2014 – tHe iSLaNd hOppER

3 years since we last did a proper summer roadtrip …

.. Blimey..
Life’s been going like a high speed train ..

Lot’s has happened and moving to the UK has proved to be interesting with highs and lows and all sorts of challenges. I’m finally getting settled now and our family has also seen the arrival of Lola.

There were quite a few ideas with regards to the destination.. Morocco.. still high on the target list, however, getting more then 2 weeks holiday is somewhat out of the question..
I did manage to sneak in another few days tho.

I’ve always wanted to do some of the islands in the Mediterranean Sea.. After a little research we had a rough route set. We would drive down to the South of France, spend a few days near Marseille then take the Ferry @ Toulon to Ille Rouse/Corsica. Then via the centre of Corsica to the east coast and continue south where we would take a ferry to Sardinia. Once in Sardinia we would drive a little further, take another ferry to go to the islands, La Maddalena & Caprera. Then back to Sardinia, drive to the west coast and back up North. Onto the Ferry in Santa Teresa and back to Corsica to drive the west coast until we’d arrive in Bastia in the north east. From here we would take the Ferry into Italy and cruise back home via the Alps..

With a hard working job, and I mean a crazy beast of a job that takes me away from home every week, it was almost impossible to get anything prepared. A few days prior to leaving, Lucy wanted 3 point seatbelts in the rear so a local VW shop installed them. Luckily they fitted us in, in their busy schedule.

Lucy did an amazing job getting Stella all loaded up and making sure all the essentials were on board. Albeit that the majority of it was little ‘uns stuff.

We left Thursday early eve to the tunnel, I didn’t raise the bus up for holiday as with the little spare time I had, I just didn’t get enthusiastic about it and there were other, more important, things to do. In fact the only thing I did before leaving on holiday was bleed/adjust the brakes and replace the dodgy starter that had been a little naughty in the last 2 years.

Yep that’s right.. no service – no nothing.. My bus is build to drive not to look at in the garage 😉

At the tunnel we got pulled for inspection, the crew there weren’t the friendliest and I felt they were looking for something.. They asked if I had any gas on board but I never have so this was no good to them. When they asked me how much fuel I had in the Jerry can I said approx. 14L.. Apparently, you can take 20L max. spare with you on the train but it needs to be spread in 2 *10L units. Having done over 50 channel crossings I’ve never been asked this question and have never read about it either..
As I’d just filled the tank prior to entering the port, there was no way I was going to add another 4L .. To cut a long story short, they made us miss the train and nearly the next one too. And to stress how ridiculous this experience was, they measured it by 2 old blokes guessing how much was in the tank. Thanks Eurotunnel – U sUck!

With some delay we landed in Calais, the plan was always to drive solid through the night. So after many fuel stops I pulled over, for yet, another top up just in front of Marseille. It was now 11am in the morning. Good driving and outstanding performance of the bus!!
Very surprised.. when I try to start and nothing happens.. My first thought goes to the new starter that has died. Luckily I took the dodgy one with me so pushed the bus into a parking bay, jacked it up and start unloosening the starter motor until I notice one of the wires had come loose.. DOH!
It took me nearly an hour to get the nut/bolt tightened again as with this starter the head of the bolt doesn’t catch on the lip of the starter body..
Rather knackered but still excited to reach the beach, we continue.
After hours looking for ‘Calanques the Sormiou’, tiredness kicks in amongst us and we decide to give up on this place and drive elsewhere to spend the evening.

We arrive in a small town with a little port and look for a nice spot to park up. A friendly German comes up to me and points us to a parking space .. ‘ You sleep here, all fine, no police’..  Cheers, that’ll do!

After a well deserved good sleep we wake up and have a long lasting breakfast.. aaahhh holiday at last 🙂
Later on the day we try to find a parking spot near the beach and somehow I manage to ignore a height restriction barrier and bump against it. Pissed off I didn’t see this, I get out to inspect the damage and find my roofrack had moved halfway down the bus! The damage from the ‘little’ bump is rather significant. The extended front legs were bent or broken, the rack is distorted and some of the long rails have ripped off.. ouchh!! Even the gutters were bend where the legs had caught.. An hour later, I had the rack fixed and the gutters bend back in place.. You wouldn’t notice if I hadn’t told you. 😉
Later on we parked up close to Toulon port.

5.30am pfff.. and I thought we were off for some relaxing time… got up, put the kids with Lucy in bed and did the short drive to the port.. The crew at the ferry in Toulon takes it all serious. They were out with the measuring tape and cos I have a big spot light on the front they felt I was just big enough for the next Category and so we had to pay additional.. Great! But when we entered the ramp to get on board, they were kind enough to hold up all other traffic, put big chunky matts on the floor, and guide us on board without a single scrape.. Nice one.
From here on we started our 7.5 hr journey to Ille Rousse.

