2014 in review – Slow year for the Blog


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Land Rover has Gone… We will be off soon after.


Well, the Land Rover left to a new life several weeks ago. I hope she is looked after, it was sad to see her go. Sold to the first viewer at the asking price. I never thought I would sell, but life is full of surprises.

If your wondering why? Well we are moving to Melbourne in January 2014 and will start new adventures there. So stay tuned. New Country, New Job… Very Exciting.

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2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Back on UK soil


Well we are back on UK soil, behind on our updates due to a lack of wifi, most are written so we will post them ASAP.

Long drive home now!

Posted in Summer 2013 | Tagged | 1 Comment

Day 21 to 24 – B&B, Marina di Ginosa, Cassino to Marina di Massa


The south of Italy was not what we expected. Saying that, exactly what we expected is hard to put into words. But packed, sardine campsites, and undesirable beaches was certainly not it.

The idea was to get in a little more beach time before we started heading northwards and ultimately towards home. So with this in mind, we continued on down the coast of South Italy in the Puglia area. The map showed plenty of camping and after our usual stint of driving, we pulled off the motorway at Marina di Ginosa. We saw the campsite sign and followed it .. what we pulled up to was a sight that had a 90% majority of motor homes and static caravans. We have turned up in Italy at the completely wrong time!

As I mentioned in my last post, it was Italy’s national holiday and therefore every Mario, Luigi and his mother were on holiday for 2 weeks. From 10 August till 18 August all factories etc close down and Italy retreats … it seemed to this campsite or part of the coast.

We paid for 1 night, thinking if we liked it we would stay for 2, but that changed very quickly after we went to the beach. Lets just say peacocks have nothing on Italian men and their speedos!

From Marina di Ginosa we headed up the motorway past Rome. We did a big stint of driving, we simply wanted to get out of Italy. We had no maps for this part of Italy and were now relying on our very old and very worn Europe map for a general motorway overview. Every services we stopped at did not have maps, it was getting very frustrating! We pulled off the motorway at Caserta to look for a campsite. After an hour of driving, nerves and tempers were fraying and we all just wanted to get out of the car and stop. I suggested we head for a big town and go from there. We ended up in Cassino and found a campsite sign. The campsite was strange … an old lady and, i assume, her grand children were sitting at the entrance. The lady greeted us and chatted away in Italian, I assume telling us to go choose a pitch and she’ll bring us our passports. The place was deserted! To say it felt like the twilight zone or something from the movie The Shining would be a good ways to describing the feel of the place. We were THE ONLY people there. We pitched, cooked dinner and quickly went to bed … avoiding ALL contact with the ablutions … eewww!

The following day we headed Florence direction. The day dawned with Cas needing a wee. As age descended the ladder we heard a “Bonjourno!” from a strange Italian man walking through the campsite … that was our queue to leave. Anoter long day driving, as we passed Florence I asked the team if they’d like to stay in Florence or carry on to the coast, which would mean another 2 hours or so in the car. Cassie opted for the coast, Dan didn’t mind and so the coast it was. We pulled off the motorway at Lido di Camaiore, the map showed lots of camping and we were bound to find something quickly. This was not the case, after about 30min of driving we finally came across a campsite. we pulled in and enquired about a space, no sorry, full! Another 10 attempts later and we still had nowhere to stay. It was getting late again and we were getting tetchy. One last attempt, thank goodness! They had space. The campsite was another of these static caravan and permanent pitch sights. Not to our taste to be honest.

Packed Free beach

Packed Free beach

 

We headed to the beach to check it out, but what a disappointment. A false bay had been created using boulders. This stopped the sea coming in and out and delivering fresh water from the tide … meaning the water was frothy and dirty. The beaches were also all privatised and the ‘free’ beaches were tiny strips packed with every Mario, Luigi and Poalo. Not fun. Despite this, we decided to stay two nights and to find a swimming pool tomorrow.

We found a pool and for €4 each, we had a lovely quiet afternoon by the pool. Quiet yes, but the visions we were treated to were something I don’t think I will ever forget and is my major memory of Italy – the men walking around in their speedos. Or budgie smugglers as Dan and I nicknamed them. Why!? That is my only question.

