During September we undertook the appraisal and purchase of Peter Uuerpmann's collection located in Guadamar Del Segura near Alicante, Spain.
As the collection was in secure storage there were some challenges in getting access and seeing the minerals, however this was overcome by moving the collection to a rental suite in an holiday complex nearby.
Having agreed to buy the collection the logistical fun really started: Guadamar is 15 hours by road from Caen, France and the most convenient crossing back to the UK.
With some investigation we were able to find a one-way van hire business located near Portsmouth, UK and Alicante, Spain and they could deliver a van to meet us at the rental suite in Guadamar.
So we set out the itinerary to get us home with the rocks;
- drive to Southampton Airport
- park the car, fly to Alicante
- meet Peter, recheck the collection
- receive the van from the hire company
- leave Guadamar, drive 6 hours to Pamplona
- stop overnight, drive 9 hours to Caen
- overnight ferry to Portsmouth
- Portsmouth to Southampton Airport, collect our car
- return van to hire depot, transfer rocks to car
- drive home.
What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
We got through to van delivery, a brand new Mercedes Sprinter with 1200 miles on the clock.
We packed and left, George drove the first leg, we had a nice cup of coffee at 1000m altitude in rural central Spain, I drove the second leg to Pamplona.
We had a relaxed stop over in Pamplona, dinner and an early start for a full day's motorway trek through the Pyrennes, France and on to Caen.
We were doing ever so well and after around 3 hours on the road, planning the rest of the day's driver changes, stop for e-Rocks work and so on.
Just as we went through the Peage toll at Liposthey, we could smell "hot engine" and George spotted a bit of smoke - not good.
Pulling over to look under the bonnet revealed quite an explosion of oil mixed with coolant. Strange as the engine was running fine, but the sump was completely empty and the oil was either dropping through the bottom or mixed to a fine emulsion in the coolant reservoir!
1800 miles on the clock, and 2 weeks old this was not expected of a Mercedes!!
Ho hum never mind the van came with full AA European assistance so they will sort it out, and we were in a nice Service Station with restaurant, internet and washroom.
Little did we know!!!
Firstly all recoveries from French motorways are done by private contractor. Who duly turned up and hauled us back to a closed garage in the middle of nowhere.....
In the meantime we had spoken to the van hire company and the AA to begin the fix/recovery operation.
As the van was so new someone had the bright idea of passing the incident to Mercedes customer service - a bad plan.
We were marooned for 6 hours until Mercedes organised a tow back to a town (Mont de Marsan) 35 miles in the opposite direction to a garage that was closed till the following Monday!
Thankfully and to the credit of the hire company, they decided this was not going to be too popular with us and took things on.
A new van was organised and was driven up from Alicante (10hours) overnight to meet us at our hotel, cross over the loads and get us on our way again after dropping the driver at a convenient railway station.
It really was a great moment when the delivery guy was dropped off and we pulled back onto the motorway.
Certainly not a great 24 hours delay, but all ended well back at the hire depot at 0800 on Monday morning!
We think the collection is brilliant and well worth the trip, but we also need to thank Ken and Paul at J Hire for working so diligently to put things right.
If you ever need a one way van trip between Spain and the UK, this is the place to go, but don't ask for a Mercedes!