Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Goodbye Italy

So after several weeks (and spending far too much money: 24 euros for a nights camping was a little bit excessive i thought) it was time to get onto the ferry to Greece. Have to say, looking back i had fun in this country. Saw some great landscapes, both of nature and those made by man. Even enjoyed the mountains....well a little bit, usually once i had stopped for the day and was clenching an ice cold beer in my fist

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

On the road to Bari

i left Sorrento on the Tuesday morning, for the next 5 days it was hot...damn hot...in fact it was so hot that one day after 2 hours of triking i had to take my shirt off and wring out the sweat....did i mention the mountains...well there were mountains, steep ones, with no shade...did i mention that it was hot....damn hot and there were mountains as well. In fact one day i passed a road side temperature gauge and it was showing 51oc...did i mention that it was hot...damn hot and that there were mountains as well, steep mountains, with no shade for hours on end....Okay...i think i made my point.

Now I'm in Bari, in a nice 3 star hotel (only for 3 nights) and Ill soon be on the sea heading towards Greece.

Thursday, 16 August 2007


Sorrento is on the peninsula that forms the bottom half of the bay of Naples.The peninsula is formed of high rocky mountains and steep cliffs that fall into the sea. The roads follow the cliff edges, which made for some exciting if not tiring cycling. Sorrento itself is found on a small Plataea of level ground into between two mountains, with the town going right up to the cliff edge. The harbour is at the bottom of the cliff ( obviously) and the road to and from the harbour is narrow and twisty. At one point i was walking down the road and two buses had blocked the passage of traffic due to the fact that they had met on one of the tight blind corners.I spent 5 nights here....the main reasons were to go to Pompeii, go diving and due to the fact that there were several "Irish" bars, drink ice cold cyder whilst watching the English football and rugby.

On the Saturday i got onto the train and headed to Pompeii. Even though i had read about and watched tv shows on Pompeii to actually go through the main gate into the town was a special moment. I had arrived quite early in the day and all the guided tours went left so i went right. For the 1st hour or so the parts of the town i was in were quiet and mostly empty. After that, well it just got busy. ( there are about 270 photos of the town...look at those!!). I spent about 4-5 hours just walking around, in and out of the houses and halls. Walking down the main roads, side roads and alley ways were just moments of wonder.

The following day i went for a dive. Sorrento is best seen from the sea and as we headed off to the dive site it was the perfect start for a Sunday morning. The local padi outfit seemed ok and after checking and changing my equipment i was happy with what i had. After about a 20 minute boat ride we arrived at the small pinnacle of rock sticking out of the sea. We all did our buddy checks ( this is a lie because it never happened) and rolled of the boat into the sea. Among the party were a few locals and an Aussie couple ( no watch, no depth gauge!!!) one of whom hadn't bothered to check his bcd....it leaked, badly. Anyway, because i hadn't dived for 10 months (far to long) i stayed above 20m. After a very enjoyable 40 minutes of solo diving (my buddy's diving skills needed alot of work) it seemed that everybody else had started to do a safety stop. This did piss me off a little as i still had 100 bar of air left which would give me at least another 20 minutes with plenty to spare.....(and as i was paying for this!!!!!!!!)

In the evening i went down the pub, watched Chelsea get a lucky draw with Liverpool ( i know, even i didn't think it was a penalty) and had at least one cyder too many.

Monday, well i had a hang over so i didn't really do much and on the Tuesday i got back onto the trike

Sunday, 12 August 2007

On the road to Sorrento

After looking at the map i decided to go along the coast. Not much chance of coming across any mountains. The roads were flat (mostly) and due to the fact that it is the height of the Italian summer holiday season most of the campsites were full or nearly full. However i was able to to find space along the way. I stayed two nights at one campsite which was only about a third full....the shower (single) didn't work and the toilet ( the only one left that did flush) hadn't been cleaned in weeks. The name of the place....camping Paradise. However, the clothes needed to be washed!

Southern Italy, along that part of the coast anyway, is dirty, smelly, rubbish strewn and sleazy. So i was quite glad to get to Sorrento, even if it did mean having to cycle uphills and cliffs.

On a more sombre note i did come within 5 inches of being wiped out. I was coming downhill the hill into Sorrento, the road behind me was empty so i was maxing out the speed and on a racing line. I entered into a nice tight right hand bend, hugging the wall, with my body leaning over the side of the trike. All of a sudden, a car, coming up the hill decided to overtake on a the blind corner and missed driving into me by the afore mentioned 5 inches. So...sometimes speed saves lives because if i hadn't of been going fast i wouldn't of been hugging the corner......

Saturday, 11 August 2007


i got to the capital of Italy during the afternoon of Tuesday 7th. The campsite is just outside the ring road (no way was i going to cycle into the centre).Its quiet and a courtesy coach takes you the mile or so to the local train station at prima porta.From there it is a 20 minute ride into the centre of Rome.

My mental picture of Rome was formed mostly by one of my favourite films - roman holiday, staring Gary Grant and the young and always beautiful Audrey Hepburn. Have to say, i think Rome would look better in black and white and before McDonald's came along!

