Monthly Archives: March 2013

Saturday

Saturday
From Good friday to excellent Saturday
I am writting this on Saturday night and it seems like an age ago since we left our digs in

Dubrovnic this morning. We got up with thick heads and set off south, It was our intention

to visit Budva as it is noted in Wikipeadea to have more millionairs per square mile than

any where else in the plannet. I question wiki on this one, It was no better than barmouth

and we found litle evidence of wealth, However i am sure the guys at the fuel station were a

bit more flush after our visit,
We had a big fry up for breakfast on the side of the raod, Nice, then set off for Tirana

The albanians had been a bit sneaky, they didnt have a border crossing, just seemed to rely

on the montenegro crew to sort it out, we were in in around 30 mins, we had expected this

to be a difficult boder crossing but in the end it was OK. They did ask for car insurance

and registraton document and green card. All in order, We had done our homework. Having

been pulled by the cops twice already, we had everything to hand.

With in a few miles of the border it became claer that Albania had a lot more going for it

then Monenegro. The people were clearly more acustomed to dealing with poverty. Also the

feeling that the recent war in Montengro had left behind wwas now absent. I was glad,

montengro had a bad feeling about it. Glad to get out.
We both loved Albania, and made the following observation
 Donkeys out number Women 7 to one in Albania
Stray dog outnumber Donkeys
It is illegal to go out with out a carrier bag full of stuff.
There is no driving test, only an idiot test, once you have proved you are indeed an idi0t
ot,then you are allowed behind the wheel. There no rules when driving other than try not to

hit other cars or people,
We did OK but came pretty close on a few occations The overtaking was a mixture of horror

and slapstick.
Too tired now to write anything of qulity, finish this tomorrow.

Good Friday

We should have got up at 8am, we should have grabbed some breakfast and got on the road, we didnt, My alarm didnt go off on time so we got up at 10 and then thought we had an easy day ahead of us so had a cooked breakfast, fairly relaexed really, Sall had a shock in store for us, we got her up and duscused routes, olney  for her ininfomr us that Dubrovnic was a long way away and it would probably take all day. She was right, we must listen to her in future. There was silence in the car only to be broken by sally newly authoritiative tone directing us along the way. We climbed up from the near coast are where we stayed, to arond 900m and twere surprised how much snow ther was, although it rained all morning, it was the visibility that caues us the main concern, the low cloud reduced our speed down to less than 20MPH in some places and even at that it did not feel safe. At one point a white van came up behind us and didnt see us in time and had to swerve to miss hittin out back end, i had to swerve in the oposite direction, i had seen his lights before he saw mine. Not good
By around 1pm, the waether picked up and we headed down to the coast. We enteres Croatia via a couple of the most miserable customs staff you ever did see, fist time our passport had been looked at.
We bought a jar of honey from a girl on the side of the road 10 euro for a big jar, happy days, we saw about ten little stalls selling honey over the next 15 miles. perhaps we could have got a better deal, 10 euros is a fair price.
Dthe miles we had to cover to get to dubrovnic from Sloveinia, (5 miles south of Triest, was significant, we had to take something out or it would be 3am arrival again. We chose to ditch both Nocola Teslas birthplace and Mostar, in the hope that that would give us some time to explore Dubrovnic. We are now 200KMs fro  dub and it is 5;40. to be concluded.

