Wednesday, 5 May
We decided to try to find the ferry to the island of Korcula, on the map it shows that there is a ferry, so we drove back to Hvar and the first person we asked as to where the ferry left from told us we had had to go to Starigrad as the ferry from Hvar did not carry motorhomes.
Yesterday as we are driving into the island we saw to motorhomes coming towards us which made us think that they were going the opposite way to us and had arrived at Hvar but I think it was like us they just thought the ferry would run from their so they were heading back to the starting point.
So we drove back to Starigrad and checked with the ferry office and yes we could catch a ferry to Dubrovnik but we have to wait 20 days, the ferry to Split was 600+ kroner and would still be left with 90 K is to drive to get back to our starting point where we caught the ferry to the island.
So we decided to drive back on Ludas favourite road, she compare that to a bridge one and a half lanes wide with no barriers either side and of course several hundred feet off the road, but I told her this time should be on the inside of the road and only have the rocks protruding on the road to worry about.
Driving back on the narrow road we came to a caution sign and then a recovery truck with a small 1500 CC Ford on its tray, both front wheels were written off so I guess it was one of the locals not observing the speed limit and suffering the consequences.
There is one problem having a motorhome that the 7+ meters long as almost all of the ferries have a price for over 7 m. Luda bought the ticket coming over and got the 7 m price, I bought the ticket going back and was charged 7+ metres, lesson in this is to always let Luda buy the ticket.
We made it back to Sucuraj and crossed over to Drvenik on the mainland and was extremely interesting looking at Croatia from the island as how they rose up out of the water to a great height with settlements of houses grouped together clinging to the mountain side.
So back on the mainland we headed south travelling through what we called normal Croatian country until we got to the city of Ploce, where all of a sudden we started seeing some sort of agriculture, all of the stones had disappeared, or perhaps they may have still been there but not in the great volumes, we kept hearing South and crossed over the border into Bosnia where as we were on just the normal motorway we went through the inspection of passports, where as I believe had we gone on the tall way we would not have even stopped.
So we drove the 10 km through Bosnia and entered back in to Croatia, they didn't even want to look about passports this time, and we drove through the village of Opuzen, passed Dubrovnik and on to a village of Srebreno where we found two campgrounds, the first one we went into had disappeared, they actually have a chain up over the entrance which had been pulled out, so we turned around and went back to the first one which we had missed because we did not turn fast enough, and no they weren't open yet but we could stay for €10 a night with electricity, buses available in to Dubrovnik every hour so we have settled on this for the next two nights.
Thursday 6th of May
Today we caught a bus into Dubrovnik, were let off up on the main road high above the city and had to walk down to sea level to see the city itself. Walking down I realised this could be a lot easier than the return journey.
We went in through the castle walls to the old city and wander around the seventh century city. There was no sign whatsoever of the heavy bombing during 1991 -- 92 where it is recorded over 2000 bombs and guided missiles fell on the city. There are certainly a lot of tourists fear at this early time in the tourist season, American voices, German voices, Luda heard some Russian voices, Polish voices and of course English voices.
This is the number one spot I believe every tour bus stops at, and it almost appears, looking at the tourists wandering around the city, but the average age of the tourist is probably in the early 70s, and remember I said average age. Was interesting to observe a group of Contiki tours teenagers gathering together to go out on a boat trip, that compared to the rest of the people they look oh so young!
Luda decided she would like to walk around the walls of the town, and I'm too wise to think of doing things like that, so she was gone for about an hour and a half and I spent my time people watching.
Every time I observed a group of tourists on my travels that are obviously on a guided tour and I see them being herded off the bus, around the tourist site, into the gift shops that have arrangements with, into the restaurant they have arrangements with, and finally back onto the bus, I sort of feel sorry for the participants in as much as that is the only way they feel they can safely visit a foreign country and of course there's probably their only trip of a lifetime.
Once Luda had finished her walk around the wall and taken about 200 photographs we had lunch in one of the cafes by the harbour and then walk back up the hill to catch the bus. Normally when you catch a bus to go back to the spot you got off the bus and catch it from the bus stop opposite. There are a group of about 12 French people on that bus stop, looking at the bus timetable, all talking at once, and we managed to peer over the top of them and observed that bus number 10 did not leave from this location, Luda spotted the plan that the number 10 bus stop was on the lower level on one of the roads we crossed to get to what we thought was the bus stop.
