Updated: May 6, 2021
Pireaus to Heraklion, the tricky bit.
The journey from Igoumenitsa to Pireaus was non-eventful, with only one stop to fill up with fuel along the way. We were grateful for having layered our clothing, as each country got that little bit warmer.
Arriving in Pireaus and navigating the port was tricky to say the least, we had no idea which gate we should go to, the traffic around the area was hectic and there seemed to be a lot of frustrating 'make a U turn' comments from our sat nav.
After our 3rd attempt, we found the relevant ticket office, check-in was completed and we were pointed in the direction of the ferry to board immediately. Amazing! We couldn't believe we had made it, never mind with time to spare. I all but skipped back to the van, jumped inside and wafted our newly collected tickets in the face of my fellow traveller. The tiredness didn't dampen the squeal of excitement from either of us.
I was well prepared:-
Boarding tickets - check!
Passports - check!
Residency - check!
Negative PCR test - check!
Passenger Locator Form (PLF) - check!
Animal Health Certificates - check!
Sadly, my organisation skills didn't impress Mr Ferry Man. After trawling through our paperwork, Mr Ferry Man found a glitch - apparently the date that I had filled in our PLF was too soon. Too soon?
The website rules that I had read and re-read a trillion times before filling in the details had stated that the form must be completed AT LEAST 24 hours in advance. In fact, it wouldn't allow you to fill it in for the current date. In that respect, surely it also had the capabilities to stop you filling in a date that would be considered 'too soon' to complete the form?
Urgh, it makes my head hurt reliving this episode. He refused us entry.
He pointed us in the direction of the port police who were the only people who could override this situation.
This was more than a hitch, this had the potential to be catastrophic to our journey.
We'd had an incident several years earlier whilst holidaying in Crete and had to deal with the police following a car collision - we weren't at fault but had certainly been treated that way. Speaking with the port police was daunting, even more so than having to re-navigate the roads to get to the relevant gate.
I can't write the nitty gritty of the conversation that followed, it didn't make sense and quite frankly, I don't want to re-live it. There was a lot of shouting, demanding documents, not being satisfied with said documents, and lots of refusals to let us board. My brain simultaneously tried to reason with the policeman, whilst also trying to consider what our other options might be. Finding a hotel to live in with a dog and a cat until border restrictions were lifted did not appeal. Who knew how long that would even be - we had known that travelling during a pandemic was not an ideal time, but circumstances had dictated it. We had done everything humanly possible to negate the risk involved with our journey.
I persevered, not entirely sure whether I might get arrested. I produced document after document, none was sufficient. He flicked through the substantial file of paperwork I had and eventually demanded he see my AFM (pronounced af-fer-me). My mind went blank. What was my AFM, where was my AFM, did I even have an AFM?
You know when you say a word so many times that you're not sure it's even a word anymore?
I did the only thing a 40+ year old woman could do in a situation like that. I called my Dad.
It was, of course, the ONLY document I hadn't printed off and put in my trusty file. I found my email with shaking hands and prayed that the policeman could read it through the grease on my screen. He handed back the phone and told me to show it to Mr Ferry Man and with a waft of his hand I was dismissed. Just like that. His mobile phone rang and he answered, walking out of the station and leaving me stood amongst 3 other policemen, not quite sure what had just happened. I considered whether I should stay and wait for him, before deciding that if I gave him another opportunity to change his mind, he likely would. My knees were still knocking, but I attempted the most casual walk back to the van. My guess is that Robocop would have looked more casual. I jumped in the van like a get-away car shouting "drive, just drive, quick!"
Thankfully, our panic did not extend to the fur kids, who were oblivious to the whole turn of events taking place.
Back to Mr Ferry Man. I braced myself for another confrontation as I offered him my AFM.
"Why are you showing me this?"
"The policeman told me to"
"What has this got to do with anything?"
And here I played my most powerful Greek gesture - the shrug.
He shrugged. Then he wafted his hand. We were on.
Neither of us can remember much of the moments that followed, such was our adrenalin rush. Once again, we feigned casualness as we pulled forward and up the ramp to board.
*Insert Miley Cyrus, The Climb* for dramatic tension.
We settled into our cabin, once again oblivious to what lay ahead.