Thursday 9 May 2013

o : Dos Hermanas

Villsom Campground
Dos Hermanas, near Sevilla

Dear o,

We’ve named the truck Archer.  Archie for short, though it’s no shorter.  There’s a black scorpion stickered on the front, and Al is a Scorpio.  I’m Sagittarius.  We thought it might even it out.  All that, despite my belief that astrology is a load of total bullshit.  Yes, I can stretch my little brain to speculate that the moon’s gravity has an affect, as it does on the tides and so forth, on the mind and body; and that someone’s personality can even be affected by the season in which he or she is born.  But seriously, the alignment of planets at the point of birth is a principal determinant of personality?  Why not at the point of conception?  Why aren’t we considering the solar cycle?  How about plate tectonics, acid rain and which direction Mick Jagger is facing?  And don’t give me that line, just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Because I’m this close to inventing the Wasp King, who controls all the ley lines and orchestrates alien abductions through his flying sting network; there is no evidence of the Wasp King, he works in mysterious ways, but just because you don’t know and can’t see, doesn’t mean you should deny.  There is a Wasp King-sized hole in your heart.  Let the lord of the stingers into your life. 

Archer is a great companion.  He’s a Toyota Hilux Surf from 1996, dark red on the outside with a taste for adventure.  Al and I fitted him with a roofrack, and have spent the last couple weeks in a constant slow-burning debate on what goes on top, and what stays below.  So far on top are the two spare tires, two 25L water containers, sand ladders, a table and two chairs, motor oil, one of the two backpacks, a surfboard, a large waterproof bag containing mostly books (lots of books) and assorted supplies, and lots and lots of rope.  Let’s not get into what’s below.

Our stay here at the Villsom Campground in Dos Hermanas, a suburb of Sevilla, was the first plot we’ve paid for, and our first night in the tent.  We don’t plan on hopping from campground to campground on our trip – part of why Archer is such a great guy – but it was immediately obvious why it could be a good idea.  Never mind the showers and drinking water and internet access; we get to see how other people do this.  There are trucks like ours, trailers, camper-minivans, camper-vans, camper-buses, and camper-mansions.  Security systems, sophisticated ventilation, roll-out side-roofs, and enviable storage space.  These guys don’t debate what goes where – they toss whatever they come across into the automotive abyss.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these things had swimming pools.

Plenty of inspiration, however.  My favourite were a couple of navy blue and martial Land Rover Defenders.  All the windows behind the front were sealed on the inside with reflective material, and upon arrival at camp a flat table on the top folded up into a spacious tent, part of the whole unit yet on top of the world.  I can only imagine what they’ve got inside.

Al and I may be somewhat-seasoned travelers, but we’re not seasoned vehiclists (word?).  I’ve driven quite a bit, but until now always left the mechanics to the mechanics.  Before Archer I helped change a tire once, I put window-washing fluid into the some hole, and motor oil into another, and I lifted the hood a number of times to make sure it’s actually an engine with moving parts and not the mystical manifestations of the Wasp King.

Yesterday I came to appreciate the actual grade of our steep learning curve, and that nobody can do what we’re about to do without becoming neophyte car-lovers and amateur mechanics.  In the morning Al filled the coolant tank with distilled water, and our first big climb through the Montes de Malaga gave us our first breakdown.  We pulled over in time, eyes agog at the temperature gauge, and the boiling water blew the cap off the tank; dark and evil steam came out from the lid, and we were suddenly that smoking car with hazard lights on the side of the highway.

Did I mention that Al’s mother was in the car with us at the time?

I walked to the nearest town – Villanueva de Cauche – and had to scale a steep cliff and a fence to gain entrance, but there were no guards – and no petrol station, no café, in fact, almost no people.  After asking in garbled Spanish where to find the nearest "casa para auto", I left the town and hitchhiked towards Granada with a couple who dropped me off at a service station, bought a jug of coolant, and got another ride back to Archer where Al and Al’s mom were waiting with feet raised.  They only needed margheritas and a parasol.  I think she’s alright with me taking her eldest child away to sub-Saharan Africa for a while, don’t you?

Anyways, it’s Day 21, and Archer Big Problem No. 2 has come and gone.  We’ve got some more knowledge, and he’s got some beautiful new blue 30% coolant.  I like the idea of feeding him.

I’m not resting on my luck and laurels, however.  I’ve got two thick automobile manuals right next to me, waiting.  Or maybe I should consult the stars?  If Neptune and Saturn were corresponding just right, would the distilled water have worked?  Maybe if Venus was in its third quarter I wouldn’t have scratched my knee at Villanueva?  Or maybe we should just forget what’s all up to the whim of the Wasp King?

No, I’ll stick with Hillier’s Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology and Hilux / 4 Runner 1979-1997 LN – Diesel Engines – Models – Automobile Repair Manual.  I might still be an idiot, but at least I can tell you what a universal joint is.  Or, I will be able to – here’s me cracking page 1…

Bear with us, Archie.