“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Monday, 28 September 2009

Day 143 - 24th September, Thursday.

Last night Cathy and Derek took us to the small village of Tatilisu where they were having their annual ‘Harnup’ festival (Carob in English) and Cathy and her line dancing friends were performing. The evening was great fun and the traditional costumes worn by the other Turkish dancers were stunning.

This afternoon we ventured out to purchase a Turkish mobile phone (which makes phone calls home considerably cheaper in this non-EU country and ensures receiving calls is free of charge – new number for the next couple of months – 00 905 33 88 33 207) and then went for coffee at a friend’s cafe in town. The heat delayed a walk round town until another day; we’d like to get some maps and guide books to plan our tour of the island.

This evening also saw was plenty of wine and beer as Derek and Cathy had a darts match against a neighbouring team at the Old Mill, very entertaining. The English locals seem have built a very friendly community here with busy social lives and a great range of activities to get involved in.

Day 142 - 23rd September, Wednesday. We made it!

We woke and peered out, there were people on deck, so we assumed it was ok to be seen aboard at the Cyprus end and went up to investigate. The sun was shining, the boat was docked, Ant’s parents were waving from the port cafe and trucks were being off loaded with some efficiency. Finally after almost 6700 miles our arrival looked promising. It was 8am.
Thankfully the only vehicles behind ours on the boat were the truck drivers who had also slept onboard, so we were not reliant on the return of the car owners aboard the Calypso (which was nowhere to be seen) in order to get off the boat...excellent.... we could get a head start on the bureaucracy.
I think not.
For anyone planning to take a vehicle into Cyprus, be aware; IT’S AN EXPENSIVE AND TIME-CONSUMING PROCESS!
First we were ushered to the police desk to get our passports stamped - again not so difficult. Then it was off to another building at the port gates to pay another set of port tax and to purchase Cypriot car insurance (apparently your own car insurance is not sufficient, nor is your green card), then outside the port gates to get the newly purchased insurance checked, and back to a different kiosk at the gates for something else (I don’t even know what he did at that one – if anything), then back inside to the customs desk with all our new bits of paper, where we stood in line to get a visa for Bee to enter Cyprus. Once you have collected all the stamps and paid all the fees, you can attempt to pass the gates, where another guy will ask you to reverse into a side area for vehicle inspection. Thankfully he didn’t notice the bottle of Ant’s pee when he opened up the back, else I’m sure at that point we would have offered it to him as an English ‘home brew’. It was some time after 10am when we finally entered Cyprus and starting driving on the left again for the first time in 5 months.
We met up with Cathy and Derek (Ants parents) and they did the best thing they could possibly have done at that point; took us for a large English breakfast.

Day 141 - 22nd September, Tuesday. Last day in Turkey.

A very long, but amusing day! We left the campsite at 11:30am and although the ticket office was only 5 mins drive away, it still took us until 1:15pm (and £120) to have the tickets in our hands. We had a wander around town for a bit before heading down to the port where our ferry was supposed to be leaving at midnight. We had a lot of time to kill, but thankfully Tom and Pat were also down at the port and we were soon joined by Germans, Uli and Ulrika, in their Green custom made 4x4 mobile home/tank. We spent the afternoon and early evening drinking chatting and giggling about the absurdity of the situation, not knowing it was only the beginning. The first gates opened about 7:30pm (right in the middle of Tom cooking his fish supper) and we were able to get our passports checked and pay some port tax to leave Turkey, simple. Onto the next set of gates to park. Then we queued to get our passports stamped –fairly easy, and we thought we were all done, until Ulrika wandered over and informed us we had to get some vehicle papers checked too at customs, and that’s where it all got a bit confusing, in fact I’m not sure I can even remember the hoops we had to jump through or what order we jumped in order to get Bee onto the boat, but what I can tell is that it involved a lot of queuing, a lot of paperwork, a vehicle inspection by a bloke in jeans and T’shirt, a very important handwritten slip of paper (which became known as ‘the lottery ticket’) and 4½ hours of to-ing and fro-ing. We eventually boarded the ‘Mersin’ and were told to get out of the vehicle and off the boat. Nothing else. People started wandering back to the port (in the pitch black) rightly assuming they were getting on another boat the ‘Calypso’. We were not impressed at all and spoke with the captain of the boat who told us it was forbidden to remain in your vehicle, but go ahead and don’t tell anyone. So we climbed inside the back of Pat and Tom’s mobile home which was still waiting to board and got back into Bee and went straight to sleep - starving. It was about 1am and we were still at the docks, I have no idea what time the boat left.

Day 140 - 21st September, Monday, Turkey. Bayram day 2.

