Saturday, April 16, 2011

Week 3

Mon. April 16 Vranji to Yefira
Miles 196
Sunshine at last! The run to Skopje (capitol of Macedonia) was very enjoyable. Clouds rolled away & sun came out. Off went sweaters & on went sunglasses. Hit a calf in Titov Veles - its fault. Got chased by an irate soldier for photographing a bridge in a gorge, a no-no that close to a frontier.
Figure 1.24a: Titov Vales. Photo: John Ireland
Just to be on the safe side, I squandered the remaining 6 shots on the roll & took the film out and set the counter to 16. So that if they confiscated the film, all they would get would be blank film.
At the frontier, just down the road, we were waved through, but a car with German plates that had passed the bridge at the same time as us was being dismantled by the roadside.
Greece was just as I had imagined it to be, bright sun, rolling hills & snow-covered hills in the background. Tonight we are camping about 15 miles outside Salonika. The sky is clear.
Weather - warm & sunny.

Figure 1.25: Macedonia

Figure 1.26: Macedonia

Figure 1.27: Macedonia.  Photo by John Ireland.
Tues. April 17 Yefira to Stavros
Miles 76
Drove in leisurely fashion to Salonika and spent the morning wandering around the town. It is really good to be in the sun. Decided to load up with fuel & food, and find somewhere to camp for a couple of days.
Drove for about 50 miles until we hit the coast & then turned off the main road to a little village called Stavros.
Found what must be one of the best camp-sites in the world. Not far from the road but out of sight from it and right on the shore with a small clearing for the tents and a fast flowing stream of fresh water. We will be here for at least one day.
Did all our washing, had a swim in the Aegean - our first swim this trip. Had a first-rate meal this evening. Went into shorts today. We like Greece. Yugoslavia already seems like a bad dream!!
Put our watches one hour forward today.
Weather - hot & sunny. 
Figure 1.26: Salonika

Figure 1.27: Salonika
Figure 1.28: Chaos at Stavros
Wed. April 18 Stavros
Miles 10
A day of lotus eating in the best tradition. Up early & down to the sea for a swim, then lay on our camp stretchers for the rest of the morning, just reading and absorbing ultra violet rays.
John & Dereck worked on the land rover; adjusted brakes, reset tappets, checked tyre pressures, topped up the battery and cleaned out the front & back of the vehicle.

Figure 1.29: Maintenance
Spent the early afternoon washing and sorting kit. About 4pm, John & I went into the village for food. People were very friendly. Took pics of a group of kids splitting mussels. A man brought us a couple, split them, cut the flesh from the shell, squeezed lemon juice over them and bade us eat. They were very nice, too.
Figure 1.30: Washing

Figure 1.31: Shellfish lesson, Stavros
We are getting a bit sick of being taken for Germans. The people are much more friendly once they know we are English.
Watched some of the fishermen at work today. They set their nets between 2 or 3 oil drums & then drive the fish into them from a boat. One man rows while the other stands in the stern flailing the water with a long pole. Greece is all that I had heard + a bit more besides. The beauty of the coastline has to be seen to be believed. The sea is not too hot at this time of the year, just cold enough to make getting in a bit of a struggle but once in it is lovely.
Figure 1.31: Stavros. Photo: John Ireland
Figure 1.32: Camp at Stavros

Figure 1.33: Stavros. Photo: John Ireland

Figure 1.34: Stavros. Photo: John Ireland
We are having difficulty making ourselves understood because they even use a different alphabet. We got a police escort out of Salonika yesterday as the officer thought it would be easier to show us the right road than to try to tell us!! We made a curry tonight; everything was going perfectly until we got to the part about putting in the curry powder. We had no curry powder.
Weather - hot & sunny.

Thurs. April 19 Stavros
Miles nil
Another day of lotus eating, if anything, even lazier than yesterday. We spent the day lying on our stretchers in the sun, reading, occasionally swimming, then into the tents for a siesta this afternoon. Read 'The Green Man' by Marcel Ayme.
Weather - hot & sunny.
Figure 1.35: Stavros. Photo: John Ireland

Figure 1.36: View of Stavros. Photo: John Ireland
Fri. April 20 Stavros to Xanthi
Miles 106
Another dream of a day. Idled along the coast to the next big town, Kavala. We came upon it rather suddenly, over the top of a hill and we just had to stop. The view was breathtaking.
Figure 1.36: Kavala. Photo: John Ireland
The town was in 2 parts, the old port nearest the sea and dominated by a Byzantine castle, linked to the more modern part by a Roman aqueduct in perfect repair. 
Figure 1.37: Roman aqueduct, Kavala. Photo: John Ireland
Spent a happy couple of hours just browsing around and shopping. Left Kavala in the afternoon and drove slowly on to Xanthi, another beautiful town, but more Eastern than anything we had seen before.
Figure 1.38: Market in Xanthi

Figure 1.39: Xanthi
Turned off the main road and are camped by a river up in the hills.
Met some English people in Kavala who are working in Ankara, Turkey. They gave us their address & invited us to eat with them on the way through.
Had a visit from some soldiers just before we turned in. Apparently we are in the middle of a military zone, but they did not seem to think we were a threat to military security!
Weather - hot & sunny.

