It’s 5.30am and I’m on the ferry going to Split. I’ve done this trip probably twenty times this summer. Today the ferry is not the usual one… it’s the little one they bring out for winter, I’m the only foreigner on board. All the Europeans and Americans on the island have gone home for Christmas… the forecast for today is snow… Time to fly south
I’ve been thinking about the title for our last travel log on the island this year. At the beginning of the year I thought it would be a simple ‘We did it’… and have a picture of the house all done.
‘Oughffff’ followed by an impersonation of a gold fish mouth’… as they say on Vis.
It would have been finished… honest… but we had an inspection from the employment Dept… They rocked up with two armed cops and their clipboards. They were looking for illegal Bosnians working on Vis. I told them they’d probably all gone to Engleski.
They didn’t laugh…
They also didn’t find any illegal Bosnians on our site. All the guys we had that day (except Angus) were legit. They checked all my papers and went through my building permission docs and looked somewhat disappointed they couldn’t nail anything on me.
‘You have all your papers in order. This is good’ The inspector said slightly peeved with wasting two and half hours on the ferry to get here.
‘ I just need to see your business permit and we will leave’
‘Sorry’
‘Your business permit’
‘What’s that?’
The inspector gave me that… ‘You go through all this trouble to get your building permission in order, your employ all these guys correctly… and didn’t do the easiest bit and get a BUSINESS PERMIT’ look.
‘You don’t have a business permit?’
Mile,one of the ‘masters’ working on the site was by now doing impersonations of me being hand cuffed behind the inspectors back with the coppers trying not to laugh.
‘Dad… will they be real guns?’
‘Yes Angus…Sorry, I don’t know if I have a business permit, no one has mentioned to me about this’ In Croatia, if you don’t ask, they don’t tell you, even one-way streets…
A £300 fine and all building stopped until the permit has been obtained later… the inspector apologised for Croatian bureaucracy and told me that it would unfortunately be one or two days before we could get the permit and start work again.
‘ You have to fill in lots of forms and get them signed at the police station, it is just a formality.
‘I can handle that’ I thought, if this was England… it would be weeks.
‘You also need a copy of your criminal record from England and that’s it’
‘Oh shit’
On arriving home I called St Albans Police station.
‘ Hi, I’m a calling from Croatia and I need to get proof I am not a mass murderer to apply for a business permit’
‘Yes we can help you with that’
‘ Oh right…OK… that was easy…what do I need to do’
‘ I will send you a form to fill in and you then need to send it back to me with a cheque for ten pounds’
‘Can’t I pay by switch and do it all online’
‘No… we only except cheques’
‘I will loose 15 days’
‘Sorry’
‘OK, once you get the cheque then what?’
‘Once your cheque has cleared… we then apply for your record from Scotland yard’
‘How long does that take’
‘ You are guaranteed to get it within 40 days’
‘Your joking right?’
‘No’
‘Oughffff’
In Croatia they do everything by hand, everything is not on a central computer network… like the ‘National Police Computer’.
In Croatia it takes one hour to get a copy of your record.
The Croatian inspector apologised for the bureaucracy and the length of time it would take. The guy at St Albans police station was trying to sell me the ‘ don’t worry, you will defiantly get it within 40 days’.
Screwed by UK bureaucracy in Croatia…
I rang the inspector and told them that I would not have my record for approximately 60 days. I told him that the house had no roof on and asked if it would be OK if we covered the house with plastic so the inside didn’t get wet.
’60 days?’
‘Yes’
‘I’m sorry about that… really, yes, you can cover your house. Make sure your are finished by Sunday evening.’ We do not inspect at the weekends.’
‘Thanks’
It was Thursday… we had three days.
The ‘O’ team pulled their finger out and by Saturday evening we had completely finished the walls and… roof…all fully insulated and ready for the tiles.

