This was Stage 3 along the coast and the mountains from Sorrento through Policastro, Amalfi and beyond. We set off together but The cyclist zipped through the manic rush hour traffic of Sorrento much faster than me. In fact I had no idea that that was the last I would see of him for 4.5 hours. The Amalfi route was very beautiful and the sun was out. I stopped where I could to take photos oblivious that each time I did it would lengthen the time to catch the cyclist up. And little did I know the madness that was to come with the traffic. We had banked on it not being high season and the roads quieter. If this was quiet I think it would be faster to walk it in high season.
There were the now obligatory tunnels but it was understandable on a cliff edge. All along the coast in each town they had people with the lollipops like the police use. These people were controlling the traffic flow through the towns as many of the streets or corners were only wide enough for one car so each side took it in turns. What was astonishing was the coaches doing this route. The first town was Positano and I pulled up behind a row of coaches waiting to waved on by the lollipop man. I waited and waited as the coaches were only called one at a time and the gap between each one was ages. One of the lollipop guys on the next corner across the cliff must have seen me sat there because a lollipop guy walked up to where I was and called me on. Apparently cars don’t have to sit in the coach queue. Well that was 20minutes gone.
The day before the cyclist had spotted a road sign about overtaking and told me about it. It sounded so mad I had to see one for myself. It said ‘give way overtaking vehicles’. So you are on your side of the road but you are supposed to give way to cars coming in the opposite direction that are over taking a slower car? What sort of messed up logic is that? Surely you over take when it is clear and it is safe? As my experience of Italian driving so far is that they over take wherever and whenever they like, this meant I had to keep my eyes in front on this narrow and winding cliff edge road. I did have a couple of near misses and you can not see what is around the cliff and they do like to go round corners half was across your side of the road.
In one of the narrow streeted towns I was stuck in traffic and glanced at a sign on a wall. It said Driving School, at least that is what I thought. By golly they need it was what went through my head. Whatever do they teach them. On a second glance I saw the sign actually said Diving school. Oh silly me it was probably wishful thinking. On another corner there was a hotel and there were many men directing the traffic. Men and girls with lollipops and hotel porters in the waist coated uniforms. When I eventually rounded the corner I could see what the fuss was about and I physically put my hands in the air Nd shouted “what the hell”. The gap for cars was only one car wide. And why? Because there were two ceramic tourists shops on either side of the bend and there were rows of coaches parked on both sides with tourists milling about and walking in the road, along the road and across the road without a care In the world. I wonder how many points you get for knocking one down……
At the end of the Amalfi coast the sat nav tried to put me on the motorway again. By now I was concerned that I had not seen the cyclist for hours and the sun was hot. He had left without sunscreen so I knew he would be burning. Instead of getting on the motorway I drove into the city. Big mistake. Once again the traffic was manic only this time if I was to get anywhere I had to think Italian. So I pushed my out at junctions, carefully though, to join the flow. It seems to me that it is alright for Italians to drive Italian style but not so for non Italians. As Corporal Jones (aka Clive Dunn) used to day in Dad’s Army, “They don’t like it up ’em!” So I was on the end of much hand gesturing and honking of horns but hey you have to be in it to win it. And in the end, after half an hour or more of fighting my waynthrough, I had been directed back to the motorway one junction along. At this point I was so concerned for the cyclist that i thought stuff it just get me along the route faster. I was only on the motorway about 7km in the end then was directed off. Off into a different world from the Amalfi Coast.
The Highway hookers are back again and in abundance. There were lots. The cyclist said one propositioned him as he cycled past making gestures bybher nether regions demonstrating what she was offering. I was not there obviously! though it probably would have made no difference. the cyclistbto,d me he had not really noticed the highway hookers until then. he had been focussed on the road in front and was in his own little world.
South of the Amalfi is the seaside time forgot. Seriously it was quite shocking. The roads are awful, there is trash everywhere like they use roads as dumps, the buildings are falling down and there are beggars and hookers. Intermittently you see signs saying Lido so I assume inside these LIdos it is nice and I am guessing you pay to go in? But that is just a guess.
At 13.10 I breathed a sigh of relief. Oh my there is the cyclist I thought I’d never see him. He asked me if I had been worried. Of course I had. I Fed him and put Suncream on his arms and legs. At 15.10 and my head is banging and I’ve had enough. I was just tired and had had nothing to eat apart from my Special K bar. The physiologist will not be impressed by this information I am sure but I can say that I didn’t have the time or opportunity to stop.had enough. Along the route I had seen a scabby dog. There are lots of wild dogs here. Strays that have gone wild. I have seen them foraging in the rubbish at the side of the road and eating what they can. This scabby dog had about two hairs on It’s back and it’s skin looked like the surface of the moon all broken and sore. It foraging in a rubbish pile. Not for stroking me thinks. It made me grateful for our rabies quarantine rules though. Eventually we went over a high mountain and down to a coastal town to the finish. It was late and we had to get to out hotel.
This coastal finish town was one of those, so cliff like secluded that there is only one way in and out and it is over a mountain. We set off following the sat nav. Along our mountain road which was a terrible bone breaking road with potholes, I saw across the valley that the road on the other mountain across was blocked. I hope that isn’t the way we are going I said. Yep. You guessed. Our route was the same one and there had been a landslide.
To say the cyclist was not impressed is an understatement. He was tired and achy after some serious climbing. Not having a map is not a good idea as trying to map read on a sat nav isn’t easy. I found another road that was back the way we came and over another mountain road. This was a 30 mile detour buts demoed to be our only choice. Oh my god. More of the mountain roads Kyle had ridden today. They are overgrown so the bushes tough the car born sides And can only be described as a dirt track. The poor Meriva and the cyclist had endures some of these all day together with the vertical climbs. The bikes on the back were being shook to death. Eventually after some placating chat from me, which didn’t work incidentally, we got to the next coastal town along. Only to find that in the town the one and only road was ful ,of work men who were in it digging it up and the road was closed. You couldn’t make this stuff up. At that point my hear sank as it was after 8 pm and getting dark. I had visions of being completely stuck and the cyclist began murmuring about sleeping in the car. I then started worrying about how we would get him to the start for the next days gruelling ride.
I programmed our destination into Co-Pilot in my Phone and asked it for alternative routes. Obviously one was back the way we came and took us much further in land and to a major road. Ok there was nothing else for it. Thank god we had enough fuel. By now the cyclist was apoplectic but off we set on in dim light back along this God forsaken track. Our eta was after 10pm but at least it was an eta and should eventually get us there. It did and as I had phoned ahead to say we would be very late, they had left the key in the lock of the apartment so we could let ourselves in. Shower and food for the cyclist while I wash and sterilise bottles then shower and bed for both of us. The caretaker girl knocked on the door about 10.30pm wanting her payment. No card just cash only. Really? The cyclist filled me in after on the probabilities of why cash only and the tax situation or rather no one pays tax situation.
On the bed they had put the towels in the shape of a heart with a flower and a nice soap. It was a Nivea sop that I hadn’t seen before and I was immediately taken with it. I asked the cyclist if I should take it but after much deliberation by me and putting it in and out of my bag I put in on the side and decided to leave it. I mean I don’t even normally use soap and to take it would maybe give a bad impression. I have no idea why I was so taken with it but decision made! It stops, even if we paid for the room that said toiletries provided.
Some of my My soundtrack for today’s driving was: Paloma Faith, Dean Martin, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America.