An unwanted detour through half of Europe (July 2013)

Being close to Bagno di Gavorrano in Italy by now we thought it would be time to wrap up the events of the last three weeks.

We left on the 10th of July after a little farewell party the weekend before and a nice breakfast with the family in the morning. Leaving was certainly accompanied by mixed feelings. The excitement to finally start the trip we had planned for such a long time quickly took over though. Our first destination was Berlin to meet up with Fabians oldest sister after a few stops on the way to organize the last bits and pieces. We were not in a hurry and had our first camp between corn fields in Eastern Germany where we could try out some of our newly acquired camping gear. The following day was spent with Nicky in Berlin and some brilliant Indian food.

Heading south towards the Czech Republic we had our first breakdown. After an ascent on the Autobahn the engine slowly cut off and left us stranded at the side of the road. It was the first time since we had the Land Cruiser that it stopped running and it was only our second day on the road! After the initial disappointment we started checking the fuel lines and realized that the engine had been running dry shortly after we switched from main to auxiliary tank. We tried switching back to our almost empty main tank and bleed the system manually but to no success so we called the ADAC to get a bit of extra diesel which worked out in the end. At dusk we were finally back in business and made camp shortly after. The issue was apparently a blocked pre filter of the second tank which we replaced later.

The next days were spent driving through the Czech Republic, Austria along the beautiful Enns valley, Slovenia and finally Croatia where we wanted to have our first dip in the Mediterranean Sea. The masses of tourists didn’t let us linger for long though and after a beautiful drive along the Croatian coast we decided to speed up a little bit and stop following the coast since our seasonal number plates were running out at the end of July. So we headed along the highway towards Serbia which surprised us with its run down appearance and buildings and businesses left to deteriorate. We had to camp at a “safe parking” next to a fuel station in Bulgaria around 200km away from the Turkish border because it was getting dark and we didn’t find anything suitable of the highway. The guard wanted to charge us with the fee for trucks since our car was so big but we settled somewhere in between. We were the only car this night on a huge parking lot by the way.

The single most important event that night was finding out that there was free Wifi so we could check on the uncertain situation in Egypt for the first time since we left only to find out that the ferry service from Inskenderun to Port Said had been suspended due to the current unrests in Egypt. It didn’t take us completely by surprise but made our intended route virtually impossible. The only other option to get to Egypt was a ferry to Israel and crossing the border overland but having an Israeli stamp in your passport is not of advantage if you want to enter Sudan later on and Fabian was denied a second passport without previous hotel and ferry bookings. After one night of discussing options we decided to change back to our initially planned route through West Africa. We had abandoned that plan before due to the difficulty of obtaining the Angolan visa in favor of the route through East Africa. That we happened to have access to the internet that evening appeared to be a leap of faith and saved us another 1400km of driving in the wrong direction. 🙂

So we left the highway and took a beautiful little road through mountainous terrain dotted with simple little villages where old Russian trucks and donkey carts still prevailed. It felt good to be of the highways again especially since we were sticking to 90kmh maximum anyway. It wasn’t far to the Greek border where we headed towards Igoumenitsa to take the ferry to Ancona in Italy where some of Fabians family was having a two week vacation. After the long days of driving and one or two border crossings every day it was very nice to have some actual holiday especially as we have felt quite tense and stressed to have to reach the ferry to Egypt in time. We spent two weeks here in Tuscany, extended our number plates, organized the Green Insurance Card valid for Morocco, ordered guide books and maps for West Africa and finally had some time to finish most of the sections of the blog.

So now we are far more relaxed and ready to hit the road again. First stop will be Livorno to check on the costs of a ferry crossing to Tangier. Our internet research revealed quotes of around 1500€ including a cabin which doesn’t equal to our previous information. If it turns out to be the actual price we will drive along the coast through France and Spain and cross at Gibraltar instead.

Even though things didn’t go according to plan so far we are feeling very excited about seeing Morocco and all the West African countries that will follow. We are also not overly unhappy to have an excuse to complete the circle around Africa. 🙂

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