Penny and Angus squeezing in a bit of homework on site.
In Croatia when you finish a house and put the roof on, you roast a whole lamb… get fairly ‘arseholed’ and put a flag up to show the world you have finished and what nationality you are to your neighbours.
A Croatian, Bosnian,. Serbian, English and French flag (Karine is French) was suggested…
We roasted the lamb…
We had ‘puno pivo’s’
Angus and Zdenko put one large Croatian flag on the roof.

We have sort of… kind of… finished it.

The house and Penny on the water tank.
If your interested, you can down load a power point with loads of pictures of the house here.
www.somewheredifferent.com/smokova-house-plan.ppt
Tim and Karin the kid’s teachers… are excellent. They are enjoying life in Komiza and have quickly settled into the school routine. Angus rebelled for a few days wanting to continue working with me on the land… but when Tim started to design the battleground Angus needed to make on a big piece of cardboard he was hooked. Claudia has been asking for double maths homework and Sasha is advancing well with her French… Ok, so she has a private French, French teacher… who cares… she’s doing well at it and she is feeling good about her self.

Karine, the kids French teacher multi tasking;)
The day Tim and Karine arrived Penny started full time on the site with the beer swilling, swearing ‘O’ team from Komiza and me. ‘ Essy boo boo’ (did you score last night;) Penny is asked on an hourly basis with roars of laughter no matter what the answer is.
With no swimming and Penny and me being flat out with the house the kids have become a bit bored and are ready for Egypt.
We leave…hopefully on Thursday Dec 1st providing the new brake pads arrive from Vienna on Monday. We wanted to go the Libyan route, but the £1,000 cost for a ‘tourist policeman’ AND a ‘tour guide’ that had to travel with us… put us right off.
The thought of having to hold our farts in for days on end… or worse, having to share theirs!
Going the Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syrian, Jordan, and Egypt route is logistically a lot easer and before you all ask… there are no ferries to Egypt from Europe. All you need is a valid Syrian visa in your passport and a carnet for each vehicle and the rest you buy on the borders (well…that’s what we think anyway).
We estimate the trip is around 5,000km from Croatia to Siwa, which is on the far side of Egypt from Jordan.
The route

Below is our plan for the route and timings
Leave Croatia 1st Dec
Sarajevo 2nd
Serbia 3rd
Bulgaria 4th
Western Turkey 5th
Istanbul 6th
Istanbul to Cappadocia 7th to 8th
Cappadocia 9th
Syrian border 10th
Syria 11th and 12th (providing there is no problem with the American, sorry UN sanctions due to possibly start on the 15th)
Jordan 13th – 14th
Ferry to Egypt 15th
Cairo 16th
Alexandra 17th
Siwa 18th Dec till April 2006.
When I asked Sasha what she thought about the Itinery she said it looked great apart from the fact that I should have added in ten days for when the Land Cruiser breaks down… hence my trip to Split today for final checks and oil changes on the jeep before we go.
If anyone would like to know that our trip is going OK and that we move through the countries as planned, when ever I get to an internet café, I will update our contacts page www.somewheredifferent.com/contact.asp to say were and how we are. We will not have mobile phones and will only be contactable by email and instant messenger. My MSN instant messenger is duncanridgley (then) @hotmail.com.
I believe lighting does not strike a family twice… and our journey to our new home and Christmas this year will be very different from the last. I had a bad feeling about leaving for Sri Lanka this time last year… I have a good feeling about this trip.
My Mum and Dad, Dottie, Ali and Stu Pearson (yes I know… interesting combination) will all be sharing Christmas with us this year and… well… Inshala.
I’ve arrived in Split, there is snow on the mountains, time to go… so have a good Christmas and if any one wants to come out to Siwa for the full eclipse of the moon that passes right above us on March 29th, we should have a bed or two spare by then to put you up!
Cheers Duncan
PS there is a follow up documentary to the fist Tsunami programme we did in January last year on Channel 5, Dec 20th. During filming on the island, Claudia goes into one of how I baffed up sand and diesel all over the floor at Colombo airport, like she was telling a joke… should make interesting TV.