Road Trip to Kefalonia - 2018

I’d never driven a caravan before never mind drive one across Europe! Why did we decide to do this?

Last year we managed to find cheap rental accommodation for the summer season while Nicos worked on the Lady O with his partner Dennis, but this year was a different story. The only cheap rental accommodation we could find was either for the winter months or for the whole year.

We contemplated renting for the whole year; it could be a base and a place to leave our belongings. After all, eventually we plan to stay in Kefalonia forever so renting all year round would definitely be something we would be looking to do in the future.

But for now it felt unnecessary. We only needed somewhere to stay for 4 months. So we began to look at our alternatives. We could stay on the Lady O but for me this wasn’t an option. So we decided to buy a caravan! Nicos was very excited at this prospect and began his search online and watched hundreds of YouTube videos!

By chance we found one around the corner from where we lived. It was the exact spec Nicos was looking for and they were happy for us to keep it there until the day we were travelling (as we had no-where to store it!). PERFECT!

There was only one slight problem. Nicos would not be able to drive! He was due to have an operation 10 days before our trip and would need to have his arm in a sling for 4 weeks!

  'That's the end of that idea was our initial thought!'

But then (and I remember this well) Nicos looked at me and said ‘You could drive!’

Now I do like an adventure, I have a bike license and used to ride a Ducati Monster 695. I have my PADI and I’ve been rock climbing! But drive a caravan across Europe! ‘I don’t know if I can do it,’ was my response.

I decided to do my own research. On Facebook (Kefalonia Unplugged and Loving and Living Kefalonia) I asked for some advice from those who had driven a caravan to Kefalonia.  I had so many responses and so much encouragement. A few people suggested/asked if I would be sharing my journey on Facebook for them to follow. Although I write blogs for Kefalonia Cruise, it didn’t occur to me to post the journey on Facebook. What if it all went horribly wrong? But it was a nice idea and would act as my journal on the trip.

The original purpose of the trip was to take the car over and for Nicos to help his partner Dennis get the Lady O ready for the season. But now with his arm in a sling he would be unable to drive or help on the Lady O! Now the sole purpose of the trip was for me to get us their safely. I was going to need all the help I could get! I was amazed at how many people followed with interest and spurred us on. Neither Nicos or myself put too much on our personal profiles as we didn't want to worry our families who were already worried enough and thought we were crazy!

I had one driving lesson towing a trailer a week before our trip to get a feel for what it would be like  towing and to learn to reverse. Reversing proved a bit tricky and I had many many attempts before I finally got it right! With the lesson under my belt I began to feel a little more confident that I could do it and I agreed.

That didn’t leave Nicos much time to rearrange all our ferry crossings (that had been booked months in advance) to take the caravan over too.

The weekend before the trip we packed the caravan and were given a handover pack full of instructions. The caravan was bigger than I had remembered! And with Nicos’s arm in a sling he wasn’t able to do much. What had I agreed to? Was it too late to change my mind? I could feel my anxiety surging up from deep inside me and the days leading up to the trip I was a nervous wreck and very emotional.

I shared on Facebook;

25 March 2018

‘Counting down the days now. Thursday our road trip in the caravan with me driving begins!!! Feeling excited and petrified at the same time.

Spent yesterday packing the caravan and telling Nicos off every 5 minutes for trying to do too much. He hasn’t quite grasped doctors orders to do absolutely nothing for 4 weeks! Not taking his pain killers and wonders why he’s in pain!

Men! It’s going to be an ‘interesting’ journey I feel!!!

Caroline Macintosh - “Not without interest” as an elderly friend of mine used to say about stressful situations! šŸ˜Š Good luck Elaine, hope all goes well

Lee Beddoes – I wish you well, and a safe journey, would think the trip would be stressful enough let alone a bad patient, good luck xx

These were the first of many many many more words of encouragement we received. I wish I could include them all, but over the coming days, each time I posted our progress, we received more and more comments.

29th March 2018 - The day had arrived!

I finished work early, picked Nicos up, packed a few last minute things in the back of the car and off we went to pick up the caravan. I posted Part 1 on Facebook explaining all of the above, and shared we were about to leave and would post photos and let them know how we’re doing as and when we could.

These were just some of the 'Good Luck' messages we received!

