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The Wilsons in Bulgaria and Turkey 2011 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

A Motorhome Journey to Bulgaria and Turkey  2010-11
Travels in a Fleetwood Fiesta Motorhome

Brenda Wilson with Adrian
September 2011

Brenda and Adrian01_RV_in_Cocoa_Florida.JPG travel in a Fleetwood Fiesta motorhome they bought in the USA. They imported it into the UK after an extensive tour of the States, made it legal for use in Europe, converted it to LPG and added a number of home improvements. Adrian built his own A-frame in order to pull an ageing Ford Siesta Estate out to Bulgaria, where, on a previous visit, they had bought a small property and some land on a hillside above the town of Harmanli.

Harmanli is the nearest town to Sakar Hills Camping, run by the Jeffes family and it is there that we met the Wilsons for the second time. Their story is a wonderful mix of intrepid travel, renovating a property in Bulgaria and the joys, challenges and pitfalls of the life of the traveller and the expatriate.

Apart from their extensive travels in Europe and the USA, they have also toured Australia. What is for sure is that we will not be climbing Ayers Rock (Uluru) any time soon, at least not when there is an Aboriginal fellah looking on (and cursing).

For 39 images, Click: The Wilsons Demolish and Rebuild their House in Bulgaria

Click: 74 Images of the Wilsons Tour of Turkey

For other writing and photos by the Wilsons, click:

Motorhoming in the USA from Florida to San Fransisco and Return 2009

143 Images of the Motorhomie Tour of the USA

Overland to Greece via Albania 2010

Return to the UK from Greece via Bulgaria 2010

Brenda writes:

England October 2010

On 11th October we set off for Essex in our motorhome, also towing a Ford Sierra estate (on an A-frame which Adrian had made) and with extras which included a washing machine, a cement mixer, a water pump and lots of tools etc. We had brake problems right from the start, on the motorhome and also on our car at the back, despite there being no real reason why this should be, and ongoing leisure battery problems too (despite having bought 2 new ones in America). We decided to unhitch the car, which I drove (a little way) behind, and parked up for the night near Ipswich thinking that if we were going to have more of the same the next day we might have to go back home again! However, in the morning, having put our car back on tow again, we decided to press on and had no more problems - so we were none the wiser.

It was put down to the 'Uluru Curse' once again! This has become a bit of a standing joke but when we were in Australia and climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock) we were told by an aboriginal that we should NOT have done so. On asking why, he replied it was a sacred rock and to make of it what we would but that we would find out!! We thought nothing of it and forgot all about it until an incident about 10 minutes later, whereby I came very close to drowning (in a river) and a few weeks later the same happened to Adrian (in the sea) when he got caught in a rip tide. How strange was that?! So now when anything happens we laugh and put it all down to the 'curse'!

We spent 4 days in Essex, mainly visiting family including my Mum, Adrian's Mum and Dad, our son and my sisters. We watched the remarkable rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for 2 months, but who were so much more fortunate than the New Zealand miners who lost their lives later on. On 16th October we hitched up again and headed towards Dover. This was slow going as the M25 between J29 and J30 was closed so we had to find an alternative route round. The traffic was awful on this particular Saturday but we got to the QE2 bridge (1.50) and continued on towards Dover. Our SatNav sent us to the Euro Train Terminal for some reason and we were unsure how we were supposed to get out again but with some help we managed it. Apart from that, and our batteries still not holding their charge, we arrived at Dover sea front at 4 pm where we stayed overnight, ready for the ferry over to Dunkirk at 10 am next morning.

France, Belgium, Holland and Germany

We arrived in Dunkirk at lunchtime, then drove through France, Belgium, a small bit of Holland and into Germany, staying on motorway Service Stations overnight, although these are very, very noisy places at the best of times! We had planned to drive through the Czech Republic, as someone had told us that it was only 12 Euros for motorways there (although he probably meant for a car only), but when we got there a most rude, unhelpful woman wanted to charge us the maximum amount for a vignette because we did not know what our emissions were! When told by us that we did not have to know the number of our emissions in the UK, she wasn't at all interested and insisted we would have to pay the maximum amount of 130 Euros! So (as we would also have had to pay for another vignette of an unknown amount to go into Slovakia) we reluctantly decided to turn around and go through Austria once again, even though we had vowed never to go through that country again because of the 'fiasco' of their 'Go Box', which we are forced to buy (for use of motorways) because we are over 3.5 ton and therefore classed as an HGV.

However, before we could get as far as Austria, we were flagged down by the German police on the motorway for a different sort of 'fiasco'! Looking back it was all quite farcical but definitely not at the time. They said the car being towed on the back was illegal! They had never seen anything like it before and wanted to know how it steered itself and why there was no driver in the seat! They checked all our papers and we waited all afternoon while they made phone calls to find out if we were ok or not. They wouldn't let us take the car off the back either, as they wanted to see if we had got to pay a fine! Meanwhile loads more police turned up with inspectors, sergeants and probably the whole station, to look and take loads of photos - even inside the car and under the bonnet! We felt like criminals at some crime scene. However eventually, late in the afternoon, much to our surprise they said we could go, without any fine, as they had found out it was legal in our country. What a waste of time and resources! The 'curse' had struck again. By this time it was getting late and we then had to find a suitable place to stay for the night. We hadn't got very far.

Next morning we hadn't been on the motorway long before once again we were flagged down by the police wanting to know exactly the same thing. How does the car steer without someone in the driver's seat? We tried explaining all that had happened the previous day (not very far away) but they were not interested and said the other cops didn't really know what they were talking about but that they did! So, even though it is legal in our country and should therefore apply to us driving through their country, they were not going to let us tow! We only had another couple of hours driving to do before the Austrian border but it made no difference. They even said they had let us off a 25 Euro fine! Adrian says he would have refused to pay it anyway. So off the car came and I then had to drive for 2 hours on the motorway behind the motorhome, which was actually more dangerous than towing as I had never driven on the right hand side of the road before!

Austria

We got to the Austrian border where we re-attached the car again and enquired about the 'Go Box'.  We were informed that because we were towing a car they wanted 150 Euros. So we decided not to use Austrian motorways and of course had to contend with the towns, villages and narrow roads which slow you down considerably. We were beginning to think we might have been better off if we had just dumped the car somewhere! But at least from here onwards we had no more bother with the police, though needless to say we were very jittery every time we saw cops or any of them passed us by!

Unfortunately we still had to buy a 'Go Box' to go on the motorway round Wien (Vienna), as there was no easy route at all and we would have had to go through the city. We didn't pass anywhere to purchase one and found ourselves on the motorway! We were extremely anxious because if we had been stopped we would have been fined very heavily. We managed to get off the motorway again not long after and were surprised that the lady in the garage said we could buy one from them. So, 80 Euros for the 'Go Box' for the rest of Austria (in which we saw no LPG).

At the Hungarian border another farce evolved, as you have to give in your Austrian 'Go Box' before you exit the country and then purchase a vignette for Hungary. This is extremely unclear and you are left not knowing what to do or where to go and they just will not speak English! They said we needed to go over the road but as you are on a motorway you can't. So very unhelpful. We were going up and down, getting more irate and stressed and in the end a lady showed Adrian a 'walking track across a field', through a tunnel and under the motorway! How you were supposed to know, I have no idea! So we got our 35 Euros back for the 'Go Box' (as we had only used 45 but you have to pay a minimum of 80 to buy one).

Hungary

Then back under the tunnel, across the 'field' to the Hungarian side, where you can then purchase a vignette for Hungary which for us, as we needed 2 days, was another 25 Euros! We still had the worst road conditions and therefore the most time consuming countries still to come, especially Romania and Bulgaria, and as for their driving ... well, we won't even go there, as some of them must surely be suicidal! It's rather like Russian Roulette. What fun! I wonder how many of you reading this now are thinking they would like to start touring in a campervan! Well of course it's not always like that ...

Romania

After Hungary we then had to purchase another vignette, also for 2 days, for Romania, although this time only costing 12 Euros. Now the capital city of Bucharest is something else, also. There is supposed to be some sort of a ring road round it but to find where to go would require a miracle. We got to the end of the motorway and were then heading straight into the very busy city centre, so turned around but it was impossible to find the road we needed. We asked one bloke who said he didn't have a clue; then two young men offered to show us the way if we followed behind them. They said not to take any notice of our maps as they were rubbish! We would NEVER have gone where they took us. It was a long way, down narrow roads, through crowds of people at a Sunday market and with hedges and trees far too close. Obviously they hadn't considered what we were driving and we ended up nearly taking the sides of the motorhome off in our hurry not to lose sight of them! Without their help though I don't know what we would have done.

Later on we also somehow got lost trying to find Giurgiu and then the border at the Friendship Bridge which takes you over the Danube and into Bulgaria. There were no signposts where we wanted to go and once again, if it hadn't been for a lorry driver who was also going there and had said to follow, we would never have found it!

Bulgaria

However, it only cost us 6 Euros to cross the Friendship Bridge from Romania, whereas when we crossed the Danube by ferry from Vidin earlier in the year it cost us the equivalent of 60! Once into Bulgaria we had to purchase yet another (the last for now) vignette for 2 days which cost 26 Lev (approx 12). At least now we were on the final leg of our journey on this occasion.

We continued south and after Gabrovo we had to negotiate a pass over the mountains, at which point we had planned to unhitch the car and I would drive it the rest of the way, but we decided we would give it a go. As it turned out the towing was fine, despite a long, high climb into cloud, but at least it was picturesque in all the autumn colours and the road conditions were good. Stara Zagora was a very big place which we went through (as usual) instead of round!

We eventually got to Biser (our destination for now) by 6.30 pm. It had been dark for some time and we wouldn't normally drive that late but with nowhere else to stay we kept going. It had been a long day but we had made it. In fact it had taken us 8 very eventful days to get this far, which I suppose was not too bad all things considered, having also managed to just about keep the car behind us! What we didn't realize then, however, was that events about to occur the next morning would necessitate us flying back home again!

