Monday, 16 November 2015

Slightly deflated

Monday, 16th November

This is affecting all of us. Maisy's sense of deflation concerns one of her rear back tyres. When we arrived at the campsite on Saturday the owner pointed out out that the right outer rear tyre was looking soft. This is hardly surprising given the hammering the van gets from Italy's crater pocked roads. We have a 12 volt tyre inflator with us, so topping-up the tyres with air should never be a problem. However, to make the job easier I had valve extensions fitted to the rear wheels. The constant juddering had sheared the wire clip holding the extension in place and when the rubber tube sprung out, somehow the threaded end simply disappeared down some pothole or other.

Our sense of deflation I think comes from having travelled constantly for five days in a row, at times in tricky circumstances. Even now, stopped for two days in a campsite it's not ideal. Italian beachside campsites closed-up out of season are hardly uplifting. The tendency to erect three metre high windbreaks made from dull green plastic sheets around the pitches and the perimeter fence give the place a claustrophobic atmosphere. This sense of being imprisoned is emphasised by the heavy-duty barred electronic gate at the entrance. You can access the beach by unbolting a wooden gate at the rear of the site, but the steeply shelving beach of coarse sand is litter strewn adding to the sense of the area being forlorn and unkempt.

The empty beaches of southern Calabria - windswept, and a tad forlorn

I think we are both looking forward to reaching Sicily, but before we get there we need to sort the problem with the rear tyre. Google to the rescue! I made notes of what the problem was using Google Translate and with one click, ping! It appeared in Italian. 'Tyre Services near you' in Google maps identified a place just down the road that could sort the problem - the wonders of technology. The only sticking point is that virtual reality is not the same as real reality. We found the spot where Eurotyres was once located - on a run down industrial area next to the equally decrepit San Ferninando container port. There were still a few fruit canning places operating at the end of cracked, weedy roads. They must employ mainly migrant workers; we passed two young African guys trundling hefty branches up the road balanced on bicycles. I think they must be living in a camp in the surrounding scrub land. Other men gathered in small groups at the desolate industrial estate crossroads. It's the first evidence we have seen of the migrant crisis sweeping across Southern Europe. It was a sobering sight.

The tyre place was long gone, so we pulled into a garage forecourt and found the next nearest in the nearby town of Rosarno. The town centre looked fairly desperate with crumbling concrete buildings and poor looking African families sitting on the pavements. This was not tourist brochure Italy, but the old impoverished south. 

Eventually on the far side of the town we found the 'Tyre Pirelli' centre. I showed my Google message to one of the technicians. He understood the problem straightaway, instructed us to drive around the back to the truck area and soon had replaced the faulty tyre valve extensions. 

However, this proved to be the least of our problems. When the mechanic tried to inflate the tyre to its correct pressure, the inner wall ballooned out. The thing was shot. The technician checked all four rear tyres, they were dated 2005, the van's original tyres. We were advised to replace the lot. I would have suspected the place of trying to maximise their sale, but in fact a watch had been placed on the rear tyres last June in the MOT test, so we knew they needed to be replaced sooner rather than later. All the same, the deflationary theme of the day continued when we were presented with the bill for 520 euros, ouch!

What! all four tyres need to be replaced!

High Five with the Michellin man

At least the manager treated us to a coffee.
In fact we have been lucky, we quite easily could have suffered a blow-out on the motorway. We were lucky too with the place we found to do the job. Everyone was friendly and highly professional. The manager treated us to a coffee in the cafe across the road, and in fact, the price per tyre of £91 was more or less what we paid in Buxton when we replaced the front tyres over the summer.

So, running on new tyres, wheels re-balanced, off we all went to catch the ferry to Sicily. Will we finally escape the clutches of Mr Murphy's law of the unforeseen.


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