We left the chilterns for Hitchin to pick up our van cover and then headed for Harwich and the ferry at 11.15pm on the 2nd of November. We were apprehensive about getting on the ferry as I was not legally able to travel back to Europe before 20th November but we needn’t have worried as the officer hardly looked at my passport before handing it back. Maurice of course used his new Irish passport. The customs officers were obviously looking for something or someone as every vehicle was being searched and an officer came into the van and asked if we had been asked to transport anyone.
We were able to board the Stena line ferry by 8.30pm so we were tucked up in bed long before the ferry left Harwich. Despite the strong winds we had a very smooth crossing and were woken at 6.30am for diembarkation at 7.45am.
We wondered what would happen at the Dutch border control but again they hardly glanced at my passport before stamping it. Relief!
We wanted to break the back of the journey so we headed for Garmisch. The trip from Hoek von Holland should have taken us about 8 1/2 hours and being a Sunday we did not have to fight with the trucks as they are not allowed to travel on Sundays unless they have a special permit. We however were held up with a couple
of accidents on the Autobahn where we had lengthy stops or crawled along for up to 5kilometres.
We unfortunately got to the camping site after 8pm which ended up being a 12hour journey and there was a sign on the door of the reception to say that we could chose a site and come at 8am when the office opened to get power. It was already 4 degrees so we
were in for a cold night! We drove to the lovely restaurant accross the road where we had eaten in Summer.
We had a few drinks and a delicious meal of roast pork and wiener schnitzel followed by a delicious plum tart and apple strudel.
We returned to the camping site where we discovered that there was a power connection point but we needed coins to operate it and
those we didn’t yet have so we put an extra rug on the bed and hopped into bed.
It got down to -2 degrees overnight but we were very warm until we got up in the morning and we felt as though we were in a fridge where everything was freezing to touch. Luckily it warmed to 1 degree by the time we got up and we found we were only one of two campers
there and they had already started construction on the upgrade of the whole site. There was frost on the wooden posts and when
we started up the van, the computer gave us the warning that there could be ice on the road. Luckily there wasn’t any. The tops of the Zugspitze and Alpspitze were covered in snow. At least the pristine shower complex was It was lovely to see Garmisch and I always think of my mother who lived there during and afterthe war and who was happiest there in the mountains. It was such a contrast from when we were there in July where it was hot and sunny and all the trees were green to November when it was cold and the trees were changing colour or had lost their leaves completely.
After a good German breakfast we headed for Italy via the secondary roads through Innsbruck and the Brenner pass. The temperature
ranged from 2degrees when we left to a heady 10degrees then back to 2degrees through the pass and then into Italy and up to 11degrees.
The scenery of the mountains on our way through Austria and into Italy was spectacular and we then passed through lower mountains
with no snow on their peaks and kilometres of vineyards on the mountain slopes which had turned yellow and orange. We travelled on the Italian Autostrada for most of the day and the toll charge was a reasonable 33euros.
We arrived in Greve in Chianti after driving for six hours in pouring rain for most of the day for a couple of nights with our friend Mary and one of her carers Judy.
We had a couple of relaxing days in Chianti playing scrabble and chatting. We also managed to change a bag I bought in Modena for a better quality one in Reggello where it happened to be made.
On the 6th November we left Greve in Chianti on a lovely sunny and warmish 19degrees for the 5 hours to get us back to Roccamandolfi.
We stayed for a few days to empty most of the contents of the campervan in readiness for a spring clean and polish.
After a nice week with my relatives we left for Roccamandolfi for 6days to get the van ready to winter it. We found a large garage that we could rent to store the van for nearly 5months. We had done all the necessary cleaning and emptying of all tanks of water etc. and on the Thursday we left it at Coste of Cantalupo (which is only about 4kms away) and in the care of the uncle of our friend Joe so we know it will be safe there.
On Friday 22nd we got the bus to Isernia and train to Rome to catch up with my aunt and then on Monday 25th November we will fly to our friend Alan in Dubai for 5days before heading to Udayagiri in Kerala again for three weeks. Then on to Pondicherry again for Christmas and Chennai for New Year before flying to Indonesia for three months. We will return to Italy in April when it is again warmer – we hope.
It has been nice to see the seasons in Europe too from Spring to Autumn but it is just too cold for us to stay any longer in those parts. The day we left Roccamandolfi it snowed further up on the mountain and it was pouring with rain when we arrived in Rome.
A hot Summer few months will be very welcome!