We manage to bypass all the pricey French toll roads, easy enough when crossing the top half of the country, which takes us just over a day to knock off.
Germany comes and goes quickly thanks to the slick autobahn, where I don’t dare to venture so much as a tyre in the fast lane.
The traffic flows efficiently at high speeds, cars leapfrogging one another in a well-choreographed routine.
Austria brings snow in the high mountain passes and two very cold nights. We’re relieved to have packed an extra blanket and portable gas-heater at the last minute.
Slovenia offers scenery of unimaginable beauty and pristine wilderness, with hints of Canada and notes of New Zealand.
Rivers the colour of overly processed digital photographs flow through deep valleys rich with greens and yellows. We camp by silent, glassy lakes that beg to be dived.
We clip the shoulder of Italy, stopping only for coffee and to warm our pasty, wintery selves in the sun, as the first signs of spring arrive and temperatures exceed 20°C.
The border crossing into Croatia is slow.
I notice that my right arm has become sunburnt from the drive as we crawl towards passport control.
We enter the northern interior, which after only a couple of hours’ driving reveals scars left by the 1990s Balkans conflict. On wide, flat, mountain-fringed plains sit small agricultural plots dotted with houses, some new, some abandoned or burnt-out and many riddled with bullet-holes.
Croatia’s interior is a confused place in which natural beauty sits beside appalling historical brutality and human suffering.
Our first night in the country is spent, with the owners’ permission, in a restaurant car-park in a sparsely populated country village. We buy a few beers from them.
On day two, with fuzzy heads, we at last reach the magnificent Croatian coast, where mountains dive into the Adriatic and the road winds between them.
What we haven’t realised is how many islands Croatia appears to have collected (1244!) and with such wonderful topography we could be in Indonesia were it not for all the Croatian flags adorning shops and houses.
A highlight of the Dubrovnik dive.
We have planned a spread of three dive locations: first Dubrovnik in the south, mid-placed Tuçepi and finally Pula, in the north. Before reaching Dubrovnik, we have to cross Bosnia, which owns a sliver of coastline. This means two more border-control checks.
“If I find something in your vehicle that you have failed to declare, you will be taken to prison for seven years, do you understand?” The guard drops his serious spiel on us, demanding that we show him around our cupboards, drawers and diving equipment.
I begin to feel slightly sweaty, look unnecessarily guilty and wonder if we might be carrying too much beer, or whether our many kitchen knives could constitute offensive weapons.
I am starting to imagine life in a Bosnian prison, but eventually our passports are handed back and the guard is wishing us an enjoyable journey.