Iggy the Hymer has had a bit of a mad moment and jumped on another ferry. One week after watching Sicily disappear behind him, he is now rocking in a gale at the little fishing harbour of Aghios Panteleimon. Yeah mama we’re in Greece! And it’s time to get this ole blog thing back up to date.
We ended my last post with Iggy at the beach in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto for his last night in Sicily. Maybe we should have done something more for our last night. Gone onto Messina for a night out maybe? Visited a fabulous historical site? Partied till dawn in a Sicilian bar? Maybe, but we didn’t even think of doing any of those things. Instead we spent our last night on the island much as we did our first. We bought cappuccinos to “portare” – to take out – at the little cafe and sipped them as we walked the black, shingle, sand beach. Etna puffed smoke lazily into the sky behind us. All was quiet. The sun slipped into the Sicilian sea for one last show. Time to go.
In the morning then we were up and ready and Iggy hit the road for the hour’s drive to Messina. Weekend’s aren’t so busy and the drive was painless. Sicilian drivers did some mad stuff as usual and we joked about how used to it we are now. We barely even flinch these days! And all too soon we were there. Driving through the town in search of the ferry port.
There were no clear “Ferry this way” signs here like there had been in Villa San Giovanni when we were coming over a month ago. Just a numberless street address to give Satnav, and follow the sea till we get there. We were feeling just a little anxious as we drove along a road lined with apartment blocks. This didn’t look much like a dockland. Where were the signs? Where was the ferry? There! Too late! We’ve passed it now!
With no warning an entryway had appeared, quietly announcing itself to be the Caronte & Tourist embarkation point. It’s handy how the sign is set back from the road and angled a bit away from oncoming traffic. Nice one guys. Thanks!
We carried on down the road until we reached a turning point and headed back to the gates into the docks. It’s always a little fraught finding our way onto a ferry. Trying to decide which signs apply to us, which lanes to follow. This time a few more signs would have been really helpful! In the conspicuous absence of any Hi Vis jacketed personnel to direct us, we rolled hesitantly in the general direction of, “This way?” “Don’t know. Try it I guess.”.
Thankfully “This way?” “Don’t know. Try it I guess.”. turned out to be exactly where the ferry was. It confused us slightly by being in front of an entrance labelled “TELEPASS” . The ferry itself confused us a little bit more by having “TELEPASS” painted in ferry sized letters all along it’s side. The fact that there was not another car or lorry in sight wasn’t helping our confidence.
As if by magic a cluster of Hi Vis type people suddenly appeared – Mr. Ben style – in front of Iggy, A hand reached out casually for our ticket then waved us forward into the open mouth of the ferry. Still not 100% sure we were doing the right thing we drove up the ramp and Iggy was swallowed. No sooner had we parked where directed and made our way up the stairs when the ramp was drawn up behind us. Engines sprang into life and the ferry glided away from the dock. No time to think. To sit in a queue and make our mental preparations for leaving. It was done. We were gone. Sicily was behind us.
After the short journey we disembarked with no problems and had a painless and pretty drive to Gizzeria. Another shingle sand beach lying at the foot of the mountain road to Puglia. It was a small, quiet stop for the night, and the next day we puled into an out of season municipal Sosta on the other side of Calabria. It wasn’t much of a stop for the night. There was nothing here but a grid of seasonal apartments and facilities parallel to a long sandy beach. The apartments were empty. The restaurants were closed. An unappealing drizzle set in. Unappealing to us that was. The mosquitoes seemed to be enjoying it just fine!
We weren’t bothered though. After a couple of months of mostly great – and free – stopovers we can hardly complain if the odd one isn’t all that good. It had water, a place to empty the toilet, and a quiet resting spot for the night. We didn’t need anymore from it. Our enthusiasm for exploring wasn’t very high anyway. I’d been a bit fluey for a few days anyway, and was definitely feeling worse today. My legs were pretty rubbery, and everything seemed a bit flat after Sicily. A night in was fine by me.
The next day I was still feeling a bit crook as we made our way to Punto Prosciutto and our little idyll by the beach there. One night turned to two. Then three. And finally four, as we just chilled out and enjoyed the spectacular sunsets from Iggy’s window.
Finally on Friday, our 7th day back on mainland Italy, we decided we’d better move. There was nobody here at this time of year, but cars occasionally passed by. The man came with his waders and bait bins every two days. When you’re free camping in a motorhome it’s important not to outstay your welcome. Mostly we just stay one or two nights. Three at the most. Besides the toilet would need emptying soon. It was time to move.
