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The Wilsons in Bulgaria and Turkey 2012 PDF Printable Version E-mail


To BULGARIA (to house build) and TURKEY (to motorhome)

Brenda's Diaries from September 2011 to June 2012

Click on the following links to see galleries of images covering Brenda and Adrian's motorhome journey to and from Turkey, pausing both outwards and inwards to work on the house they are rebuilding above Harmanli in southeast Bulgaria.

Poland and the Tatry Mountains:

Building and Wildlife in Bulgaria:

Motorhoming in Turkey:

After the Floods in Biser, Bulgaria:

Greece, Italy, France and Dover:

This is Brenda's travel log:

September 2011

At last on the 18th September we were ready once more for the next chapter of our life down in Bulgaria - to carry on with our building until it became too cold and we felt we needed a break, and also to tour Turkey once again for a few months. This time (in the same motorhome) we were towing a trailer (built by Adrian) which held all of our windows for the property in Bulgaria, an inflatable 2-person canoe, some big drums of creosote, various tools and odds and ends. We drove down to our usual spot in Essex (by the fishing lake) without any trouble and did the usual visiting of family and laying of flowers on Mum and Dad's grave, etc. My cousin lent us a car to use whilst there, so that was very acceptable.

Out through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany

We booked our ferry tickets for 24th and left Essex the day before to drive down to Dover, where we stayed on the sea front once more. An uneventful trip across to Dunkirk the next day, then on through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. We had a glorious (quite hot) week's weather for travelling, which is unheard of for us, but we still had to contend with certain unfortunate incidents, one being our motorhome which lost power twice on the motorway. I reminded Adrian that a similar thing had happened before, after we had run out of LPG (it usually switches over to petrol automatically, but didn't on this occasion). We wouldn't normally let it run dry but found that several of the Service Stations in Germany did not sell LPG. Anyway, we stopped and waited a while and were then able to continue our journey. Another problem was that we had acquired a smallish leak (following leaks earlier in the year) on our water pump, situated underneath our bed. Adrian said that he wouldn't be able to sort it out until we arrived in Bulgaria and, as we have carpet under the bed, this quickly became very soggy and, after a few days, quite whiffy!


We had decided, this time around, to travel via Poland (currency Zloty, about 5 to the pound), which was all new territory for us. This would keep us away from all 'go-boxes' and some of the vignettes too, plus we didn't have to pay a penny for any toll roads. So after a VERY long detour (near Dresden, Germany), caused by an accident which created absolute chaos as nobody knew which route to take, we were straight into Poland (no checkpoint) using their excellent roads and with plenty of LPG at very reasonable prices. We made our way down to near Katowice where we found a place to stay, although it was very noisy! Adrian lost his temper with the bloke in the ticket booth. The board at the gate had said 'Camping 15 Zloty' and then we were told it was 25 Zloty as, unbeknown to us, at the bottom of the board in VERY small writing it said '24 hrs - 25 Zloty', but you don't 'camp' during the daytime do you!? So we decided to leave (about 30 mins later) but do you think he was going to let us out without paying him some money! No, he was adamant and would not raise the barrier! We had to find someone who could speak English to go and have words with him! It was a most unpleasant experience of our short time with the Poles.

The following day we drove along to Birkenau, Oswiecim (better known as Auschwitz). Very grim, as you can imagine. You see the end of the line for so many thousands of men, women and children, who were taken to the camps of mass extermination. To see how they were kept and treated and the conditions they had to endure before going to the gas chambers is quite incredible. They were also tortured and experimented on. Some were starved and then either shot or poisoned by lethal injection. How any 'humans' could carry out such barbaric atrocities to his own kind is beyond comprehension. We also walked just up the road to KL Auschwitz and looked in the buildings there too. It was interesting to see the places that you only ever get to see on the TV and Adrian recalled it all vividly from all of the films he had watched. This was all free.

After leaving Auschwitz, we were no longer on their lovely Polish motorways and the roads changed completely, more like we have become accustomed to lately. It was much slower progress with narrow villages, towns and hills with switchbacks.


We were soon into Slovakia (also new ground for us; currency Euros) and again no checkpoint and no vignettes to purchase, as we stayed off the motorways. We had our lunch overlooking the Tatry Mountains, which were very pretty. Lots of ski-fields around here.


From Slovakia into Hungary (a vignette here; currency Forints, about 350 to the pound). We found a Tesco and bought some bottled water. They took Euros, as we didn't have any Forints, but of course they gave us the change back in Forints (which we had no further use for) and then later on we found we had bought 24 bottles of sparkling water! Driving away from Tescos, we were finding it difficult to find any access onto the motorway when a lorry passed us and we hit wing mirrors! A loud bang and our mirror was shattered but the lorry did not stop and we had to find a garage who could carry out the necessary work. They had to go off somewhere else to get the glass cut, which all took time, then replace and fit it. The bill came to 30 Euros or 10,000 Forints, which seemed very reasonable and at least we were able to dispose of both our Euros and Forints! They let us fill up our tank with fresh water and showed us how to get back on the motorway too.


Hungary into Romania once again. From Oradea all the way to Deva, the roads are particularly bad and I wrote in my diary NEVER to take that route again! In fact I think we will give Romania a miss altogether in future. It was painfully slow going as we could only travel at about 25-30 mph. Very narrow too, with plenty of road works, and I couldn't help thinking about the broken wing mirror of the previous day. The following day we went through the Targu Jui gorge which was very pretty in the autumn colours, although this was also slow and twisty with many road works.

Then after this, the road down to Drobeta-Turnu Severin was 'hell on earth' and even worse than the day before, if that was at all possible! So we decided to change our route, as we couldn't chance the road to Craiova. So we drove to Calafat to get the ferry once more (even though we knew it would be very expensive) and this road was excellent! You just never can tell, as some of the smaller roads are better quality than the main ones. We lost power in the motorhome twice and then one of my tooth crowns fell out. We weren't doing very well that day!

We had hoped that the new bridge over the Danube (from Romania into Bulgaria) would be finished but it wasn't and we had a long wait before we could board the ferry, in very hot weather. The ferry, which we said we would never use again, cost us 114 Euro for motorhome and trailer! It only takes 20 minutes but at least this time we had no trouble getting on or off the ferry (unlike last time), as we took it very, very slowly!


So into Bulgaria, where most of the roads that day were reasonable with the exception of the town of Vratsa, which was awful, as it was last time. When we stopped for lunch, a prostitute appeared from nowhere (out of the woods) in a thong and top which didn't even cover her backside. She paraded up and down for some time, until the police came along and took her away! We arrived in Biser after a long drive in the dark at 8.30pm. We had made it once more!

October 2011

On Biser campsite (Sakar Hills) the following morning, we spoke to an English couple and their son who had just arrived. They had a large 33-ft Fleetwood Flair, which they had only recently purchased, and also a van. They had sold everything at home and were looking to buy property in Bulgaria. They brought with them a dog, a cat and a parrot and had never done anything like it before! They offered us a lift up to our place, which we accepted, to get our car going as it had been standing since the end of April, although we did have to attach jump leads to our car to get it started.

Our place was more overgrown than we had expected and our grapes had not done very well but at least everything was just as we had left it. Well, when I say that, I mean that no-one had interfered with our place at all but we were rather disappointed that the plastic sheeting we had put over our ground floor had completely disintegrated in the wet and the heat, leaving the floor soggy and spongy! We drove our car back down to Biser, where we met up with Matt, Shirley and Martin who asked us out to lunch, along with the newcomers, Lee and Collett. After lunch Adrian drove our motorhome up to our property, with me following in the car. Adrian was stopped by the police again but as soon as they realised we were English they were not interested and so we carried on. Our lane had been made up with tarmac whilst we had been away, which was very nice and we had no real problems getting our motorhome up the hill and down our lane.

Our first week was really too hot for building work and we had the added nuisance of flies (I put my Aussie head net on!) My job was cutting down the jungle in our garden and up the path to our property and some of the grasses were about 8 ft tall. It was the sort of very dry grass with seed pods that insist on sticking to you (and into you) like there was no tomorrow! It took me ages picking them out of my clothes and shoes/shoe laces afterwards. They were a real pain, just so prickly! This seems to be where the praying mantis like to camouflage themselves though and I came across 4 different types. I suppose really our wild garden was the ideal place for wildlife, as you will read.

The weather soon all changed: first we had about a week of rain which came at just the wrong time as we had started building (a wooden construction) and did not know how to keep it watertight. Nearly all of the next 3 months were far too cold. This is just what we had hoped to escape from in the UK! However, we couldn't really complain as, apart from the first couple of weeks, we didn't have a drop of rain, although the downside to this is that our well (our only source of water) was not filling up as expected and towards the end of our time there we were getting quite concerned. We shall just have to see what happens when we get back, after the winter! In fact the water was our first problem, as our pump wouldn't work and Adrian was finding it difficult to find the reason why. It was a good job we had filled up at the campsite before we left.

We found a family of mice nesting in the car (after having used it) under the back seat, which had been left folded down whilst away. Adrian put most of them out but one scuttled away, so we didn't really know if he/she would re-appear at any time in the future!

I picked what there was of our 3 different types of grapes and crushed most of them in a bit of a misguided effort to make wine. The trouble was, we had been told different methods, but I bottled what I got (which wasn't a lot) and left it. I think it will have to be method number 2 next time! Anyway, I tried and we may not keep the vines when we get round to sorting out the garden, as we are not here to tend and look after them properly!

Adrian managed to sort something out with our water pump, which he moved into a little shed, put an outside tap on it and extended the hose so it reached our motorhome at the bottom of the garden so I didn't have to keep filling up our barrels. He also managed to fix the leak under our bed and make a good step/platform for us outside the motorhome, so we were not stepping out into mud all the time!

I made it to the dentist and, without an appointment, had my crown cemented back in, there and then, for just 10 Leva (about 4). Job done.

On 7th October work commenced on our property. Adrian likes to do everything himself and that includes all the fetching and carrying too but our car had been letting us down recently and refusing to start! There were several occasions on which I had to push while Adrian bump-started it. It's an old 'banger' but we are not about to go out and buy a new one, as it is left in Bulgaria for months at a time and we are hoping it will tide us over for a while longer yet!

The solar panels which Adrian had made were doing a grand job (when the sun shone, of course) and our trailer has been worth its weight in gold with all the wood and other items which have had to be transported from town, up the hill and down our little lane! The good thing about building a wooden construction is that you get to see it growing very quickly right in front of your eyes, day by day.

I spent weeks fighting with the jungle that is to be our garden. Our strimmer was no match for the strong, very tall grasses and weeds, so I tackled it all armed only with a pair of shears and a fork for raking it all together. I had six huge bonfires later on. It was all tinder dry and went like a rocket. Although we had no rain for nearly 8 weeks (and quite a lot of sunshine), it was much colder than we had anticipated. We worked non-stop, 7 days a week for nearly 3 months, by which time we were more than ready for rest and relaxation and some warmer weather (we hoped).

I had my 60th birthday there and Adrian had arranged a complete surprise for me with three and a half hours of pampering - a complete body massage, a face massage, pedicure and manicure with a freehand painted fancy design on some of my fingers and toes. This was extremely good value for money, something I had never experienced before, but I would definitely go back for a repeat session and also recommend it to anyone and everyone.

During the next couple of weeks, Adrian worked very hard erecting the shell of our building. We didn't have any actual plans drawn up but instead Adrian basically improvised as he went along. Using the existing base, we were intending either to extend slightly further out at the back or to have an upstairs. We decided on the latter. However, all our previous builds had been single storey and, as we had already raised the ground floor level, it was quite a challenging task for Adrian to undertake, especially as we are on a hill, but this just seems to make him more determined.

So the walls went up and the windows were put in place. The roof trusses obviously were more difficult, as were the heavy sheets of building board and the barge/fascia/soffit boards. These had to be tied with rope and hoisted up with my help. Our ladder was not long enough, so Adrian had to rope 2 (fully extended) ladders together, which were bending and swaying. I was once again holding my breath! I was glad when later on he had built the balcony, so at least he could stand his ladder on that, for the front anyway. We did not know when the next lot of rain was likely to arrive, so everything had to be done as soon as possible in order to make everything as waterproof as we could by covering the walls and roof with a waterproof breathable membrane.

For a couple of days we had a small fox, with a distinctive white tip on his tail, wandering around our garden (in the daytime) and he didn't seem the slightest bit worried by us. We watched him rummaging around in next door's grapevines with what appeared to be a dead cat. Whether he had killed it or not we did not know but he spent some time digging various holes and burying each limb and even the head in different places! It was all quite a strange sight to see but fascinating to watch our wildlife there. Does he remember where he has buried them when he decides to return again, though!