Spent the entire day snorkelling, swimming, chatting to Tom and Pat about the likelihood of us all getting on the ferry, waiting for the power to return to check the internet and then inventing meals to cook from the remaining items in the van.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Day 139 - 20th September, Sunday, Turkey. Bayram day 1.

Ant spent the morning putting in new spark plugs, clearing out the tool boxes from the rain and dirt of the last 200miles and generally tinkering with technical things to get Bee ready for the final push to the finish line.
The English whom we met at the last campsite (Tom and Pat) have arrived today too. They made it over the mountains in the dry and are now in the same position as us... waiting for a ferry to Cyprus.
Logged on to the internet today and discovered that Liam and Carly who we met at the Festival back in Spain, passed us on a bus on Friday in Turkey!!!! The world really is a small place if you travel it.

Day 138 - 19th September, Saturday, Turkey.

Another fantastic day. Absolutely love Turkey, especially the people.
We set off early morning with the intention of finding the port in the next major town of Alanya to see if they had ferries to Cyprus. Turns out they only have foot passenger ferries, so we started the long drive to Tasucu where we were told they run daily.
We passed endless banana plantations, followed by resort hotels with their donkey-led camel rides and posh swimming pools, then more banana farms and locals collecting firewood and selling Turkish tea by the roadside.
By the time we had reached the top of the mountains a storm was starting and some very dark clouds loomed above us. We pushed on, but the rain became too heavy, so we took shelter in a roadside cafe owned by Mustafa. Then sat out the storm ‘talking’ (more like playing Charades!), drinking tea, playing his traditional Turkish lyre (can’t pronounce the proper name for it) and learning some Turkish words from Mustafa’s English-Turkish dictionary.
We set off again under lighter rain and paler clouds and followed the coast road up, down and round the mountains, until the road was replaced by gravel, rocks and red dust! We continued on, through villages with waving children, past fruit sellers and tea drinkers until eventually we came across the inevitable... a serious car crash. The police were just recovering the remains of the cars from the forest as we pulled up. It didn’t look good at all, but given that most European drivers will overtake on blind bends, on sheer cliff edges, we were bound to see disaster sooner or later.
We found the port of Tasucu just before dark, only to discover that due to the Muslim holiday of Bayram, no ferries are running until Tuesday evening. Gutted. We were hoping to be in Cyprus for Ant’s mum’s birthday on Monday. We drove back into town to find the ticket office anyway, but that too was already closed for the holiday. The kind manager of the restaurant next door called his friend, the Director of the ferry company, to see if he could make a booking for us for Tuesday night. Such hospitality – we love Turkey.
So we then had a lovely meal in his restaurant before heading back to the beach to camp – we will find out Tuesday lunchtime whether we are booked or not.

Day 137 - 18th September, Friday, Rhodes to Turkey.

What a long, but very enjoyable day. We set off about 5:45am and reached Rhodes port by about half six. Nothing open, but some people milling about waiting to check in. Turns out ours and one other German guy were the only two vehicles on the boat, along with a large flatbed trailer (no cab) and about 300 day trippers. The ferry took about 2 hours to get to Marmaris, but the wait to get off the boat took another hour or so, because Bee was trapped behind the flatbed. As a result, we met the team of guys working on the boat who loved Bee and were laughing and joking with us before we left. We were escorted all over the place to get visas and go through police and passport checks by an official casually carrying a hand gun on his belt – a little disconcerting I have to say, but eventually all three of us were through and even managed to get some Turkish Lira at the port.

We drove without problem from Marmaris to the first petrol station where the manager came out and gave us free Turkish teas and a map of the area. Think it was Bee’s charm.

On towards Fethiye and we passed what looked at first like a junkyard but turned out to be an awesome collection of old cars (mainly American). We pulled in and asked the owner for a look about, who didn’t speak any English, but was in conversation with a German guy via a Turkish translator. Thankfully the German spoke English, so eventually we made ourselves understood and for 5 Turkish lira he allowed us to roam about, take photos and gave us a couple of Turkish coffees; Starting to love the people in Turkey. Ant fell in love with an ancient beaten up old Chevrolet van and a very long and low American estate car.

Drove on and upwards by about 2000metres crossing over the mountains and down into Antalya. Far too big a city for us to find any campsites without maps or TomTom, so we pressed on along the coast road and eventually (as it was approaching dark), we pulled into a service station hoping to sleep in the truck-stop area, but found it had a camping area behind it with some English mobile homers in it! Time for hot showers – three days since the last one and starting to fester.

Day 136 - 17th September, Thursday, Rhodes.

Spent entire day on the beach – in recovery!