The next day was spent sorting out and catching up with the news from Matt and all the Jeffes family at Camping Sakar Hills in Biser, where we were staying. We also went into the town (Harmanli) and up to our property, which was understandably very overgrown now. At least the vines still had plenty of grapes left attached, which we picked - the red ones were lovely and sweet. We also have almond and walnut trees in our garden, so I collected what I could to keep for Christmas.

In the evening I found urgent messages on the laptop to ring home. So I rang my sister on my mobile, only to be told the bad news that Mum had died that morning, sitting in her chair by the fire, so at least we didn't think she had suffered in any way. She was 88 and although in good health mentally she had been suffering lately with her legs and back and had not been able to get about much. So it was quite difficult for us to concentrate on anything in Bulgaria at that time. As her funeral wasn't to be held until 11th November (we booked our flight home for 8th Nov) and there wasn't much we could do until then, we decided to carry on the best we could.

We had had lovely weather since leaving UK but then we were in for a short cold snap. On one of those cold and foggy mornings (they seem to have a lot of fog there) our car wouldn't start. Adrian thought it was the coil and he cycled all the way into Harmanli to get another but after much tinkering in the cold, it still didn't go and as Matt wasn't around we ended up going nowhere! The next day (cold and foggy) we tried to bump-start the car without luck and Matt suggested he tow us into Harmanli to the breakers to leave the car to be fixed. So this is what we did, although Adrian didn't really want to, as he had NEVER had anyone look at his cars! Anyway, later on that day we collected it again and it was going, which was the main thing, though they hadn't actually solved the problem, as we were to find out later on another occasion!

However, the weather there can change very quickly and soon we were basking in warm sunshine - teeshirts and shorts time! So we made the most of the weather, trying to do as much as we could on our property before going off home again. A lot of time is spent shopping for the many things you need whilst starting this sort of project but we made quite good progress anyway. There were brambles up to the door of the little chalet in which we were to live when it had been suitably sorted. We were disappointed when we realized we would not be able to drive our motorhome down the lane and onto our property, at that time, but we were going to try after the winter, when we came back in the spring, as the lane would then be made wider at the top and less steep. We were also surprised at the size of a building in front of us (to one side), as this had been much, much smaller when we were last there!

Our chalet roof was leaking, making a real mess of our kitchen, as the couple before had not finished tiling the roof. So this had to be done. The kitchen had to be painted and the sink installed, as well as a new toilet, since the old one was broken and it also had to be connected to the sewer. A burst pipe directly underneath the shower cubicle had to be fixed. I stained all the wood on the outside of the chalet. Doors were made and hung, cupboards made, shelves put up and stained, curtains hung, a Kamena (log burning stove) fitted, beds bought along with fridge/freezer, microwave and cooker, washing machine plumbed in, hot water tank fitted, etc etc. Anyone who might have seen us with various white goods on the barrow, with me pulling a rope in front to get up our hill, would no doubt have laughed to themselves. The Kamena was VERY heavy, even though it's only small, and the cooker had to go back to the shop again to swap for another, so we were up and down a good few times! A mouse nest which we had found on the top of our wardrobe had to be disposed of!

We had no proper access on to our property, so we arranged for a digger to dig out a small part of a drive at the bottom of the garden and take down part of a wall. Adrian also fitted a new water pump into our well, the only source of water here for us. We chopped down several trees along the back boundary in order to let more light in, as one drawback is the fact that we face north and we lose the sun very early on in the day. This has helped though. We both filled in all the trenches around the existing building that had been dug by the previous owner, as we will not be using these. Finally, before we went, Adrian took all the tiles off the existing building and passed them down to me (via a bucket and string) while I stacked them along the back to use another time. He also took all the timbers off the roof, dismantled nearly all of the ceiling/floor, which was made of wood and MUD, and also some of the lower walls. What a mess at that point. It looked like a bomb site!

Return to England (by air) November 2010

On the morning of 8th November we left before 7 am for Sofia airport. Matt had offered to take us there in his car but we decided to take our own motor (if it was going ok, as we had had problems with it earlier) and leave it at the airport for coming home. We wished we had taken him up on his offer, as our 'curse' appeared to be with us again! It was thick fog and dark and we had been led to believe that the new motorway from Harmanli had been finished and we could use it to get to Plovdiv. Before we knew it, we were on it and driving in the opposite direction. We couldn't get off anywhere until we got to Lyubimets about 12 miles later. So then we had to go all the way back again and the fog slowed and disorientated us considerably.

Back at Harmanli we had to get on the old road, as the motorway was not done, and it's bumpy and slow going with loads of lorries that we were unable to overtake as our old car had no power and doesn't like the hills either! It's 268 km to Sofia and we really didn't think we would make it. We should have been there by 10 am but arrived at well gone 11 am by the time we had found the airport and the place in which to leave our car for 2 weeks. Anyway we made it in time!

Arrived at Gatwick airport at 1.30 pm (UK time), where my brother picked us up. It was very wet and windy and we were sorry to have left the sunshine behind, as we learnt it had been really lovely in Bulgaria during our time away. We went back to my brother's house and he very kindly lent us his car for a week. We then drove to my Mum's house in Wickford, where we stayed for the 2 weeks. It was a very strange feeling being there, without her there. You kept expecting her to walk in at any moment! I'm glad we did though, as I think it helped somehow, but it was a very sad time. We went to see her in the Chapel of Rest a few times.

On the day of the funeral we had awful weather, cold with pouring rain. Our 2 sons arrived and stayed with us the night but our daughter, who lives in Australia, was obviously unable to be there with us. The church was packed and the vicar made a brilliant job of the service and included a tribute I had written in his Eulogy. Mum would have approved, it was just as she had requested. Mum was laid to rest with my Dad in the churchyard, where they had been married in 1946. My grandparents were also married there, as were my 2 sisters, myself and Adrian too.

During the time we stayed after the funeral, apart from lots of family meetings, Adrian and I cleared out the whole house and loft of all the rubbish and went through everything thoroughly and labelled things so the rest of the family could see exactly what was what. I felt I needed to do something to help, as we were about to go back to Bulgaria again leaving everything for other family members to deal with - the selling of the house, probate and the financial side of things etc. I'd like to think we made it somewhat easier for them, anyhow.

Back in Bulgaria

On 21st November we got a taxi back to Gatwick airport. Flight departed at 4 pm. Arrived about 10 pm (Bulgarian time) and when we landed at Sofia the passengers all CLAPPED! We have never experienced that before. We could only think it may have been because it was very windy and Sofia is the highest city in Europe but we don't really know why! Our car started first time (we hadn't left the lights on, as thought) and it only cost us 60 Lev (less than 30) for the 2 weeks parking!

However, it wasn't all plain sailing to get back to Biser campsite. The only good thing was that, as it was so late, there was very little traffic on the roads - but also nobody to ask directions! In the dark and with quite a bit of fog in places we managed to take the wrong road several times. We ended up going through the big city of Plovdiv, which we hadn't intended. As usual, the signposts were often non-existent. We eventually arrived at about 1.45 am. It had been a long day but it was much warmer here, for now at least.

Back at Camping Sakar Hills in Biser, we noticed that our friends, Margaret and Barry (who have been travelling full-time for over 16 years) had arrived in their Fleetwood Flair American motorhome. We first met in Greece in 2006 and we continue to follow their travels on their website (www.magbaztravels.com). We had been expecting them to arrive even before we had left for the UK.

The next day Martin and Shirley (Matt's parents) and their neighbour took us to Haskovo (about 25 miles) to have a good look round at the various wood yards and electrical shops. We also had lunch at a very nice Italian restaurant (Unopio), which was very inexpensive. For the 5 of us (and with drinks too) the bill only came to 33 Leva (about 15)!

When we went up to our property we saw that they had had a lot of rain recently and, because the road had been widened in places and a digger had dug out some of the earth on the banks, the rain had washed all the mud straight down the hill. So it was very awash with water and mud everywhere. How we prevented ourselves from getting stuck, I've no idea. The 'river' had flowed straight through our neighbour's garden! Each morning Adrian would load up our car with large stones, which Martin had said we could have from their garden in Biser if we transported them ourselves. They certainly weighed our poor old car down, which struggled to get up the hill to our property each day. It doesn't like hills at the best of times! Eventually Adrian will use them to make a retaining wall in front of the bank on the driveway at the bottom of the garden, to prevent any landslides (hopefully)!

Over the next 2 weeks or so we had very nice weather, especially for the time of year. I remember thinking how we would probably pay for it later! So we were able to make some progress at our property, even though much time is taken up with shopping for whatever we need and drawing pictures due to the language barrier! We can't help ourselves laughing when they say da (yes) with a shake of the head and ne (no) with a nod. This does our head in (lol)! We usually get there in the end though! As there was nowhere for us to turn around (as yet), we were having to back all the way out to the road, which was quite a long way uphill and on rough surface. We only just made it, with a fair bit of wheel spin too. So the next job was to dig out more driveway and bring most of the broken bricks/blocks down to the bottom of garden for the hardcore.

One Friday evening Margaret and Barry invited us round for a drink and a look at their motorhome. Their 'home' is very similar to ours, better quality but not as spacious, as they have the original layout. In fact ours is slightly wider than theirs. A bit later on we all (Martin and Shirley too) went back into Harmanli to a restaurant/bar/cabaret/club style place where Matt was to sing for the evening. It wasn't a bad evening and certainly made a change. We got back at 12.30!

On the Sunday just as the weather was changing to a much, much colder spell, Barry, Margaret, Martin and Shirley all came up to see how we were getting on with the work. Obviously there wasn't a lot to see - apart from a pile of rubble where the building had stood - but Barry took some photos and they came in for a cup of coffee anyway. I think they thought we had done quite well in the space of time we had been working on it - 4 weeks. We spent the rest of the day digging out a turn around on the drive and breaking up more bricks/blocks to take down for the drive. The next evening Margaret and Barry came round for drinks, cake, a chat and to have a look at our motorhome.

