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Switzerland/ Italy

Travel Journal

22.07.2006, Freiburg - Melano (Lago di Lugano), Switzerland, 401 km

Finally the big day has come!!! A soft ringing of the alarm clock at 4 am brought us to our senses ... off to Africa. We packed the last things, went through the apartment for the last time and were greeted by my poor tired parents.
After a sad good-bye and a couple of "god, what the hell were we thinking - let's just stay here ..." thoughts, we climbed into Tembo, started the motor and rolled down our street. 5:35 am.
However, soon our thoughts were focused on the day ahead. The challenge for that day was the Gotthard Tunnel. We were worried about Tembo being too slow in the mountains and having vacationers and trucks hassling us.
At 6.35 we crossed the Suisse border without problems and went for our first coffee break. Just when we thought, that we would make the Gotthard without the obligatory Stau/ traffic jam, we got slowed down to a crawl. And it stayed like that for the next 1.5 hours until we finally reached the Tunnel. Poor Jens was having a little work out there working the clutch and the break in 30°C. In retrospect this was actually quite good, because we were not slowing down the traffic.

Tembo has the tendency to spill the diesel out of his back tank, when all tanks are full. It is annoying and we couldn't find the problem yet. Before we started the ascend to the Gotthard tunnel, we stopped for a last diesel refill. When we were crawling up the hill, an exited woman pointed at our car and shouted "You are dripping liquid all over the place!", Jens "where, at the front or the back?", woman "at the back!", Jens (bored) "oh, I know." The woman looked a bit taken aback :-)

In the Tunnel the temperature rose to 40°C and we were sweating freely. After about 5 km into the tunnel (17km total) the motor temperature went up into the red and we had to pull over in a little niche in the tunnel and let Tembo cool down. With the heat, the trucks going by and 5km to the back and 12 ahead, one had to concentrate to keep calm. Luckily the temperature went down again and we got on the other side of the Alps without further incidents.

We took a deserved break at a mountain creek, cooling our heads and feet and then drove on the Lago di Lugano. We actually planned to camp in Como/ Italy, but we couldn't find anything (we drove through picturesque narrow Italian streets and Jens was cursing fluently) and so we drove back to Switzerland and stopped for the night at Paradise Camping at Melano. Directly on the lake. We drew quite some attention since the rest of the campers was rather the family on summer vacation kind of types. We went for a deserved swim and cooked our first camping dinner.

Sentence of the day: "We need to repack our things!"

23.07.2006, Melano, Switzerland - Genua, Italy, 213 km

We slept in, had a relaxed breakfast and at 12.00 were back on the road to Geneva. We were planning to sleep at the ferry harbour in Geneva, since we had to check-in for the ferry to Tunis at 7 am the next day.
Before getting to Geneva we took a nice 2.5 hour break in the little mountain village Ronco di Scrivio in a shady spot next a cemetery (N44°37.186' E008°56.824').

Once in Geneva we drove directly to the ferry port and after some confusion found the spot from which the ferry would leave the next day. We were not the only ones that camped in the port. The place was packed with tiny little cars loaded to the rim with parents, grand-parents and kids and the roofs were laden with items such as refrigerators, sofas, entire living rooms, air-cons and bikes. We sat on the roof, had a beer and simply watched what was going on around us.

We then had a quick pizza in the ferry terminal. It was hard to get into the Terminal though. You could see people in there eating and shopping and there was no way to get there. We finally climbed over some dividers and rubbish and found a fire escape stairway.

Back at "campsite" Jens took down the GPS equipment and hid it - since Tunisia is being a bit difficult entering the country with a GPS - we set up our tent and went to bed. We were envied by our fellow campers, since they slept on the floor in front of their cars. Again the heat was a stifling 29°C at 10 at night.

24.07.2006, Geneva, Italy - Mediterranean Sea

After a last Italian Latte Macchiato and a brioche, we entered the queue for the ferry boarding. Of course this was a complete chaos. It took 2.5 hours to get on the ship. Before that one had to go to the Italian emigration office and get a card stamped. It was on the first floor and there were no stairs only elevators. On the way back down Jens and I were in the elevator together with 8 Tunisians - the thing was packed! The elevator got down to the ground floor and then the door wouldn't open!! Slight panic erupted and at least 5 different languages were shouted at each other. After ca. 8 minutes (it felt longer) the door opened and we were free again. That would have been a quick end to pour Africa trip.

On board we got ourselves comfortable in two deckchairs that became our companions for the next 24 hours. We went through the immigration and customs and the rest of the day we relaxed, watched the sunset and read.

Note: if you are planning the same trip, do learn some French or Arabic, otherwise you will be lost on the ship and lost with the immigration forms.



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Highlights

Getting sarted! 
  Surviving the Gotthard Tunnel/ Gotthard Tunnel Durchquerung 
The last swim in a European lake/ Das letzte Eintauchen in einen europäischen See 
The harbor/ ferry chaos/ Das Hafen-Fähren Chaos  


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Accomodation

Paradise Camping, Melano, Lago di Lugano, Switzerland, directly on the lake
Genua harbor, at CTN Ferry boarding pier. You are not alone ...N44 24.623 E8 56.333


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