Other creatures we are not sure we want to get used to are the snakes and believe me we do get quite a few! One quite big one that I almost tripped over slithered his way into our cellar and there wasn't much we could do about that. Then Adrian saw one the next day, which I think was the same one. Having looked on the internet I think it MAY have been a legless (perhaps it had been supping the fermented grapes) glass lizard, which to all intents and purposes, and certainly to the untrained eye, looks the same as a snake! A few weeks later we had our next encounter with a reptile. We had a visit from another (different) pretty big snake. I was just getting up the step ladder when I saw it below and alerted Adrian to look. It also seemed to be heading for the cellar, so Adrian slammed the door shut and managed to get it on a long stick and carry it away and over next door's grapevines. I have no idea why it was out and about, as it was far too cold and therefore it was quite docile. However, would you believe, the very next day Adrian was also just going up his ladder when he spotted the same snake round the bottom of the ladder with its head in a hole. So this time he decided to kill it, as we don't really want it turning up and surprising us anywhere and everywhere. In a way it's a pity, as it was probably harmless (there are very few in Bulgaria that are poisonous, although it was having a jolly good hiss at us) and we do like to see the wildlife, but there you go, you can't afford to take too many chances. At this time of year we don't see or hear the nightingales or the scops owls. They don't arrive until the springtime.

November 2011

However, back to the work in progress. We were not able to get 'feather edge' wood for the exterior finish to the building, which Adrian had hoped to use, but I can't see any difference in the weather-boarding wood he used in the end anyway. We had originally thought of a log cabin but the logs in Bulgaria were too small and Adrian was not sure that he could trust them for cutting evenly down the middle either. It's very difficult for Adrian to ask for what he wants, when they don't understand and neither do we! He mixed the old oil (from an oil change) with the creosote and used this as protection on the wood. I can't stand the smell personally and it gets into literally everything but he says it's the only substance that does the job properly!

I painted all of the brick pillars supporting our property with a black bitumus paint, whilst Adrian made and hung 2 very strong, heavy doors - the front and back. Another of my jobs was to saw up and line all the walls and ceilings with fibreglass insulation and partially nail it into place, to keep it from falling out. Adrian did the underneath of our property (with fibreglass) and laid our wooden flooring upstairs and then also built the internal walls. I stained our doors inside and out, and that's apart from all the constant sweeping and clearing up of course! We then bought plasterboard, wiring, sockets, switches and various fittings which, compared to England, we found to be very very cheap. Lots of things are different here and not as Adrian knows, so I think he will have lots of 'fun' wiring up and also when we come to do the plumbing jobs too!

Before our rest in Turkey, we managed to plasterboard and wire up all of the front bedroom and most of the back one too and Adrian made and fixed in place his own skirting boards and architrave, as they don't seem to use or sell it round here, and then he made a start on the downstairs. I stained the ceilings, although did not quite complete the job as we ran out of stain. I shall finish the job when we get back in the spring, when I shall also varnish the same.

Adrian boarded all the windows up, ready for us to go away. The roofing will have to wait until we get back too, as this is going to be a more difficult time-consuming job. He doesn't think we should use the tiles that we saved, as they will probably be too heavy for our wooden-framed construction (which will be a pity), but plans to use shingle tiles which he has never used before. Added problems are the height of the building, the sloping grounds and the pitch of the roof. So he needs time to get organised for this.

December 2011

So after nearly 3 months of continuous work, and after securing our property as best we could (with car and trailer too), we were able to drive away for the next chapter of our 9 month journey. We hoped all would be OK while we were away and that the rain, snow and sun did not damage anything too much!


Leaving Bulgaria, we entered into Turkey (via Greece), spending our first night at the little port/harbour of Gallipoli (Gelibolu), not having been before. The following day, after visiting the town where we changed some of our Sterling into Lire (at the Jeweller's) and having parted with 40 Lire for the ferry from Gallipoli over to Lapseki, we made our way down to Canakkale for lunch and also to re-stock our supplies at the big superstore of Kipa, which you find in most big towns/cities. We spent that night beside the water on the front at Kucukkuyu.

We continued south, stopping briefly at Aliaga (where we have stayed overnight once before) for a cuppa and on round Izmir. We didn't remember from last year what we had to do for a motorway card and, as no ticket was issued and no-one was at any of the kiosks, we pressed the button for assistance but nobody came (good job it wasn't an emergency)! There were no barriers down, so in the end we drove on but we had to spend the night on a motorway service station and were quite concerned about exiting the motorway the next day. However, on the Selcuk turnoff we stopped before the toll gates at a building to inform them that we were not in possession of a card but it seems that that was quite normal and you just purchase a 20 Lire card wherever you can, to use on their motorway as and when. I really do wish they would make it much clearer what you are supposed to do, as it would have saved us so much worry!

Continuing south past Efesus, round Kusadasi, Soke and Didim, we were delayed for ages where they were building a new road (beside Lake Bafa). Our place in the long stationary queue of traffic just happened to be by a digger who was digging high up on a bank. I was watching closely, as I didn't fancy any of the big boulders he was rolling around coming down anywhere near us. Bits of debris were flying our way and then a piece hit the side of the van, so we thought enough was enough and moved over to the other side of the road. Eventually they let us all through, but it wasn't our day as the place we had picked to stay at Gulluk port was no good at all and the roads were awful from hundreds of lorries going to and from a quarry.

So we then had to carry on to Bodrum, a big, busy place that we had not visited before and in the meantime it had become dark. We drove along the peninsula but could not find anywhere to stop and basically got completely lost! Some of the weird places we have ended up staying have been quite incredible, especially when you don't even know where you are, how you got there, or how you will get out again! In the morning we found ourselves to be by the sea at Yalikavak which looked a nice place but we had nothing but rain and it was cold all day. Indeed we had had plenty of rain in recent days and, although we didn't know then, we had plenty more of the same yet to come! We did find our way out fairly easily though.

On to Milas and Mugla and down to Gokova, where we had stayed once before, but of course in the rain nowhere looks the same and it was hard to recognise it as the same place as last year when we sat on the beach. Everywhere was flooded, with the river a very dirty brown. We stayed one night though and we also put up our Christmas decorations and a little tree with lights on the dashboard. It poured all night and most of the day, with thunder too. So on to Marmaris, where at least the new road had been completed and was good and we were actually stopped for a tree that was being felled (unlike last February when one nearly fell on us). We stopped here for a visit to a Kipa store again and then decided we would make our way along a long peninsula to Datca, another new place to us. It wasn't doing the place justice (quite a nice big town) in the pouring rain and we could not find anywhere to park up so we drove along to a very tiny ferryboat harbour, which only operates in the summer, and found ourselves a very quiet place which was fine for the night.

Back at Datca we had a look around; there was a big market on. We continued to look for somewhere we could stay over Christmas and managed somehow to find a back way down to the beach. Whilst trying to manoeuvre ourselves into place, however, we managed to get well and truly stuck in the mud! We thought well, this is going to be a different sort of Xmas. It was 24th December! Of course the more we tried, the deeper we became. So off I trotted, bucket in hand, to fill it with large stones from the beach (to throw under the wheels) whilst Adrian donned the wellies, got the spade out and started digging. We honestly didn't think we were going to get ourselves out of this one well not without a tractor or something to tow us - but eventually managed to reverse our way out of the mud. Actually we found it to be a good, quiet place for a couple of nights and so we stayed, right on the water's edge. I'm sure the fishermen laughed at the sight of us, all lit up with fairy lights, as of course they do not celebrate Christmas, but at least we were spared all the hype we are force-fed at home! We did manage some sunshine for a few days, although it was cold, but in the motorhome (until the sun went down) it was lovely and warm and cosy. Adrian cooked us a nice Christmas Day dinner followed by my own homemade Christmas pudding, which I had made in Bulgaria and cooked on our Kamena. In the afternoon Adrian went to help out a bloke (who spoke good English), who also got his van (Sprinter) stuck in the mud. Between them they dug him out.

After Datca we drove along the other peninsula to Selimiye, where we had stayed last year January. The amount of stray dogs in Turkey is quite incredible and we find it to be a big problem. It was no exception there! We stayed one night and continued along to Bozburun, where we had also been last year, but we realised that we hadn't seen all there was to see and it's actually a lovely quiet little place. A quaint village, attractive little bays and where lots of yachts and wooden boats were being built. Some were huge and Adrian was trying to figure out just how they manage to get them out and launch them!

Anyway we found our park up place, INSIDE an old football pitch which was right beside the water, and we had our very own little 'beach'! Can't be bad. We had a walk here along a hilly track, where we saw more boats in dry dock at another bay. Where we filled up with water, along the front, we came across a group of people who had obviously just killed a goat. It was hanging on a rope with its head lying on the ground and they were proceeding to skin it. It wasn't a very pleasant sight to see but we didn't hang around to watch them disembowel it! After lunch, as we had a lovely warm day, we decided to use our inflatable canoe for the first time. So Adrian pumped up the canoe, blew up and assembled his seat and went for his first little paddle around the bay (with a backdrop of the mosque, village and harbour) to try it out and see how it performed. He thought it was easy to use but it wasn't very good at tracking in a straight line. When he came back he put my seat in and we both went out together. I had a little paddle too - but think I need more practice! We enjoyed it anyway and when we got back we were actually able to sit outside for a while.

When we left Bozburun (back past Selimiye) we wanted to look at Turgut. We nearly got stuck in mud again, trying to get down to the beach, so decided to go a different way out, only to find our way blocked by a burst water main and having to back up a narrow road quite a long way, and then having to go back the way we came after all, through the mud yet again! Oh well, we made it anyway!

On to Koycegiz, one of our favourite lakes. Now here we had a bit of a nightmare/adventure (maybe not adventure at the time), which could easily have turned out to be a disaster! The first 2 days we were there it rained solidly, day and night, and was very cold. We stayed in the car park. There wasn't much we could do, other than go round the shops and get wet. I did some much needed chores and cleaned some of my cupboards out while Adrian proceeded to get bored! New Year's Eve was a complete wash out. We didn't plan to do much but it was different from last year, when we had watched the fireworks over Harmanli (Bulgaria) from our 'home' on the hill. It was so noisy in the 'van (with the rain) that you couldn't hear anything anyway. After that bout of rain we moved the van up to our usual spot by the lake edge, where we spent well over a week last year.

January 2012

The next 3 days were beautiful. We took our bikes off the back and cycled to the next village along, towards the mud/thermal baths. Although a very tiny village, there is a big new mosque being built there with 2 minarets. When we got back I collected wood for a fire and in the evening we roasted chestnuts on it. The following day was warm enough to sit outside and we took our canoe out on the lake. I was thinking (and wrote in my diary) that the lake got better and better. The water was so still and glassy. No two days look the same and we had some beautiful sunsets. We also cycled across the by-pass and up into the hills and round. We tried to find the liquid amber trees again but couldn't quite remember where they were, so we gave up. It was a lovely ride with lovely views over the lake. We saw a gorge but thought we would return the next day. We took the canoe out again in the afternoon together, and also on my own. It was glorious, and just so peaceful. We watched a small bat flying low around the reeds (in the daytime) and there were loads of kingfishers there, which we watched for ages (right outside our window), diving in and out for fish. A selection of different birds by the lake included egrets, various warblers, stone chats, goldfinches, grebes and many others.

The next day we went back on our bikes again to the gorge. When we couldn't cycle any further, we left our bikes and walked. We had to cross a couple of streams but we didn't get particularly far as there had been a landslide recently, which had left lots of loose shale and it had made it dangerous. Some huge boulders looked likely to come down at any time, so we made a hasty exit and made our way back just as it started to rain.

On the Friday (6th Jan) it was evil weather with heavy rain all day and it became very cold. We were getting rather disillusioned, as last year (in Feb) we had had such good weather and temperatures that were so good we had been able to swim, sunbathe and wear shorts during the day. Apparently it was the rainy season! We watched as thousands of shags flew over and settled on the lake for a while. They looked like a swirling, black cloud in the sky and upon the lake, like an oil slick. By the early evening it had become very windy, with a big storm of thunder, lightning, heavy rain and a very choppy lake. You would have thought we were by the sea if you didn't know different. We could hardly believe we were at the same place as the previous few days!