A few days later we also went (with Margaret and Barry) to see English friends of theirs who have lived in Biser for 5 years - Carol and John. We looked round their house and garden. They have made the offer for us to leave our car and/or motorhome round theirs when we go south after Christmas, if we want to. They are a nice chatty couple who are really into village life and seem to know everyone around. They breed dogs and have 3 huge bull mastiffs.

Brenda doesn't mention the good work that Adrian did on our behalf. Our Flair motorhome needed an oil change and the electric doorstep collapsed while we were at Sakar Hills Camping. Adrian bought new oil and changed it for the old which then had a use at their new property). He also drilled and re-bolted the step into place where the old bolts had sheared. He did all this in the field on cold and rainy days. We were and are very grateful.

On 10th December we decided we were just about ready to move up to our new 'home' on the hill (overlooking the town of Harmanli) and see how we got on. We had made it quite homely, more than comfortable and very warm once our Kamena was lit. All seemed to be working well, at that stage anyway, and the evening was quite quiet - not too many dogs barking! The twinkling lights of the town below are quite attractive and very different from anywhere else we have ever lived.

There are many different birds here. Loads of woodpeckers - green ones and greater and lesser spotted ones - that don't seem at all bothered by us. I have watched them getting the almonds off our trees and breaking them open but I am still unable to work out how they do it, as I can't even crack them without a hammer! Lots of buzzards and hawks and jays and when we were here in the spring last year we had cuckoos, nightingales (which sing all night and day) and also shrikes (which we had not seen before). Reptiles too, lots of lizards and snakes. We have seen 2 snakes alive and about 3 dead (one of which was big with very distinctive diamond markings on it - so just as well it was dead!)! We also saw a small praying mantis, which was very fascinating. It was so camouflaged and looked just like dried grasses. It also does a swaying back and forth dance motion, which totally mimics grasses blowing in the wind. Amazing.

We went back to Biser on the Sunday, 12th December, to collect bits and pieces and to say our goodbyes to Margaret and Barry, who were off the next day travelling down to Greece and then Turkey. We found our motorhome battery flat and everything frozen, including the loo!

The next morning we awoke to snow flurries, which got steadily worse, and we could not get our car out of the lane - it just slithered back down the slippery hill (and then decided not to start at all). We decided to walk into the town, although we had to carry our shopping back up the steep hill (our backpacks were in our motorhome in Biser). By the time we came back it was a real blizzard, in which I managed to fall over twice and Adrian once!

By the next day we had had loads more snow but the weather here can change very quickly and it then started thawing rapidly. Adrian had been tinkering with the car all morning and didn't think he was going to be able to fix the problem (again we thought we would have to scrap it). It was the same problem that we had had earlier on, which the bloke down the road had supposedly fixed! However, much to Adrian's surprise, he found the problem was that the wires from the distributor cap had come adrift and so he was then able to get it going again. We just about made it up the hill and were able to drive into town to shop, which was just as well, as we were to find out over the next 8 days.

So, the week ahead was more about existence and survival than anything else. Lots of wood had to be sawn and chopped for our Kamena, which we lit daily. The nights were extremely cold and icy. On the Thursday it snowed all day with a bitter westerly wind. Our water pipes had frozen, leaving us without hot or cold water (apart from the well if we managed to bucket it up). So no flushing the loo either! Needless to say, we were well and truly snowed in this time. Adrian tried to find out where the pipes were frozen but this was a very difficult, freezing job, under the chalet with no room to manoeuvre. The pipes had not been adequately lagged for Bulgarian weather and should have been run through inside the chalet and not underneath outside. We had lots of icicles hanging from the roof , one of which was 3 or 4 ft long.

The next day, Adrian spent the whole day trying to track down where all the pipes had frozen, trying to unfreeze them without getting any burst pipes and making casings for all the pipes before they froze up again in the evening. It was a big and very cold job - all undertaken in very cramped conditions. We did eventually, pipe by pipe, regain use of our taps, which was heaven! We take so much for granted. However, the next night was even colder and despite all Adrian's efforts previously, we had yet more frozen pipes plus a frozen front door! No cold water in the kitchen and no hot in the shower! Once again we trudged into town in the thick snow, taking our laptop with us, although unfortunately we were unable to get on-line! We had to carry back a large bottle of water. It was very slippery underfoot. The next day (Sunday) the hot water pipe to the shower thawed out and did not actually burst, so we were lucky there but we still could not get the car out.

So, despite the 'fun' of being snowed in, we nevertheless were still working as hard as we could and spent weeks busily breaking up the bricks/blocks into hardcore for our drive which Adrian had been digging out further and further, so as to be able to turn our car around and also hopefully to accommodate our motorhome up at the property for when we came back again in March/April time. Obviously, at first after all the snow this was very difficult, as all the rubble was buried under the snow. Although the building was very small it was amazing just how many bricks and blocks came from that one place. It seemed never ending.

On the Monday we again walked into town for provisions, as there was no chance of driving out whilst we were still snowed in. One good thing there has been the Kamena, without which I don't know what we would have done. We were as hot as toast and we cooked nearly all our dinners on the top. Any washing that hadn't dried outside, dried very, very quickly beside the log burner!

On the Tuesday there was still no change. I put up our Christmas decorations and lights. We had a very slow thaw, which wasn't helped by days and days of fog and on the Wednesday - 3 days before Xmas - we tried to get our car out. We must have tried at least a dozen times to take a run at the hill; each time it got a little further, but not far enough. We just kept skidding around on the slush so we gave up but I thought I would take a spade up and try to dig my way out to the top. This I did and then went back to get Adrian to try again. This time we just about succeeded. Hooray, after 8 days of being snowed in, we were finally out!

Margaret and Barry texted us from Troy in Turkey and informed us that the weather was good at a warm 23 C! Great, we knew we should have departed when they did! After the snow melted we were back to mud everywhere once again, which made it hard going for Adrian with our (not very good) Bulgarian barrow, up and down our hill, squelching around in the quagmire!

We also saw for ourselves (as Adrian had a look round) that the new building  (by us) has a big bar and dance floor and looks like a bar/nightclub!! We assumed that it may well have been built illegally. So we were not very amused, as it could well be very noisy at all hours and there will most probably be even more barking dogs to contend with. A lot of money has been invested in the place, but why would you, if it is only to be a 'fun' house as they describe it! There was no dwelling there originally and as I mentioned earlier it was much, much smaller when we bought our place in the spring of last year. Well, I guess only time will tell!

Christmas 2010

Martin and Shirley very kindly invited us over to theirs for Christmas Day dinner in Kolarovo. So on the Saturday we drove over there at about 12.30 pm. Matt (their son) was there as well, of course, as were a couple we had not met before, Ian and Julie from Liverpool, as well as Bob, a Geordie, and a couple we had met before, Derek and Barbara who had spent a lot of time in South Africa. It was Derek and Barbara who had made the dinner and they had gone to a lot of trouble to make it a very special day. Firstly, we could not believe the weather after all that snow and ice. It changed completely into a lovely warm, sunny day where we were able to sit outside in just a short sleeved top! We drank mulled wine which was very nice - sweet and spicy - and the meal consisted of fish soup, turkey and ham with ALL the trimmings, a mint chocolate desert, a sort of liqueur milkshake and coffee. All of which were homemade and very nice too. All in all it was a lovely day. We left about 7.30 pm. We had our own Christmas dinner on Boxing Day. Martin and Shirley then flew out to Australia to stay with one of their other sons, who is in the police force where he lives in Perth. He is getting married in February, when Matt will also join them for the wedding.

A few weeks ago, much to our disgust, we were informed by our Insurance Company that they had actually cancelled our motorhome insurance! We had sent them everything they had asked for before we left the UK, paid our premium for the policy and they had issued us with a cover note but it seems they had not received the necessary papers. They also wanted proof of our NCB, which wouldn't have been difficult for them to find out for themselves. They said they had written to us and tried to phone but obviously we were not there. So, although we were not aware of it, we were not covered for the entire journey down to Bulgaria! Although we were not currently using the motorhome, we had planned to go to Greece and/or Turkey before the next lot of cold weather set in and in any case would need insurance for the return journey home. Adrian gave them a piece of his mind via email, to which they responded saying they had marked our papers accordingly!

This situation put us in a very difficult position, as it is a nightmare trying to obtain any insurance for our motorhome in Bulgaria. They just don't have large motorhomes and have no concept of such things and we knew we would have been stung at the border if we had tried to get cover there. Adrian tried ringing around in UK. Some were still closed for Christmas, some wouldn't insure us for Turkey, most would not give us comprehensive cover so we would then have the worry of windscreen breakage etc. Several of them needed details posted out to them, especially proof of our NCB, which would have been very difficult, and most were far too expensive, like 700. One quoted us 900 as we didn't have an alarm system fitted. If we had it was only 500! So we had virtually ruled out going to Turkey altogether at this stage. However, a few days later we managed to get cover with Comfort Insurance, for all of Turkey, comprehensive and no proof of NCB needed, for 560 for the year. We were wondering what the catch was, although we still needed to wait around for the green card to be posted out to us.

January 2011

New Year's Eve came and went, another year gone. We didn't do anything special but I watched all the fireworks light up the sky over Harmanli from our place on the hill, as you get a good bird's eye view from there. Then we experienced what we thought was the next episode of the 'curse'. We had gone to Biser to make sure everything was ok with our camper, ready for when we left for Turkey, only to find that the motorhome would not go at all. Nothing whatsoever. We had taken our battery off and put it on charge for a few weeks but everything had been fine before that time. Adrian spent some time going through all he could think of but really had no idea at all what the problem might be this time and it was too cold working on the motor for any length of time. He also went over to Biser the next day too, but without success. Everywhere was then shut for a long weekend due to the New Year holidays.

