Written 25th January
Arriving late, we found a huge, well-lit car park, with another motor home already installed, right in the centre of town that also had wifi - excellent! - but as walled cities go, we have been to better and prettier and we didn't fancy any of the museums. Not to worry, we have lots of other places to see.
The only quite interesting thing it does have is an actual scale model of the solar system - one of only two in Europe - where not only are the planets in correct scale but the orbits are too.
But we have had enough of chilly cities and cold hilltop towns, and, having been thoroughly spoilt by Seisimbra, we decided that warm beaches are where we really want to be so off we set southwards once more.
I was driving this leg as Will wanted fettling time on the laptop and we have discovered that Seisimbra's cliff road was more unkind to poor Jules than we realised and with no power, even on the gentlest slopes, a tendancy to judder and stall and a complete inability to start again once stalled - which usually manifested itself on narrow, uphill streets in towns with cars behind and many amused onlookers - may all their cars be cursed - it was not a happy bunny :( poor little van. We have also lost the exhaust tailpipe off the end of the silencer - presumably left in a clifftop ravine somewhere - not vital but we are now venting exhaust sideways not backwards and I can only imagime the effect this lack of forward thrust is having on our top speed... I am only half joking, apparently it was by repositioning the exhast on the engines from sideways to backwards that the spitfire engineers got the extra 70lbs of thrust they needed to get to a top speed of 380mph, so there! - not that Jules can really be compared to a spitfire I know - I mean we have a fridge and a kettle and movies, they didn't even have an in-flight magazine! - but every little helps... ;)
Anyway, after the single longest and most miserable journey of our travels so far through a land devoid of petrol stations, supermarkets and even proper road surfaces (in one county the main N-road was cobbles - cobbles!! - for bloody miles!) the three of us eventually limped, late, into Sagres at the south-western tip of Portugal and stopped.
The next day, we stayed in bed whilst it rained and got up with the sun to find ourselves facing the sea and surrounded by other vans. Making the most of the weather we set off on our bikes to the famous fortress where alledgedly Henry the Navigator founded his navigation school and therefore single handedly enabled the portuguese sailors to be able to take full advantage of the prevailing winds to set off on their journeys without having to stick by the coasts in order to know where they were and thus setting the wheels (or sails) in motion for the Discoveries.
On arriving, we found that, once again, being a Sunday morning, it was free and also that we could take our bikes in and cycle round - brilliant!
Just a side note - if you ever go to Portugal, remember that most museums and other things of interest are free on a sunday 10am-2pm, they won't tell you this on most signs or tourist info as they will want you to sleep in after a night spending your tourist euro in one of their fine restaurants and then spend more tourist euro going in things which locals get for free by dint of getting up - not unreasonable but worth planning around...
Did you know, for example, that port and starboard on boats are so named because in sailing down the atlantic - which is where the prevailing winds and currents took boats at the time of Henry - the left side would face the ports and home whereas the right side faced the unknown and adventure - hence port and starboard respectively. And that the green starboard light represents hope and discovery and the red port light signifies heart and health? I didn't!
And it was great for cycling round in the sun - if a bit windy! Back to the van and Will set about cheering poor Jules up, discovering that our problems were caused by a combination of; loose leads, incorrect timing, an unoiled (although new) distributor, a dwell of virtually nothing and the dislodging of a small, yet apparently vital piece of pencil lead which is all that stands between us and non-starting, non-runnng disaster... No, I didn't know about this either, and on balance, I preferred it when I believed the whole thing ran by magic due to pixies on bicycles, or maybe hamsters... ;)
It turns out, that one of the features of the space-age technology with which our van is equipped - think carefully about that, it isn't as good as it first sounds... - is an airflow sensor which works by a flap which is in the air intake and which is connected to a wiper which runs over a variable resistor, the reading of which tells the fuel injectors how much fuel is required for the correct air/fuel mix. Not only is this piece of technical wizardry specific to vw campervans, it is specific to vw campervans made in the US (but importantly not california) between 1977 and 1978... And is therefore expensive, virtually irreplaceable, and in our particular case, wearing out... Leading to inefficient fuel consumption and lumpy driving.
