Pyrenees Crossing

Today was always going to prove interesting because we would be travelling through a large chunk of Spain for the first time. As it turned out, it proved a lot more interesting than expected.

We’d chosen our routes to and from Spain to cross the Pyrenees in two different places, hoping to see more of the sights crossing some of the higher mountain cols [passes]. Our morning weather was cloudy so our first decision was whether to actually bother going up over the col or just to use the almost 9kms/5mls Somport Tunnel. As we neared the real mountains, the skies were clearing a little so we chose the col.

The high points of the Pyrenees mark the actual border between France and Spain. Once over the border, the change of architecture and atmosphere make it quite obvious that you are now in a different country.

Being in strange territory armed only with an out of date satnav, we were feeling a little exposed and decided to call into a fuel station to buy a road map of Spain. Francine found one she liked the look of and we set off again. Something looked wrong on the dashboard. Surely that little warning light in the shaped of an engine block shouldn’t be on? Bother! (Or words to that effect.) Francine consulted the manual. Paraphrasing slightly:

You may have a problem with one of the engine’s emission control systems. The car may feel normal but you may be putting out too many emissions that may damage the vehicle further. When safe to do so, pull over and stop. restart the engine three times with a >30 second pause in between. If that doesn’t clear the fault, go to your nearest dealer to get it checked. Avoid hard accelerations. The fuel consumption may be affected.

I tried the stop and restart routine to no avail, as expected. We were now driving through a high (1200m/3700ft) plateau which looked like the bread basket of Spain with harvested cornfields to either side. I wasn’t really keen on being delayed here and, as indicated, the car did feel perfectly normal. I checked the fuel consumption and that also looked normal. We decided to drive gently and try to make our destination, Jalon, about 6 hours/300miles/480kms down the road. Once on a delightfully underused free autovia [motorway], I set the cruise control to 60mph/96kmh and continued, silently muttering prayers to Gods in which I don’t believe.

Approaching 1:00 PM, the warning light having been glowing steadily for the last 3 hours, I pulled off to fill up with fuel and have lunch, which we’d cunningly brought with us in the form of two boxes of tuna and rice salad. We filled the tank then, with the temperature at a windy 34°C/86°F, we stopped in a small amount of shade on the station’s forecourt to empty the boxes of salad.

Our lunch stop at the fuel station had been about 20 minutes. We strapped ourselves back in and I started the car. Miracle of miracles, the engine-shaped warning light was not now glowing at me. We clambered back on the autovia where the engine-shaped warning light continued not to glow at me all the way across to Valencia and down the remaining hour and a quarter to Jalon, where we arrived, mightily relieved, at 4:30 PM.

If we suffer a recurrence and I do have to get it checked, at least we’d now be comfortable and among friends.


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Posted in 2013 France and Spain

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