We made our way to a campsite in Dover where we would get a few hours sleep before catching the Ferry to Calais at 4:10am on the 30th.

Driving the Caravan was quite easy I thought!

So this is our journey!
 (Although the journey really started a long time ago)
We hope you enjoy reading it šŸ˜Š

30th March 2018 – PART 2

Well, we made it to Strasbourg. It was a day ‘Not without interest! (I really like that saying)
We missed our ferry this morning due to French passport control but we caught the next one so no big deal!

However we learnt some valuable lessons today.
2 hour waiting time at Dover Port!

1. NEVER plan a road trip on Easter weekend! Our lovely friends Samantha & Mark Taylor (who have driven to Kefalonia for the past 13 years and are a few hundred miles ahead of us), said the traffic was the worst they’ve ever experienced! Thank you guys for all your advice x

2. Check Dover Port website ahead of travelling for any disruptions if you really have to go away during this time

3. Plan for the journey to take double the estimated time when in a caravan! The last 150 miles was like watching paint dry! It was very painful! For every mile I drove a minute was added to my journey!! 

Other than that we had a successful day on the road and we have reached our destination.

Strasbourg Campsite
I was very proud of myself and Nicos supported me every step of the way. Apart from breaking a bit too hard a few times, I did well! But he is a retired driving examiner!

We will now shower and see if we have energy to go into town. Otherwise it’s an early night with a rest day tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing our lovely friends Sonia and Andrea who are meeting us at Strasbourg tomorrow. 

Christos Kastanis – Guys this will be a great experience for you!! Next step is to be citizens of Kefalonia and live there!! Greetings and many kisses

Shaun Richardson – Just fly! Controversial I know

David Kolb – Well done Elaine. Looking forward to more posts about your road trip over the next few days

Maria Kinsey – Well done Elaine. You should be very proud of yourself. Go Girl!!

31st March - PART 3

Well today is our rest day. It didn’t start off too great. I woke up with a headache and as one of Nicos’s wounds seemed infected, we went to the doctor. We waited an hour to be seen but glad we went as he has in fact got an infection and was prescribed antibiotics.

While waiting in the surgery our friends Sonia and Andrea messaged to tell us it was snowing in Switzerland (our route tomorrow!).

When I saw the Watsapp video and photo they sent us I had a little freak out at this point! (panicking how I was going to drive in that weather I posted a short FB message asking for advice once more)

I’m glad to say the day got better. Nicos and I went into the city and had a lovely lunch and walk about.

Sonia and Andrea arrived and reassured us it was only a short burst of snow that then turned into rain and cleared in no time.

We visited the Cathedral which is beautiful and went on a little tram (a bit like the one in Argostoli!).

Strasbourg is a beautiful place, definitely worth visiting if you get the chance. We then returned to our caravan for a freshen up and will be going out for dinner shortly.

Thank you everyone who gave advice about towing in the snow. Hopefully that won’t happen! Xx

Gill Pawlowski – What a journey šŸ˜²

John Simmons – Saw Elaine at the Italian border but was only able to message congratulation. Ruddy great caravan for first time!

Patt Hogg  – Love the blog – safe journey

Smith William – Great to read things are getting better. Stay safe

1st April – Part 4

We left Strasbourg this morning at 8:30am with Sonia and Andrea in Convoy. Andrea provided us with high tech resources so we could communicate with each other while on the road (Walkie Talkies!!), which entertained us for a few hours! (highly recommended, such fun!)

My back didn’t hurt as much today, I managed to keep my headache at bay and my driving was better (until the last hour when I started to get tired and almost turned off too soon on several occasions!).....oh yes and every now and then we would hear a knocking sound we hadn’t heard before and got scared the caravan was going to come away from the car (you can tell we are first timers!!)

But Sonia took a video to reassure us that we were doing fine.

In total it took 8 hours to reach their home in Pavia. What a contrast in weather we saw in just one hour, from Switzerland to crossing the border into Italy. From cold, cloudy, rainy, windy, snowy to 20c sunshine, blue sky and fluffy clouds.

Now at Sonia and Andrea’s lovely home, we will rest, shower and go out for the best pizza ever at Ristorante Milano

Tomorrow we head for Ancona to catch the ferry to Patra.

