Every twentyfour hours 16

 

Arrival at the Metropolitan City of Bari

Over the four nights at Camping le Fano, I got to know many people and was made to feel completely at home. So I was emotional about moving on and facing the next part of my journey. At the same time, I was anxious to get going.

I was waved off by everyone who helped move the caravan out of the space and on to the car, as well as Lily, Francesca, luka and many neighbours. It was moving and tears were shed.

I skulked along the SS16 for about 30km. Then I realised the road surfaces were really bad. I decided to brave the Autostrada. This was the best decision as it was Sunday, there were no trucks on the road. I came across them parked up in the Servicios. The road sought was magnificent, with Oleanders in white, red and pink ling the road and the sea on the left for much of it. Every now and then, a hilltop town would appear ahead, off the autostrada. I decided to complete the journey to Bari, stopping in servicio about five times. It was easy driving and I was glad to be getting close to my destination. When I saw the first signs for Bari I was excited.

I missed the 7pm boat to Corfu so decided to overnight at the port.

The closest campsites to Bari were all well out of town, at least 50km. I did not have the energy to face a further journey, so when the port guards said I could stay in the car park, that is what I did. It was far from ideal. Where I was, the embarkation for Albania and Croatia was located. There were many families, mostly in cars, waiting to board. All around the edges of the vast carpark were fast food stalls and the atmosphere was transient as if no one really cared about the place. Children ran around the caravan.  I ate what I had in the fridge and cleaned out the rest as I had no connection to keep it cool and settled in for the night.

I heard the commotion of the cars boarding and looked out occasionally to see what was happening. I woke the next morning to the sound of seagulls squawking and cackling as they advanced across the carpark, gradually consuming what the humans had left over the night before..

When they moved on, the pigeons moved in and liked to land on top of the cararvan.  When it came to eight am, I walked down to the port guards and asked them about getting to town and what time the booking office opened. They told me the tickets for Corfu were available three km in the other direction. Now the night before, the Guarda di Finanza had told me Corfu boarded three km in this direction. They advised there was a free bus in an hour. I said I had a car hitched to the caravan. They said to take it off and drive to get the ticket.

I parked in town and found wifi as I no longer have a phone package and am completely reliant on free wifi. I made contact with my friend Barbara who is cycling in Puglia with her husband and we discussed how to meet up. We looked at the trains and then I made the decision to jump in the car and drive one hour down the coast to Ostuni. I would take a chance on leaving the cararvan in the carpark.  But first I had to find the car. One of the features of Old Bari is the maze like streets, paved with stone or cobbles designed to keep the inhabitants cool and to confuse invaders. I was walking around the outside of the old walls then decided to attempt to retrace my steps. Not so easy when your brain goes to mush in the heat like mine does. I went into the middle of the streets again , then asked a waiter  where the porto was. Another man got involved who haad some German, but this did not get me any further. I could see the waiter was trying to grasp the problem, soI  told him I could not find my car. He led me down a few streets, and we came out exactly where I had parked. I thanked him and he handed me over to a carabinieri who handed me over to a carnabniieri who could speak English. He cut short a telephone conversation to talk to me, and I assured him I was okay and that I had found my car. They could not have been more helpful.

I took the sea road, following the sea around and eventually switching to the auto strada. It was a straightforward drive, the landscape changing from fields separated by groves of olives, oleander and cypress to field upon field of olive trees in rows, growing out of red earth. Stone walls divided the fields. Large swathes of vineyard with huge bunches of grapes appeared as a change from the olive trees.

I reached Ostina and with a bit of difficulty, found the hotel where my friends were staying. Barbara and I had a swim, then we joined Pat for coffee and cake – Torto. They had flown in to Bari and there picked up rental bikes. They then cycled from Alberbello along the coast with all their gear in saddlebags on the bikes. While I was there a massive storm erupted which put their plans back. We got a huge fright from the noise of the thunder and the lightning was in vivid forks in the valley in front of us. I stayed a few hours then felt I should go back and rescue the caravan. I left them so they could take a train to Gallipoli , an Italian ton further south.c755a9b2-2f45-4db3-8c96-ff867e3199e4

When I got back to Bari,I was met by a guard who told me the police were about to remove the caravan and charge me €500 to retrieve it. He had asked them to give me one more hour. I immediately hitched it up and moved it down to where you actually get tickets. it was as if they were making it deliberately difficult. I eventually was allowed park the caravan near where the cars were embarking for that days trip and I went in and bought the ticket. I asked the woman selling the tickets if she knew of any campsites nearby. Then I got a very valuable piece of information for anyone travelling from Bari. There is a city centre carpark with electricity connection called Pinguino.Website for booking When I eventually found it, I was organised and welcomed again. Taxi laid on so I need not take the car into the city.