The ship was kitted out nicely and much better than your average Dover-Calais journey. They even had some entertainment going and as expected Lowie couldn’t hold himself and was soon to be found between the musicians playing all sorts of instruments. 🙂

At last, we arrive in Ille Rousse.
The Port is so small that 8 lanes coming off the boat have to go into 1 over a distance of approx. 100m.. This causes massive delays and as we were one of last vehicles to come off the boat we’d been sitting for about 40mins in the bus with a temperature of about 35-40˙.
I could see the kids were getting unwell from the heat so I started getting a little nervous.. Eventually we start moving. For some reason the deck above us has slightly moved downwards (or we upwards) so there was less space between the tallest point of the roofrack and ceiling which was already quite tight! One of the crew guys was guiding us so we wouldn’t touch anything and at this point another crew member decided, without any notice, to jump up and down my ladder. We had no clue what was going on and the bus was now moving all over the place.. Literally!! Furious, I jump out of the bus, to find this oversized bloke jumping on my ladder with a smile on his face.. ?? I could feel my blood pumping through my veins.. Without going in too much detail as to what happened next .. I can say there was a lot of yelling and swearing involved.. Bloody b@st@rd!

Because of the super-long-wait-heat-exhausted-family-combo I forgot to check on damage and find out 2 days later that this idiot distorted my ladder.. Great!

Oh well, upwards and onwards..

We’re finally driving through the little town and head straight up into the mountains.  With the bus being lower than normally I find myself swearing more regularly.. 🙂 The average speed bump here is twice as high as the average speed bump in the UK.. no Joke!
After a few hours cruising in the heat we arrive at a beautiful river near Corte, it was via a web search, prior to the trip, that I found pictures with the name “gorges de Tavignano”.
The water from the river comes from a natural spring in the mountains and is so pure and clean that you can see the bottom of the river everywhere you look even where it’s a few meters deep. It has various little waterfalls.. And it’s pretty cold too!!

We ignore the various ‘no camping signs’ along this road and set camp. The Barby is sizzling and a massive piece of gorgeous tasty beef lands on the grill. After a superb meal, a few beers and a skinny dip in the river we hit bed..

5.30am!! We get woken up by someone banging (loudly) on the doors! I open the door and find an angry man shouting all sorts of French words at me. I pretend I don’t understand french and he shove’s a letter under my nose that reads no camping (really? 😉 ) and a fine of 90€ to be paid if you get caught!! Whooops..  The guy keeps going on at me so I get out of the bus to try calm him down as the kids are still a sleep.. He then points at a load of rubbish around and says it’s mine and I need to clean it up. I explain him it’s not mine and that I tidied up my shizzle and put it in a bin bag behind the bus. But the guy is determent, shouts about bloody tourists and says I need to clean up the whole area put it in a bin bag and he’ll come back in 10 mins to inspect, otherwise I pay 90€.. Obviously, I laugh with him and he takes off.. I grab my bin bag, chuck my kids in the back with Lucy and hit the road.. pffff 5.45am and I’m out on the road again.. Wow, and I thought we were on holiday..

A few hours later we have brekkie and we decide to skip parts of the mountains and go to the east coast. A few people had told me the east coast is not as nice as the west coast.  But it’s peak season so we thought this should give us some peace and quiet as it would be very busy on the other side..

After a lovely cruise via scenic mountain roads we finally arrive at the seaside and park up near the beach, it is indeed not as nice here as we imagined but equally not busy at all.

After a splendid afternoon on the beach we decide to drive a little further south and look out for a nice place to stay the night. We soon find out that there’s not really anywhere nice to camp at all and because everybody starts to get grumpy we decide to hit a campsite.
We find a rather nice one named ‘Golfo di Sogno’, not cheap but @ 48€ but a great location.
Having not booked and it being peak season there weren’t many places available and we really wanted to be as close to the beach as possible, so we just parked it on the beach. The Dutchies and Germans had no issues with us parking next to them (nice car they said 😉 ) and so we had a prime spot!
Apart from the bus being swamped by people, we enjoyed the gorgeous weather, some time to chill out and having fun with the little ones. The water was very warm as the bay was surrounded by hills. Even after 10pm we just sat in the sea for hours having a beer without getting cold.. gooood times!

We stayed on this campsite for 2 days and then decided to head all the way south to Bonifacio, we heard lovely things about this place!
It’s a lovely old historical town with beautiful architecture but because of the time of year it was flooded by tourists and I mean flooded!!
We decide to leave Corsica for what it is as we didn’t enjoy all the stress from the number of people.

The next day we were booked into the early crossing from Bonifacio to Santa Teresa-Sardinia.
The port and coastline of Bonifacio is truly stunning, the flats build on the edge of the cliffs make for an impressive view from the boat! Approx. an hour later and we set foot on Sardinia.. We cruise for another hour until we arrive in Palau, for yet another boat that get’s us to the little Island ‘La Maddalena’..