We went for a lovely Chinese in Pefki, before heading back towards Rhodes town after dark – we slept on the nudist beach so that we only had 30kms to drive in the morning. Thankfully we successfully managed two ‘illegal’ nights wildcamping on a very beautiful island.

Day 135 – 16th September, Wednesday, Rhodes.

Arrived and got off the boat about 9am and took the east coast road out of town, we spent the morning on a beach at Afantou (nudist beach!) catching up on some sleep.. then drove south passed Lindos and stopped at Pefki beach where Ant tried again to sleep and I went into town and ended up meeting a couple from Bristol and sinking a few cold ones. We spent the evening back in the same bar watching five different champions league games being shown on no less than eight TV screens simultaneously around the bar. With draught Amstel at €2 per ½ litre, Ant was beside himself. We struggled back down to the beach about half one in the morning where Bee was still waiting with our bed.

Day 134 - 15th September, Tuesday, Athens to Rhodes.

Got on the ferry boat about 4:30pm and simply found a seat, sat down and didn’t move for fear of losing it and repeating the Italian ferry experience.

I managed a few hours kip, but Ant unfortunately didn’t manage much at all, but spent all night watching Greek soaps on the lounge bar TV.

Day 133 - 14th September, Monday, Athens.

Yet again bitten on the face, both arms and both feet during the night by the one mosquito which Ant has now squashed on the ceiling.

Took the bus into town followed by a metro across town to find the travel agents office to collect our ferry tickets. Struggled to find even the road, but eventually found it on the second floor of a well hidden building behind a church. Relieved, we decided to skip the acropolis and spent the afternoon eating and drinking in the Hard Rock Cafe instead. Perfect.

Day 132 - 13th September, Sunday, Camping Athens

We drove the last 70kms to Athens and after an expensive tour of the town’s toll motorways (in both directions! Oops) we eventually found the only campsite in the city and spent longer than usual in the scorching hot showers – bliss.

I managed to somehow break one of our ‘unbreakable’ melamine bowls – so need to look out for a new one or take turns eating our cereal in the morning. Swapped a couple more books with some Aussies we met; Jim Morrison’s biography and Motley Crew’s Nicky 6’s diary – I think we came off better this time.

Days 130 & 131 - 11-12th September. Camping Glaros, Kineta.

No mosquitoes, no sunshine and no hot water.

Friday night there was a mild storm and so on Saturday we watched (sniggering) as a number of Greek men attempted to bring their boats in. As the weather dried up a little, we were treated on Saturday night to our Greek neighbours having a plate smashing party and singing along to traditional Greek music – very entertaining.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Day 129 - 10th September, Thursday.

Drove along the main coast road and picked up a load of supplies, including some tools which seem to be far cheaper here than in the UK. Then got on the toll road which is marked on the map as a motorway, but had only one lane in either direction (which didn’t stop the police doing a U Turn on it!) and continued through Corinthia and over the Isthmia canal. We arrived at Camping Glaros, Agio Theodoro and pitched on the beach just before it started raining.

Day 127/8 - 8th & 9th September, Tuesday. Camping Tolsi, Lampiri.

I tried to lie on the beach for a while, but the smell was too much – turned around on my mat and came face to face with a dead rat! Back to the van to read.

We haven’t seen any English now for a few weeks, so when an GB- plate car turned up, I almost ran over with my collection of useless books, only to discover they were English owners of a Greek holiday villa and were on their way home… bookless. L

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Day 126 – 7th September, Monday.

We have time to kill before our ferry leaves Athens next week, so we drove East along the coast about half an hour out of town to Lampiri and stopped at Camping Tolsi on the beach. This area of Greece seems quite dirty and unloved. The water is perfectly clear, but the beaches are littered and very stony. The owner here is emptying his beach bar of booze too, so I guessed their season is coming to a close. The beaches will soon be deserted and the Italians will return home, hopefully taking their screaming offspring with them.

Day 125 – 6th September, Sunday. Rio, near Patras.

We were woken at 3am by the nightclub next door which continued until 7am playing an endless medley of scream-a-long classics such as ‘I’m So Excited’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’. Very tired, and itchy, I got up and discovered I had been bitten on both eyelids during the night; my left eye was swollen to the point of not opening and my right eye was more of a boxing-style eyebrow swell. I’m not excited, It’s not raining men, but I know I will survive.
The Dutch all got up and left. We decided to rest up a while and leave in the morning. I found a local shop that sold a map of the area complete with a CD of campsites. Unfortunately the CD is un-installable on my laptop as all in Greek, and although the map has some town names written in both English and Greek (pity the road signs don’t), the campsites are not marked on the map. Instead, they are listed in an accompanying leaflet. So I then spent an hour or so, squinting through my better eye, deciphering the Greek names and cross referencing them on Autoroute software on the laptop to find where they are on the map. Typically, when I had finished, of the thirty on the list only four are between us and Athens. Grrr.

