We were doing so well. Thanks to our friends at Renfe, we rode the train from Seville to Mérida on Tuesday. While we were waiting for the announcement of the platform where the train would arrive, we got in touch with a German and Spanish cyclist who had also just completed a trip and were heading back. Nice! Walking up the platform, we were addressed by a man with a light blue shirt and square shoulder bag whose eyes we had felt in our necks for some time. A lot of Spanish which we couldn’t understand. It did make us a little nervous, but nothing happened. We boarded and coordinated a space division with the other cyclists. The train drove off. Pfffieuw 😅. Once on our way the conductor came by to check the tickets. He didn’t say anything. But then he came back after an hour or so: that he was responsible (‘responsable’ – had he taken the same course as that French colleague last year?) And we therefore had to move the tandem; something we needed our German and Spanish friend for, who disagreed, so nothing happened. Without any further problems, we arrived in Mérida.
On the way, Wouter had updated us on the history and sights of Mérida – we had considered it a necessary overnight stay until then – so we were just able to visit the excavation of a Roman villa from the first century BC(!!!!) with beautiful mosaics and even murals. Super interesting!
The next morning, we had to get up early for the 7.30am train. When we got to the station at 7am, someone immediately started shouting that our bike was too big. Thanks to his colleague, we were allowed to go to the platform where the conductor then had to decide whether we could come along. So we did our usual routine of taking our bags off and dragging them downstairs, returning up the stairs for our tandem and vice versa on the next platform. And then we waited. The platform was fuller than we had expected and the train arrived early too – not a good sign, too much time to fuss. We could have saved ourselves all the preparation. This conductor was clear. He knew a few words of English, the most important of which were ‘no’ and ‘too long’. He called me in to look at the (in my opinion large) space – I got my hopes up: could I convince him there? – but alles, I couldn’t get a word in.
So there we were on the platform. Now what? First things first: the bags down and up the stairs again and the same with the bike. Could we hire a van? If so where? Oscar soon found that there was a Hertz office in Mérida. So we headed there.
At 8 am Hertz was still closed, but next door was a café already serving coffee with tostade jambon y tomate. We had earned that. At 8.30 a.m. sharp, the first lady arrived to see if we had a reservation. Not so. But not to worry, she just needed to start up her PC. Unfortunately, she did not have a big car, and a van only from next Monday onward (😳 we should be in NL by then). Another Hertz office perhaps? She grabbed the phone: alas, no luck. But maybe the competitor Enterprice? She called there too and then also Avis which is on the other side of town. Avis could not help, and Enterprice didn’t call back. We were getting quieter and quieter. Tomorrow, Wednesday is a bank holiday and then everything is closed 😨. But then Enterprice called back! There would be a van there. It was 9.30am and we felt like kings. Our problem seemed solved. We hoped on our bike, less than a kilometre away. Funny though, there was no recognition. Surely we had heard her mention a tandem. The first official did not speak English and we had to wait for his colleague. After 10 minutes, the young man in question arrived. He did speak English, and quite well too, but he had no van before Tuesday. But what about the lady who called? “I am the director here.” “she’s lying”. And no, he couldn’t do anything else for us. Now we were really stressed. What to do? Back to our indefatigable friend from Hertz. But she didn’t know what else we could do either. “Could we try in Seville?” She gave us the number of the central Hertz organisation. Oscar called – it was difficult for a while to agree that we were talking about Seville and not Sicily, but then it worked out. A bus we could pick up at the station in Seville on Thursday and return to Alicante airport on Friday. That still fit exactly into our schedule 😅. We can even just use our booked flat in Allicante. But how to get back to Seville? The only train of the day turned out to be sold out. Luckily, our friend from Hertz Mérida still had a fiat 500 with a red open roof – “very funny car” or did she mean ‘a fun car’? -. At 11.30am we drove it to the local Mercadone for groceries and chocolates to thank our friend before setting of to Seville at noon. Now we only had to find a place to stay for the night and tomorrow we have to drive 1000km of which about 200km to return the fiat and pick up the tandem.
No sooner said than done. We had a nice dinner in town and went to bed early because the van had to be picked up at 7 am. Driving behind each other is unsociable but it works. After Mérida, however, things got more and more interesting. Soon the road became two-lane. After over an hour, we had to turn right and entered a local village road. A little later we had to turn again. This road was hardly paved 😳.
It was time for a driver change so we stopped at a petrol station in the next village. Both a bottle of coke for much-needed energy and on we went again. Only now we had to go through the village. The road was barely wider than the van and there were parked cars left and right. The next street was even narrower. It got on my nerves and I started grumbling at my nicest tone of voice (not) to Oscar that this couldn’t be the right road that he should find another way/I didn’t want to drive on like this. Oscar, of course, did not know how to solve this either. Fortunately, the end of the village came in sight where there was another two-lane road and even a little later a real motorway. We hadn’t seen anything like that in a long time.
To the tones of War/When two tribes go to war (Franky goes to Hollywood), I want you to come together (St Germain) and Purple Rain (Prince), we drove into the ‘civilised’ world. It felt like an apt indictment of this moment in time where we really can’t hide from all the woes anymore. We need you to come together over there in the Middle East!
Thankfully, the rest of our journey to Alicante brought no further significant incidents (parking in the city is certainly as much of an ordeal as in that village at the petrol pump, but thankfully Oscar is a lot ‘cooler’ than I am).
We used the evening to split the luggage into “needed for the trip home” and “can go with the carrier”. That wasn’t easy – apparently we are attached to our stuff after all – and we were glad we bought an extra backpack on a whim in a Decathlon in Seville….
Fully on schedule, we delivered the tandem to the carrier. The company involved turned out to be very relaxed, so with a “just put it there, everything will be fine” we left after only a few minutes after arriving. We were slightly inner editie .
All is well that ends well. We promised ourselves to take the objections of Renfe’s customer service a bit more seriously next time.
Now only 🤞 that that notification in the NS international app that our journey may have changed doesn’t throw a spanner in the rest of our trip.
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