Our coffee stop

FRIDAY 12-5-23

Thank the Lord, they got yet another weather forecast wrong. Granted, we did have a little bit of rain overnight but awoke to a partly cloudy sky with some sunshine poking through.

We again elected to shower indoors rather than go over to the shower block. It was far more convenient and I was keen to run the water tank down which was full of Albanian fresh water, so that we could replace it with a tank full of Croatian good stuff.

Having checked on the dumping facilities I gifted our black waste to them and then popped in to Reception to enquire if the ferry boat was running over to Dubrovnik. It was, and the fare was fifteen euros return per passenger. I popped back to get some cash and then bought a couple. Suddenly I realised that if we didn't get a move on and catch the 12:00 ferry we would have to wait until 13:30, and by the time we got over there we wouldn't have too long before we had to clock watch for the return crossing. So lunch was scrapped and we quickly got ourselves ready with me taking my backpack containing our macs, just in case they had got the weather forecast wrong yet again, and  fleece tops to keep us warm if necessary.

It was a fairly quick decent of the many steps to the small harbour where the ferry would leave from. Typically our ferry was running late, but a couple of others that arrived before it were on time.

It was a bit of a lumpy ride round to Dubrovnik, but no complaints, this is what we stopped off for to experience. I think the strong winds of the past few days created the swell that we encountered en-route.

It was a forty-five minute crossing before arriving in the harbour at Dubrovnik. It was nice to be back. This was our third, and last visit. We didn't need to dash about like headless chickens as we'd seen it all before. Instead, after walking up and down the 'High St' we looked for something to munch for lunch, just to keep us going. We found somewhere doing 'take away' which is rare in places like this as, like most tourist hot spots these days, it's absolutely rammed with sit down eats joints. Take them away, along with the shops selling tourist souvenir tat and you've almost nothing left. I had a sort of bread pasty which was filled with the ingredients of a pizza (work that one out) and The Chef had a 'chicken pastry thing' (her description, not mine). Then it was back down to the harbour for a coffee each to wash it down. Two small (I asked for two large, but the 'large' were small) cappuccino coffees. Ten pounds, as good as, for both of them.

Having lingered we had a wander around until our return ferry at 16:00. Fortunately they put a larger catamaran ferry on for that service as there were quite a lot of us waiting for the boat to arrive.

My, my, it was a choppy crossing back again. We were reeling and a rocking more than the Dave Clark Five, but we arrived back safely.

Once back we set about a bit of housework ready for our departure tomorrow morning. Then it was The Chef's fine dining experience which included fresh strawberries and Greek yoghurt.

This evening we shall clean and fold up the large mat outside the habitation door before it rains at a guesstimated time of 21:00.

Tomorrow we set off for  Split, a place that on two previous attempts, has alluded us. It's about a three hour drive but we also have to factor in a possible stop at the local Lidl store here and a border crossing in to Bosnia Herzegovina and back out again. I think I have found an ideal parking place near the railway station, from where we should be able to have a look around. If we get there in good time we can get it all done in one day before moving on again on Sunday. Northward, ever northward.

A new neighbour

THURSDAY 11-5-23

Last night we watched the last couple of episodes of Peter Kay's 'Car Share' before turning in. It had been a long day. Having looked at the weather forecast first we decided to stay local today and go across to Dubrovnik on Friday.

My word what a wet night it was. We had non-stop rain the whole time and much of it very heavy. This gave us a great excuse not to hurry getting up, and given the heavy  rain outside, decided to have a shower in the vehicle, as we had plenty of water and LPG. It was lovely not to worry too much about how much water we used as it can be easily replenished from the tap outside.

When we showed our faces there had been a mass exodus from the site, and our outside mat was covered with catkins, and I'm sure if I were to look up on the roof that would be too. When we leave on Saturday I will try and get the campsite hosepipe up on the roof to wash as much off as I can.

This morning was spent reading and watching the new arrivals park their vehicles, so often a source of great amusement.

We haven't bought fresh bread in a couple of days which resulted in The Chef preparing a bread & butter pudding to be cooked later with the evening meal. I bought the little electric oven in from the garage and we baked our last pack of part-baked bread. We haven't seen much of it since leaving home, which is a shame because it makes a great standby if we can't get our hands on a fresh loaf.

