Thursday 23rd September
Yesterday's drive was long, hard but enjoyable. We left Milan at 6.30pm & got lost right after driving out of the camping grounds. Again! The driver in front of us wasn't keeping his eyes on the vehilces ahead & next thing we knew we had a trail of some 9 vehicles on a merry goose chase to nowhere. We got sorted out after a number of calls & boy is my phone bill gonna shoot right through the roof. How we managed to loose our way or get separated from the group is beyond me. Lets just hope we're learning from our mistakes.
Once we re grouped at a service station it was smooth sailing all the way. We had John leading & the very capable Russ bringing up the rear. Stopped every hour or so for a stretch & coffee for some. We continued driving well into the night as we wanted to get as close to Ancona as possible. Some drivers were showing fatigue & this is where the co driver's role is crucial. Either he takes over or he gets a conversation going. Azura took over the last leg of the drive & we were quite prepared to drive all the way to Ancona.
But we stopped some 30km away from Ancona, at a place called Sanigillia or something like it. Found an open car park, right across Holiday Inn & settled in for the night, except that it was 2.30am. I needed the toilet & spotted a McDonalds up ahead & made my way there with Wahab of Aqsa Sharif. It was closed of course but a cleaner was busy tidying up for the night. We knocked on the glass & indicated toilet use. He came out & after a while obliged us by opening the door, but in Italian told us that he couldn't let us in as there was CCTV. Wahab guessed he was Arab & indicated that we needed to pray & that softened him instantly. He asked "Musalman?" & we said yes & after a while he nodded us in. I sat & chatted with him a bit but it was tough going as neither of us understood what the other was saying except that he's Egyptian & I'm from Malaysia.
Azura & I decided to sleep in the front of of our vehicle as our previous night's experince sleeping in the back of the van in our sleeping bags was way too cold for comfort. I thought my muscles were gonna freeze. The front kept us nice & warm but resulted in exceptionally stiff joints, especially the knees.
We were off at 10.300am & got to Ancona some 30 minutes later, the first to arrive & a first for our team. Driving into Ancona port reminded me of Alexandria & Jaffa, that same Mediterranean air. As the others staggered in our Aqsa men got comfortable & got the stoves going. They've taken command of ours too & had noodles going on one stove & coffee on another. These men are amazing. yesterday the made briyani rice with gravy where I just bought a sandwich. And today again I took the easy way out & bought myself pasta with pesto which was excellent, al dente perfect.
We're now on board the Anek Hellenic Spirit, on ur way to Greece. Its a huge ferry, more like a crusier to me. We've got a cabin; 4 to one. Definitely an upgrade from yesterday. The Adriatic sea spans all around. Simply beautiful. Walking about the deck scents of kebabs wafted through the air as people lounged about quite happy to be baked by Miss Sun. The internet cafe with a mere 6 computers is fully occupied. 3 Euros for 2 hours is a steal compared to the 5 Euros for the same in Milan.
Everyone's looking forward to some rest tonight before another long day ahead tomorrow. We're expected to dock at 8am, a 16 hour ferry ride. Apparently there's some program & we're waiting to be informed.
Spirits are high, very high. Everyone's confident of a successful mission, Insha Allah. And Russ says HI.