When I last wrote I said that I had another project on the go (I know, don’t I have enough already) and that I would reveal all when complete.
Well I can tell you now, that in a mad moment, following a conversation late August at a party where it was said ‘why don’t you hurry up and get your van sorted and come away with us over the winter’, I did just that! Well after a few months of searching and almost giving up I finally found a van at the beginning of November. I then gave myself a whole 6 weeks to convert it and head off on my travels. Nothing like putting yourself under pressure is there?
So yes I am the proud owner of a Renault Master III van.
The first week of ownership I was at my friends in Spain not doing the olive harvest (as there were none to harvest due to weather; a later frost and then a scorching summer) and while I was away I had some windows fitted to the back doors and a fan/vent fitted to the roof. After that, first up was to stick anti-vibration panels on the walls followed by insulation, lots of insulation and still more insulation finished off with a vapour barrier. On top of this went the wood paneling or carpet covered ply panels. The flooring was a spare packet I had left over, the cupboards were a budget kitchen range and the bed was modified from an old pine bed that someone was throwing out. Oh and all the electrics. Easily doable in 5 weeks don’t you think?
The final week was a lot of long days and late nights. Each day my departure got pushed back and back and on the actual day of departure, we were still adding trims to cupboards and trying to sort electrics as I made the bed. Luna and I eventually left at lunchtime, having not tidied up in the house or turned any of the water or electrics off (thankfully I had Builder Dave to do all that for me), for a long drive down to Narbonne to meet up with my travelling companions.
Will it ever be ready????? The last photo there was taken the day before I left…….
About an hour before I arrived the engine warning light came on – eeekkkk. I decided to carry on as it was late and dark and at least there were people waiting for me. After a sleepless night I got up early and went to a few local garages who were of course all closed for Christmas. I put some cleaning fluid in the tank and headed into Spain. Well not 30 minutes into the journey the red stop light came on as the temperature in the engine went higher and higher. No water in the cooling system –even more eeekkkkk. So armed with bottles of water I limped it down to the campsite we were staying on for Christmas. No hope with a garage obviously so I very carefully continued on my journey stopping every hour to top up with water. I changed my route to take me past my friends and I phoned ahead and got myself booked into a local garage there. Well where to start with all the problems? (cue a few tired and emotional tears from me). The local garage couldn’t touch it because it was still under warranty and of course they were shut for the next 10 days because it was new year. I could not have picked a more difficult time for all this to happen. I retreated to the nearest bar (as you do) and a few phone calls later I found a Renault garage about 40 minutes away who could only do a diagnostic on it the next day. But when we got there they took one look at it and said please leave it here you can’t drive it, it will be ready in 3 days. Well the 3 days turned into 8 and then the battle with the garage I bought it from began as I tried to get the cost of the work reimbursed.
The issues with the van didn’t end there. No of course not, this is me remember?! After a 4-night stop at the beginning of February I go to start the van up – nothing. Battery is as dead as a dodo. A jump-start later and we are on our way. But it keeps happening whenever we stop for more than 2 nights – dead battery. Head off to a garage (again) and yes battery is no good and I have to have a new one. Thankfully no more issues for the rest of the trip until I get home. Oh forgot to mention that the windscreen washers didn’t work so if I wanted to clean my windscreen I had to spray the screen manually and then use the wipers. The van, which I have named Van Blanc, was booked into a garage on my return to have this fixed. I get up to take it in and guess what? The flipping battery is flat. Yes the new one. All fixed and I get it home with plans to take it elsewhere to get a few leisure battery issues sorted and would you believe it, it’s flipping flat again. Another jump-start and it’s back in the garage where they are trying to try and find what it draining it. I hope to have it back one day soon…….
Go away for the winter they said, see the sunshine they said, it will be good for the stress levels they said………..
When I eventually caught up with my travelling companions, I did start to relax and enjoy myself as I got into a routine in the van and despite all the issues I absolutely loved it.
I had the most amazing time bimbling around Spain despite it being the worst weather they have had for 10 years (I know you couldn’t make it up could you?) Our route essentially took us down the east coast, across the south coast and back up along the Spanish/Portuguese border. The weather pretty much dictated our route at times as we tried to dodge the worst of the rain and wind. The weather also meant we mostly stayed on the coast as just 15 miles inland the temperatures were at least half during the day (and half of 16o with the wind is not very warm at all) and in some places were minus temps overnight.
We tried to do as much free wild camping as possible pulling into campsites for showers and laundry when needed.
I finally arrived back home on 14th March and it felt very odd to be back in a proper bedroom – I woke up in night in a slight panic as I couldn’t see the orange glow telling me how full my leisure batteries were!
Would I do it again? Absoflippinglutely.
What were my highlights?
The freedom, Van Blanc (despite the issues I can’t wait to get away again), wild camping, endless empty beaches, Seville (I will be back), time with Luna who has become a real beach girl, dorade (sea bass for €10), time away from the building site I live in!, missing the shocking cold winter, a bit of space to clear my head, tapas, cheeky lunchtime glass of wine, travelling and settling my itchy feet – it’s been too long since I last travelled.
Here’s a full list of everywhere I stopped:
Villa Franca Penedis
Caleta de Valer
Torre del Mar
Monte Gordo (Portugal)
Punta del Moral
Orio (San Sebastian)
St Jean de Luz (France)
Below is just a random selection of the many photos I took.