The following was written on September 20th but I never got the chance to finalize it and post it.
In a couple of hours we will find out whether we get to board the ship today or have to wait until tomorrow. We’re now driving back to Monfalcone to be on standby after having spent two nights on a campsite on the island of Grado, since we couldn’t find anything closer to Monfalcone that hadn’t closed for the season. This campsite was enormous, with an aqua park with a massive slide and everything, lots of things for kids – and right by the beach, except nobody goes swimming because the water is so dirty. And the whole place was pretty much deserted, it was just us and a few families spread out on this huge campsite, which gave it a bit of an eerie feeling.
The campsite in Croatia before that was much nicer. As you can see in the photos we got a spot pretty much right by the water. The beach wasn’t the best since it was all rocks and in some areas concrete, but the water was clear and cool. We did some work on the car and the computer but one day we said okay, now we get to just chill on the beach for the rest of the day! And so we did and it was sooo nice. Not having had a single day off during the summer back home, we really felt we deserved some beach chilling. (Not that the summer in Sweden this year was very nice and sunny though…) We had a nice little picnic (on the concrete!) and soaked up sunlight (on the concrete!) for a long time before eventually making it into the water. Brian thought he was going to die. The poor thing, being used to the insanely warm Indian ocean outside Vilanculos, got in and just stood there, with water up to his chest, and shivered. I was swimming around, loving it. To me it was the temperatures of a nice summer day in Sweden except clear salty water. But no, Brian wasn’t too impressed at all. He said he felt sorry for all these Europeans, not knowing what they’re missing when they’re not going swimming in Africa instead.
Since then, we’ve been on the ship and made it across the Mediterranean. We’re keeping a low profile about where we are at the moment since it can affect our entrance in the next few countries, but I will get back with a more thorough report later on once we’ve made it through the region.
Being on board the ship Fides was a truly interesting experience that we don’t regret. It was a 170 m long ship, at the moment a car carrier with about 3000 cars destined for different ports. It had a 25 man crew, only Italians and Filipinos. And us seven passengers. A New Zealand couple in their 70’s, a German man in his 60’s and two French men who I believe were also in their 60’s. And me and Brian. A very nice group all together. Sure, we once again lowered the average age, but not necessarily the action factor. Terry and Jillian, the New Zealanders, have travelled to more than 100 countries and it wasn’t their first time on a cargo ship. They don’t just do it for transport, like we did, they actually travel with the ship along its entire route and get on and off in the same port! They had loads of interesting stories and memories to tell from all their journeys that Brian and I really enjoyed listening to, and we told them a lot about our trip.
It was a bit nerve wrecking being apart from the cruiser in the beginning. But we had no choice but to hand over the keys. We had packed what we needed for the week on board and Brian drove it on board. After a couple of days we asked if we could go down and check on it and it was no problem. We went down to deck 3 and it was such a relief seeing the cruiser standing there, like a big dirty loner next to the hundreds of shining new cars. And they had even locked it up for us, so we really appreciated that. We couldn’t plug it into power and had left some food in the fridge so we had no idea how well that would last. A couple of days later we checked on it again and the batteries levels were still perfectly fine! As it was time to leave the ship the levels were really low, but everything was still running. The fridge had been on for a week and it was still running!
It was just so different being on board and it took us a few days to get used to it. Once we had left Italy we only saw ocean for a couple of days. Lots of other ship through this busy area. Luckily the weather was great and the ship sailed steadily and I didn’t have to worry about sea sickness at all.
We got settled in our little cabin, a bunk bed, a sofa with table and chairs and a bathroom with shower. We were informed by Fritz, the Filipino steward, that meals would be served in the mess on set times everyday.
So we soon got into the rhythm of life on board. We’d have breakfast, lunch and dinner together with the other passengers and the officers in the mess (the rest of the staff had their own mess). No internet, no news, only Italian talk shows with bad signal on the tv. In between meals we would hang out on outer deck, looking out over the water, watching other ships go by and look for dolphins. We would lay jigsaw puzzles with Terry and Jillian, read a book, have a nap. Go back out, look for dolphins again, scout for land, look for anything.
Once we eventually made it to our first stop in Turkey we were so excited. Something was happening!! We weren’t able to go ashore (well, Brian and I got our shore passes and took a five minute stroll along side the ship just to do something!). All we could do was stand on outer deck and watch the cars being off loaded and news cars being driven onto the ship, but it was so exciting. Something was happening!!
We then went off to Piraeus outside of Athens in Greece. On our way there the others spotted Acropolis from a far so we watched it in our binoculars and started discussing going there if we would be allowed ashore. (All those things depended on when we’d reach a port, how long it would take before we were allowed to moor in harbour, how long the ship was going to stay there and so on.) It turned out we’d have two hours in Athens and Brian and I decided to go with the Christian and Hervé, the French men and the Roland, the German. We got into two taxis and headed for Acropolis. We made it up on the mountain and had only about 30 minutes on site. But it was so worth it. We bought the tickets and climbed up the last stretch and there it was. Parthenon in the soft evening light, looking out over Athens. Absolutely remarkable.
So then we got back on the ship and the next morning we left Greece, and Europe, behind us.