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  • Day1240

    Voyage to Greece!

    November 18, 2019, Adriatic Sea ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Today is the day! We are embarking on an 8.5 hour voyage from Brindisi, on the south east coast of Italy, to Igoumenitsa, a port in north western Greece! Will booked us on to a 1pm sailing with Grimaldi Lines via the Direct Ferries website about a week ago for €295. A sizeable outlay, but less than we'd feared. We'd initially wanted to disembark at Corfu, but there are no sailings at this time of year.

    Even though we were only a few kilometres away, we rose early and arrived at Brindisi port 4 hours before departure because we were concerned about a note on the booking confirmation saying we needed to print our tickets. Being used to a drive through check-in we attempted to do just that, but were told to turn around. Parking up we got out and entered an atrium containing booths for a range of ferry companies, most of them not yet open. A group of lorry drivers were gathered and seeing our lost expressions, directed us to the non-freight window. After standing around for 15min the blind was raised and to our relief the attendant accepted our e-tickets without mentioning anything about paper.

    We left it a little while before attempting re-entry to the port and this time were directed into a car park to wait for check-in. At 11am, 2 hours prior to departure, we were allowed to proceed to the loading lanes. Again we found ourselves unsure; do we join the cars or the lorries? Vicky found an official to ask and we were allotted a lane all to ourselves. We didn't have to wait too long before the rusty electric gate ahead of us was opened, our boarding passes and passports checked and we were on to the next stage.

    The port had a distinct lack of directions so we were glad of the people in high vis vests motioning for us to turn away from the only ship in sight and towards the one hiding round the corner, whose name 'Corfu', thankfully tallied with our boarding passes.

    We parked up for another hour watching HGVs, mostly from Bulgaria, backing onto the cargo deck. Having suffered from sea sickness on our Santander - Portsmouth crossing, Vicky in particular was grateful that the high winds of the last few days had abated, leaving a brilliant blue sky and a bright sun which warmed the air to 20°C. As well as Bulgarian vehicles we spotted registration plates from Turkey, Iran, Spain, Italy, Romania and Poland. We were the only Brits, the only motorhome and Vicky was one of only a handful of women. This wasn't your average holiday cruise!

    Finally it was our turn to drive up the loading ramp onto to the cargo deck. After a few flights of stairs we found ourselves a comfy corner bench with a table and couple of armchairs. There were a few more women in this lounge and one family with a young child. Most lorry drivers had brought rugs and cushions to catch up on kip, some choosing to stretch out on the floor of the unused soft play room or on the open air deck, while others nabbed the padded benches. It wasn't crowded and was quiet enough. Leaving Italy behind, we headed out onto the open sea. At the point where the sun began to cast warmer colours over the Adriatic we lost sight of any land and soon afterwards the sun set.

    There was an board eatery, but we'd had an early lunch and packed supplies, so snacked on fruit, crispbreads with peanut butter and jam, then feta salad for tea. Will had cooked up some ginger biscuits and made crystallized ginger to ward off any sea sickness. Vicky chomped through them and thankfully wasn't troubled with it on this crossing.

    As evening drew on lights began to appear out of the darkness. The ferry passed between the island of Corfu and the Albanian mainland, before being channelled in to the long bay of Igoumenitsa. Docking was so smooth we had a bit of a shock when we looked outside to find concrete and lorries as opposed to inky black water!

    Once the doors were opened, others were in a real rush to disembark. They must have zoomed away into the night because we found ourselves with nobody to follow out of the port. Officials and directions were few and far between and with the added complication of the Greek alphabet, we were lucky to find the exit, despite Will's emerging knowledge of the language!

    Although it was nearly 10pm we both felt a surge of excitement as we drove along the winding Greek coastal road, shrubs overhanging from either side and the majority of signs graffitid beyond usefulness. Vicky had never been to Greece before and it had been many years since Will's brief visit as a teacher on a school trip. What would the people, the scenery, the food and the weather be like? Would we enjoy Christmas here? What highs and lows would our journey bring? Greece will be the 21st foreign country we explore on this tour and although nervous, we were feeling very excited for the 7 weeks ahead of us!

    To watch a 7 minute video of our crossing and arrival, click here: https://youtu.be/cgbSS04Ye2E
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