Corona’s on the loose…

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

…the return home!
A crazy time was already behind us and there should be some more interesting moments. Finally we had downloaded the reservation confirmation of the ferry and all necessary papers, which Anja printed out on her printer, so that we could show the police the required paper versions.

No sooner had we sunk into our dreams on the last evening than the alarm clock rang and tore us back into the real world. A short breakfast, the last time to feed the dogs, pack the rest of our things and Ute and Thomas were ready to leave. The farewell from Anja and Jochen was short, but a bit depressing; somehow we would have liked to stay with them and enjoy the limited life in Greece a bit more. But the inner urge to return to the home port drove us more than to stay here.

Shortly after Thessaloniki we wanted to do the first driver change. During the fast change and a carelessness, Chantal stumbled over a road bump and clapped flat on the road. Until I noticed the fall, already people from all directions rushed to our jeep to offer their help. A little longer Chantal lay a bit dazed on the road and could hardly move. Although her pain was extremely strong, she only said: “No, I don’t want to go to hospital, no, not now! We have to go on to Igoumenitsa now, we have to use the ship and we have to use this opportunity.”
With lots of painkillers and a very distorted face we continued our journey. Hopefully it will not be a too big injury!

The many kilometres, mostly on the motorway, led us through central and western Macedonia to Epirus and the port of Igoumenitsa. It’s actually a pity that we had to roam this wonderful landscape in northern Greece in no time at all. Now in spring, when everything awoke from hibernation and gave the landscape new life, we had to scurry through the area with about 90 km/h. But, the corona infection and the restrictions were very clear: No detours or other unauthorized adventures. Surprisingly, the police were informed about our postponement and only at two controls we had to show papers. Otherwise, a short explanation about our reason for driving or a quick look at our license plates was enough and we were waved through.

At the end of the afternoon we reached the access to the ferry port of Igoumenitsa, where already many Central European tourists with their campers were waiting for the entrance. Our situation was very special and challenging for all of us, so we quickly made some contact and explained the respective tale of woe. Also Ina and Christopher arrived soon, who after their odyssey through half of Greece and blockade at the Bulgarian border had to go into their two-week home isolation in Germany after all. At the moment of departure, we didn’t know whether we too would have to undergo such a self-isolation in Switzerland, and we hardly found an appropriate answer on the part of the FOPH (Federal Office of Public Health/CH).

While we were still able to receive our definitive documents for the crossing, the Greek police escorted the motorhomes from the local campsite (mainly French) to the harbour, thus giving a lot of emphasis to the situation where the international community is currently located.

After the entrance into the duty-free port area we were positioned in considerable distances and a longer waiting period was in store for us. Despite the large distances, there were various contacts and conversations to the left and right; partly funny and encouraging, on the other hand also thoughtful, almost unbelievable stories.

Shortly before 10 pm our ferry from Patras finally appeared in the completely dark night in the port of Igoumenitsa. A somewhat spooky sight and at first glance the ferry appeared to be more like a small boat and we wondered if all the campers would find their place in this ship, as more and more trucks with their trailers were lined up in columns. But probably more vehicles would fit into the hull of the ship than it seemed and even an Australian who was not booked in advance could take his truck with him.

Since our jeep is rather a normal car, we could very soon load and drive deep into the hull. Although we can only drive out of the port of destination Ancona at the end, we could pick up the other papers and keys for the cabin at the ship reception immediately and without much waiting. Finally, during this time, one should keep the appropriate distance, a thing that was hardly possible for the following passengers. A ship with its narrow corridors and rooms is probably in Corona times rather a bad place for a respectful distance.

The ferry left Igoumenitsa on time and in the harbour no vehicles were left behind, neither cars or campers nor any kind of truck. While the engines set the ship into a slight vibration, the gentle waves of the Adriatic Sea lulled us into a gentle sleep. We also enjoyed the comfort of our cabin after our 25 days of Azapika beach and let the warm water of the shower roll over our bodies. Although the physical hygiene was not lacking, the cold water at the chapel could never replace this warm shower.

Contrary to our expectations, we soon had to leave our cabins in the late morning and settle down somewhere for the next few hours. We didn’t quite understand this arrangement, as all passengers had to spend the waiting time on deck or in an interior space in very cramped conditions for their arrival. We chose the deck where the free space was somewhat larger than in the interior lounges. In addition to the ever-warming sun, a French guitarist enriched the hours of idleness with his songs and put us in an open-air event.

Almost to the minute we entered the port of Ancona and after about half an hour we were able to drive out from the lowest loading level into daylight. The Italian police checked our paper and destination within Italy very closely before we were lined up in different rows on the quay, which were escorted – row after row – by police vehicles to the motorway junction outside Ancona. From there we could start our journey home on our own responsibility. But the instructions were very clear and we were also advised by the respective embassies that we were quasi pioneers and that we should not overstretch the exemption. The national representations in Greece are planning further return journeys by motorhomes, but if there are too many violations of the instructions, the Italian authorities could stop such transit journeys again.