At 12.30 am we both got up as we could not sleep with all the noise of the storm, the rain, the water and wind and we really didn't like the look of the lake with 'waves' which appeared to be getting closer, so we decided we would have to go somewhere else. Now, we just happened to have our canoe (blown up), our bikes (off the back) and our generator (out of its locker, as it had been hot). We never leave things out when we are wild camping but of course, as happens, on this occasion we did ... so in the dark, in pouring rain and with thunder and lightning, poor Adrian had to somehow clear everything away before we could move! We moved (when we got off the soggy grass) into a car park (where we had been before) by the little harbour and tried to get some sleep, which was difficult, especially as there were quite a few big trees there and bits kept falling off onto our roof. The boats in the harbour were bobbing around furiously! In the morning, we could see one of the boats smashed and sunk and another damaged. The water was very high and lapping the promenade and still rising.

So on went the wellies and we went out along the front to see the damage and to walk back to the place by the lake and we realised it had been a good job we had moved! Several of the houses had flooded homes and gardens. Everyone was coming down to look, with reporters and camera men. We do like to 'people watch' and believe me we have seen some funny sights during our travels. People do the most peculiar things. After lunch, we again went to have another look and found the flooding to be even worse. It was creeping up several roads and we could no longer walk along the front, as it was too deep and dangerous with some of the manhole covers missing, leaving huge holes with swirling waters. We saw that if we had still been by the lake, we would not have been able to get out at that point!

It continued to thunder with lightning and after our tea we became concerned that the car park we were now staying on would also flood overnight, so we made the decision to move yet again, although we weren't really sure which roads we could use because of the flooding, our size and cars parked blocking our route! In the end we were just parked-up on the side of the road but away from the water, so we hoped we would be able to relax and get some sleep but also knowing that we would have to leave Koycegiz the next day as there was nowhere else for us to go (the campsite would also have been flooded) and it just would not stop raining! It was quite incredible to think that a few days ago we had been canoeing on a calm, serene lake and now we were having to leave, wondering if it would ever be quite the same again.

After a good night's sleep and waking up to sunshine again, we drove back down to the car park to have another look before we left. Once again we realised we had done the right thing, as the water had come in even further overnight and had we stayed it would have been lapping round our wheels! On went the wellies for one last look. More roads had been affected. Lots of houses were flooded, the restaurants on the beach front flooded and we couldn't get anywhere near the spot by the lake where we had originally stayed. The water was very nearly in the mosque too, at that time, and still seemed to be rising, but we left Koycegiz to struggle on with its own misfortunes whilst we drove along to the Dalyan river, which was also very high and lapping the pavements.

We had hoped to canoe on the river but obviously not a good idea in those conditions. The stray dogs in Dalyan are an absolute menace! They never seem to stop barking. We then moved on to the Iztuzu turtle beach, where we had been allowed to stay last year. Adrian wanted to get the canoe out and see if it was OK since the storm. Well it wasn't OK, as it had been hurriedly stuffed into the locker and had touched on our hot jenny, which had damaged it considerably. However, Adrian managed to patch it up (at least until we got home) and we were able to take it out on the Dalyan river, which flows into the sea there. I was glad we managed a little paddle in the canoe there, as just as we had started our dinner, we were told that we could not stay overnight as it was considered too dangerous, with all the storms/rain still around. So we hurriedly put everything away again, as he wanted to close the barriers. Luckily, Adrian had already deflated and packed away our canoe. So off we went and ended up on a roadside picnic place but it turned out to be a good spot by the water, with good views, no dogs, no wailing, not much traffic and above all no disturbances!

The next day we were back to rain all day again and very cold too. We drove through Ortaca and on to Gocek. Here we decided to get some welding done on our chassis, as it was a job that got overlooked during our time at home last year and Adrian was having to clamp the chassis together but this kept coming loose and was making an awful grinding noise. It was welded there and then at a very reasonable price.

On to Fethiye, where we managed to stock up in Kipa once more, and then down the very steep hill to Oludeniz, one of my favourite places. We were very disappointed to find that the place where we had stayed along the prom last year was all cordoned off to any and all traffic. We did wonder if the English couple who stayed there for 3 months (last year) had any bearing on this at all. Some people spoil things for everyone else! We didn't know where else to go but went along to the PTT (post office) and spoke to them and were informed that it was OK to park in their car park, which overlooks the water anyway. So this we did and we also had water and a WC. We did enquire about campsites here (2 were open) and one was 25 TL per night, the other 35 TL. We made the decision to stay put.

In the evening we walked along the front, where we could hear music. We saw a young man sitting on the wall playing some sort of an instrument (something like a xylophone, only with strings). We got chatting and he told us it was a very old Ottoman instrument which he had made. He had missed a bus to take him to Kabak and would have to wait until the morning, so meanwhile he was intending to camp on the beach. It was very cold but this didn't seem to bother him and that's what he did.

The next day we cycled along to the end of the blue lagoon and saw where we would be able to launch our canoe. We also cycled along in the opposite direction to Belcegiz. The day after we again cycled down to the end of the lagoon, this time carrying our canoe, paddles, pump and equipment (on bikes)! After inflating the canoe we (mostly Adrian) paddled all the way round the blue lagoon and round to where it meets the sea in the bay of Oludeniz. We managed to get up really close to a pair of shags on a rock, before they took flight. I had another paddle on my own here too and it was really lovely.

When we arrived back (at the PTT) we bumped into a couple that Margaret and Barry had told us about, Helen and David Homewood. They have lived in France for many, many years now. We had just been wondering when we would come into contact with them. They parked their camper in with us. They also have their travel accounts on Magbaz's website (www.magbaztravels.com). The following day they had apparently contacted a couple who rent a place nearby and asked them to visit, so we all met up for coffee. It turned out to be Maureen and Don Madge, who also appear on Magbaz's website and who are very long-term, (40 years) extensive travellers (and who we had once contacted ourselves for info). They told us that they were nearing their 80's!

We had another paddle around the lagoon in our canoe again the next day but this time we drove down to the launch place first (instead of cycling). That evening Helen and David came round for a drink and a chat before they left to go east, and we took all of our washing into Ovacik to be laundered. They give an excellent service there and it is always at a very reasonable price - washed, dried (can be ironed) and meticulously folded for 10 TL per load!

We then drove down to Gemiler beach and island, where we could have stayed for a small fee. The island is covered in ruins and we had hoped to canoe over to it but were concerned that the water might have been too rough when we got out away from the bay. It's a pretty place but we decided to go back to Oludeniz for another night.

The following day we made up some lunch, drove to the end of the lagoon again and walked to the deserted village of Kayakoy, where we had been before, by road, but not over the mountains. The path was quite well marked but it was hard going. We hadn't trekked so far in ages. It took us 4 hours in all, with lunch break and a quick look around too. We did however have stunning views over Oludeniz, Belcekiz, the lagoon, Gemiler beach and island and lots of other islands too. The path comes into Kayakoy above the village and so we were able to get into it free and, as we had been before, we only went down to the 17th century High Church, which would have once been very pretty. Lovely blue colours in the mosaic flooring and patterns made with tiny, tiny flintstones. We sat overlooking the ruins enjoying our picnic lunch. That night we spent on a large empty car park in Ovacik (quite high up) but boy was it cold up there. In the morning Adrian said that the water fountains had frozen!

Next stop was Tlos. Somewhere we had not visited before. It was also quite high there with lots of snow on the mountains and it was chilly. We had a good look round at all the ruins, which as usual were in a beautiful setting, with lovely views out to sea. Leaving there we stopped briefly at Saklikent gorge for a cup of tea (we had been before but weren't impressed), before going on to Kalkan once again. The skin diver (with his harpoon) was there again (as last year) and we parked in the same place, where Adrian also did some fishing. Lovely spot for sunsets. It was warm enough that day to get my sunbed out and we parked ourselves in the little secluded cove. It was pure heaven in the sun, listening to the crashing of the waves but which became even more ferocious the next day, with the cove being really battered by the waves and spray landing over on the other side of the lane! That evening (round our camp fire) we watched countless young men, parking up and bringing out the Efes (beer). It doesn't seem to matter what time of day it is, this is what they do and seem to treat the beer as a 'soft' drink. When finished they leave all their rubbish, including glass bottles, strewn around or they just lob the bottles into the sea! After a weekend there was quite a collection of bottles and then we saw a bloke collecting them all up. Whether he takes them back to the shop and gets money back on them, we don't know!

On to Ucagiz, where I had hoped to be able to take our canoe out again. We thought it would have been too far to try to canoe over the sunken city of Kekova but we could probably have taken it round to Kalekoy and round the sunken tomb. Alas this was not to be, as the weather was not kind to us. I don't know whether it has been unusual this winter but I do know that it was very different last year with very little rain and much warmer temperatures and I think we have seen enough rain and floods to last us a lifetime!! We paid our 10 TL for use of car park and then had to sit it out. All night it rained (with huge thunder claps) and didn't look promising in the morning either. Water was gushing off the mountains, down the road and into the harbour. We didn't hang around, but first we had to drive through the flood in order to make our way out. We looked to see if Helen and David were still camping at Cayzagi beach but there was no sign of them so we carried on, stopping at Finike for our lunch. Through the big, modern town of Kumluca and on down to Cirali beach once again. This was the third time we had been there and each time we have seen dramatic scenery with dramatic weather to match. This time was to be no different with yet more thunderstorms and we were to be charged 10 TL for the privilege, although last year was free. We would have liked to canoe round from the beach, up the river mouth into Olympos, but there was no chance of that so we went to have a look at the river (where we had crossed over last year - I had paddled) but were very disappointed to see that there would be no way over there either as it was far too deep and fast!

So another rather hasty exit and on to rainy Side and the car park overlooking the sea. The next day was better, with plenty of sunshine and no rain! We walked along the promenade to the shops. There are so many of them but you have to keep your head down or you get collared! We thought we couldn't go to Turkey without sampling their Turkish Delight, so we went in and the bloke put a mixture of them, including nutty almond ones, in a small box for which he charged 30 TL. However, we think he must have seen us coming, as apart from being expensive, none of it was very nice! Oh well, we'll know for next time!! We then walked around much of the ruins, which are spread out over quite a large area. After our lunch we drove up to Manavgat hoping to see the waterfall, but the river had flooded and that was all we saw. What a year for floods! Not far from there were some ruins at Seleukeia in Pamphylia. The road up the hillside became increasingly worse and as usual we nearly came unstuck, so we had to reverse back down a little way and managed to turn around and park, but after this the rest of the way was all on foot. Anyway when we did get there we saw a large market hall and bath house, and many other buildings, all on a hillside, among the pine trees, overlooking the sea. At least it was worth the effort.

Side was as far east as we decided to go this time and so from there onwards we started tracking west again. It was a gorgeous day and I had wanted to spend the weekend at the Koprulu Kanyon once again, as we had liked it so much last year. It still lived up to my expectations and we really enjoyed our time there but it wasn't quite like last year because of the amount of rain they had had. The river wasn't quite the colour it had been before and the weather wasn't very warm either! No blossom or spring flowers just yet. We came to a section where there had been a landslide recently and we did not think we could get through. We needed to move over to a sheer drop (my side) with a fast flowing river below. A truck came along and we were going to back up and let him go but he just kept saying 'go on', 'go on'! It's all very well for other people, they are not driving our motorhome and we are even slightly wider than coaches. So I got out to see exactly where the wheels would come, without scraping the van with the huge rocks and bolders on the other side. We just about made it! Anyway when we arrived at the canyon we decided to try and drive up to the Selge ruins. So we climbed and climbed (with hairpin bends), in ever more dramatic scenery, reminiscent I thought, of Skippers Canyon in NZ. Snow capped mountains, massive boulder and rock formations, a valley of Cypress trees and the river below. Just before we got there, we had to open a gate, presumably to keep the animals in and as we climbed the last section we saw children waving frantically. By the time we had parked and got out, there were women and children all over us, trying to get money out of us and in return be our guides! Adrian gave the young lads a couple of Lire to look after our van but the women insisted on escorting us to the ruins and trying to tell us about them in well-rehearsed English phrases. They started to take items out of their bags but Adrian very firmly told them 'No'. They insisted they had no money! Eventually we were left on our own to wander around the huge theatre. It had all been worth it - a fabulous theatre, with fabulous views over the fertile valley and backed by snow-capped mountains. It was beautiful, peaceful and quiet, but cold!