So we walked back down to the illustration indicated the bus was leaving from leaving the French people still talking and gesturing at the timetable. We soon found out we were in the correct place and the bus arrived 15 minutes later with standing room only, so is back to the campsite, packed into the bus, every seat taken, the centre aisle packed with people so all we could do was peer out the window and observed how high we were from the sea, and how close to the edge the bus was being driven, and how fast the bus was going, and imagining the headlines that would be possible if the driver had lost his concentration for a few moments.
However we arrived safely back at the bus stop for the campsite, risked our lives crossing the busy road, then observed one of the bus passengers emerging from a tunnel under the road, and thought we must remember this the next time!
Back at the motorhome was time for a good stiff vodka and Coke, Luda uploaded all the photos into the computer, and I made a resolution to get a larger drive on the computer as we started fiddling with external drives, do the washing, and a slight problem with our washing machine, considering the price and the way it is made, I think it is probably due for replacement on a regular basis.
Friday 7th May
We left the campsite just out of Dubrovnik and continued on our southward trek passing through
Cavtat, Cilipi, Gruda, and then a few kilometres later crossed over into Montenegro without any problems, Luda had her passports stamped that she could stay until 6 September! I got no stamp!
At the border we had to buy a ecology transfer for the windscreen at €30, this lasts for 12 months and is necessary for any visitors crossing the border into Montenegro. Fortunately or lasts until we travels through Montenegro on our way home so that is not quite so bad as having to pay it every time.
I read in one of the blogs on the Internet of a traveller going through this country being extremely careful with his road speed because of the volume of police on the road, and we have noticed quite a large number of police looking for speedsters, we asume.
Montenegro is gearing up extensively to take advantage of the European tourists coming to a lower cost country and we see lots of adverts for accommodation as we travel south.
We carried on through Budva, and then had the option of catching a ferry across Tivatski Bay but we decided to go the long way round and this was fine until we got to about Orahovac when the beautiful two-lane highway turned into 1 1/4 lanes which proved to be rather interesting at times but we accomplished the trouble with no problems and breathes a sigh of relief when we got to the other side of the lake that was the ferry destination and the road returned to 2 lanes.
At about Becici we stopped at a large hyper market and did some basic shopping and were greeted with the pleasant news that the currency was Euro selectmen we did not have to venture into another currency.
We carried on to Petrovac where we started climbing up over the mountain to about 600 m and we carried on until we found a deserted restaurant with a large car park at about 400 m above sea level near the city of Bukovik.
We have formed the opinion that there must be a large contingent of Russians in this country has lot of the road signs are in Russian advertising apartments and hotels and restaurants. In fact at one of the roadworks roadblocks we found we are behind and then pulling a boat with Russian numberplates from Moscow. Now that is 2000 km in a straight line from Moscow to where we saw him so certainly hope he did not try to do all of that in one day.
Saturday 8th of May
There was a very peaceful night in the parking lot of the closed down restaurant, looking at the building and the site and the very large parking area that looks like a marvellous opportunity for someone, I can't think of why it failed, unless the local mafia didn't get paid so the owners got some concrete boots.
So we headed on down the mountain towards Podgorica and just before we got to the edge of the city we reprogram the GPS for Tuzi and once near Tuzi I asked the GPS to find the border and it took us there was no trouble. When I say no trouble I must admit the last 15 km to the border was pretty rough road reasonably narrow and the roads surface not always the way it should be, nevertheless we arrived at the border safely and leaving Montenegro was no trouble and going into Albania even less trouble.
There previously was a tax on people entering Albania, so either they believed we looked pretty good, or more likely the tax has been done away with. The border guard warned us that the first 35 km towards Shkodër the road was pretty bad and whilst I agree it was not up to motorway standard we certainly have been on much worse on our travels, it just means driving at a reasonably moderate speed which of course is what you want to do if you're viewing the countryside so it has no major problems.
The first thing we did once we got over the border. At the first petrol station and bought an Albanian map which are quite hard to find outside Albania so at least we know where it is possible to go and perhaps how to get there.