Next morning, I was taken by motorscooter to have my phone set up with a package. Then a hair appointment was organised with one of the guys wives. They are coming out to Corfu in August and we planned to meet up. It was a great way to put down the day as the boat was not until 7pm.

Every twenty four hours 17

My last day in Italy was spent looking for a phone package, unsuccessfully as I could not unlock my Irish phone and having my hair done. I was taken in hand by the friendly managers of the Pinguino parking. At 4pm I made the 1km journey down to the ferry.

Welcome to chaos. Every guard there waved me on, until I was in the queue for embarkation, without having checked in. this is the thing about travelling alone. You have to leave the car where it is – tucked in under a stationery artic. The last guy who directed me in there did not realise I had not yet checked in. so I came back with my papers and got told off for being where I was. Not to worry, I reversed out when told to and we inched our way down the crowded quay. Stationery artics lined both sides of the quay. Into this, drove fully loaded Blue Dragons, – this is what we called double decker car transporters as children- and artics. They passed through the most unlikely spaces, not without lots of fist shaking and yelling. At one stage I saw a guard reading his phone while two massive trucks passed each other with inches to spare. I actually took confidence from this because I realised he knew this would all sort itself out. We inched onwards and I was eventually waved in while one truck was told to hold back and another revved its engines behind me. The passport men were completely relaxed and cheerful and only laughed when I confided in them that I was about to have a heart attack.

I thought I was home and dry at this point. Big mistake. I tried to board the first ferry in front of me as there were two with ramps open. I was told no – go down the quay and take a right. I thought that was come sort of a joke as there was only the end of the quay in front of me with a sheer drop into the water beyond that. Eventually I followed a campervan who was clearly having the same thought processes as me. In a blind act of faith, like finding platform 93/4 in Harry Potter, we made for the end of the pier. There it was – a blue sign saying turn right, we followed this along to where the Ventouris ferry for Corfu and Greece was loading.

The whole place was full of bustle and excitement. Azure sea tempting us across to Greece with promise of things to come. Foot passengers laden with children and suitcases walked up the ramp alongside the cars and trucks boarding. Then impossible as it looked, a Blue Dragon started reversing on to the ferry.

The main man from Vantouris, the ferry company, dressed in white shirt, sporting the right level of protruding stomach for his age and status, and holding a walkie talkie was the man with the power. He directed some cars to board, others to back back back and if they did not understand, he just leaned in and took the wheel. The guy was hands on.

I and several  campervans were put to one side. I only understood later that we had to go on last as the ferry was going on to Greece mainland after dropping us. So 7 pm, our departure time came and went. Eventually , I got the call up. I then realised that horror of horrors, I was being told to reverse in. just then, my ticket was checked and they noticed my car had not been included in the price. I was now the only vehicle not boarded and soon some flunky from the office drove up in a citroen and came to a halt right in front of me. Sunglasses were pushed up on his forehead as he gave me a look and he spoke on the phone. All I could think was- a good result here is that I reverse up the ramp. Its like waiting to know how you will be executed. Lucky me, they decided I could pay the balance in the Bursar’s office on board. So that left me to lock right and left – – a guard came up and said – look at him when he directs you,.’ I thought I should look where I was  going but I abandoned that and just moved the wheel whichever way I was told. In fact I was gone well beyond caring. I had confidence too that they knew what they were doing so I did not get anymore stressed than I already was.

It was great to get on the boat. The bursar was chain smoking in his little office and told me he could only accept cash. Luckily I had the extra €50 on me and he remarked what a beautiful name I had.

Now I never heard that one before so I assumed he was just out of practice. As I left, I forgot to take my passport so I was called back. They assured me it would have been safe there with them, what with such a lovely name etc.

All I was worried about was that I had enough for a beer so I could celebrate my trip to date and my successful boarding to my final destination.

I found a comfortable part of the seats in the bar where I could sleep and I installed myself. I went on deck to see the views of Bari behind us. How glorious to be leaving Bari and crossing the Adriatic Sea with warm breezes blowing, blue sea and the prospect of a beer ahead of me.

Sleeping has not been a problem for me on this trip. I have surprised myself over and over by dropping off to the sound of ship’s engines, youngsters having the crack and television playing. I hope I did not snore too loud as I really had a deep sleep. No blankets or pillows, just my bag for a pillow. Actually way nicer than being entombed in a cabin. I got up at 1.15 am and walked out on deck for a while. Need I describe the scene ? -balmy breezes, stars overhead. There was a man asleep on deck on a double airbed with his two dogs asleep there with him. There were also tents pitched on deck. I went back to my seat and fell back to sleep.

Next morning, the approach to Corfu was majestic and dignified. The scenery would not allow it to be otherwise. The old fortress of Corfu town loomed in to sight as the mountains paved our way on our right hand side. Disembarking was pure joy into the sunny Greek morning.