It all started when my Dad bought an old early 1960’s Bedford Dormobile for 30 pounds back in 1973, which he duly fitted out as a family “home on wheels”, in preparation for what was to be an unforgettable family adventure, travelling across Europe from west London to Greece.
So it was, that at the beginning of July my parents, my sister Rebecca (age 1) and I (age 4) plus two fare paying passengers Vicki and Aggie, set off on our journey driving down the M4 to Dover where we caught the ferry to France.
Going at a steady pace, only stopping briefly to pick up fresh supplies and rest overnight, my parents drove from Calais through France, Germany, Austria crossing the Alps and finally through the then Yugoslavia via Belgrade to reach the Greek border. Crossing the frontier they continued on until they reached their first planned stop Potidea in the Halkidiki peninsula. The journey took 5 days.
Arriving at night my parents found a beach where they rapidly pitched the tent only to awake the next morning to find that we had camped in the middle of a sandy field of spiky cactus like plants. Although very young, I can still vividly remember having to carefully pick my way through them to reach the seashore, which, in its turn, was absolutely littered with stinging jellyfish!!
We stayed in Potidea for several days before continuing on at a more leisurely pace, touring the countryside and stopping along the way at places that took our fancy, including Sparta, Olympia and Meteora, travelling as far as Agios Andreas in the Peloponnesus. Here we stayed on a beach campsite where, we were surprised to discover, they took a photo of our van for the campsite postcard, a copy of which was duly presented to us!
An unforgettable and epic first camping experience and one of which I still have lasting memories, despite being just 4 at the time. Memories such as sitting with my legs dangling out of the van’s side door as we drove along the dusty Greek roads; buying a pair of fluorescent pink sunglasses in a Greek village shop and their subsequent sad loss as they blew off my face in a gust of wind as we were driving along; being fed small fried fish by Greek men in stripy shirts in a local café; eating my first sea urchin cooked over the campfire on a sandy beach; walking over sand dunes and discovering human bones from long ago battles; eating sugary homemade Turkish delight and, on the journey home, extracting a sea urchin spine from my big toe in a freezing alpine stream!!
A memorable round trip of well over 5000 spectacular miles and one that, as all great journeys are, littered with anecdotes and unique experiences including, the scary stories of how our brakes faded going down a mountain in the Austrian alps and how we were nearly hijacked by bandits in Yugoslavia. Or the amusing anecdote, not so amusing at the time, of the day that the bag of waste from our camping loo burst covering my father head to toe in it! A trip full of unforgettable people, places and personalities. My parents met Takis on the campsite at Agios Andreas and he remains a family friend to this day!
Every seasoned camper has amazing experiences to share, all of which began with their very first trip. Why not tell us about your first camping experience, a memorable camping moment or an amusing anecdote in the comments box below?