Afterwards we drove back down as far as the old Ottoman Bridge over the canyon, where we found a place suitable to park up beside the raging river, which we were able to listen to over the next 2 nights and it was lovely and quiet! We were glad we had driven up to Selge (Altinkaya), as the following day we tried to hike there, by means of parts of an old Roman road but after about an hour and down by the river we found that there was no way we would be able to cross the river. You could see how badly flooded it had recently been, with trees and litter everywhere. Some huge logs were actually lodged high up in other trees! So where the path went to, we didn't know but it is going to take a long time to reinstate a way across again. Well we had our picnic lunch on the rocks there and walked back. We had walked for three and a half hours anyway, so we had had a good bit of exercise! On the way back, we witnessed the phenomenon of lots of water gushing out of and under the rocks and cliff face into the canyon, which was creating waterfalls, along a huge section of the river. It was quite strange to see! When we got back, later in the afternoon, Adrian got his line out again for a spot of fishing, but alas wasn't able to catch our dinner again, not just yet anyway!

February 2012

On to Aspendos but it was cold and raining a little at this time and the chap there wanted 10 TL to park our motor and another 15 TL each for entry, so we didn't stop. We had then intended going down to Lara beach, 10 km east of Antalya, but we got a bit lost in the city and maybe should have turned off towards Havilman airport but didn't. Not having satellite navigation, it became difficult and so we just wanted to get out of the city, which we did and continued on to the next place of interest which was Termessos.

Just before we arrived we had chatted to an English-speaking Turk, who informed us that we would be able to free park at Termessos overnight in order that we would then have a whole day looking round the ruins, but they would NOT let us stay and although we found a 'campsite' nearby, they were charging 20 TL per night and so we declined. We went along to the Karain caves, where we had been able to stay last year, but once again they would not let us stay there either. So in the end we parked up beside the local football pitch without any problems (apart from a very loud mosque too close for comfort)!

So back to Termessos in the morning. We weren't too sure what the weather's intentions were but thought we would go for it and hope it didn't rain, as we knew there would be a lot of walking to do. We drove to the gates of the National Park where we were charged 10 TL (in total), which we both considered to be excellent value for money. We had a really, really good day and the weather was kind with no rain and plenty of sunshine in the morning. If only the temperature had been a bit warmer, but of course we were quite high. From the gates you drive another 9 km up a steep, twisty road. From then on it's all on foot, starting with a 20 minute walk. We found it to be bitterly cold, especially the wind, so we got well wrapped up against the elements with hat and gloves on the whole day. There is an agora, several temples, rock tombs, gymnasiums, a colonnaded street and 2 necropoli (1 high up and 3 km from car park). The huge amphitheatre is simply splendid, situated in a beautiful setting, overlooking the mountains and valley. For scenery, I would put this on a par with Selge, but still think that Delphi (in Greece) has the edge! This is where we sat and ate our picnic lunch, trying to imagine what would have been happening below! We were on our own, apart from 3 Irish people, that is until a coach party turned up but they didn't hang around long. We also climbed up to the Necropolis, with huge Sarcophagi, some with very distinct reliefs depicting lions etc, and we saw the Tomb of Alcetas (a successor general of Alexander the Great). It was all very interesting but we don't understand why they chose a location so high up in the mountains! It must have been a massive feat to provide for the rich people living in the city! Anyway, it was back to the local football pitch again that night, which turned out to be a very, very cold one!

We made the decision to go inland as far as Korkuteli and across via Elmali, as our journey back down to Finike on the coast. All of the route we took that day was very, very cold. At Korkuteli, which looked a big nice town, we were unable to find anywhere to park so we then took the road to Elmali. The first section of road was awful, as road works were in progress, so it was very slow going and we were wondering if we had made a bad choice and whether the road was to be like that all the way! Generally, however, it was good, so then we made progress but we had a very long climb (up at 1290 m) out of Korkuteli and we became nearer and nearer to the snow, until it was beside us (although not on roads). The terrain was very bleak and treeless and reminded me of coming over the snowy mountains into Death Valley in USA. We stopped at Elmali for a few things and had a quick look round but it was so perishing with a bitterly cold wind that we had no desire to stop any longer. We had our lunch amongst the snow, but in our warm motorhome, with the sun which shone all day, and it was very pleasant indeed. After this it was all downhill and we passed through a reservoir, which looked a very nice place with lots of herons but too cold to stay and so down eventually to the little port of Finike. This port was quite pleasant, with lots going on, but as the weather was so cold and it became the noisiest night so far (over the last 6 weeks) we left the following day.

We drove on to Demre (we had been before), where we parked up along the beach and had a couple of nights listening to the waves once again, though why dustmen have to come along at 2.30 am to empty bins, we do not know and there is definitely the usual problem with stray dogs there. We went into the town in the morning, which was market day, and managed to find a big car park suitable for us, so we had a good look round the market and shops and also walked along to Myra but did not go in. Many rock tombs there, which basically you could see from the road. So just a snap or two there and then we were back down at Ucagiz yet again.

It had promised to be a good weekend's weather so we were determined to get our canoe out on the water this time! We had a look at the dirt road that takes you along to the castle and village of Simena and decided we would be able to drive along it. So this is what we did but much to our dismay we found that at the end of the road (near the castle) the area had been turned into a boat yard, which was now full of boats in dry dock, being repaired for the summer season, with no space at all for us to camp on! Last year there was absolutely nothing there and we had thought we would have a lovely peaceful weekend where we could launch our canoe but alas this was not meant to be! At least not there.

So in the end we parked up on the car park in the village square of Ucagiz for 3 nights (10 TL per night). It is always very busy here in the daytime, with lots of coaches coming and going, but once they have all gone, it goes completely dead and quiet (that is apart from the many dogs and cockerels and also the 6 am wailing from the Mosque!) Adrian pumped our canoe up and we took it out for a little try. We also met a very interesting couple in a yacht, who invited us round for their so-called 'happy hour'. They had sailed from New Zealand in their 39 ft yacht, which they had lived on for the past 8 years! They had lots of stories to tell.

Anyway the next day was beautiful and so we packed our lunch and got everything ready for us to go out canoeing for the day. We managed to get right round to Simena and found a little island beach/bay where we pulled in to eat our lunch. After paddling across to Simena we had hoped to clamber up to a look-out platform above the village but it is such a strange place (only reached by boat) with no roads, just alleyways running between the dwellings/cafes/restaurants on a hillside (only open in summer) and we were unable to find a path that took us up to it, so we gave that up and then paddled back round to the boat yard, which we had driven along to the day before. Adrian got out to stretch his legs and give his aching back a rest while I had a little paddle on my own. There was a big yacht which had sunk there. I had really wanted to go over to Kekova and see the 'sunken city' but it was just a step too far and we would have had to cross a section of sea which may have been difficult, especially with the wakes from other boats passing. We made it back safely anyway and had had a really enjoyable day out. We also explored the ruins near us on foot and watched the sunset over the water and mountains. Lovely. The next afternoon Chris and Desiree (from their Skylark yacht) came round for a chat, which was very nice. We exchanged books. They were staying in the little marina for 6 months. More heavy rain and strong winds were forecast for that night, so we were informed by Chris. So that made a change!

Oh dear, we were warned, weren't we! Around 4 am we were woken by a spectacular, violent storm, with hail and rain lashing down in sheets, massive thunder claps and lightning more vivid than I can ever remember before! It was very windy too and neither of us could sleep but we did go back to bed at about 4.30 (and there were no floods then) but not long after, I heard someone shouting quite a lot (but no-one knocked on our door and we were beside the coast guards). So I got up and looked out and realized that we were once again under several inches of muddy water. A torrent of water from the hills and mountains was gushing down the road and into the harbour but was much worse than last time, as we were surrounded and I was beginning to panic at this stage! There were lots of cars parked beside us which filled with water but I don't understand why they didn't come along and move them. Anyway, I shouted to Adrian that we must move. So we quickly got ready, hoping that we would be able to get out through the flood. We managed this and were soon on higher ground, safe and dry. We were so glad that we had put everything away that night, especially the canoe (which we had left out the previous night) or we think it would almost certainly have floated out to sea! When we drove to the top of the hill it all went really quiet.

In the morning we walked back into the village but before we could get there we were collared by a local Turkish man (who spoke very good English), who insisted we visit his house for tea and a chat. So this we did. It was interesting. They also had a young American girl staying with them, who was backpacking everywhere on her own. She told us that she had been robbed at gunpoint in Guatemala, but it didn't seem to have put her off! Anyway, the car park square was in quite a mess and the cars that had been parked there were now being bailed out! We went to see how Chris and Desiree had got on overnight, but I guess they are used to stormy seas. We chatted and said our goodbyes and set off once again.

Next stop was Kas but all it wanted to do was rain and thunder! This had become a difficult place to stay, as they had roped off the area at the harbour where we stayed last year but we stayed on a large scrappy car park for a couple of nights. At least it was near enough to the town to be able to walk into it in the evenings but the downside was the huge mosque which was virtually beside us!

Later on we found a good spot (on the peninsula) with beach and views over to the Greek island of Meis on one side of the road and a bay on the other, where they train to scuba dive and also train dolphins (although sadly they were caged in a very small enclosure). It looks as if you are able to swim with them in the summer time. There were bananas growing beside us there. Unfortunately some strange geezer decided to knock on our door at 6 am in the morning, telling us we must move as it was dangerous there because the sea comes right over the road to where we were parked. Now with all the trouble with floods we had had, we did not want to chance it so we moved further up the hill into a lay-by. Adrian had said that he thought he was drunk and then we saw him with a fire on the beach! We were not amused. However, the next day he came and apologised, so we don't know what on earth that was all about!

The weather was good for a change and we did manage to take our canoe out for a paddle round the bay, even though it was actually quite choppy, but when we got over to where the dolphins were we were waved away! After lunch we sat on the beach. We were going to go back to the car park again but then saw that was the place where they hold the market! We did not get disturbed that night. In the morning, we had intended to leave Kas. Adrian went off to do a spot of fishing while I got ready to go, but then he came back to say he had got his hook entangled in the rope line which goes across the bay. So he said he would have to swim out to untangle it. The water was very cold and he was unable to do the job, so he decided he would have to go out with the canoe. So in the end we spent the whole morning canoeing around the bay again but even the marina seemed to be 'off limits'! As soon as you get anywhere near any boats someone appears on the dockside, almost as if they think we have just canoed over from the Greek island of Meis (nearby) and are some sort of threat! Anyway Adrian retrieved his hook and after lunch we drove along to Kalkan once again.

It was here we learned of the terrible tragedy that had occurred in the village of Biser, just 5 miles from our property in Bulgaria. A dam wall had collapsed, sending a wall of water, 2.5 meters high, through the village, tossing cars aside, uprooting trees and demolishing buildings. Worse was the loss of life of some 12 people, with about 15 missing. It would seem that cracks in the dam wall had been known about since 2003! What's more there were 2 more even bigger dammed reservoirs, further away, which were threatening to overflow because of all the rain and melting snow they had had this winter. There were reports that these could affect both Greece and Turkey if they were to burst. The Sakar Hills campsite and the family who own it were all safe. They were lucky as they are on the outskirts of the village and not down near the river. It is going to take a lot of time and hard work to restore Biser to normal. It seemed that most of Europe was having adverse weather conditions this year!

At Kalkan we had a very disturbed Saturday night. We think they may have been celebrating the start of their new year? The youngsters were having their usual 'good time party' with fires and Efes beer and music etc. A group of them gathered right behind our van, getting louder, noisier and more and more drunk by the second, with cars and motorbikes/scooters racing up and down, screeching their tyres and making a general nuisance of themselves! Adrian slept through everything, how I'll never know, but I was becoming quite concerned for our safety. When you can't see what's going on or understand what they are saying it gets a bit worrying. They always throw their glass bottles down just where they stand. There was so much glass lying around. I could smell smoke like tyres being burnt. Then someone on a scooter came flying along and must have lost control. What actually happened we don't know but he smashed his face up badly and also his bike. Of course they don't wear helmets and obviously drink and drive! The police came along at about 2.15 am and also the ambulance and he was then taken off to a hospital in Fethiye. In the morning, we saw all the evidence and bits of bike around and the fire (still burning) in the middle of the road, which had tyres on the top burning. Several people came up to look and also to look for his phone that he had lost. Will they never learn? I suppose we were all young once though! We noticed that there are never any girls at these drinking sessions and boys will be boys!

After our lunch we drove up to Bezirgan, which we can imagine would be pretty in the spring with all the trees in blossom and the poppies in the valley plain. It was certainly a world away from Kalkan. We had hoped to walk to some of the ruins of Pirha but didn't realise just how far away they were and we didn't think there was much left to see either, all among the prickly holly bushes, on the mountainside, so we returned to look at lots of very old, very well constructed, wooden grain stores which we found very interesting, although at the time we were unaware what they had been used for. It was very cold up there, so we decided to return to Kalkan, only this time taking up residence on a car park above the town (with good views) hoping not to get disturbed by local drunken youngsters!