Thursday

Thursday, Wow, what a day, well over 800 miles from the hotel to or lodgings in Sloveinia. A long day, this s how it went.
Given we didnt get to bed till at least three am, we had to have a bit of a lie in, got up at around eight, I boiled the ketlel and we had a brew once we wereon the road, with the now ubiquetus cake to fortifie our drink. The hotel was cheep but functional and ideal for or neads. the TV didnt work but was very hand as a coat hanger, I think we paid £33 for the two of us in a triple room, cant be faulted. We set off for the alps.
Reimes is a hell of a long way from Slovienia, no matter which way you go, but chuck in a massive snow covered mountain range, precipitation on a biblical scale and a car that want to boil over on every hill, It becomes an almost imposible journey. Before we set out, the commpuotr said 814 miles, then the computor said NO, astra seemed to setel down on her haunches with the thought of such a reiculas amount of mile in one day, the weather was to have it influece. Having set off and keen to make progress, we emediatly got lost, Sall had tried to send us the wrong way but we soon spotted it and re-routed. We put Sally in a bag and left her to sulk for a while.
It was toll road for a lot of the way to geneva, after filling up with diesel we made reasonable progress but a soon as we hit Switzerland it started to rain, It rained or snowed for the rest of the day, We could not really see much beyond the road, it was a bit disapointing.
On dropping down to lake geneva, we picked up a couple of hitch hikers, they we hitching from Beiritz on teh French Atlatic coast to a place in the East part of Switzerland. they had been on some sort of Christan convention and had to find there way home with out any money, all they had to eat was a big bag of gummy bears,MMmmm tasty! Wedid ntend sorting them out with a bit of Helens Cake but somhow couldent as they had to jump out in a bit of a rush at a junction. they did give us some help in getting out euro Vinyet sorted out, a sort of permit to drive in Switzerland and i think ausrtia, must check that. Anyway, it saved us getting a 300 euro fine. We had got into Switzerland with out any trouble, didnt show our pass ports, just drove in. Nice.
After dropping off our new Swiss and Newzealand freinds, we set off to Saint Bernards pass. I was deluded enough to believe we would be able to drive over it. The higher up the alps we climbed, the worse the waeter got until it turned into heavey snow at arounfd 600meters.  And i mean heavey, but the road was well salted and kept clear. At the top we had the option to go over the pass or through teh tunnel, I made a snap decision, if no one elase had been over ther since last July, i wasnt going to be the first, we saw the start of the pass and there was not chance of Astra making it over. So the tunel it was, I was lookng forward to getting out of Switzerland, didnt fill me with enthusiasm as a coutry.
The customes were at the entrace to the saint bernard Tunnel, again, no passpor check, just waved us through. It was a good tunnel, not sure how long but more than 5km. It was good to get outof the snow for a bit, but we were in for a shock at the other side,
As we aproched the end of the tunnel, it turns into a sort of covered road, i guess to stop avalanches fallin into the carrageway, We cam across what seemed to be a brockendown snow plough, we passed it and drove on only to realise that the road in front of us and all the way down to foot of the alps was largley untreated. the road was covere in compressed snaow and ice, we were in a line trafic, the chance of a bump were high. I backed right off the car in front and tried not to brake too much, to seemed to take for ever to get down, we had a few hairy moments, we got away with it. Vidoes should paint a good picture if we can upload them.
The rest of the journey as a nightmare, it pured down all the way, and we had 400 miles from the alps to Slovienia. Nick did most of the driving, I was not as quick as him.
We arrived at Julias House at around 1AM and chose to let sally sleep in the car, she had disgraced her self. We had a couple of beers and went to bed.

We had had a good day, covered a lot of miles and it should secure an easier route for the rest of the week.

The car, it keeps over heating, we found that the fan is not switching on, the work around is to switch on the heating in the car and open the windows, then stop for a bit if it is really hot. Thought i head a ratteling from the injector pump, but couldnt trace anything. Found a loos pipe under the bonnet, it may have been that, so i puled it off ant threw it away, the rattle semmed to stop.

Day One – To the ferry

Out of all the people we passed on the motorway, i dont think any of them were going on an adventure like ours, They were just going about thier day to day tooing and frowing oblivious of the fact that the 1993 Vauxhall astra they were sharing a carriageway was off on the longest journey it had ever made. A journey that if all goes well will transit at least 16 countries, two continents and 5000 miles. A journey where there is potential for adventure and disaster around every corner, a journey where we will meet up with friends and loved ones in a far away land and we can all have some fun together.

