So, 7 months and 23 countries later, and we are back on British soil just in time for Christmas. Europe has blown us away, it’s right on our doorstep and just waiting to be explored beyond the much visited cities. It’s the varied cultures, diverse scenery and cute villages that have wowed us and it’s hands down our best roadtrip so far.
Pablo gave us the freedom to stay in some of the most picturesque spots in the world, for free. We wild camped every night and managed to save a lot of money from not staying in campgrounds. We washed in lakes and rivers, or filled the solar shower with water and left it in the sun all day. Then winter came and somehow we still braved the showers. Once the 5th dirty day came along we really didn’t care how cold the water was, yeah we got severe brain freeze like slurping a giant slush puppy, the wind chill was below zero at times and my wet hair felt like a sheet of ice, but once we jumped into Pablo, turned the engine on and got into our long johns we’d laugh and say ‘ah that wasn’t so bad!’
We’ve had sweltering hot days where the sun never set and the mosquitos, midges and horse flies caused havoc. Bitterly cold nights where the inside of Pablo froze solid and we were trapped inside. We’ve driven along snowy roads, skidded on icy patches, got stuck in sloppy mud and plowed along sandy tracks. Traffics varied from huge trucks, car crashes, cows, sheep, goats and gypsies in horse drawn carts.
We’ve camped beside beaches and lakes, beneath mountains and glaciers and amongst forest and meadows. We’ve had sheep humping the car, chewing the exhaust and generally freaking us out, wild cats having a brawl at the back of Pablo in some dark creepy woods, cows walking into our wing-mirrors, cats sitting on our sofa and lots of visits from Eastern Europe’s stray dogs that stole our hearts. We named a lot of those dogs, all they wanted was food and affection. Just a little bit of bread and they were our friend and security guard for the night, barking away any person or animal that came too close to us and rolling over for tummy rubs.
It hasn’t all been fun and games though, we’ve had some stressful times too where we’ve just wanted to go home. The drivers in Italy were disgraceful, worse than Greece! The road conditions in the Baltic’s were awful, and the people weren’t particularly friendly to say the least. We struggled with the language barrier, ironically the worst places for it were France and Italy – two western countries, yet Slovenians, Croatians and Romanians spoke superb English. Trying to communicate to mechanics proved to be very challenging, especially in Poland where they drove Pablo into a pit-garage and her wheels were hanging 2 inches over the deadly drop-off. We’ve stayed in some not so nice places too, like busy rest areas and we’ve heard the beeping of a reversing truck so many times and feared they hadn’t seen us and would drive right into us. We woke up to our carbon monoxide alarm piercing the silent night and rain dripping through our fan and drenching the duvet. But all was well again when we’d wake the next day, slide Pablo’s door open, have breakfast, hit the road and embrace whatever adventures came our way.
So here’s to Señor Pablo, Craig the rally driver and me, the best map reader I’ve ever met…