Day 124 – 5th September, Saturday. South to Patras.

We drove pretty much all day along the coast and then through the hills south over the bridge into Patras. The roads are a bit variable; potholed one minute and newly built the next. But one thing each mile has in common is the constant collection of roadside litter – bottles, cans, plastic and paper, continuous and ugly. Which is a shame, because the country itself is so beautiful.
We arrived at the only campsite we could find under the Patras Bridge in Rio, along with a large group of Dutch caravans … Chaos!, but they jammed us in behind the staff fag-break spot.

Day 123 – 4th September, Friday. Preveza Greece.

Relaxed. Went swimming. Read our new dodgey book swap treasures. Relieved that we at least have the next part of our route sorted.

Day 122 – 3rd September, Thursday. Preveza Greece.

Spent most of the morning on the internet, tearing my hair out, trying to make ferry bookings to get us and Bee across the Greek islands to mainland Turkey. Argh. Eventually managed to make reservations in economy class, on a 13 hour night crossing from Athens to Rhodes with no cabin or reserved seats. Followed two days later by a 2 hour, early morning crossing from Rhodes to Marmaris in Turkey. This is one journey I am really not looking forward to. Also recently discovered wild camping is illegal on Rhodes and the only campsite the Island had was closed down in 2003! Happy days.
We found the owner and got him to switch the electricity back on so we could use the washing machine; Our bed sheets and Ants sleeping bag almost climbed in unaided. Gross. Washing machines are a pricey luxury we don’t indulge too often, but I’m so glad now that all the towels are clean and no longer smell like rotting seaweed.

Day 121 – 2nd September, Wednesday. Preveza, Greece.

We set off about 11am and travelled the coast road winding round the rocks, looking down on bright turquoise sea. We were heading for the next big town – Preveza, to find a bank, a tourist office and a campsite with wifi, washing machine and a nice sandy beach.
We found the bank – the manager said the cash machine had no money in it and to return in half an hour. We found the tourist office, it was closed until Monday. So we bought supplies and headed out of town to find a campsite. Thankfully we found the Kalamitsi Camping village; Free wifi near reception, and almost empty as due to close for the season in a few days. Perfect.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Day 119 - 31st August, Monday - Igoumenitsa, Greece.

We were in the queue yesterday for the much more commercial Ventouris ferry (the Polaris) to Greece when we met John, an Englishman who now lives in Cyprus. He too was ‘camping on board’ and had a Cyprus-registered white van. The majority of the other passengers and drivers were Bulgarian (apart from the two lorry loads of live sheep which shared our top deck – I think they were Italian!).
John is driving to Cyprus through Greece and Turkey and sleeps in his van along the way. The Bulgarians all slept in their cars and the foot passengers slept in cabins or on the chairs. The boat was not full at all and so they was lots of space and being as we were parked on the top open deck, with electrical hook up, we cooked our dinner in the van and slept until we made our first stop in Corfu about 7:30am.
We arrived on the mainland at 9:45am (new time zone; GMT +2hrs) and went straight to the port tourist office, for a map (no TomTom coverage of Greece or Turkey). Found a campsite 25Kms south of Igoumenitsa and set up for a couple of nights.

Day 120 - 1st September, Tuesday. Sivota, Greece.

Lots of wasps, lots of hornets, 40 degree humid heat and no wine left!!!!! Argh. Must remain calm. I think my body has turned into some kind of reverse filter; I pour water in and sweat pours out, it’s a continuous cycle of salty dampness. Aren’t we as humans supposed to adapt to things over a period of time?

Day 117 - 29th August, Saturday - Dubrovnik to Bari.

