Two Backpacks

Banks of Loch Lomond

Chapter 29 - On the move again!

            We’ve found potential buyers for the villa; Biggles has recovered well, and Les and Tina have returned safely to their beautiful home in Marxequera. It’s time for Ron and I to make tracks once more.

            There’s only one problem. Matilda sounds more like an approaching tank than a car! The mechanic at the local repair shop thinks the exhaust has worked its way loose from the manifold. Unable to postpone our plans to return to the UK, we’ve decided to chance it and keep everything crossed that a) the exhaust stays put and b) we don’t have a run-in with the police about the noise!

            We bid Les and Tina a fond farewell on a clear, early September morning and begin our journey north from Marxequera towards Santander.

            The high-sided, narrow lanes from the village to the main road, while beautiful with autumnal colours, act as an amplifier for the growl of Matilda’s engine.

            Grateful to be on the main road and heading for the Autopista, I breathe a sigh of relief once I change gears and Matilda cruises along at a steady seventy miles an hour, the noise from her engine now merely a throaty rumble.

            Ron is studying the route to Santander and trying to programme the satnav, avoiding as many towns as possible.

            ‘It’ll take a little longer, but I think I’ve found a route. I don’t want to chance getting stopped. We should arrive in Santander before it’s dark. Take the next turn; it should bring us onto the Autopista,’ Ron advises.

            I follow his directions, and ten minutes later, after paying the charge at the automatic entry booth, we’re on our way.

            Our journey is hassle-free. We arrive in Santander in the late afternoon. The hotel we’ve booked for the night is near the beach. Once we’ve checked in, Ron and I decide on a stroll to stretch our legs.

            It’s dusk when we step from the hotel. The air is heavy with the smell of the sea; the wind tugs at our hair as we pull our jackets tighter about us and walk briskly along the promenade.

            We find a café at the sea’s edge and, once inside, shrug off our jackets and take a table near the window.

            ‘I’ll be sad to leave,’ says Ron, glancing at the menu. ‘It’s been so relaxing. No worries, no problems. I wish life could be like that all the time!’

            ‘I know what you mean. Marxequera was so tranquil. There was no pressure to do anything apart from looking after Biggles and the villa.’

            A strong gust of wind rattles against the window.

            I look at Ron. We’re both thinking the same thing.

            ‘I hope the weather’s better than this tomorrow! I don’t fancy the voyage through the Bay of Biscay if the wind’s like this! Are you a good sailor, Ron?’

            ‘I survived the voyage to South Africa, so I suppose I can manage the trip back home,’ he says, smiling.

            We finish our supper and return to the hotel. The wind is stronger now. I can hear waves crashing against the promenade.

            ‘Let’s hope it’s calmer tomorrow!’ states Ron as we snuggle beneath the heavy, warm bedcovers.

            We wake to find a clear, calm morning. The storm has passed, and the sun’s shining.

            ‘Thank goodness for that,’ comments Ron as he begins to pack.

            ‘It was quite some storm. Did you hear the wind and rain against the window last night?’ I ask.

            Ron shakes his head. ‘You know me, I sleep through anything!’

            He’s right; he does!


            Matilda’s engine noise reverberates around the hold as we drive onto the ship later that evening. Luckily, no one stops us, and as soon as we park the car, we make our way to our overnight cabin.

            ‘Now all we’ve got to do is get up to Scotland and hope we can sell Matilda before we leave for Brazil. How much do you think we’ll get for her?’ I ask.

            ‘It’d be great if we could sell her for what we paid. But we’ll probably have to take a little less than the five hundred pounds we paid for her. Still, she got us to Spain and back. She’s worth every penny!’

            ‘I was sure one of the officials was going to say something about the exhaust,’ comments Ron as we settle for the night, hoping the Bay of Biscay, notorious for rough weather, is calm for our crossing.

            ‘Come on, Sandi! It’s nearly six. We dock in an hour!’ Ron’s already up and dressed.

            ‘Really? I can’t believe I slept so well.’ I stretch and yawn. ‘I’ll just have a quick shower,’ I add, pulling a towel around me.

            Ten minutes later, we’re sitting in Matilda, listening as the side of the ship scrapes against the quay wall. Blue skies and sun-clad Devonshire hills greet us as the bow door slowly lowers.

            ‘I loved our time in Spain, but it’s good to be home again, Ron.’ I fire up Matilda and silently pray no one stops us as her engine roars to life.

            I drive onto the quay and out through the dock gates, happy to be on the right side of the road once more.

            Half an hour later, we’re in Exeter, where we’re staying overnight with my daughter and her family. Our farewell the next day brings sadness. I’ve no idea when I’ll see her again.

            The long drive north takes us past Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, the heavily industrialised cities interspersed by rolling hills and woodland, the trees already turning yellow and bronze as autumn takes hold.

            The scenery begins to change as we near Carlisle; the hills are bigger, and there’s a tint of purple heather mixed with the yellow of gorse. As we travel further north, snow-tipped mountains slip into view; the sun disappears, replaced by leaden, grey rain clouds.

            ‘Welcome to Scotland,’ states Ron. ‘You can always be sure of a wet welcome here!’

            We both laugh.

            ‘I love it up here. I feel like I’m coming home even though I’m a Sassenach! Maybe we should think about moving back after our trip.’

            ‘There’s no way you’ll get me moving back to Scotland,’ states Ron. ‘It’s cold and wet. You’re lucky if you get two weeks of summer!’

            The following week we sell Matilda and get ourselves organised for the next leg of our trip.

            We spend our last night in Glasgow with Ron’s sister, Ann, and her family.

            ‘So, are you all ready to go tomorrow?’ she asks as we get ready for bed.

            ‘I think so,’ replies Ron. ‘We managed to sell the car for more than we bought her for! I feel sorry for the bloke who bought her, though. I’m sure he doesn’t realise just how expensive it’ll be to repair the exhaust.’

            ‘It was sad saying goodbye to Matilda,’ I add. ‘She was such a great little car. I’m going to miss her.’

            We settle down for the night and are up early the following day.

            Ann cooks us breakfast and drives us to Glasgow Airport. We’re flying first to London Heathrow and then to Rio de Janeiro via Lisbon, Portugal.

            ‘Take care, you two. It’s been lovely meeting you, Sandi. Hopefully, we’ll see you again one day.’ Ann waves us off as we enter the airport.

            ‘It’s been great taking time out in Spain, but I’m ready for a new adventure. Ron smiles and hugs me as we make our way to the boarding gate. Look out, Brazil! Here we come!’