Friday, December 14, 2012

Italy - The windy way.

After the worst ferry crossing ever, Vick and I were feeling a little worse for wear and not really looking forward to a days driving across Italy.  The ferry arrived at 7am and we were off by around 8ish (we paid the cost for being first on the ferry.)  Its the earliest we had been up in a while so we decided to do a big days drive and cover a lot of Italy heading east.  With the usual fight to get out of the port and onto some form of main road we were on our way... for about half an hour.  The car wasn't happy, it was spitting and gurgling and just didn't sound good. After 10 minutes with the hills approaching I decided I should probably take a look at the car.  My technical conclusion was that the ferry has shaken the fuel tank around which had then dragged crap through to the carburettor.  Really I didn't have a clue what the problem was but it kept Vick's mind at ease.  Fixing a car half way up a freezing cold hill after a very bad nights sleep wasn't my idea of fun but it had to be done.  After a quick clean it seemed to be running again so we were back in the car and on our way again.

We had only done half an hours driving and it felt like 4 in the afternoon.  It was actually 8.30am and we had another 4 and a half hours to go.  However we couldn't have been driving on a better day, the weather was beautiful and sunny and not a cloud in sight which was great after a week of thunder storms in Croatia.

Our destination was about half an hours drive north of Florence and that was pretty much all we knew.  It was the only campsite that we knew was open and half way into Italy.  Sticking to our no motorway rule we ended up going up and down some of the windiest roads ever. Yes motorway would've been quicker, but not only did we save ourselves money paying tolls, we also had the most amazing views.
After the beautiful days drive we were 15 minutes away from the camp site, I was very tired and no fun so couldn't wait to get there.  We then started to climb yet another snaking road but this one was very high and the roads started to become covered in snow and ice.  Oh joy, another freezing cold campsite in the snow.  The campsite owner thought we were mental asking him for somewhere to pitch the tent.  We probably were mental as this was the first place that I have been VERY cold.  I nearly even had to put some trousers on!  We originally had planned to stay there for three nights but with the threat of more snow, no food and not a shop within 10+ miles we decided to move on the next day to find some better weather.

The next day we wanted to move east again and head to the coast as we had been kindly been offered a real bed near La Spezia.  We thought we could do the same as the day before and be on the road for at least 9.  We woke up at 12 and for a nice change instead of snow and ice it was raining very hard.  There's nothing better than packing a tent away in the freezing cold rain.
With rubbish weather and still feeling very tired we decided to hit the motorway and arrive somewhere early so we could dry stuff.

We headed for a another campsite that we knew was open as it was in our ACSI book and open all year round.  However this was no the case.  Arriving at the campsite the receptionist told me that they were closed as a precautionary measure until March due to the campsite flooding the year before.  Bit of a nightmare.  Luckily she gave us another campsite that was open in the next town.  We had to pay full price for a campsite! But even then it wasn't too expensive.

Italy has been a bit of a mission for finding campsites open in winter.  The reason being that there are none.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Till next time Croatia...

Our last 4 nights in Croatia were spent in Split, mainly because our ferry to Italy was from Split so it made sense.

Our campsite was right next to the sea with the beach about 5 metres from some of the pitches, which I am sure in the summer people fight over to get.  We were offered the pitch with the fantastic views but in the end had to make the decision to pitch the tent in the corner as close to the wall as possible. It was so windy we had to hide.  Tent up we then hid away from the weather and into the warmth of the van.  If the wind wasn't enough it then decided to thunder and lightning and then rain.  When I say rain I mean RAIN.  It pissed it down.

I believe it doesn't rain much in Croatia as they don't seem to have allowed for drainage anywhere., and when I ventured outside to see if the tent was surviving it was sitting in a massive puddle.  I complained about the weather for the next 4 nights as it was pants and I hate packing away wet tents.

Our ferry left for Ancona at 9pm which gave us a day in Split. We had to leave the campsite by 12 and most shops were closed due to it being Sunday so we had seen the majority of Split by about 2.  We then had 4 hours to burn.  We ended up walking around the town 3 times and stopping off at a different cafe each time on the way round for a drink and to also dodge the rain.

3 hours until departure we decided to head to the port to check in and get in line.  We thought this was best as we were bored of walking in circles.  I had imagined the port to be the same setup as Dover - drive up to a gate, wave your ticket and they give you a lane number.  It wasn't.  We could have chosen any ferry we wanted as the man on the gate let us through without asking where we were going.  In the end we parked up and decided to walk around and look up where we actually had to go.  Next to the port were the different ferry company offices.  We had to check in there the same as foot passengers and then go and get the car and park up.  Simple when you know how but very confusing when you don't.  After another drink in another bar and the best sandwich in the world ever, we were ready to board the ferry.  Vick even saved a bit of her sandwich to enjoy on the ferry, and was then gutted when we got on the ferry and realised she'd left it in the bar.
Boarding the ferry wasn't the same as Dover either, it was more like a game of tetris.  Luckily we were first in so drove straight in but everyone else including lorries had to reverse in, and it looked like a lot of work.

