Andorra to Spain

We woke up in the freezing cold in Andorra. The Zil felt buried under snow. Our skylights had covered over with snow and the kitchen window had frozen shut. I went outside in the still falling snow to do a damage report from last nights crash. The bumper edge and passenger side wheel arch was scraped, with a little disfigurement that would be hardly notices. Its made of thick steel, like a tug boat. The corner of the radio box took a knock and dent. The worst damage was an unexplained puncture in the side paneling quite high up. The aluminium sheeting was pulled back, jagged edges hanging out with silver ripples. One could see right into the Zil. It is only a hands width in size but sure looks messy. I hammered the metal back over the hole and am now on the look out for an aluminium vent cover which will hide the hole neatly (being positive it will also provide additional air flow when we are in Morocco!).

Mara went to a shop a few doors up and bought Anika some snow boots and gloves so that she could properly enjoy the snow. She and Miki made circles around the Zil, hoping over snow piles, throwing the stuff in the air like confetti with Miki barking in excitement. Even at the restaurant last night Anika ran outside several times for a quick play in the snow. The Portuguese family were all watching the telly (a Brazilian novella) and the mother pulled a seat up for Anika too.

We left Pas-de-la-Casa and drove on past Soldeu and its ski resorts, cable lifts whisking people up the mountain. The road began to descend and soon I was able to come out of my 15km low ratio speed as we dropped below the snow line. Next town was La Vella, Andorra’s largest settlement (really its their only town if one discounts ski resorts and the little farms much higher up). La Vella is ugly. It looks modern but without anything to say. Its got alot of shopping centres, petrol stations, office blocks and rows of apartment blocks that make me wonder who are all the people that live here? What do they do in such a tiny place? Andorra is a low tax State. This means consumer goods, booze and fags are cheap. Andorrans were once successful smugglers, using their mountain passes to move contraband between Spain and France. Now the Spanish and French come to them. Leaving Andorra we were stopped by the Spanish police at the border and had a cursory search. Every vehicle is searched. Even though Andorra is part of Spain it is autonomous (a Principality). We filled our tanks on their cheap fuel (e1.16 a litre) and set off.

After Andorra we now hit the road hard for Morocco. We came down the C14. The road beings in the Pyrenees with magnificent gorges but soon we are on flat planes, industrial farming dominates the countryside. There is alot of industry too. Cement depots, gas works, a nuclear power station, factories pumping out black smoke. The first night we tried parking up in an empty carpark outside a closed down campsite but the owners told us to move on. Not very friendly.
Day1 in Spain:
The next day we burnt it hard past Lleida, along the C12 through Flix to Tortosa and the N340 coastal road.
Day2 in Spain:
Getting up late, stretching our legs along the sea front, hot toast for breakfast then we were back on the road. Anika and Mara stayed in the back. The long distances in the truck are taking their toll of Anika’s patience. I pulled into an out of town shopping complex to get some nik naks from the hardware store to repair the smashed panel. There we met a French couple returning from Morocco. They had a 10 metre volvo truck that they lived in permanently. It had a shower, 900litre water tank, social space, bedroom, desk, two huskies, one labrador x staffie and four pups. They are on their way to the Alps to work the ski resorts. Then they remain there in Spring, near Geneva, to work the white water sports. Its an interesting life, transient, following the work around Europe with their home on wheels. We arrived in Murica later in the night after an exhausting drive that made my right leg go sore from the arse down, and hands stiff. There was an unattractive dumper site we parked in, off the autovia beside a service station. Ten minutes into our stay we were visited by a patrol car. The cops thought I was Italian from a distance. Something about how he said that gave the impression that it would be bad to have been Italian, but British is a bit better. ‘Are you from Gibraltar?’ they asked. Knowing that this is a sore point I was quick to reassure them that I am from ‘international’ London. I presented my license and logbook (vehicle register papers) on request. Looking at my old photo they commented on how much better it is that I have cut my dreads off. Would they have treated me differently if I still had my waste length dreads? They then asked for the MOT certificate. I explained that it is exempt though I am not sure they believed me – they offered no further comment on this. The Zil did not come up on their vehicle database. They asked to see my tax disk. Thank God I renewed it and Ron was kind enough to send it over to me in Austria! They asked to see my international driving license. Then they told me they were taking my license away with them for 20 minutes and would be back. Great! I had thoughts of the phone call I would have to make to the Police in the morning reporting the theft of my license by two police officers. They did return though, and told me all was in order. They explained that they had never seen an international license issued by the UK before and were curious to study it. It is quite unusual, they commented, for such a vehicle from the UK (or France or Italy) to have its papers in order. I guess they are used to, and enjoy, needlessly hassling travelers. We had a quick chat about Africa before they drove off. They waved aside the Moroccan police, ‘Don’t worry about them, they have no interest in details’ and warned me about Africa, ‘be careful, they have no respect for life, no respect for anything.’ I thought that was a bit harsh, what about Fela Kuti?
Day three:
Passed without incident.We are on a beach 60 km from Malaga, using the internet in a bar whilst I slow drink my heineken. Should be in La Linea tomorrow, pop into Gib on Tuesday for some English language books, then Morocco on Wednesday.

Hasta la vista!