Will this actually happen or is it just a dream?

I should be telling you that I am sat in the sunshine on our Portuguese quinta writing an update on how our journey was, the 18 hour drive in our camper and a van with all of our belongings in. Travelling with a dog and an over energetic 5 year old. I should be telling you all the beautiful places we stopped off on the way through France and Spain and how excited we were to finally get to Portugal.

But I’m not here to tell you all of that. Because we’re still in the U.K! Instead I’m sat in the garden of our West Sussex home whilst Elvis is splashing about in the 8ft £25 Tesco special pool, that we bought to help ease lockdown boredom, on a lilo that I managed to ram into my suitcase to bring back from a holiday to spain last year.

So things haven’t  exactly gone according to plan…rather annoyingly we feel like we are stuck in this weird between world that’s out of our control.

Our plan was to leave our house on the market in the U.K. and head out to Portugal for summer to get started on preparing the quinta to renovate our house and plan the retreat. We would enrol Elvis in his new Portuguese school so he could start the new school year in September and take him out of the U.K. school system. We would come back to sort out the house sale when we had an offer and exchange date, but potentially Mike would have to come back for work in October anyway. We estimated around 6-8 week’s worth of Portuguese living before having to change things up again.

So what happened?

We made preparations to leave the U.K. sometime during the week commencing 20th July. Very loosely planned I know! But we are very kindly being loaned a van to be able to take our belongings down and we were waiting for confirmation that the van passed it’s MOT. Unfortunately it needed more work than originally thought so we then hoped that we would be off by the 30th July instead in the van and using our camper to sleep in overnight on the way down. Our friend let us know before the 30th that it was unlikely we would have the van by then and we would be looking at 7th August at the earliest. It’s O.K. we thought, we can hang on, there’s no point doing such a huge journey if we can’t take at least most of, if not all, of our stuff at the same time. And it’s such a huge favour to be loaned this van it really was no problem to wait another week or so.

We had our camper wheels sprayed mid July and I went up to London the very next day to collect a front door for my dad to take to Portugal with us, I had to pull in for a car and stupidly scuffed one of the wheels (so I thought…it ended up being 2) I asked our friend if he could repair it for me and he said he could do it first thing the next day. I dropped the keys over and left it with him. The next morning I heard the van start up and leave and that was that. An hour or so later we had a call from our friend to say that the camper wouldn’t go into gear and it was stuck in his the garage. The same thing happened to our previous t4 so we knew what the problem was, the gear linkage bushes. As it was a week day we managed to get some the same day and popped them over to our friend and get them fitted, Mike and James spent a few hours trying to get these things on and after almost losing hope they finally managed to do it. Luckily this didn’t happened in London the day before and leave me stranded or dare I say it…half way through France!

Late Saturday evening on 1st August Mike was heading to the garage to get milk for the morning, he went in the camper van, and as luck would have it… he broke down, he had no phone on him as he’d left it home thinking he was only going to be a few minutes, I’d put Elvis to bed and was going to settle down myself when I started to worry as to where Mike was, over an hour goes by and I hear the keys in the door, Mike comes rushing in out of breath and runs to the kitchen to down a glass of water, he’d just walked 45 minutes home… at 11.45 at night.

Apparently the camper had just died whilst he was coming back, as he had no phone he couldn’t call the AA, so he grabbed his phone and my car and drove back out there. The AA told him they’d 1-3 hours, so he sat waiting, after about half an hour he had a call back to tell him to leave the camper and go home as they were unlikely to get to him that night and they would call him at 9am in the morning. We went to sleep for the night and dealt with it the next day. 8:30am arrived and he received an email to let him know the AA would be with him in 15 minutes! So he frantically got himself together and went over. Unfortunately the AA guy couldn’t get the van started and after researching what the possible problem was the night before, everything suggested it was either the fuel pump or the relay.  The AA guy confirmed he thought this and towed the van a garage to our local garage. The garage has had the camper since Monday 3rd August, it’s now Friday 7th August and they still can’t find the fault. There is a fuse that keeps shorting out which is responsible for allowing fuel to the fuel pump they can’t figure out why the fuse keeps shorting, they’re painstakingly going through the wiring… which is a mess due to previous owners handy working installing stereos, immobilisers, central locking and leisure batteries…so nothing is where it should be.

So that’s the van and the camper situation.

On Wednesday 5th August Mike had to pop to the solicitors to give them some paperwork…we had an offer on the house the week before and we accepted. For quickness and ease of parking he took my motorbike… which developed a misfire and decided it doesn’t want to idle anymore….but at 5krpm it’s fine. So we investigate, we take the thing apart, order all the servicing parts we need, because we might as well do it whilst we have it apart. We figure it could be a couple of things, the plugs or the jets, most likely the jets. We change everything we can but as always, as luck would have it we can’t get the carbs off because the only alen key we need is the back of the camper…which is in the garage.

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but we’re pretty exhausted with all the problems that keep presenting themselves, although everything can be fixed it’s the problem solving and rescheduling, the hoping and the chasing up that is draining. Having to make back up plans for back up plans at the last minute wasn’t really something we had planned for.

Finally… we got the call to say the van was ready, the work that our friend Ben had to do to it to get it through its MOT was a lot and we cannot thank him enough for going to so much effort to help us with our move. It’s saved us a fortune and a lot of hassle. We definitely owe him a holiday once we are all set up. Ben if you’re reading this you can hold us to that. We picked it up on the 11th August.

So the now we had the dilemma of how we were going to do this… several options and some of them meant doing several trips with Elvis and the dog. So we decided the best option was to load up the van and Mike head down on his own and then come back, load up again and then we all go down, Elvis and our dog in the car with myself.

Our camper van is still with the garage so we have told them to keep going with it and we will hopefully have it fixed and ready to take down eventually!

So that was that! Our official plan sorted.

Mike booked his ticket for the shuttle and as I write this he is making his way across the channel. He has just over 1700km to cover, unload the van with the help from my dad and then he will make his way back. Another 1700km!

In total we estimate 3 trips as we will need to head back over to exchange contracts on the house but we are just glad to finally be on our way to our new adventure.

It’s not going to be an easy ride and there will be a lot of stress I’m sure but it’s a small price to pay for a lifetime of happiness and worry free living.

Hopefully next time we will be here telling you about all the things we’ve done with the land so far and give you a few clues about what we hope to have for you all when you come and stay for your motorcyclke getaway in Portugal.

Thank you for bearing with us and thank you to everyone who has given us the love and support helping us keep our dream alive and keeping the faith.

Until next time.

Mike and Carla.

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