Monday 6th January – Parque Biologica Gaia (Porto) to Tui (Spain) (88 Miles)
Although we were pretty well sheltered with Eight foot high hedges to the sides of the pitch and surrounded by woodland, the strong wind still managed to cause ‘Big Momma’ an uneasy night, compared to Figueira de Foz though this was a mere gentle sway ! Neither of us slept very well, was it because it was the night before moving on day ? Or perhaps it was those ‘dark forces‘ at work again ? Neither of us were too happy at the thought of a long detour to get around Porto but neither did I feel comfortable with the prospect of having to drive through Porto !! It was a very long and restless night !!
We awoke to the wind hurling the rain onto the roof, not good when there is an external ‘Silver Screen’ to remove and pack away, the EHU cable to unplug, rewind and stow, reverse off levelling blocks before stowing them and then the ‘Motorhome Services’ to deal with, it was going to be a wet start to the day ! However, the atrocious weather had made our minds up, we were not going to risk taking a long detour on what we just knew would be ‘bumpy’, ‘lumpy’, ‘winding’ and flooded ‘river roads’, No ! We would take the shorter and quicker route through Porto, Shazza could close her eyes and say several hundred ‘Hail Mary’s’ and I would just ‘pray’ for yet another ‘miracle’, I had already used up my quota on this trip already but you just never know, those mystic forces may show a bit of leniency if I am lucky !! We both worried plenty last night so perhaps those ‘dark forces‘ will stay away as well ? We paid for our three nights stay and waved goodbye to ‘Parque Biologico Gaia‘.
Within a couple of minutes of leaving the Parque we were on the Motorway, but no ‘toll booths’ or ‘ticket machines’, was this a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing ? The views over the Porto rooftops down onto the river would have been absolutely amazing on another day, but today the rain was so heavy that there was just a heavy mist so any decent view was obscured, then of course there was the little matter of my eyes being transfixed on the road ahead, as well as the interesting ‘come swerve with me’ driving techniques being played out to the front, both sides and rear of ‘Big Momma’ !! However, we cleared Porto with no problems whatsoever and so re-programmed ‘Snoopy’ to get us off the Motorway at the earliest opportunity, which she did and fortunately for us that just happened to be the exit ‘just before’ the ‘toll booths’ !! Thank you ‘Mystic Forces‘ and ‘Dark Forces‘ I think that we are well and truly in debt to you both, just please do not ask for re-payment too soon !!
‘Snoopy’ then returned us to our continuing ‘mystery tour’ through scenic, and sometimes not so scenic’ villages and towns along the ‘lumpy’, ‘bumpy’ roads. One moment we were down amongst the rain-sodden roads and pavements the next we were high up amongst the mist-shrouded forested roads with their multiple hair pin bends, both on the ascent and the descent. Much of the scenery reminded us of Austria, Switzerland and Bavaria, it was a very pleasant drive, even in the rain which had eased considerably and was now much more of a stop, start drizzly affair.
We were now beginning to wend our way towards the Northern Spanish Coast, it was pointless staying on the West Coast as the weather was not showing any sign of improving, whereas the Northern Coast, surprisingly, was still quite warm with daytime temperatures between 14-16 degrees(c). Today though our destination was the inland Spanish town of ‘Tui‘, which lay just across the border with Portugal on the ‘Rio Minho‘ (River). Our ‘Aires’ guide reflected that there was a small ‘free’ Aire on the edge of the town and although it had all the essential facilities, we didn’t require any as we had already done the essentials prior to leaving Porto, but it would do for at least a night stop, perhaps more if the town had something worth staying for. We realised that something that we had lost when we entered Portugal many weeks ago, we would now have to gain again, No ! not our weight but ‘one hour’ !! Yes! The clocks go forward one hour, but at least now we would have daylight until 7pm !
‘Snoopy’, as usual, delivered us right to the ‘Aire’, it was, as the guide had stated, right on the edge of town and there was already one small ‘Spanish’ registered Motorhome parked up.
We had just got settled when Shazza announced that the ‘water pump’ was not working !! “It was working fine this morning” I said, “Well it’s not working now” she replied. So I went through the usual checks, Power Button is ‘On’, Water Pump Button is ‘On’, turn on taps in galley, washroom and then the shower, ‘No Water’ coming out, no sound of pump motor !! Next ! The Fuse, there were two ? Water Pump 1 and Water Pump 2 !! I didn’t know I had two ‘Water Pumps’ ? Anyway both fuses checked and both okay. Has to be the water pump motor then. Now, those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning will know that I ‘used’ to be a ‘compulsive planner’, well thank goodness that I was because I just happened to purchase, before we left UK, a spare water pump !! You will also recall that my DIY skills are ‘legendary’, for all the wrong reasons, and as for DIY and Plumbing !! Remember the ‘overflow’ on the water tank in the house ? So, I had two choices, remove the ‘knackered’ water pump myself and replace with ‘new’ water pump, how hard can that be ? The alternative was to find a ‘Spanish’ plumber who knew about water pumps in Motorhomes and who didn’t say ‘Mañana’ (tomorrow). But here was a chance for me to recover some rather lacking DIY credibility ! and who knows, if I get this right then ‘Big Momma’ could be ‘rockin tonight’ and it won’t be due to the wind, if you get my drift ?
