May 22, 2015: Logistical Challenge Day

Rachel, Shawn and I had to be up early this morning.  We have to drive up to Granada, past Granada actually through Santa Fe, to the airport so that we can pick up their rental car.  The pickup is scheduled for two o’clock but it takes over an hour to get there so we have to leave at half past noon which means getting up and getting moving much earlier than we normally would.

Getting up to Granada was no big deal.  Rachel was a bit stressed as she watched me navigate mountain roads, driving a manual (which she learned how to drive on but has not driven in years) and finding my way through Spain as she does not know the towns and directions which will make it a bit more challenging for them to get around.

Getting to the Granada airport was no problem.  We did not miss a single turn nor use any GPS.  Highway signs are generally pretty good in Spain.  The big challenge is that they are all by landmark not by direction.  So knowing east or west does not help you, but knowing that you need to go towards Sevilla, Malaga or the Alhambra does.  So you have to know the geography of Spain even to make the correct turns for the local market.

It was about an hour and a half drive.  Granada airport is absolutely tiny, smaller, I think, that Westchester County airport.  Probably similar to Elmira or Ithaca airports.  Parking was a bit confusing because we did not want to fly, only pick up a rental car but the rental car directions sent you to the wrong place.  You have to just park normally and walk into the airport terminal to do anything, which is not really surprising at all but is not what is exactly indicated by the signs.  But this is a small airport and easy to deal with.  I mean, we were the only car going around the airport circle the two times that we did it!  It is that small.

The line for Gold Car was crazy when we got inside.  I mean really crazy.  More than an hour long.  We arrived in time to rent the car, just barely, but with more than an hour wait to get to the clerk it was after three when we finally got a chance to talk to someone.  When we finally did we got the awful news that Gold Car does not rent cars to Americans who do not have an International Driver’s License in Spain.  This came as quite a surprise because we have rented a car here already (with Firefly) without needing one and on the Internet people report not needing one regularly.  We have yet to have seen any report of someone needing one when renting a car.  Rachel, of course, does not have one as she had never heard of such a thing until today and when leaving the United States had had no intention or means of driving in Europe so would not have looked into it at all anyway.  So this is a pretty big problem.  I do not have one either so we are unable to switch the rental to my name and add her as a driver to my car from Firefly.  So we were stuck and had to give up that rental car.

Now what to do.  We are already out of time and now we don’t have a rental car.  Dominica called in to DoYouSpain who had handled the rental to get our money back while we tried to figure out how to rent another car from either Avis or Europcar who were the only two other car rental companies at the airport.

We managed to get a car from Avis, a Volkswagon Polo, for five times the price that we were going to get it from Gold Car (yes, really five times the price!)  But Dominica called us back and said that DoYouSpain refused to refund us our money because we had not attempted to cancel until after the pick up time (we weren’t cancelling, they didn’t honour the deal and we were there on time, they were just not ready to rent us the car!!!!) so we would have to cancel the car with Avis and get DoYouSpain to book the car with Avis or else we would have to pay for both cars.  Oh wait a day this is turning out to be.

This turned into at least half an hour of phone calls and texts with Dominica attempting to book the car but getting disconnected and us needing Rachel to be on the phone to deal with authenticating the transaction and Rachel not having phone or email service so all of the emails that she needed to see or respond to were unavailable.  What a mess.

Eventually we got things figured out.  We cancelled the first Avis car, dealt with several calls to get the reservation put through remotely, waited for it to show up in the system, and sometime after four, after more than two hours in the airport, we had keys, had spent five times the intended amount of money and were out in the parking lot getting Rachel into her nice, red, Volkswagon Polo five speed.

This led us to our next adventure, getting me out of the parking lot.  Once I got them into their car, I walked back to the caja (place where you pay for things, literally means a “box” but is often used to refer to banks and anyplace where you pay for things) and found that it did not accept modern Euros, only some form of cash that I had never seen (an older Euro that I have no access to.)  I did not have enough change on me or in the car to pay for the parking.

I ran back to where Rachel and Shawn were in the Polo, having not left yet, and Shawn had exactly the four Euros that I needed to pay for the parking.  So I ran back and tried to pay with the change.  During the time I had run to and from their car, though, the price of the parking had gone up by ten cents and I, again, did not have enough change to pay for the parking.

So I ran back to their car again hoping that they had more change but this time Rachel had pulled away and did not see me as I chased her on foot through the parking lot, to the parking gate and down the airport driveway until they were out of sight.  This day just gets better and better.