After lunch the weather improved. It stopped raining and the sun tried to get out for a little while and so we went for a walk down to the little harbour and the 'seafront' which eventually leads to a small shopping area including a well stocked supermarket. I managed to persuade the Chef to buy some more strawberries as the last punnet we bought didn't get eaten quickly enough and went a bit mushy. We'd be eating them this evening if it wasn't for the bread & butter pudding waiting to be cooked and consumed, still at least I know what's on the menu tomorrow.

The walk back up to the campsite was hard work as there are numerous steps to climb, made harder by the few shopping bits we had in the bag.

A few days ago we bought a very nice chicken crown thinking that would be a treat on the barbecue, but we haven't had the weather, and if we have, we haven't been in a suitable location to have one. Couple that with the very poorly designed French barbecue with a griddle which slides around on the base and is also convex in shape so that the food slides from the middle to the sides (How they ever managed to design Concorde with us I shall never know) I'm not terribly enthusiastic about having one. I have told The Chef that on our expected final trip to Portugal and Spain next year, I'm putting the Weber Baby Q barbecue back onboard, and to hell with the additional size and weight. At least we'll leave this lifestyle behind having enjoyed some decent barbecues.

....I digress. Anyhow, we have this very nice large chicken crown and The Chef suggested that as we're hooked up she could actually create a full roast dinner in our little electric oven. So that will be our treat this evening, which will help to make up for the lousy weather and being shut in for much of the day, with our bread & butter pudding for dessert.

The weather forecast is for more of the same tonight and tomorrow, but whatever happens we'll be in Dubrovnik tomorrow. If the boat isn't running over there then we'll catch a bus. Though the point of us stopping by this time was to make the boat trip as it would be nice to approach the walled city from a different angle.

This evening we'll be watching more telly, maybe even a film, though I don't bring too many of them with us because if we've had a busy day we're too tired to concentrate on it. We carry mostly light entertainment, comedy and music performances.

Incidentally, my apologies for the lack of quality of the pictures over the past few days. They've been taken by the little pocket camera which sits in the glove compartment on The Chef's side so that she can take the odd snap as we drive along, plus if the weather is wet I take that camera out myself rather than get the better Panasonic pocket camera ruined.


We had a lie-in this morning but it didn't really show as we had crossed a time line yesterday and are now only one hour ahead of UK time. So our 08:30 wake up was yesterday morning's 09:30.

The showers at the campsite are unisex and there are just four of them, each one accessed from outside, but as campers are generally skanky individuals there were cubicles empty when we got over there.

It was only towards the end of my shower and shave-whist-under-it, that I noticed the water was not only disappearing down the drain, but it was also disappearing under the door, thus watering the plants outside. That's what happens when you employ a builder who can't afford a spirit level.

The campsite seemed quite cliquey, probably due to the fact we didn't see any German campers there, but lots of Dutch, so they were probably quite enjoying being able to relax and do as they wished without those nasty Germans giving them der dirty look.

Once we were topped up and dumped we hit the road. It wasn't long before we came across a herdsman taking his cows for a walk on the road, with each one taking it in turns to walk down the white line to make sure they were sober. Then it was the crazy, dangerous driving of those too impatient to wait in a line of traffic. The risks some of them took was positively reckless, and most such drivers we've seen in Albania who behave like that drive Mercs.

'Let he who is without sin' de dar de dar, well further down the road I became frustrated with having been stuck behind an HGV for mile after mile. Eventually a straight piece of road appeared, and although it meant my crossing the solid white line, it was safe to carry out the manoeuvre. Having done so it became apparent that the lorry had been following an unmarked police car, so as soon as I had pulled in both having crossed the white line and pinched a bit of speed, its rear red and blue flashers went on. It pulled in to the hard shoulder and I pulled in behind him. A cop jumped out the driver's seat with his red wavy wand thing, but didn't need it as I had already twigged what he wanted me to do.

I would the window down and as he approached me I said "I am sorry - I crossed the white line and I should not have done so". He asked me where we were from and where we were heading, so I told him. He then asked me if I liked Albania, to which I replied " You have wonderful scenery, and the lake (pointing to it behind him) is beautiful". That was the right answer, and he let me go on my way. They are clearly looking to take a softly, softly approach to foreigners as they are actively looking to increase their tourism industry, which today, worked well for me.

Eventually we reached the border and we were free of Albania, and delivered in to the loving arms of Macedonia, where we endured, after touring the outskirts of Podgorica, mile after mile of driving through the mountains which was a trife taxing. Eventually we came down from the cloudy heights to be met with a lovely blue sky and sunshine to arrive at Budva, which looks to be a very nice holiday destination. There was just one cruise ship there, so the traffic jams were not as bad as they have been.

