It was bound to happen this breakdown - the question wasn't so much if but when. When you buy a 46-year old van to drive long distance you have to be prepared for the occasional mechanical issue. We did all we could before we left to get Sam ship shape and he was running beautifully until we hit the Basque country. So we went to a mechanic who got us running again and we carried on. And then late at night on a perilous coastal road between Getaria and Zumaia we broke down. Balls.
We managed to push Sam into a layby on a curve of the road with a vertiginous drop behind, and a Range Rover with a couple having sex next to us. We didn't really want to disturb them by asking for help. Pulling up the handbrake as hard as we could, we also put Sam in gear and rocks behind the tires and then spent a few unpleasant hours as the van was rocked by winds whistling around the headland as cars sped past us. It felt like being in a boat in the middle of the sea. The lovers sensibly left us to it.
Interestingly we'd been told a storm was coming bringing even stronger winds and big waves. In fact this coast is known for storms which destroy coastal roads and buildings. The nearest town was a long dangerous walk away and we had very little coverage on our phones. Neither of us got much sleep and a 2.30am we decided we needed to try and move.
We said a silent prayer to all the gods that may be and hallelujah, Sam started first time and we limped into Zumaia and a sheltered car park in front of a cafe just before he died on us again. I have never been so grateful for shelter - at least we could now shut our eyes and get some rest. In the morning everything seemed a little less dramatic. We enjoyed a roadside breakfast, had a wash, put on fresh clothes and then had a look at the engine.
The man living in the house in front of where we were parked came to have a look and we soon identified the culprit - the carburetor had a snapped part and was also leaking fuel. Time to call the good old RAC. Within around an hour Pachi arrived and we started loading the van.
Tired but happy we got into the truck and started the hour-long journey to Sopelana where we could arrange accommodation and a mechanic. Everything was going so well! And then a loud crunching noise and a lot of dust and smoke erupted into the cab of the lorry and we slowed to a halt on the side of the motorway. Our rescue vehicle had broken down. Excellent. So another patient wait and they sent us another rescue vehicle which towed our lorry with Sam on the back along the hard shoulder until we reached a service station. There they loaded Sam from one lorry to another which was somewhat nerve-wracking especially as he bridged the gap between the two vehicles. Sam was strapped down and we left poor Pachi waiting to be rescued and set off with Manuel.
We finally arrived in Sopelana at around 4pm - found some accommodation, unloaded the van and took a cab with everything. It's amazing how much stuff we have packed into our little van!
This morning we got the verdict and our starter motor and carburetor are on their way to Madrid to see if they can be fixed. Failing that we'll need to order new parts from either the UK or US. We're praying for option one! And now we have to figure out a plan for the next few days, some transport and what to do until Sam is back in good health. Keeping our fingers and toes crossed that we're back on the road soon.