We went back down to our usual spot in the morning though, as it was a lovely day, although very windy, where we spent most of the day in the sun at the little sheltered cove there. Adrian decided to try his luck at a spot of fishing again and sure enough he got a bite. He called to me that he had caught something, so I went over to look and he had finally managed to catch us some dinner! A black bream dinner, we believe, which was different and certainly made a change. He was so chuffed! I was just thinking of having a fire, as there was plenty of wood about, when we were surprised by a visit from Helen and David, who had finally got to Kalkan and were parked in the car park. So we drove back up the top for the night but it wasn't such a quiet night that time. We had plenty of rain overnight and a strange sky in the morning. It was a bit like a tornado, with several 'funnels' out on the horizon. Looking through binoculars, you could clearly see 'vapours' or some such thing swirling up, down and around the edges. It was quite a phenomenon.

Anyway we said goodbye to Helen and David and, after doing some shopping, we had barely left Kalkan when on a steep hill our motorhome decided it wasn't going to go any further! It just stopped, on the busy D400. As this has happened before, we left it a while and tried again but this time it would not start again. Absolutely nothing! Adrian had just about decided that it might have been the starter motor, when a bloke in a lorry, going in the opposite direction, stopped to see if we needed any help. As soon as he realised we had a problem he got straight on his phone and in next to no time a mechanic turned up and after a while agreed with Adrian that the problem was indeed our starter motor, which had two loose bolts and one missing. So he took it off and drove off with it to get it sorted with the necessary repairs. He was gone a while so in the meantime we had lunch, there on the side of the road, with hazard lights on and with our red triangle placed behind the motorhome. We've had our lunch in some funny places! We half expected to see Helen and David driving by, thinking, well they haven't got very far! The mechanic returned and fitted the motor and all went well again. What's more, it only cost us 50 TL (less than 20)!

So after a bad (and slow) start to the day we arrived at Patara but I have to say that we were not very impressed here. What you are paying for is the beach, which is a lovely spot, but what if you only wanted to go to the ruins - and I already knew (from last year) that they would not let us stay overnight. The gates had been moved further out since last year and there was no plan or indication of how much time you needed, only a leaflet which told us absolutely nothing. Nothing was marked to say what it was or which route to take among the ruins, and yet in the museum (which was locked) we could see all the information that would have been needed! We found them most unhelpful and, at 5 TL each, it was more than we paid at the Unesco Heritage site at Xanthos the next day, which was far better! We parked up in the village that night, which was not too noisy (apart from a very loud mosque very close by), but the village itself, as we discovered in the morning, was very, very scruffy and mostly derelict.

So on to Xanthos, which was 3 TL each and which had a detailed plan at the gate. We looked around at the very nice colonnaded street, a church and the basilica. My only gripe here was that all the mosaic floors had been covered up, due to restoration. We also clambered up the hillside to see all the rock tombs and sarcophagi in the necropolis. After our lunch we looked at the theatre, agora, piazza, temple and yet more tombs etc. There were lots of pretty, colourful anemones here and swarms of bees going about their business! Spring was on the way. We wanted to get down to a castle, by a river mouth and beach for the night but after going round in circles, in among the plastic greenhouses for ages, when we did eventually find it, it was no good as it had been badly flooded and dredged and would have been too risky! So we then had to find our way out again and believe me, once you get in the 'plastic city' I don't think you are meant to get out again! By this time it was getting dark, so we had to make do with a night beside a busy/noisy road and it was back to listening to thunder and lightning and the rain once more!

The sun made a very welcome appearance in the morning (for a while at least) and we saw that our camping spot was in fact not a bad place if we moved over a bit further. There were lovely views over the snow-capped mountains, in among pleasant fir trees, so we came back again that evening for another night. Meantime, as we didn't see the ruins of Letoon (we could see they were very flooded), we decided instead to drive just over the road and up to Pinara. You have to go up a steep, twisty hill, which turns into a dirt track. We tried and got about half way (Adrian even had to get out and saw some of the bushes down) but, due to all the rain we had had, there were some deep gullies and some very muddy sections too, so we had to back down a little way, leave the van and walk the rest.

When we arrived a sign read '8 TL each', which was far more than in our book and the most expensive so far, but fortunately we were told that day would be free, so we weren't complaining, apart from the not very good weather! We had a really good day here, even though much of the ruins were almost non-existent, but we did see the acropolis, agora and temples etc. There is a smallish theatre (not in good condition), lots of rock tombs and some sarcophagi, but the main thing you notice as soon as you arrive are the honeycombed tombs high up in a huge rocky outcrop. It would have taken a great deal of climbing to see any of them and there must have been hundreds. They seemed in a very odd place! We had a picnic lunch, high up with lovely views. The paths, as usual, were not well marked and it would have been very easy to lose yourself. We did find it quite difficult but all in all it was a lovely walk, which takes you down by the river with huge boulders to clamber over but an enjoyable day. We drove back down to stay at the same spot as the previous night.

On to Fethiye, after yet another night of pouring rain and more thunderstorms. It had become very cold in the early hours and although the next day was mostly sunny, it was also very cold. So very different last year! Lots more snow on mountain tops appeared overnight and for some unknown reason we drove past lots of chunks of hard snow on the main road. We didn't know how they had come to be there. We stopped and shopped and had our lunch at Kipa and then continued on to the marinas, driving along the peninsula looking for somewhere to stay. This proved difficult and we nearly left Fethiye but then found a small place (fairly near town) by a cafe and some boats. It was bitterly cold! However, this proved to be a good place to stay for the weekend as it was actually very quiet - no wailing, no dogs and no youngsters with their Efes! There was even a tap.

We walked into the town the next day, admiring all the expensive yachts and the scenery of blue skies, blue water and snow capped mountains. We had our lunch out and also visited a big fruit/veg and fish market, where we purchased some salmon. Later on when we got back to our motorhome Adrian pumped the canoe up again and we paddled all around the boats, cruisers and yachts in and around the bays. Very cold nights and daytime too, at that time, mid-February. The following day was very cold too, but lovely and sunny and getting slightly warmer.

We left Fethiye for Ovacik, where once again we took in bags and bags of washing to be laundered and after some lunch drove down to Oludeniz, had a walk along the prom, watching the paragliders, then sat on the beach for the rest of the afternoon. The water was as blue/turquoise as ever! That evening/night an annoying dog kept us awake with his barking so we drove along to the end of the road by the lagoon, hoping this would be a quieter spot. Adrian got our canoe out and went out on his own a while and then I did the same. After our lunch we went for a walk along the track but not very far and when we got back we sat in the sun beside the lagoon. Before tea we both had another paddle. It was gorgeous, very calm and still and so clear you could see through the water down to the bottom. This was another good, enjoyable day and, as it happens, we had a good night - just the cockerels to contend with basically (no wailing), so we decided to stay another night.

We took a packed lunch in the morning and walked the rest of the track that we had started to walk the day before. We couldn't really get down to a beach we could see but, after scrambling around rocks and undergrowth a bit, Adrian found us a nice spot on rocks where we ate our lunch and then sunbathed most of the afternoon. It was an idyllic place with only the sound of the water and the occasional birds breaking the silence. No-one was around in the area. It was a sort of gorge and the colour and clearness of the water made it hard to leave, but when we did get back I took the canoe out on my own and managed to paddle right across the blue lagoon to the beach on the other side and round the corner where it meets up with the sea. It's further than you think but most enjoyable all the same as the water was like glass, with hardly a ripple, almost all the way across and back again.

We left the lagoon and as we arrived at the PTT (Post Office) we saw a camper just coming out of the car park and realised it was Helen and David, so we stopped and chatted, then both drove up to Ovacik, as they too were about to collect their laundry. We said our goodbyes here, as they were off back to Antalya for Helen to take a flight to the UK. We then drove into Fethiye, where we once again shopped in Kipa supermarket, then on to Gocek again. Although we had no sunshine that day and it was cooler, at least it didn't rain, unlike the last time we were there!

On to Koycegiz and a beautiful day's sunshine. We were unsure quite what to expect, after all the floods of the last time we were there, unsure whether we would still be able to park up in the same place. We parked in the car park first, as Adrian wanted his computer fixed so he would also be able to use our 'Vinn' dongle, as our month was nearly up and we had only used a fraction of the 4 gigabytes that we had paid for. We went round the town while they were fixing it but they were still working on it when we got back and must have spent at least another 30 minutes on it, then after they had finished they said they didn't want anything for it! We had to insist they took 10 Lira anyway. They were so obliging. They had spent ages on my laptop last time we were there, also at a very minimal cost. We were very pleased customers!

We were also pleased to find that we could then park up by the lake again. It was rather messy from the floods with so much rubbish lying around, but at least the ground was hard enough for us. In fact from most of what we saw you wouldn't really know there had been a flood at all! All the cafes and restaurants etc were up and running. We were remembering why we liked it so much here, as it was as beautiful as ever. Very calm and just like glass. However, we also remembered just how quickly it can change, as after lunch the wind whipped up and the lake became very choppy, with 'waves' more like the sea again. The wind made it chilly but we were still able to sit outside all afternoon. It was just lovely!

The next day was also beautiful. Adrian took the canoe out first thing, as it was very still, and we then went all around Koycegiz centre on our cycles and saw just how much damage the floods had done at the other end of town, where there was a campsite (now up for sale) and a beach but this was now all silted up due to the amount of water that had come off the mountains into the lake. We also saw that an English couple who we had met last year had their house up for sale. We had our lunch outside beside the lake and I then took our canoe out myself, along the front to the little harbour and back, although the wind got up again, which made it difficult. Then we sat outside and sunbathed for the rest of the afternoon, listening to the lapping of the lake and a loud chorus of croaking frogs! Basically, we did much the same all weekend as the weather was so nice for a change!

So plenty of canoeing, cycling, walking and sunbathing too. Adrian saw the chap we had met last year, with his house up for sale, so they had a chat and it seems that they are having another house built for them nearby. We learnt from him that the youngsters who have huge flags draped over their cars are about to do their Conscription in the Army and that the procession in cars, which we saw one evening, where they hoot and toot and bang the drums as they drive round town, are all about young 12 year old boys ready for their circumcision! Ouch! Later on, some of the locals, drinking and eating behind our van, insisted Adrian was to join them for a drink. Apparently most of them were teachers and yet not one of them could speak English, so needless to say it was difficult for any of them to make conversation but they certainly knew how to ply Adrian with plenty of Raki! We just don't understand their culture of all the men congregating together drinking etc, yet never are any of their wives (or any women) anywhere to be seen!

We had decided to go along to the Sultaniye baths again, once we left Koycegiz, but during the Sunday night we again had torrential rain and thunderstorms. We were beginning to fear a repeat of our last time there (in the floods) but we didn't float away! However, it was very rainy in the morning too and I had acquired a nasty cold from somewhere, so we changed our plans. We drove down to the car park and managed to post our eldest grandson's 18th birthday card to Australia and also obtained another of the international phone cards. It was Monday market day, so we had a look, but it was mainly clothes that day, maybe because of the foul weather, and after buying a hot chicken (pilic) we drove off along to Gekova (Akyaka) where we had our lunch. We decided to stay the night (no charge) and what with the rain and my cold, I didn't venture out again. It turned cold again and we didn't get much sleep that night either, as we had yet more violent thunderstorms and heavy rain. As we were close to a river, I couldn't help worrying it might flood! I was becoming paranoid! It was just so changeable!

The following day we drove over the Sakar Pass (such a climb here) and up to Mugla, where we had our lunch in a Kipa car park and re-stocked again. It was absolutely freezing and sleeting too. In fact we had gone from 19-20 degrees (2 days ago) to 5 degrees! We had a change of plan again here, as we had intended to go inland to Afrodisias and Pamukkale but as it was so cold we thought better of it! So on through Yatagan and Milas and up to Bafa Lake once more.

This place also had been quite badly flooded and we were unable to park at the beach where we had hoped, so we ended up at the Agora again. Although we were not charged at the top of the road, as last time, a Turkish lady wanted 5 TL from us to park. Adrian haggled and got it for 3 TL. A bitingly cold wind and I doubt it would actually have been any colder had we ventured inland! Anyway at least the scops owls were still about. One perched up on the chimney and we briefly saw another land on the ground right in front of us as we sat in our motorhome! We then had an extremely cold night and day (plenty of ice around), which thwarted our plans yet again! I would have liked to canoe over to the little island with the ruins which would not have been far at all but it was just so cold, especially the wind, and as I was still suffering the after effects of my heavy cold, I thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea! We just had a short walk down to the beach area and round and before we left we saw the pair of owls flying out from the barn. There was a pair nesting in March last year, so I guess they were getting ready to pair up again.