It is this that Will is working to bypass with some of his fettling - basically using a modern airflow sensor and a chip, the processing power of which would have taken a computer the size of a small room back when Jules was built, to brute force override this miracle of cutting-edge-as-it-was-at-the-time technology - the original engineers would be weeping!
Anyhoo, the small (approx 2mm long), yet perfectly fashioned (there are carved notches) piece of pencil lead - which I knew nothing about and which has apparently been in place since cambridge - sits under the two prongs of the wiper, creating a smooth sweep across the track of the variable resistor which simultaneously improves the connection to the track and smooths out the worn out bits - needless to state this is only a temporary fix until the "project" is finished...
So crisis averted as we have pencils and knives, grease, a timing gun - we are once again very grateful to Austin for the lend of his spare timing gun, it has proved a vital thing! - and all the requisite spanners and screwdrivers to deal with all these eventualities - honestly, it is a testament to Jules' perseverance in the face of adversity and the standard of vw engineering that we even got here with that list of things wrong! - so they were soon fixed, whilst I painted daisies and got chatting to two australian lads, who were on a three day surfing break from london however they had arrived but easyjet had neglected to send their surfboards so had spent 2 days staring at the sea and hoping the boards would arrive in time for at least an hours surfing (apparently they couldn't hire exactly the right boards out here - I don't know, I don't understand surfing, isn't a board a board?? How picky do you need to be if it is a choice between some surfing and no surfing??) before their monday flight home. They circled some places in italy on our map from a previous three month road trip and donated us the remains of their lunch that they had bought from lidl and were about to throw away (bread, sausages, cheese and jars of olives and pickled peppers), and then we were back on the road as if in a new van and on the way to lidl for bbq supplies. The dream is still alive!
I am not sure quite how I got the dubious pleasure of the longest drive with the most unhappy van and have insisted I get another go now it is better but I do at least find driving much less stressful than Will does as I am largely oblivious to little indicators to things which might be going terribly wrong and therefore don't worry about them and I am blissfully unaware of the knife edge on which we are apparently balanced between going and stopped... Just turn the radio up I say - if you can't hear a problem, it ain't there... ;)
So we cycled back - freewheeling downhill with the wind behind us most of the way wheeeeee! - and were about to settle in to some fettling in the sun when a genial german surfer loped over to us, clutching a car radio and said that an english speaking couple in a van at the top had said that we might be the right people to talk to about why his radio didn't work. He had apparently got it from a friend and tried to fit it but it blew a fuse so he put a bigger fuse in and it blew that, repeat up to 30amps and now he was stuck...
Well we are obviously always looking to chat to new people - he is on a break from an architecture degree and has convinced his lecturers that a road trip round europe to study different styles of architecture is a valid reason to do this but has in reality spent two month surfing and smoking pot in Sagres... :) - and opportunities to build up our busma so Will set to whilst we all had a beer and eventually, through judicious use of multimeter and complete disassembly of the radio (I have never seen the insides of a car radio before, it is very complicated!) tracked the problem down to a cooked diode, ironically the one which is meant to blow a fuse if the radio is connected up the wrong way round so as to protect the radio - which Woller admitted he may have done, who knows - and so had actally admirably done its job before being goaded into self destruction by continual application of bigger fuses...
Fortunately Will was able to replace it with a spare one we have lying around - as you do! - and fit the thing correctly into the spaghetti wiring of Woller's van - Woller can't test it as his speakers don't work for some reason and he is hoping to buy some external computer ones at a market next week as replacements - but he is at least one step closer to music and as he said, he just can't play his guitar whilst driving...
So, here we are, surrounded by german surfers - two more sets have just pulled up - with the sunsetting on another sucessful day - Will's PIC program might finally be doing the right thing! - and off to Lagos tomorrow for a change of scene.