Christina Holland - You’re doing great Elaine!!!....keep it up...not long now

Philip Harding – could be the weight is not enough on the front so the tow hitch ball is bouncing up and down

Dianne Seddon – Elaine might see you at Christinas meet and greet xx

Mick Brunt - Love following your journey. Will see you around May 8th for a beer or two

Angie B Cox - My husband and myself have been going to Kefalonia for 20 plus years sometimes four and five times a year. This is something we have always wanted to do.....I truly admire you both. Safe journey and happy motoring

2nd April 2018 - PART 5

So we had breakfast with our friends Sonia and Andrea, said our goodbyes and then made our way to Ancona.

The journey took only 6 hours from Pavia – my driving had definitely improved! (Apart from braking once not to kill a pheasant! Nicos shouted ‘Don’t break baby, kill the f***er! I am happy to say I didn’t kill it, but I do understand why sudden breaking while towing a caravan is not a good idea!)

We passed the time away singing songs, Nicos sending friends and family messages AND I even over took a few cars! 

On arriving at Ancona we collected our tickets and went to isle 13 to board the ferry. Our timing was perfect. As soon as we got there they started boarding.

As we got to the front of the isle our tickets were checked. The man said we didn’t have a ticket for the caravan! Nicos showed him the paperwork to prove he had paid for a caravan and we were asked to move out of everyone’s way while they checked. We watched the man speaking on the phone to the office for several minutes. Then we were told we had to go back to the ticket office and explain we had ‘lost’ our ticket! Nicos explained that what we had was all we had been issued and we hadn’t lost the ticket. Never the less we had to go back. 

Thankfully the man was very kind. He jumped in his van and led us to the ticket office and back again so we didn’t have to join the back of the line! What had occurred was that the caravan had a different reference number as we had added it to our journey at the last minute and it wasn’t issued.

Anyway, all is good now, we are on the ferry and on our way to Greece 

Jayne Merriman – You must have been stressed! Onward smooth journey now xxx ☺

Lynn Williamson – What an adventure! You are so brave

Jill Mason – Phew!!! Keep charging x

Barbara Young – Hi you two, on the last leg now, bet it feels great!! Well done Elaine and Nicos! As I said previously, a very brave thing to do but bet it’s done wonders for your confidence! Soon be in Kef. It’s been a real joy following your journey, anxiously awaiting your next episode each day!
Enjoy the last of your trip & take care of each other. Drive carefully xxxx

Alex tunnicliffe – I’m going to come and find you in three weeks and buy you a beer or two!! Massive respect for that journey. I love my caravan and would so love to tow it to Kefalonia!!

Anna Pentelow – Nearly there ☺☺☺

3rd April 2018 - PART 6

Well although today I only drove 26km from Patra port to our camp site, It was ‘not without interest!’

The ferry from Ancona to Patra took 23 hours. We had a cabin, so was able to escape from the very very bad karaoke and had a good night sleep.

Today went very quickly. We watched the ferry stop briefly at Igoumenitsa and pass Ithaca and Kefalonia. We thought we were arriving at Patra at 5:30pm but actually we arrived at 4pm, so we were very excited and keen to disembark.

And here is where the fun began! We were parked right up against the wall with a massive lorry parked in front of us. As we were leaving before him I was asked to reverse in order to give myself space to move away. I did exactly what I was told and reversed in a perfect line! But I was too close to the wall to pull away and the back of the caravan swung out and was an inch away from hitting the wall! The ferry men tried very hard to direct me but in the end gave up and unhooked the caravan from the car and manually moved it! Very embarrassing!!!! 

Once we got away, we had our appointment and made our way to Kato – Alissos campsite. The toilets and showers were OKish but what it’s really got going for it is the beautiful trees, the smell of the orange trees in blossom and the sound of the birds. Really really lovely.

We were going to go out for a meal but couldn’t unhitch! So I cooked our first meal ☺
And while I’m writing this post Nicos is watching YouTube videos on how to unhitch!! šŸ˜‰

Pauline Noble – Oh my!! At least you’re kept on your toes, never a dull moment lol xxx

Pete Clark – Nothing to worry about, I towed a caravan for the best part of twenty years for all our family holidays, unhitched many times for many reasons nothing wrong with that. Been following your trip with immense interest you have done brilliantly. I hope you enjoyed your adventure

Joe Elias – Remind me not to bring a caravan. I’ll sleep in my Alfa šŸ˜¤ Hats off to you

Jed Woodward – Well done to you both, if that’s the worst thing that happened then that’s a huge success!