When we booked the crossing we were offered a room for an extra fee.  Due to saving the pennies we decided not to. This was the worst idea possible.  Due to the bad weather it was a terrible crossing and trying to sleep on a hard floor with the boat rocking to and fro with a gentleman trying to quietly blow up an airbed wasn't my idea of a nice crossing.  We thought it would be a relatively quiet ferry as well, being quite late and all, but as soon as we set sail the world and his (Italian) brother came into the room where Vick and I were and started getting out their food and wine and talking very loudly.  Next time we will get a room.

We will miss our eastern Europe part of the trip.  Even though we just scraped the side of it I feel we will return to explore a lot more.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


After 3 nights in Plantaze we headed south to Pakostane.  With only 2 hours drive we stopped for the day in Zadar.  We had arranged to meet up with one of Antes friends for a coffee and a chat so we text him to let him know we had arrived.  I had ran out of phone credit so we text him off Vick's phone instead, he let us know that he was having some dinner and that once he was in his way into town we should text him our whereabouts.  We realized after we had this reply that neither me or Vick now had credit.  We forgot that the price of texts goes up when in Croatia.  After a quick walk around the town we had to find a cafe so we could top up our phone online so we could text Tomislav our location. Meanwhile Ante was also texting us to see where we were meeting his friend, and trying to ring us, which also costs us. To cut a long story short we found a bar with wifi, swiftly topped up Vick's phone and replied to Tomislav and Ante.  We met up with Tomislav and had a couple of coffees and exchanged stories and then he went on his way whilst Vick and I went to go and see the sea organ, which if in the area is well worth a visit.  It might be worth a YouTube to understand what it is though. 

With another hour until our next destination we headed back onto the road and aimed for Pakostane.  Nothing special about the place to what I know of but it was a campsite and it was open for another 5 days.  Another campsite with no one and toilets this time full of motorbikes and mopeds.  Instead we were told to use the toilets and showers in the apartments at the top of the campsite.  With the house pitched and car parked we had some dinner and off I plodded to the apartment to wash the pots and to have a shower.  Now I wasn't 100% sure we were allowed to use everything in the apartment so once I washed up I made sure I cleaned the kitchen space down clear of any bubbles and evidence I had used the place.  I'm a worrier, most people know that.  Washing up done I went to have a shower.  Due to the fact I was in an apartment I took advantage of this by getting unchanged in the main room rather than having to fight with everything in a tiny cubicle.  Clothes off and in the shower I was ready.  Shower time.

I lifted the tap which then carried on lifting to the point where it was coming out of the shower but also at the base of the tap.  Water was going everywhere and it wouldn't turn off.  What the hell was I going to do? I tried pressing it down again to which the pressure just pushed it back up it wouldn't turn, nothing would work, whilst standing in the shower trying to figure out what to do I noticed that the shower basin was starting to fill up quite a lot, enough to overflow into the bathroom.  I decided I needed help.  Never before have I got changed so fast and run back to the car.  When I shower I shower for a long time.  Vick knows this so normally gets out all of her drawing stuff, gets settled and cosy and... draws.   The apartments were about 150 metres away, 2 flights of stairs to the top.

We'll cut to Vick's version of events now, she is sat listening to some music quietly, drawing away happily when in the distance she can hear the pounding of feet. Feet running. And they are running fast. Knowing that I'm in the shower she gets a bit freaked out and turns off the music to listen. The pounding is getting closer and closer and louder and louder, and then the door flies open...


I don't know why I said that but I did.  I legged it back to the apartment to find that the whole place was flooded.  It was only the one main room with a small bathroom but I think the campsite owner was going to notice this.  Using towels, my tshirts and my hoodie as flood defence we started to figure out how to stop the overflow.  Shower head in the toilet was a start.  Because the campsite was about to close in 5 days the campsite owner went home during the night which was a problem as it was only us and the campsite dog and there was no way of contacting him.  Vick went off and tried to ring some numbers on the reception door hoping one was an out of hours emergency number to no avail.  I tried turning off all the water on all the taps in the place hoping at least one would be the shower.  Nope.  I even Skyped daddy to see if he would know where the water shut off point might be.  Where he said it could be it wasn't. 
I then went to try the neighbours, another campsite that was closed.  I knocked but no one answered.  I then walked off and for some reason went back again and knocked even louder and finally someone answered and they spoke English.  Which was very lucky as I don't know what ''Do you have the campsite owners number for next door as I have flooded his apartment'' is in Croatian, or any other language for that matter.

5 minutes later the owner turned up.  He walked in to me in a pair of shorts and soaking wet and Vick dragging a towel around mopping up the water.  He gave the shower one look, smiled, popped downstairs to turn off the water (which I think was locked under the apartment) and returned back and fitted a new shower head and off he went.

I never had a shower that night.

When we arrived the owner was very chilled out but even more so after I flooded the place, whether it was becasue he was about to start his holidays for December or he just couldn't be arsed.  Upon paying him for the 3 nights I expected to pay around €45 but he only charged us €15.  Result.