Our Big Fat Greek Washout 02/09/10 – 7/09/10

Posted: September 10, 2010 in 4.Greece

In this exciting installment we learn that Megan really hates mountain roads, I mean really hates them, gravity goes two nil up, and we are no longer the coolest campers on the campsite….

2nd September

The last full day in Italy was spent visiting the Amalfi Coast. The book quoted this as the ‘most beautiful stretch of coast in Europe’ so how could we not go? and there was something about Megan’s family coming from here, but I forget the story even though she claims she has told me hundreds of times. Our reliance on the GPS was, at the time, total so we put in the name of one of the small towns on the coast and off we went. Ummm, well the town was 9 miles away but it took us about an hour and a half to get there. Mr GPS thought we would enjoy a trip through down town Pompeii first, an area that for Italy seems to have no discernable traffic regulations, save that everyone absolutely must overtake everyone else in the narrow, over crowded streets even though there is a constant traffic jam in either direction. After the stress of that he thought he would give us a break from the hustle and bustle of the town and show us the seaside not through the tunnel, oh no, tunnels are for chumps, but over the steepest hill the poor old Land Rover has ever seen, and judging by the black smoke coming out the back it wasn’t happy about it. The Land Rover wasn’t the only one, Miss Cartwright it seems is not a fan of twisting, narrow, steep, edge of the cliff driving in a 4 tonne Land Rover where the steering wheel only really acts as a suggestion to the wheels its meant to control. However we were rewarded with the most awesome views for the Mt Vesuvius and the valley below. Once the temperature gauge in the Land Rover had gone from molten lava to gentle simmer we headed down the other side and eventually arrived at the town of Ravello. From Ravello we followed the coast road/cliff edge back to Sorrento and Pompeii. Again, this is a most interesting road to navigate with a large car although by the end of the day I was hand braking the car around the bends like a seasoned Italian.

3rd September

We packed up the camp, a task that we now have down to 47mins from the 2 hrs in France, and headed toward Brindisi and the ferry to Greece. The idea was to take our time, as the ferry was not until 9pm so a few interesting stop offs where highlighted in the Lonely Planet and we set off in good cheer and high sprits. That quickly changed as the heavens opened and the most torrential down pour this blogger has ever driven through proceeded to last the entire width of Italy. In true Land Rover form, the two front doors, pedals, and air vents let in so much rain that tea towels, toilet roll and t-shirts were called into action to stem the flow of water into the cab. Every so often we had to stop in order to drain the water out of the foot wells, as the level was in danger of reaching ankle height. It was a strange sensation to drive whilst getting a foot spa and progress was slow to say the least. Bends didn’t help; as the Land Rover rolled a shriek from the passenger seat indicated that water had found a new entry point and had managed to land on Megan, which although mildly amusing was hardly the way one would choose to spend 6 hours crossing Italy. She was in constant fear that the next corner would result in 4 litres of water pouring onto her lap! We finally got to the port with no stops except for de-ballasting operations, at 6 pm. Seeing that I have worked on ferries for the last 3 years (I was a captain, no no really, I was, you can ask my mum) I had a professional interest in the Greek ferry operation, and I know I’m speaking to a limited audience with the following observations, which were totally lost on Megan, but to those reading this from Irish Ferries, I’m sure you will be tremendously interested….or maybe it’s just me. Actually, I’m not going to list them all because it makes me seem a little sad that even on holiday I go around looking for safety violations on ferries I don’t even work on. However, my personal favourite was a fire door wedged open with expanding foam, so I’m sure you get the picture. Needless to say, I wore my life jacket all the way across, slept in the lifeboat and held a flare in each hand. Oh and I fell down metal stairs and again landed on my back, you win again gravity.

4th September ‘

It doesn’t rain in Greece’

‘Well it is raining Simon’ ‘

But it’s Greece!’

‘And it’s raining’

‘But it doesn’t rain in Greece!’

