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The time we were robbed


Spain had well and truly captured our hearts and we were more than happy to hang around for Christmas, with so much to see and do we had no doubt about being in this country for the festive period.

Leaving Lubrin behind we made our way to Granada, the first big city we’d visit in Spain, and soon to be our last. Spending the first night stealth camping with a couple of other vans by a sports centre and a skate park, we parked up down the road from the Old Town in the afternoon to spend the afternoon exploring the cobbled streets in the blazing sun. Throngs of tourists moved in packs throughout Albaicín, stopping at miradors to catch a stunning view of Alhambra in the distance, with impressive mountains providing an epic backdrop.  

The streets were narrow, some insanely steep, it was a shock to see people manoeuvring their cars through the seemingly impassable spaces. We’d rode our bikes through the area, allowing us to visit a lot more than we would have on foot.

I was lagging behind Theo as we approached the van after sunset, so was initially confused as he dashed madly around the side of the van, flinging the side door open, showcasing the fact that the lights were on. Immediately I thought we’d left the lights on accidently, so Theo was no doubt overreacting. It wasn’t until he dove out the van, hands clutching his face and repeatedly shouting “No, no, no!”, that I realised something horrendous had happened - we’d been robbed.

The van was a state; smashed window, glass scattered seemingly everywhere, curtains hanging haphazardly, absolutely every item imaginable had been pulled out of its respected home and rifled through, taken or dashed to the ground. They’d left nothing of ‘value’ behind; emptying every wash bag, backpack, make-up bag, draw, cupboard, glove box, to claim as many of our belongings as possible.

I can’t begin to explain what a pain in the ass and heartache the whole ordeal was. Frantically dialling 112 I spoke to an operator, who told me to call the police, but they weren’t sure of their local number and suggested I should just visit the police station. Explaining to them that a) I’m travelling so have no idea where a police station is, and b) that this was a crime scene so couldn’t exactly drive anywhere, I was at the end of my tether. With no other option I flagged down the first car to pass us – an Audi A3 driven by an English speaking Spaniard who was incredibly helpful and understanding, he even called the police on our behalf (I sadly lost his details on my old, broken phone). The kindness of strangers never fails to buoy our spirits, although we were going through a crisis brought on by the hands of strangers we were still incredibly grateful for Mr. Diaz who stayed with us after calling the police to act as an interpreter.

The police themselves were confused as to why we had so many valuables in our vehicle; wanting to know about every item we thought had been stolen. It was a difficult time to recount everything that had been taken as we couldn’t thoroughly search all our belongings until forensics had searched, so we didn’t even know exactly what was missing.

Saying goodbye to Diaz we followed the police to the station, one we would not have found without knowing exactly where it was, now being sat-nav-less meant we had zero chance of finding it with our map of Europe not providing detailed maps for every single city on the continent.

Trying to explain the separation anxiety we experienced when pulling up outside the station is impossible. They insisted we leave the van on the street, open and exposed with her smashed window. Even though the majority of our valuable possessions were now missing we still felt uneasy leaving her on the Granadan streets again, but we didn’t have a choice.

The police station was a disheartening, more questioning, taking details, and informing us forensics couldn’t sweep the van until the following morning at 8am. We looked at them incredulous – this was our home, where were we to sleep? They just shrugged, it wasn’t their problem.

Being thrust into a crisis such as this was most definitely an eye opener, and we couldn’t even have a decent sleep. Grabbing our slankets from the bed we swiftly discovered they’d even stolen our Christmas presents sent over from our families. It’s not the loss of material possessions that was difficult to deal with but the violation of our safe place, that gifts chosen for us by people who loved and cared for us would most likely just be thrown in a bush and discarded as easily as a piece of trash. Everything can be replaced but the bad taste in your mouth and uneasiness takes much longer to fade.

That was the last straw – upset that our world had been turned upside down we made the decision to return to the UK as soon as the pointless forensics was undertaken so we could repair the van and replace the necessities.

Refreshed from The Worst Nights Sleep Ever, we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed for a super swift forensics exam then immediately hit the local shopping centre to wrestle a piece of cardboard big enough to cover the window out of the recycling and tape it to the van. Then began the horrendous clean up – glass was everywhere. We still find pieces now, 6 months later, the stuff just gets in every space imaginable. Given the chance to fully check through the van we realised more items were missing, which just added to our intense desire to leave – we’d already overstayed our welcome.

The weather reflected our feelings as huge raindrops splatted onto the tarmac of the garage we cleaned up in. It was time to leave Spain and after 2 days solid driving, two nights sleeping in the port of Bilbao, one ridiculously rough ferry crossing with 5 vomiting incidents, then another 200 miles through UK motorways we were back where we’d started 6 months previously.

Part one of vanlife was complete with its harsh realities.