Our time at Camping Ramazotti was one of cool relief, lazing around in the shade, swimming a few times a day, and generally not wanting to move on. It was still unnaturally hot for May – a heatwave keeping the daytime temperature around 30 degrees.
The campsite backed onto a long, long stretch of sandy beach, the restaurant had spaghetti vongole on the menu – a dish I love for the melody of the name as much as the taste. A smart German van arrived beside us and we struck up conversation with Heike and Hermann. Their trip was more fixed than ours as they had not quite retired and had a four week itinerary planned. Their knowledge of the sites they wanted to see made me realise how little research I had done on anything other than places to stay and inspired me finally to tackle the ancient Rough Guide I had found at home and brought along. Too many renowned archaeological sites to limit ourselves to beaches.
Despite being in full laze mode we did finally get the bikes down. I may not have mentioned that having carted them all around France for only one ride last summer we did not take them to Spain over the winter. We should have though. The Los Pinos campsite was a forty minute walk along the beautiful coastal path to the town of Denia for the nearest shopping. Then there were regular buses back to the top of the road. The path was perfect for winging along on a bike – even more perfect for an e-bike! Yes, whilst at home we had researched and bought ourselves a couple of pedal-assisted electric bikes. Better to get a bit of a workout with some battery power involved than to get no workout because the effort always seems too much.
Here they are – two Gtech ebikes. They are pedal-assist which means they only help when you pedal, not like a mo-ped with a throttle and gearing, and they adjust to your effort up to the legal maximum of 15mph. Clever. Apparently the ones with throttles and gears are likely to lose their classification as bicycles before long. These are fun to ride and take the pain out of the operation. We pedalled into the village one day for bread and stuff to make insect bites stop stinging and went back again the next day to find it closed. So, even in the heat of the day, we continued along the cycle route to the other Lido a few kilometres away – easy peasy – and with a cool self-generated breeze. The gelataria was open so we rewarded ourselves appropriately. Then back again feeling very virtuous. My workout app (which only recorded only a meagre two thirds of the trip because I forgot to turn it on) told me I had done 5.81 kilometres at an average speed of 10 km/h and burnt 233 calories. Probably still a few burn to negate the ice cream (one scoop). Especially as the app did not know it was an e-bike:-)
Thoughts turned to Greece – we planned, we booked. A ferry from Ancona on Sunday 28th and the day before that a move one stop closer to minimise missing-the-boat anxieties. After five one-nighters in camperstops on the way though we were reluctant to move. Stella revealed the port was only 80 miles away and it was motorway all the way for a 15.30 check-in – in theory only a couple of hours away. There was no real need for an interim stop – so we spent another day in and by the sea. Only when we were leaving, good and early, did the appalling state of the roads in northern Italy reveal the damage it had inflicted on Portia’s parts:-( We trundled along the campsite track dismissing the rumbling noise from the back of the van as road noise. It wasn’t though – the bit of plumbing for draining the grey water tank, whose grip on the underside of the van had always seemed a bit shaky, had been dragging on the ground and then fell off just as we left the campsite – dumping our little remaining grey water all over the lane. Fortunately a passing camper pointed this out and there were the tap, the pipe and its bracket lying in the road 100 yards back. Why did this have to happen when we were already feeling the pressure of getting somewhere on time? Neil cursed his way round the block and back to the campsite where the very obliging manager found us four screws to replace the ones rattled loose along the way, and Neil was able to wedge the pipe back in a reasonably secure way. Unsettled but, amazingly, only twenty minutes behind schedule, we did a quick and stressed shop at Lidl and took some money out, fearing cards would not be accepted everywhere in Greece. (This proved wrong.) The anxiety wound up a notch when the first garage we tried refused to sell us any LPG – the guy claiming that the pressure used for powering vehicles was a different from that powering the cucina. We know this is not true but fridges in hot weather are a bit greedy, so it mattered quite a lot. Bugger. The next service station along just filled it up and nothing exploded. Ah well.
A few more miles and – phew – the check in, at least two hours early. There were Heike and Hermann who had taken the slow road shortly before our problem with the pipework. Too soon to relax though as it is not clear where to go to board. You are given a gate number but there is no indication of where the gate is and there are no calls to board. Turns out it is not on the same site and a few more roads need navigating. Thank goodness for helpful and knowledgeable fellow travellers who explain it all once they see you looking lost and anxious.
Still too jumpy to wait anywhere else, even in the shade, we went straight to the parking place on the harbourside and sat in the blasting sun for a few hours chatting with other moho hopefuls and trying to keep cool. A sea breeze helped. Here’s piece of useful information – ferry times are a bit approximate here – we got away about two hours late. The unloading and loading process is an unbelievable chaos of huge trucks, vans, mohos, motorbikes and people navigating around each other in the parking lot and the hangar-like space of the vehicle deck. Health and Safety? I don’t think so! Men with whistles beckoned and gestured ferociously to fit vehicles between struts and under beams with amazing precison. “They’re wankers” was the considered judgement of a regular british van driver next to us after being shunted into a space that looked severarl inches narrower than his van and trailer.
Now 22 hours to unwind on the ferry. We had a cabin although we had hoped to use the “camping on board” facility where you stay in your van on the open deck of the ship (but with access to showers, toilets and restaurants). This is cheaper than getting a cabin and sounded fun. Due to our late booking it was not available and the other line (Minoan) offers an “All inclusive camping on board” ticket. This gets you an inside en suite cabin and thirty per cent discount in the restaurants. Not sure where the “camping part comes in. I had thought of trying to upgrade to an outside cabin but the various hassles of the day meant we were just grateful to be on board at all. The inside cabin was pleasant. It had two berths rather than bunks so no ladder climbing needed – Neil was suitably grateful – and meant it was a bit wider than the Hull-Zeebrugge cheaper cabins. Not realising that we should have collected discount vouchers from reception on boarding we headed for the restaurant and picked up unexpectedly huge portions of pasticcio and salad. The nice man on the till gave us the discount anyway and advised us to get our vouchers for breakfast. Hermann and Heike rushed in just as we were leaving – now they were looking a bit stressed:-( They were disembarking at Igoumenitsa, four hours before Patras, so had waited all this time and been one of the last five vehicles loaded, and had struggled to find a power point – none of the loading staff give any information. Barely had they showered off the heat of the day when they heard the announcement that the restaurant was closing:-(
Stuffed with food and wine an early night was needed, made a bit later by losing an hour to Greek time, a comfortable bed, then most of a day to watch the Balkan coast slip by from the open top leisure deck – complete with empty swimming pool, bar and shade. A good place to watch a misty blue Albania float by.
Email addresses were exchanged with Heike and Hermann and we hope to see them on the way back – coincidentally on the same sailing as us!