After lunch we drove on to Soke, then Kusadasi where we had hoped to park at the harbour or marina, but after driving all along the front and up to Pigeon Island we could not find anywhere to stop, apart from a car parking area up the hill, which we thought would be noisy. So we continued on to Efesus and, believe it or not, we parked up beside the cemetery again (as we did last year, when we were moved along from Pamucak beach by the Jandarma)! Noisy traffic there and it's impossible to get away from dogs in Turkey, but at least we weren't disturbed by our neighbours in the graveyard!

March 2012

Another very, very cold night (and day) but without disturbance, that is apart from the traffic! We were approached by some chap, who wanted us to go and see his collection of artefacts from the ruins at Efesus, which he claimed he was allowed to keep if they were small pieces and that he had a friend who helps himself to suitcase loads of items to take home! When asked what the Jandarma would have to say about that, he said that they did not care! His offer for us to purchase 'old' coins was rejected by us and he drove off. Adrian had read a piece in our Lonely Planet guide book (which was just as well), which said we may be asked to buy 'ancient' coins which, despite their grimy appearance, were actually modern. Some genius had discovered that when coins passed through the digestive tract of a sheep or cow, they emerged looking convincingly 'aged'! Anyway we drove along to Efesus, hoping we might be able to see something of interest from the road and to see their prices: 20 TL each, which enabled you to see SOME of the ruins. We couldn't see much from the road but did not enter either.

On this occasion we drove along the coast road, which we had not been on before, but we were quite disappointed with the scenery and the numerous holiday destinations, although we did stop for our lunch at a nice viewing point over the sea and islands. However, we did find a very nice spot to park up at Sigacik, but I just wished it had been warmer, although we did have some much needed sunshine. There is a quaint little harbour and a marina too, inside crumbling medieval walls. Plenty of activity, with yachts coming and going and many fishermen using various different methods to catch their fish. It's quite shallow there and we watched one fisherman wading around in the water for hours with his nets, shell-fishing we presumed, while others were catching octopus. We were camped right beside a cemetery again, would you believe! This place was very quiet, sheltered from the wind, lovely views and with so much wood about, you could have had bonfires for a week! We sat out in the glorious sunshine the following afternoon but did not get our canoe out as Adrian was, by then, also suffering with the cold. We watched the sun setting that evening and made a little fire.

In the end we stayed for 4 nights and did manage to take our canoe out on the last day, plus a short cycle ride into town, and yet another fire. In the town we saw fishermen unloading their catch. Some huge black fish, maybe swordfish or marlin? As I mentioned, the water there was very shallow in places and was also very clear but a fierce, biting wind made the water choppy, apart from a small area where we were camped, which was lovely for sunbathing, fishing and watching the yachts and fishing boats go by. There were several very small rowing boats ferrying people to and from their yachts anchored up just off shore but they seemed to us to be very overloaded and low in the water. One of them had 7 people on board and looked about to sink at any moment! Whilst we were in our canoe, we were asked to retrieve an oar that had gone overboard from one of the yachts. We managed to do so. All in all, we had a thoroughly good 4 days in a very nice place, which will be chalked up for a return visit anytime we are back in Turkey.

The weather turned again and we left lovely Sigacik to its fishermen. On still, calm water, one fisherman was snorkelling and harpooning his octopus catch, probably for the restaurant by us. We decided not to go to Cesme in the end, so headed off for Izmir. One of these days we will get the motorway correct, driving round the city there, but trying to follow our ridiculous maps (and of course without Satnav) it can become a bit of a nightmare! We got on the motorway OK with the toll ticket, which we had bought on our way down to Turkey (before Christmas), still valid but somehow we found the motorway came to an end, with us in the middle of Izmir! We followed the road along the front, past all the various harbour areas, and it did seem to go on forever but we did find our way out again eventually and without getting stuck. We breathed a sigh of relief.

So on to Menemen and west to Foca once again, where we parked in the same place as last year - by the harbour - in a small car park. By tea time it had started raining and we didn't venture out again that day. It rained all night and was very noisy with packs of stray dogs barking wildly, and the wailing at 5 am didn't help much at all either! However, after a very dull start to the next day, we did actually have a rather nice afternoon and evening. A very big Tuesday market on that day and we spent most of the day walking around the area and also the shops, marinas, harbours, docks and small beach area. The water was very calm and inviting for a canoe paddle but we didn't launch it in the harbour that day. A lovely sunset but the dogs had become a big problem there this year and so we moved the motorhome just up the hill (by the lighthouse) and down to the little beach area.

We dragged ourselves away from Foca on another glorious day and took the road round the peninsula to Yeni Foca (as we also did last year). This is a beautiful drive with pretty little bays, until you get past Yeni Foca, that is, where the last section of road has power stations, wind turbines and a thick smog in the air! We carried on through Aliaga and northwest to Candarli, where we had our lunch on the beach front, another very pleasant place. We carried on to Dikili (we hadn't been before) which is quite a big town and here we found a Kipa store so we stocked up.

Northwest again (before Ayvalik) to near Kucukkoy (otherwise known as Sarimsakli or Garlic Beach) and to the top of a hill at Seytan Sofrasi, where all the coaches go to take visitors to see the sunset and views over Lesvos (Greek) and many, many other islands too. You certainly get panoramic views from up there. We cooked and ate our dinner but unfortunately by this time there was no sun, so obviously we did not see a sunset on this occasion, which was a pity. Anyway we drove back down the hill and found a nice place to park up beside a sort of lake with lots of pink flamingos feeding on it. It was a lovely warm evening for a change! It was dark by then but in the morning we watched. They do a funny sort of dance by shuffling backwards, digging their feet around to stir up food and of course also burying their heads underwater. The sounds they make are very similar to geese. We also saw some flying back and forth, displaying the beautiful red colours of their wings. One pair briefly entwined their necks in a courting ritual, I suppose. There were also herons and avocets. The morning was very still and calm, although later we had rain.

We left Ayvalik and drove on and up to Burhaniye and Edremit (Kipa supermarkets in both these towns, which are part of the Tesco chain), then turned off west, along to Behramkale, still following along the edge of the water, which was still very calm and you could barely see the 'join' between sea and sky! Although we had been to Behramkale briefly last year, we found we had not actually been to Assos, so we took the lane down which was very narrow and steep. It became too narrow for us, so we parked up, had a very brief look and as it was raining returned half way up the hill, to an area which said 'Camping'. We thought it would just have to do, as it was getting late by then. There didn't seem to be anyone about but, as is usually the case, someone appeared and asked us for 15 TL. We offered him 10 TL and he seemed happy enough. After our tea and before dark descended we wandered down to the quaint little 'village' of Assos and the lovely harbour. It was a pity we didn't have better weather but at least it had stopped raining. Several nice old Greek style buildings, mostly hotels and restaurants and a tiny beach. We walked along the harbour wall, beside the fishing boats and the very clear water. As the lights came on in the hotels, it all looked very pretty. From where we were camped we had views over the Greek island of Lesvos.

Back in Bulgaria

March 2012

The next day was our grandson's 18th birthday, Down Under in Perth. I can't believe he has already made it to that milestone! He and his girlfriend are planning a 'gap year' travelling and hope to come to the UK and also to Bulgaria over the coming months. We phoned (on a particularly cold day) and spoke to him and our daughter (who complained it was too hot there!), then continued our journey out of Turkey, into Greece, then out of Greece and into Bulgaria.

We had no problems with the border crossings and there was now little evidence of the awful winter and tragic flooding, which they had endured just 4 weeks prior. We drove past Biser but didn't stop to see for ourselves the damage caused, at that time. We managed to get our motorhome down the lane onto our property above Harmanli once again. The weather was dry on this occasion and we were so pleased that nothing had been touched at our place and that everything appeared to be just the way we had left it a week before Christmas!

So, it was onwards and upwards over the next couple of months, trying to get as much as possible done to our building before we returned to the UK for our 'summer' once again! We had a very cold night and a cold, dull, miserable day too, but at least it was dry! Adrian got our car going, after cleaning the plugs, and we found our well full of water which we were very grateful for, as before we left (last Christmas) we were getting very concerned that we did not have enough water for our needs. We had virtually no rain for the next 3 months! Unfortunately Adrian found that our water pump was broken, which may have been caused by the extreme winter temperatures freezing/thawing a small amount of water left in it.

After our lunch, we had to purchase a vignette for our car and so we decided we would go and see Matt (at Sakar Hills campsite) and the village of Biser. The couple who were staying in his flat whilst buying a property were still there and I think the winter had come as a bit of a shock to them. It was the worst winter for 60 years apparently! We had noticed in Harmanli that the Lidl store was closed (it had only opened last year) and Matt told us that both Lidl and Billa supermarkets had been flooded out and a restaurant down by the Maritsa river too. In all 4 villages had been affected but not quite as badly as Biser. There were police outside Matt's place, who were apparently there all day, every day, to make sure there were no gypsies going into the village to ransack any properties of their possessions!

We walked down and it was such a sight but of course must have been far worse a month ago! Whole houses had either been washed away or knocked down as unsafe. We were shocked to see that a place we had looked at a couple of times with a view to buying was no longer there at all! So we were lucky but not so the unfortunate people who lost their lives there (Matt said it stood at 12). People were out clearing and burning and generally trying to resume some sort of normality. At the river you could see just how high the water had come. Some of the tree branches had become trapped very high up under the bridge. In fact a large area of Biser looked more like a war zone than a sleepy village. It must have been terrifying and devastating. I don't know how they coped, as the temperatures were so low for several weeks (with plenty of snow) below freezing in the daytime and it went down to -28C one night! They also had to endure a period of time without electricity or water. The Bulgarians are certainly very resilient people.

Adrian spent almost the entire next day trying to mend our water pump. It was that or buy a new one and we were becoming desperate for water (even though there was plenty in the well) but he knew he would not be able to get what he wanted and our pump had been a new one only last year. He managed in the end to get it up and running (if rather noisily) and we were able to fill the water tank in our motorhome. Unfortunately, he also found that the pipes in the 'chalet' had all frozen and burst again, which didn't matter too much as we were staying in our motorhome but we were in dire need of some clean washing! However, he was able to hook the washing machine up to our hose and later we were able to use it OK.

The weather there at that time was very, very changeable. We had 3 very cold days, then the following day we were basking in very warm sunshine but the next day we couldn't believe, as it was back to freezing temperatures and settling snow again, and yet the weather forecast was predicting a weekend of 21C! Adrian moved our Kamena from the chalet into the 'lounge' of our little home and made a fire so he could test it out. As it's in the middle of the room, we have to accept that the flue is not going to be a very pretty sight but with little alternative for heating, we thought it would be the best place for achieving maximum all round 'central heating'! Well, would you believe it snowed all evening and probably all night as well. When we looked out in the morning we must have had 3 to  inches of snow and it was impossible to see Harmanli at all! However, it thawed very quickly and warmed up a treat. The sun came out and by the afternoon there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was then lovely and warm! I have never known 3 days to change so dramatically. It was indeed a beautiful weekend in the end, as promised, getting warmer and warmer. Hard to believe all the snow and freezing temperatures we had less than 48 hours ago!

By Monday Adrian had more or less finished working upstairs (the 2 bedrooms). He still had to make and hang the doors (and cupboard doors) and plumb in the little en-suite toilet but once he had vacated upstairs for downstairs I could start to paint, stain and decorate. Mind you, we didn't have any glass in our windows at that time! We were getting to the more interesting stages by then anyway.

On Tuesday Adrian arranged for an electrician to come and connect up a thicker cable and therefore a more powerful supply of electricity to our new home. He also bought shingle tiles for the roof, which was the next job. He had rigged up ropes and pulley systems with a plank to balance on! This was a challenge, as he had never worked with those sort of tiles before. They seemed to be quite difficult to fit and the pitch of the roof was such that this job proved to be doubly difficult!

