Wednesday, 30 March 2011

46 Sicily

Thursday 24th March
Today was washing day and prepare for takeoff. Whilst all this was going on, Ray and I met up with two couples from New Zealand.  They in turn had met up with another couple from England, so it became a bit of a Commonwealth meeting.  The two couples from NZ, Ross and Yvonne, have been travelling for 7 months and have a smaller motor home than ours, which they bought in the UK and the other couple are Chris and Mel, and they have been travelling for several years and are in a Land Rover with a tent on top.  The six of us decided to all travel down towards Sicily together, whilst the other two Steve and his girlfriend stayed in Pompei for a bit longer. 

Friday 25th
We all took different routes, according to our vehicles, with the main aim of meeting up at a little sea side town called Praia a mare.  Ray and I were invited into the world of wild camping, which basically meant we live off of all the resources we have in the van, with none of the services like electric hook up and showers that you would get on a site, however it is free and not to be scoffed at.  We were right on the beach, the weather was glorious and I have to say, it doesn’t get much better than this.  We fired up the BBQ and all sat down to a mish mash of food that we all had in stock and lots of vino and good chit chat, had a lovely evening. 
Clockwise from front. Yvonne, Ross, Karen, Chris and Mel. Wild camped on the beach. Nice.

Saturday 26th
I apologise to those of you that work, but being retired has been rather stressful, certainly with driving Lizzie through the streets of Italy.  So true to form, we all decided to take a day off and had a great day on the beach, for us girls, it was hilarious watching Ray and Chris try to fly the kite that we bought back in Cornwall, it had never been out of its bag, (Ray ended up on his backside, the kite never left the ground, where is that camera when you need it).  Frisbie was next and the Patong, it is a bit like bowls with a jack ball that you all aim at, Ray and I were rubbish, and the bloody kiwi’s won. More BBQ, vino and getting to know one another..........

Sunday 27th
All vehicles were made ready for the off and onto the next stop.  We had planned to stay in a proper site for the night before we hit the port for Sicily the next morning.  The roads were terrible, Ray did the difficult bits, I did the motor way but in some respects that was just as bad.  You really need eyes in every part of your anatomy to drive in Italy, we are all really sick of it and our nerves are frazzled.
Unfortunately, that was just the start of a bad day.  Ray and I were the first to arrive at the campsite.  On the surface, it was in beautiful surroundings, top of a hillside, views overlooking the bay, trees, sound of the sea rolling in.  

 Ray and I found this big clearing so that the three musketeers could all set up camp, and Yvonne and Ross turned up next.  Ray and I were busy settling everything up, and I have to admit, I saw Yvonne disappear up the pathway to the loos and other facilities, but didn’t see her come back, I was dealing with my own crisis, I’ll explain in a minute, but the next thing we knew was Ross came over to our van and said, “We’re leaving Yvonne doesn’t like it here, so we are going to wild camp down on the beach over there.”  We thought well I can understand that, we hadn’t checked out the facilities, but had no reason to doubt Yvonne, but we still had to wait for Mel and Chris who were on way.  Anyway, we left too after a few minutes thought and an omelette, and it was quite embarrassing, because we’d driven into this site, disturbed them at dinner, told them there was two more vehicles coming in, their little Italian faces lit up, and then two out of three drove out.  We joined Ross and Yvonne and then got the phone call from Mel to say she was at the campsite, after letting them know what had happened, they left the site as well, so having thought the lady that owned the site, could pay for several meals and especially in low season, this poor Italian family, had nothing.
I just hope they didn’t send out any curses.
My egg problem, well we had stopped at a Supermarket and I bought a dozen eggs, Fantastic I can hear you say, good grief, are we now subjected to egg stories, well you are and if you don’t like it, read another blog.  Thankfully I had used some of them up, but on today’s journey down, whilst Ray had stopped to contemplate some more computer jargon, I opened the fridge and the whole box of 8 eggs left fell on the floor, I was lucky in that only one splayed itself all over the carpet, the others decided to crack and stay in the box, hence lunch was decided for us, scrambled, it was.
I did feel a little bit strange, because where we wild camped. We could physically look up the rock face at the campsite we had just abandoned. 
The tree line at he top is where we were paked initially, right on the edge.