Sat. April 21 Xanthi to Dicella
Miles 82
Words are beginning to fail a bit now. I have never seen anywhere to match Greece before. Up early, as is our custom now, and drove the land rover into the river for a wash, then packed up and away.
Figure 1.40: Bath time
Had an interested and sceptical audience while we drove out of the river and up a steep sandbank, but she never faltered.
Spent the morning wandering around Xanthi until the heat got a bit much for us. Drove out to Porto Lago, brewed up and lay in the sun for a while.
Figure 1.41: Camp at Dicella
Drove on almost to Alexandropoulos, turned off along the coast to just short of Dicella. Made camp on a little headland opposite the island of Samothrace. Had a really good spaghetti Bolognese tonight. Drove into Alex, walked around for a while, then back to camp.
Weather - hot & sunny.

Sun. April 22 Dicella
Miles 0
Decided to have another rest day. Spent the morning lying in the sun and reading, then decided to go for a walk to photograph a church I had seen yesterday.

Figure 1.42: Church, Dicella
 When I got there, there was a group of Greek students playing ball on the grass outside the church, almost right on the beach. They asked me to join in and I did.
Figure 1.43: Greek students and Tony Stead, Dicella
Later, they produced a picnic lunch that they also asked me to partake of. Hamburgers, cheese, bread, hard-boiled eggs, & wine, all spread out on a couple of blankets in one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen.
Had another excellent meal tonight.
One could have quite a cheap holiday camping here. Food is cheap, as is fuel - and the sunshine is free. We have all decided to come back here for our honeymoons! If & when.
Weather - hot & sunny.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week 2

Mon. April 9
Miles 27
Our first day without actually going anywhere. The weather was very bad all day-heavy rain with some snow. Went to the main railway station in the morning and had a bath, one of the most welcome I have ever had. Also managed to do a week’s washing while I was at it.
Dereck got arrested ‘cos he resembled someone who was wanted by the police. John bought a Rolex, while I bought a U.V. filter for my camera.
Stocked up with food at Gustav’s shop and had a ridiculous scene about paraffin. He sent his son for some and he came back with 2 gallons of meths. I went along with Gustav to the chemist’s to try to sort things out. After giving me various bottles to smell I got the right one. It is called petrol in German-same as in France.
Weather - wet & cold.

To Italy
Tues. April 10 Innsbruck To Tolmezzo.
Miles 172
Brenner Pass - 4495 ft.
Tre Croci Pass - 5932 ft.
Mauria Pass - 4258 ft
A memorable day. Woke to snow, sleet and rain so decided to push on into Italy. Weather cleared as we went over the Brenner Pass. Beautiful views, improving all the way to Cortina d’Ampezzo, right in the heart of the Italian Dolomites. Caught a glimpse of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo through the snow clouds.
The big hills were having bad weather all day while we were in the sunshine. Took several photos today, just couldn’t resist it. Left Cortina by way of the Tre Croci Pass. Magnificent views, then down to Auronzo. From there a short cut again, out of the Alps, by way of the Mauria Pass. We are heading full-tilt for the sea now, hell-bent on getting some warm sun.
Weather - Cold, sunny, & mixed.

Figure 1.9: Cortina

Figure 1.6: Brenner

Figure 1.7: Brenner

Figure 1.10: Dereck, Tre Coci Pass

Figure 1.11: Monte Cristallo

Figure 1.12: Tre Coci Pass

Things are settling into a routine.
John gets up first & makes tea and porridge, brings tea round, and then Dereck & I get up. Dereck cooks bacon & eggs, and then I make tea and wash-up. When we stop at night, Dereck & I immediately start on the meal. John gets tents & camp stretchers up and then washes up afterwards.
The land rover was serviced before we left Innsbruck, prop-shaft greased, battery topped up, radiator ditto and the engine with lube-oil.
I am kitty master by common consent. Out of the kitty comes all food, postage, fuel & oil plus any drinks we buy en-route. We usually brew-up at the roadside to save money. We have a big tin containing tea, sugar, milk, cups and a spoon, which is known as the instant brew.
Today we are in our 5th country, only 10 more to go but they are a bit bigger!