Next day the electrician came and connected our new electric supply onto the telegraph pole. Adrian would have been able to do this himself but nevertheless we got the job done and he only charged us 20 Lev! (approx 8). We did seem to have more power then, so hopefully this will be ample for us in the house. Adrian managed to fall over in all the brambles when he missed the pole with the ladder and it must have been the first day he was wearing shorts too, so he was nicely scratched and scraped all over both legs! I didn't actually see it happen but think it must have looked so comical (with him trying to extricate himself from all the thorns) and he said he felt such an idiot in front of an audience. However, he later made a very good start on the tiling of our roof and, despite him not being very keen on the colour (at first), I thought they looked very, very nice. So far, it was so good but it was to be more difficult as he got higher (as you start from the bottom). As it happened it turned out to be quite a good day and the weather that week had been simply glorious, with warm evenings and nights too!

On Thursday I made a start with staining in one of the bedrooms. Adrian had to move higher on the roof, so he tried out his 'plank' rigged up on ropes, which actually proved not to be so bad in the end, as he was able to take up a pack of tiles with him, instead of going up and down the ladder with each one! Then he ran out and had to wait for some more to come in!

On Friday I continued with the staining. The rest of the tiles had arrived, so Adrian went off to collect them and also bought the wood for our stairs but as it was too late to do any more of the roof by then, he made a start on the building of the stairs instead.

Over the weekend Adrian completed tiling one side of the roof and made a start on the other. I nearly completed the first coat of staining in both bedrooms and landing. We had such a lovely week of very warm sunshine, which made all the difference. All of a sudden the blossom on our almond trees (among others) came out and everything started greening up. We knew we would soon be hearing the nightingales once again and hopefully the cuckoo too. The storks flew over, looking for somewhere to nest and we had the usual buzzards and hawks enjoying the thermals. The 3 different types of woodpeckers, that are there all year round, were as busy as ever and various lizards had been out basking in the sun. No sign of any snakes (at that time) thank goodness (much as we like the wildlife)! I started the second (and final) coat of stain on our bedrooms and Adrian made such good progress with tiling the roof that he was on the home straight! The weather helped no end (and with the light nights too), especially as he didn't have to contend with any wind to speak of for a change, though just how he had managed to balance on the slopes of the roof, as he did all week, I'll never know! He just refuses to let things beat him.

And so our work continued. Adrian completed the roof tiling and that included the ridge tiles too. All finished in just 5 days! He had actually been very worried about doing the roof. His limbs are not quite so agile as they used to be and because of the height and pitch of the roof, and the fact that there were no batons to stand on, he was very dubious that he would be able to carry out the work himself. He needn't have worried as he made a brilliant job of this and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It's very neat, tidy and colourful and gives the impression of some depth too. A good choice.

I finished all the staining of the upstairs bedrooms and landing and then also gave the same a coat of varnish. Then there were the stairs, also quite tricky, as we didn't have much room for them - hence the problem. These were also something Adrian had not had to tackle before but he was more than happy with the outcome when all had been completed. We just hope they don't twist and warp too much, as the wood here is not seasoned!

The Bulgarians had started pruning their grapevines, sometimes ploughing between using a donkey, sometimes with a horse and occasionally with a cultivator. Our next job was the wiring. Adrian completed the upstairs sockets and light switches and put in place a couple of wall lights. He then started on the wiring downstairs and after this the plaster boarding. Our little home was put to the test when we had very strong winds one day, ripping off our plastic sheeting on the windows, so Adrian had to board them up again, temporarily. I did find it a bit unnerving, as I was working upstairs at the time, but it stood the test very well and was still standing the following day!

My next job was the emulsion painting of the walls and ceilings upstairs. We chose a nice light, warm cream colour but I have never used paint with an aroma of flowers before! At least that's what it says, but I don't know what sort of flowers it smells like and it doesn't specify the type, although it is quite pleasant.

April 2012

The next major job for Adrian was the double glazing, which as it happens turned into a bit of a disaster, although it could have been so much worse! We already had the wooden frames, which we had brought over from the UK last year, and he wanted to have the glazed units made up so he could fit them himself. Once again the language barrier made it difficult for Adrian, plus of course the different ways they deal with things here, and then there are always items that you are unable to get at all, so that you have to improvise and find another way round the problem. Adrian went to see Kamen again, who has been such a help to us, and he phoned the shop and made sure they knew exactly what we required, so there would be no misunderstandings.

I had asked Adrian if he had double-checked his measurements and was sure they were correct and he said he had. So they were all ordered. It all worked out very, very cheap in comparison with the UK and we were pleasantly surprised. How often can you say that at home (UK)! For 8 big windows we were charged 470 Leva (200 approx) and this was for the top quality glass, as there were 3 different price ranges! It's what they call the 'four seasons' glass.

So we waited (just a few days)and then were able to collect them, get them in our car, negotiate our steep, bumpy lane, then proceed to carry them up the hill to our place (one by one) and on a very humid day, which was hard going. Then Adrian told me that something wasn't right, so then there was a lot of measuring up being done and a lot of swearing and cursing and he had now got to take them back again! So they were carried back down the hill and driven back to the shop again. He was gone some time and returned with the bloke from the shop, who wanted to do all the measuring himself! There were a few windows that fitted and these he insisted on fixing into our frames for us. Goodness knows what they thought, as the windows had been measured incorrectly by us! 'Mad English people' (we supposed) and we imagine word got around very quickly! Luckily Adrian had measured them larger than they should have been, so he left them there to be cut down to size for us. It was a good job they hadn't been too small! Now would you believe that very same day, whilst Adrian carried one of the good windows up our path, he tripped, fell over and broke the glass! What a day he had! However, a few days later, when the glass units had been re-sized, Adrian picked them up and all they asked for in payment was 10 Leva! (although he did buy them a few drinks). Unbelievable.

One afternoon I very nearly trod on yet another snake in the grass (the first this year)! There are just so many about here. Once again it seemed very docile, maybe it had just come out to warm up in the spring sunshine. Adrian attempted to move it to one side but it just slithered off down a hole among the grapevines. I don't think it was the same type as any we had seen previously. I guess we are going to have to get used to snakes in Bulgaria! Adrian also saw our big hare again one morning, so obviously it managed to survive the harsh winter here. I would presume it was the same one we saw last year as it's huge and I don't think you could mistake it really! Adrian also saw 2 huge eagles flying above ours, which he watched for some time and he said they were performing a display together and were really beautiful. I didn't see them but did see a very graceful ibis circling overhead and the same day heard the cuckoo, which was great. The following day, sure enough, the nightingales had arrived too and the scops owl started his 'rusty hinge' mating call! That same day another snake was spotted by me and this was a big one, the same as one we have seen several times now. The wildlife is really something here (although I would prefer less snakes). We couldn't ask for a bigger variety of birds, at least. About a week later I saw yet another snake slithering into our cellar once again. This one was the same type (I think) as the one Adrian had killed when we were here in October. He did try to get this one too but it found a crack and that was that. We have never seen so many snakes as we have here, not even in Australia or America!They certainly seem to like our little corner, but hope we don't come across any IN the house at any time! Adrian doesn't seem to think so, with it being elevated on pillars, so I hope we are able to sleep easy at night anyway.

We were invited over to Kolarovo by Shirley, Martin and Matt to see the annual Bulgarian Endurance Horse Race event, which we had been to 2 years ago. Last time it was absolutely freezing weather; this time it was really lovely, quite hot and sunny. There were more horses this time but no Bulgarian music or any dancing! Shirley and Martin had invited quite a few other Brits and laid on food at their house, as they did last time, which was all very nice. We had met a few people before but not others. Kamen, his wife and son were also there. In the afternoon, it had been arranged for us all to have a tour round the Winery, which is virtually next door to them. Matt works there quite often in the picking/wine making season. It was very interesting and made a change, as we had never been to one before, but a few samples for us to taste wouldn't have gone amiss, which was a pity.

The painting upstairs having been completed, I then worked outside, pruning and tying all our grapevines. Whether they will survive or not is another matter, as we are not there to spray for disease or assist them in any way, but keeping them tidy is all I can do for now until we decide later what we are going to do with all the garden, when we have finished building. This gave Adrian a chance to make plenty of dust downstairs with plastering, planing, making wooden window surrounds, architrave, skirting boards and all the rubbing down, of course.

Later, I made a start on the staining downstairs and Adrian did more of the electrics, fixing all the sockets into place (which he then tested and found to be good), moving the electricity meter from the 'chalet' to under our new home and wiring everything up to a consumer unit inside our kitchen, though he wasn't at all happy with how it's done here, as they do not have any earths on anything. He was very surprised not to find any in the consumer units, so he has had to make several of his own earths, to be on the safe side. It's quite an alarming fact of life in Bulgaria!

After the electrics, came the double glazing units. Despite them having all been measured up by the firm making them up for us, they were not a particularly good fit, so Adrian had to chisel plenty of the window frame away to make them fit but otherwise all went fairly well, even though my heart was in my mouth every time he clambered high up on his rather ancient but reliable ladder. You can't be too careful where glass is concerned. An interesting fact is that that very same ladder has played a very big part in all of our projects and been a crucial piece of equipment for us. It was first purchased and used in 1975 on our very first house and has been going strong (well not so strong these days) ever since! It has been to Ireland and back and now Bulgaria, along with all the other various places in between, including new builds, complete guttings or renovations and which now currently stands at 12! Adrian also helped out on 2 major building projects for our daughter. In every single place that we have lived, we have at least one photo of the very same indispensable ladder.

May 2012

The next job for Adrian was the bathroom and kitchen. A shower unit that had been in the chalet had to be dismantled and re-assembled in our new house ready for the plumbing. The cooker, fridge/freezer and water heater all had to be brought over to see where best to be situated and for the pipes to be positioned. We purchased toilets, basins and cisterns. This became another stumbling block, as the Bulgarians do not use copper pipes. They use a white plastic pipe that does not bend, making it necessary to use many joins, which will not look so neat, and other different practices too. So this was a very new learning curve to have to get to grips with, although Adrian is a very fast learner, so I had every confidence. He also ran the water pipe underground and encased the upright ones in another big pipe filled with insulation, which hopefully will prevent any freeze ups.

I finished the 2 coats of stain and all the varnishing downstairs too and then started on the emulsion paintwork. We had glorious weather in April and May and it became very hot (too hot for working in really), especially in our motorhome. We even took to using our A/C for an hour or so each day whilst cooking and eating, which was a great help. Needless to say the weather made everything grow like mad, so the weeds shot up but Adrian was able to get his strimmer fixed and spent several evenings cutting everything back. I had pruned our grapevines earlier and these too were growing very rapidly (far more than at the same time last year).

I know I go on about the wildlife here but it really is something special, especially in the springtime. We again saw our resident, huge hare lopping around the garden and more snakes than I really wanted to see but also lots of lizards. Some quite big green ones, which were very colourful and they could certainly move fast. We have stoats scampering about, around our grapevines and I think they must be the creatures who have been burrowing little holes by them. We saw a woodchat shrike a few times, a very distinctive black and white bird with a beautiful russet coloured head, plus warblers and lots of goldfinches too. We also had a visit from a hoopoe (not seen in Bulgaria, by us, before), which has a loud pipping call and sometimes make a weird growling noise too. He stayed around all morning, sitting on our neighbour's uninhabited house and he was back again in the evening, sitting on our window ledge, and appeared to be admiring his reflection in the glass! I would too if I looked like him, with his beautiful crest and long beak! Most amazing though was the arrival of several golden orioles, which we have never seen anywhere before. They also have a very distinctive song and call but can be difficult to see, even though they are not that small. Adrian first heard them but only managed to get glimpses and thought at first they might be bee-eaters as he saw a flash of yellow but I was very fortunate the next day, whilst Adrian was out, to be treated to some entertainment by a pair of (definitely identified) golden orioles. I had very good, close views of them as they sat first on our cherry tree and then our pear tree, eventually flying through the garden, sort of hovering and kissing and playing games with each other. The male bird was absolutely magnificent - bright yellow with black and white wings, with a distinctive white splodge on the side and with a red beak.

We saw and heard them right up until the day we left Bulgaria and think they were nesting very close by. I just wish I had been able to get a photo. The cuckoos are there, quite often calling throughout the night (something else we have never experienced before), and so we have a cacophony of bird song all night. The cuckoos, the nightingales (small and very, very difficult to spot) and the scops owls all sound like a dawn chorus in the dark. I was typing this at midnight whilst listening to it all! It is just so surreal and takes a bit of getting used to! We have also seen pairs of very pretty little yellow buntings and were delighted when even the bee-eaters put in an appearance. We first saw these birds in Greece, yet another species with iridescent, striking colouration. It really was like living in an aviary - a 'twitcher's' paradise - and anybody even remotely interested in birds and nature would be in their element there and understand why we get so excited by hearing and seeing all of these different, wonderful creatures, in their natural surroundings. We could spend all day 'bird spotting'.