We phoned our son Greg to ask if he would go to our house and find certain information on our PC about the wiring diagram. We also spoke to Motorhome Medics (in UK) but with no success there either. The day our son went over to our house, he turned our water on, only to find that we had a burst pipe and the first he knew of it was when the kitchen started flooding with water coming down from the loft! That was nice to come back to when we got home! (The curse strikes again). Anyhow he sent us the information (for the motorhome) although it didn't actually help, so the next day Kamen, a Bulgarian friend, found us a local mechanic who came out to look at our motorhome (with Kamen translating) and he spent about an hour going through everything again. He was just about to give up and go home when he noticed that the battery leads had been put on the wrong way round! So for this senior malfunction on our part we were charged 50 Leva, but at least we then knew it was not something major wrong with the motorhome!

Then we had more snow and I was so glad that I got Adrian to leave our car at the top of our lane, as there was no way we would have been able to get out of there. It takes a long time for any snow to melt from our garden, as we realise that facing north was not the most sensible of choices we have ever made (there's always some downside), as we don't get much sun. So it's a very slow thaw! When we went into Harmanli town or to Biser and found they had NO snow it was quite annoying.

However, we did not allow the cold or snow to prevent us from doing any of the work we had wanted to do and we spent weeks still breaking up all the blocks and bricks of the old property. I still can't quite believe just how much came out of such a small dwelling. We never thought we would see the floor again. Adrian had managed to clean up and keep quite a few whole ones, which he will re-use at some point to build a wall and piers, possibly. The rest of the hardcore we eventually barrowed down to the bottom for our drive, of which the majority has now been completed and hopefully will accommodate our motorhome when it's drier. Adrian then made us a path (using the old blocks) down to our drive, through the middle of our grapevines (over 100), which hopefully we can train into an archway to walk through, a sort of pergola. I spent the last couple of weeks having bonfires, burning rubbish the previous owners left behind, burning trees we cut down and generally raking and tidying our garden. At least we could then see what we had got - a blank canvas on which to start afresh on another brand new dwelling project, when we come back in the Spring.

We then received our green card for Turkey and we also just about managed to get our car down the lane again, after 5 days at the top. Then we acquired yet another problem with the motorhome (when Adrian was at the campsite), as the cab heater and fan were not working. However, after more scratching of the head it turned out to only be a fuse that had blown but whilst tending this latest episode, a cat had got into our car (Adrian had left a window open) and eaten all our Moussaka, which he had just bought to bring home for our dinner! Oh, we do have fun at times ...

We had never known a place to get so much fog as around Harmanli - but still, at least it was not snow and ice! We were then ready to go off somewhere warmer for a couple of months, knowing that when we got back, as it should be spring, it wouldn't hopefully look quite so bleak. We didn't somehow think we should chance the weather much longer, as we knew it could change just like that and we were certain that their winter was NOT over yet, so it was best to be off while the going was good! So, hoping all went to plan, we expected to be going on Sunday (23rd January) into Greece (briefly) and then on into Turkey for our first visit. Let's see what this new venture held for us!

Greece and Turkey January/February/March 2011

On 23rd January we were all ready to leave Biser, near Harmanli, when we found we had another leak in the motorhome, which was difficult to locate at first. It was traced to the shower room and found to be in the step (heating duct) under the loo itself, which was not easy to access. We needed to get a pipe out, which did not want to come, but when it did we could see the hole, which had not burst but had chafed away. Adrian said it had been badly designed. After using Matt's tools for repairs we then had to put the pipe back again - also a difficult task. The water had seeped along from there, under the couch in the kitchen area and down to the driver's seat. Everything was soaked, so it wasn't a good start and we didn't manage to get away until after lunch!

So we didn't get very far that day, only down as far as Orestiada in Greece where we had hoped to stock up at Lidl but, as it was closed, we decided to stay on their empty car park overnight to enable us to use the shop in the morning, which we did. We also purchased a new battery, although we later found it had different terminals - so another job for Adrian! We nearly got stuck in the town, which was bigger than we thought (they will insist on double parking), when we found our outside step had not slid away, as it usually does. As we were unable to sort this problem (it appeared to be jammed) Adrian had to get underneath the motorhome in order to tie it in and we then had to remember not to fall out of the door when stepping out!

When we arrived at the Turkish border we had to purchase a Visa, which was approximately 15 each. We had previously taken out some Lira, which is the currency in Turkey, but they would NOT take it. We had to change it to Euros for them and then they gave us the change back in LIRAS. What was all that about then? Madness! Nobody wanted to look inside anyway, so we were now in Turkey and heading south, with no stopping as it was so cold.

Arrived at Eceabat where we parked up for the night. From here we took the ferry across to eastern Turkey in the morning. Adrian did manage to sort out our step and also do a temporary job on our new battery terminals, at which point it decided to start sleeting and we had a bitterly cold wind! We crossed the Dardanelles on the ferry without any hitches. It took about 20 minutes, costing 35 Lira and then we arrived at Canakkale.

We headed south, steadily climbing into worse weather conditions as we did so. Very quickly it turned into a complete 'white out' snow blizzard, with huge flakes. We really were beginning to wonder if our tried and tested snow chains were about to become very useful once again, for the second time around (first time in America). We did, eventually come away from the snow before we got to the coast but it either rained or sleeted all day and evening (more or less) and the roads were very rough and bumpy. However, there were some good supermarkets around the area including Carrefour and Kipa, which I liked, but maps were very hard to come by and decent ones were non-existent. Our next night we spent at a little port/marina called Aliaga, which was just one of many, many lovely places where we free camped right beside the water.

Marmaris was a bigger and busier place than we had realised. We couldn't find anywhere to park, so only saw the town as we drove through. We drove down the shorter of the two peninsulas to a small bay called Selimiye where we were bought drinks of Cey (pronounced chy, meaning tea) by an English-speaking Turk, who then took us to look at his place which was being built (in lovely stone) on the water front. He insisted we were to stay the night right there. First we drove nearly to the end of the peninsula to Bozburun, where we saw lots of beautifully polished wooden yachts being built.

Back at Selimiye we were asked round in the evening for cey and coffee. You must take your shoes off at the door and they all seemed to have rows of slippers, flip-flops etc for you to put on once inside. It was all a bit strange, as he had asked a male friend of his round just to make the tea and coffee. They drink it all day long there. So we had Turkish coffee and green tea, which I thought was disgusting. They never put milk in their tea. He then stuck the TV on and proceeded to watch, even though we couldn't understand a word. So we couldn't really have much conversation. Still it was a different experience anyway.

It rained all night and was extremely windy. The next day we acquired a leaky roof although Adrian couldn't find out where it was coming from. We could only conclude that the driving wind had forced the rain under the sky light and across the ceiling, although thankfully we didn't have a repeat episode of this, but at 2.30 in the morning we were rudely awoken by our carbon monoxide alarm going off. There was no reason for this and basically we realised it was broken. So a good night was had by all! In the morning we moved on.

Next stop was at Koycegiz (pronounced cogees) Lake. We loved this small, non-touristy town and even looked at some properties here. We met an Englishman and his wife, who had had a place built there and had lived there for the past 6 years. They invited us round. Their home was huge but only a very small garden. It wouldn't have been our choice, nor the location, but obviously it suited them. We found properties to be rather expensive, especially the ones with a lake view, of course! It is a very beautiful lake that changes daily according to the weather but when it's still and calm it is stunning. It's like glass, no ripples and lovely reflections and you just can't tear your eyes away from it. They do lots of canoe racing here and it was so serene watching them silently gliding by as we camped right on the water's edge. We saw many kingfishers here, fishing along the banks. We were shown the trees where they get liquid amber from, at a certain time of the year, in a wood nearby. Apparently they have a preservation order on them and if you should try to take anything, however small, it is likely you would be hauled off to the police cells!

We drove further round the lake to the mud bath and the hot thermal baths, which were lovely. It was the first time we had been in a hot mud bath and it was right on the edge of the lake, so we had stunning scenery as well. What more could you ask for? When you got too hot you could just dip in the lake which was freezing! We stayed here overnight too and watched a diver catch and eat a huge meal. We think it must have been an eel but it was certainly having difficulty with it. The bird didn't move far after that!

It was around this time that we first encountered the wailing from the minarets at the mosques and here we were, standing outside an estate agents talking, when they started wailing and as it is very close by, we could hardly hear each other speak. I had thought that it was just a recording that was played but we saw a man 'singing' into a microphone. There was another one at the other end of the town, which sounded like an echo. So there was no way that you were unable to hear the call to prayer, especially as they have loud speakers along the roads attached to the telegraph poles! This is repeated up to 5 times a day, but although we got used to it and even found it quite amusing, when you are often woken up at 5 am it's beyond a joke and then becomes very annoying! The larger the town, the more mosques there were. We did not see anyone stop what they were doing to answer the call to prayer, not once!

The food prices in Turkey are expensive (and you can't buy ham or pork etc). Also the fuel is ridiculously high (although as we were using LPG, it wasn't QUITE so bad) but some of the stories we were told, fortunately, were not quite as bad as people made out. Having been told that Turks didn't drink, that you have to keep yourself covered up and that there were no supermarkets as we know them, we were pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case (at least not in the areas which we visited). In fact we couldn't find fault with what we saw of the country (apart from the costs). Almost everyone speaks English and they are just so happy and helpful. We found it to be a very enjoyable experience indeed. Wild camping was no problem at all, with many places to stay, and in fact I don't think they even notice you are there at all and you feel very safe and secure. No-one bothers you. During our 10-week stay we did not use a single campsite and were camped beside water of one sort or another every single night except for 2 or 3!

We drove to Kaunos to the ruins and rock tombs - well we just about made it, as the road wasn't really suitable for us and they never sign post things properly! The tombs are quite impressive and there are several of them but we didn't climb the path up the hill as a notice said no entrance and falling rocks. At the end of the road is a river where you can get a rowing boat to take you over to Dalyan. Back at Koycegiz the next morning, the pipe under the loo decided to burst apart again (the clip hadn't been the right size one and the heat from the heater had made it pop off). So once again all was soaked, just as we had managed to get things dried out again. With a night and day of rain and nowhere to dry anything, we weren't having a very good day! I'm so glad we don't have carpet throughout our van!