4th April – Final Part (for now!)

We left the beautiful campsite (Camping Kato Alissos) we stayed at, which had an amazing view of the sea and a massive olive tree, a lovely calm start to a day!

We went to Patra port to be told we should go to the old port! There were no signs to the old port but we knew it couldn’t be far and we found it. Once we got there we were told where to park.

Nicos instructions were much to be desired but he of course would say I didn’t follow the instructions given!!

This led to a full blown screaming match in the car park with an audience! A very sweet Greek lady stopped us and said it wasn’t worth arguing over, and of course she was right! (Nicos didn't want me to put that on FB but if we were going to post our journey it had to be included! In fairness it was the first and only argument we had on the whole trip so we didn't do bad!)

The ferry arrived and we boarded. GREAT!

Once we arrived at Sami we decided to go via Agia Efimia as the road (although a little longer) was not so steep as going through the hills would be. BUT ...........we took a wrong turn and ended up on a road that was steep, narrow, had sharp U bends and no barrier! I don’t mind admitting I was trembling and driving at 15mile an hour!

Eventually we found our way back on the right road and were heading for the Marina to see Dennis and the LadyO before heading to the campsite (1 mile away). We made it.....................or so we thought!

All of a sudden, meters from where we were going to turn, we heard a loud bang. Looking in the mirror I saw a wheel in the middle of the road!
All I can say is 'Thank God it happened here!'
The strange thing is ALL the nuts gave way at the same time and were meters away from the wheel. How was that possible? Nicos says ‘naturally’ the nuts would have come out 1 by 1 miles apart from each other. I don’t want to think bad thoughts that someone tampered with the caravan but Nicos thinks it’s a possibility.

How lucky were we that this didn’t happen in France or Switzerland or Italy on the motorway! How lucky were we it didn’t happen on the Kefalonian hilltop in the middle of nowhere! The realisation of this made both Nicos and I cry with relief and as I am writing this I’m filling up again.

We have heard so many horror stories from those of you who have done this trip and had nightmares along the way that we know how lucky we have been.

Thank God for Dionisis Vandoros and Andreas Chionis our beautiful friends. Soooooooooo many people stopped to ask if we were OK and needed help.

We are now at Argostoli campsite and this will be our home over the summer months.
Thank you everyone for all your lovely comments and support on this journey. We didn’t know when we started this that we would have so much support and you will never know what a difference it has made xx

Monica brown - Congratulations. I’ve enjoyed reading your trip report so much, and have the most admiration for you driving that caravan all the way to Kefalonia Elaine. I won’t even drive on the island. Enjoy the summer both of you. You certainly deserve it.

Carol Bellone – Awwwww.......I am glad you are both safe and settled and I hope that a few well earned drinks will help. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us x

Jed Woodward – Everything is just part of the journey that you will remember forever and ever!

Helen Young – I’ve enjoyed reading and seeing your pictures...enjoy ur time can’t wait for our first visit September! Xx

Michele Kinzett – Hope to visit you both for a boat trip in September and have really enjoyed reading your blog. You made it šŸ˜Š

Laura Yates – You made it! Enjoy paradise x

Lee Beddoes – Elaine, not the final part – it’s the beginning, enjoy your new life xx

Sue Cocksedge – You are so brave, I don’t think I could have done what you have. Thank you for taking us all on your trip! Now sit back and enjoy your time together.

While we were making tracks through Europe Dennis and Andrea were busy dropping the Lady O into the Ionian Sea. Now the real work begins as the boys get her ready for Summer 2018.

Thank you Unplugger’s and Loving and Living for coming on our journey with us. And thank you to those of you who sent me personal messages of encouragement (Mick Brunt everyday. Thank you).

We would love to meet you. Please come and find us. The Lady O lives at the harbour opposite Compass Cafe. Come and say hi šŸ˜ŠšŸ˜Š

...............Lets Cruise Together!

Written by Eleni Nicolaou