It takes us a little while to get out of the main town as signs were invisible but eventually we drive up to the north coast.. Oh man what a good decision to come to this place!! It’s a little windy but the view is just so amazing and there’s not too many people around either.. White beaches, clear turquoise coloured water, rocks bathing in the sea and no noisy tourists.. Happy days 🙂
We cruise around a bit to explore the island and grab some food from the local supermarket before cruising back to the beach.. This place is a paradise!!

The next morning we browse the little map we received on the boat and spot a beach on the east coast that looks rather interesting..
We follow an off the beaten track and shortly after realise we have to leave Stella on the side of the path as the place we’re heading for is for stock height cars or 4×4’s only. Some cars didn’t even tried the path at all..
Eventually we arrive at a small beach with hardly anyone around, a few local families that were catching fish in a very primitive way.. Again the views of this place were out of this world.. No way we’d thought we’d find a place like this in Europe.. The pictures don’t really do it justice..
The locals gave us their fishing line, but we didn’t manage to catch anything.
They had managed to get there with their car and it was a real shame we couldn’t do the same as I think we would’ve stayed here for the rest of our holiday!!

Oh well, later on the day we parked up somewhere else and had another superb BBQ!!

The next day we decided to have a look at the other Island ‘Caprera’ which is linked via a small bridge. This Island is a national monument and was once owned by an Italian General/Politician. This guy had a massive house that you can visit (free) and is well worth the stroll around it.
We found an off the beaten track that was suitable for Stella and lead us right to a small patch just on the beach.. Perfect!
Unfortunately, it seems to become a common thing for me on the road trips to get a migraine attack! Just as we park up I had to lay down for 4hrs to overcome most of the pounding headache..
Lucy manages to keep the kids entertained on the beach and when my aching head starts to chill out a bit she mentioned some guy said he was from the Police and didn’t like us parking there.. Because of the situation I was in we decided to drive off and park elsewhere.. Shame that!

The next day we were ready to leave the Island and took the boat back to Sardinia. Once landed in Palau we head direction Olbia. On our way we stop for a carwash to get the sand and salt from the bus and drive further. We’re nearing Olbia and decide to have a look at ‘Golfo Arrancini’.

This place is really beautiful with great views on the bay and a massive rock sticking out the water (a bit like to rock of Gibraltar). The town is very well developed and a bit posh but it features a big playground and so we decide to hang around a bit. We quickly turn around to get some food from the local supermarket but.. Then it goes wrong.. !
I leave the supermarket, which is on the high street, and get in the bus, parked right in front of it. Nothing parked behind me and I start her up. I have a little chat with Lucy, look in the mirrors and back up a bit.. And when I say a bit I mean a few Cm’s before I spot a pedestrian in my mirror looking at the bus and raising his hands in the air whilst shouting something in Italian, I brake but hear.. BANG.. I knew straight away what time it was.. I hit something.. But how?? There was nothing behind me when I got in and nothing visible when checking all mirrors.. ?
I jump out to find this little plastic scooter on the floor right behind my bus, annoyed and angry at the same time I pick it up. The sh!tty little scooter has dents and scratches everywhere and is missing bits and pieces. It is obvious that the driver parked sideways behind my bus (with running engine) in the few minutes I sat in there whilst chatting to Lucy with no space left for me to back up.. Great!! Absolutely bloody fucktastic!!
The driver runs out of the supermarket and starts shouting at me.. Yeah this is really going to help me ease down.. He starts shouting documento documento .. Chill out!!  I tell him to keep his mouth shut and he needs to learn how to park his scooter!  There’s no way I could see him.. not even in my big truck mirrors!
A lot of shouting and swearing happens and the guy calls the police.. Oh great! I have a family who’s waiting to go to the playground and some ff-ing idiot is trying to screw me over.. A local guy who’s seen it happening speaks a little English and tells me the guy is a fool and should’ve not parked his scooter so close to my bus as it was obvious I could not spot it..
The driver keeps shouting on the phone to the police and I realise we’d sit here for hours as why in the world would they come quickly for an incident like this.. if they come at all.. By now my blood has reached boiling point so I grab the phone out of his hands to get his attention, put my finger under his nose, tell him and his scooter to F off, jump in the bus and shoot off..
I know, not the best way to deal with a situation like this but considering he was an absolute idiot trying to get money out of me for his junkyard scooter, I just had to leave.