Albania has 3 1/2 million people in a country that has .11 the size of New Zealand with 123 people per square kilometre. We are told it is mostly Muslim but so far on the first bit of our travels into this country have seen three Christian churches and one Mosque.
We did find a campground near Shkodër in an area called Barbullush, were made aware of this campground from a blog on the Internet, but when I fed the GPS cornets into the tom-tom would not accept them, then I discovered it only had the main city with the road from the border to it, so whilst when I checked the tom-tom in New Zealand I found Albania I should have an actual fact checked on how many cities were listed instead of getting a little bit of a shock when I arrived in the country.
Under Communist rule private people were not allowed to own a motorcar so all the cars on the road now have arrived in the last 20 years and there is obviously a maximum driving experience for most people. The most common car on the road is the Mercedes, not always in pristine condition, with many of them dating back to the 1960s or 70s. They are driven at a recently high-speed and are seen to pass and all sorts of interesting places and once again it is obvious that the road rules are solely for the tourist.
As we wandered through Eastern Europe we had formed the opinion that the poorest countries in greater Europe, the most common vehicle would be the Lada, and so far this guideline has worked until we arrived in Albania and find that their Lada is a Mercedes!
However we have seen police on the side of the road stopping cars they want to check but speed does not seem to be a reason for them stopping cars so it is again another interesting country to drive in. It is not only the drivers that make life interesting but the pedestrians must feel that God on their side as is not uncommon to see three people, walking 3 abreast, on your side of the road, and are not interested in moving to let you past. Bicycles also seem to be protected by a higher being and of course parking is where ever you can find a space so was very interesting driving through a town and see cars parked on each side of the road, leaving room for two cars to pass, until of course you have some the double parking and a bus coming towards you, and Mercedes behind you tooting, yes! it is interesting!
I'm totally surprised at the number of petrol stations one finds on the side of the road, and it's not uncommon to see older petrol stations totally abandoned and a new one just down the road.
Often when one goes into the country like Albania, one sees some very old houses, but through this particular border, with found no old houses, and when I say old house I mean over 50 years of age, but tremendous number of new houses that had just been built. However the general countryside does not look prosperous and one sees singular cows in different locations and there seems to be a maximum of about 12 sheep in any flock.
Driving into Shkodër just on the outskirts we saw a sheep being butchered on the side of the road in amongst all of the dust and traffic passing, and I guess will have no detrimental effect on the people who are having mutton for their evening meal.
A national business appears to be what they call a Lavazh or what we would call a car wash, this is usually a concrete pad on which the car sits and water blaster to blast the dirt, and perhaps the paint of this not firmly fixed from their clients vehicle. There are so many of these everywhere down the road that there is no excuse to drive a dirty vehicle in Albania.
Sunday 9th May
The campground we stayed out overnight as far as I can gather is the only one in Albania that is accessible, I was told of another one which a narrow panel van can just manage to get to so I can hardly count that.
I've often remarked that there is a certain point in greater Europe where you stop seeing the GB number plates but on this trip we have met at least two, one of them in this particular campground, there was also a motorhome in Switzerland and of course Holland. The Dutch one was rather interesting and so much as it was a American AirStream 250, the shortest model they made at 8 m and was discontinued in 1991 the vintage of this particular machine.
Well today we are operating with out our GPS, and were having to revert to that paper thing called a map so we headed south passing through Lezhë, Fushë-Krujë, Durrës on the coast and we intended to drive on down the coast through Lushnjë and at Fier turned towards the coast and go through Vlorë and carry on down the scenic coast way to the Greek border.
Let me tell you this, it is much easier driving with a GPS because if you make a wrong turn the GPS sorts it out whereas today we were on our own and had to ask directions. Let me make it clear that I did not ask for directions, but sent Luda out to ask, because you know men do not ask for directions.
We kept on passing the car washes everywhere, and very quickly discovered that there is a better business associated with the car industry and it is a wreckers yard, we couldn't go 5 km with out seeing at least one wreckers yard, often with cars piled high, and it was not only reserved for cars but they were bus wreckers yards and trucks and again there was a wonderful assortment of potential spare parts. I think we've seen so many wrecked cars today that they must almost be one wrecked car for every car on the road! Now remember before 1991 there are only 600 cars in the country and they were reserved for party officials.
