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.
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 had some German, but this did not get me any further. I could see the waiter was trying to grasp the problem, so I 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 carabinieri 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.
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. 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.