All posts for the month August, 2013

Day 4, Tuesday 13th August

Karpathos from the ferry

After leaving the previous evening at 1800 we called at Santorini at around 0200, Anafi around 0400, Kasos around 0930 and I drove off the boat in Karpathos at about 1130. Elly, Denise and grandson Nick were waiting on the dock but being one of the first on the boat, I was one of the last off so they had a long wait. The whole harbour area was full of vehicles waiting to get on the ferry and progress along the promenade was slow. I pulled up at a restaurant belonging to some friends of ours to ask if one of the guys was around but he wasn’t, so I drove on up to the hotel where the rest of the party were waiting and we unloaded the car. Time for a beer at the pool I think.  :-).

Day 2, Sunday 11th August

The second day of the trip started calmly enough with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The trip from Verona to Ancona was about 360km so I thought I had time enough to spare before the ferry left at 1330, it was Sunday after all. Was I in for a surprise! Horrendous traffic around Modena and Bologna meant that I was standing still or crawling for what seemed like hours. The ETA on TomTom was getting later and later. I had not bothered to take any photo’s or shoot any video over this stretch as it is not a particularly scenic part of the country and when we eventually got some kind of movement in the traffic I just hadn’t got the time. The traffic in the left hand lane of the autostrada was solid and I found that I could make more time by driving on the right and weaving in between traffic where necessary. I was still running behind schedule when I got closer to the coast just past Imola but a lot of the traffic was leaving the autostrada for the coastal areas. This gave me the space to floor it where I could but was still sitting behind slower cars because I’m not not the type to tailgate. I noticed a set of headlights pull up behind me at a rate of knots and saw an Audi emblem right on my back bumper. Best thing to do with people like this is let them go so I pulled over and let him go. He wasn’t intending to hang around behind the two cars I was following either and I saw them start to pull over. I had to catch that ferry so I thought “What the F*#k – if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” and I quickly tagged on behind him. It was an Audi R8 with a Liechtenstein license plate, you know the type – money no object. This arrangement worked out pretty well as I started to see the ETA come down to put me in the window again. We were travelling between 160 – 180 kph more or less all the way to the Ancona exit and I guess he was approaching 200 at times as he pulled away before being slowed down by traffic again and then me catching him again. As I turned off the autostrada to drive the last few k’s into Ancona I flashed my headlights as a bit a nod towards a thank-you, but I don’t suppose he’d even noticed me. Shame there was no video actually, it would have been quite interesting.

Well I made the ferry with about half  an hour to spare eventually and here are a few photo’s taken on the ferry as we left.

Day 3, Monday 12th August

We arrived in Igoumenitsa on a hazy Monday morning at around 06:30. As I was one of the last vehicles to board, I was one of the first to drive off. There were a few (mostly Italian) cars, caravans and large campers in front of me as I followed the procession out of the harbour area. The main road out of Igoumenitsa (A2, E90) is a fairly new dual carriageway cut through the hills and begins with a fairly steep climb before levelling out a little higher up in the hills. I passed all of these vehicles in the climb and by the time I reached the top I had the road to myself. As it happens it was only about 5 km before I turned off to head south on a smaller local road to join the A18 which runs down the coast towards Preveza. Just before Preveza the route took me east for a while on the A21 to run around Arta before heading south again on the A5. I followed the A5 until reaching the Rio-Antirion Bridge which was about half way on the route to Athens. A lot of this road was really good but there was also a lot where the road surface was really poor and I had to take avoiding action around tarmac that was breaking up and creating potholes. Traffic was extremely light for a Monday morning and not what I was expecting after my experience in Italy the day before. I only held up briefly once on the whole stretch and that was behind an Albanian truck that obviously had some problem. After a few kilometres of crawling along he pulled in to a parking area on the right and the traffic got past and got back to a normal speed. I thought that another Greek truck behind him would have also held us up but this was not the case and we were soon travelling at 80-90kph, fast enough on this piece of road. Somewhere along this road (I can’t remember exactly) I had stopped to fill up and get a coffee, the breakfast on the ferry meant that I didn’t need much more. I like the old fashioned service you find in fuel stations in Greece, especially those outside of the big centres like Athens. There was no self service and when I pulled up, got out and grabbed the pump hose a guy came dashing out remonstrating with me that he was going to do it. I told him to fill it up and opened the hood to let him check the oil. I asked him if I could get a coffee and he told me to see his colleague inside. I ordered a double espresso and sat in the shade outside at a small aluminium bistro table and waited for him to bring it out. I seem to remember that it was around 0930 and the sound of crickets was already filling the air. The coffee was good as I watched the guy at the pump cleaning my screen before telling me that it was finished. No oil was needed – of course not, I had rebuilt the engine well 😉 . After paying the bill I set off again and reached the bridge about an hour later. The bridge and a number of sections of the road beyond that are toll although it is only a couple of euro each time. The first part of this road from the bridge to Korinthos (A8a, E65) runs along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth and although being designated as a highway it is for most of it’s length a 3-lane road with a narrow hard shoulder on both sides. The lane in the middle is officially for overtaking but what happens in practice is that slower moving vehicles tend to drive half on the shoulder and faster moving traffic passes both ways using half of the centre lane. A bit scary 😐 . Road surface wasn’t too bad, although there were a lot of road works where they were obviously building a new dual carriageway. To be honest I was glad to get off it and once we reached the next major junction at Korinthos we joined the A8 (E94) which was a real six lane highway running all the way to Athens. By now it was getting on for lunch time so I pulled in to a service area and got a sandwich and something to drink, this was however the same sort of place you’d find anywhere else on European motorways. Reaching Athens some time before two I had about four hours to wait before the ferry left at 1800. By now the August temperatures had soared so I parked the car near the ferry and took a walk to find a bar and a cold beer. When I got back a little later I opened the car door which was like opening the oven door in our kitchen. I had to wait a couple of minutes with the doors open before I could get in. About four o’clock they decided to start loading some of the waiting vehicles, that in itself is a bit of a puzzle as they call at a number of destinations en route and have to load and unload at each port. I was getting off at Karpathos the last but one major island before reaching Rhodes where they turn around and return to Athens the same way.

