Sightseeing Ireland

Every twentyfour hours 12

Waking from one of those deep sleeps you get after a swim, I was at the campsite gates at 6am, having unhitched and battened down the hatches. The morning was beautiful with the sun emerging from behind the mountains at the far end of the lake.

My direction was now towards Turin, with the Tunnel de Frejus signposted underneath. I decided to drive as far as I felt comfortable, then stop at any Aire I felt like. Before the Frejus, there were at least four other tunnels. I reminded myself that the Frejus was 12 km long and to expect to be in it a long time. Approaching the entrance to the Frejus tunnel, the gendarmerie had stopped a car and took their time questioning the driver. They just looked at me and waved me on. I parted with €58.50 and in I went. It was not too straight, which is good for keeping you awake driving. Lights on and 150 m between cars. It was over more quickly than I expected. Entering that tunnel was a significant moment for me on my journey and it was very thrilling.

Out the other side, I went into Bardonecchio, a skiing village, not by design, but because I took the wrong off ramp. Seemed like a good idea to have breakfast in the Hotel Bardolo- at €8 I had the buffet – ham, cheese, cereal, croissants and all the trimmings -more than enough.

It was a lively place at that hour – 8am and I could have had coffee in a few places.

I had set my sights on Camping Verna outside Turin and keyed it in to Google Maps. What sort of site it is, I will never know as I never made it up there. The hint is in the ‘up’. Successfully making it to Avigliano, I followed the directions to the Camping and soon realised I was committed to an upward spiral. The challenges were many – cyclists going up on the same side as you, cars behind you, cars coming down against you and you guessed, cyclists coming down against you. Me and the car did incredibly well. I had absolutely no choice but to keep going when faced with hairpin bends, even narrower roads, and steep inclines. The road had indentations to help vehicles to gain traction uphill and I had to resort to first gear several times. At the top of this mountainous road, the direction was toward the right up a much smaller road so I stopped. I felt like just going down the hill and I asked one of the cyclists who had just made it to the top. He said he had to catch his breath as he was exhausted after the cycle. I then witnessed my first incident of Italian road rage. The driver I was talking to along with the exhausted cyclist got in to a row with a car that had come up the hill from our side and could not get past. The driver got out of his car and words were exchanged – a wonderful flow of Italian colourful consonants and gestures. The consensus was that I did not have that much further to go and should go for it. I did.

As I got to the first bad bend, I decided I would not make it. Whether I lost my nerve or just had enough, I am not quite sure. Instead I went straight on, hoping to find somewhere to turn. I met a man standing inside the gates of his house with a few logs in his hand. He said to go on and I should be able to turn. One hundred meters on, I saw a driveway with a few cars and the friendly guy with the logs had walked over. He agreed that this was my only option for turning. So up I went and I hand it to myself, I reversed really well. I got the car into the best position possible but the driveway I needed to reverse the caravan up was on a steep concrete incline and the caravan could not make it up. Remember everything here was steep. Everything was built on the side of a mountain.

At this point, the senior residents of the house had come out to help. Then I saw my second Italian fight. The logman’s wife marched up with their son by the hand. He was to come back immediately. I understood much of the exchange – she gave me a filthy look and he said Auitare – to help and that there was no one else to help. She stomped off worse than ever. She definitely came off worst for that exchange.

Next, Bruno was summoned, a young man who was essentially another pair of hands. I had suggested taking the hitch off and had moved the car. We had put chocks in place but turning the caravan meant that it would point down the hill. So I moved the car closer, and with the third pair of hands, rehitched it and after thanking everyone profusely drove off. I have very little Italian and they had no English, so it is amazing what you can achieve with sign language. The logman made no move to go home.

I was rattled and drove down the other side of the hill from where I had stopped earlier. It was then that I heard a noise like a tyre bursting and I heard a rubbing on the tar. I stopped at a crossroads and walked around – its it the back right? No, the front right-no- it must be the other side of the car. I had already resigned myself to getting out the jack, but nothing on the caravan or car was punctured. The jockey wheel had fallen down and was rubbing off the road. The relief washed over me. I tightened it and was thankful, thinking you never know how good things are until something worse happens or even threatens to happen. I came into Cumiana negotiating the narrow streets crowded with Sunday morning citizens taking their leisure. I went back there later in the evening. The picture on top is of the local square or Piazza

I drove out the other side of the town and had a coffee at a tiny Bar tabac – very friendly – people came in and had a coffee or a glass of red wine standing there. Run by a family, the mother had her arm in a cast so we had a pointing conversation about my arm I broke last December, helped out by the daughters smattering of English.IMG_5804

Driving on, I came to a Zoo called Zoom, before a town called Piscina in the direction of the Turin Road. Motorhomes were overnighting in the parking across the road. So I turned in the field and very thankfully parked and unhitched the caravan.

It was a scorching day with no shade in the field. I went across to the Zoo where there was a huge swimming pool in the middle. It was like a Roman bath, with people walking and lounging in the waist high water. There were imitation rocks all round it and an island in the middle. It was cooling and really worked in the centre of the Madagascar themed zoo.

It was a day where you just coped with the heat. I had carbonara and a Guinness at the local restaurant, and hoped to make another early start to take advantage of the cool of the day.

Little did I expect what the next day would bring.


Every Twentyfourhours

Today is the first day of my trip by caravan to Europe.

My dream is to make it to Corfu via the ferry from Bari on Italy’s East Coast.

This took shape during the last year of my job when I printed out the map of Europe with the route to Corfu overland, highlighted it, and pinned it on the partition above my desk.

It crystallised in the last days of June when I realised I still had a burning desire to see Corfu again and my challenge was to make it overland. The original idea was to do it in a campervan, but my funds did not reach to that expense. When I bought a BMW with a towbar my attention shifted to a caravan. My first caravan was a disaster, dry rot, broken everything and I abandoned it with a dealer on my way to Dublin.

By this time, I had experienced some of the angst of towing a 1,500 kg van. But anyone who knows me is familiar with my determination once an idea takes root in my head. I took to watching every video available to learn how to drive with a load behind you. I had  a lesson from one caravan expert in the middle area of Ireland who clearly became worried when he realised I would be venturing out alone without the benefit of the male of the species to watch over me.

Since then, Newbridge caravans have spoilt me with a beautiful vehicle and given me hints and direction all along the way. This time, I splashed out on a 2000 Herald Claremont, four berth, luxury in comparison with the last one.

Why Corfu?  The island’s lush greenery, brought to life for me as a child in My Family and Other Animals  by Gerald Durrell, the sandy beaches and deserted coves, the olive trees and the azure sea.

I have learned that women do not tow caravans. We will see how that goes.

I want to set the scene for my forthcoming trip with today’s blog. I am not taking any pictures of the ferry pulling out from Rosslare. As we are in the middle of a heatwave the likes of which I have never experienced, you can take it the sea is still and sparkling and the sun is sinking and sort of hazy as it is the 2030 sailing. One of the remarkable things about driving through Ireland today was the smell of smoke in the air. Spontaneous fires are breaking out due to the 14 days with no rain.

But most of all with today’s blog, I want to remember someone never made it to Italy. We visited the Cliffs of Moher together and I have posted his profile here taken at that location. He departed this life on the 4th June this year and it is his departure that crystallised my decision to do this trip. We  never know when or where we will be taken, but taken we will be.