Muddy hell!

April 7th 2013
Published: April 7th 2013
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Tuesday 26.3.13

Very eventful day in Aramits.

Started off perfect, though its rained constantly on and off over the past few days, the
morning seem to be pretty clear and we made the most of it by trawling up a very steep hill (mountain) to walk back down it again into some gorges! Was very pretty and saw lots of nice waterfalls and caves in lakes, and drank lots and lots of very fresh mountain water.

With hindsight we could have easily anticipated the situation we now found ourselves in as we had chosen to camp on a grass pitch, on a deserted site, that backed onto a bloated river, where it was raining a lot! When we got back, tired and ready for a brew we started backing into our spot, in our fully loaded 2 tonne + front wheel drive campervan (can you see where this is going?) and got very stuck in the mud! 2 hours of digging, wood and stone hunting, wheel spinning and smoking tyres later we finally tracked down the guy who owned the site. The very smiley campsite owner was not so smiley when Ange found the word for muddy in the dictionary and beckoned him over, and he spent twenty minutes literally scratching his head looking at the mess we had made before pulling us out in three seconds flat with his beat up old car! We spent the night parked in the middle of the road on the site, having feared we would be stuck until summer came and dried out the mud, we had learnt our lesson and did not venture back onto the grass pitches! We had a big surprise the next morning with our bill,
as they charged us 14 euro for the two nights use of electricity….and all we run is a 12 watt fridge!

Lessons for future travels……don’t try and park in mud and ask how much the campsite is
going to re sell you electricity for before your regretting having half frozen your tomatoes for 14 euros 😉

After leaving Aramits we ended up in the Pyrenees national park and stayed in a camperstop for just 10 euro’s per night including electric! There was no mud in sight and fab
walking paths with beautiful views….bliss; Camperstops are the way forward! In the spirit of adventure we decided to take the other road leaving Cauterets to get out the next day….and as the road winded up we stared open mouthed at the views enjoying the ride well, until we started to come across snow, none of it on the road or falling from the sky, but enough of it to bury houses up to their chimneys. We were beginning to wonder just how high we were when we came across a ski resort….and could see people actually skiing! Having come quite far, we were loath to turn back, but we could just pick out snow plough's up on the winding road ahead and decided they weren’t a good sign! Quick U turn and back we went, not minding the detour for the views and pretty towns we passed. It was that moment however, driving down a mountain that our brakes decided to fail! Luckily it wasn’t very dramatic, they did work but the break pedal would suddenly move forward under your foot after a few seconds of use and although the van still came to a halt if required, it took a little longer than is comfortable and gave you the sensation that nothing was happening which is quite disconcerting when your coming down a mountain! It was quite intermittent and the break fluid and everything seemed to be fine, so we decided to look out a garage when we next stopped.

The next evening we stopped in another camperstop in Lombez having called through a few lovely towns on our way. We had intended on staying in Bagneres-de-Bigore or nearby but as they were so close to where we had been staying we decided to push on. The camperstop was ok, there was a few vans there when we arrived but they soon disappeared leaving us alone with a few locals and boy racers coming and going. We were knackered from the interesting day-scaling a mountain and dodgy brakes- and fell asleep by ten which was lucky because I was rudely awoken at 4am by laughter and lots of clattering around. Ange was sound asleep so I bravely got up to have a look outside and make sure we weren’t about to get robbed but couldn’t quite work out what I was looking at. The car park didn’t look the same as it had when we went to sleep; there were several people, a few flood lights, lots of empty stalls and a couple of vans. We had fallen asleep in an empty car park and woken up in the
middle of a market! The next morning we drank coffee and ate croissants amongst the hussle and bussle of locals on their weekly shop, and bought fresh veg for dinner and strawberries for snacking. Brill start to the day!

Such a lovely start to the day that we completely forgot where we were and accidentally drove a few km back in the direction we had already come and had a good laugh at what the map of the tracker on the van must look like! We’ve spent a lot of time driving in circles so far….must buy a compass some time!

