And then there were two

(James) Having picked up a few provisions in the morning including a map of Italy (we had originally planned to come down through Slovenia and Croatia) Jack and Charlie helped us  lump our bags and panniers down from Charlie’s flat to the bikes parked down in the street below and started to load them up for the journey south and our first part of the trip alone. After saying goodbye we headed  towards the bridge to cross the Tiber and then down towards the Coliseum. We had no Rome map but noticed that is was the most southern of the famous landmarks so reasoned that if we headed towards it and then continued in a south easterly direction it would take us out of Rome and towards the towns we’d marked as our first waypoints of the day.  It was quickly apparent to me as we rode through Rome that Em’s confidence on the bike had taken another giant leap forward. We both adopted the general rule for driving in Rome that you just worry about what’s in front of you and that you assume that the person behind you is doing the same! So if somebody in front of you just start moving across into your path it’s up to you slow and give them room, as they’re going to keep coming anyway. On the morning we left, with me at the front, it was Em’s voice I could hear, not worrying about what was coming behind her but confidently calling out warnings to me to let me know what someone was doing in my blindspot. She sounded like she’d riding in cities for years!

True to our plan we rode past the Coliseum and headed south east entering the countryside on the road we’d wanted to get to and soon we were riding south with the port city of Bari and a ferry to Croatia our final destination.

We’d hope to find a campsite that was marked on our map near Cassino (site of a large battle in WWII) but upon our arrival that evening it turned out the site had been closed for some time. This meant we had a decision to make as we were determined to camp and make up for the fact that Italy had put us over our planned budget and Italy doesn’t seem to cater for camping to any great extent. The decision was made to head 40km west (the opposite direction to Bari) towards the coast north of Naples as the map indicated that there  were 3 campsites there. We eventually found one in Formia just after dark (never ideal), and could have easily missed it as it looked closed. We were guided to an area and told we could set up wherever we liked which we promptly did, making dinner and going straight to sleep. With daylight we were finally able to gauge our surroundings – we were indeed the only ones there, and our inspection of the facilities didn’t exactly win us over. Suffice to say, if you’re looking for a camping experience with clean, secure facilities look elsewhere. If, however, you prefer your campsites dingy, unsecure, mosquito ridden and with no flushing toilets you’d do well to put the delights of Formia somewhere near the top of your list. Still, at least it was cheap!…

After packing up we hit the road and spent a fairly uneventful day heading east towards the Adriatic coast (there were no campsites apparently anywhere in between) and by early evening we were passing through the olive orchards that cover this part of Italy. However, despite everything, Italy once again failed to come through on the camping front and the campsite we’d aimed for failed to materialise. We decided to follow the coast road towards Bari in the hope of coming across another one and did eventually find one but once again, it was closed. This was a blow as it was now after dark and we’d put in a big effort to get across the country that day so were very tired. Em felt that her tiredness was starting to lead to mistakes on the bike so the decision was quickly made to find the next available place to stay, campsite or no campsite. The ‘next’ place turned out to be a 5-star hotel and we weren’t quite that desperate; we did, however, find something less grand further up the road and despite it clearly be a hotel aimed towards the corporate market, we turned in. Our room stank of cigarette smoke and the bizarre ‘restaurant’ was reminiscent of a conference room: not the best money we’ve ever spent, but safety must come first.

In the morning, we headed into Bari to enquire about ferries and were told that the next sailing wasn’t until the following night, meaning another day in the dump that is Bari. The lady at the information centre told us there was another campsite to the south of the city along the coast that would definitely be open and that it was very nice. We promptly rode off towards the village where she had indicated it was (passing numerous gypsy ‘dwellings’ on the way) and were grateful to see that it was indeed open. However, it quickly became apparent that the lady at the tourist information office had never actually been to this campsite as ‘very nice’ it was not!! Once again, we were the only ones there, other than builders who were still constructing it for the summer season, wild dogs running in packs across the waterway, and the local prostitutes plying their trade 200 yards away under a bypass!! Still, beggars can’t be choosers and we took advantage of being able to relax together, do some laundry, catch up on some reading and sleep.

The next evening, we headed down to the port and were directed to the ‘ferry’ that was to take us across to Croatia at 10pm. Having ensured the bikes were tied up, we climbed up to the top deck to cool down and say goodbye to Italy (not Bari, which is about as un-Italian as is possible to be – unstylish, far from cosmopolitan and full of fast-food joints; think Dagenham with sun!) We quickly made friends on the deck with some of the multi-national passengers that were aboard, including a friendly Ukranian man and his wife who after talking to us for a while, offered to take a picture of both of us on our camera, uttering the line (cue Ukranian accent), “Smile like the cheeses” which we found absolutely hilarious and has now become something of a catchphrase for us! We also befriended a young lone motorcyclist from Germany, called Marco, who was riding to his father’s house in Croatia and spent the evening chatting and drinking beer with him before we each found a nook on the warm deck floor (we think we were above the engine room!) and tried to get some sleep as the forecast rain began to fall…

3 Responses to “And then there were two”

  1. Mamma says:

    You two continue to amaze me! I printed your stuff as far as Arrivederci Matthew to send to Nana. She is enthralled.
    Miss you much, love you lots x

  2. Roger says:

    Just picked up on your blog and have read it from the beginning up to date. Fantastically interesting!! Spent the afternoon at your mum’s charity bash and got into a long conversation with Jessie about Twilight. I’m as huge a fan as she is so was very interested that you had been to one of the filming locations. Anyway, your trip sounds fairly mind-blowing so keep going!

  3. Lorna Souch says:

    we’re all mad about Twilight too! My friend Sarah has read all 4 at least 4 times and couldn’t believe her obsession! neither could I so I had to see what all the fuss was about – couldn’t put them down! Joe’s now read them and Hannah is on book 2.
    What an adventure you guys are having. Lots of love from us all in Totnesxxxx

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