OK well, nature studies aside, it was back to the building! Eventually I managed to complete all of the emulsion painting downstairs too, as it needed 2 coats, and with so many edges round windows and ceiling beams, it was slow going, but I got there in the end. Adrian got to grips with the plumbing. He had to purchase a machine which heats up the pipes so you are able to sort of weld them together as required but he wasn't impressed with it at all! However, he made a brilliant job of all the plumbing, although the kitchen sink was to come later, as we did not have any kitchen units at that point and Adrian was debating whether to make them all himself or not, when we come back again.

Everything else was done, although we did somehow manage to have an 'accident' with one of the toilets and a cistern! Whoops! These things happen. We also had the usual teething problems too, whilst testing all the systems out for leaks etc, so we had our share of floods but this seems to be the norm with this sort of job and all is good now and that's the main thing. Adrian also worked very hard on all the sewer/waste pipe-work, the flue (to the Kamena) pipe-work and many other bits and pieces (which included digging holes), outside and underneath our place, too. We had weeks and weeks of hot, dry, sunny, humid days but then it was all change for a spell of heavy rain and many, many thunderstorms, which were quite violent. Two of our 4 cherry trees fruited and there was just so much we couldn't keep pace, but they didn't seem to last very long either. At least we hadn't gone home before they were ripe and we did not see any of the birds devour them!

Then, basically, it was a case of making sure everything was ship-shape before going back home to England again. Adrian tightened all the supports under the house and purchased plenty of old sump oil and diesel, which he then mixed and painted all over the outside of the house for protection. Before we left we had some pretty nasty weather, with more torrential rain and violent thunderstorms once again and it turned cold too. Adrian did decide that he would start to take down the old 'chalet', so that he could use the wood (on our return) for our kitchen units. He will only dismantle a small part of this, as the remaining section is to stay and be used as a shed. He also sawed off a few dead branches of the cherry tree and did a bit more strimming whilst I had a big fire, getting rid of all of our accumulated rubbish.

We then had the task of turning round the motorhome ready for our departure and this job is always quite tricky and difficult. There is simply not enough room at the best of times but coupled with all the mud from the recent storms we had been having, and also the fact that one of our neighbours had decided that he was going to sit and watch everything, I'm surprised anything went to plan at all! Adrian took the wheels off our trailer (we had decided to leave it there), drained down the water system in our house and removed the water pump (to take home for repairs) and we also picked the last of our cherries.

Journey home to England via Greece, Italy and France

So the day had arrived when it was time for us to make tracks once again. Adrian walked up the lane, cutting back any branches overhanging the road and checking the lane in general. All was OK and after nearly 9 months away we made our exit. We didn't experience any problems with the lane, despite all of the rain we had had. We arrived at the Greek border in time for lunch. Matt (at the Biser campsite) phoned and told us that they had the builders staying in their flat whilst building all the new houses for those in the village who lost theirs in the floods. They were to be given brand new houses free of any charge. Maybe we should have bought property in Biser after all! Although whether the same would have applied for non-residents, we don't know.

We drove along to Alexandroupolis and Komotini, although the Egnatia Odos motorway had still not been completed and the old road was getting so bad. There were more and more toll stations being set up but at least there were also more and more LPG stations arriving too.

We turned off to Port Lagos where we stopped the night, although I was rather disappointed in this place and wished we had stayed back along the road on the beach, where we had stayed before. The mosquito population in Port Lagos was very hungry indeed, which was a pity as it makes for very unpleasant 'camping' and you don't feel inclined to venture out at all! We watched the fishermen and the herons and listened to the curlews though.

We had the same old problem, of our motorhome losing power, several times in fact and it seemed to be getting worse, so we will definitely have to get it looked at when we get back. Anyway we passed Kavala and Thessaloniki, then Veroia and Kozani and eventually on to Preveza (on the west coast) which was a lovely pretty road, once you got off the motorway. Hills, gorges and streams, with lots of pretty wild flowers on the roadside too. We came across a Carrefour supermarket where we were able to stock up with provisions. They even had some lovely salmon, but everything seemed so expensive and we could no longer halve the total and take some more off, as we do with the Bulgarian Leva to equal Pounds!

To get to the Preveza boatyards (all 3 of them), you have to drive through a tunnel submerged under the water (another 5 Euros) where we met up with Lyn and Del (my sister and brother-in-law), who were working hard on their yacht 'Hermes' (in dry dock) in preparation for launch day yet again. We parked up on the water's edge again (we had missed that, over the last 2/3 months) and then spent 2 nights there. Although we did have some sun, we had a very strong, cold wind. The last time we were there (we did some work on my brother's yacht, which also happens to be kept there too) was 6 years ago. Where does all the time go? We spent the day with Lyn and Del, who came round to our motorhome in the morning and we then spent the afternoon on their boat, chatting and looking at photos, then the evening in the restaurant where we had a very nice meal of Greek moussaka and chips. We had a night listening to the waves and then it was time for us to go again, so we said our goodbyes and we were off.

We drove to the port of Igoumenitsa where we were very pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed true that all of the illegal immigrants had gone - at long last and not before time! We didn't really believe it and kept our eyes open, expecting someone to appear any moment. It was a joy to be able to wander over to the booking office without any worries! So we booked our Minoan ferry for midnight on the following night - a Thursday - to arrive in Ancona, Italy on the Friday at 5 pm. It was much more expensive than last year but apparently we must have had a special offer last year.

Meantime we drove along to Drepano's beach, where there were a lot more campers than last year, and we spent the whole of the next day just chilling out on a lovely hot sunny day, sunbathing, swimming and watching all the ferries going back and forth and across to the island of Corfu, which we could see very clearly over the water from where we were camped. In the evening, we drove down to the port and boarded the ferry at about 11.45 pm. We left Greece at midnight, camping on board, on a very calm sea. It was a very good night from about 2 am, after all the alarms and announcements were over and done with. At least we didn't have to put up with dogs barking this time!

The following day was nice and sunny too and we went up to where the pool was (it still had no water in it, so don't know which months that happens) and sat in the sun during the afternoon. A very strong wind kept it slightly cooler but it was good tanning weather nevertheless. We were an hour late coming into port, so when we did finally make our way off it was 6 pm Italian time (7 pm to us) and unfortunately we could not see any sign of any campervans parked at the port of Ancona (which looked a quaint pretty town). We did not know where to go, so we had to make our way onto the motorway (take a ticket) and settle for an SS (service station) just north of Ancona.

Next morning we stayed on the motorway going north along the coast to Rimini, where we then turned inland to Bologna. At least there were not too many lorries and we could also then start to use the Satnav again. So northwest up to Piacenza, Alessandria and along to near Torino, where we settled on another SS. Most of these garages have 'dump stations' where motorhomes and coaches can empty their tanks (grey water and black), also with taps to enable you to thoroughly clean out the tank. Everything is automatically flushed away and it doesn't cost anything at all (and we didn't even buy any fuel)! We were also able to fill our domestic water tanks. In fact everything you could want. Why don't we do something similar here (in UK) - but of course our country does NOT cater for the travelling tourists who do not wish to use the VERY overpriced camping sites! This service station was another (hard to believe) quiet night stop, which makes it so much more stress-free!

The following day we exited the motorway well before we got to Susa, as we decided to drive OVER the Alps instead of going through the Frejus tunnel (into France), which is very expensive. Whether we saved ourselves anything remains to be seen (probably not), as obviously it took much longer, with lots of hairpin bends and switchbacks etc, but I'm glad we did, as it was very picturesque. Of course we were up in the snow, so it was very cold and windy with showers but we got to the Col du Mont Cenis where we had our lunch and just around the corner was Lac du Mont Cenis - a dammed reservoir, at a great height. It was very low in water and the area was so cold and bleak, with no trees, but the water was a lovely bluey green colour and we saw lots of skiing chalets with chair lifts/cable cars too. We did have a problem with our motorhome losing power again twice that day (once being on the steep climb up too) but we didn't have to stop and wait long.

Anyway we made it into France and along to Chambery, where we shopped at Carrefour. There was a lovely big lake there with a marina full of yachts, but it was far too busy. We thought it must have been a public holiday. There was certainly nowhere there for us to stay, so we made a hasty exit (hoping not to get stuck in the very narrow lanes of the village) and continued driving, although by then it was getting late. We had not brought our French camping books with us this year and, although there is a vast amount of Aires in the country, you can never find one when you are really in need! In the end we stopped on a small Carrefour car park in Yenne, which was not open, but we shopped again in the morning. Nobody said anything at all and in fact it turned out to be a very quiet, safe place to stop.

We had very hot weather during all of our drive home and a relatively stress-free journey, although it did take us much longer than usual, mainly due to us keeping out of tunnels and off the motorways! The next morning's drive was scenic through pretty gorges and then we drove northwest to Belley, Amberieu-en-Bugey and Bourg-en-Bresse, and slightly northeast to Arbois, where we found a car park which turned out to be yet another good spot (virtually in the centre of the village), once all the young revellers had tired of their loud music and merrymaking! Arbois was a pretty, typical, French village on a river, as we saw when we walked round in the evening. Unfortunately, as the engine of our motorhome is inside (not under the bonnet), it is one of the pitfalls we have to contend with on a hot day, if driving all day. We had parked up at 4.30 but even so, at 10 pm, we were still uncomfortably baking! Of course, it works both ways, in so much as the heat of the engine helps keep us warm on a cold day too.

The following day we continued up to Besancon, Gray, Chaumont, St Dizier and down to Luc du Der and, although lovely, could not find anywhere to park up (we did lose engine power twice again that day too, so we hoped we were going to be able to complete our journey home). We continued on until nearly at Vitry-le-Francois where, as it was getting late, we stopped to have our tea at a noisy, dusty, truck-stop. We really didn't fancy staying there the night, so after our tea we decided to have a walk into the little village of Marelles, to see if there was anywhere quiet we could park up and we found a small but ideal car park by a children's playground, so we went back to get our motorhome. Nobody bothered us and we had a very peaceful (if hot) night listening to the trains in the distance.

The next part of the drive home was northwest to Chalons-en-Champagne, Reims, St Quentin and Arras. All the latter part was looking for somewhere suitable to stay, which seemed an impossible task and we wished again we had brought our book with us. Another late stop, but we managed to find an Intermarche supermarket at Bruay-la-Bussiere (a quiet area, out of the town) which closed at 7.30 pm. We decided this would be a suitable place and after our tea we shopped in the supermarket and also had a wander into and around the town. We watched the sunset with panoramic views at 9.30 pm.

So on to our last day abroad for now, which was all towns, villages and roundabouts. We arrived in Calais (after delays due to an accident on the motorway) in time for lunch. We thought we might have to drive up to Dunkirk, if the ferry prices were expensive, but managed to get one for 67 Euro for 6 pm that evening. We intended to walk into the town, but found the gantry walkway closed, so we basically chilled out, in and around our motorhome, waiting. We were then told it was going to be late - they said 6.30 but it didn't arrive until 7 pm and even then it was painfully slow! We didn't get into Dover until 9 pm (our time) but at least it was only 8 pm UK time.

June 2012

Adrian managed (at that point anyway) to remember to drive on the left. We had made it again, after our 9 months away, still in one piece! We headed for our usual spot on the sea front at Dover, watching all the ferries in and out again and had another quiet (not too cold) night. So all in all, we had a pretty good run home, even if it did take us much longer than usual. The nights had all been quiet and the weather had been hot and dry, but we certainly knew we were home again during the following couple of weeks. The weather was atrocious - heating on almost every morning during June and July - the people as stressed out and angry as ever, and our bureaucracy just as mad as always!

Anyway, we drove down to Essex, went to see my aunt and cousin, who very kindly lent us their car again, bought our first Chinese takeaway for 9 months and settled ourselves down on our usual camping place beside the fishing lake. Over the next couple of days we did the usual family visiting before we left for home - back to Norfolk again. Our garden was an absolute jungle (grass waist high), not touched for 9 months and generally overgrown. A ton of post awaited us, needless to say, and although we didn't have frozen pipes as last year, we still had various problems to deal with.

Our heating system had been drained down before we left and on our return we found it to be full of trapped air (which Adrian was unable to release). New taps were needed for the kitchen and a small job turned into a big job, with a blockage somewhere in our cold water tap/shower in bathroom, plus lots of fence panels blown down by strong winds. So that was just a few of the things for us to contend with on our arrival and during the next 3 or 4 months.