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May 12, 2014 | A traumatic journey through Spain, Part 1

It’s Thursday, May 8. A colleague has brought the Editourmobil to Barcelona for the first stage of our Spain Tour. The two of us, Waldemar Schmitke and I, Kay Barton, arrive virtually at the same time by plane from Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, ready to set off on our trip from Barcelona to Seville. We are greeted with bright sunshine as we clamber aboard the vehicle at the airport parking lot. Our first appointment is with the machine manufacturers Side, who are located about 50km north east of Barcelona. We decide to make a prompt start in case we fall into the trap of underestimating how long the journey might take us. Waldemar takes the first stage.

After about an hour we are driving along a pleasant coastal road, we stock up the fridge at a local supermarket, grab a bite to eat, and continue on our way. Arriving at what is supposed to be an industrial zone, we immediately realise we have gone wrong somewhere. It’s beginning to dawn on me that my satnav is not entirely reliable. Some local workers are a better bet, and they quickly put us back on the right route, about 5km down the motorway.

On the way, we have to navigate a narrower road, bordered to right and left by trees and overhanging branches. It’s not really a problem until we meet vehicles coming the other way. In the wing mirror, I can see the line of trees coming ominously close, but by then it’s already too late. A loud bang and in the mirror I see parts of the awning flying off the vehicle. And then comes another loud crash as we hit the next tree. A piece of metal from the side of the vehicle, about a metre long, goes flying behind us. Waldemar gingerly drives to the next street and brings the vehicle to a halt. Whilst we are taking stock of the damage done to half of the awning rod and the cover, nearby residents rush up to see what all the fuss is about. No panic, we gather together the bits and dump them in the waste bin round the corner; everybody seems amazingly relaxed about the whole thing. The awning has had it, that's for sure. Still in a state of shock, we get back in the vehicle and start off again towards the Side factory. It is now getting dark and we decide to look for a place to park up for the night near the industrial area. We spend the rest of the evening mulling over the experiences of the day. It is a mild evening and we settle ourselves in two picnic chairs in front of the vehicle. Two beers help us recover from the unwelcome excitement of the past few hours.

Next morning we meet Josep Jiménez, Export Manager of Side along with Oriol Vivez, the Sales Manager. On this part of the tour, for a change, I am chief blogger and photographer, so all the interviews are in Waldemar’s capable hands. We learn a lot about the Spanish market and Side’s business.

Assembling area of Side with (f.l.t.r.) Josep Jiménez and Waldemar Schmitke

To round off our visit, Josep takes us to Side’s production halls, which leads us nicely to our second appointment with Side 's nearby customers PFP Termopolimeros, where we are welcomed by Mr Fernando Sirera. The manufacturers of bottles and cans for household goods and pharmacy is in the process of expansion. In addition to the current production lines PFP has plenty of room for new machinery and offices.

Visiting the capping area of PFP Termopolimeros with (f.l.t.r.) Fernando Sirera and Waldemar Schmitke

After the appointment, we pause briefly next to the plant and I take the opportunity of fixing the fabric of the awning, which has already come slightly adrift during the drive to Side. Thank goodness we have masses of cable ties on board. Once everything is secure, we can get safely back on the road again. We decide to spend the weekend in Barcelona and drive back into town towards the Olympic Stadium, where our authoritative guidebook, which I had thoughtfully tucked away in the Editourmobil prior to our departure from Heidelberg, indicated there was a pitch. Bingo. At the Botanical Garden there is plenty of space for parking and, even better, it’s all free. We park the Editourmobil, make preparations for the coming week’s appointments, and do a little sightseeing at the Castell de Montjuic. From here there are magnificent views over the whole of Barcelona. In the evening, hunger leads us inevitably back to the city where we find an excellent restaurant right by Las Ramblas.

We spend the weekend here, lapping up the sunshine and warm temperatures. There is a lot to do, because an Editour is essentially an office on wheels equipped for all the business of the day! Nevertheless, there is still time in the evenings to go down in the city to do a bit of exploring in Barcelona's tapas bars. To give us enough time for our next appointment on Monday morning, we cut short our Sunday afternoon. The weather is beautiful and as we will no longer be on a coast road on our journey to Seville, we decide to make a little detour via the town of Calafell, overlooking the sea. Once there, we park the Editourmobil on the busy railway station car park. For around two hours we amble along the beach promenade, enjoy a snack, and make our way slowly back to the Editourmobil. We open the door and stagger back, utterly aghast at the sight before our eyes. The vehicle has been completely ransacked. All the cupboards torn open, drawers pulled out and flung across the floor, clothes, utensils, paperwork, everything scattered everywhere, a complete and utter mess. The window blinds have been ripped, the bathroom door torn off its hinges. We look at each other with a mixture of disbelief, horror and disgust. Everything has gone, they’ve taken just about anything of any value. For quite some time, we stand in silence, appalled at the shambles before us. But we need to get a grip: carefully, as calmly as we can, we assess the damage. What has been taken? It doesn’t take us long to figure out: all three cameras, mine and Waldemar’s, the panoramic camera, several lenses, my new laptop and even my tablet, which I had carefully concealed when we left the vehicle, all gone. Even worse, if anything could be worse, they’ve taken my passport and house keys. How on earth had the burglars carried the stuff away? The answer was obvious. My trolley suitcase was also missing, and they had obviously packed everything into it and made off. I am utterly lost for words. Data, emails, my Tunisia reports and photos – all gone, because I could only load parts of the data on the company server whilst we were on the road. Fortunately they didn’t spot Waldemar's laptop which is still here. He goes straight off to the police station, whilst I stay with the vehicle. It seems like an eternity before he returns. We both need to report to the police station so that a full report can be made. We need no second bidding. We go to the police station round the corner and the police, one of whom speaks excellent English, take a comprehensive statement, although we are well aware at this point that they are merely going through the motions, because we and the police know already that our stuff has gone, never to be seen again. About one and a half hours later we are back at the vehicle. Some detective or other from another police department will probably drop by next day at the Editourmobil and see if he can come up with anything. So we leave everything in its chaotic state and settle ourselves around the dining table, more or less paralysed into inactivity. Admittedly, I 'm soon to get on the next plane out of here. In all our previous tours we’d encountered a few minor glitches with the vehicle, a stolen solar panel in Brazil, bribing corrupt police officers in Azerbaijan... but this is on a completely different scale. I lie in bed, unable to sleep for thinking about all the things I need to do..... get online as soon as possible to change dozens of passwords, replace all the locks at home, check my bank account.... the burglars have made off with my address book.

The alarm goes off and I have hardly slept. Wide awake, I get up. We did have an appointment today at 10 o‘clock with Novapet near Barbastro, but unfortunately we have to put it off, because we have to wait for the Spanish detectives to appear. They should really be coming sometime during the morning, according to what the police told us yesterday. I make use of the time as best as I can, changing all my passwords, which takes time, because access to the net is horrendously slow. Around 11:00 Waldemar goes to the police station to ask what’s happening. Unsurprisingly, no-one seems to have a clue. It soon becomes blindingly obvious: no-one is going to turn up. I make a start in cleaning up the mess, we repair the bathroom door and the blinds on the skylight (the entire window has to be unscrewed, forcing us to carry out some improvised DIY). At 14:00 we finally set off for Madrid, some 600km away, for which we can now have about 1.5 days to do. It sounds a lot, but considering the speed of the Editourmobil plus the mountains en route, we’ll need all the time we can get.