On to Fethiye, which is a big tourist attraction with, we believe, about 15,000 Brits living there. We stayed the night just outside in Calis, which was on the water front, by a bird reserve. We saw loads of kingfishers here and also a bird we hadn't seen before - some sort of warbler we think. The promenade was full of cafes and restaurants, including Chinese and Indian, but as it was winter there was nothing open.

So on a little further, down a very steep hill, to Oludeniz, which was a very strange place as it was almost completely deserted (apart from workmen building). This ghost town must be absolutely heaving in the summer months. We spent over a week there and I loved it. We were right on the beach, the weather was glorious the whole time and we swam (in February and the water was clear and turquoise) and sunbathed and walked and watched the sky divers, some of them tandem, who were gliding off the high mountain and landing virtually beside us every day. We often didn't know how they missed landing on the people sat outside at the cafe! One of them was doing all sorts of acrobatics in the air and was obviously very skilled but only just missed the water on one occasion. Apparently they now hold international competitions here in the autumn and people come from all over the world.

We had everything here we wanted (free) including water and even internet. What more can you want? However, the water pipe that Adrian thought he had fixed came apart yet again and so we had another flood! It was a good job we had drying weather. After this latest episode Adrian decided to reduce the water pressure in the van and we had no more trouble. We saw some glorious sunsets there and at that time of year the sun goes down behind the Greek island of Rhodes but that was the only time we got to see the island at all, in silhouette form. We did, however, have a really good laugh at the chemists' huge signs, out on the pavements, advertising ASPIRIN and VIAGRA!

Also, just there is the very picturesque blue lagoon and natural park. You have to pay to go in and we thought we would have a look but, although it was a lovely spot and we swam and snorkelled in the lagoon, it was one big rip off! They charged 4 Lira each and wanted another 50 Lira to bring our camper in! So we walked in. At the gate they tell you the price includes a cabin, shower and nature reserve and that there is a cafeteria. When you get there, as it was wintertime, all you get is a cold changing hut, cold showers and closed cafe! It was a good job we had carried a drink and snack in with us for the day. There was hardly anybody in there at all but they don't seem to understand winter prices ... We saw no wildlife either, unless you include ducks and geese. In fact we felt it should have been free and we should have asked for our money back, but when you can't speak the language ...

Before leaving Oludeniz we took our washing in and found they gave an excellent service of 10 Lira per wash and dry. They were even meticulously folded. Whilst waiting for our laundry we went to visit the ruined village of Kayakoy (16th and 17th century). It is all situated on a hillside, where once about 2,500 people lived. We didn't pay to go in, as we thought it a bit steep, but you could walk round some of it anyway. There was a church with (once) colourful small paintings of Jesus on the cross, and a bone cellar (with bones) where they had dug up old graves, washed the bones with wine and put them in the cellar.

At Kalkan we found another lovely spot to camp beside the water, where some steps led down to a very small, secluded bay which was lovely and sheltered. We were all alone and eating our lunch, when we noticed something black bobbing about on the water. The next we knew, up popped a head and this skin diver, with a harpoon, came up and ashore. He didn't have anything, though, as he said the fish (or whatever he was catching) were too small. This place was better than it appeared on first sight. There was an old part to the town, which was very narrow with huge balconies on either side of the alleyways almost touching, although much of it was very unsafe even though it's often still lived in! Attractive and quaint.

At Kas (pronounced cash) we settled on the harbour/marina. This place was also very pleasant. We walked up to see the old, reconstructed amphitheatre, which as usual had stunning views over the sea and in this case views over to the Greek island of Meis Adasi (Kastellorizo).

Near Demre we looked at several bits of ruins and the ruins of an old 'granary' built by Hadrian. This had been a huge place down by the river, which was now silted up. We found loads of bits of pottery just lying around everywhere, which anybody could have helped themselves to! If ruins are your 'thing' then Turkey is the place to come to. There was so much everywhere but the Turks tend not to care and simply let it all disintegrate. The wild flowers round there were just coming out and very beautiful. In places there was a carpet of vivid crimson wild anemones along with other flowers and grasses. We parked up for the night on the beach again (Demre) and watched as two men trawled through the stones and filled bucket after bucket after bucket with them, which they then put into their cars and drove away! Try that one at home!

The road to Finike followed the coast and was very twisty but there were some lovely bays and the water so clear and turquoise. However, after this it was lots of greenhouses, poly-tunnels and citrus orchards along the way to Kumluca. We turned off looking for Cirali beach on the second of 3 right hand turns towards Olympos. It should have been the third turning! We drove down a steep, rocky, narrow hill, ending up at Olympos where we saw the strange looking 'tree houses' that are such popular pension places with the youngsters. We then had to DRIVE across a river, which I was very dubious about at first, only to find that the road did not go any further and we would have to pay to see the ruins of Olympos, in order to get to the beach! Then we were told that we needed to go all the way back up to the main road again and take the third turning for the beach.

So we drove back (across the river again), up the hill and another 7 km back down again. It was difficult to find and very narrow but in the end it was worth the hassle and we parked up on the beach for 4 lovely nights, but boy did it rain in the night and early morning. At 7 am we were woken by torrential rain, cyclone-like winds and a raging sea with huge waves. We also had thunder. It was all a bit scary as we were virtually on the beach. When the storm had passed, the sun came out and it was quite warm. What a difference a few hours made!

The next day we found that Olympos was just around the corner, if you waded across the river first. So we did and then walked along the beach. We nearly turned back as we did not think we could get round the cliffs, as the waves were coming in too far, but we made a dash for it and then through a hole in the rocks and were amazed to find we were at the mouth of a silted up river by an old harbour with Mycenean, Byzantine and Roman ruins which had once been a big city. We didn't see all of it as we had sneaked in the back way and not paid but we did see an old church, part of an old temple and castle and several tombs. Interesting.

Next we drove a few miles along to see the Chimaera flames, which are a natural phenomenon where gas seeps from the ground and ignites. We were told it was best to see them at night but didn't bargain for the weather and didn't realise there would be no lights whatsoever to help us on our way. I was glad it wasn't too dark to start with or we would never have found our way. It's about an hour's long, steep climb and after we had paid and started on our way, it started to rain. Anyway we made it to the top and it was certainly a strange place but it got dark and poured with rain and although we had raincoats and umbrellas, we got absolutely soaked! It was very eerie up there on our own and even though we each had a torch it was very difficult, as by this time we had a 'river' pouring down the mountainside path with us which also made it very slippery. I don't know how we managed to get back, it seemed to take forever, but we were very, very glad to see our camper again and get a lovely hot shower!

We had lots more rain, thunder and lightning overnight but the sun shone the next day and, mad as it sounds, we decided to go back up to the 'fires' again, take our lunch with us and maybe go further as it's on the Lycian Way path. So this we did and this time we were able to see the wild flowers, some waterfalls, the beautiful views over the sea and also some ruins of a church, we presumed. That day the locals were taking bags of food up with them and doing their 'cooking' over the fires!

Moving on east we bypassed Antalya and Alanya, which are big cities. It's just too risky with our motorhome unless you know exactly where you are going or are using a SatNav system - and ours does not work in Greece or Turkey! We were not impressed by our surroundings going east from Antalya. The towns were too busy and touristy and packed with hotels, apartments and complexes. There were too many greenhouses and poly-tunnels spoiling the countryside, with some sections of the road VERY twisty and hilly and therefore taking much, much longer, but worse were the road works. Huge sections where they had been blasting the hillside, making new roads and tunnels, with detours over VERY rough, muddy roads. The roads are not good at the best of times and it was all painfully slow! However, we did stop and purchase plenty of fruit, as there was so much of it being sold at the side of the road. Sacks of oranges, which were really sweet and juicy and very cheap too. Lemons, pomegranates, strawberries and later on loads of bananas at the banana plantation areas, of which there were many. Also lots of beehives about and plenty of honey to purchase. We sampled a few and made our choice and very nice too.

Driving away from Gazipasa we had a very close shave, when we were suddenly aware of a huge pine tree falling our way. It looked as if it was about to fall right on top of us, so Adrian swerved over to the other side of the road. Luckily nothing was coming our way or I dread to think what would have happened! We pulled up on the side. I thought it had fallen by itself but when we got out we saw they were felling trees! We both fully expected to see it across the road. It wasn't but it could barely have missed us. We walked back, very angry with the workmen, but they couldn't speak English and, as there was no damage done, they more or less shrugged saying there had been warning signs on the road! We tried to ring the police but couldn't seem to get through (doubt they would have done anything anyway) but we felt there should have at least been traffic lights or cones or they should have stopped the traffic themselves. What a scare that was. It really shook us up.

Tasucu (near Silifke) we rather liked and stayed several nights. A harbour with ferries, fishing boats and yachts. It's where the ferries leave for Cyprus. We did enquire about the cost and didn't think it was too bad but we didn't make the trip this time anyway.

The furthest east we went was to Korykos Castle and Maiden's Castle in Kizkalesi. This would have looked very picturesque in sunshine, but not on that day. They say you can swim across to Maiden's Castle but you would need to be a very good swimmer. Some lovely little bays along here.

We then went inland a short distance (we stayed on the coast mostly, as it was just too cold up in the hills) to visit the Cennet Caves. One you view from above - Hell - and for the other you go down 452 steps to Heaven. An old Byzantine church stands in the huge chasm, at the mouth of the cave. It was very slippery at the bottom. We didn't take a torch but could hear water nearby. We chatted (or tried to) to 6 young Turkish lads, who were very noisy and excitable but who were also very polite and helpful and they insisted on taking my arm to help me out of the slippery slopes. They were very charming, I have to say.

