Garry Stuart – freelance photographer
It seemed a good idea at the time. We were due to go down to our house in South West France for a few weeks in July when I learned of a new Land Rover event near Clermont Ferrand, deep in the Massif Central. We needed to be down there on a Friday, but only found out about it the day before, so the Terrano had to be fettled and loaded in a hurry so that we could drive down to Dover overnight and sleep for a few hours at the ferry port before boarding an LD Lines ferry to Boulogne at 05.00hrs.
Disembarking at 07.00hrs, French time, we made good progress south. Unfortunately, there seems to be no choice but to drive around the Peripherique which circumnavigates Paris. The traffic ground to a halt around the run-down area of St Denis. By the time we passed the Stade de France rugby stadium the traffic was hardly moving and the outside temperature was climbing inexorably until, eventually, the Terrano’s temperature gauge was reading 39 degrees C. Normally, the traffic gets going again after the Stade de France, but in our haste to get to the Land Rover meet we had not realised that this was what in France is termed a ‘Red Weekend’ on the roads when everyone and their Tante upsticks, piles kids into and bicycles onto their cars, heading en masse, lemming-like, south and west to the seaside. We were stuck for hours in this mayhem until the Terrano’s water temperature gauge started to creep up, eventually reaching the red zone. Hastily, we pulled onto a cross hatching bit of Peripherique and stopped. Donning the obligatory hi-viz vests we sat on some Armco wondering what the hell to do. Eventually, we got going again and took a slip road off and found somewhere to park. The next problem was that all Payant places could not be paid for by coins or bank card, only by Mondex, which we don’t have. Great!
The Terrano stayed cool as long as it had some forward momentum, but all routes were in gridlock. We then programmed the sat nav to take us via the minor roads. This almost worked until we ground to a steamy halt once again near Orly airport where we gave up around 15.00hrs and found a hotel which hadn’t been modernised since the 1950s, sweating in a room that resembled a set from ‘On the Waterfront’. We decided to leave at 04.00hrs and head south in cool air and traffic-free roads. When we got to the Autoroute south at 05.00hrs we were greeted by the sight of a dense ribbon of stationary cars, who, no doubt, all had the same idea. This is a strange French ritual as they all begin their vacances at exactly the same time. Fed up with all the traffic chaos we abandoned our plans to get to Clermont Ferrand and set the sat nav to take us to our house, using only minor roads which, amazingly, were all traffic-free, and we got home by lunchtime with no more problems. The Terrano was then able to recommence its workhorse duties clearing the garden and trailering garden waste to the dechetterie (dump).
Model: Nissan Terrano II LHD
Spec: LWB 2.7Td
Mileage: 412,500km (256,315 miles)
Test MPG: N/A
Recent costs: Lots of diesel
Arrived: March ’09