After an unforgettable couple of days in Rome we set off towards Brindisi in southeastern Italy where we planned to catch a ferry to Igoumenitsa in Greece and from there drive to Athens to complete the purchase of our Lagoon 420 catamaran.
It was an exciting time but nerve wracking too. Why nerve wracking? Well for all sorts of reasons. Some relating to anxiety about getting the payment through (our bank in Australia had been very reluctant to part with our money for the deposit and had caused us much angst).
Then there was not knowing who we could ask to do the survey, whether it was going to be thorough enough, or whether the survey would turn up something unexpected which could mean the purchase would fall through.
There was also the nagging doubt about whether at our age (coming up to 68) we were being totally crazy/selfish spending a lot of money on a floating retirement apartment. And how would we get on “going over to the dark side” and buying and living aboard a catamaran after having five monohulls together over the last thirty-five years?
Also having enjoyed land travel over the last year and a half in our campervan would we adjust to life on the water again? Were our (actually my) boat handling skills still intact or had we (I) forgotten what to do? Were our bodies up to the physical aspects of living on a boat or had we become too soft and flabby and inflexible? The answers to all of these questions and more would unfold in the coming days, weeks and months.
But first the trip to Brendisi!
We headed first to Lago Di Lesina – a large lake that is linked to the Adriatic Sea by two canals. We had chosen this spot because it had a nice sounding lakeside motor home site but it was so much more than that.
A glorious evening stroll along the edge of the lake brought back memories of our time in SE Asia as there were various fish traps and fish farms dotted along the shoreline – made from what looked like random sticks, fishing net and various other materials.
We also walked by a wild fowl park run by the local council where we saw many species of ducks as well as white and black swans all enjoying the beautiful evening.
The next morning we set off for the Port of Brindisi where we were hoping to buy a ticket to catch the night ferry to Greece. After driving around down unmade roads and tracks that didn’t appear to lead anywhere we eventually found the ticket office. Fortunately there were plenty of places left on board and we were even able to book a cabin.
We were first in one of the lines to get on the boat although I wasn’t allowed to stay in the van – on this route only the driver takes it on board and everyone else has to go on as foot passengers.
The cabin was clean with nice freshly pressed white sheets and a small ensuite bathroom, so after a very good and hearty dinner we were able to have a few hours of reasonably good sleep. Unfortunately we were roused from our beds at some ungodly hour (Greece was an hour ahead of Italy so what was 4.30 am Greek time was in fact 3.30 am for us.)
After a long wait to dock during which we sat and wished we had stayed in our bunks longer, we eventually disembarked in what seemed the middle of the night, in the pitch dark.
It was quite eerie driving along the dark roads once we had passed all the trucks that had disembarked before us. There was not a light to be seen anywhere. Then it became really foggy which was even more disorienting, especially as we were suffering from a lack of sleep.
Once the sun came up we enjoyed the rest of the drive to Vonitsa on the western side of Greece in the Ambracian Gulf. We had been delighted by this little seaside town when we had discovered it earlier in the year and were happy to be returning.
We parked safely right next to the boats tied up in the little harbour. We were so close to the water that It felt almost like being on a boat again!
That afternoon we took our e-bikes for a lovely ride along the road next to the shore. We came to a narrow bridge that led to a very small island with a little chapel in amongst beautiful trees. There was a beautiful anchorage on one side of the island and we made a mental note to return there in our new boat one of these days!
We kept going and then turned inland down a narrow farm track where we passed a number of small holdings, heard the clanking of goat bells and met a herd of cows strolling calmly along the track.
We cycled back and had a cold beer in a pretty little beachside bar. On the way to the van afterwards we saw about ten cats on one of the doorsteps all waiting for their evening meal.
Later we walked back to the same bar for dinner – huge plates of mussels and calamari, a massive salad, almost a whole loaf of bread and omg why did we do this? A plate of chips. There was heaps left over even though we had both done our best. It miraculously only cost 23 Euros (about 37 Australian dollars) including beers!
The following day we were on the road again heading towards Alimos Marina in Athens where our catamaran was waiting for us and where at least some of our misgivings about buying another boat were to be addressed.