So in 20 years Albanians have learned to drive, purchased a second-hand car from Europe, and the car of choice of course is Mercedes, and it probably managed to write off in 20 years 50% of the cars that are entered Albania.
Driving today, and taking note of the Mercedes cars, is not uncommon for cars passing going the opposite direction for six in a row to be Mercedes, I would venture to guess that the Mercedes ownership per head of population is at least twice as high as Germany.
Again today we found people overtaking in impossible situations, we stopped at a roadworks and four cars positioned themselves on our outside and started driving with us through the roadworks and of course there were two abreast coming towards us, and all of this is on a two-lane road, so there is some nimble footwork for everybody to get by without despatching another car to the wreckers yard.
Going through a town, one drive slowly through these towns, a late model Mercedes started backing towards me on my side of the road, so all I could do was to put the brakes on and see what he was going to do, he was trying to get into a car park which was just in front of me and has nothing was coming towards me I just passed him and let him carry on his struggle, parking.
If they want to stop, anywhere, they will just stop and block their lane and do whatever they wish to do and let the traffic sort themselves out.
We see plenty of police on the road, but all they are doing is standing in groups of 3 to 5 and stopping potential cars that they don't like the look of, a Mercedes often pass us and speeds by these police, who just give them a wave.
We were expecting the worst roads in the world when we came to Albania, and we have been delightfully pleased at how good the roads are, of course when you strike roadworks in any country the road surface will be hellish, and that's what was a couple of times today, of course was made more interesting with `antics of the cars coming towards us, so certainly stops you falling asleep.
We seen quite a lot of numberplates on cars from other countries and I am making a little bit of a guess that these are Albanians returning home to see their family.
Everywhere we drive we see extremely large Vodafone signs, and when I say large that will be at least 7 x 3 m in size, we do see an advert for another mobile phone but they are not as large or as frequent, so I guess the guy with the big bucks is first past the sales post.
So far we have not seen any McDonald's fast food restaurants anywhere, nor have we seen the large international supermarket chains we have seen another country's, but I guess its only time!
There are still very much of a peasant structure in this country as we see very many people doing manual work in the fields, work that is done by machines and other countries, and of course there are quite a large number of horse and carts, but nothing like as many as in Romania, it seems the locals here prefer Mercedes!
However we were driving down towards Vlorë and that's part of the coastline is getting the nickname of the Albanian Riviera, there's an incredible number of high rises on the sea coast facing the sea, so many that from the road you are unable to see the sea, and when one gets to the city of Vlorë the whole city seems to be of high rises and the coastline is absolutely delightful, and I guess at this stage, affordable.
So we drove past and incredibly beautiful beach, with lots of people on the beach, we didn't notice anybody swimming but driving past it is quite possible that they were, there are a lot of large buses parked by the beach, and later we saw a bus with the Albanian Riviera label on it so I guess a lot of people are bussed in to enjoy the beach, but we just kept on driving south!
That is until we came to a tunnel through solid rock, it looks like the hole had been hammered out 50 years ago and nothing much done to it, there were jagged bits coming from the roof and the sides and it was a sign telling us it was limited to vehicles 3.2 m high and 2.3 m wide, another point that I was unsure of was did they measure from the outside edge of the jagged rock or was that measurement an average!
So we turned around not wishing to test their measurements and drove back towards the city of Fier some 35 km back the way we came, and will drive down the centre of the country towards the Greek border.
We decided to find somewhere to stop for the night and we found old petrol station with petrol pumps still in location but totally abandoned and hopefully the road noise will die down later this evening.
Monday 10th of May
All the old petrol station location was good for the night if not a bit noisy to start but the traffic died down as it always does after 10:30 PM.
We carried on back on the road to Fier and drove carefully through the city with all of the non-observance of traffic rules, in all forms and eventually found a signpost pointing towards Ballsh and became very obvious that Highway No 4 whilst being the main highway running north to south through the country was not as important as the road taking the potential tourists to the Albanian Riviera.
There is massive road construction right through the whole country and I believe each year it is getting substantially better because they seem to be progressing at a great rate.
Nevertheless today we drove 101 km in four hours, you do the maths! It was quite exhausting so little bit after Tepelenë at a large petrol station, where I filled up with diesel, I was told to get Euro diesel and looking at the prices out the front at the moment I see there is a more expensive diesel so hopefully the Euro diesel will not gum up anything in the fuel system.
