So, yesterday I confidently asserted that we wouldn’t be driving anywhere. And we very nearly didn’t.
Sitges is lovely to look at, like Eastbourne on solar steroids. After watching a tango-orange sun lighting up the dawn with an almost perceptible “Ta-Daa!”, I set off for a jog along the couple of miles of seafront promenade. Gorgeous.
Points to note about Sitges’ inhabitants:
- Jack Russells are the dog breed of choice. This makes sense: they’re small, easy to care for and will be ferociously protective of their owners and territory. Unlike Stan, who if an intruder tried to rob us in the night, would ferociously attack the invader with long, slobbery, loving kisses
- Everyone who lives here clearly thinks it’s freezing. M’s in his shorts and I’m in cropped running leggings, the locals are in puffa jackets, scarves, gloves and hats.
- There are sisterhood activities here. On my way back to the van, I ran near the beach. In front of me was a perfect circle of women, most of whom listening avidly to one of their group; she leant forward as if divulging some precious secret. I circled away from their communion, not wanting to distract them with my trainers flapping on the concrete pathway.
- There’s lots of poverty here. Sitges’ ‘Hippy Area’ is a palatable description for the financially and socially disenfranchised. There’s also a murmur in the campervan community about frequent robberies of vans parked in the vicinity.
The sense of vulnerability made M think we should move on. I was not massively enthusiastic, but as he was concerned about our safety, I assented to packing up and setting off to a UNESCO castle with a parking site that’s happy for campers to stop by.
This involved driving up into the tranquil pine-green forest. We often use an app: ‘Park4Night’. The subscription version (£8 per year) links with Google Maps to navigate you to out-of-the-way and often very lovely spots to stay. We’re cautious about the amount of power that we give Google Maps. Several times it’s given us sub-optimal routes. But when you’re tired and in unfamiliar environs it has its uses.
Which is how, when we were given the emphatic direction of “Turn Right Now” with a beeping and impatient set of drivers behind us (we’re inevitably much slower than cars on these steep, twisty lanes), we obeyed without really scrutinising where we were going.
“Thump” went the left front tyre.
“Thump” went the right front tyre.
We looked at each other in alarm, but were now committed to going forward.
“Thump” went the left back tyre.
“Thump” went the right back tyre.
“CRUNCH” went the tailgate, followed by a long, screeching, grating noise.
Attempts to move forward failed as the tyres spun on the loose dolomite and then dug themselves into a trench. Attempts to go back left the gearbox complaining as the tailgate dug itself deeper into the gravelled tarmac.
Stuck. With our backend sticking out 3 feet into the road.
I’m so used to us being able to work our way out of any vehicular issue that I was cheerfully optimistic. In twenty years of camper-vanning, we’ve never been beaten…
We got out and had a look. Even I was forced to admit, it didn’t look good.
A couple of park rangers in their ‘Foret National’ van drove by, then came back a few minutes later.
Could they help?
Well, they certainly tried to. And, once they understood M’s solution, and if the bottle jack they were carrying had been both operational and larger, then yes, probably they could have. Sadly, nearly an hour later we were still stuck. Vanessa, one of our would-be rescuers called a local garage before she and Frederico disappeared off to finish their rounds, leaving behind their cell phone numbers and an assertion that we should call if we needed them. As he drove away, with a rueful smile, Frederico called out “Welcome to Catalonia my friends” we smiled and waved, grateful at the very least to have had their concern for our welfare.
Thirty minutes more, Junerio (my phonetic spelling of his pronunciation) turned up with his ENORMOUS truck. Rather than leveraging the back of the van off the ground with the rear edge of his tow-truck, he responded to M’s shouts of alarm and stopped pushing before the chassis buckled irrevocably out of shape.
In the end, the three of us used two van ramps, an assortment of rocks and Junerio’s trolley jack to hoist the van high enough to clear the road ledge. Then we were following him to the nearest town to withdraw the €150 we now owed him for his trouble.
Who cares? We were now free and his time wasn’t. We’ll sort it out tomorrow with the insurance company (who were stunningly unhelpful at the time).
For the moment, camped up on a hilltop, beside an ancient castle, overlooking cobalt-blue lake below, we’re content. A note to selves though – less trust in Google and more in our own judgement for the next nine weeks.