Figure 1.13: Northern Italy

To Yugoslavia
Wed. April 11 Tolmezzo to Rijeka
Miles 154
Managed to get an early start for once. Up at 7.45 and away by 9am straight out of the hills and downhill to Udine, then through flat, rather dull country to Trieste. Walked around Trieste for an hour or so, posted some mail and then headed for the border.
Crossed over about 3.30 and drove to Rijeka through really wild, rugged country. Hardly any cars but lots of bullock carts. Found a good campsite just out of town, fed, and then wandered back into town.
One main street and the shopping centre is completely closed to traffic. Everybody just walks up and down. There is a huge lack of goods on display, most of poor quality and overpriced. One of the cleanest ports I have ever seen (Yugoslavia’s busiest port), where the ships tie up almost in the main St.
Weather - still cold but not quite so vicious.
Figure 1.14: Rjeka

Figure 1.15: Rjeka
Figure 1.16: Camp at Rjeka

Figure 1.17: Rjeka

Figure 1.18: Rjeka
Thurs. April 12 Rijeka to Zagreb
Miles 176
Drove confidently out of Rijeka to cross the Dinaric Alps, and immediately started climbing. When we reached the landward side of the Alps it started snowing heavily and for the next 2 hours we could have been in Siberia. Snow, ice, the lot.
Got to Zagreb at about 5 and searched for the Putnik office, found it but no mail. It was such a depressing place that we motored straight out onto the auto put to Belgrade.
Stopped at a lay-by & a German family pulled in behind us. They are going as far as Pakistan in a VW kombi. Spent an hour or two drinking beer and plum brandy before bedding down for the night, me in the front seat of the VW, Dereck in the front seat of the land rover and John in the back of the land rover. I was as drunk as a fiddler’s bitch!
During the night John suddenly sat up, leaned over the back of the seats and was heartily sick all over Dereck, who was not impressed!
Weather - terrible; snow & rain.
Figure 1.19: Dinaric Alps
Fri. April 13 Zagreb to Belgrade
Miles 223
Woke with a terrible hangover, breakfasted & decided to travel with Bert as we were travelling at about the same speed. Got to Belgrade at about 2.30. That was, without doubt, the most boring run I have ever done. Mile after mile of dead flat country, most of it flooded. Just coming into Belgrade the clutch started to slip. Pulled over onto some waste ground and opened things up. Could find nothing wrong so decided to stay the night there & go to the land rover agency in the morning. Bert invited us over for dinner, very nice, too. After several bottles of wine the situation did not look so bleak. My only impression of this country so far is of rain & mud.
Weather - dreadful; wet & cold.

Sat. April 14 Belgrade to Topola
Miles 90
Presented ourselves at the land rover agency at 8am and got real V.I.P. treatment. A manager was sent with us to a garage, after we had been served Turkish coffee. The chief mechanic mucked about with it and assured us that it was O.K., so we set off. It was worse than before. Had another go at it ourselves and seemed to get it straight. Set off on the road to Greece & it went again.
Pitched camp about 40 miles out of Belgrade. Worked on the land rover until dark. Think we have it sorted now, hope so, anyway. Tomorrow will tell. If not then it will be back to Belgrade on Mon. morning.
John spent about an hour cleaning sick out of the back of the land rover while Dereck and I spent the time watching him, giving advice, and laughing. 
Made the acquaintance of a charming girl called Lala at the Rover agency. She speaks immaculate English and so was our interpreter. Tried to get her to come with us - no go! I don’t know what she thought about being ushered into a dirty, sick-smelling land rover, crammed into close proximity with 3 equally dirty, smelly males.
Figure 1.20: Lala, Belgrade
Sun. April 15 Topola to Vranji
Miles 208
Left Topola with hearts in mouths. Sure enough, after 30 miles it went again. Crawled around underneath it in the mud & rain & tried a desperate last resort- which worked. The measure is only temporary & will have to be attended to in Istanbul.
Many of the people now wearing curly-toed shoes, Stalin moustaches, and multi-coloured waistcoats. We think we are seeing the end of a national disaster here. We drove along a brand new motorway today, which had been reduced to single lane traffic in many places by flooding and rock fall.
All the way from above Zagreb we have been passing floods. The whole central plain seems to be flooded & the damage will take weeks to repair. Tomorrow we are heading for Greece to try to find some sunshine. John had a brief attack of 'Delhi-belly' today.
Weather - wet, as usual!!

Figure 1.21: Skopje

Figure 1.22: Skopje