It was just more of the same driving today, still all of the idiotic passing, and many near misses, and the condition of the road does not seem to make one little bit of difference, I seem to be in the 20s and 30s Km a lot today and many of the Mercedes must be passing me at 60+.
It's interesting what people do to meet their immediate needs, we saw ahead of us a four door panel van had also had a rear door, they had a refrigerator on the back seat but that was just a fraction too long to be up close the rear passenger door, so they were driving down the main road with the rear passenger door open, but we didn't stick around to see whether they made it home! I wonder what consideration they had given to folding down the rear seat and placing in the refrigerator in from the rear leaving the rear door open if necessary, but perhaps that is the coward's way out!
I discovered that the tom-tom GPS does have the main road from each of the border crossings to the capital city so as long as you're going from border to border or from border to the capital you got no problems with the GPS, once you off Highway 4 you might as well be in another country.
Often when we go to one of the, what I roughly defined as the old Soviets, we see some very old houses often over 100 years old still being lived in, and quite often abandoned. In Albania we have seen none of this, the oldest housing we have seen have been some of the old Soviet style apartment blocks, and I have looked in bad condition, but everywhere else we are observing new houses being built, often three or four stories high, quite often only one floor complete, often it is the top floor with the other floors being empty and just the columns holding the ceilings up. It's obvious from what we have seen they do not suffer from earthquakes in this country because the top-heavy buildings we have seen would be just shaken to pieces.
They're being quite a lot of ancient ruins, signposted on the road as we've been driving through, but the fear is once you're off the main road you can often be on what can be loosely called a donkey track! I guess all of these donkey tracks to the ancient ruins will be all sorted out once they have the main roads finished.
We were passing through, after about three hours driving, the oil producing part of Albania and we see lots of wells in production and many more without the pumps which would suggest those wells have run dry. They seem to leave the drilling superstructure in place above the well where is often in the West you see is the pump working above the well that has been drilled and they have taken the superstructure away to be used again.
In one location that had a depression that normally would be a small lake was filled with oil, I guess that is either an overflow, a tank that has burst or a well that has overflowed. Around the oil wells there are very large storage tanks that are in quite a rusty condition so one or two of these could have been the cause of the lake.
The road today travelled through the hills of Albania and was quite winding and we have ahead of us a pleasant view of some very high mountains covered with snow.
We are passing through quite an agricultural section of the country, but only see what I would call household cows, but occasionally see flocks of sheep and goats totalling about 50 in numbers.
Butchers shops are very common along the road, often with freshly killed meat hang out the front, one shop actually had it covered, and another shop had the meat still on the hoof waiting for a client to come along. We occasionally see cages of chooks are available for sale, and in one location they were busy being turned into fresh poultry ready for cooking.
You read of Albania being covered in pillboxes for use by the army has evidently the dictator was obsessed that somebody may invade Albania and had them built everywhere. This is what we have been told, and I quite frankly have been disappointed in seeing very few of these but perhaps I'm on the wrong roads as we get closer to the Greek border there may be more.
I believe Albania is about 350 km long and most people I have read of that have travelled here seem to go through the country in 24 to 48 hours, or considering that most of the cities are gridlocked for parking, and the capital city is the worst of the lot with apparently a population of 900,000, and the Albanian Riviera being gridlocked with high-rise apartment blocks and hotels, there is a little to see in any notable feature that I've noticed so far of Albania is different to anywhere else is the huge number, and I mean huge, of Mercedes motor cars, it is quite frankly I'm believable, it is really the National car of Albania!
Tuesday 11th of May
We left our overnight camping at the petrol station and carry on south towards the Greek border, the road to the border was almost perfect, however the drivers were still much the same. We were to pass through Gjirokastër but fortunately the road took us around the city.
We saw two or three glass fish tanks full of fish swimming around, on the side of the road, I guess you could stop and collect your evenings meal on the spot.
As we start getting close to the Greek border so we started seeing the bunkers or pillboxes, not just one or two, but rows of seven or eight, followed by another row followed by another row. And this was on both sides of the road so they were really serious about not letting anybody come into Albania, or perhaps I have got it wrong and the bunkers were there to stop people getting out!