We didn’t go far that day, ending up parked in an empty parking lot outside the cemetery in the little town of Nardo. We weren’t expecting too much of the town, but it’s worth a visit. It was siesta dead time – as usual for us – as we wandered through the old town, but we were suitably impressed by the town. It has some beautiful buildings, and I wish I had more photographs of it, but my camera battery chose that moment to run out on me. I’d hoped to squeeze one more day from it but no such luck.
I don’t have anyway to charge it in the van yet, unless we’re on electric hook up (EHU). Luckily it lasts for ages. A good couple of weeks with me using it all the time. So when it gets low we either go to a stopover with electricity or treat ourselves to a cafe and ask them to charge it for us. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought my charger out with me in Nardo so had to make do with my phone. The photos don’t have the same quality but at least I can illustrate with them when I have to.
Back at the parking lot it wasn’t so empty anymore. In fact the place was jumping! Siesta was over and we thought at first it was people visiting the garden centre next door. Figuring we’d go for a walk round the cemetery we soon realised our mistake. These people weren’t visiting the garden centre. Or if they were it was just to buy flowers. These guys were all visiting the dead.
Friday afternoon ( and Saturday morning as we discovered next day) the people of Nardo go to the cemetery. And not just the elderly or the women either. All of them! Every age and both genders. On their own, in twos, in family groups, they visit the vertical tombs where their dear departed are stacked like books in a library. Each shelf bears the remains of an ancestor or loved one. The “spine” adorned with a photograph, the name, the dates of birth and death. Electric candles burn by each picture with a vase for the flowers. Carefully replaced every week by means of the visitors pulling ladders into place and climbing to their own.
I was incredibly touched by the ordinariness of it all. How much healthier it seemed to me to have the dead always an everyday part of your life like this. These people will surely never forget the brevity of their lives. How can they when every week they make a pilgrimage to remember the dead? Surely as they walk back out of those cemetery gates they feel a renewed desire to not waste any of the time they’ve got? To love and live with all they have while they can? Some of the dates on those tombs are very close together. I know my start date, but when I shall finish is hidden from me. I wouldn’t mind being reminded of that every week.
We left Nardo the next morning and headed for a free sosta in the next town for the services before driving to Lecce. There were services in Lecce too, but the water wasn’t potable and we wanted to fill up. But no! On arrival in the town there was a market on top of the free sosta area. Drat! Never mind. We weren’t desperate for water and we could still empty all the waste in Lecce.
Back on the road we arrived at Lecce’s free motorhome service point 40 minutes later. It was the biggest town we’d been in for quite a while and we were looking forward to seeing the sunken aqueduct. The service point left a lot to be desired though. Oh my heavens it stank! Like really, really stank! An old caravan was parked up a few spaces away from the disgusting toilet point. Clearly being lived in. There was a decrepit looking motorhome as well. As Jay braved the fumes to empty our toilet another motorhome pulled in, Also very old and dirty looking. This was not a place I was leaving Iggy. Not even for half an hour!
There were a couple of paid parking spots near by so we went to check them out. Two strikes already this morning for stopping places and the first paid parking was strike three. Yes we could stay all night, but it was ugly, noisy, no services and they wanted 15 Euros. The day wasn’t going well and I wasn’t paying 15 Euros to stay there. Strike three. Onwards to the next car park only to find it was doubling as an overflow for the bus station. There were so many buses parked there we could barely find the entrance let alone somewhere to stop. Strike four and I was out. We could live without seeing Lecce this trip.
A quick redirect and we were heading North towards Locorotondo, famously known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and home to some Trulli houses. This was what I’d most come to Puglia to see. So where was my rising excitement? Why was I looking at the “13 kilometres to Brindisi” sign so intently? Was that my mouth that just opened and said
“Why don’t we just get the ferry to Greece?”
Apparently it was. And apparently Jay heard me because half an hour later we were sitting in a car park in Brindisi looking at the ferry deals. We almost took the Grimaldi Line ferry that night to Igoumenitsas, but they have such terrible reviews I couldn’t bring myself to book it. If all went okay on the roads we had about 3 hours to spare to get to Bari for tonight’s Superfast sailing for Patras. Yes? No?
Yes won it and five hours later Iggy the Hymer was on yet another ferry – this time for Greece! The trip was 16 1/2 hours long and we decided to splurge and pay for a cabin. It pained me to do this as these ferries not cheap. Nearly three times as much as the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, which is a similar distance. It hadn’t been the greatest of days though and we really didn’t feel like doing 16 1/2 hours deck class. So I swallowed hard and handed over an extra 200 Euro for the cabin. It didn’t matter. Life was for living and tonight we were going to Greece…
And the rest of that story tomorrow!