My time in Italy would soon be over… but obviously not without incident.
This time I was armed with an address plugged into my unreliable navigation software. A win was on the cards, for sure, but only achieved by pissing off whole streets of weird tiny model makers who’d un-hunker from their chairs, move to the doors and glare at me as I pushed through the small throngs of people and pushchairs lining the narrow streets..
The address lead me to a Piazza were I locked up my bike and could scan around for the underground. I followed a brown tourist sign to the far corner where a woman was selling tickets for something underground and assumed I’d nailed it. With the benefit of hindsight, I’d Not Nailed Anything. A revelation that only came after I’d paid for entry, got trapped with noisy fucking French school children again and left nurturing a sense of disappointment that I’d just witnessed the thing everyone was raving about and thought it was shit.
Taking 5 for a coffee and a sit, then 10 to find and buy a sweet ass belt I saw the sign for ‘Napoli Subterranea’ emboldened with a stone skull on it and knew I’d been had. I payed my fee, went for another amble and came back at 4 for a guided tour in English. This one didn’t disappoint.
The caves are a huge labyrinth of ancient man made underground watercourses, with cisterns made to direct water to private houses and public baths. After being par-drained over an easy heat the tunnels were used by Napolit-ants during WW2 to escape the bombing runs. They’d live down there for up to 7 weeks at a time, like little smeagols. Better than taking a bomb to the face though.
The next day held the promise of the Amalfi coast and across to Bari on the opposite coast. I’d camp for a couple of days then leave for Igomenitsa by ferry. Unfortunately the pre-reading for this trip consisted primarily of avoiding Rabies, fixing blown out tyres and how each country can catch and fine ‘accidentally’ speeding tourists. But as it happens the Amalfi coast is pretty famous.. Just not for Rabies, tyres or speeding. I think Ewan McGregor gave it a 5 star rating on tripadvisor or something.
Unfortunately my £70 camera didn’t really do it justice, but I learned why it was so highly regarded when I kept getting my breath taken away.
I was so busy looking around I rode through Amalfi with only a road sign pointing backwards letting me know it. A coffee break at a small village marked the end of the coast road and the start of long motorways through the mountainous interior. It’s a fairly long stint, which forced me into an encounter with an Italian school trip in a service station. Having amassed a small crowd, it was less than 10 seconds after the teacher left that mouthy teenager number one started telling me how big his baguette was in bad English. The 13 year olds are the same as little scrotes as in England then..
From there the ride to Bari was easy going and mostly flat. I realised I’d lost a bar end weight, so I’ll have to make sure I drop my bike on the right in future to not break off my clutch lever. I don’t really think they do anything for handling when I’m crumpled over the handlebars by my backpack anyway.
With ‘finding McDonalds and hijacking WiFi’ now efficient enough to justify putting on my resume under Skills and Attributes, it didn’t take long for me to locate a couple of potential campsites in Giovinazzo just north of Bari, book in one and settle down for the night. Or tried to, silently hoping it wasn’t a gas tank the owners were having a fire next to..
The morning arrived (probably a water tank then) and I rummaged through my gear before checking the tyre pressures for the first time in 2 weeks. “Oh shit“ I hadn’t just lost a bar end…I’d lost a pretty impressive amount of rubber of my back tyre. When you can see the metal support wires sticking out, I guess there’s not many miles left before it explodes.
My plans of sightseeing were replaced by finding a garage in Bari capable of getting me new rubber fitted before my ferry in the morning. I tiptoed (as much as you can do on a motorbike on the motorway) into the city and lucked out passing a little shop crowned with Pirelli logos. Even got it booked in for lunchtime. A couple of delays on their part actually gave me till 3 to check out the sights and get a new haircut after last nights Skype with Sarah revealed I looked like a homeless person. I didn’t look much any better when I left the barber shop, but still did the polite English thing and assured them it was the best haircut of my life. They took some photos for their shop wall, I asked for one too for my shop wall.
There’s not a billion and one things to do in Bari. Eating, walking and an hours snooze on a park bench were the only allies I had in wasting time, but it worked eventually. New tyre fitted I raced back to Giovinazzo and lay in the sun some more, posted a blog and spent an hour chasing after a dickhead parrot that really enjoyed making the most annoying assortments of clicks and whistles right outside my tent. Parrots…can’t live with them can’t live without them.
Dark was falling slowly. The horizon was on fire but loosing its fight against the night. Sat high on the beach, feet dangling over the rocks as they were lapped at by waves, I felt like I had the best view on Earth.
When the dregs of warmth faded into the black I walked back to my tent, stopping by for beers with the owner (Fabio, M, 29 WLTM woman capable of not breaking his heart). After a short nap he collected me from my tent and drove us to Molfetta for Saturday night drinks in a trendy Italian square full of trendy Italian people. Duck jumper and I felt very English, not that it mattered 4 or 5 Camparis (from what I gather: gin, petrol, red food dye) and beers later as I chatted my way through the bar. I got drunk drove home by a hapless Fabio, bushed the whole of my face with toothpaste, half got my contacts out and collapsed nearly inside my tent.
The next morning I woke with a start. Ha, yeah right. I woke up hungover as shit. Barely managing to put my clothes on the right way I packed the bike and muffled my head into my helmet, paid reception and collected my deposited passport. The ride was hurried and not at all enjoyable, while the actual boarding the ferry entailed a 2hr wait in a car park getting progressive heat stroke. I was in full cold morning attire and left my lid on because it was always only “two minutes” before I could board. Laying down on my tank for half an hour I epitomised a struggling hangover. The crew member thought I had passed out and came to wake me up, but I reckon this got me fast tracked onto the boat as 10 minutes after I was on the ferry eating €15 worth of what I can only describe as bad school dinner and watching as we pulled out of the harbour and into the big blue.
Ciao Italy, I’ve had a blast.