When we first started this blog its purpose was twofold : to keep family and friends updated on our progress and to detail our 3 week long trip to Cyprus. For an explanation of exactly why we decided to drive rather than fly to our new life feel free to jump right back to the start of the blog here. Anyone wanting to see more information on the trip will find the “Op Keo” category in the categories list on the right hand side of the blog useful.
So, in summary, we decided to drive from London to Cyprus. The trip required two ferries, from Italy to Greece and then from Greece to Cyprus. Looking back through some blog notes it is clear that we alluded to some trouble with the first of the ferries but didn’t go into detail. A therapist might suggest that it’s taken us this long to come to terms with the events of that segment of the trip ;-)
So, having docked in Patras the plan was to load the car, depart the ship, find the hotel and then sleep.
There appeared to have been relatively few cars on the ferry. Dozens and dozens of articulated lorries, but only a handful of cars. There had been some unloading in Corfu and Igounmenitsa but the vehicle decks were still fairly full. The lorry drivers appeared to be regulars on this route and needed little advice, which was just as well as the crew were relaxed about giving out instructions. In fact, they didn’t really bother.
Once we arrived in Patras we were keen to leave and, based on experience over the last couple of days, were not expecting much guidance from the crew so we decided to make our own way to the car deck. We’d made a note of which deck we were parked on (the lowest one, naturally) and we’d spotted the lifts. We picked up the bags – much easier with two – and headed lift-wards. Only one small hitch – the lift button for our deck needed a key to be operated; strangely the only deck that this was true for. While we were considering this and deciding what to do an engineer joined us in the lift and saw our predicament. He produced a handy key, unlocked the lift and allowed us to select our car deck.
Yes, with the benefit of hindsight (and tipped off by the blog title no doubt) those are alarm bells that you can hear ringing in your mind as you read ;-)
So, oblivious to the imminent danger we headed down to the lowest of the car decks, having waved goodbye to the helpful engineer as he got out a couple of decks above. Once on the deck we commented on the heat and then went looking for the car. The deck was relatively empty with just a handful of cars, all in the same general area. Our car was blocked in on all sides.
With other cars on all sides there was little point in being with the car so we considered returning to the upper decks, and the fresh air and cooler temperatures, for a while. With that in mind we headed back to the lift. Yes, the key operated lift for which we had no key. Obviously the lift was inaccessible to us so we headed to the stairwell only to discover that the whilst we could ascend the stairs the doors to the upper decks were locked. By this point we were mildly troubled but not yet overly concerned. We headed back down to our car deck and double checked both the lift and the other stairwells to satisfy ourselves that neither was of use.
Since neither was accessible we waited … and waited … and waited while the temperature went up … and up … and up. Periodically one of us wandered off to explore the car deck, in reality more for something to do and to stay off the feeling of doom rather than with any optimism that an escape route might be hiding from us.
As we waiting we could hear the occasional noise from the higher decks and over time they became louder and more frequent. With the benefit of plenty of thinking time we figured out that the lower decks each had a collapsible vehicle ramp which could be withdrawn back to the roof of the deck once loading was complete. Since the ramp had been in place when the car had been loaded this hadn’t been apparent. Now, as the ramp was collapsed we could just see the outline of where it was flat-packed and held in place above us. The rationale of a collapsing ramp was also clear, it allowed more vehicles to be placed on each deck.
However, while our powers of deduction helped to pass the time they did nothing to get us out. We were forced to wait while each and every deck above us was cleared before the ramp to our deck could be deployed. All in temperatures that started as rather warm and climbed to unpleasantly hot.
When the ramp was lowered, some two hours after we first accessed the deck, the crew were fairly horrified to see us there. They were also baffled to find us lying on the car deck under an air duct. Whilst they might have thought that the duct provided little airflow we knew, through extensive investigation, that the air temperature just underneath it was a mere 40º C (104º F) rather than the significantly higher temperatures elsewhere on the deck.
The moral of this story, as much as there is one, is that if a kindly engineer with a key offers to give you access to a restricted floor think carefully before you accept. In our case it resulted in a deeply unpleasant couple hours in uncomfortable heat with no water, food or means of entertainment or escape. Our real fear during this time was that, with us absent, the crew would not open the deck to release our car and that we’d eventually be found when the ferry was emptied in Venice, some two days later.
In the end we drove off the ferry in the early hours of the morning very hot, tired and highly fragranced. As a final insult while the car had been trapped a scented traveling candle in a tin had melted. As it hadn’t been flat the wax leaked all over the contents of the bag of toiletries it was contained in. For days afterwards we were forced to pick tiny pieces of wax from other items that were in the same bag. Worse still the smell permeated the car and our belongings. Still today, some three years on, that smell transports us back to the car deck of that ferry.