Cassie enjoying the delights of the much quieter swimming pool.

Cassie enjoying the delights of the much quieter swimming pool.

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Day 20 – Secret Beach to Italian B&B


We were up very early thanks to having had no sleep. Dan started the day with a 5am swim!

It was a departure of 6am for us after we brushed our teeth and dressed. We decided to find a café along the way and get some breakfast and a coffee.

Winding Road, spectacular and beautiful

Winding Road, spectacular and beautiful

We made our way back up the winding road that you take to get down to the Southern part of Albania. At the top there is a restaurant, it looked open and was serving a few travellers, so we decided to stop. We ordered coffee and asked for the menu for breakfast. We got the impression that breakfast wasn’t a big meal in Albania and ordered toast with butter and honey and toast with butter and jam. What we got was warmed up slices of bread with a side plate that had a lump of butter and a dollop of honey or jam. The butter was rancid and the Jam was a little different. We ate the bread.

I guess this lane is closed

I guess this lane is closed

We had decided to head for Vlorë and enquire about the ferry, see if it did take cars and how much it was. When we got into Vlorë, we could see the port with a ferry anchored, but we couldn’t see how to get to the port. Eventually we came across a sign and turned down a road … well, we ended up stuck as we found ourselves surrounded by bollards. There was a gap in the bollards where someone had obviously tried to drive over them and knocked one off. We are a high vehicle, so we just drove over it, down the incredibly high kerb and out into the traffic going onto the roundabout.

Tickets to Italy

Tickets to Italy

We eventually found the port and parked the land, grabbed our passports and documentation and went in search of tickets. Not a hard thing as the street was lined with ticket shops. The fair, including the car and 2 adults and 1 child came to €206 one way. We were informed it departed at 1pm and to check in at 12.30pm the latest. We bought the ticket, but now had a few hours to kill before we embarked. We decided to wonder around Vlorë, find a supermarket and exchange our LEK. The supermarket part was easier said than done, but we did manage to exchange our left over LEK. With that done we headed for an air conditioned café to have a drink and wait out our remaining time.

At 12.30 we got in the car and headed towards the ferry. We came across a mishmash of higgledy piggledy park cars and young boys shouting at us to buy cigarettes. One of the young boys pointed to an office and said, “You go give ticket there.”. Dan thanked him and hopped out with the tickets and passports. A gentleman at the office helped Dan with the odd check in procedure and then we were off and boarding the ferry.

We parked, gathered our bits and bobs for the journey and went up to find a table. We were all tired from last night and were hoping to be able to get some shut eye on the journey. The gentleman that had helped Dan appeared, along with his wife and son. He is married to an English lady and every year they journey to Italy and Albania to visit his family. They warned us that even though we were told a 1pm departure, it would be more like 3pm departure. With this knowledge we settled ourselves for a long day.

Last sight of Vlore

Last sight of Vlore

Finally at 2.28pm the ferry started moving. We were off! Only another 5 hours to go!

The journey was long and very boring. We were also warned not to eat the food on the ferry, so we settled for pre packaged crisps and biscuits. After disembarking, it was now 7.30pm and we decided to head a little south from Brindisi. We have no Italy maps and our GPS is still dead, so we looked for a services so we could buy a map of the area. After a few failed attempts, Dan pulls into one and manages to get a map. He asked a gentleman in the services if there was camping, the guy was apparently rather rat arsed, but very helpful and pointed Dan in the direction of a few campsites. Now we just had to find them.

We got a little lost, and as the time ticked on, we could not find a campsite. We looked for the obligatory signs, but found none. After 2 hours we finally see a sign, and we follow it … and we follow it … and we follow it. We are now desperate to sleep and eat and decide to just check into a hotel. The first hotel we see, that is easy to park in, we pull into to ask if they have a room. Unfortunatley for us, they are completely full! We are informed that all the hotels are completely full and that we will struggle to find a room as it is Italy’s 2 week holiday period. He kindly calls around and finds a B&B that have a free room, but it will cost us €100 for the night including breakfast. Bggars can’t be chooses, so we thank the guy and take the room.