We were packing up to get going and had a couple more visitors to ‘Bee’s Book Exchange’, and have ended up with about 5 new books which should get us through the ferry crossings ok.
Spent the morning visiting the beautiful old town of Dubrovnik which made a really nice end to our two week tour of the country. Definitely coming back some day. Had lunch near the ferry port and that’s when the irritations began…
Firstly my meal was stone cold and had to be sent back (which I hate doing), then the children on the table of Italians in the back room started screaming at each other and their parents, who just ignored them, so they started running around… we paid and left.
We were guided into one of 7 lanes to board the ferry and then walked over to the supermarket to spend the last of our Croatian Kunas (and take advantage of their aircon). We returned to board an hour later and discovered that all 7 lanes converged into 2 with no supervision whatsoever… with 80% of the traffic being Italians, you can imagine what happened. I could visibly see steam coming out of Ants ears by the time we reached the boat – only to be told that no passengers are allowed to be in the vehicle when it drives onto the boat, only the driver. Everyone else must walk on board (through the same garage deck entrance I might add!?) So the dockside was chaos, kids, buggys, prams and passengers everywhere. We eventually got on board and found each other again, then spent until sundown out on the deck reading. Next we decided to go into the canteen for something to eat; got a tray each of food and wandered the restaurant seating area for a table. All of them were filled with people.. not eating, but playing cards, sleeping or reading. Eventually we found a table with three chairs, no people, but someone’s belongings spread on the chairs. I moved all the items onto 2 of the chairs and sat on the third. Ant pulled another chair from another table for himself and then disappeared to get some drinks. Whilst he was gone, the owners of the bags returned, a mid thirties couple and an old man. The younger guy started on me first, hollering something or other in my face, before leaning over my dinner plate and slamming his tray down opposite Ants empty seat. His girlfriend then sat down opposite me and the old man decided it was his turn to have a go. When the girlfriend realised I wasn’t going anywhere, she shushed her old man and pushed him away from me. Ant returned with the drinks and sat down. All went silent whilst we ate. I am now thankful I don’t speak Italian – the guy would have got more than the pitiful glare I gave him and I would probably have been injured. Instead, I kept my cool, ate my food, apologised for the situation and explained that we would be gone once we’d finished eating. When we did leave, I got a lowered head and hands-on-heart gesture from the guy and an offer of the table, but not the chairs, from the woman. Bloody Italians, can stick their table where they talk from.

Day 118 - 30th August, Sunday - Bari to Igoumenitsa.

Finally got off the boat about 11:30pm last night (after having been subjected to over an hour of incessant screaming from the very same Italian children from the restaurant) and drove to a carpark next to the sports stadium to sleep. Woke at 6am to a car boot sale being set up around us. Went for a wander looking for fold up bikes and a UK plug adaptor – and came back with a new handbag and an Italian furniture sellers business card.
Our ferry to Greece wasn’t until 6pm, so we drove along the coast and found a resort / camping / holiday park place where they said we could park up and use the facilities for the day for a fee. Bari didn’t look like the kind of town we wanted to visit, and to be honest we had had enough of loud, badly-behaved Italians, so we paid the fee, parked up, had some lunch, and went to sit by the pool.
I wish I had continued to sit by the pool, but I got too hot and went to get in for a swim. I had read the signs, walked through the shower area, (compulsory prior to entering the pool) and got in, as soon as I launched off across the pool, I heard the lifeguards whistle and turned to look, to my horror he was motioning with his finger for me to go over to him. I felt like a naughty child and looked round, as one does, hoping he was talking to someone else, but nope… it was me alright. Turns out a swimming cap must be worn in the pool at all times. Suitably ticked off in front of the entire pool, I took the mature approach and disappeared back to the van in tears. I had had enough. I had really tried to like Italians too. I spent the day hiding out in reception on the internet trying to find a route to Cyprus. Turns out the four companies who all used to run ferries from Greece to Cyprus have had to suspend their services “due to reasons beyond our control”. This is not good, we will have to drive through Turkey afterall.

Day 116 - 28th August, Friday - Dubrovnik.

I had absolutely nothing left to read, so we arranged all our books in a pile outside the van with a sign that read ‘English Book Swap’ and disappeared off to the beach. When we came back for lunch someone had taken a Dan Brown and not left us anything in return…. So, still determined to believe there was an honest person in the camp with books to exchange, I revised my sign slightly and went back to the beach.

By the time we came back at tea time, we had two fantasy books (about the Beast of Gor!?) and a Patricia Cornwell. Not bad for a first sweep. (…Oh not forgetting of course the religious Italian Zen book Ant had allowed earlier!! lol)

Evening entertainment came in the form of the hotel next door’s cabaret coming in over the loud speakers followed by some noisy Italian hippies who were sat in a ring of candles chatting behind us until the early hours.

Day 115 - 27th August, Thursday. Dubrovnik.

Thankfully the guards simply waved us through the border check points at both ends. But when we got to Dubrovnik to buy the ferry ticket, we discovered it doesn’t go direct to Igoumenitsa as the map suggested, and that, much to our annoyance, we have to go back to Italy to get to Greece. Grrr. So we bought a place on Saturday’s evening ferry bound for Bari (The Marko Polo) and headed into Dubrovnik town to find the ‘Solitudo’ campsite. Close to the beach, full of all nationalities, (including plenty of mad Aussies) and a free wifi zone at reception.