We have all made mistakes, haven’t we? Or are you one of those perfect people that never make them? Well, we are not perfect and we made a big and costly mistake while we were in Greece and boy have we paid for it. We were relaxed, we were loving Greece, we were happy and then in just a few minutes, after a moment of inattention, we were thrown in to despair.
I need to get the confession over with … we left the ‘van on a [gentle] slope with the handbrake fully on but what we forgot to do was leave it in gear [it really wasn’t that sort of slope]. The ‘van stayed put for ten minutes and then we watched our much loved campervan and our travelling home roll gently down the slope. We ran after it, we grabbed the handles but if you have ever tried to stop something that weighs over three tonnes from moving you will know how pointless [and possibly dangerous] that was. The ‘van stopped when it hit a wall and the photograph above shows that the Renault came off much worse than the wall [that didn’t even have a scratch].
Fortunately, no one was hurt and we have insurance and European breakdown. Unluckily we were in Greece, as far as we could get from home, and fixing a Renault this far from France proved to be a tough call and our insurance company advised that repatriating the ‘van for fixing in the UK was the best option. We had to make the difficult decision to leave our ‘van all by itself, waiting for a breakdown lorry to arrive from the UK and to take it the long journey home.
We were just five weeks in to a planned thirteen week trip around southern Europe and every ‘van owner will understand how devastated we were. We were homeless, we felt lost without the ‘van, dazed after the shock of ‘the incident’ and had only ourselves to blame. Nevertheless we were physically fine and as our breakdown paid for a hire car, we decided to salvage a little more from the trip. We spent a few days in Greece visiting Meteora [see the next instalment] when we found that a road trip in a car bears no resemblance to a campervan trip. The breakdown organised a flight date that suited us.
Getting the ‘van back to the UK took two weeks on the back of a lorry but we could ring the company carrying the repatriation out and check where our lovely blue bus was. Our ‘van is now in a garage in the UK and the good news is that the insurance company have authorised the repairs. But the repair is massive and expensive, needs specialist equipment and it will be at least four weeks until we are back on the road.
That one moment of inattention has cost us about eight weeks of camping in the sun, caused many sleepless nights as I relive the horror of it in my nightmares and taught us an important lesson. We will never leave the ‘van in neutral again, even on what seems to be level ground.
For two travellers who use their ‘van all year and have never gone much more than a fortnight without sleeping in our cosy camper, being without a campervan is harder to bear than a non-campervan owner can even guess. Without the ‘van I feel lost and as if some part of me is missing, I feel I am living in the wrong life and wonder if in another universe there is a version of me still tootling around southern Europe in an intact campervan. Although grateful no one was hurt, I am heavyhearted and I gaze with yearning every time we pass any kind of motorhome and I want to stop the owners and tell them, we have a ‘van too, honest. So if you see us out and about give us some sympathy.
Postscript – I can’t praise enough the service we received from our insurers Safeguard and breakdown, AA, which is included with our Safeguard cover. We had a named person while the repair was ongoing and were kept up-to-date on progress as our van was repatriated and repaired. This was an expensive repair but we never felt that they wanted to save money and we were able to discuss the damage in detail and the repair with their engineer.