We’ve had a lovely quiet night & great sleep. No psycho moments! At 7.30 am the day was light & bright. We were greeted downstairs by an older Greek lady. No sign of the patron from the previous evening. She could have been his wife, or a helper from the village.We never knew, but she spoke a little English which was helpful.
There was a lone table set for two in the beautiful dining room overlooking the terrace.Breakfast was an unusual mix of breads, cheese, cake, & cold boiled eggs. It seemed strange to us there were no tomatoes. In fact, we didn’t see another tomato throughout the rest of the journey! We ate what we could, & I packed the boiled eggs away, in case we needed rations later. You never know where your next meal is coming from. We chatted to the lady about the hotel & the lack of guests. This, apparently is how things are in Greece now. No-one has any money. No-one comes any more. She talked of a once bustling hotel .It was heartbreaking to hear. How soul destroying to polish & dust a place every day, waiting for guests that hardly ever materialise. We said our goodbyes, ( feeling like leaving a donation!) & headed off, towards Albania.
It was 8.30 when we departed. 9.30 when disaster struck. We were turning off the village road heading for the motorway, when a loud crunching noise from Benny (the bus) brought us to a halt. For those who are familiar him, you will know that when Rick says ‘oh shit, now we’re in trouble’, we really ARE in trouble! We pulled into the side of the road while he examined the engine, looked underneath etc. Nothing major to be seen. There was no one around, no garage, nothing. There was nothing else for it but to carry on- slowly! However it seemed like a gear problem, & in low gear it crunched & grated like hell, but with some speed in higher gear toddled along just fine.
This was not a nice feeling. The roads were busy, but the gas stations & services were heaving! It must have been a holiday day or something! Queues to get to the pumps, queues to get out, queues for the loos. I have never seen anything like it! Rick chose to pull in one & have another look underneath. He got his tools out & told me to sit in the drivers seat. ‘Right, I’m going underneath. Take the handbrake off & put your foot on the brake. When I shout, put it into gear, but don’t take your foot off the brake or you’ll run me over!’
Arrrgghh!! My nervous disposition just trebled! Fortunately I didn’t run him over but he still couldn’t identify the problem. We managed another 200K with crunching first gear but ok on cruise. We turned off the highway at Iaonini & drove into town to look for a garage.As we stopped at traffic lights I noticed an internet cafe on the right, with parking & a large forecourt. We pulled in. What a find that turned out to be! We ordered food first while we regrouped our thoughts (Delicious oven baked lamb with potatoes, feta salad). The young man didn’t speak English, but a young lady came to attend who spoke beautiful English. We thought she was a waitress, but we subsequently learned she was on holiday there with her boyfriend! She worked at the university in Athens, but this was the town in which she grew up & the cafe was owned by a family member. We explained to Alexandra what had happened. She introduced us to Nikos , her Uncle who was sitting in the forecourt. They couldn’t have been more helpful. There was a garage just next door, & they went with Rick to speak to the mechanics. They took Benny in & started to investigate. This took the biggest part of the morning/afternoon, but fortunately we were sat in the shade, had food & drink, & Wifi! Not all bad then.I even spoke to my friend Sandra on Skype. Nothing like a gossip when you’re broken down in a strange country! It transpired the problem was a wheel drive shaft, which was worn & not connecting to the 4 wheel drive. If it worsened, we would have no drive at all! Unfortunately, Benny is a Japanese import, & after dozens of phone calls they announced this part could not be found anywhere in Greece!
At no point though, did we experience that sharp intake of breath we see so often in the UK. ‘Whhosh sorry mate, 3 weeks on Tuesday if yer lucky, & it’ll cost yer.’ They said they would sort it, but it might take a day or two & in the meantime they would find us a hotel. I started to feel a bit alarmed. What sort of hotel? Something decent, or a B&B with no aircon & no facilities? Nikos patted my shoulder reassuringly. ‘It is my Uncle hotel, very nice, swimming pool, you’ll like it darling, donna worry!’ ‘ It is 50 Euros a night with breakfast, we get it for you for 30.’ He was one of those exuberant characters that are endlessly cheerful & make you laugh.
With that we went back to the garage, took our overnight bags & they were loaded into someone else’s car & he drove us to the hotel, about 15 mins away. We would never have found it, but oh my! It was lovely! Outdoor pool, & a really classy bedroom/bathroom. The nicest place we have seen for a while. The young woman who checked us in also served drinks by the pool, but there was no restaurant operating , & no food available. Another example of the failing Greek economy. By the time evening fell she disappeared & a fully stocked bar had no staff to serve. We had to settle for a sandwich from the garage next door & the boiled egg rations! ah haa! Knew they’d come in handy. We were ok. We wouldn’t starve. Jack Daniels was with us & our music, books & Wifi. I dare say if my boys had been with us they would have helped themselves from the bar & paid in the morning!
A few business men had checked in late afternoon & we joined them for breakfast the next morning. Another unusual selection of sliced meats, cheeses, bread & jam, cheese puff rolls, marble cake, custard slices & chocolate brownies. But who cares? Its food, & hey, we are the people who eat Pad Krapow with a fried egg for breakfast in other climes. We have no idea how long finding the part & fixing is going to take, so we change our French ferry booking to 24 hours later. We lounge by the pool & wait. Actually the weather has changed here. It is not as warm as we have been used to, & the skies a little overcast. A bit of a shock to be honest after the heat of Turkey. We had no calls, no contact from the garage until suddenly, mid afternoon, the guy from the garage appears from the car park- with Benny- fixed! I had to restrain myself from kissing him! 400 E for the part & a spare, plus 50 E for the work. They had found an alternative part & given us a spare, should the other side go.