It is a  shame, it was only 11 euro’s to stay there, but the whole point of us being in the site was so that we could all do the showering thing and washing thing.  What it amounts to, is we all stunk for another night and missed showering......... I’m convincing you all, that this is the life for you!!!!!!!!
We actually had another good night, took over the car park, and just enjoyed.
Wild camped in the car park by the beach

Unfortunately, the beach was minging with litter everywhere. Not a bin in sight.

Monday 28th
Having survived another night, (baby wipes rule OK).  Ray and I decided to go via the Toll routes to the port to get the boat over to Sicily, unfortunately everyone followed us, (don’t believe everything you hear about kiwi’s they are just as daft as us, they might win at rugby, but that’s it !)
We got on the boat, ours being the most expensive vehicle, and some helpful, ( I will call him knob end, who after we’d paid our fair, spotted the trailer, and charged us 20 euro’s more, wanted a tip, so we told him, don’t eat yellow snow), landed in Sicily.  
We are now on vallium, it has been even more traumatic driving here.  Tomtom, did his thing.  Yvonne and Ross call theirs Eva, short for eventually we will get there.  We were directed down the narrowest streets, they in themselves are reasonably wide, but, you park where you like, you leave enough room for single traffic, who would expect two bloody mobile homes and a rather large jeep to be travelling in your little town, which is in fact the main highway.......
Unfortunately, having done Rome, the rest of Italy, we are all gobsmacked about the driving. 
We followed a mountain pass, okay slightly large hill, with well serious U bends, and our Lizzie, struggled the whole way.  Ray is fraught, I am fraught, but we will survive.
This was a road marked red on the map. I was scraping the tow bar on half of the hairpins. We eventually abandoned this and found the toll motorway for the last hour of the journey to the campsite. In all honesty, if we wanted to drive on motorways all our retirement, we could have done that on the UK as you do not get to see the places you are travelling past. Even exiting the port, I scraped one wing mirror and a bumper. That will teach the berks to park properly. It is only when you see how inconsiderate these people are that you appreciate the relative order in the UK.
On arrival, again all together, we shunted around and found a suitable spot and set up camp. It was in a pleasant wooded area next to the beach. We were beaten to the washing machines by the Kiwi’s but we forgave them as they outnumbered us. More wine, beer and one of Karen’s awesome spaghetti bolognaise’ and we retired for a quiet night.
Tuesday 29th March 2011
 Washing day again, and a day of serious decisions. We decided that Lizzie is just too big to drive on the sort of roads that we intend to use and have decided to sell her on for something smallerl. One of the problems that we have is that she is left hand drive and a rather plush and exclusive model. This (we think at this time) will limit our choices for a trade in and may limit us to taking it back to the frigging useless dealer we bought it off. We will have to look into that. It is going to cost us dearly, I am sure, but we cannot go on as we are. On top of that we are carrying far too much junk which we also need to make some serious decisions about. We are of a mindset that we will start to make our way, slowly back to the UK to begin some sort of sale/purchase in a couple of days. We intend to do Mount Etna and then get off this crowded rock.
Wednesday 30th March 2011
An early start, relatively, we were out by 9:30 am. Ross and Yvonne left at the same time as us and ventured clockwise further around Sicily intending to approach Etna from the South the following day. Our plans, and that of Chris and Mel, were to go straight up Etna from the North. As such we parted company with Ross + Yvonne and will have fond memories of our time with them.
Chris, Mel and the Landrover set off behind us on Wallace. We filled up with fuel and aimed Wallace roughly south in the direction of Mount Etna.
Etna is under that cloud - otherwise, very picturesque.

The straight distance was 28km and we had an 82km drive of hairpins and meandering roads ahead of us. The journey up was spectacular and had the drizzle kept off it would have been fantastic. There were some long dry stretches where I could play on the mountain roads but as we neared the top, the weather closed in. 
Me, Karen, Mel and Chris, posing in front of Etna.
The fort at Castiglione di Sicilia

Recengt lave flows and heat have killed off a lot of trees without burning them. Spooky.

Starting to get cold. The road up the mountain.

A recent lava flow and Karen

Oops, just missed the fall - damn.