We rumbled up to Lautrec, a beautiful medieval town on a hill, with a lovely camperstop
next to a lake and a local garage that promised quick services on campervans. The sun was out and we decided to stay a couple of nights and try and get the camper sorted the next day as it was quite late by the time we arrived.

Ange and I have completely lost track of time in general, we don’t wear watches and frequently lose our little phone as we don’t use it, and have no where to be so don’t pay attention to much to the days of the week or the date….and so we had completely failed to remember that it was Easter! We sauntered into the garage on Good Friday expecting to have some little problem on the van quickly rectified. An hour of pointing at words in a English-french dictionary whilst the garage owner pointed to words in a French-english dictionary but spoke Spanish and Italian at us, and the mechanic laughed at the state of our leisure battery (which had fallen into the engine and fried some wires and we hadn’t even noticed!) we left with plans
till stay till Wednesday, as the garage was closed for a long weekend, and the cylinder that distributes brake fluid-or something like that-was long past it.

It was really lovely being in one place for a few days even though the reason wasn’t
so nice, felt a bit like having a home!! There were a few other campers there at all times so it didn’t feel like we were living in a car park and there was a lovely village to buy what we needed from, which luckily didn’t shut down for the Easter weekend. The toilets were awful thou so we couldn’t use them and the only place to wash was in a bucket in the van so it was like proper camping!! None of this pretend camping where you just use some one else’s shower and loo
:p All the chilling out has had a strange effect on Ange who has taken up sewing and spent about 4 hours fixing our washing bag!

Having the camper fixed was a big relief and we were eager to get back on the road, we
headed to Avignon and stayed at a fab campsite just over the river for two nights, relishing in the novelty of shower’s and washing machines and exploring the city.

And then to the coast! We decided to try a bit of sat nav roulette to get to Cannes and ended up twisting and turning through the mountains around the French riviera! I can’t say as I would wish to drive on those roads again-the picture of them on the sat nav resembled
intestines!- but the view was incredible and we had a good laugh at the English accents on the English radio station for the toff’s over there!

We had carefully researched a campsite between Cannes and Nice hoping to easily visit both
areas but it ended up having rubbish transport links and was in a bit of rough area. We drove into Cannes against advice and lucked out with a car park right in the centre, and spent a lovely afternoon on the sea front seeing how the other half live, walking past the posh restaurants and getting a McDonalds (for the free wifi) on the way home. Tried the same approach with Nice, today (7th April) but chickened out parking as all the big car parks were multi story and we were too tall and we saw countless cars shunting or being shunted for space’s on the side of the road and countless cars being blocked in! Had a good view of the
city driving around it, but Mission failed!

The guide books say that the journey from France to Italy has to be seen and its true, we pulled over so many times for the view or to walk along the sea front, its just beautiful. We’ve arrived in a huge camperstop in Diano Marina, Italy, which is 8 euro’s a night and in a lovely town with a sandy beach and a million pizzaria’s! We’re confusing our bonjour’s with our bonjourno’s and our oui’s with our si’s but I’m sure we’ll
get there.

We’re very excited to be in Italy, there’s sunshine and gorgeous coast but France has been brilliant and we’ll be back on our way to meet up with friends and family in Spain in August. French people are lovely and not at all rude as everyone seem’s to think, just give it a go with your pigeon French! The road’s are ok when you get used to them but don’t try and
navigate by road numbers because they chop and change with road numbers that
maps don’t acknowledge. No one EVER gives way to anyone else if they can help it, and if you’re a slow moving vehicle you best pull over pronto else you’ll be over taken; corner, on coming traffic or not! Its all worth it for the scenery, wine, cheese and bread J and we’ve been incredibly lucky because between ten and three there seems to be hardly anyone on the little roads! Motorways are boring; we’ll take reversing down a single track in a walled town over them any day 😉

Additional photos below
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11th April 2013

Muddy hell to scenic heaven
Love reading your travelogue and so glad you are having such a great time. xx
25th April 2013

I will continue to say that I love your blog and i now want to go out and buy a pizza for my tea after reading this! hope you are having an amazing tiiiime! XXXXXX

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