Here is a short film of edited highlights:

Day 1, Saturday 10th August

In August 2013 my daughter Denise got married and wanted to use the BMW as the wedding car and of course I was more than happy to do that. On the day I drove her to the town hall in Dordrecht myself and the car was used afterwards for a photo-shoot around the area. Both my daughter (and her husband) and me (and my wife) have friends in Karpathos, Greece, so having the wedding in August meant that they could not come.  We therefore decided to take the wedding to them one week later. Now as I absolutely hate flying (not the flying itself but the hassle at the airports) and I had always wanted to drive to Greece, this presented the perfect opportunity. I would drive there in the BMW and the rest of the extended party would fly, I couldn’t talk anyone into coming with me. Not being restricted with baggage issues I had the room to carry the wedding dress and the suits which we wanted to use for a photo-shoot and party there. My son-in-law is a keen diver and asked me if I’d take his diving equipment with me so the car ended up being quite full.

I didn’t really get to take too many photo’s on the move but here are a few.

I had done some analysis of routes and costs by using a spread sheet and decided on the best route, not necessarily the absolute cheapest but the route which seemed the most efficient. I left home at 6 am. on the Saturday morning and headed to the south west of the Netherlands where I crossed the border at Venlo into Germany and followed the E31(A61) south. The weather was glorious, passing Koblenz and Mannheim I followed the road before turning onto the E35(A5) just past the Hockenheim circuit towards Karlsruhe. Most of this route was well known to me from my years working in transport and apart from some minor delays due to road works it passed uneventfully with a couple of stops for fuel and refreshment. Before Karlsruhe I sat in some long queues and then heading towards Stuttgart on the E52(A8) I ran into a lot more traffic before getting to Ulm. Leaving the route heading south to pick up the E43(A7) I got further delayed in Ulm due to some serious road works and road closures with detours where TomTom got into a bit of a tiz and let me down. Once past Ulm the traffic situation seemed to improve and after turning onto the E532 at Memmingham we reached the Austrian border with no further delays. Once across the border through the tunnel at Füssen I stopped for fuel in Reutte and then headed up into the Fern Pass, something I had been looking forward to.

The pass itself didn’t disappoint although it would have been better without the traffic :-). Going south was not too bad but the traffic coming towards me heading for Germany seemed like an endless queue, standing still at times. There were passing lanes in a few places so when I reached one I pulled out and gunned it passed the offending caravan or camper. Over the top down the other side I soon reached Imst (the pass is only just over 60km) and the E60(A12) autobahn towards Innsbruck. This was another short blast of 60km and from Innsbruck I took the E45 south over the Brenner pass. Once in Italy the Autostrada di Brennero is a great piece of road winding down from the Alps to the plains of central Italy cutting through tunnels where you just have to wind down the window, change back a gear or two and floor it – brilliant, I’ll probably never grow up :-). The home stretch from the border at Vipiteno, passing by Bolzano and Trento, to Verona where I was stopping for the night is about 235 km, a little under 2 hours. By this time it was very late in the afternoon and the long day was beginning to get to me. I had to pull in to one of the rest stations about half way and grab a double espresso and stretch my legs for a bit. The last leg found me eventually arriving at Hotel Antichi Cortili at around quarter to eight. Extremely warm with the sound of the crickets echoing around the courtyard and parking area, I grabbed some stuff out of the car, checked in, deposited my stuff in the room and took a  quick shower. About an hour later I was sitting at the restaurant outside the hotel with a glass of wine looking at the menu. The first day was done and dusted – 1163km.

Here is some video of the first leg of the trip.