On leaving the campground we decided to route through some minor towns before joining the highway, as Nina had some postcards to mail and I needed a coffee. (By the way, the French do not make a good coffee. I asked for a cappuccino, which I was sure had to be fairly universal, and I received a beverage made with instant coffee, powdered milk and whipped cream. And A STRAW! I've learned since to request a cafe au lait with extra lait).
We found mailbox, coffee and pastries (By the way, the French do make a bloody good pastry) and we're patting ourselves on the back at our good fortune when disaster struck.
I was driving, at about 30 km/h, when a rapid series of bangs made me look in the mirror to see our dear Pampert bounce up and over, grinding to a halt on her side. One of those moments that are so surreal it doesn't even register.
I stopped the car and it became apparent that we had lost a wheel, which was resting 10 metres back. A few passers by helped rock it back up, and we got it off the road without trouble. I had to inform Nina of what was going on.
'Pampert is a little bit broken'.
She put a hand on each cheek and wailed her longest phrase to date. 'Oh no Mum! Pampert e broken, our holiday e finis!' with a certain melodrama that comes of her being both Italian and my daughter.
It doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened had we been on the highway. But for a snap decision and a coffee addiction we would have been.
As well as the wheel, the door was jammed shut and a slight bend in the towing arm, as well as superficial damage to the body. Poor Pampert!
Then something really amazing happened. One of the guys who had first seen us stuck around for a half hour, eventually leaving us his screwdrivers, while another, Jose, went home to return with a toolbox, and spend the next 2 hours trying to fix the wheel and the door with Beppe, both of them speaking a rather inefficient mix of Spanish, Italian and French.
After doing what he could, he invited us home for a coffee before we set off to limp towards a camping, and we couldn't say no. His wife welcomed us in, and the invitation turned into an insistence that we stay for Easter lunch, despite them having 5 kids under 10, including 2 sets of twins, and his father for lunch, and our non existent French making conversation impossible.
We got by with sign language and hand gestures as the guys spent all day long trying to fix our little camper and Yvette helped to look up local mechanics and hotels. Nina had a ball with the twin babies and a seven year old, Cassandra, who was her adopted sister by the days end.
Jose is himself Portuguese and insists the French would not have stopped, but I don't know if that's true. Thank goodness for busy-body know-it-all stranger who will spend their entire Easter helping us sort out our problems and open their home to complete unknowns, with whom they can't even communicate. I'm sure there's an Easter message in that there.
Since then we've spent every moment trying to get parts and find a shop that can do some repairs. We have a new towing arm, and new door hinges, and have limped up to Dijon to stay with friends until we can get the door to close properly. We need a panel beater or at the least a drill. Fingers crossed we find something before the weekend.
So far 2 out of 2 Pampert trips have been a bust, so we are mightily discouraged. But things could be worse, and we have an excuse to visit friends, so its not all bad. If we can get things sorted out we will be taking an easy, lazy week to travel back home to Florence through the south of France. Things could be worse.