Then it was a journey along both the coastline and up hill and down dale, though the scenery along that stretch of coast to Kotor and beyond is to die for.

By Kotor we were feeling rather peckish but didn't dare stop for lunch for fear that we wouldn't get a pitch at Camping Kate when we arrived. Instead we munched our way through a packet of bread sticks or whatever, which The Chef had bought out with us.

After crossing from Macedonia in to Croatia just down the road, we did eventually arrive here at Camping Kate (N42.624799° E18.207932°) www.campingkate.com . As luck would have it there were just two pitches left, and we bagged pitch 1A, though unfortunately the mains distribution box for the electrical hook-up was further than our twenty-five metre cable could cope with. It was a long saga, but eventually the campsite owner sent his lad down with a domestic extension reel to which I attached our domestic extension reel, and by the magic of adapter leads we have electrical power, though it has meant that I've had to cover both reels and sockets with plastic bags, held in place with elastic bands to protect them from the rain forecast for tomorrow.

We are hoping to catch a boat from the quay below the campsite for a ride across to Dubrovnik. We quite fancy that as opposed to a bus journey. At the moment we seem to have a choice of going tomorrow in heavy rain showers, or leaving it until Friday and doing it in light rain showers.

Why, oh why, did we set off on this trip so soon?

TUESDAY 9-5-23

Neither of us had a very good night's sleep although it wasn't noisy in the parking area. Perhaps it was the thought of travelling on Albanian roads that did it. We'd obviously dropped off by the time the alarm clock went off at 07:00 because the noise came as a nasty shock. It was to be a quick wash and shave in order to save time so that we could get on the road as soon as possible.

Having scrubbed up I went to drop the rubbish off in the dumpster near the parking site entrance, and from there spotted that the public toilet block just down the road was already open, so back I went for the toilet cassette and did the business.

The grey water went to feed the grass at the edge of the site and the fresh water tank was topped up using the sites fresh water tap.

I had hoped to look at the blog page covering our previous journey across Albania as a little reminder of what lay ahead, but it didn't appear to be there, which was a reminder to me of how much work needs to be done to get the blog back up to standard following the host being taken over by one.com, before our next trip in September.

So we were ready, scrubbed up, topped up and with not one, but two satnavs programmed with our destination. The reason for that was the last time we made the journey the Snooper satnav took us on the correct route, but I wasn't sure what the newbie would do, and so with both working side by side I had all the information I needed to make the journey. We were away at 08:30, which is pretty good going for us.

Reaching the Albanian border was further than I remembered it, probably about thirty miles of the two hundred I'd estimated for the whole journey. There were an awful lot of potholes along the way, but we managed to dodge most of them.

On arrival at the Greek border post we had to wait ages behind a couple of cars, the first one containing a couple of blokes who looked a bit dodgy. After about twenty minutes we were through and then down to the Albanian window. That was pretty straightforward and then it was down to the small shopping area where we could buy vehicle insurance for the journey through the country. Five years ago it cost us something like forty euros, today it was forty-nine, but it could have been worst, they could have charged far more and we'd have been forced to pay it. What amazed me was there were no further checks on our documentation, and having driven just round the corner we were on the open roads of Albania. That surprised me as if we had not known we needed that insurance we could have passed right through the system and driven across the country uninsured.

The early part of the journey was as we remembered it - nice scenery and traffic cops everywhere. If you didn't know better you'd think Albania was a police state. If it wasn't speed traps it was road blocks pulling over selected vehicles for checking. Thankfully lots of people, including me, were warning drivers coming in the opposite direction of the police presence.

The journey was a lot easier than it was five years ago as there have been a couple of stretches of motorway built and quite a bit of dual carriageway. Nevertheless, the journey, including a break for lunch took eight hours, which gives you some idea of how slow the progress was when on single lane roads. There was far more traffic on the road today than we experienced last time. Many citizens must have traded in their horse and carts for a cheap car. I suppose, given the amount of traffic on the roads, especially around the towns and cities, we should be grateful that half of the Albanian population, especially the young, are now in the UK, having arrived in rubber boats and now enjoying hotel accommodation and pocket money etc at our expense. They are the young entrepreneurs of this country though, because soon after arriving at their UK hotels many disappear to start up their own drug dealing businesses.

