Back in February a mate who was buying a flat in Athens asked if I fancied driving a car loaded up with furniture once the sale had completed. I’ve just got back, wiser for two pieces of knowledge – 1) Athens is a long way by car which you don’t appreciate in the 3.5hr flight, and 2) Pubs are bad places to make major decisions.
Anyway, having agreed to the trip, my mate bought a car off Ebay and on last Thursday night we set off for Dover at 8pm following a hard day at work. Traffic jams on the A13, the closed M25/M20 junction, and the closed A20 all tried to prevent us getting there, but at 21:50 with 83 miles on the clock we got to the ferry port. We took the map on board to plan the route during the hour long journey.
I took over driving then at around midnight, and took us through France to Reims, and then towards Metz. At 03:45 and 336 miles on the clock we swapped drivers. At this point the car was beginning to make a very odd noise and was losing power. I think either the exhaust had blown or it was misfiring. Either way, we were en route to Athens and we didn’t want to resort to the AA backup plan quite yet.
At 06:45 and 515 miles my mate completed his driving stint to Strasbourg. The French appear to have invested a considerable sum in their motorway stops and they put the UK ones to shame with their cleanliness and general lack of tat.
A quick sprint further down the A35 and at 07:50/555mi we were in the traffic queue approach to Switzerland. There had been an unfortunate turn of events back in London which had meant my mate had left his bag of important documentation (driving license, insurance docs, proof of car ownership etc) so we swapped drivers because at least I had a valid driving license. We had agreed in advance that we’d tell them were driving to Milan so as to not provoke too much investigation from them. This worked a treat and with just a €30 motorway tax we went on into Switzerland.
At 10:00/683mi Friday morning we were in the Gotthard Tunnel which is the second longest road tunnel in the world. Not stopping to admire the workmanship we pressed on to Milan arriving there at 13:00/780mi. As we’d been munching on just Snickers[sic], energy bars, Red Bull and pork pies we decided to stop for pizza. The weather was being very British to us and pouring down but we resisted buying umbrellas and instead will all be buying new shoes. Arse. Still, we saw the Doumo which was covered in scaffolding (again!).
We left Milano at 15:20/780mi and pushed on towards Bologna. I was awoken in the back seat by a loud banging noise from the car and quickly persuaded my mate to pull over. It turned out a bit of plastic under the engine which prevents stones hitting the engine was hanging off. We fixed it with an arm strap from a laptop bag and continued. Traffic increased and by 17:25/891mi we were stuck in heavy traffic at the A13/A14 junction. Another driver change and we drove on to Ancona where at 21:00 and with 1,053 miles under our belts we found a hotel and crashed out for the night.
04:20 we departed, and headed down through Pescora and Lesina. There’s some very beautiful scenery down that way, or at least there was until someone built a 4 lane motorway straight through it. We didn’t dwell on this point for long and by 10:45/1,405mi we were in Brindisi buying tickets for the ferry to Greece. The 7.5hr ferry overran it’s schedule a little and got us into Igoumenitsa, Greece at 21:00 where we had our second proper meal of the journey. I had Spag Bol as i’d forgotten to do that in Italy.
More Red Bull and Snickers and we set off for Petra. By this time all the lorries had disembarked the ferry and the 3 hour journey ended up a real-life scene from The Duel. Crossing their new bridge, although illuminated by fancy lighting for €10,90 was a bit steep.
Leaving Petra at 03:30/1571mi we drove the remaining section of the journey to Athens, arriving there at 06:00/1,702mi.
1,702 miles, 57 hours, 2 drivers, 2 meals, 1 hotel stop. Any volunteers to help bring the car back in September?