With a fairly early start, I headed south for Greece intending to stay in Thessaloniki over night. As I left the city, the road conditions were appalling and I spotted a pothole at the last second and braked hard and let off just before the front wheels hit it, to make the front of the car as light as possible. The front shot over but the back hit it really hard and flew into the air – I’m sure both wheels left the ground as there was a great thump as they landed back on the road.
I took a wrong turning in a village and ended up on a cobbled road running parallel to the one I wanted to be on and, knowing how long it could be till the next junction, decided to turn round and get on the road properly.
Before I crossed the border into Greece, I stopped to fill up with fuel (at about 90p/l) and buy some more oil as my stock of Asda’s finest 20w/50 was no more. On reaching the border one of the Bulgarian border guards had a good laugh at the Rolls Royce sticker on the boot shouting ‘Mini Rolls Royce’ to his friends, who all joined in the laugh. Pressing on, I came across a toll road and my heart sank with memories of the Romanian/Bulgarian crossing as I hadn’t stopped to get any euros from a cash machine, but joined the queue hoping to pay by card. The same saga started but this time it ended in a much more pleasant way. The guy driving the car behind realised what had happened and jumped out and paid the €2 toll for me. My faith in humankind restored, I set off for Thessaloniki. I reached the outskirts of town just after lunch and, not having heard great things about it, decided to press onto the ferry port at Igoumenitsa to see if I could catch an overnight ferry to Italy.
Climbing through the mountains, even though is was blisteringly hot, I could see bad weather ahead. I entered one long tunnel in bright sunlight and came out the other end in a torrential downpour, through a few smaller ones to the same rain, then out of a longer one to blistering sunshine again. As I got further south, the temperature got hotter and hotter, but the Mini performed faultlessly, particularly considering the hammering it was getting.
I arrived in Igoumenitsa about 5.30pm and went straight to a travel agent and managed to get on a ferry departing at 7.30pm. After a quick bite to eat, I headed to the port to check in where, whilst queuing to have our documents checked, there was a great crunch as a Swiss guy in a BMW ran into the back of me. I got out to check what damage had been done just as he got out of his car rather sheepishly explaining that he had been checking his documents. The bumper on the Mini was slightly flattened – I’m surprised there wasn’t much more damage as there was very little holding it on and there was a slight crack in the plastic of his bumper. All pretty superficial, so we laughed and just got on with it.
Once on board, I settled down in the seating area and got chatting to a group of Poles returning from holiday as we all listened to the old woman opposite snoring as if she was chain-sawing trees – it was going to be a long night…