I like to top the fuel tank up when it gets down to half, but after one attempt at filling up and paying with a bank card I gave up. I remembered from last time something about they would only accept cash, and it had to be the local Albanian currency. We've plenty to get us to our next stop and will look to buy some there.

Annoyingly we have neither phone or internet connection. Tesco Mobile have dared me to use the mobile, even if I could get a connection, and our wifi provider, 3Mobile who used 'Wind' as their preferred provider throughout Greece without a problem whatsoever, have chosen as their provider for Albania, wait for it........ a roll of the drums please.......... .. a crash of the symbol........ Vodaphone! Needless to say we have nothing, even the free campsite Wi-Fi is utterly useless.

So here we are at Camping Legjenda, formerly known as Camping Shkoder (GPS N42.044265° E19.490308°)' It's under new ownership and has been tidied up a bit which is nice, but the price has gone up accordingly to €22.50 per night, including electricity. Never mind, it's only for one night. Tomorrow we make our way towards Dubrovnik, which isn't too far away, hoping to stay at Camping Kate (N42.624799° E18.207932°) from where we're hoping to catch a boat across to Dubrovnik. If they cannot take us then I think we'll just keep going in all honesty. We've stayed a couple of times at Camping Solitudo, which is in a great location for the city, but the last time we were there it was charging a whopping thirty-five euros a night, so I dread to think what they charge now, and they'll keep charging it as long as people keep paying it.

We'll probably watch a bit of telly this evening, but it will only be a bit as it's been a long day.


MONDAY 8-5-23

It was a nice peaceful night, though I did have to get up soon after going to bed because something had decided to eat me whilst sat outside and the lump was itching rather badly and needed to be covered with antihistamine cream.

We were fortunate enough to have been parked next to a chain link fence through which long grass grew. So this morning our grey water was able to provide it with a nice drink. Then it was off to the local Lidl, back near the bridge. On completion of our shopping I fed in today's destination and the satnav confidently instructed me to make a right turn when leaving the car park, not a left turn and back to the traffic lights not more than two or three hundred yards from where we turned to arrive here. I assumed it was going to take us out and around the town rather than back through it. But no, a  mile and a half down the road I could see what it intended to do with us - a glorified 'U' turn to take us back to those traffic lights. It's times like that you wonder if it will actually deliver you to your destination without doing a tour of the mountains.

It wasn't too long before we were back on the toll road heading north, with the added bonus that we were soon passing a lay-by with a toilet block on it. So that was our black waste rid of.

We were making for Ioannina, having looked at Dodoni again this morning on Google Maps and didn't see the point in leaving the motorway to travel a few miles on so-so roads just to look at a couple of amphitheatre ruins.

It was a lovely sunny day again and the journey quite uneventful, though a bit pricey, but never mind, after today we're finished with Greek toll roads and they've had their last chance to rip us off. It's little wonder that toll road, right the way up from the peninsular was seriously under-used.

Even our destination in Ioannina had changed from this morning as, again, using Google Maps, I noticed the entrance to the campsite a bit further on from the town was very narrow, with an overhanging lump of first floor house, and so we decided to play it safe and make for the parking area next to the lake which we used last time we passed this way.

We arrived at 13:15, having filled up our LPG tanks at a really good price from a Shell garage on the edge of town. After lunch we had a stroll down the road, window shopping and looking to see if there was a restaurant which caught our eye with a view to go out this evening for a farewell-to-Greece meal. Whilst out we even came across a bookshop selling the latest whingeathon from Stavros Windsor.

Next it was a change of footwear and a bit of  walk around the edge of the lake. It's a very nice spot here, and quite touristy, but not frequented too often by Brits it seems as menus etc are all in Greek.

The purpose of our journey today was to position ourselves ready to head to the Albanian border tomorrow morning. We intend to cross most of the country tomorrow stopping off at a campsite just south of its northern border, so it will be a busy day at the office tomorrow with an expectation of being ripped off by the spivs at the border selling vehicle insurance for the country.

SUNDAY 7-5-23

Today the circus left town.

By 10:30 all of the motorhomers on the 'Follow My Leader for a Tour of Greece' had left the campsite..... Then it all seemed so much more peaceful. We had done much of the preparation for leaving yesterday evening, and so there wasn't too much to do, though one unexpected additional job was to wash the 'T' shirt I was wearing. Without my knowing it I had cut the back of my left thumb, and it had bled here and there, all over my cream coloured garment. Without hesitation the Chef had it off my back and rinsed it, then I hotfooted it to the clothes washing area where it was given a good seeing to. Well wrung out, it joined the towels on the yet-to-be-taken-down clothes line.

