“The return journey…
Dennis had to get back to work so he had sensibly flown home. We had listened to my CD’s and iPod all the way through too many times, including the Les Miserables sound track for which my team had put me on a cool level with Adrian Mole. We had also run out of tea… Lyn was not happy.
We decided to leave on the Sunday night to get the mountain part out of the way. The owner said we could kindly stay at his other place in Transylvania, 5 hours away by truck. We had a nice easy journey until we turned off the main road which led us to a dirt track. However, we had faith in the sat-nav and we got the exact post code from Minhea. After about 10 miles we arrived (yay), only to discover that we can’t get over the small wooden bridge that gets us into the yard. At this point it was dark and I was tired, so I was all for attempting the bridge but after many protests from Lyn and Emily I conceded that maybe the bridge wouldn’t hold us. I couldn’t get hold of anyone as there was no signal, so we decided to try and find a way round the bridge… We ended up in the middle of nowhere, so I had to do a U-turn. I managed an epic 60 point turn and we headed back the way we came. We found a local who said keep going and turn right at the fork, excellent. We turned right at the fork and headed that way for 6 miles before the road became too narrow, oh help. On one side we had a drop and on the other a bank. I had to reverse in the dark… we managed it, just, with a lot of swearing, sweating and nervous passengers including 3 tired ponies. We finally found a place to turn around and I decided to head back to the village to try and get some signal, but no one was picking up. So I called Sergiu, who was the stable manager at the yard the year before but who was now working in Vienna (where we planned to stay the next night). Luckily he answered and guided us in. We put the ponies to bed and fell into ours beds, ready for a 6am start.
The next morning we awoke bleary eyed and got dressed. Lyn went off to use the shower and came back saying there was a bear blocking the door to the shower and she wasn’t going near it. Being the team leader apparently I got the job… She wasn’t joking when she said it was a bear. This was the biggest, shaggiest dog I had ever seen! I approached with caution, the dog was lying in front of the door. As I neared him no sound emitted, I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. At this point I had two options… 1) step over dog and be mauled, or 2) get him to move and be mauled. With my team equally egging me on and wetting themselves I stepped over the bear and threw myself inside – the dog didn’t even bother to open his eyes!
When we went to boot up Sirius for travelling, I couldn’t get him away from the far corner of the box. I went in there to drag him out only to find him breathing on new born puppies and their mother! Totally remarkable. He wouldn’t let me near them. Sadly we did have to take him away but not before the mum had licked his nose thoroughly.
We had an uneventful but long trip to Vienna. We were greeted by Sergiu, who put the ponies to bed and cooked us supper. I told him he could come back with us and see a bit of England and that we were leaving at 3am. I was planning on driving straight through to home, so it was going to be a very long day. None of us expected to see Sergiu in the morning, but there he was, and we left for home plus one Romanian.
We left Austria behind and hit Germany, which was nothing but queues and road works. I noticed the German police were in front of us, telling us to follow them. Oh dear. When we came to a halt, a very smiley couple of policeman got out and I totally impressed them with my German. They asked what we were transporting and I told them horses. They asked to look inside, which they did, and then they said they thought we were transporting drugs because of the Global Herbs sticker on the side of the lorry! We all fell about laughing and said we hoped we would be smarter than to advertise it, if that was what we were up to. We went on our merry way.
Half an hour later the motorway was only open for cars (they put barriers up to stop the lorries) so we dutifully followed the other lorries off the exit ramp. My sat-nav told us to go to the roundabout and make a U-turn but offered no other helpful advice. There were no diversion signs and all the other lorries were going off in different directions, and many of them were then doing a U-turn as well. We were already 3 hours behind schedule due to traffic. So I winged it and squeezed around the barriers as quickly as we could. We headed out onto the motorway again, luckily everyone else followed. I was concerned that there maybe barriers at the other end, but we were only 9 miles from France. I can safely say France had never looked so sweet.
We knew the ferry left at 9.35 and I had already called Calais at 8.45 to say that we were 10 miles out and could they book us on and hold on as long as possible. They were most helpful and said no worries, just let them know at check in and they would put us straight on. We left the motorway following the sign posts to the car ferry. I will say at this point I had been driving for a while! So as we took the exit the road which then split, left lane car ferry right lane God knows, I was not paying attention and drifted happily onto the new motorway. The sat-nav in her pleasant tone alerted me to my mistake! I may have got a bit angry with the team at this point – Why weren’t they looking?! We got off at the next exit and drove back as as fast as poor old Martha could go. We got off and followed signs to the car ferry again, and then freight. There were two lanes for freight, and I took the first exit thinking it would be quicker… oh no. This led us straight to the old freight terminal, no longer in use!!! Could we get back to where we were? Absolutely not. We were driving around trying to get to the right place, and finally I spot a lorry on my right through a fence, but how to get to the other side? Don’t ask how, but we made it, just.
At passport control, Sergiu pipes up, “Do I need my passport?!”… I may have spewed a few profanities at this point. Luckily it is legal to travel to Great Britain on an EU Identity card, phew! (Though apparently this is not good enough for Onestop in Marlborough).
I immediately apologised to the team and took them to the Brasserie on board the ship and bought them all a proper supper. This is definitely something you crave when you have been living in a lorry for a while, vegetables just don’t work when on tour! I slept after dinner until we arrived at Dover. I think everyone was pleased to see those white cliffs.
We were picking up my new pony on the way, another Ruth horse and since she lives 10 mins from Dover it made sense, rather than to come back later in the week. With ‘Clive’ loaded, we set off again and I decided while we were already off the motorway to grab some fuel. I went in to give them my card, which you have to do to activate the HGV pumps, and left Emily to fill up. She came in £47 later and said she had put Adblue in instead of diesel. I didn’t even know what Adblue was for and said “I’m sure it’s fine, just put diesel on top”… At this point the lovely Keith came over and told us, “no way, it has to be drained”. Luckily he knew a bloke, who he rang and in the meantime offered us all free coffee. Emily was so worried and I just sat there and laughed, and suddenly everyone joined in and none of us could stop. I cant explain it. There we were, 20 hours in, tired, smelly, fed up with our luck but just laughing until tears poured out of our eyes. Even now I’m writing this I’m still smiling! Keith’s mate turned up quickly and drained the tank, and then we thanked Keith and headed home.
We got home at 3 and were greeted by Ma and Jeremy and the doggies, who were ecstatic to see us. We put the ponies to bed and we all sat in the kitchen with a cup of tea and sandwiches and told the story I’ve just relayed to you to the gang at home. What a journey. Epic and awful, tough and fun, long and boring. Am I going again next year? …We are already planning our journey…”