Just before we got to the Greek border we saw about 20 motorhomes parked on the opposite side of the road, they looked like they were from Italy, they all had numbers on their motorhomes so is obviously a tour, perhaps they feel safety in numbers travelling through this country, but that is not going to protect them from the thousands of Mercedes overtaking in the worst imaginable location.
We made it to the Greek border, near the city of Ktísmata had to pay the Albanians €2 for something to do with the vehicle, and entering into Greece was basically a nonevent.
We had no problems crossing Albania, the roads we were led to believe were going to be ghastly and in some places they were, but on the whole we really had no problems with the roads and with careful driving no problems with the Albanians and their Mercedes.
We stopped in the only motor camp we saw and the rest of the time were quite happy camping on the side of the road or whatever.
Any purchases we made me made in euros and so we did not have to change currency.
We had contact with very few Albanians and the ones we did meet with living overseas, but everywhere we went we did receive a friendly wave, and whilst most of the population religion is supposed to be Muslim we saw no woman wearing a veil and I think we saw more Christian churches than we did mosques.
I brought up the Greece maps on the tom-tom and programmed in Párga and requested that we did not use the motorway. Almost immediately it sent us up under the hills and we kept on climbing to about 600 m winding in and out around the edge of each hill, passing through villages where everybody stopped to look at us, and at one location it was a mystery as to where to go in at the end I selected the road straight ahead which was heading on up the hill with a single lane and fortunately that widened out to the normal one and a half lanes wide, but the good part of it, was that there was absolutely no traffic.
It was wonderful photographs with villages on the other side of the valley and in front of us with this switch back road leading up to the village. One point we passed through a village called Vrosína at about this time I reprogram the GPS to choose a motorway, but in actual fact it made absolutely no difference.
We found a lot of spots on the route we travelled that would be suitable. In overnight or longer and perhaps we should have chosen one of those because once we got down on the flat we started going through village after village, and eventually we found a flat piece at the Y junction of two roads, the road does not appear to be very busy so we selected the spot, sort of waited for traffic officer to come and ask us to move along!
The roads in Greece that we have travelled on today have been almost perfect, beautiful smooth surface all through the hills with no traffic, but they are neglecting the sides of the road because Blackberry is starting to creep into the driving path and a lot of trees need to be trimmed back for the same reason. There's been almost perfect driving today, as will have basically no traffic on the road, travelling through the first part of the hills when he saw one police car going the opposite way that a long time later a taxi and again a long time a small private car and that was about it for ages.
I thought we may have been okay for the road signs with the Greek alphabet being in the Cyrillic somewhat similar to Russian, but all the road signs just looked like Greek roadsigns to Luda so we'll just have to struggle on waiting till we get into the tourist area when there will also be signs in English, not that that will be much help as I won't be would pronounce them and we may see something on the map that looks similar.
Travelling through the mountains, almost on every blend there was a small rusty metal box with a glass front, some flowers, a candle and what we assumed was a bottle of holy water, sometimes on a bad bend there were three of them, if during the course of our visit to Greece we manage to work out what they are for we'll let you know, and in the meantime you can use your own imagination as to their purpose.
Wednesday 12th of May
This evening we are camped on the edge of the beach overlooking the Ionian Sea watching the sun slowly sink into the sea and Luda is hoping for a wonderful sunset photo, and with the pollution in the sky she might just get some interesting colours.
We had a reasonably interesting day driving south first to a small town called Párga, we made the mistake of trying to drive into the town and it took us about 15 minutes to get the motorhome turned round and go back out the way we came. It's a town of about 2000 population perched on the side of a cliff and Luda got some interesting photos and then we started heading south again, except I started driving north and only when Ludas said the sea is on the wrong side that I reprogram the GPS and told me to make a U-turn, just like Luda did.
It's become very obvious began actually quite careful about driving into some of these villages because I think even a Smart car may be a little big for some of the locations.
It must be quite interesting keeping some of these roads open as we see a lot with rocks sitting on the side of the road that have fallen down from the cliffs, and today, the rain had washed some gluey clay and covered one half of the road and that pushed back a little to keep the roads open.
With the problems that having in Greece with their finances I suspect the maintenance on the roads will be one of the first casualties of their cutbacks, which will be a shame because so far the roads have been wonderful.