The owner of the B&B came to meet us at the hotel and show us the way back to the B&B. We followed him, pulled into the B&B, took the room key, had a shower and collapsed .. sparko till the next morning!

We woke not to early, but not to late and had showers. We then went to have breakfast. We were all starving as we never did get to eat dinner the night before. Breakfast consisted of a buffet style arrangement with fresh fruits, fruit juice, bread, butter, jam and some poached fruit and a lemon compot thing. We were simply enjoying eating when a plate of cakes is put down onto our table … a very sweet breakfast, Cassie certainly wasn’t complaining.

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Day 19 – Bunec to Beach Cove via Butrint


 

UNESCO Butrint Roman Ruins

UNESCO Butrint Roman Ruins

We had a fairly ok nights sleep and woke early. We decided to avoid the breakfast spoken of last night as dinner was a little ‘dodgy’, for want of a better word. We opted for just a coffee instead. Outside our room we bumped into a lovely lady sitting with her grandson. She asked us where we were from and we told her, “England, Brighton”. She said she knew it and lived in Lewisham. She was on holiday with her family and investigating a business opportunity in Albania. I must add, she was Albanian. We chatted for a bit longer and then bid her farewell, we were off for that coffee. Continue reading

Posted in Albania, Equipment, Land Rover, Overland, Roof Tent, Summer 2013, Tent, travel, Uncategorized, Wild Camping | Tagged | Leave a comment

Day 18 – Kepi i Kalas to Bunec via our Secret beach


Nice Quiet Beach

Nice Quiet Beach

Being in a hotel last night meant getting away quickly was easy. We had a local style breakfast of feta, tomato, cucumber and bread. Washed down with a few coffees. Continue reading

Posted in Albania, Defender, Free Camping, Land Rover, Overland, Summer 2013, travel, Wild Camping | Leave a comment

Day 17 – Koplic to Kepi i Kalas via the Karavasta Lagoon.


Despite the heat we did quite well this morning and managed to get packed up and on the road by 0945, after we had a slow coffee and showers all round. Our original plan was to head up to Thethi, which is said to be beautiful, but have a difficult road, especially after rain. Given that the last two days there had been storms in the area, we decided we would not attempt that, but perhaps try on the return route. Instead today we would head for the coast.

Gus and Helen who we met at the campsite had lent us a map which they had been given, by another traveller in Albania on a bike. Many of the circles were on the places we had read about, some were alien to us. Anyhow I copied the circles to our map. Todays plan was based on circles. We would head to the circle at Karavasta Lagoon. We had no idea what was there so Wendy read up in the guide book on the way between navigating.

The summary was that it is a wet land with many birds and lots of wild life. At night it is apparently a mosquito hell hole. Cool, sounds like an ideal place to visit.

As we left we found the roads in the area where we stayed all seemed ok, well sign posted and smooth. Petrol stations everywhere. It was not long before we were in chaos though, Sckoder was manic and it was every man for himself. The roads had occasional road markings, round abouts and traffic signals. Pedestrian crossings never mind those. We encountered various types of traffic, bikes, people, horse and cart, three wheel trucks and even motor bikes which had a tray arrangement welded to the from that formed a kind of three wheel truck thing.

The traffic involved people and cyclists moving the wrong way and or on the wrong side of the road. Putting themselves in danger. The drivers used their horn to say either hello, we are over taking or we are coming through regardless. Undertaking was the norm. This was probably because the fast lane was used to avoid the chaos at the side of the road with the triple parked vehicles and other oddities.

At roundabouts most people don’t bother indicating, if they do it means nothing because they forget to change it as the filter off with the opposite indication. The roundabouts work a bit like a drain hole. In that no one stops, they just continue being sucked into the vortex and some break free when they need to leave. Occasionally you’ll get some one a little bit more crazy who will just fly across the round about breaking the vortex. You’ll have warning if you are lucky by way of continuous multiple beeping of the horn. Beep Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

We eventually made it out of Sckoder, shocked but unharmed! It was exciting. The only negative for me was the begging on the out skirts at the traffic lights which meant we locked the doors and put the windows up. Sorry. I felt really bad about that, but did not want to encourage it.

