This month’s shuttle trip to and from Italy has gone well so far. A slight delay caused by some high winds meant I’d fallen behind slightly, but I’m back on track!
I left Gloucestershire on Wednesday 6th, early and headed for London to collect goods for onward travel to Italy. Previously, during the week, I’d loaded the van with other goods and had left enough space to collect the remaining loads.
It is always a worry, when you plan separate loads for individual customers, that you may get the calculations wrong and not have enough room by the time you reach your last collection before making your way to the ferry! And today was no exception! Due to some inaccurate measuring by two of my wonderful customers, it was looking like a running out of space situation by the time I reached New Addington for the last pick-up!
Luckily, I’d allowed some extra space in case this might happen, and so all was (just about) well!
Once across the channel, I set my GPS for Munich – the first customer’s home. Gemma had ordered some decking and balustrade timber from the UK so that her husband could set about building their pergola!
Now, you’d think it all a bit less complicated to order the timber locally in Munich! After all, surely wood is in plentiful supply and therefore cheaper in the country that houses the Black and Bavarian Forests! But after raising this point with my prudent client, Gemma, it would seem this more complicated plan of hers saved her over £1000!!!
Onwards, Through Stunning Austria
Next on the list of destinations for this trip: Monte Santa Maria Tiberna in the Perguian mountains.
From Munich, I set in the way-point to Fernpäss, and headed to Italy. This is a more direct route than heading to Salzburg and west to Innsbruck along comparably dull Autobahns. And here’s why:
After a good sleep, parked between trucks at the rest area on the Brenner Pass, I headed across the Austria-Italian border at about midnight. The Autostrade was pretty clear at that hour, shadowed by the towering mountains on either side as the moonlight shone behind them.
I reached Monte by 7am and waited in a mountain lay-by until it was time to meet the housekeeper who would be at the house by 9:15. Literally, the only sound I could hear was the birds. No distant traffic or planes. Just literal, avian tweeting in the morning sunlight!! It was so serene!
So at 9:15 I started unloading the furniture and boxes and carried them along the cobbled corridor and into the home. Joe and Robbie are the clients whose products I was transporting to Italy. Their company, SPINA, are a team of interior designers, so the goods were very expensive and fragile. Once delivered, I took a few surrounding photos of the area and moved onto the next delivery.
Irsina, near Matera was the next destination. Wayne, the customer, had given me a key to his place in this town, so that I could deliver his sofa, rocking chair, nest of tables and cupboard in his absence.
The tricky bit was getting into the town!
Eventually, I found my way to the town, only to be faced with very narrow streets with archways to negotiate, protruding doorsteps to avoid and overhanging air-con units to miss!!
The street I needed was particularly challenging for a 7 meter Mercedes Sprinter and I only JUST managed to reverse into the street entranceway without any scratches!
After single-handedly unloading, wheeling and manoeuvring the 2.5 meter sofa down a small flight of stairs and into Wayne’s home, I placed the other items inside the house, locked up and made my way to the next one…
This next delivery was to Martina Franca in Puglia.
Now, transport to Puglia is not so easy for people to find, so my customers tell me! And I’ve capitalised on this fact over the years, acquiring a small client base there since 2008. This trip saw 6 of these clients all needing a small load in a concentrated area near Ostuni.
Nevertheless, it still took all day to deliver all their goods, such is the terrain and level of ease locating villas and trullos in this rural area!
After a Saturday fraught with arranging Italian Architects, builders, housekeepers and clients to be present for spuriously timed deliveries, I moved on to the next area of Italy: Calabria…
Zambrone is a small town in the region of Calabria and very near to the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is where my next client had asked me to go in order to collect his boat that needed transport from Italy to Blandford, Dorset. This was a 4 hour drive southwest from where I was, so speeding along past Taranto and the coast of Ionian Sea, I eventually arrived in a town 30 minutes from Zambrone, called Pizzo. Here, I perched the van facing the water in a kind-of car park overlooking the sea.
While I tried to have a Sunday lie-in, the echoed sound of Italian dogs snapping in the marble-floored apartments behind me, together with eager church-going residents starting their nearby cars, prevented this!