We started heading towards Préveza driving on very good roads with very little traffic and we drove past the villages of Mesopótamo, Loútsa, where I filled up with diesel and bought a book of maps of Greece which may make it easier for us to decide where we are going, and about at Rizá we headed down to the beach, checked in with a couple of motor camp's and they were pretty run down, WiFi in one small location, and we seen this spot that another Carthago was parked at so we headed to that, found a level spot, said hi to the people from Munich in their Carthago, they come twice a year to Greece and were heading to see friends and just stopped to have a swim in the Ionian Sea but with the temperature at 18° in the water Luda was not inclined to join them.
Yet the sunset was interesting! We are camped on the beach at N39.08458 E20.34720
Thursday, 13 May
Is being a very hot day to day with temperatures up in the early Thirties so when it came to stop for the night we decided again to head for a beach and we are currently sitting 20 m away from the water at Chalkia on the Patraïkós Gulf with a beautiful cool breeze blowing through the front door which is facing the water.
We left the delightful spot at the beach and headed against South towards Kastrosikiá, passing through Pandokrátor and Préveza before we took the tunnel from the Province of Epirus to Western Greece. The toll on the tunnel was €5 for the motorhome.
Our destination was the city of Patras and we passed through Vónitsa, Paliámbela, Loutrákion, not intentionally but by following the GPS and I think this route was perhaps 5 m shorter but the road wasn't too bad so we carried on through Spárton, Rívion, Strátos and Angelókastron, and when we reached Aitolikón we decided we stopped by the beach so follow the road map which led us to this delightful location at N38.19525 E21.34046
Friday, 14 May
We left our peaceful beach setting and got back on the road towards Patras, we stuck to the local roads and every so often we would see a live snake making its way across the road, and of course we saw several didn't make it, quite a lot of green lizards dashing across the road and we have seen about three turtles making their way slowly along in the direction that we are going, I didn't fancy their chances of getting anywhere safely.
Every so often we hear this loud noise of somebody speaking, and we look around and sure enough there is a vegetable truck with a loudspeaker attached, urging the locals to come out and buy their vegetables.
We had been expecting very bad drivers and Greece from what the guidebooks suggest, and of course I guess it depends on what you define as a bad driver. If a bad driver does not observe any road laws then I guess a lot of the Greek and many other countries have a lot of bad drivers. Again we are a of the opinion that the road laws apply to be the tourists only and does not apply to the locals.
Eventually we arrived at the Tollgate for the impressive new bridge, well it looked new, that took us over to Western Greece, the toll was €12 for the motorhome, which was exactly the same as for normal cars. We carried on the motorway and eventually came to another Tollgate this time for the motorway this time it cost €7.3, which would not have been so bad, but they had massive reconstruction going on the motorway, and you had a very narrow lane to drive with a large concrete block divider on the right-hand side and plastic poles on the other had to separate you from the oncoming traffic.
This was extremely tiring driving and it was a pleasure to eventually get off the motorway and back on the local roads to the city village of Diakopto where we hoped to catch a train up the mountain to the village of Kalavryta, the parking was basically non-existent but we found a spot which was probably illegal so I sent Luda to the ticket office was I sat in the motorhome and she came back with the information that the woman could speak very little English and had no idea as to what train Luda wanted.
We decided to risk leaving the motorhome in its location and I walked back to the station with Luda, were all ready to go up the mountain and we got to the ticket office and it was empty, and eventually a plump lady arrives on the other side of the glass partition, the sort of person you find in railway stations right round the world, and I asked her could she speak English, she said yes, I said we would like the tourist train up the mountain, there was no hesitation as to which train or what train, she knew exactly what I wanted, and she was just being a bitch to Luda, it's interesting how women feel they have to be a bitch to other women, but the moment a man appears on the scene, it's as if sugar would not melt in their mouth.
She says she would love to send us up the mountain, but she could not get us back, as the trains were only going one way, I could not work that out as I've always been told what goes up must come down, but evidently they work on different rules here!
We decided to go to the motor camp for the day, get a taxi to the station tomorrow, and then carry on our way so we found a motor camp on the Gulf of Corinth near a village called Akráta, we were lucky they had WiFi.