The final ‘tick in the box’

Written by ralph on November 1st, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

No trip is fully complete until all the flag stickers are in place.

As Monaco was an unplanned deviation I wasn’t prepared and so had to wait until my good friends at StickersWorld2008 could come up with the goods.

A quick ebay order and 2 days later the Monaco flying flag was in my hands.

This could be the last addition for many months and even for good (in our hands).  Soon Matilda will be put up for sale as we have decided to look for another vehicle to continue (and expand) our adventures.  There are a few jobs that need doing and she will be fully serviced and MoT’d.  After that we will advertise her and start looking for a worthy home for her.

As for our future vehicle choice, well the jury is out at the moment and all cards are on the table; Land Rover, Toyota, even Ford are in contention.  I shall post more about our deliberations soon.  We have a few months to weigh the pros and cons before taking the plunge.

A very short chapter

Written by ralph on October 20th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

Our intention was to take a roundabout route back home vie several capital cities.  Namely Ljubljana, Budapest and Prague.  

Having sat down a studied the news it seemed that many of the border crossings and routes we wanted to take were heavily effected by the current Syrian refugee crisis. 

Feeling tired and not wishing to add any additional stress we have decided to err on the side of caution and head in the opposite direction. 

Having escaped from the lowest, stinkiest, hottest compartment in the ferry we, separately, made our way north and stopped at the municipal campsite in Bologna.  Feeling idle we decided to rent one of their chalets rather than camp. 

We had a superb meal with Karen and Nick and finally said goodbye to our fellow travellers; Geoff & Irene, Pat & John and Paul, our guide.  Ken had decide to head for San Marino, as he hadn’t slept well on the boat, and so we had said our goodbyes to him on board. 

We wish them all safe travels in the future. 

This morning we set off in that opposite direction, I mentioned earlier, with the aim of visiting Monte Carlo.   

So, here we are camped at Latte, on the Mediterranean coast. 

It’s not exactly rufty tufty overlanding, surrounded by plastic battlebus campervans, but we don’t feel we have anything to prove and it suits us. 

Tomorrow we shall pass through Monaco, then into France and hope to reach Lyon where we will look for somewhere to stop.  Depending on the weather, and our mood, it may be another campsite or it may be s hotel.  Only time will tell😀

As the dust finally settles

Written by ralph on October 25th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

So, we’ve been home a few days and now that we’ve had a chance to catch up on some sleep, what’s the finally tally?

Miles: 4613.24
Furthest point from home: 1736 miles (as the crow flies)
Degrees of longitude: 31 degrees East (1/12 of the earth circumference)
Maximum altitude: 6401ft
Litres of fuel: Too many to count
Countries: 14
Continents: 2
New flags claimed: 9
Ferries: 7
Nights on a ferry: 5
Nights in a hotel: 6
Nights in a chalet: 1
Nights in a campsite: 6
Nights in a carpark: 1
Nights wildcamping: 11
Tyres: 1
Accidents: 1
Maintenance: 700ml water added to cooling system, 500ml fluid added to power steering.

Did we enjoy it?  On the whole yes.  Was it what we expected? No, not really.  We did not fully appreciate the aim of a ‘recce’ trip.  Regularly we would make a comment about things we were less than happy with only to receive the reply; “well it is a recce”.

This is why we split away from the group for several days.  We wanted to experience a bit more of the countries we passed through other than remote mountain tracks.

What were the high points?

  1. Istanbul was interesting but not as ‘exotic’ as I expected/hoped.
  2. The amazing surprise of the Alistratis Caves
  3. Finding our own Wild camp
  4. Watching the sunset over the Aegean from our rooftent
  5. Visiting Gallipoli and learning more about a bit of history I knew very little of and reading the names on the gravestones at the beach cemeteries.
  6. Meeting other travellers and sharing stories
  7. Matilda’s amazing performance; one day battling steep muddy tracks and the next cruising at 70+mph.

There were many more small moments and bigger events that all add together to create an overall positive experience.  Obviously the accident early in the trip clouded the early days and came as a real shock to both of us.  Luckily neither of us was hurt and Matilda was able to carry on.

It has helped us reconsider our future ‘overlanding’ and how Matilda fits into those plans (more on that later).

In the meantime, there is a pile of dirty washing that would shock a Chinese Laundry and a lot of bits and pieces scattered throughout the house needing to be put away.  So I’ll leave you with a picture from one of our favourite spots as we watched the sun set over the sea.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog.


Hello Italy

Written by ralph on October 19th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

Looking a bit dismal

Almost the end of our Asian adventure

Written by ralph on October 22nd, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

The miserable weather gave us the motivation and the light traffic and clear roads (until the end) gave us the means.  So we decided to push on and catch our ferry, back to the UK, early. 

Things were going well until gridlock as Brussels, traffic meltdown at Antwerp and a multi car pile up on the Breda road. 

The satnav threw a wobbly during the most crucial phase (Rotterdam in the dark) but we still managed to make the boat with just 17 minutes to spare.  

Matilda performed faultlessly.  After mud, mountain trails, corrugations and being throne in a ditch she still managed to cruise most of the day at 75mph!

I’m now off to my bunk to try and remember how to drive on the correct side of the road. 

End of chapter one

Written by ralph on October 18th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

So, where were we?  I remember, we were chilling out on Kos. 

Nick, Karen and Ken arrived later that morning and we continued to chill with gusto. 

Another three hour lunch was followed with a short drive to the port.  It was a sad sight to see numerous inflatable rafts in the harbour and many, many tents along the dock wall.  All a sign of the ongoing Syrian refugee problem. 

Eventually the ferry arrived and, what can only be described as, “every man for themselves” boarding took place.  trucks were coming off as passengers, cars and more trucks were boarding. Vehicles were crisscrossing each other.  In the middle of all this a Police van drove through it all, onto the boat, with his sirens and lights blazing, only to come off again a few minutes later.  Base real army trucks joined the fray but cutting across everybody. 

Eventually we all fought our way through the meley and parked up. 

The ferry was heaving with people and communist seats were at a premium.  Eventually Belinda and I sat in the fast food cafeteria and ate one of the most unremarkable meals of our lives. 

After a reasonable nights sleep we arrived at Pireus.  Paul asked if we fancied some fun and said “let’s have breakfast in Athens”.  Remarkably the tragic was kind to us as we found a secure car park only a short walk from the Acropolis.  Stopping at  a cafe for a bite and a coffee we then spent a lovely hour and a half wandering around the ruins. 

 After Athens we headed out and found a nice wild camping spot. 

I flashed up the Braai and Karen, Nick, Belimda and I enjoyed a mixed BBQ of octopus, crayfish, sausages, pork chops and various bits of vegetation. 

Two bottles of bubbly were opened, around the campfire, to celebrate Nick & Laten’s wedding anniversary and my birthday. 

This morning we set off again towards Patra, for our ferry to Italy.  We headed higher and higher on various mountain tracks and the cloud base was insuring any view. 

In the end we decided that we preferred to take the road route so we split away from the main group, again, and followed our own path to the ferry port via some spectacular scenery. 

As I type this we have boarded the boat and we are waiting for it to sail. 

Tomorrow, chapter two of this journey commences with our solo drive back through Europe.