That line was left up until the very last  moment, but needless to say, the T shirt was still rather 'damp'. I think I had been a little optimistic in expecting it to be dry enough to wear for our journey today. Having said that, I washed my swimming shorts this morning, and they were dry enough to put on before we left the campsite.

Before setting off we made of point of saying goodbye to our lovely next door neighbours, the German he-girls. I said to The Chef this evening, that if we had bumped in to them again further down the road I think we would have built up a good friendship with them, but they were heading off in an anti-clockwise direction around the Peninsular, as we were heading clockwise. Before we left I gave them our guidebook to Istanbul and a large road map of Greece, since we won't be needing them anymore. In return they gave us a little candle in a jar, so that's three presents we now have, two painted stones from the lovely little Dutch kids back down the road, and our little candle. I am confident that they will now visit Istanbul during their six month sabbatical from work. I have given them the co-ordinates of the parking area in the city, and now they have a guide book. We wished them well, and it was hugs all round. Why can't all camping these days be like that?

I did mention when we arrived at the campsite that there was another Brit vehicle two doors down. Well the following morning on my way back from the shower block I saw the female with a full set of weights, and I don't mean those little dumbbell things, I mean a full-length bar with weights on each end doing all manner of exercises' with them. I concluded they would be no fun to talk to, plus there was the added risk of them inviting us to stay for a delicious seaweed and dog turd smoothie.

After squaring up the campsite for our fees we made our way just down the road to the dump station which is located off the campsite, most odd. The Chef said that in her opinion that was the best campsite we had ever stayed at. I wouldn't put it that strongly, but I would agree it would be within the top five.

I fed in the GPS co-ordinates for the parking area at Arta, about 150 miles away, forty of it on a red 'A' road and the rest on toll roads. Needless to say the forty miles on that 'red' road were free, but we started paying having crossed on the bridge joining the Peloponnese Peninsular with the Greek mainland at Patra, which incidentally looked to be in an ideal location, with a city offering all facilities coupled with beaches and fantastic views. It was ironic that the Greek weather we had hoped to enjoy during our stay had only become a reality in the past few days., and now we were leaving it all behind.

Twenty-one euros, yup, twenty-one euros to cross the bridge between the peninsular and the mainland. It made the Dartford crossing on the M25 look like a really cheap trip. The final bill for our approximately one-hundred and ten mile toll road journey was, at today's exchange rate £45.05 (we're paying three times as much as cars). I don't mind paying a fair price for these facilities, but that is just taking the p**s. I just keep telling myself these people will never get another chance to rip us off, so just let them go for it.

We arrived at Arta at around 15:00. The parking was a bit challenging as the local authorities were digging a trench across the entrance to the car park at the Arta bridge (GPS N39.150969° E20.974381°).

So a bit about Arta:

The first settlement in the area of the modern city dates to the 9th century B.C. Ambracia was founded as a Corinthian colony in the 7th century B.C. In 294 BC, after forty-three years of semi-autonomy under Macedonian suzerainty, Ambracia was given to Pyrrhus, king of the Molossians and of Epirus, who made it his capital, using it as a base to attack the Romans. Pyrrhus managed to achieve great but costly victories against the Romans, hence the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" which refers in particular to an exchange at the Battle of Asculum. Nevertheless, Pyrrhus found the time and means to adorn his capital with a palace, temples and theatres. In 146 BC, Ambracia became part of the Roman Republic.

The town's fortifications were built in the early 13th century, but their present form is largely post-Byzantine. Secular architecture from the Byzantine period, including the palace of the Despots of Epirus, has vanished completely, but the city preserves numerous churches.

We did a circular tour of the bridge area before deciding to leave and find somewhere less stressful to park for the evening. On our way out we spotted a second Lidl store in the town and so had a look at it with a view to parking there overnight prior to our going shopping there in the morning. But it was hot (28°C) and there was no shade there, and so we decided to make our way to the public car park we had passed on the way in.

And here we are, parked up, with space to put out our chairs and enjoy a cool evening, with the added bonus of a bit of a view.

We shall stay here the night, and tomorrow make our way back to that Lidl supermarket we came across today for a good stock up, then it will be off to Dodoni before arriving at the campsite, from which we will strike out for the Albanian border.