San Sebastian to Bilbao to Burgos 13 to 17 August 2013

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August 18th 2013
Published: August 20th 2013
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San Sebastian to Bilbao to Burgos 13 to 17 August 2013

On arriving in San Sebastian we left all the ‘bon jour’ and ‘merci’ behind and entered Spain so now hearing ‘buenos dias’ and ‘gracias’. The Spanish language was a lot more familiar to us after travelling through Sth America for 3 months in 2011 and learning Spanish back in Brisbane.

We found a suitable park and rode our bikes into the city centre. Wow, we were struck by the busyness and summer celebrations that were going on in the centre of town. There were people everywhere, listening to the street music, watching the street puppet show, the painter at work and the unusual live statues as well as the clown blowing up balloons.

Walking through the narrow streets we also saw peaceful demonstrations for political independence (this was a Basque region) and a couple other social issues (we couldn’t quite understand some of the banners and posters). There was also a stage being set up for a concert at night.

After having a good look around we decided to find a camp site. This is when the start of our ‘interesting’ few days started. To simplify things I will list what happened

1. Rode our bikes back to the camper – parking ticket for 30 Euro

2. We drove through bumper to bumper traffic with multiple roundabouts, so very slow progress.

3. Arrived at our selected camp site – it was full

4. Drove to 2 other – FULL…what will we do

5. Drive to Bilbao and couldn’t get a park anywhere. We drove around the city, trying to take some photos, including of the most amazing building of the Guggenheim Museum. After an hour getting nowhere we decided to look for a campsite.

6. Drove north to Goriz (again through numerous round-a-bouts – FULL

7. Drove NW to Castro Urdiales where Kerrie said that the Tapas restaurants were excellent – FULL

8. Drove back to the motorway and found a roadside service centre which had a restaurant, WiFi and lots and lots of trucks and 3 Campers and 3 caravans. We stayed the night there!!! This is all part of our experiences!!

9. Our fridge was on the blink for the past 3 days – 240 V didn’t work n=one day then the gas didn’t work the next day then the 3rd day the 12 V didn’t work – the fridge was dead!!!

10. Drove back east 112kms to Irun (east of San Sebastian) to the Hymer service centre – CLOSED from 14 Aug to 4 Sept for the summer holidays

11. Did some shopping trying to look for an esky – no luck so bought some ice

12. Decided to find a camp site earlier in the day. GPS took us to all these very narrow, hilly back streets and we finally got there – FULL. We asked the receptionist to call a caravan servicing centre which she did and they asked us to drive there.

13. Got to the Dethleff caravan service centre at 12.45pm before they closed at 1.00pm (everyone in Spain has a siesta from 1.00pm to 3.00pm). Found that there was going to be a public holiday the next day. They tried to locate a new fridge but wouldn’t be able to make contact until Monday (5 days time). Left our email address with them to contact us.

14. Went to 2 more camp sites and 3 hotels – all full. They told us because of the summer holidays, plus we were on the coast AND there was a public holiday, everything will be booked out!!!!!

15. Went to a commercial park where there were several mega-stores (hardware, sporting, food), McDonalds and a 24 hour Service Station and parked the Camper in the car park for the night. Had a nice McDonalds salad for dinner. We had emptied and cleaned out our fridge.

16. Next morning we drove on the toll motorway after a fantastic breakfast and shower in the Camper to Vitoria-Gasteiz (100km SW of San Sebastian) which was out of the Basque Region where the crowds were…..all was going well.

17. Arrived in Burgos, 120 kms SW of Vitoria on a secondary road which was an excellent road and found a park easily. All was going well…..but the alternator lighter had gone on the day before???

18. We decided to have lunch in the city before going to the camp site. Had a lovely lunch in this city that was full of leafy avenues, walking malls, a river and magnificent buildings. We had found the Tourist Bureau very easily as signage was excellent. We saw a tourist train that went to all the main historical sites. We rode our bikes around the city as well.