Anyway, enough of that, The journey down to dover went well, a bit of a hold up on the M25, but we should have expected that. We stopped for fish and chips in Dover, A tradition now for team Astra, Clive and I had done the same thing in September 2011 on our way to the Arctic circle. If this trip is half as good as that one its going to be great. The high point of the trip so far was Hellens cakes, Flapjack to be precise, it was perfect, delicious, and presented in foil and grease proof paper as good as any cake shop. WELL DONE Helen, your ace.
We got the wireless gubbins working and booked a hotel in Reimes. It is about 2.5 hours into France, the ferry was late sailing so we wont arrive until after 1am. had some potentially good news at the ferry terminal, the French are on strike tomorrow, so we wont be able to come back on the ticket we bought, it was a Sun newspaper special £21 return over night. we only intended using one part of the trip but now they are not going to be able to bring us back, they will have no reason the apply any penalty clauses for us not turning up on time.

Ferry is as expected, a feint odour of Sick, uncomfortable seats, lots of opportunity to spend money on shite. still it floats my boat when its a necessary tool for adventure.
NIck has just got the coffee in, happy days Bon soir.

 

It begins

It Begins

Flapjack

Flapjack

Dover brew

Dover brew

 

Twitter

IMG_0281I am now on twitter montybedfords
we set off in 24 hours, and just in the nick of time i managed to fix the breaks, before nick found out they didn’t really work. I was going to tell him on the way down from the alps but now they are fixed. We have a rout plan, again, it looks good but a big drive on day one and two. My friend Julia is letting us stay at her house in Slovenia, that will be on Thursday night, then we head south east for Dubrovnik and then Albania. We are both looking forward to the trip, I not sure but i think Nick is particularly looking forward to my cooking!!!

Fitted kitchen

The desire for a mew kitchen is not something that I could normally be accused of, the old one is fine would be my default answer, as it would be for many request for new stuff. But when you start to make improvements you sometimes realise that something new would be good. I have found this while fitting the kitchen area out in the back of the Astra. While hunting around for a second hand stove I have decided I am going to by a new one. Ive been in touch with Charlies store and a really helpful guy in the camping area made a few good suggestions and I am off tomorrow with my twenty pound note to lash out. Wait till I post a photo, it is going to look ace. It will feature a worktop and hob, a grill and a breakfast bar. All you folks who have spent thousands on camper vans, wait till you see what I have done with 20 quid and some old shower panelling.
I have looked into European breakdown insurance, lets just say that given the age of the car it would be cheaper to fly home 1st class British airways and leave the car where it stops. So Nick , grab your self a copy of ‘how to fix a broken down car in the dead of night in pouring rain’ and get reading!
Putting things into perspective, Driving in to, work on Tuesday just before the M54, A car in front of me in the next lane braked and the car behind him and to my right arse ended him big time. Glass and plastic showered the front of Astra, not my favourite event of the day.
What’s happening regarding the trip I hear you ask. Well things are moving forward a pace, I have emailed press releases out to three major newspapers, none of whom have either printed anything I sent them or acknowledged my mail, such is life, I have been back in touch and they assured me they will do something. We have a fund raising bash going on at home in the next couple of weeks, hope to make some money for Hope House. Done a bit more maintenance on the car and a bit more planned. Things are coming together and I am keen to get going. More tomorrow Why not go to justgiving.com/intercontinentalastra and make a donation, two so far, Many thanks .

Straplines and mood meters

I have been musing on the strapline, should it be amateur professional or professional amateur. The former has a ring of hope to it, one day perhaps, though we be amateurs at the moment, we may become professional. The later, (professional amateur) just sounds like we might be serial underachievers. Mmm, on reflection this is not necessarily wrong, I am going to reserve judgement for the moment. I am considering using the strapline as a sort of instant mood meter on the trip. If you log in to the blog and find the strapline reads ‘amateur professional’ all is well with the world and we are on target. If it reads ‘professional amateur’ then we may well have broken down, the phrase book is open and our faces are contorted in failed attempts to form foreign words. In either case refer to specific blog entries for details.