Now wouldn’t it be handy if the water pump were to be located in a handy cupboard that you could easily get to ? Our’s was located under the bed on the back wall, under the bed where all our spare clothes and other worldly goods just happened to be stored, so first job, re-locate said items to front of van ! Now, for those of you who are not familiar with a ‘Island Bed’, it has storage underneath and to get to it you lift the bottom of the bed and it tilts up on retaining arms. But it only lifts up so high, so first you have to climb over the frame of the bed whilst at the same time crouching underneath the slatted bed frame and mattress, once inside there is not a lot of ‘elbow room’. I needed to see how the ‘knackered pump’ was wired and fitted to the wall before attempting to remove it and fit the ‘New pump’. Next problem, ‘New Pump’ did not have the ‘Push On’ connectors ! “Have you got any” ? Shazza asked. I replied, rather smugly “Do you remember when I was clearing out the garage and said that I may need these, and I may need those, well, I brought some of ‘those’ “. So, push on connectors fitted, “Knackered Pump” off, “New Pump” on, hey presto job done !! I asked Shazza to try it, nothing happened ! “Have you tried it” I asked from my crouched position under the bed, “Yes” my beloved responded. “Well I never heard you try the tap” I replied, then I heard her chuckle “Oh” she said, “I thought you meant to turn the water pump button on” !! She then turned on the tap and hey presto…….nothing !! To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, I had done everything right, I just re-connected in the reverse order that I had disconnected, it should have worked !! I came out from under the bed and checked the taps myself, nothing !! I then started to go through the menu list on the ‘Sargant Control Panel’ and that’s when I noticed that the water pump was set to ‘external’ when it should have been set to ‘internal’. I changed the setting and ‘Eureka’ !! we heard the gentle sound of the pump whirring, we turned on the tap in the galley and water flowed. So, the original pump was not ‘Knackered’ at all !! Three positive things came out of this little exercise, first – check the settings on the control panel before deconstructing the Motor Home, second – I now know that I can actually change the water pump, if ever it may be required in the future and third – although the original water pump wasn’t ‘knackered’ it was running very noisy, the new one is merely a gentle ‘whir’.
So, feeling quite flushed with success, and seeing that my ‘holdall’ full of spare and more ‘autumnal’ clothing, was now out from its storage, I decided that as the weather was now demanding clothing of a warmer nature, it would be an opportunity to now ‘stow’ the Tee-shirts, shorts and Flip-flops and bring out the warmer shirts and woolly pullovers. So that was another good job done and we set about returning and re-organising the under bed storage items, what a productive afternoon we were having ! I was having a celebratory cigarette stood at the door of the van, I just happened to be looking over the ‘Rio Minho‘ onto a Portuguese town on the opposite bank and said to Shazza, “This should be interesting”‘ in a tongue in cheek fashion, “What should” ? She asked quizzically. “Well, we are one hour ahead here in Spain, so it will get dark over there in Portugal at 6pm but it won’t get dark here until 7pm”, and to my utter amazement she replied “Oh yes, that’ll be good to watch” !!!! Then she realised……………I somehow think that the van will no longer be ‘a rockin’ tonight after all !!
After a fairly longish drive in not so good driving conditions, followed by a little more activity than was scheduled, I was ready to put my feet up with a nice hot mug of coffee and just watch the world go by. Shazza on the other hand wanted to explore and as she was happy to do this alone, she put her coat on, for although it was warm and currently dry, the grey foreboding clouds warned that they could unleash their watery cargo again at any time, then off she went on a solo ‘Shazza Expedition‘. She returned some time later, she had walked first in one direction and then walked in the opposite direction but reported that there really was nothing much to see or do here. So we decided that a ‘night halt’ only it would be, tomorrow we would continue our Northerly trek to pastures new on what we knew would be much better ‘Spanish’ roads.
After eating our evening meal and then doing the ‘pots’ we settled down for a quiet night. Shazza was already thinking about our impending return to the UK and where we could stop once off the Ferry at Portsmouth. We had three days to get up to Doncaster so their was no rush, but as the Ferry didn’t arrive until 3pm (which of course means putting our clocks back by one hour again !), by the time we disembarked and followed the queue of traffic through the Immigration Control point we would need to be looking for an overnighter within no more than a two-hour drive. So she sat with the UK Sites books to see if their was anything on our route North. This trip has had an effect on us, in lots of different ways but another one we have just been enlightened with is our ‘former’ reliance on Campsites with full facilities. Prior to this big adventure, whenever we went on holiday in the van, our ‘Campsites’, for we had never heard or knew about ‘Aires’ or ‘Wild Camping’ in those days, they needed to have had full facilities, certainly EHU, washroom with Hot and Cold water, English style toilets, large pitch, swimming pool or close to a beach or lake etc. but now we just need a place to park up, everything else we can cater for ourselves thank you very much !!