We followed the “Autostrada Adriatica” along the sea of the same name in a northerly direction, turned off to the northwest, followed the setting sun always nicely towards the tarred road of the coming night.

Already when leaving Ancona we were very surprised that there were almost no people in the streets and that there were no people on the road. On the motorway there were practically only trucks and a convoy of motorhomes on the way; otherwise almost nothing moved. Even the fleeting glimpses from the highway into the nearby villages and towns gave us the impression that half of Italy was extinct.

As chance would have it, we once again covered the many kilometres to just before Bologna together with Ute and Thomas, said our final goodbyes at a rest stop and wished each other a good journey home. They will drive towards the Brenner Pass and the self quarantine, we continue towards Milan.

In the meantime, night has fallen over the Po-Valley and darkness has also restricted visibility. Our decision to stay at the next rest stop was soon made and before Parma we found a suitable place to stay (on a motorway rest stop of course!), where other motorhomes from the ferry crossing already made their night camp.

After a quiet night, which is actually seldom usual on motorways, the coffee soon cooked in our espresso pot and gave us the necessary zest for life again. While we were sipping our coffee, a Polish truck driver joined us and a short conversation arose about the abuses they are exposed to as drivers of essential goods. Not only was half of Europe shut down, but also their necessary infrastructure for orderly transport. Governments promised the population that food would be available in sufficient quantities at all times, but those who delivered the goods were immediately forgotten and all kinds of facilities, such as catering and toilets, were closed. Although he says that Italy is still good, we can share his concern, as we noticed the many closed service facilities right from the start.

We continued our journey, circumnavigated the Milan area on almost empty highways and turned towards Verbania. We didn’t choose the route through Ticino for our trip, as this canton had the most corona diseases by Swiss standards, but chose the more beautiful route over the Simplon Pass, which was also accepted by the Italian authorities, although not everything was motorway. The journey on the empty motorway towards Domodossola on this Saturday morning left a ghostly impression of an extinct humanity. There was really nothing on the way and the views left and right strengthened this impression very much.

After Iselle the exit control followed, which, contrary to our expectations, was carried out very quickly and the officials were not interested in the papers or other documents carried along. The fastest we were asked to continue our journey! But a few hundred meters further the Swiss border official was amazed. With big eyes he first checked the jeep, asked incredulously where we came from and our destination. Tourist traffic had hardly been on the way here for some time and now suddenly travellers from Greece are standing at his border post.

When we asked him if there are any restrictions here in Switzerland or if we have to go into self quarantine right away, he said only briefly and dryly that we can move almost freely and drive home. No need for mouthguards or gloves, we should just follow the simple rules of the FOPH. We were relieved, because at this point we did not know where to spend our self quarantine.

The drive up to the Simplon Pass was correspondingly quiet and we saw only a handful of cars. But further up, where there was snow to the left and right, there were many parked cars whose owners were most likely on some ski tour; the tracks in the snow were clear indications of this.
Around the hospice as well as at the Hotel Kulm again many cars with ski racks and some people. They still exist – the people! But what about the restrictions? Here, people move around as if everything was completely normal.

Even before Brig we experienced the pure opposite of the southern countries. Indeed, there were guards at the shops and inside, certain areas and products were separated from the rest of the shop by barrier tapes, but the bustle and the behaviour of the many people was very irritating for us; we were shocked, yes, we had a corona shock!

As we were not obliged to hurry, we chose the route towards Lake Geneva and the Jura. Already in Valais we were surprised by the traffic; besides many cyclists, whole groups were on the way with their motorcycles. Apart from the closed restaurants, it gave the impression that it was a normal day and that there were no restrictions to be observed.

We searched for a place to stay at night above Yvorne and enjoyed an absolutely quiet night high above the Rhone valley. Unfortunately, the continuation of the journey to Hongrin Lake was prohibited. So we had to go down into the valley again and from Aigle up again towards Col des Mosses. Also here: Traffic like on a normal Sunday morning – bikes, motorbikes and many cars! Is the corona virus already eradicated in Switzerland or is there no danger of infection in the Alpine Republic? Even the larger groups around the Hongrin Lake were anything but a danger from an invisible enemy who condemned half of mankind to do nothing.

Isolated in our car, we roamed the vast expanses of Vaud and climbed up to the Jura Mountains in the late afternoon, where we once again struck out our nightly camp for the coming night, far from any civilization. What we experienced in this short time in our home country irritated us visibly and we were somehow helpless what we were allowed to do and what not.

Before we retreated to the “asylum” in Aesch, there was a short detour to the Chasseron, followed by many wanderings in the woods above the Val de Travers, where many roads were impassable due to large snow fields (northern slopes). Later on we crossed the Franches-Montagnes on many side roads and headed towards Delémont. From there it was only a stone’s throw to Aesch and our next camp.

The whole trip was a wonderful experience for us to drive through a very familiar area again and we shared this pleasure on this day with many other people who hope for more relaxation outside than at home in isolation.

Probably we Swiss are really resistant against everything, even against the bad Corona beetles. We are very curious to see how the surrounding countries are doing – whether we will soon be able to take off again, or whether we will be condemned to a longer wait.

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