Hello all! Well, I can hardly believe it but we have made it to Calais! We are camping by the beach in boiling hot weather, swimming, sunbathing and generally having a merry time, waiting to board Le Shuttle tomorrow morning and cross the English channel!
It's a mad thought that it was over two years ago when Grettle and I boarded the ferry from Dover to Calais and began our adventure East to India! Clearly we got horribly lost somewhere along the way!
Now going back to where i left off, I had a fun last day in Moscow and met a nice chap from Armenia called Gerov who took me and Molly to see Red Square and wonder around the center of the city.
i met with the vet and managed to sort out Molly's certificate to get her out of Russia and into the EU, and packed up in preparation for my final leg through Russia the following morning.
This didn't go as smoothly as planned and took a little longer than anticipated due to a flat tire on the motorway heading out of the city! Even though i say so myself, i was doing rather well and had managed to remove Grettle's back wheel on the hard shoulder before two hefty chaps came to the rescue and helped me change the tube inside Grettle's back tire. In hindsight it was really a very good job that they did come along since none of us could manually remove the tire from the wheel and in the end they had to run over it several times in their truck to get it off!
It took a few days to reach the Latvian border, where, to my amazement, everything went very smoothly and we had no issues getting Molly out of Russia and into the EU, she wore a flower for the occasion and made several friends in the customs office!
We had a wonderful time in Latvia and spent a few days in a forest lodge, next to a beautiful lake, swimming, relaxing and soaking up the sun for the first time since setting off from UB and into Siberia!
We didn't linger in Lithuania but had a pleasant drive through it to get into Poland, where we stayed for a few days in Warsaw in a cosy little hostel in the center of the old town, before heading down through the Check Republic and into Prague.
Prague was great fun and such a beautiful city to spend some time. Molly and I wondered the cobbled streets of the old town, talking to the carriage horses, browsing markets, feasting on spit roast in the center square and drinking beers with several jolly chaps on their stag do's.
After a few days in Prague, we set off for Salzburg and crossed the border into Austria.
Salzburg, as always, was great fun and i stayed with my old friend Chris. He took some time off work and we spent a happy few days wondering around the Sound Of Music sites with Molly, playing mini golf, drinking a little too much in the Irish pubs and generally catching up on the past couple of years!
Molly went swimming for the first time in an attempt to catch some ducks in the famous lake that Maria and the children capsize into as they all stand up to greet the Baroness Shreda. She retreated quickly however, as an angry mother followed by her mob of ducklings retaliated and chased her, hissing and sissing like a snake, back out of the water!
I stayed in Salzburg for almost a week before setting off for the Dolomite mountains and crossing the border into Italy. We wound our way over the Alps on tiny roads over several mountain passes, camped and scooted through the stunning Aosta Valley, passed through some wonderful little villages filled with windy, narrow cobbled streets, Gelati parlous, tasty Italian pizzerias and lovely wooden chalets until reaching Mont Blanc.
I had a very amusing encounter with the Italian police on route to Aosta Valley during a brief stint on the motorway when I stopped at a petrol station for a coffee break. As I pulled in to the station, a group of about 20 heavy leather clad bikers who loitered near by, watched incredulously as Grettle, Molly and I scooted scruffily passed them. One of the group soon approached me and questioned whether Grettle was allowed on the motorway. I shrugged and smiled, replying that i wasn't entirely sure but so far so good. She looked doubtful about this and told me that I should ask the police. Why on earth i would go out of my way to do this, i didn't know, until I turned around to see with horror, a police officer inspecting Grette curiously.
I wondered towards him, and greeted hm jovially. 'Documents' he responded dryly. Oh dear, i thought, this didn't bode well. It wasn't only the fact i probably wasn't allowed on the highway, but also, i was very aware that my provisional bike license which i had obtained in the UK in 2015, not only meant I was restricted to driving only in the UK, but also, had expired in April, meaning i was now driving around Europe with no license, and therefore, no insurance, no MOT and no tax! I took out my car license hoping he wouldn't look too carefully at the back of it and showed him Grettle's registration papers. The officer shook his head and told me that scooters were not allowed on the motorway in Italy and proceeded to leaf through the pages of an official looking book until declaring that my fine was to be 50 euros.
Wondering how to play this one, i tried the obvious 'I'm afraid i don't have a penny to give you' to which he responded by asking how i had managed to pay for my fuel. A very good question. So moving on to a different tack, i explained my budget was awfully small and that i needed every penny i had to get back to the UK. He asked me where i had come from and when i told him i was on my way home from Mongolia, his attitude changed in an instant; he began laughing loudly, patting Grettle on her headlamp and shaking his head in disbelief. He then wondered off to confer with his colleague. I wondered into the station shop to get my self a coffee in the mean time and as i was paying for it at the till, the officer walked in, took me in his arms, gave me a kiss on each cheek and sang 'chou Emma' before hopping back into his car and waving goodbye out of the window!
Anyway, moving on from the Italian police and into France, it was all too exciting scooting out of Italy through the Mont Blanc tunnel which continues through a low-lit corridor for 20km before opening into France. I stayed with a friend called Isabel who I had met in Ulan Bator over the winter and was now back at her home in Charmonix. We drank wine, munched on olives and homemade quiche in her colorful garden, lapped up the sunshine and caught up whilst looking out over the terrific back drop of the Alps.
Having bid goodbye to Isabel, Molly, Grettle and I wound our way on small rural roads from Charmonix to Calais, camping in little fields and enjoying plenty of Pain Au Chocolat along the way!
I have my fingers tightly crossed that everything will be OK getting Grettle and Molly through customs and onto the shuttle tomorrow morning and hope to reach home by the evening!!
Until then- adios!