Day 10 – March 29 – Termoli to Bari, Italy (1800 Km out) – Simon

We left Termoli this morning with a 275 km run to complete to our Adriatic port of Bari ( west south west of Dubrovnik -across the water) The Adriatic is calm and a milky tourquoise, we see it from time to time as we trundle down the East coast truckers route by-passing a series of roughly built concrete seaside resorts. The plain is now flat for nearly a hundred miles with the vegetable and fruit farms becoming poorer as we go south. I am riding tail gunner to the troop of 5 bikes which must look truely formidable in the wing mirror as witnessed when terrified Italians suddenly assume they are about to be consumed by what they believe to be 5 traffic cops and swerve dangerously back into the inner lane. I chuckle and try and protect the squad from the rear by sticking the van’s arse a few inches into the centre line to intimidate the overtaking “Fangios” – I am truely in the ‘on the road mode’ now as I listen to Adele’s ‘Someone like you’ -rumbling into the sun. The guys in front stand on their pegs to release the bum strain of hours in the saddle- I relax in my comfortable airconditioned cab.

Suddenly out of nowhere the most extroadinary sight , a tall powerfully built shapely African lady wearing a sequined bikini standing beside the road in high heals and a pair of large shades. I was just thinking she should’nt have much of a problem getting a lift and I was concerned about the message her atire was giving when suddenly two more women flashed by on the roadside this time wearing hotpants and high heels. Well the penny dropped then! The next 50 miles was very sad , both Europian and African women in considerable numbers working the route – apparently a well organised system of exploitation .We pulled in for a coffee and the banter rate was considerably subdued by this sudden exposure to degradation and expoitation of vulnerable women; it is now a national scandle in Italy I have read on the web. Anyway-

Nothing much to report by way of architecture, incidents etc apart from our best fish supper so far last night in Termoli. The guys have taken to eating not only oysters but raw prawns and clams, something that my delicate intestines are not quite upto yet.

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We have booked on tomorrow’s evening fast ferry from Bari to Igoumenista . This takes us down the Adriatic about 100 miles south east , round the southern tip of Corfu and then into the main land at Igoumenista.We have a day of R and R in a nice hotel about 30 kms down the coast from Bari

If you hear a certain element of late eighteenth centuary naval english in my style of prose it is because I have just finished Patrick O’brian’s ‘Master and Commander’ on my audiobook in the van

‘Slendid ‘ as Jack Aubry ‘ would say

Simon

29th March

Day 9 – March 28 – Termoli, Italy – Dave

Another beautiful day, 70 F, cloudless sky etc.

Set off due east towards the Adriatic coast.  A wonderful first few hours riding across the Apennines.  Climbed steadily through meadows and orchards.  The mountains are impressive but smooth and wooded rather than rocky and rugged like the Alps.  Local farmers offer fruits, vegetables and nuts by hanging them on rods and fishing poles or by stacking them in eye-catching places, like the scoop of a parked back-hoe.

As the climb ended and the road leveled for a while before the descent, there was snow on the mountains to either side.

The only blemish on this wonderful scenery was the occasional sighting of a new tunnel or section of road under construction.  The charming S77 is to be replaced by a modern highway.  I suppose it is a mixed blessing to the villagers.  For many it will bring peace, while for others – like garage or inn owners – it will be a commercial disaster.

After an exhilarating descent, the Adriatic appeared ahead – the shallows an improbably stunning turquoise on this sunny day.

To make good time we took the Autostrada for a few hours – the Adriatic still to our left and  hilly farmland to our right.  But the villages and towns we pass have little of the charm of say Tuscany or Umbria, comprising principally of shoddy blocks of flats.

There is a rhythm to riding the Autostrada – a minute of peace followed by flashing lights in one’s mirror as some Fangio-wannabe signals you have but seconds before he (or the occasional she) crashes into your rear tire.  I have learned that any foreign car (Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover…) driven by an Italian never slows below 150 kph (again a matter of honor, like holding the racing line through turns).  Today I saw in my mirror a silver Mercedes approaching fast, lights flashing furiously  He was doing maybe 130 kph, so I eased out of the way.  But as it blasted past – the driver gripping the wheel in racing posture – I realized firstly that it was a Mercedes station wagon and secondly that it was a hearse, loaded with a brilliantly-polished, wreath-bedecked, mahogany coffin.