Back at Tasucu that evening we had a massive, violent thunderstorm. We sheltered in a shop for ages while the rain came down in 'sheets' and flooded the roads, so we ended up wading through, almost a river, to get back to our dry 'home'. It had been quite spectacular to see! We found we could receive English radio stations from Cyprus here. We also visited the Goksu Delta wetlands where we watched a beautiful bird, which we couldn't name but it may have been a shrike. It was the type and size of a cuckoo or roadrunner and seemed to like staying on the ground but wasn't bothered by our presence at all. We had hoped to be able to see Cyprus from the bird lookout tower but we were unable to. There were also lots of kite-surfers here.

So we finally left the harbour of Tasucu, returning west once more. We were not keen to take the same route back but after some thought decided it was the most sensible way at this time of year. So on to the Anamurium ruins, which were interesting. It had been a huge city and and had a cemetery with churches, tombs, bath houses, aqueducts, shops and dwellings. Also a theatre and stadium. Some still had wall decorations and mosaic flooring. There was too much to see it all, as it continued up and over the hill and down to the sea, but it was a lovely spot and the wild flowers, which were just blooming, would I imagine be very striking a little later on in the springtime. Whilst there we came across a kid (goat) which had just that second been born. We watched for sometime as mum cleaned and tended her young and he/she struggled to stand and find mum's milk. Ahh!

We did go inland at one point, travelling 40 km to the Koprulu Kanyon, which for us was definitely a highlight of our trip. I had thought it might be cold there but you are down at the river (when eventually you get to the canyon) and we had beautiful weather. A very pretty route, quite green in places, with snow capped mountains and the river a stunning shade of blue/green turquoise colour. They do canoeing and rafting on this river in the summer months. It was very picturesque and reminded me of New Zealand. We saw the Roman bridge but there was no chance of us being able to drive over, as it's very narrow. We were being pestered here to pay for a 'guide' to show us around the area and then they would try to sell you anything they could - and believe me the Turks can be extremely persuasive! We found a place to camp by the canyon for the night and met up with an English guy (Richard) who tours around in his Hymer motorhome on his own.

The next day we walked along a track beside the canyon to a cave and I saw what I believe to be an otter sliding off the rocks into the water. We found another good place to camp that night too, where we dipped our feet in the river, although it was very cold here from the ice melt off the mountains. Adrian greased the dry, creaking joints on our camper while I collected wood, lit a fire and cooked our 'spuds' for tea. It turned out to be a lovely evening and we sat outside watching the sun go down. It had been a really good few days all round. We can't wait to come back here again and explore a little further!

Travelling back towards Antalya we turned off to the Karain Caves. These were quite difficult to find, so we ended up staying the night there so we could look around the next day. (This was one of only 3 nights spent away from the water's edge)! It was quite a hike up to the cave in the morning, which was huge and eerie as we were totally on our own. They had been excavating but no-one was working that day. It was supposed to have been continuously occupied for 25,000 years. There were 3 large chambers and some drawings and writings on the walls too. There was also a small museum with bones, teeth, pottery and various artifacts taken from the cave. We found this to be an interesting cave.

We paid another visit to the Cirali beach, as we had liked it so much, even though we had another stormy, thundery day, but the evening was lovely and so we had eats and drinks round the campfire again! From here we visited Ucagiz, which is a very small, very isolated village and when we arrived we just could not believe how many coaches were there! There was nowhere for us to park so we had to pay that night to stay on the car park, although once the coaches had all gone we actually had a very quiet night! The coach tourists are taken (on a boat) over to Kekova Island to see the 'sunken city'.

We decided to walk to Kalekoy along a dirt track and it was quite a long way. A dog followed us the entire way and then decided to latch on to some other people for the walk home! Kalekoy was another strange place. Deserted, no-one about and nothing open at that time of year. It is the closest you can get to the sunken city without taking a boat trip. We saw the sunken Lycian Tomb in the tiny harbour. There were also many, many sarcophagi around the village.

We drove back to Kas and climbed the hill to look at the rock tombs, then parked up by the amphitheatre for the night, with wonderful views over the Greek island of Meis Adasi. We liked the idea in Turkey of the 'adults playground', usually next to the children's playground, where you can exercise at anytime free! Why don't we have something similar in the UK, rather than very expensive gyms?

We drove to the Saklikent Gorge but were very disappointed there. It was not a very nice area, although there were some intriguing tree houses overlooking the gorge but some didn't look at all safe! We were charged 4 lira each to walk a VERY short distance along a boardwalk over the canyon. Workmen were laying new paths and you could not go into the gorge proper, presumably because it was winter and the levels of water were too high, but normally you can wade through holding onto a rope! It should have been free. It was a rip- off!

Back once more at Oludeniz for the weekend, Adrian changed the oil on the motorhome and tried again to find the reason for the 'clonking' (on my side), which was proving very difficult to track down! We saw a beautiful sunset after 6 or 7 paragliders swooped in. The following day we climbed the hillside nearby to a half-demolished restaurant. A very weird place where there were no access roads and everything must have been sent up by cable car, including all building materials! It was derelict and abandoned and yet it wasn't even very old. What a waste. It had been built with some lovely stone and had fantastic views over the bay. No idea what had happened there!

Gocek, we found to be a very pleasant (small) place. There was nowhere to park up by the water, however, and we had to make do with a large car park behind the market place. Lovely marinas there with hundreds of yachts but they were all private and a bit more upmarket. In the evening we watched hundreds of tiny bats catching insects. We had never seen so many, apart from the fruit bats in Australia.

The next day, just as we were about to leave, we had a surprise visit from Richard (who we had met in the Koprulu Kanyon). He was with a Turkish guy (Engin) and his son, who live in Gocek. We had a long chat, said our goodbyes and then continued on our way. We stayed in Dalyan (on the other side of the river from Kaunos, where we saw the rock tombs), although we were not overly impressed. They do boat trips along the river here in the summer. A group of youngsters decided to have a drinking session right behind our van late that evening. They got very drunk and noisy and I heard them throwing and breaking their glass bottles onto the ground all around. They do seem to do a lot of that in Turkey. I expect in the morning, it must have looked as if we had had a whale of a time that night!

We drove down to Iztuzu beach, a long strip of sandy beach with a river that runs parallel. It appeared to be gated, so we didn't think we would be able to stay overnight (unless we paid a fee) but to our surprise a lady came bounding over and said we could not only stay the night but that it would also be free! After March you do have to pay, as it's the breeding season for the turtles. When they all come in from the sea, certain areas are 'no go'. After we had just finished our lunch, who should we see driving down the hill - only Richard again. So we all chatted for some time until Adrian and I went for quite a long walk along the beach, dipping our feet as we went. We photographed a fisherman with his catch of octopus! The wind dropped and it turned into a lovely evening and we had an extremely quiet night.

We decided to leave the next day as the weather was windy and chilly but before we departed I had a drive round the car park, so that Adrian could listen for the 'clonks' we had acquired but which we had been unable to track down the source of. As I had a nose bleed just at the wrong time (one of very many I had been experiencing over the last 2 - 3 months), we asked Richard if he fancied having a drive, which he was happy to do. Adrian really thought then that he had nailed the problem but alas this was not yet to be. Anyway, we said our goodbyes and set off back to Koycegiz for another short but sweet visit. It was a lovely evening with no wind and I collected a little wood for a fire. Later on some very nice young Turkish men saw I hadn't got much to burn and brought me armfuls of wood. They were very charming. So we listened to the gentle lapping of the waves and the frogs croaking round the campfire.

The following day the lake was stunningly beautiful, serene and calm and without a wisp of wind, it appeared like glass. We sat watching the rowers whilst filling up with water and were joined by a Turkish man on crutches, who worked for the Jandarma (national police force). We couldn't stop him talking but he was so obliging and helpful. He gave us his phone number and insisted that if we ever needed anything at all, we were to ring him! However, we decided to make tracks again, not far but to Gekova where the river meets the sea. This was another good spot by a small harbour also with a lovely sandy beach with palm trees and plenty of mountains, all nestled in a valley. We spent the afternoon on the beach.

We left there the next day, slowly climbing out of the village and over the Sakar pass, the roads being steep and very rough that day with lots of road works, but Adrian was pleased that at last he seemed to have cured the long standing 'clonks', which turned out to be loose bolts on the chassis! I think our camper is trying to tell us something about the state of the roads, which are definitely not the same as in the USA!

We didn't go to Bodrum, expecting it to be far too touristy, but we did go to Bafa Lake, passing huge rocks and boulders everywhere, rather like the Devil's Marbles in Australia. When we got to the Herakleia ruins we found we needed to pay to park (even though in our Rough Guide book it says, only in the summer. This was March.) Then we were inundated by the locals wanting to sell us their hand-made wares. It was the worst we've ever known for constantly being pestered. They just would not leave us alone, getting everything out and, as I've said previously, they are very skilled when it comes to persuasion. We ended up buying some more honey ... We watched the sun setting over the lake and met the 'Imam' - a young divorcee living in a ramshackle house. We soon got to hear his 'singing' from the nearby mosque, although thankfully we were not disturbed at 5am as he told us himself that he overslept that morning!

The next day we were still being pestered. We started walking through the village and got collared by an elderly lady, who insisted we were to go with her to see her home and photos and join them for 'cay'. So this we did and she first showed us the photos and letters from people all over the world who had visited them and then out came all the things she had made. It was a very subtle way of enticing us in to buy something. We definitely were not going to get out of there without buying something. So in the end we bought a small hand-made scarf and after yet more 'cay' we managed to make a hasty get away! After we got back we sat outside the Imam's house and had Turkish coffee (not nice either) with him. He gave us a DVD of the place. We watched 2 Scops Owls 'kissing' on his chimney, very close by and in broad daylight! They were fascinating and quite strange but apparently they were nesting in the roof. In fact we saw them 2 days in a row and also saw an eagle.

