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On the island of Corfu, Greece.

Harald Biebel/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures.

We were cruising along a sun-baked road in Apulia on our way to catch the overnight ferry to Corfu, when my cellphone rang. It was a representative from the ferry company.

"Due to mechanical problems, the ship won't be departing until 2 a.m.," she told us. Not a big deal, my wife and I thought. We would still get the family to Corfu in time to intercept my brother-in-law, flying in from the United States on his first trip to Greece.

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And we spent a lovely afternoon in the port of Brindisi, after first making sure to find a couple of hotel rooms, just in case. Sure enough, we later discovered the ship wasn't actually scheduled to leave until 6:30 a.m.

That's when I started to get a little worried.

We were driven to port before dawn by an irascible taxi driver named Roberto. I took my place in the check-in line, which lengthened by hundreds of people over the next few hours.

Our departure time came and went. Then I noticed the ferry company employees slipping out through a back door. Surely they would be returning?

By 8:00 a.m., one or two young men began pounding the Plexiglas of the check-in counter, only to be scolded by the young women in line. Suddenly, a man and a woman showed up and started hollering. I can't speak more than a dozen words in Italian, but I knew instinctively what they were saying: The ferry wasn't coming. It looked like a full-scale riot was imminent.

(I learned later the ferry was broken down in Greece, and would be grounded for weeks – affecting thousands of travellers in the days to come. The story made the national news in Italy. A German newspaper declared it "Chaos in Brindisi.")

I called Roberto, who cursed the ineptitude of the ferry company and immediately came to get us.

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At the local airport, my wife expertly worked her smartphone. "There's nothing from Brindisi, but there's a flight to Athens via Rome departing from Bari in a couple of hours," she announced.

Except that Bari was more than 100 kilometres away. Surrounded by our luggage, we sprang into action. My wife purchased the tickets electronically, while I attempted to rent a car. Wait, was that Roberto dropping somebody else off? Could he drive us to Bari?

No, but he found someone else to take us. And after an hour-long, white-knuckle drive we ran up just as the check-in counter was about to close.

Making our next two connections was just as fraught but we did, at last, arrive on Corfu by sunset. We'd missed my brother-in-law (he'd already made his way to the villa), but Spiro would lead us on the last leg of our tortured journey.

Settling into the rental car with relief, we rolled out of the airport. And then clouds of smoke began pouring from our car. "Is this actually happening?" I remember wondering.

I pulled over and everyone ran for their lives. After waiting for the car to explode, or at least for the smoke to clear, we tentatively got back in. And for the next hour I babied the clutch up and down the mountainous inclines.

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We arrived completely, utterly exhausted, only to hear my brother-in-law call out from the hot tub: "I was starting to think you weren't coming!"

Got a great road story you'd like to share? Send it to travel@globeandmail.com.

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