After a detour inland, through lovely rolling country, in a vain search for a charming hilltop hotel…

…we returned to the coast where most towns resemble Torremelinos (a word I’m not going to check how to spell, because I hope to never use it again).

Ended up in a haut-naff hotel in Termoli, but it has a good view (see above – or sea above).  Fabulous seafood restaurant nearby so loaded up in anticipation of Greek food – unquestionably the most overrated in the known world.

Happy trails,

Dave

 

Day 8 – March 27 – Santa Margherita to Assissi, Italy – Simon

Good to have a rest day in Santa Margherita de Ligure , time to pickup John from the airport and have one last go at the local fish restaurants. Nick and Christian took a bus to  Porto Fino at the tip of the Ligurian peninsula. The topography reminds me of St Lucia, steep sided thick and inpenetrable wooded hills dropping into the sea, broken up where possible by seaside towns which are clearly rammed by the Italians in the summer.However for us the temperature is probably just cooler than you are getting in the Uk.

Pre dinner entertainment – sitting on the sea front watching what can be carried on a motorscooter. Two adults plus dog is standard; and even a 10 foot roll of carpet not to be shied away from although oncoming traffic has to keep clear.

Tuesday morning and we are away from the Riviera and south east towards Tuscany. I took the motorways ; the guys took the country route and will get in tonight at 6.30, pretty knackered. I took the opportunity to visit the hill top town of Cortuna , about 1000 foot up and surrounded by a number of large churches .

We have two more days to reach either Bari or Brindisi both of which may offer a ride across the Adriatic to Igoumenitsa in Greece.

Simon

Day 6 – Sunday, March 25 – Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy – Dave

 

Left Grasse and rolled down towards the Med.  Skirted north of Cannes and picked up the coast road – cruising through Nice on the Promenade des Anglais.  Very much like Southern California  – sand, palms, promenaders, joggers cyclists, roller-bladers…many with phones to their ears.  But the big difference  – apart, of course, from the language on the signs – is that here there are no houses by the ocean, only apartment buildings.

It would have been too stressful and time-consuming to continue weaving through seaside traffic, so we made our way up to the autoroute.  Very spectacular – cut through the mountains – all viaducts and tunnels with gorgeous glimpses down to our right of the Med and pretty little villages (although these days the harbors are full of yachts not fishing boats).

Shortly we passed a simple sign – ITALIA – and the riding became more challenging.  Italian men feel it is their duty to hold the racing line through bends regardless of what other traffic is doing: lane discipline is for wimps (i.e. foreigners).  And how the hell do they make such tiny cars go so fast?

In Italy the steep hillsides are all packed with greenhouses, cloches, small terraced plots and farm ‘cottages’ .  Every square inch is intensively farmed – much more so than in France, just a few miles back.

Light showers as we powered past Genoa – an unattractive, industrial/port city when looked down on from the Autostrada.

A half hour later we turned off the motorway and back to the coast – finally arriving in Santa Margherita Ligure. – an attractive middle-class answer to super-chic Portofino a few kilometers further south.

The town’s ‘Spring Festival’ was in full swing on the esplanade – as can be seen from the first two photos above.  The band – with accordion, sax etc. – managed to make everything – pop, Italian folk songs, reggae – sound like a polka, but they played and sang with enormous gusto while couples of a certain age strutted their funky stuff on the ‘dance floor’.  We were able to resist joining them.

The Villa Anita – a family-run hotel – is awkwardly stranded between Edwardian plushness and cheap modernization, but it’s very comfortable and the Signora (who seems to do nearly everything herself) couldn’t be more helpful.

The 5 of us walked into town (see photo above of Simon by the harbor) and dined on excellent seafood at an oceanside restaurant – although the concept of ‘super-sizing’ is apparently no longer exclusive to McDonalds (see Richard’s dish in photo above).

Nick is recovering from a one-day tummy bug that has moved on to Simon.  Nothing too serious.

John is flying into Genoa tomorrow to join us, so we get a day off – time to do laundry and catch up on emails.

Best wishes to you all.

Dave