253. 18 June 2016. Made it!
Poor Noel had been suffering from lack of sleep and a gippy tummy for a couple of days, and was determined to upgrade from a seat to a cabin. This took about an hour of waiting, trying to outstare the woman behind the desk as she pottered slooooowly around. It cost more than the room at the Holiday Inn, and it was a tiny rabbit hutch, with no breakfast.
For some reason the only place capable of accepting a credit card was the self-service canteen, so poor Noel’s cash reserves had to be raided, since they didn’t have an ATM on board.
That said, we all got a really good night’s sleep and awoke refreshed. The schedule showed an arrival time of 0830, so we anticipated that the land we could see must be the mainland near to Igoumenitsa. So imagine our frustration when we checked our location on the phone’s GPS to find that it was Albania, and we hadn’t even passed Corfu! So much for the idea that they would have caught up time by steaming faster overnight.
We went to the self-service canteen for breakfast, to find that the card machine couldn’t establish a connection. By Now, Noel’s piggy bank was looking pretty malnourished, and we had to start on Elliot’s emergency fund to get ourselves breakfast.
Unloading was, by contrast, a breeze, and we were on our way by 1130 – 3 hours late, having apparently lost yet another hour along the way. This wasn’t a particular problem, and we anticipated arrival at about 1800.
Noel was feeling particularly fit this morning, and drove all but the last half hour.
The route from Igoumenitsa to Turkey is an amazing technical achievement. It took 15 years to complete and has a total of 48 tunnels, some of which seemed to be of similar length to the Mont Blanc. The first third of the journey is extremely mountainous, and we reckoned that about 70% of it was tunnel, with only occasional glimpses of the outside, but those glimpses were truly spectacular. We bowled along, the Hilux finding it pretty hard work in the 34° heat on the long uphill bits, but never complaining.
There comes a sudden transition from the mountains the plain, which is low and flat and featureless, and allows one to set the cruise control and relax. We had been warned about the lack of petrol stations, and had filled up at Igoumenitsa, but fancied a short break to stretch our legs and felt that a petrol station might be a good spot to park up. But the petrol sign we saw led us to a tiny country lane, with absolutely no chance of stopping with a big trailer, and led to a significant delay before we got back on the motorway. Noel was happy to carry on, and we did so for some considerable time, and when we tried again we found the petrol station, with a dusty corner to park up and the chance to buy a couple of bottles of water.
I randomly decided to take a look at the trailer wheel nuts, and found a couple of them loose on one wheel, so we tightened them up before carrying on.
Eventually we arrived in Kavala at around 1830, to find Paschalis and Panos waiting for us to escort us into the military barracks where the trailer could safely be left overnight. It was an emotional meeting, and we followed them to the barracks where we dropped the trailer, and on to our hotel.
We’d made it! We’d driven over 1300 miles at around 15mpg. There had been only minor problems along the way and we were all set to recreate my Grandad’s aviation.
And the rest of the crew? they’d taken the ferry to Prinos, where they transferred to another luxury hotel. It’s tough at the top.