Our winter in Spain, cooped up in a space smaller than the average prison cell; without the slop bucket, had gone remarkably smoothly. At home some friends have tents that are far bigger than our camper bus, who we call Barri. But no tent is as cute, inside or out. We were justifiably proud and smug in equal measure.
Pride always comes before a fall, they say; so some might say that we probably had it coming. Our cheap, chi chi, beggar on a beach of gold lifestyle was about to come unstuck; spectacularly.
We thought Barri needed a wash, and a wash was what he was going to get. Off we went, on the road, with Barri leading the way. Marvellous. Out of the blue, we noticed a smell of burning oil. We noticed smoke. We noticed we had ground to a solid, seized-up-engine stop. Oops!
Barri returned, ignominiously, to the campsite languishing on the back of a breakdown truck to be dumped, unceremoniously, on our pitch for the night. We were the talk of the campsite. Everyone came to call, to find out what had happened and to give us advice. Word of mouth travels faster than a cold in a playgroup.
We had until the next morning to sort ourselves somewhere to sleep and somewhere to send Barri for surgery. We sought the advice of the campsite’s old guard who know all things Denia. We needed a very good garage, as the engine was almost certainly totalled. Our fellow campers consistently proffered the name of just one company, Auto-Tecnica Mecanicos, Denia. That was the easy part. Removing from Barri all that we needed for about three weeks of living in a tent was rather more thought provoking.
Mobile phones in hand, we chatted to the garage owner, Mark, whose English was amazing: perhaps unsurprising, him being an ex-pat; Barri could go straight there in the morning. We slept easy that night, despite knowing that we had no way of getting ourselves and all our junk home, our return was due in a few short weeks. But, Ho-hum, what can you do?
Our diagnosis was proved right. The rise in temperature in the engine did not show on the instrument panel, because the temperature sensor had blown out of it’s housing and was hanging, uselessly from its’ wiring, allowing all the coolant to disgorge in our wake. In an almighty hurry, the engine had cooked solid. Barri would have to be fitted with a reconditioned replacement engine. Mark, and the mechanics, were happy to take on the work and we were happy with their approach to Barri’s predicament. As we left the garage, over my shoulder I felt Barri’s pain as he cried out, “I need a miracle.” Wally insisted I was imagining things, but, was I?
So here we were. Mid February 2019, sleeping in our awning, with a terminally ill camper van in an induced coma and an ever increasing set of invoices. There was nothing for it but to settle in for the longish haul and buy a couple of hot water bottles to keep the chill of reality at bay.
Fellow campers brought us little gifts and offerings and though we were in no need of any of it, it was a very lovely and welcome demonstration that folks cared.
To cut a long long story short, we ordered a top notch reconditioned engine from a Spanish company who are based in Madrid, Tecnicas Del Motor (NEVER order an engine from this company). As a sign of our commitment, and because it was required of us, we sealed ourselves into the deal by putting down a large deposit. Tecnicas Del Motor (NEVER order an engine from this company) had several engines ready to go and they could get one to our garage within a couple of days. The amazing Mark and Chris, our British mechanics, got to work. Open heart surgery was needed. With surgical precision, they began stripping out everything that could be re-used. They checked, repaired and refurbished anything they could easily get at whilst the engine was out of Barri’s torso. We were going to have a brighter, better Barri, with all his diseased parts removed, re-fettled and replaced.
February, and March, came and went. April saw us heading to France for snowboarding; made possible by the RAC, who hired us a car for the journey. At this point we were supposed to be on our way home to the UK in Barri, but we had to rush straight back to Spain, as the engine was about to arrive. Really.
However April, went, as did most of May. Still no engine from Tecnicas Del Motor (NEVER order an engine from this company) and we had to be back in the UK. Commitments. Once again the KTMs were loaded up with camping kit and we rode along the back roads, up through Spain to Bilbao https://wandering-wallys.blog/2019/12/17/spain-from-the-mediterranean-sea-to-the-atlantic-ocean/. From there, the boat took us back to Old Blighty. It was probably one of our most enjoyable trips, ever.
A month later and with June half gone. We had a message. The engine had left the factory! Almost 4 months to the day that the engine builders had originally said it would arrive at the garage. Spanish time is a thing of wonder.
We hopped on the train from St. Pancras and after a romantic night in Paris, found ourselves back in Denia via Barcelona and Valencia.
In no time at all, Mark and Chris had fitted the replacement engine and Barri was defibrillated back into life. Frankinbarri was arris. Obviously, this new Barri was not going be silent running. His voice had lost that deep walrus of love Barri rumble, and now sounded more of an even, smooth, lounge lizard Barri Manifold. Nice.
As part of his physiotherapy, we took Barri to all the old Spanish haunts he had loved before his sudden illness. His rehab was to be completed before returning to his specialists, Mark and Chris, for a final sign off. Then he would be free to head for England.
The only fly in the ointment? The Madrid based engine builders, Tecnicas Del Motor (NEVER order an engine from this company), had charged for a new oil pump, but had fitted a spruced up, used one; with no gasket. They said they had run out of time. Luckily it was spotted before Barri had run out of oil. It was a problem that was easily solved, though not without raiding our bank account.
We finally arrived home two months late, several thousand quid worse off, with a VW T4 California that runs like a dream….. until the next time …..
Did all that really happen?