Deep in the Moroccan Sahara bordering Algiers

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Newsletter December 2002

Around the Coast of Spain.
Having spent a couple of weeks at El Raco Camping, Benidorm and it was time to move on.  We headed down the East coast of Spain to Albir, where we met a German with a rather large, bull nosed Mercedes 911 4X4 ex-military truck. It all seemed rather cumbersome for the tarmac roads of Spain, but he had taken the truck to some unusual places.  Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Jordan, Syria and Morocco.  When I discovered that he was a retired commercial airline pilot, I nick named him ‘Jumbo.’  Jumbo spoke very good English and told us that he was on his way to Morocco, for the 7th time!  As we sat talking about our similar travels, Alan fished in the Mediterranean Sea. His bait an old chicken carcass, was placed on the rock behind him.  As I sat talking to Jumbo, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Alan’s bait starting to edge its way over the rocks! I looked closer and saw a possy of the tiniest mice I’ve seen, trying with all their might to drag the bits of chicken away. Jumbo thought it hilarious.
In Campello, we parked up on the beach alongside the fishing port, beside many other motorhomes, Dutch, German and French.  It was a lovely spot with and interesting fish market every evening, selling squid, moray eels, crabs and nice looking fish.
Our next stop over heading South along the mountainous coast line of Andalusia was Mojacar, named from the ancient hill village which lies a couple of kilometres back from the sea.  Mojacar must be one of the least spoilt pieces of coast line in Spain which in the 1960’s was virtually a ghost town. However, Mojacar’s fortunes were turned around when a very nice mayor offered free land to anyone willing to build within a year! The bid attracted a lot of artists, but now Mojacar is a popular package destination with a difference.  It has kept its quaint original Spanish looks, without a high rise hotel or tat shop in sight.   We headed for one of the beaches and bumped into Mr Know-it-all, who lived in a large American camper.  What Mr Know-it-all didn’t know, wasn’t worth knowing and launched straight into his ‘know-it-all routine. ‘Garages won’t allow you to use their water for your tanks and if you are caught working here, the Spanish police will fine you £2,000, confiscate your vehicle and send you home.  In Morocco they keep you waiting 2 hours at the customs and if you don’t have motor insurance they refuse to let you in. You have to bribe them!’  And so he prattled on, launching into some elaborate scheme about how to bribe the customs official, waffling on about leaving a conspicuous packet of cigarettes on the table with, (and this is most important) one sticking out of the packet!  We had no intention of bribing anyone and we tried to tell him that we could handle ourselves, that we had driven through Asia and back without the need for any skullduggery. But our knowledge was falling on deaf ears.  As he waffled on I noticed in the distance behind him a Dutchman taking his cat for a walk on the beach.  On reaching a chosen spot the cat urgently dug a hole, pooped and scooped the sand from all directions in order to meticulously cover his dirty deed.  Cats are very funny when they do this and I started giggling, only to be met with a very icy stare from Mr Know-it-all. ‘ The Gendarmes often do vehicle stop checks in this area looking for Al Khaida terrorists!’  He’d lost the plot and it was time to find another beach. 
Just outside Mojacar we found a very large beach with 30 motorhomes parked up.  Bitsa made it 31!  We saw yet another beautiful sunset and even saw Venus shining bright in the morning sky.  Living away from the rat-race you certainly get more attuned with nature.  If only we realized just how much we depend on nature in order to exist, we just might change the world for the better.
The Breakdown.
From Mojacar we drove towards Almeria, up some steep hills through a natural park.  Half way up a rather steep hill in second gear doing only 25mph, there was a loud expensive sounding metal pop from the rear left of Bitsa and she ground to a halt!  I thought it was a puncture, but on closer inspection Alan noticed that the rear stub axle had sheered in two with the wheel only being held in place by the brake shoes inside the drum.  Bitsa could NOT be towed, but would have to be lifted onto a recovery truck.  We didn’t have any breakdown cover and we were in the middle of nowhere. Even though both warning triangles were in the road, many Spanish cars passed us including 9 other foreign motorhomes, but not one of them stopped to see if we needed any help.  Finally an Englishman in a Spanish plated Audi stopped.  He took Alan back some 6 miles to the nearest town and telephoned for a crane to rescue us.  
Eventually a 7½ ton extending flatbed recovery truck arrived.  With no common language between us and the driver, we were reduced to frantic hand signals and pointing.  I don’t know about having the same currency throughout Europe, the same language would be of far more use!  Bista could not be towed, so she was winched onto the flatbed that was barely wide enough. One back wheel ended up being half on and half off the flatbed and caused a few raised heartbeats.  If the wheel was to become dislodged we were in deep trouble. Alan put his jack handle through the center of the wheel and stub axle, hoping that if it did move, the jack handle would at least hold the wheel upright and the chassis off the ground. The recovery truck had sunk to one side under the unevenly distributed weight of 5 ton fully loaded Bitsa. No ties were used only the winch was left attached to the back trailing arm suspension. Alan said that it was only the truck’s air suspension that enabled it to carry Bitsa.
We gingerly crawled down the hill with Bitsa precariously perched on the back and were taken to the first filling station.  The driver, obviously not happy doing this job wanted us off ASAP, before we fell off!  On putting us down the rear wheel gave way, but was saved buy Alan’s jack handle trick. Bitsa could not be moved another inch, so the truck had to be moved forward to get Bitsa’s front wheels off the flatbed.  We were all most relieved to see Bista back on terra firma. The recovery cost a whopping €250 The part + VAT + carriage cost us £300 Our emergency money gone.  Sadly, we will not be going to Morocco.  We are very disappointed, but it is not meant to be.  Maybe next year.  We were extremely lucky that the axle didn’t snap into two whilst driving at 55 mph on a bend on a motorway. 
The part is due to arrive any time now.  We have arranged for it to be delivered to a hotel very close by. The receptionist Maria was extremely helpful.  (Thank you Maria.) She let us fax the UK for parts without charge!  We were told that the part would be with us within 3 to 4 days.  All we can do now is wait, in the middle of nowhere on a garage forecourt.  Thank goodness that my food cupboards are fully stocked, with tinned and dried foods for just such an emergency.  We do have water from the garage, though they couldn’t seem to care less about us.
Eight days later!
Still no part!  We faxed the sender, asking what has happened, but he doesn’t seem very interested.  He tells us that it has been sent and that’s all he knows.  We wait.  It’s all becoming very frustrating as no one seems to know where our part is and no one wants to be bothered to find out!  Whilst we were waiting, a man in a Turkish plated car came up to us and begged poverty.  Apparently he was taking his family from Turkey to England and had run out of money, and got lost it had seemed, as he had driven at least 2,000 miles south out of his way, but that didn’t seem to matter!  All he wanted was £20 to reach England.  We told him that all we wanted was a stub axle to reach England but he wasn’t interested.

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