Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Amalfi coast to Bari

Today is milestone day, today we leave Italy behind and go to Croatia which feels like leaving the known and venturing out. Of course it isn't really like that, it just feels like it. France, Spain, Italy and Germany are all cultures that, although we can't speak the language, we have a certain familiarity with them whereas we have no such thing with Croatia or Hungary so it is a little like stepping out into the unknown.

First things first, our route took us along the famous Amalfi coast. Amalfi has bad connotations for me because it was one of the restaurants that I used to have to deal with when I was a student trying to earn spare money and it was in Edenvale and generally packed with uncouth brits. Coming off this base, it was a pleasant surprise from a picturesque point of view but a total nightmare from a driving point of view.
The islands of Capri as seen in the industial murk that lurks around Naples!

The road along the Amalfi coast is barely wide enough to be able to drive one bus along, some of the turns are so tight that when a bus is going around them not even a kamikaze moped can get past them. Now imagine two busses trying to pass each other on these roads; as impossible as it may seem, they somehow manage it. This is especially problematic around tunnels although the Italians do have traffic wardens with little wands that wait at known choke points and then hold some cars back while a truck or bus slowly negotiates a section. There is absolutely nowhere for a bus to turn around so if there is a landslide or serious accident they would have to wait for it to be cleared, reversing all the way back to a town where they may be able to turn around would take absolutely hours if it was possible at all. We had several incidents where oncoming mopeds let alone cars would cut the corners and one would round a corner to meet the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road. The road is often so narrow that it isn't wide enough to have road markings demarcating the centre-line so when approaching traffic nears one just moves as far to the right as possible and hopes for the best.

I'm not sure how much Caron breathed during the trip and I don't think it was much but we did have spectacular views once one got over the disappointment of the pollution.


The second photograph was taken at Minore just next to Maiore where we stopped for a bite to eat which turned out to be a thoroughly pleasant stop. We sat on a beachside restaurant eating panini, drinking coffee and eating icecream while we looked out over the beach. There ought to be a BMI limit imposed that regulates how much clothing that can be discarded when on the beach. Anyone over a certain point should have to wear a burkah while on the beach; after all, clothes were invented for a reason! :-)

As we climbed away from the Amalfi coast, past Salerno (Yep, the street I used to live in long ago was actually named after an Italian city) one could feel the pollution levels dropping. They never really went away but they just weren't as bad. The drive across to Bari was uneventful as we passed miles and miles of olive groves interspersed with vineyards and the occasional hilltop village and farmhouse. Arriving in Bari we found an internet cafe with a really grumpy owner so we could print our ticket for the ferry. I had to print it twice because his printer hadn't been serviced properly and ended up paying about 3 times as much as I should have. I was not amused but I'm getting used to this kind of thing and having an argument with someone who can't speak english and I can't speak italian for 3EUR is just going to raise my blood pressure so I caved in, mostly.

We found the ferry terminal easily but no parking so we ended up parked just below a '0-24 tow away' sign but there were loads of other cars there as well so we took our chances. Fortunately these signs seem to be for decoration only and nothing happened although we spent a couple of anxious hours waiting for the ferry check-in to open. While we waited we had some pasta in the port cafetaria which was pretty decent pasta, sometimes it is amazing the quality one gets in the most unexpected places and vice-versa.

When the office opened we were in the line behind an elderly british couple who didn't have the registration papers for their vehicle and they wouldn't issue them with a ticket. He was really irritated as I would have been and I wasn't looking forward to getting to the front of the line because we didn't have the registration papers for our vehicle either. What we did have was some official looking documentation that we hoped would pass muster which, to our great relief, it did so clutching our boarding passes we moved from under the tow-away sign and into the boarding queue. A quick turn through customs and immigration and we were on board.

The ferry is pretty large but not very full. We didn't stay up very late, we just waited until we had left port at about 22:30 before retiring for the night. We had taken a 'luxury' cabin which wasn't very luxurious but it did have a shower and bathroom which worked. Fell asleep to the gentle pitching of the ferry and looking forward to Dubrovnik.

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