Y’know when you have a destination in mind and you look at maps and you type that place into the GPS, and y’know how the GPS says to turn left and turn right and y’know when it tells you to turn right, sometimes the road is blocked and you can’t go that way, well then you just keep going and y’know how the GPS keeps saying to turn around and it keeps trying to put you back on that other road, the road that’s blocked, so you know at that moment you’re smarter than the GPS, so y’know how you just ignore it then and do what you want. Well, y’know when you do that, you can end up in a place that’s totally different to the place you intended to go, like when you’re aiming to go to a town in Italy but then you end up in France. Well, y’know how that can happen…well that’s what happened!
Day two in the vulgar van, but I will curb my moans and leave it at that. We set off on the highway and rattled and rolled along with the other cars. There were lots of police cars out and about on the highway and each time I saw one, I thought, please don’t look at this graffiti covered tin can and take it upon yourselves to fill in your time by stopping us. Please don’t have talked to Officer Shady and see us as an easy target for some law enforcement entertainment. They must have had other things on their mind, because we managed to go past every one without incident or interrogation!
As we tootled along the highway, I noticed that Italy does have speed limits. They’re there on the signs, the signs that are right on the side of the road, the big signs, the ones with the red circle around them and then numbers, the very big numbers. Well, speed signs and limits or not, those other drivers either don’t see them, don’t read them or just don’t give two hoots that they’re there, because man-o-man were those cars speeding! I mean Formula 1 type speeding. Zooming past us and even the police cars didn’t care about the speeding cars and even the police cars joined the speeding cars and just sped too. I don’t like being in that van and I don’t like being on those motorways!
We pulled off the side of the road for a break and a leg stretch and I swung my legs back and forth this way and that to get some feeling back into them. I actually secretly think, this stop was just suggested by Steve so he could have a photo opportunity and try out his new “Emperor pose”!
We hopped back into the rattle-trap tin can and zipped along for a bit longer, before pulling into a roadside convenience store/diner so Steve could find some elevenses, then we sat in the charming surroundings of the truck-stop car park, at a table and had our road-trip morning snack.
After this we headed for the motorway, bypassing Pisa and heading in the direction of Genova. As we drove along, I entertained Steve by reading pages from Dr. Karl’s Little Book of Trivia 101. Oh, the things we learnt! We learnt about Finnish wife carrying races, exploding beer bottles in China, why stars twinkle and what an amazing organ our liver is. It helped to fill in the time in the claustrophobic van can.
We drove into Genova, stopped by the water and did some new calculations to decide which direction to go next.
We decided to head for the town of Bardonecchia, on the Italian side of the border with France. We started to climb up, heading into the mountains, with the soothing tones of “James” guiding us on the GPS. When James told us to take a right hand turn, onto the motorway, we discovered that the road was closed, so we couldn’t go that way. Instead, we kept going up the hill, while an increasingly frustrated James kept telling us to turn off. We stopped to look down at the view, which was lovely, with little towns and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
On we went, up and up and we were now in the Italian Alps. We were joined by a long line of trucks with license plates from Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, so we decided to follow them, because they must have had to detour past the blocked road too. We all kept climbing up, through those mountains and the hill just went on and on and on, just like they do when we’re riding! The views were magic, absolutely magic, as we looked at the mountains, with the sun setting behind them and the snow sitting on the peaks. In fact, the snow came right down to the edge of the road. As Steve weaved our way up the mountains, round the tight corners, I just hung out the window, trying to snap the glorious views.
It was during this climb, as we thought we were still heading in the direction of Bardonecchia, that we saw a sign…a sign that said…France! Well, whady’know! We weren’t in Italy anymore! All of a sudden, unintentionally and for the third time on this trip, we had crossed the border into France! It was now dark and we could see the twinkling lights of a town below, so we stopped to see if there were any hotels and to get some petrol. We didn’t have any luck with a hotel, but we did find a service station and refuelled the van. It turns out the petrol tank was very, VERY empty! A fact Steve had chosen to keep from me, during that long climb up that mountain, a climb that he said was a very, very nervous one as he kept watch on the fuel gauge. I thought I saw some sweat break out on his brow there for a while! I’m glad he didn’t tell me during the climb up the hill, or I wouldn’t have been taking photos, I would have just spent the whole time stressing about being stranded in the Alps!
There was a biggish town about 25km away, so we set off there, to look for a hotel. It was dark, but the little alpine villages we drove through looked gorgeous and would have been lovely to have seen in daylight. We arrived in Modane and did indeed find a hotel, with a nice friendly lady who offered us a room and checked us in. They didn’t have any parking, so we’re a teensy bit nervous about the feral van being parked across at the train station, but hopefully it’s a small enough town, that all will be well. We’d called into a supermarket on the way, the familiar French Intermarche and grinned and fist-pumped at the choice of vegetables and veggie food we had, sooooo much more than Italy and the fruit and veg was so good, sooooo much better than Italy, so it already felt reassuringly familiar and food choices were instantly easier. We were now happily supplied with our necessaries for the night.
So it was a long day, no run-ins with the law, but some unexpected events nonetheless! We’ll now continue the northward journey towards Dunquerque where we’ll catch the ferry to Dover in a few days. Now we’re back in France, we’ll have to switch languages again and practise our script for our French encounters. More fun and adventures! I just keeping counting the days though until I can get out of this awful van, this mobile embarrassment that rattles along held together with staples, chewing gum and masking tape. Ciao Italy and Bonjour France, as the journey continues up mountains and down valleys and along roads big and small. The two Tasmanians tootle on…