Al swore and stopped. I got up to investigate what had fallen inside the van.
Weird. Everything inside was intact. Checked the back of the van. seemed okay. Drove on for a bit on this seeringly hot blue day.
Stopped for a sandwich. Realised a rock, or something else hidden in the undergrowth, had ripped a bottom panel from the passenger side of the van. How had I missed that before when I was doing my round? Didn't look in the right place.
Very, very stressful.
But then Al and I reassure each other; enumerate disasters we've survived - remember the passports and cash in Vietnam? Yes, first world problems, but they feel bloody awful when you're experiencing them.
We're good, we say. We're driving through unexplored territory in the south-east of France. Life is sweet.
Then Sat Nav had her say: turn left in 100 meters. Bum. We missed it. Jane readjusted, as she does, then drove us into a trap, perhaps as some sort of vengeance. (I'll have to stop anthropomorphising that piece of equipment.) We looked down an impassable lane: ancient mossy shoulder high stone walls on either side & a 'road' consisting of two tyre tracks. We were fucked.
Couldn't reverse. No option but to proceed with mirrors folded in. Figured we were up for insurance excess anyway but we hoped we wouldn't get further damage to the van. Crawling through at snail's pace with branches scraping the driver's side, we got through. The lucky bit was that Al was able to drive straight across the road and into a lay-by of sorts. He could not have turned the wheel without incurring major damage to our rented van. He managed to get through, with me sobbing - I'd held it in when we'd hit the rock earlier - and some branch scrapes on his side. That miracle man didn't touch the walls.
The French word for relief is 'soulagement'. I've used it a couple of times today. Once, when we found a mechanic in the middle of god knows where who kindly removed the broken panel on the van and secured the electrics. The second time was when we arrived here at Camping Albirondack in Albi, where the 7th stage of the Tour De France ends on July 5.
It's hot, quiet and restful now we've stopped driving on those horrific lanes that pass as roads. We've got a cycle into the 'centre ville' to enjoy tomorrow, and I've shaved Al's head, which was getting a little too peach fuzzy, if you can imagine a peach with grey fuzz. He is thus transformed. Wish I could do the same for me. Perhaps a little foundation?