We moved our motorhome to a sort of campsite, as we wanted to stay longer and there was nowhere else to stay. An idyllic spot right beside the lake. We walked to one of the castles and came across lots of rock tombs. A very attractive and also interesting place. The next day, which was nice and sunny, we made a packed lunch and went for a walk along to the end of the lane which was just a dirt track. We passed lots of locals with their cows and donkeys and once again 2 dogs (from the campsite) followed us the whole way and one of them was pretty old. When we had our lunch we decided to climb up some high rocks for some peace (or so we thought) from pleading, drooling dogs but to our amazement found they had somehow also managed to climb up after us! We couldn't believe it. So that didn't work ... Anyhow, at the end of the track we found lots of deserted old cottages and some tombs/sarcophagi too, plus an old church that we were unable to get to as it was too swampy. The dogs walked all the way back with us and were completely shattered. We also had a little walk in the other direction and saw even more tombs. So many, in fact, that it must have been the Necropolis. There had once been thousands of people living there and the lake had been a part of the sea. In the morning the dogs could hardly move, especially the older one! Well, we had to leave that magical place behind - maybe we will come again, although we weren't very keen on all the begging!

Next stop was Pamucak, beside the sea, or so we thought! It was a very quiet place with no-one about but for some reason the Jandarma decided (at 11 pm) that we could not stay there. We still don't know the reason why. Adrian had been fast asleep and we didn't have a clue where we were going but we were chased out. It becomes very difficult in the dark to find an ok spot to stay for the night. Anyway, we came across a cemetery with level hard-standing beside the road and decided it would have to do. It was quite noisy with traffic but we didn't get disturbed, so we had a reasonable night once we had settled down again.

We drove north round Izmir and on to Foca, which we thought well worth a visit. I know I have repeated myself over and over again about all the lovely places but you have to see for yourself, as there are just so many. Foca was definitely a delightful spot: another port/harbour/marina on the coast. It became very lively in the evenings and we would walk round the harbour and see all the fishermen sitting in their boats eating their catch of the day! It was all lit up and very attractive, with many cafes and restaurants lining the harbour front. The following day we again sunbathed on the beach and Adrian went in for a dip. As we drove away from Foca we could see the area around was quite beautiful and I would maybe like to explore in more detail sometime. There were lots of sandy bays with blue/green clear water and harbours, ports and marinas.

So on to Ayvalik, which was also quite nice and as usual we free-camped beside the water. There was a causeway over to Alibey Island and you could also get a boat over to the Greek island of Lesvos. From here we continued north again. We did make a detour to Assos but were not impressed, so continued on to Canakkale, on very rough roads, from where we got a late ferry across to Eceabat on a lovely evening, so we had very calm water.

Back into Bulgaria March 2011

The next day we drove along the Gallipoli peninsula to Kesan, through Customs, out of Turkey and into Greece (briefly). Through Customs again, out of Greece and into Bulgaria. By this time all the lovely weather was behind us and we were greeted with rain on reaching Sakar Hills Camping at Biser once more, where Matt welcomed us back after his recent trip over to Perth in Australia. Our car, which had been left with Matt for the two months, started first time so we drove into Harmanli and then up to our property, which thankfully was just as we had left it!

After another particularly bad nose bleed, we decided I should go and see a Doctor (I was getting 2 or 3 per day). So with Kamen's help translating for us, we went to a clinic where (without any wait) I had my blood pressure taken twice, a blood test, an ECG (with ALL results) and a consultation for 26.50 Leva (about 12). I wish it was that quick at home! The Doctors said (through Kamen) that the nose bleeds were caused by my very high blood pressure and they were very concerned. I was put onto 2 different types of tablets. We weren't convinced that was the cause and, although I did have a high reading, we did not really think it was as urgent as they seemed to be telling us. However, I decided to continue with the medication until I got home again - just in case.

In Bulgaria - April 2011

Meantime we decided we would try to get our motorhome up to our place above Harmanli, so we left the campsite (on April Fool's Day) and I drove the car behind. There weren't too many obstacles but Adrian did have to climb on top of the car in order to cut back overhanging branches down the lane. All went well until we got to our drive, where we had to cut back more branches and also dig out more of the bank on our drive. It took us a while to make the motorhome level too but with the help of our jacks we made it. So we were very pleased about that!

We found everyone very busy pruning and tying up their grapevines and ploughing between with a donkey! So over the next few days we did the same to ours. We also removed and replaced the old wires and moved some of the posts. I spent many days digging between our grapevines - no donkey for us! The ground was very hard. I don't think it had been touched for years!

Each time Adrian went off to pick up more sand, it would then have to be taken up the hill to where we were building and that's where I came in (the donkey), by pulling on a rope tied to the barrow. It became a bit of a standing joke, as whenever he needed me he would just make the 'eee-orr' noises! So Adrian made a start, mixing (by hand) and building some of the piers (a total of 9 in all) which will support our home, as it is to be elevated, for the views and also for as much sun as possible, bearing in mind that we face north. We found that local sand, cement and wood were all very cheap, so it all helps.

We had a day out one Sunday and drove somewhere different for a change, as we hadn't really seen much of the area. We went to Madzarovo but it was a good job we didn't attempt it in our motorhome as the roads were atrocious and full of potholes. Quite a nice day out, although there was not really much there. We didn't see any of the vultures that frequent the place but it was quite rugged and pretty with a nice river where you can swim and with a 'sandy beach' area! We ate our picnic lunch there, had a short walk and spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing until it was time to go back.

Then it was back to building, digging and whatever was needing to be done. Our Spanish neighbour seemed to think (in her broken English) that my digging between the grapevines had been done all wrong! It looked the same as theirs to me! Oh well, I tried! Adrian bricked the rest of his piers with the blocks, which we had dismantled from the old building, and then started on the woodwork - the floor joists which are to support the ground floor, as we will be building a wooden structure. One of my jobs was to dig out holes in the corners of our old concrete floor for strong reinforcement rods (to be concreted in and tightened at a later date) attached to the floor joists, so that our place will be very securely tied down. The holes I had dug down to the old footings were more like archaeological excavations but I didn't find anything unusual, valuable or even very interesting. No treasure trove here! What a pity.

We are very fortunate where our place is situated, as we have lots of different species of birds to spot and listen to. The nightingales had just arrived again (we heard them last year too). They are very difficult to catch sight of but you can certainly hear them and can't really mistake their song. It is very surreal listening to birds that whistle and sing throughout the night (and day). It's like a dawn chorus in the middle of the night and just doesn't seem natural but it's quite amazing, especially when they compete with the 'pipping' of the scops owl, which also makes a noise all night long! I say 'noise' as it can be quite annoying. It has a very loud call and seems to be able to 'throw' its voice from quite a distance. Adrian describes it as sounding more like a 'rusty hinge'. There are lots of them and they start just as soon as it gets dark. I have watched them flying from post to post calling to each other. I presume they are mating calls but it can be quite a cacophony. I only heard the cuckoo once this year, which was a shame as I had heard it lots more on our property last year, but we also have many, many buzzards, some shrikes, kites, warblers, storks and very small bats, as well as a bird which we haven't, as yet, been able to identify. Also loads of woodpeckers (making nests in our garden trees) including the green, the greater spotted and the lesser spotted varieties. So many jays I have lost count, which are actually very beautiful birds when you are able to get up close. We also have a huge resident hare, which hops back and forth through our grapevines at times.

We were informed by our Advocat (lawyer) that the people building close to us were being taken to court, as not only was the property illegally built but also the funds for all the work, had been illegally obtained monies! What exactly that means though, I've no idea. Will it be a case of a slap on the wrist and/or a fine and then they carry on as before? Who knows. When we told her that it would appear they will be erecting gates across the roadway at some point, she very quickly said, if that was the case and she lived there, she would call the police! So it's wait and see but it will be interesting to see what happens with the place in the future - and indeed what we can expect to come back to in September next!

Meanwhile there was work to be done, so we mixed up some sand and cement, packed the holes I had dug out on the old concrete base with large stones and shovelled the concrete in around the reinforcement rods. Then Adrian managed to get the rest of the floor joists fixed into place. I dug out some more of our drive, so that we would hopefully be able to turn our motorhome around when it was time to leave, which was approaching fast. Next Adrian managed to lay all of his floor boarding and completely cover it in plastic sheeting, so hopefully it will be totally waterproof whilst away! We also, just, turned our motorhome around after digging out yet more edging but we were then ready to depart, hoping it wouldn't be too difficult driving out of the lane. We had acquired a very friendly cat but wonder if it will still be around when we get back in September. Our neighbours (temporary caretakers), who had said they owned the cat, had just gone off back to Spain and deserted it!

Adrian was quite concerned about driving out of the top of our lane, as we thought we might do some damage to our exhaust or - worse - meet with someone coming round the corner, as we thought we couldn't stop near the top and get going again (as is the case with our car). In the end he needn't have worried, as thankfully our reliable motorhome caused us no bother at all and all went smoothly. So we were on the road again. Going home after 7 months away, the longest we have spent away in Europe at one time.

Return to England May 2011

Greece

We had decided our route for travelling home would be through Greece this time, in order to avoid vignettes and 'Go Boxes' etc. We had also pondered driving over the Rhodopi mountains into Greece but we were unsure whether the border crossing would be open. Then we realised just how mountainous it would be, so we drove south-east to Svilengrad, crossed the border into Greece (where we had the motorhome inspected this time) and got on the Egnatia Odos motorway past Alexandroupolis. We turned off down to Agria beach and causeway between a lake, where it was lovely to be back by the water for the night once more. At that time we were just into May but it didn't really seem like it, as the weather was a bit grim. Lagos port (nearby), which we saw on our way out in the morning, may well be a stopping off place next time. It was full of French campervans. We saw a sign which read 'natural hot spring baths' but we couldn't find them, despite asking, so we gave up.

We drove west to Kavala, where we stopped for lunch overlooking the big town, port and castle. On filling up with fuel we started chatting to a Kiwi couple, who had bought their camper in the UK and were about to travel down into Turkey and wanted some information. They asked us in for a drink and it turned out that they lived very, very near (same road) to my cousin in Cambridge, Hamilton, NZ. A very nice couple, who had also coincidentally been in contact with Margaret and Barry. What a small world!