So I peeled a banana, scrubbed my face and armpits with a bodywash product and headed up the winding cliff face roads.
I was to meet someone in Bar 88 who would lead me to where the boat (on a trailer) was being stored. Even though it was 9:30 on a Sunday morning, the bar owner was there, busy serving smartly dressed Zambronians with espresso as they made their way to church.
I was introduced to a man who spoke zero English and asked to follow him. He led me and the van in his car to the field where the boat was.
The trailer had no electrics, but I was forewarned of this. We hitched up and strapped down the boat securely in the burning sun! Next, i fastened on the tailboard lights and looped the cable around the trailer frame. After plugging in and a quick lights test, I made my way to the nearest garage where I could get some air into the trailer tyres! They were dangerously low on pressure and my snail-pace drive back down the winding cliff indicated this!
Pumped and ready to go!
Riding on air again, I set the sat nav to the next destination: Treviso, in the north of Italy, near Venice. A mere 12 hour drive! But at least it was homeward bound!
This was a slow, 56 mph plod along the Autostrades and peppered with frequent stops in order to check the boats security and the heat of its trailer’s tyres. I think I put way too much air in! They were scorching after the first stop! So I let a load out and moved on.
The next stop saw a vast improvement. The tyres were running warm and I was happy! Although, the deep whirring sound of a dodgy wheel bearing did alarm me somewhat! But when you are 2000 miles away from home, you just got to put your fingers in your ears and pretend it’s not happening…! (Said no courier ever!! Haha!)
100 miles away
10 hours later, no sign of any wheels falling off! I pulled into a service area on the road to Padova for a sleep. It was, after all, 3:30 am and my main concern was to get past the busy Bologna, Monday morning rush hour point during the dark and quiet hours.
I awoke at 7am by the heat of the sun, robbing me of the two extra hours which I’d planned to spend zonked out!
I was only 100 miles from the load at Treviso (3 pallets of goods destined for Blantyre). I’d acquired this job through Courier Exchange, the network where notifications of jobs are sent out to couriers like me. This one came in en route to Munich a few days earlier, where I quickly seized on the opportunity to quote for it, knowing the ETA for that part of my route home would coincide with the customers requirements.
It doesn’t always work out like this, but I was thrilled to get this job as it meant I would not need to spend any time searching for other loads back.
I am writing this while waiting… And waiting… And waiting… for the promised three pallets out of this factory in Treviso. It’s one of those ‘piggy on the middle’ situations. I go into the reception office. The lady says (in excellent English) she knows nothing about a collection. I ring the people who booked the job with me. He rings the customer/buyer in Ireland. They say it’s all paid for and arranged. The receptionist says it isn’t. She rings the customer/buyer direct. He says he’s got it wrong. I ring the agent again. He says there’s definitely a collection. I tell the receptionist. She rings Ireland AGAIN. No answer. I ring agent to say “what’s going on??” he says there’s now been an error!
All this, and the goods are ready to go! But just not been paid for! Crazy! 100 miles out of my way!
Next stage is to charge a cancellation fee, but it’s frustrating that I reserved the space on the van all week for this! Now it’s too late to get any loads back. I can wait intil Wednesday!!! And charge waiting time!!
So do I hire myself a gondola for two days and eat Cornettos on the waterways of Venice? Of head back empty and lose out?
In the end I decided to head back and see if any other jobs back might come up. As it happened, (and always seems to!), a little load would pop up on an email about 100 miles behind me as I made my way across Germany! Such is Sod’s law!
Back to Blighty!
The pic above is of the Macdonalds restaurant on the Brenner Pass. It’s got the greatest views I’ve ever seen when seated in a fast food chain! So I treated myself after a week on grapes, bacon frazzles crisps, mini-muffins and nuts!
The trip back was straight forward. The boat remained stable on the trailer, I wasn’t stopped by German or Austrian police, and the sun didn’t stop shining! All was going well, until I got to the queue of trucks at the ferry terminal! Just a THREE hour delay then…!!
Until next time… Gordi
Posted 11 days ago