After Delphi we had two nights to get back to Patras for our ferry on 20th June. We wound back along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth looking down at the small villages in the bays below. Each had a cluster of buildings in the middle and rough roads extending either side along the beach. A motorhome could easily park up discreetly away from the buildings and stay the night. After trying one or two we found a spot just along from a taverna where the van did not obstruct anyone’s view or access. A passing bus driver told us we were fine there. The view was nice, the water was but feet away so first we had a swim (that speck is Neil) and then a cup of tea at the taverna. We had post cards to write. It’s all go.
Being nervous of missing the boat we wanted to stay the night before the sailing just a short distance away. So over the Gulf we went on the amazing Rio-Antirrio suspension bridge back to the first camp site we stayed at when we arrived a few weeks ago. Next morning we found the right road back to the ferry port by ignoring Stella’s directions to the shorter, narrower, busier minor roads we had followed on arrival.
Our sailing was mid-afternoon so we got there late morning and parked up in the blasting heat of the port car park. Check-in informed us the ferry was two hours late and, as afternoon turned to evening, this extended to five hours. The chaos beside the dock was even worse than the outward trip. The only staff around were there to chase the skinny brown young men who raced across the concrete with their small backpacks trying to get onto a ship or a lorry. Or a motorhome. It was sad. But we all checked our back doors were locked:-(
As the sun set the ferry arrived and boarding of the vehicles took forever. No one had directed any vehicle into a queue for its destination – the Ancona travellers, who would get off first, were randomly mixed with those for Igoumenitsa and Venice. We were amongst the last loaded so it was approaching midnight before we were finally on and plugged in. The restaurants were closed, despite assurances they would stay open late, so we went supperless to bed. Ah well.
The time was not made up over the twenty-three hours sailing so we arrived in Ancona after dark with a few possible campsite destinations just hoping they were still open. They weren’t. We finally found a parking area where motohomes were permitted to overnight and pulled in gratefully. One nasty point on the journey was the low underpass that did not reveal its height until we had descended the short, narrow, concrete culvert that was the slip road – a flat 3.00 metres! Oh my god – we are 3.10:-( Braced for the crunch of shattering satellite dome we shot under it. Nothing happened. Phew! We are definitely 3.10 so the underpass was fibbing!
By now the whole of southern Europe was in the grip of a developing heatwave and I was getting anxious. The cool of the Alps beckoned and we decided on a fast trip back across the northern Italian plain on the motorway. This took us to a farm most of the way across where the farmer was not yet set up for the agritourist season, but ushered us into the shade of his courtyard and brought us cold water to drink.
We spent the rest of the sweltering 40 degree evening wilting in the farmyard and watching the sunset over the plain. Next time we go to Greece it will definitely be earlier in the year.
We raced on the next day choosing the route across the Alps we had been unable to take on the outward trip due to a road closure. We assumed the road down the other side of the mountains would be open by now. Dangerous things assumptions:-( we passed various notice boards warning of road works and seeming to say no vehicles over eight metres should proceed. We are only six, so no problem. To cut a long, heart-in-mouth story short, a “route de secours” had been created from a goat track on one side of the steep valley to by-pass a damaged bridge on the proper road on the other side of the chasm! Oh bugger!! There was enough room to edge past on-coming traffic in most places, and passing places had been newly-carved into the cliff face in others. And there was quite a surprising amount of traffic using this emergency road. There was no going back as we could neither turn around nor reverse up the hairpins. We were on the outside of the road with the sheer cliff below us so it was hairy in the extreme. Only one angry French driver shouted that we should not be on the road endangering innocent motorists. We agreed but had met the only criterion specified, had there been fuller information, we would not have been. Not our fault guv, honest! The final section was single lane only and controlled by traffic lights so slightly less scary and after ten kilometres we could drive back across the dam to the proper road. Never again! My hands were glued to the armrests in terror so no pictures were taken.
We pulled gratefully into a French aire half way down the other side of the Alps in what is a ski resort in winter. It was still very hot and an icy stream beckoned – fed straight from the glaciers above. Neil wimped out but I got in. Neil video-ed the process, with sound, and it is painful viewing and listening. Definitely the coldest yet but a certain numb euphoria comes over you after a minute or so and you can stay in longer than you would think (without needing emergency resuscitation).
Here is the proof – note the reflections of frozen peaks in the background.
And here they are in person. Brrrrr.