So we continued on to Thessaloniki (once the capital of Greece) using all motorway, travelling west via Veria and Kozani. Lots of slow crawling today, as we go through the snow-capped Pindos mountains. We had never experienced so many tunnels in our lives and they all had signs to say slow down as it's a bear habitat area! We can only assume that the bears take shelter in the tunnels overnight sometimes! They were just starting to charge tolls for the 'Egnatia Odos' motorway (which runs right across northern Greece). We had not used that particular section before but we weren't expecting to pay. So if we need to use it again, I imagine we will have to pay for the entire length. They were just installing the first petrol stations too but they should have been built years ago! There were none 5 years ago when we came. It was so ridiculous. Perhaps that's what the tolls are going to pay for!

Drove past Metsovo and down to Ioanina (we had been before) and found a Carrefour, where we shopped, but unfortunately the 'curse' was upon us that day too as Adrian left his debit card in a cash machine! So I tried to use mine but it was rejected, as unbeknown to me my card had expired in March (a new one was awaiting me on the mat at home). So we were completely stuck with no money! We were told (when able to find someone who could speak English) that our card would be taken to the bank in the morning, where we would be able to collect it (if it was left in the machine and not stolen by anyone!) So we stayed the night on their car park but in the morning it turned out that you only get the card back if it's one of their bank cards and any others would be automatically cancelled. So that was us. Great!

We were supposed to be boarding a ferry from Igoumenitsa the next day. I knew my sister and her hubby would be flying into Preveza that weekend, for the summer aboard their yacht, so we wondered if they might be able to bring some cash over for us. Anyway we decided, as we had enough fuel, that we would drive down to Igy, so this we did, through so many tunnels again I lost count, and hilly too. We had been told about the Western Union, who could tell us how to get money over to Greece quickly. When we arrived at 2.35 pm, the banks had already just closed! The cash for our ferry tickets had not been taken from our account, so therefore we were not actually booked to depart at midnight, and without cash to pay for these, we wouldn't actually be going anywhere ...

We drove to the port, which had all changed since we were there last. Five years ago we had stayed on the port overnight with no worries but now it was a building site with large new properties. We drove into the port car park where we saw about 6 cars (including English) and a lorry, which had been completely wrecked, smashed and stripped - and then we saw all the illegal immigrants milling around! We had JUST stopped and I said to Adrian that I thought it sounded like someone was tampering with our bikes on the back! He went outside and the lads ran off but stayed nearby. Adrian threatened them with a baseball bat but they just didn't care and kept annoying us. The cops were everywhere but didn't care either! We drove out of the car park, along the road and Adrian went into the ferry terminal while I stayed with the motorhome but they came along again, messing about with our bikes and the van in general, so I continuously sounded the horn and they went - but not very far. When Adrian got back and we were discussing where to go for the night, they were eyeing us up the whole time. So we drove along to Drepano beach, which actually turned out to be a lovely quiet spot on the beach where campers park and where you can watch the ferries arriving and departing.

We spent the whole of the next day trying to sort out money and tickets. There was nowhere to park near town so we had a long walk to the bank first, who then sent us to the Western Union to sort out the money which we needed sent over. We had to ask someone in the UK to go to a post office to deal with it. They then pay the money in and get a code number for us and we go to the nominated bank and receive the cash. So, after managing to buy a phone card (we couldn't find any phones that worked and ended up in a hospital), we decided to ring my brother (who also has a yacht in Preveza) but who wasn't in at that time. So we went back to the motorhome for some lunch; then when we rang again he said he would try. Later on he said the PO no longer dealt with the Western Union but they told him how to go about it, so we walked back into town again to look for the bank. We gave them some details and the code for our 'moneygram' and we got our money. It's worth knowing (even though you pay a fee of course), as it's certainly quick.

We walked back to the motorhome and drove down to the port again to get our tickets (even though we knew we would be hassled, but what else could we do?) I decided to go in with Adrian on this occasion because of the trouble the previous day. The immigrants had been quite frightening. So we went in and I was watching out of the window and saw them all congregate around the motorhome, trying to open any lockers/doors that they could and it looked as if they were letting our tyres down. We went out and they ran off. We complained and were told to call the cops out, at the back of the building. It was just ridiculous, as when we eventually found someone, they said they were not the right ones to deal with the situation! It was farcical. Then I saw them crawling underneath our van, presumably trying to find somewhere to hide. Luckily some cops came by, so we asked them to stay while we bought our tickets, which they did. They told us they didn't know what to do with them or where to send them! So a word of warning for all those people arriving at the port of Igoumenitsa - be very, very careful. Don't leave your vehicle unattended and be very wary and suspicious of anyone around.

Anyway we booked our ferry to Venice, which was to be in a couple of days. We thought we would first have a nice relaxing day for our last day in Greece, so we went back to Drepano beach where we collected wood for our last fire. We found an even better spot for our night's camping and after some lunch we sunbathed and swam during the afternoon. The water was clear, clean and very shallow. We watched a continuous stream of ferries back and forth and after our tea in the evening I had a fire on the beach. It had been a very good place and I could easily have stayed longer! The following morning (early) Adrian spotted a pelican feeding on the lake. We had only ever seen them in the US and in Australia.

Well, it was time to go, so we drove back to the port once more, where you have to check in before you board. It only took a couple of minutes but even then (at 7.30 am) we were surrounded by the immigrants again but we soon got through and into the safety zone! Something needs to be done about the situation. They could easily fence the car park off and keep them out. It's not good for all the ferry customers and we will think twice about coming back to Igy again.

I have to say I was also disappointed with the Minoan Lines ferry, although it was a good price and I suppose you can't have everything. We WERE able to camp on deck with water and electricity (unlike the last time we travelled across, when we had to leave our motorhome below, as the sea was too rough, and we were up all night with no bed to sleep in) but they say that you can't use your gas, so we were unable to cook our tea. We were not by a window so it was already very dark and dismal. We were unable to get wi-fi (even though they say you can) but even if you could, you would have to pay for it and use it downstairs and not in your vehicle. There was no water in the pool, no food shop and the food and drinks in the restaurant too costly. What's more, we were surrounded by dogs, several of which kept barking. The couple beside us had 4 dogs and the 2 large ones slept with their owners in their CAR all night! However, it was a very calm night and you could hardly tell you were on the water at all.

Italy

The next day was lovely again and Adrian saw the sunrise and also saw dolphins. Then we all went up on top to watch as we came through and into Venice. Although we had visited before, we hadn't seen it from the water perspective and the previous time we had encountered bad weather too. The day was stunningly beautiful, so we now have loads more pictures. There were some big passenger cruise liners there too.

So after leaving the ferry at Venice, we drove round Milan and on further almost to Aosta (before the border between Italy and France), where we stopped for the night. We had the snow-capped Alps beside us with a small lake and golf course too. From here onwards we made the mistake of staying continuously on motorway, rather than having to go through every town and village which takes so much time, but we had no way of knowing how much this would cost, as we were issued with a ticket and there was nobody anywhere we could find to ask! We didn't realise just how much we would eventually be stung, which was a pity as we had decided that for future trips this seemed to be the best route of all (so far)!

France

France had loads of very nice Aires though, which were very clean and tidy with picnic areas, nice toilets, mostly away from the motorway and some with lovely wooded, park areas too, but obviously that's where all your money goes!! It seemed like hundreds more tunnels again and we drove via the Des Bossons glacier at Mont Blanc, as we also did 5 years ago, where there are lots of skiing areas. The very long Mont Blanc Tunnel, which takes you through the Alps from Italy into France, cost 48.70 Euros! We had lots of road works too, which I hate as they just don't give you enough room, especially for us as we are extra wide! The concrete crash barriers are just too close for comfort.

North of Dijon we settled on a very nice Aire, which we had almost to ourselves, with no noisy lorries - great. We sat outside until almost 9 pm as it was a lovely warm evening. The motorways DID cost us an arm and a leg, so doubt we will be taking that same route next time! Try anything once though.

Back into England and Home

The following evening we arrived in Dunkirk and bought our DFS (as they are now called Norfolk Line as was) tickets to Dover. Another lovely evening and we watched the sun setting as we crossed to the UK, which takes 2 hours but, as you have to put your clocks back an hour, we get into Dover at 9 pm (British Summer Time). We parked up on the sea front again for the night. At least it wasn't cold but it did seem very strange being back in the UK after 7 months away, which is the longest time away (in one go) so far!

A very big cruise liner and a smaller one were in the harbour in the morning. We left Dover, trying to remember to drive on the left once again! We got to Essex in time for lunch and shopping and then went to put flowers on Mum's grave. Her house had been sold whilst we were away and it looked like the builders had moved in. It just didn't seem right somehow, as we usually came home and told Mum all about what we had been doing whilst away and also showed her our photos and heard all the family's latest news. So it was all very sad, not to be able to share any of our experiences ever again.

Arriving back home, it was a nice surprise to find our son and daughter-in-law mowing our lawn!

September 2011

Conclusion and Future Plans

We had hoped to enjoy our summer weather here in England, but alas that was not to be. It was the worse summer I can remember. Far too cold and rainy for my liking. Thank goodness we have an escape route away from our dismal winters! It gave us a chance to catch up with all the family again though and attend to all the maintenance jobs awaiting us on our home, garden, car and especially our motorhome, which included the building and erecting of solar panels, made by Adrian, which should be a help if we want to stay put for any length of time without electricity. They will hopefully keep our batteries charged.

Well, it had been a very good 7 months away, despite all that had happened to us and all the difficulties etc. We were pleased with all that we had managed to accomplish in Bulgaria, as the actual time spent building etc on our property had only been 14 weeks in total. The rest of our time, of course, had been spent travelling back and forth, flying home to Essex and touring Turkey, a country we really enjoyed. We will just have to wait and see!!

The plan is to go back over to Bulgaria in September for the next stage of building and in time for the harvesting of our grapes, for our wine making, but will we repeat everything the same next time around? We are currently discussing all the options open to us over the next 2 years, trying to minimise our expenses as much as possible.

So now we can finally get organizing and packing ... Bulgaria and Turkey, here we come!