On the main road overtaking is an art, you’ll often be confronted by a speeding car in your lane flashing lights at you. They are overtaking. They expect you to assist be moving out of the way. Several occasions having held my ground, I took evasive action, either by braking, making use of the dirt hard shoulder or swerving. These guys are good at Chicken. I think I saved us a few times from accidents by braking to allow people to hop from behind and avoid the front of busses by feet, not meters.

We endured this for several hours, even trying the motor way, which although wider had limited road markings and was just a bigger play ground.

We eventually arrived at Karavasta. Here we headed along dirt tracks, paid a toll and continued to the beach, we were able to drive all the way up the beach until we found a quiet spot. You can’t do that in many places. Here we relaxed for an hour or so had a swim and lunch. Previously we had tried about 4 km up the beach, but being near a river outlet there was a lot of plan debris on the beach making it look undesirable amongst all the rubbish.

After having refreshed ourselves and having convinced ourselves it was not an ideal place to camp, we headed back out on the dirt road which we entered, this then lead us to take a turning to follow one of the waterways of the lagoon. We came across some locals fishing and checked with them we were headed in the right direction. They basically as usual said keep going!

We were not headed basically down a raised section of the lagoon that had a track on it. The track continued for about 5 km, it was wet but ok. I was obviously concerned as it may have got very boggy. It was just wide enough for a car.

Along the way we saw loads of small birds, which appeared not to have the ability to fly, but to merely run around scatter brained. There were also lots of herons. The star of the afternoon was a tortoise we came across just wandering the track. We jumped out to get photos quickly, before it disappeared.

By the time we got out of there it was getting late, so we headed just south of Vlora to hunt down a room to stay in. We found a nice hotel perched on a cliff top with a private beach for 35 Euro a night with breakfast. We had a swim, then freshened up for the evening opting to eat at the hotel and drink a few beers.

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Day 16 – Koplic, Lake Shkrodër


We decided to stay two nights at Lake Shkodër. Today we woke slowly, having been woken by Cassie in the middle of the night again. After we finally dragged her sleeping items into the tent, thunder rolled in. There had been a little rain too, but not a significant amount. Needless to say, it was a little bit of a restless night.

The day was warming up already by mid morning, and I had decided that the sheets, towels and pillow cases needed to be washed. We also needed to get some food. We asked the owner of the campsite if here was a shop close by and he said yes, just walk up to the main road, over the bridge and there is a shop there. So we handed over our washing, as he had a machine, and set off for the shop.

As we walked we were shocked by the rubbish we saw on the side of the road and dumped in ditches, We passed two young boys by the overpass burning their rubbish. It was a reminder that Albania still had ways to go.

We were perspiring by the time we got to the shop and had to stop for a cold drink at one of the bars. Afterwards we went to the shop and bought essentials .. water, beer, biscuits and other food items. Now for the walk back!

Back at the campsite, Cassie made friends with a young girl from a German family staying a few pitches down. She played all afternoon with Lea and her brother Nic. It was nice for her to have company, and Lea wanted to practice her English as she had recently started learning it at school.

All day Thunder had been rumbling in the background but despite this, it had been warm and sunny.. with a slight cloudy haze. But by afternoon, the lightening started making an appearance and we decided to pack up Cassie’s tent and head for the restaurant/bar. And a good thing we did, as the heavens opened with an almighty bang and gush of wind and it did not let up for hours!

We had grabbed a table inside and here we stayed for the most of the evening. Eventually to be joined by Frank and Anjita, Cassie’s new found friends’ parents. The evening was great. We swopped travelling stories, places to visit and even swopped blog addresses. It’s always nice to make friends along the way, so thanks Fank and Anjita for a great evening.

There was also a second Land Rover at the camp, owned by a Scottish couple that were travelling. We had spoken to them the day before about their set up and swopped maps for tips on places to travel. Anyway, Gus and Helen also ended up at the bar/restaurant and as our table was already full, they sat with a trio of Austrian guys next door to us. As the evening progressed, they ended up joining our table too. We all had a wonderful time drinking wine and beer and swopping stories. Thanks Gus and Helen for your tips and your extending fork!

Posted in Albania, Defender, Equipment, Land Rover, Overland, Storm, Summer 2013 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment