/tidal mudflats with loads of birdlife, none of which we can identify. There is a tiny harbour with fishing boats and a bar/cafe where we pay our €2 and get the key to the water tap and electricity sockets. Electricity? The book said nothing about electricity – bonus! We visit the cafe for a coffee and a pastéis de belém, the Portuguese custard tart speciality. Delicious and only £3.40 for the two of us. We go for a walk – it is still about 16C – are treated to a magnificent sunset and then settle down for the night.

And then the rain starts.



The scenery is amazing. Sorry about Hans’ niggles. They are only niggles though in the scheme of things. And that sunset was worth it.

Categories: Hans, Portugal | Leave a comment

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