Not A Bad Place for the Van to Break Down
THE ITALIAN JOBLet's face it there are worse places for your van to break down than the Italian Alps where there's always an adventure to be had whether climbing, hiking, taking a bus to Chamonix or an Italian taxi. Tracy Bingham survives to tell the tale...
We made it home, woo hoo! So last time I wrote, we were abandoned in Italy and had waved goodbye to our van as it made its journey on a flat bed truck into Aosta, while we hiked the 45 minutes back home.
After numerous calls between, the insurers, the recovery company, the European assist and their Italian correspondent, we were getting no where fast, Luckily our Italian friend Andrea came to the rescue and spoke directly to the garage. The diagnosis was the alternator had seized, which then caused the power steering belt to shear, giving us the choice of a new alternator which would take at least 10 days to arrive or a reconditioned unit which would be quicker. As much as extending our holiday for another couple of weeks sounded very appealing, unfortunately work commitments meant we opted for the reconditioned unit. An email quickly followed to the garage, giving them permission to start the work.
Apparently that's how it's done in Italy.
The European assist crew eventually caught up and said as it was going to be at least a week before the van was ready, did we want a hire car and then we could drive home and the van would follow once it was ready? As much as fitting a flat full of belongings into something the probable size of a Fiat Panda, would have been an exciting challenge, we opted to re-arrange the ferry instead as we thought that would be easier. In the meantime, if they could organise a hire car so we could get around that would be really helpful.
Another day passed and the update was despite the fact the globe is navigating its way through a global pandemic where tourism has been massively impacted, we were in high season so there were no hire cars available. Good job we opted to stay and wait for the van then!
So left to our own devices, without transport, we booked a bus to Chamonix so we could go and visit friends. As I mentioned in my last blog the Italians take Covid very seriously so bookings had to be made in advance, face masks must be worn and limited spaces are available on the bus. We had a lovely, calm and air conditioned journey through the Mont Blanc tunnel into France, although we weren't allowed to sit together!
In France, social distancing and masks were not quite so mandatory, although things did get more strict in the two days we were there. Numbers in the ski lifts are most definitely reduced and masks had to be worn. I went for a beautiful hike around the Brevent area while Bing and Andrea climbed up a shear rock face. I didn't fancy that for some reason! Although I did get told I was definitely a Bingham, when I admitted I had hiked back up to the top because the queue for the lift was too long.
We tried for four days, through various means of communication to contact Brittany Ferries and change our ferry booking to no avail, so gave up and rebooked ourselves. Although give them their due, we did receive an email when we got back, apologising we hadn't been able to contact them when we needed to and confirming we would receive a refund for the original booking.
Once back in Italy we had confirmation the van was ready to collect and that a taxi would be arranged to take us to the garage. This was at 5pm and the garage closed at 6pm and was 30 miles away. I mentioned to the European assist this may be cutting it fine, but they were certain we could make it in time, even in rush hour. The taxi turned up at 5:40pm, luckily the driver was truly Italian and had aspirations of being a driver in the Italian Job, it was one of the most exciting journeys I've had in a while. Unfortunately we didn't make the garage for 6pm, but our star of a driver had phoned ahead and asked them to wait. Phew, the van was all fixed and after parting with almost 900€ to the most spotlessly clean garage I have ever seen, we were on our way back.
We had just enough time to squeeze in one more Via Ferrata, this time up to Refugio Monzino so I got the lunch I had missed out on the day the van broke down. Then we packed up the flat, gave it a deep clean ready for its new arrivals and came home.
It was sad to say goodbye to the mountains, especially not knowing when we will return this time. Although whatever happens, it is bound to be an adventure!