On my 1st day sightseeing i slowly bimbled towards the Colosseum ( it was 1 of only 2 places i really wanted to see ). When i arrived there an hour and a half later from walking the 3 kms from the train station, well lets just say the queue was slightly on the long side. So, me being me, didn't want to stay in one place standing for at least 2 hours and once again off i went. I headed for the 2nd place on my very short list of things to see. When i arrived at the Pantheon it was relatively empty.

I walked in and straight away the eyes headed upwards towards the dome and the circular opening at its centre. The dome, which until the latter half of the 20th century was the biggest concrete dome in the world, was jaw dropping beautiful. Its Recessed squares going upwards getting smaller the nearer to the top was unadorned and naked in its majesty. The lower half ( or circular walls ) had been ruined once again by the catholic church by turning it from a "house of the gods" into just a "house of god". Still it was worth the cycle ride to get here and be able to stand inside!

When i left the Pantheon behind i wandered to and along the river for a short while. I came to the bridge nearest the Vatican, so i thought I'd pop over and have a look. Have to say, St Peters square looks better, bigger and more impressive on the TV. Did i queue up to have a look around the palace and check out the murals....erm...NO!

Once at the campsite bar, i stayed till closing time, which was 1am...mmm....nice!

On the Friday, i once again headed into Rome. This time i made good time on the walk to the Colosseum and the queue was only 50 minutes long. The Colosseum was the highlight of my time in Rome. As i walked through the grand arch that lead into the arena i had a "sense of history" moment that i hadn't felt before in Rome. I spent about two hours inside, walking around or just standing still. I looked down on the killing ground and tried to imagine what it was like back in the heyday of the games, with 50,000 Romans cheering on the mayhem and slaughter. Once i had left the Colosseum i felt that my time in Rome had come to a natural conclusion.

Today is Saturday and tomorrow, if its not raining, I'll be off to the west coast of Italy triking down it to Pompeii and beyond

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The day the smile slipped from my face

On the second day of travelling from Florence to Rome i left the campsite at sovicille ( near the city of sienna ) and after a brief chat with myself, decided to spend a day going cross country. The 1st 30k were really great, easy rolling hills with great views of the country side. The roads were quiet and the air was a gentle warming breeze. I was following the road in my map book when i came to a Tee junction. The plan was to go straight on ahead but the town i was aiming for was signposted right. It was only 25k to the town that way, which was about 15k shorter than my little circular route. So, even though i was breaking one of my "golden rules" of "if the road ain't on my map don't go down it" i thought to myself " what's the worst that can happen".....

the 1st 5k's were okay and as i came around a corner the road headed downhill into a valley. After 50m's of going downhill i had to stop very quickly as some bastard had nicked the road! All that was left were cobbles, gravel, ruts and dust....lots of dust! No worries thought i, I'm sure its just a small section of road thats been removed ready for resurfacing....it wasn't!

Because of the appalling condition of the road surface i was going along in 1st or 2nd gear at a walking pace. Then the construction lorries started going pass me from both directions, kicking up a small dust storm every time one went pass. As they were going pass me about every 2 minutes or so it wasn't the best time to try and go faster. Due to all the dust i was taking a drink quite often to get rid of the taste of the earth from my mouth. this went on for roughly the length of the valley ( that being 5-6k's ). When i got to the other side of the valley i was down to less than a litre of water but as there was a village only 2k away i wasn't to concerned. (can you see where this is going yet?).

As the dust cleared from yet another passing lorry i saw the road sign indicating that the hill i was to have to go up had a 15% gradient. This did not make me the least bit happy! A road that steep i can just about manage....if it was on tarmac! Anyway i continued peddling my trike and the road got steeper, around one corner, the road got steeper, around a second corner, the road got steeper. By the time i got to near the third corner my legs were on fire and hurting, the rear wheel was just spinning in the dust and not pushing the trike forward. I stopped! The trike started sliding backwards. Once i had managed to stop the backward motion of the trike the only thing left to do was get of and push, so i did.

When i got to the village, their wasn't one, just a big construction site. By now i was down to less than half a litre of water and still the road went upwards. So there i was, in the early afternoon under a hot blazing sun with no shade on the road and no real idea how long the road would be going uphill. Slowing pushing my trike, whilst the sweat dripped from my face forming little swimming pools in the dust for the ants to play in.

Over an hour later and i was still pushing my trike up the hill, sometimes loosing my footing in the fine dust that covered the once tarmaced road.....and i was out of water. Not good! By now i had told myself that the 1st hotel i came to that had a restaurant or was opposite one would be the placed i stayed in that night. Shortly after that it appeared that i was once again on tarmac...great you might think...well it was but i was still going uphill and there was still no water. Luckily, for me the road shortly met up with the main road (which was the one i would of been on if i had obeyed the golden rule). From there it was 1000m's to the 1st hotel.

At that point in the day, looking back, i think i was starting to suffer from the earliest signs of heat stroke and dehydration. when i arrived at the hotel i quickly checked in and asked for 2 litres of water. Both bottles were ice cold and the 1st one lasted less than a minute! By the time i got to my room i was already on the second bottle when i saw how much the hotel charged for a room per night....glad it's only money....or in this case 150 euros a night.

The next day i travelled 30k to a campsite. It took me 6 hours due to the fact that if i wasn't going downhill the only gear my legs could manage was 1st.