Wednesday 31st August
We drove over the Simplon pass, through the mountains and into Italy. The higher and higher we climbed the cloudier it got until we crested the top of the pass in the mizzle of a cloud all around us, so there was no point in stopping and taking photos as planned, unfortunately it was also our planned breakfast stop, so there was to be no breakfast either.
Last night we planned an early departure because we had some way to go today. Before tea, we had spent a lengthy and at times frustrating session trying to book campsites for the next leg of our trip to Croatia. Wendy and I had been warned, by our new chums, back in Altdorf, that the campsites in Italy were very, very busy and many were full; and so it proved. We hadn’t done anything about booking sites before we left (you’ve had a taste of my forward planning already) other than a rudimentary wish list. So, armed with the ACSI campsite book, the ACSI app, and Google maps we began the process of phoning and trying to book online. Sure enough all of our first choices were fully booked, or didn’t accept dogs, but eventually we managed to book a site on the shores of Lago D’Iseo, one just across the lagoon from Venice and even one in Portoroz in Slovenia. That means we are sorted for the next week, but as we couldn’t find a site by Lake Maggiore we were going to have to drive 170 miles directly to Lake Iseo.
As we crossed the border into Italy the roads became rougher and the clouds continued to gather. A stop at a small fuel station showed that as well as cheap diesel they also did cheap breakfasts; a cup of marvellous Italian cappuccino, a pastry and a bottle of orange juice for €3.70!
Around Lake Maggiore it began to rain and continued to do so off and on for the next couple of hours! I had forgotten how noisy the campervan’s wipers are. The transit of Milan was uneventful apart from the autostrada being as busy as the M1and a couple of hairy moments with the Bip&Go, our electronic motorway toll payment system, which led to Wendy having to wave it across the windscreen every time we came to a toll booth.
Andy and Lesley had their own tribulations, which I will let them tell you about!
Just past Milan we came across a service station selling LPG. Both our vans have refillable tanks for LPG to run the cooking, heating systems and even the fridge if necessary and hadn’t been topped up for a bit as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find filling stations in the UK that are still selling it with the rush to provide electric charging points. As we pulled up at the pump we found it was an attended service and the guy proved to be a real champion as not only did he fill our tanks but he also cleaned our windscreens and in doing so he found that two out of three of my wiper blades (yes three wiper blades, that’s how large the Hymer’s windscreen is!) had perished. Off he went to the shop and came back with new replacements and fitted them for me. What a star!
The rain returned, and not only did the new wipers work perfectly, they were silent, that nasty rubbing sound had gone and no longer do we need the music turned up to 11.
Lake Iseo is beautiful place, smaller, and less popular than, its more ostentatious neighbours, but all the better for that. Marone is a little town, half way up the eastern side of the lake; and our campsite, Camping RIva di St Pietro, is in Marone, right on the shore, just across from a tiny island that is dominated by an old castle that looks to photogenic to be true.
No sooner had we pulled on the brake and plugged in the electrics, and Andy and Lesley were pumping up their paddle boards and off for a circuit of the island, before encouraging Enzo to experience the delights of SUPing too.
The campsite may not have any good dog walks but Bryn and Enzo don’t care. They were more than happy to just play in the water. This might be the best campsite so far, just because of its position.
In the evening, the clouds began to gather again and there was some serious thunder and lightning. This time it wasn’t joking. In the middle of our dinner it began to pour down. Our fellow campers retreated into the sanctuary of their vans, while we stuck it out under the Fozzies awning, squeezing in tighter and tighter as the wind lashed the rain in at us from all sides. We realised that we too would have to go in when people around us started taking photos of us trying to maintain some British sangfroid!
Wednesday dawned dry and sunny and a little cooler so just right for a cycle along the shore. A simple enough task possibly, especially as three out of the four of us have electric bikes, however it will also be Bryn and Enzo’s first time in their dog trailers. Enzo took to his chariot without a murmur and lay down as if he was a seasoned cyclist. Bryn took an alternative view. Despite having spent some time enticing him into the trailer at home and even feeding him inside it so he could get used to it; now it was on wheels, he wasn’t having any of it! We managed to get him in and off I set, with Bryn just giving a gentle whinge now and again. Unfortunately the road out of the campsite was a steep cobbled hill and the clattering of the trailer set him off whining, which continued intermittently most of the ride, despite Wendy and I giving him a ‘stern word’. The most embarrassing point was as we cycled past the market and Bryn decided to give it a full blown operatic aria; it sounded as if I had a siren behind me. Well that is the first trip out of the way, they can only get better, can’t they?