And so on……

We arrived in Igoumenltsa to the rain we had driven through in Italy the previous day. I braved the Vodafone roaming charges to check the weather forecast: rain, rain and more rain the Blackberry told me, so we had to make a quick decision, stick with plan that had us staying in Parga about 50km from the ferry or go in search of the sun. Can you guess what we did? Damn right, we drove 10 hours in search of sunshine and a beach, which was the entire reason we came to Greece! Now a funny thing happens to Greek roads when they become wet, it’s a phenomenon that I have never heard of or been warned about, and it wasn’t until we were power sliding around a tight bend, the Land Rover moving sideways, a crash barrier approaching with increasing speed, some proper sailor swearing from the seat next to me (I mean there were words there that even I didn’t know), the brakes having no effect and if they could talk simply saying ’what do you expect me do about this?’ did we realise that something was very, very wrong. Luckily (or if I was allowed to tell the story in my own uncensored words; due to my amazing driving prowess) we managed to stop inches from the barrier, the only thing stopping us from a rather speedy descent down the mountain side. The equation below explains why this happened:

(Hot, oily, greasy Greek road) + Rain = A road surface equating to glass.

To be honest, I was rather impressed that we had managed to get a 4 tonne Defender 130 to go sideways, Megan however, wasn’t and from then on a snail’s pace was demanded from the Head Chef until we got to a better road. We witnessed a few recent accidents where cars with lesser drivers than myself had failed to stop in time, and ditches and fields became the last resting place for many a car that day. An up side of this very slow progress was that we achieved an extra 50 miles to a tank a fuel, which was nice. We finally found the Campsite recommended in the Rough Guide (which incidentally is nowhere near as good as Lonely Planet Guides) near Athens, and once the man was paid and our pitch found we ran into the sea and let out a rather big ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

5th September

Morning: Applied factor 10.

Afternoon: Sunbathed.

Evening: Applied copious amounts of after sun.

(We met a very nice couple, Johan and Monika, from Switzerland, and their annoyingly cool VW Camper Van, which to be frank took a lot of attention away from the Land Rover. However, we soon forgave them when it emerged that they were super friendly, and if they’re reading this we wish them good luck with the rest of their trip and their baby, which will be a far scarier adventure than ours!)

6th September

Morning: Applied factor 50.

Afternoon: Sat under the umbrella.

Evening: Applied slightly less after sun.

7th September.

Braved the sun again, with varying shades of pink achieved.

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Comments
  1. mark says:

    good luck to both of you and well done for doing it,would love to do similar one day,all the best and stay safe..Mark,Gill,Tilly

  2. Helen & Granddad/Joe says:

    Your Diary gets more “interesting” by the day!! There just HAS to be a book in this once you get to Oz. Well Done with the Driving skills and, of course, Well Done to the chief “Wet Weather Baler”!!! 🙂 You both certainly earned your time in the sun!
    Glad you were able to visit Ravello Megs, that’s the village where your Great Grandfather’s and Great Great Grandfather’s and Great Great Grandmother’s family came from.
    Sorry to hear you came another cropper down a ladder Simon – You really must take more water with it!!!
    Keep the Diary going – it makes fun reading (even if a little “scary” at times!!)
    All the Best from Calgary!

  3. Dave says:

    Hey Guys

    Just had to comment here,

    When travelling by ship, ferry or boat of any kind im not allowed to be all workish and make comments on anything, although on a greek ferry i would most defenately sleep on a raft made of deck chairs!

    All respect to the landie, but this is an Aircooled house and that camper had some serious looks going on,

    Loving the blog here, keep it up

    Cheers
    Dave Ellen & Erin

  4. Tony S says:

    Amazing journey ahead of you guys, we found out about you in LRO magazine and thought I had seen that vehicle before, we were touring the ALPs mid-late august in our grey 110 and positive we saw you near chamonix, we avoided the tunnel went round to val d isere for a few day and messed around on the val d isere 4×4 site. We travelled through france, germany, austria, italy, switzerland and back into france, 3000 miles and we were back home again camping in the Hannibal all the way:-)

    Keep the info coming on the site as it will make good regular reading for us people at work!!!

    Take care

    Tony and Liz

  5. nicholas says:

    the internet is rubbish here but wanted to ask if you had been published yet (add your own question mark as its not working)

    also how cool was the camper…its ok to admit you should have got one of them.

    love nick x

  6. Dermot says:

    S&M

    I have to say that the wife and I are really enjoying the blog – it really helps pass the time between 4am and 6am while I’m changing a nappy (got it down to 2 hours now)!

    While Martine is reading she invariably and involuntarily shouts “WE KNOW HIM!” We are not jealous though, and if we were… we would not tell you!

    Keep it up!

    Dermot, Martine and Orla
    Vicarious Adventurers

  7. Knut says:

    New asfalt (=oily) and water is in Norway used to teach drivers how to handel a car during Norwegian winter 🙂 (Obligatory teaching here)

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