European Escapades

Campervan Attacked by a Tree




attacked by a tree
Attacked by a tree.

The woe of the Costas was a tragic experience of confirmation and regret. We started in the small tourist town of Salou, where we stopped to try and resolve my issue with the new Yoigo modem and final independent access to the internet. Salou can only be described as a clean but fake town for Tourists with no heart or soul to it. If you had placed it anywhere along the coast of Spain it would not have looked out of place and you would not have known where you were. Like one of our large commercial parks in the UK, with the usual Comet, PC World, McDonald and B&Q superstores. They all look the same at the end of the day and have no individuality to tug at our subconscious and give us some kind of affinity to them. Unfortunately there seem to be more of these places as the large corporations take over our high streets and whether we are in a commercial district in the UK, France or even the USA, we could be anywhere for all that it matters. One thing Salou had was the preponderance of pruned and hacked back trees that line the streets of tourist Spain. A semblance of Y shaped wood with a few small twigs of leaves trying to sprout out of the stumps that remain after the butchers have left. It was with one of these supposed trees that our tale of woe starts.

If you have a normal car then these stumps prove no issue, however with a Campervan at over thirteen foot high, they become a real hazard. We have to find large car parks or straight parking areas with enough length to accommodate us anyway. Normal car parking spaces just won’t do. We found one such spot just on the outskirts of Salou, near enough to walk into town to find the Yoigo shop. However the presence of two trees stumps at the side of the road were an issue as we slowly navigated in the available parking spot. I knew we were close to the upper branches that remained and was careful to take the van in at an angle that avoided them. Once safely parked, I started my fruitless search for a Yoigo shop in Salou. Returning unsuccessfully to the van we start the process to get the campervan ready for the road again, by opening up all the blinds and pulling back all the curtains. We put these up as a security precaution more than anything else, as whilst we have not yet been a victim of a break in or theft, we hope that the closed van with no visual temptations on show will keep it that way. During this exercise unbeknown to us a very nice guy in a white car, decides to park across a garage entrance and right up our arse. It’s not until I start reversing out that I spot his car in my rear view camera and have to reassess my ability to pull away from our parking space. With Frances out of the campervan assisting my manoeuvres, we try unsuccessfully to escape for our predicament. We finally have to wait for the ‘misspelt heavy object attached to a rope or chain, used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom’ to return to his car to move it. He finally turned up after ten minutes and reversed, obviously hearing the commotion and wanting the soon to be vacant space. Unfortunately my previous manoeuvrings had put the camper van in a less than optimal position to reverse straight back and then to turn out onto the street. As we reversed I heard a nasty scrape as the side of the van connected with one of the tree branches and as I turned the front wheels to come forward away from the branch the worst thing happened. The rear of the vehicle turned even more heavily onto the outstretched tree branch. I was off the parking space and in the middle of the road finally but with a nice ten inch green and brown scrape at the upper rear of the van. Our first damage to the actual van since we had picked it up in January and I felt sick. OK, we had damaged the top box on the motorhome in France but this was the first to the motorhome itself.

we arrive at fawlty towers
We arrive at Fawlty Towers.

We headed away from Salou in a black mood as I wondered to myself if I could handle this size of vehicle and why could I be so stupid. Pure physics say that with the position of the rear wheels, if you turn the front wheels and move forward, the rear of the camper van is going to pivot into any obstacle at the back. Easy to say visualise and express, a lot harder as you physically drive around in the van. We arrive in the rain to our chosen campsite of ‘Camping Ametlla’ and a closed reception. We park the van, setup and awaited the opening of the reception at five o’clock. It felt like we had arrived in a Spanish version of ‘Faulty Towers’ as I tried to book in. The receptionist seemed to take us as more of an inconvenience rather than customers and this was to be the start of bad nights stay. As we check in we have to provide some form of identification and it is usually a passport. I have taken to show my ACSI card which has my passport number on it and my driving license as these both fit in my wallet, unlike my passport. Not good enough for her so we have to go and get both our passports from their hiding place in the van, so she can take the same info off of them instead. An English couple is having some issues with the payphone as she huffs and goes to sort them out while Frances retrieves the passports. And I do mean sort them out, as I’m sure she had no inclinations to resolve the actual problem as she strode over to the couple. Passports sorted I ask about WiFi, a laughable €7 a day I am told, I suggest it’s a little expensive, she just shrugs and say that is the rate so take it or leave it. We leave it as I refuse to pay these extortionist charges and bow to her bolshie attitude.

At the onsite supermarket we have the same couldn’t care less attitude, as a number of campers including us turn up at six o’clock when the shop should open. We note the shop assistants standing out the back of the shop having an absolutely necessary cigarette break at the start of their shift. We all wait at the store entrance for fifteen minutes until they can finally get around opening the shop for us. It showed arrogance of the maximum proportions in my book on behalf of the staff. Is this what I can expect from all the Costas? I had this experience in Cuba and complained there and would never go back to the designated tourists areas again. Outside in the countryside of Cuba it was great. Some places need to wake up and understand that the tourists are their life blood and show more consideration, and not take the piss out of us and give some value for money for our custom. They may find we don’t turn up as often as we once did as we find better places to spend our hard earned money. We found the butter and wine and bread we actually wanted in the shop, but refused to pay the exorbitant price for the butter at €3.50 and took the better value bread and a litre of wine.

On checkout we also had an issue that the reception would not take a credit card for the one night stay and the €13. Whilst I do understand there are costs involved in the use of credit cards, the convenience that they bring is in my mind is worth it. Although I would be reluctant to pay a bill that was for less than €10 using a credit card and would happily give cash on these occasions, in my current mood I would be damned if I was going to take this as easily. For one we still had not got an understanding of where to find a cash machine in Spain, which we now understand to be mostly inside small designated bank sites as opposed to what we in the UK are used to, which is a nice hole in the wall. I told her I may have the cash but would really need a cash machine, but didn’t know where we could find one locally. She very kindly showed me on the map where I could find one nearby. It was a war of obstinate minds and after heading back to the camper, I managed to find a €5 note and a heap of small denomination coins to make up the required €13. We had been meaning to get rid of them somewhere along our route and this seemed the perfect opportunity to do so, as I poured the mound of coins on the reception desk for her to count. I even managed to add to the pile, as I scraped up another 85 cents for a loaf of bread on the way out. She may not have noticed, but it felt like a small victory for me as we packed up and headed for our next Costa del Same….

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 at 4:21 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Campervan Attacked by a Tree”

  1. Christine Says:

    May 8th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Steve & Fran,
    Many years ago we made the decision never to visit Spain again for exactly the same reasons that you have been experiencing. I can’t believe that after about 25 years, you are being treated with the same ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude. Salou was the last ever place we visited on the Costa’s.

  2. stephen Says:

    June 6th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Well I’m glad to say than now we have arrived in Portugal, we are having a much better time of it and enjoying ourselves very much. I think Portugal is what I wanted Spain to be.

    Happy Camping

  3. Chris Says:

    June 30th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    On the general subject of vehicle height, don’t forget the LEGAL REQUIREMENT within the UK that any vehicle over 3 metre travelling height must have that day’s height displayed in the cab in the approved form. Example products here. Other makes are available. Legislation here.

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