Wednesday, 6 October 2010

21 Austria, Italy and France

Monday 4th
We started off towards Austria. Neither   of us could walk, so we made the best of the driving.  In Austria we had to get Vignette, which is a little box which cost us 80 Euros but we needed it to travel with the size of our vehicle if we went on the motorways.
Leon and friend, chillin...

Ray found an alternative route and we didn’t use any of our credit up and on into Italy.  All went well until we reached a route that took us up over the mountains towards Livigno.  The first hair pin took us by surprise.  Not a good idea to take a 28 foot MH with a trailer on that road.  I will let Ray take over the tale.  Suffice to say, my nerves were shot and I was not driving.

(Ray). Today I completely scared the crap out of myself. We reached a hairpin bend that took us by surprise and I could not get round it. I remember thinking ...Sh!t...I cannot turn around, I cannot reverse  any distance with this trailer and now I cannot go forward. We are stuck !!!!
I managed to reverse back a bit and on my second attempt, we got round. We negociated three more hairpins and decided at the next one that had a bit of space to turn around. We changed a 30km journey into a 230km one. We changed our minds about going to Livigno.

We eventually camped up in a campsite at about 7pm just North of Lake Garda.  The rain had just started and then continued solidly for the next 12 hours.   Neither of us got much sleep. We actually wondered as the campsite was grass, if we would be able to get out of there the following morning.
It is said that for every positive, there is a negative, and after our scares yesterday, all 3 of us were in for a lot more today.

Tuesday 5th
We were on the road by about 7.30am with the intention of getting as far through Italy towards France as we could, so we knew we had a lot of driving to do again.
The wierd mist on Lake Garda

Ray started us off, and again we  ended  up  going  back down a mountain pass, which was okay when we just met cars coming the opposite direction, but unluckily for us, we met three large tourist buses in the narrowest part of a tunnel.  We were so close to the rock face, and then we heard the horrible crunching sound as the side of the MH dragged along the rock. Everyone was trying to reverse so that we could all get through, which we did, but it was really frightening and Ray did brilliantly.  At the bottom of the pass, we pulled over, and although upset that we had damaged the vehicle, were grateful that it was only the awning cover that had been scratched and the end cover pulled off.  We carried on and stopped for coffee, after that I took over the driving, and although the roads were narrow, I got the easy bit.  We were quite surprised on route through the little towns, that at cross roads and roundabouts, and railway crossings, we kept seeing   women at the side of the road.  It turned out that these were “ladies of the night”, out in the daytime.  For one of them, obviously business was slow as she had brought along her own chair and was sitting quite happily on the roundabout.  Further along, all the railway workers had stopped for “lunch”. We saw girls being dropped off and lots of the little white work vans parked up. 
We needed to get some fuel for the vehicle, and pulled into one of the garages. They are all self service, and that means that you pay the machine and then you can get your fuel.   Ray put 50 Euros into the machine, and when he tried the pump, nothing happened.  There are no attendants or anyone to ask, and after the day we were having, we were both set to start swearing and throw a hissy fit each.  I luckily, realized that it was a game of “spot the pump which was lit up” and after some more maneuvering, we got our fuel. 

Cute road blocks

We stopped again and let Leon have a little stroll on the mountain and drove right on through till about 7 again.
Leon strolling around beside a mad hairpin bend that we stopped at.
Awesome scenery

We had been looking for campsites, but most were closed for the season, however in France, which was where we were by now, there are public car parks where you can stay overnight for free, so we pulled in.  The setting was lovely again with the mountains all around us and a little river.
 We were in a place called   L’Argentiere, and Leon liked it, had a little stroll again and then we all settled for the night.
The view from Lizzy at L'Argentirre

Just before bedtime, it has become custom for Leon to have a quick walk before we close down for the night, and tonight was no exception.  He had been gone a wee while, and when I called him, there was no response.  I got my torch out and went searching for him, still with no luck and got Ray involved as well.  We had been completely alone in this park, but whilst searching I came across a bloke who had a large Rottweiler  type dog with him, sitting down the side of a car which was hidden from our view.  The dog was pretty vocal when I got close, and in my limited French asked if he had seen a small cat.  He responded in the negative, so I turned round to return to the MH and saw Leon just climbing into it.  I had been starting to get a bit fraught, because it was so unlike him, and called to Ray and went to tell the wee man he was grounded.  I looked into the MH and can only tell you the horror I felt when I looked at Leon.  His tail was hanging on by a thread, and his left eye was weeping.  I screamed to Ray to come and help, and basically I became the most useless person on the planet.   Ray sparked into action and we had to take off the tail.  Leon was going into a bit of shock, and I was in total shock.  He is my little boy and I couldn’t stand to see him in such a state.  We bandaged it up and in our limited French we tried all possible ways to get an emergency vet on the phone.  It was 11pm, French time and eventually spoke to a vet who spoke no English but said we could come to him.  We looked out his address and although we thought it would take us only 20 minutes to get to him, it turned out that it would be nearer and hour.  Ray phoned him to let him know and he told us he couldn’t help, that was too long.   Leon was very quiet and I was really upset.  We cleaned him up and decided that the best thing to do would be to drive to the next big town, which was Gap and take him to a vet first thing in the morning, if he survived.  Gap was over 60K’s away and it was the longest journey we had made.  I knew that I wouldn’t get any sleep when we got there,  or  until we got help for Leon.  In Gap we headed to the center of town to find the tourist information office, in the hope that there would be some information about a vet, and as I sat with Leon, Ray was actually approached by some French Police Officers.  Ray explained our situation and they did no more than told us to follow them and they took us to the Police Station.  There, they phoned a 24 hour vet, and told us again to follow them, they would take us to the vet, who would be with us in ten minutes.  It was a very surreal situation. We were in our 28 foot MH with trailer, speeding after a Police car through the deserted streets of Gap at 2.30 in the morning, one very sick cat, and one very red swollen eyed female, still sobbing her heart out.  30 years in the force, did not help me deal with that.  True to their word, they took us to the vets, and he arrived in less than 10 minutes.   He took one look at Leon and stated that he would need  what was left of his tail amputated, checked his eye and stated that it was shock and small trauma, it would be alright.  Large doses of antibiotics and iodine later, Leon was kept in for his operation the following morning, and Ray and I parked up in the car park of a local supermarket so that we could get back to him about 11am.  It was a long night for me.
Wednesday 6th
We were at the vets by 11.  The Vet has been lovely and showed us Leon.  Poor soul was still under the anesthetic so we were told to come back between five and six.  Needless to say, we were there at five on the dot and again were shown Leon.  He was still very dazed and the vet told us that because he is an older cat, his temperature had dropped and he was not responding as quickly as a younger cat would.  He wanted to keep Leon in another day, and that’s where we are at the moment.  For me it is another  long  night and I am really struggling with being positive about it.    We are both just trying to keep busy.

On a positive note, we can’t thank the Police and the vet enough for all their help.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, Karen, Marietta told me about Leon's plight you must have been all over the place. So glad to hear he's okay now. Your blog and pictures are fantastic. I hope you're still having the amazing time you deserve. p.s. Can you post us some sunshine please?