We were now on the run from the police.. haha not really, however it did ruin the vibe for a bit and I was rather annoyed Lowie didn’t have a go at the playground.
The bad luck keeps continue when we realise we left all our cleaning stuff at the carwash. Not a biggie you think BUT the turquoise bowl is very valuable!! Emotionally!! All my kids have been bathed in this from since they were 4 weeks onwards. Bugger! 😦

We decide to look for a campsite as the kids have gone through a lot of clothes in the past few days and the dirty laundry is piling up. The campsite is, obviously, not cheap and so the next day we hit the road again.
Because of the incident the day before we’re no longer following the course we’d planned so decide to change the travel route and find out what makes Corsica so beautiful.

So half a day further and we’re cruising on the southwest coast of Corsica.. The differences in landscapes to the eastcoast are significant and the views are breathtaking. All of a sudden the images we found by surfing the web now become reality.. Truly stunning!!

There’s so much to see and all you could wish for is that time stood still.. It makes it very hard to choose which place to stay the night as you think you might miss out by not stopping at this or another place.

We stop at a place called Belvedere Campomoro to spend some time on the beach and have a nice dinner. Later in the evening we take on a long drive, on the rather bad maintained roads. This way we’d be further north so we could spend more time in the same place. We spend the night on a parking lot in a small town.

The next morning we are in ‘Golfo de Sagone’. Not really our taste so decide to cruise a bit further. After passing a beautiful historical town, named ‘Cargese’, we spot a nice quiet bay. Later that day we check in on a small camping hidden under the trees.
Tonight we’re not cooking but going for the easy route and have a take out chicken 🙂
Another splendid day on the beach goes by.

The following morning we’re back on the road towards Porto. It’s not long before we reach Piana, a little village on the edge of the mountain. The dazzling views you get here are definitely some of the more beautiful in Europe. From here onwards to Porto you get a scenic route with red rocks rising out of the clear turquoise coloured sea combined with small narrow roads hacked in the dramatic cliff edges. I can seriously recommend driving this road with your bus and safari’s wide open at a very relaxed pace.. 😎

Despite Porto being recommended we did not think it was that nice, especially as it had a rocky beach and was rather touristy. We drove just one little bay further which had 2 bars on the beach.. Perfect.
Lowie had been asking to go in a boat for the past few days and luckily there was a guy who had a few for rent. It was a tiny little rubber boat with an even tinier engine. As babies were not aloud in, Lowie and I took off. The sea was quite rough and it only took Lowie 5 minutes to be scared and to sit with his head between his legs. 😀 Only at a very slow speed he was comfortable with it..
The views from the sea were beautiful and it made perfect sense why it was so popular for boat owners.
We stayed for the night in the bay and were not the only ones, it was the first time we saw other fellow ‘wild’ campers.. Surprisingly though not the most friendly..

I got up very early in the morning as we were now entering the last few days of our trip and we had to get to the other side of the island. By 7am everyone was awake so I pulled over for breakfast. The views in the mountain are breathtaking and a perfect back drop for all kinds of pictures.. The further we drove the more beautiful the road became.. We’ve driven on some of Europe’s nicest roads and this one is definitely ranked in my top 5!!

By lunchtime we arrive in a lovely small town North of Bastia. A last time to the beach followed by a lovely dinner in a local restaurant. Lucy wanted fresh fish so that’s what she got, the smallest fish they had in house cost a smashing 46€ ! Let’s ‘av it!! 😀
We spend the last night behind the local Police station on a quiet parking..
Up early, yet again, for a short drive to the port.. the check in goes smooth and we’re queuing for what is the largest ferry we’ve ever been on.. This thing was gigantic in every way.. it stacked trucks and campervans like peanuts in a fish tank.. The journey on the “Mega Express” was a fair bit shorter and somewhat 5hrs later we arrived in Savona/Italy.

From here on we were on the home straight with nice scenic routes alongside the Alps.. Stella had not made a single cough on this trip and despite the heavy beating (too low for the poor conditioned roads in Corsica) and the high temps I stepped on her tail.. Hours later we queued for a super long tunnel with a serious price tag 58€!! So much for avoiding the Mont Blanc tunnel cos of price.. This tunnel was even more expensive..
It’s 9pm when I had to stop driving, Lowie had been messing with the light switch on holiday and I managed to keep it going until now.. No lights meant no more driving..
The next morning after a coffee, I put myself behind the wheel for the race to the Eurotunnel.. I floored Stella solidly for 7hrs doing 75-80mph.
The weather started to turn and by the time we were driving on the boat it looked rather poo outside..

Great Britain welcomed us with pissing rain and ice cold temps on the drive home, it was so cold we had the heather on all the way home..

If you’ve managed to read the whole story.. well done 😀

Enjoy the pictures!!

Packed up and ready to go.. the lovely weather made for a chill ride to Folkestone..

En route.. Destination South of France!!

Views changing for the better.. at last.. sea in sight

Lush weather for cruising with open safari’s.

Or in Lowie’s case for a slight breeze at the toe’s.. 😀

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