So I went into the airport to ask the Avis manager what I should do since I was trapped inside the parking lot and things were just getting worse and worse.  I had plenty of cash on me but nothing that the automated machines would accept.  Thankfully he walked me outside and showed me, way at the other end of the airport, a caja that was manned.

I walked really far out in the head which was much worse in the parking lot but at first only found automated machines again.  These not only did not accept my cash but did not accept any cash.  They were happy to tell me that I now owed fifteen cents more than I owed the last time I attempted to pay, though.  Grrrr.

Finally I found the caja with the person working in it.  He took my cash and charged me a fifty cent premium for having it done in person!  Argh.  Not happy with Granada Airport at all at this point.  That is just ridiculous.

A long walk back to the car and a confusing time getting out of the parking lot since all of the signs pointed you into closed off construction areas but once I was out it was easy to find Rachel and Shawn waiting on the side of the road and they followed me to the local gas station so that we could get coffee.

Sadly, the local gas station had no coffee.  They also were not sure how to charge us and it took forever as we first paid with a credit card, but a bottle of water was missed and we had to pay cash.  And then a long ordeal as people had to get itemized receipts printed out for us as they have to do that in Spain.  It was way more effort and took way too long.  Shawn commented on how badly this was all going that even paying at a gas station wasn’t working for us today.

At this point, we were finally in good shape and able to return to La Alpujarra.  Finally.

The drive back went fine, which was pretty surprising at this point as so much else had gone wrong.

We had to stop in Órgiva to stock up on cash for the trip as we plan to deal in cash and avoid using the credit cards as card skimmers are rampant in Morocco and we want to be as safe as possible.  We also wanted to pick up lunch to take back for Dominica and the girls.  We hit the Moroccan place to get lunch and…. it was closed again (second week in a row that we did not think about the fact that it was a Friday and that it would be closed on Fridays – one week until we figured this one out.)  We went to the telebanco (ATM) and Rachel was able to get cash but I was not, for some reason the ATM failed on me.  This is not good.

Rachel and Shawn wanted to go visit the bar that they had discovered a week ago but I reminded them that Rachel, Dominica and the girls were already late leaving for Tarifa and that our buffer time was already used up dealing with the car.  If felt like the middle of the day but it was already crunch time or the hostel was going to lock up and we were going to be unable to get in!

So we returned to the house without cash and without food, hours late and having spent hundreds of dollars that we had not intended to have spent.

Back up on the mountain I got right to work as I cannot work super late tonight.  Shawn had the afternoon to just play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on his Kindle Fire and relax while I worked.  Rachel and Dominica got the girls packed up, the car packed and on the road as soon as they could orchestrate it.  Between us getting there late and them taking time to get ready it was probably after six when they actually hit the road.  Cutting it very close indeed.

Their drive ended up going fine and they were able to stop for food along the way and avoided the toll highway, the AP7, most of the way saving some money.  They got to Tarifa fifteen minutes before the hostel locked up for the night!

Once moved into the hostel and parked they went across the street for wine and snacks before retiring to the hostel to wait for Shawn and me to arrive which would not be for many hours.

It was around one in the morning when Shawn and I were able to get in the car and leave Cáñar.  What a long day.  It was long and it was stressful and now there was this all night drive down to Tarifa.

I avoided the toll roads the entire way, which was probably foolish as the last leg of non-tolls, the part that the girls had skipped, was 40kph the entire way and just one roundabout after another.  We easily added an hour to the total drive.

It was after four in the morning when we got into Tarifa.  We had managed to stop at a gas station along the way and get sandwiches and coffee for the car, but that was all.

Dominica was still awake, waiting for us to arrive and let us in the locked door.  We had found their car parked on the street and were able to park right in front of them which made things easy.  The spot had a notice on it that cars would be towed from there at eight in the morning, but Dominica said we had to be gone by eight in the morning anyway so it was fine to park there.  This is going to be a very short night.

Dominica and my room was three twin beds.  Dominica had one, I had the middle one and the girls shared one by the window.  There were not enough power outlets in the room so we were only able to charge one phone during the night and have my CPAP plugged in.  But it was a very cheap room and the beds were not bad.  The bathrooms were way down the hall and several of them did not work which was frustrating.

It was no earlier than five before I fell asleep.  Going to be really exhausted tomorrow.