The Dominican Youth Movement pilgrimage to World Youth Day has got off to a fiery start – the pre-departure meal is too spicy to eat. Queue much glum staring at plates – but nevermind, we plan to breakfast in Cologne, and eat dinner at Colditz Castle (now a youth hostel!).
At 10.30pm on Friday we set off… but by 12.30pm the coach is crawling and by 2am we have ground to a halt entirely. When the coach slowly comes awake again about four hours later the A20, six miles from Dover, resembles a huge car park.
Disembarking, we say a rosary, play games, and dance to a ukulele, witnessing and entertaining everyone else in equal measure, until at 7.30am – yes! – we pile back on board… drive a grand total of thirty metres… and stop again.
It’s a very penitential, one muesli bar each for breakfast and eventually, almost twelve hours after we came to a halt, a vehicle arrives with bottled water for the stranded traffic. God bless (belatedly!) the Dover authorities!
It’s with a certain sense of the surreal, that we pull into Dover ferry terminal in time to catch the 2pm ferry – after almost 14 hours of queuing.
Apparently the delay, including the extraordinary five-and-a-half hours in which we failed to move at all, was caused by the presence of just one single French Passport Control officer at Dover, dutifully trying to check every passport.
But we’re on the ferry at last and, after a most welcome meal in the restaurant, we feel quite surprised to find ourselves in France.
Alas, we won’t now be visiting Cologne, or Colditz, but on the upside, it’s all part of the adventure – and we should still be in Krakow before Pope Francis!