19. Had coffee at one of the restaurants and Tom realized he had left his Diabetes bag on the bench seat we had sat on while people watching. Went back to it – it had gone! I spoke to a Spanish speaking guy who couldn’t speak English but figures out that he saw a man on a bike pick up the bag and ride off. It would have looked like a money bag but of course it had nothing but Tom’s injection and blood testing machine.

20. Went back to our Camper – dead battery!!!!!!

21. Got on our bikes and went back to the Tourist Office for help. The lady said after we told her our 2 problems “you are not having a good day”. We just laughed. She rang the police. While Tom waited for the police to come, I went back and asked all the restaurants along the avenue where Tom’s bag was taken just in case it had been handed to them – no luck.

22. Good news, Tom always has a back up supply so had another insulin pen and another blood testing machine.

23. Police came – very helpful. No solution for the theft of the bag (not that we expected it!)

24. The police then drove us back to our Camper in their police vehicle. What an experience. Because they transport their detainees in the back of their cars, there are no inside door handles, no seat belts, a Perspex sheet between front and back seats, a hard, molded seat….and everyone looking, wondering why we were in the police vehicle. We had to chuckle. One policeman spoke reasonable English if we spoke slowly. They called an Automobile Service but because we were not member they weren’t interested. You have to note that this was a public Holiday and all the services except restaurants were closed/not operating. I tried the Netherlands Insurance company but none of us could understand Dutch. The police rang their traffic section and in 15 minutes 2 more police arrived. They then called their truck section who was going to bring some jumper-leads. Suddenly the traffic police received a phone call and they rushed into their car, put their siren on and were off, but before going, told us to wait for the truck. While we were waiting a French Camper stopped and Tom told them our problem and asked if they had jumper-leads. Their 14 yo son spoke English. The man was a Mechanic!!!! Our luck was changing. He had a spare battery and jumper leads. It took 2 seconds to start our car. After much hand-shaking and ‘merci’ing, we drove to get our bikes which we had left locked up outside the Tourist Office where the Police met us. We then drove to the camp site which we knew had a site for us as I had called (after I got a Spain SIM card for my phone) to check if they were busy. Because Burgos was away from the coast, not as many people were there.

25. We arrived at the camp site to hear for the 1st time in 3 days “yes we have a pitch for you”. You beauty!!! Making sure we didn’t switch the car off until we were parked for the night, we settled into the Park. The Park had a washing machine so we did our major wash, their WiFi was not working but they had a good bar and restaurant. The night was balmy, and later was cool so it was beautiful.

26. The Park also had a maintenance man and he jump-started our engine the next morning, so we drove to the Fiat Repair/Service area.

27. A new alternator was sourced pretty rapidly because our car was outside the Fiat garage running. The temperature gauge was repaired and after 3 hours we were on our way again. Every time we stopped the car started beautifully.


28. In Burgos Centro the next day, we found a replacement bag for Tom’s diabetes stuff, went to a pharmacy and got more insulin so the only thing he hasn’t got a backup for is his blood test machine. We have a simple plan though.

29. We arrived back to our camp site (Fuentes Blancas) after doing a bit of shopping. We set up camp, did some cleaning and maintenance of the bikes and camper and sat down and talked to our new neighbours….from Holland!!

LESSON LEARNED: 1. stay away from French, Italian and Spanish coastlines in their summer holidays and particularly when there is a public holiday thrown into the mix!!! 2. Have a phone operating that does not need WiFi to operate. You can then phone ahead and book. 3. Have an electronic translator for all languages, although we have always been able to find someone who could speak English. 4. Have information on when there are Public Holidays in countries and regions. 5. Dodge the European summer holidays in France and Spain!!!

ON THE up side: We had to laugh at all the things that had been put before us, we had all our belongings and bed with us, we had each other, we were safe, we had just added to our amazing experiences of this trip – just love it! Even though we have chosen to miss the north-western corner of Spain because we are heading towards Porto in Portugal to get a fridge, we are going through some country we didn’t expect to see, and it’s pretty good.

Oh by the way, we enjoyed Burgos and its history and the helpfulness of the locals. Now is the time to have a look at the photos of Burgos and Vitoria.

On 17 August, we left Burgos and were on the way to Salamanca and then into Portugal.

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