We found a new ski area at the top that was in it’s first year and not fully completed but operational. The temperature had dropped from a warm 22ish to a very cold and wet 7ish. It was cold enough for sleet but the skiers did not seem to be put off. We found a small ski restaurant and drank coffee while the rain hammered down. When we came out it was steaming all over the place and looked very eerie.

After coffee, the rain has stopped and the sun and mist is making the place eerie.

Having had enough of the cold and damp we set off in the direction of Taormina, about 30 km to the East. 
OK, this is getting serious......

At this point we parted company with Chris and Mel and they set off to look for somewhere quiet to hide for the night. We arranged to meet them at the ferry the next day at noon. A 1001 hairpin bends later we eventually arrived in Taormina. The place was beautiful. A small  town clinging to the side of a rocky hillside. 
The bay beside Taormina. See how clear the water is.

We stopped for a coffee and a bite of pizza in a small cafe by the sea and got talking to the proprietor who was normally a diving instructor in the tourist season.  He told us that the area was often used for filming in films that involve underwater scenes due to the clarity of the water. I have to say, it was crystal clear. He showed us where a film called “Deep Blue was shot, across the bay. It was a science fiction film about genetically modified sharks that grew oversize and clever, eventually taking over the research facility.
The film setting for "Deep Blue Sea"

The proprietor gave us some of his home made “lemoncello”, a lemon based drink containing 95% (yes 95%) alcohol. It was lovely. We then fired up Wallace and opted for the long way home via the motorway. When we got home it was pack up time and we eventually finished all our chores and dinner by 9pm. We were knackered.   

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

45 Naples Pt 4

Monday 20th March
Today was another one of those wash/clean up days, but everything is ready for touring around and enjoying the next couple of days. Did a spot of shopping and fed the barby. Another first of 2011.

Karen invigilating on my cooking
Tuesday 21st
We took the coastal road and went for a sightseeing tour to Sorrento.  The traffic was horrendous, but eventually we got there.
Sorrento looking back from the harbour

Sorrento was very pretty, but we headed straight for the harbour and booked a trip to the Isle of Capri. (I’m sure there was an old film made there). 

It was a half hour trip by a jet boat and on docking we bought a map and sat for a coffee to decide what we fancied seeing.   
On the jet boat to Capri

Approaching Capri

We were only there for 3 hours, so it had to be quick.  In the end, we have seen enough churches and religious bits so we took a local bus up into Capri Town on the top of the rock and that was an experience in its self.  These buses are dinky Mercedes buses with room for 8 people to sit and 33 to stand.  The roads are all really narrow and winding and the bus drivers do not spare the horses, we got off in the centre of Capri having done a full work out holding on and balancing around the corners.  It was quite cheap though.   

Capri harbour fro the town of capri

We wandered about and discovered a mass of little alley ways and tunnels, which you could easily get lost in.   

Quaint and tiny streets

The locals run around these little streets in tiny little 3 wheelers which carry loads far bigger than the vehicles themselves, but they all have really loud horns.  The shops were gorgeous, but no prices were shown. Never a good sign unless you don’t have to worry about money. 
No price tags on these goods

St Michele La Croce church

I liked Capri though and on surviving the journey back down to the harbour, we sat and had a beer watching the boats and the people.  Ray says it was the most expensive beer ever, yeah yeah, that’s this week anyway.
Well it was, £4.40 for piddly little glass like this. It was only 3/4 full when delivered.
£4.40 for this piddly drink, thats about £16 a pint
Wednesday 23rd
Today we went off in search of a little place called Positano, it is on the Amalfi Coast, but to get there, we did a Ray diversion.  Monte Faito, it is a twisting, hairpin road that goes right up into the mountains (1015 m high) and the views were spectacular, looking down onto the harbours and over the towns. 
Looking down on Pompei and surrounding area

There were around 40 hairpin bends on this tiny road - it was mad

Unfortunately, our pictures do not do it justice.  It was a bit of a tough ride for Ray, but before long we were on the way back down and picked up the coastal road to take us to Positano.  
Positano - no roads in this lot

The bay at Conca dei Marini
 This in comparison was a lovely road for a motor cycle.  All it needed was less nutty Italien scooter riders and car drivers who overtake when the rest of us would not even consider it.  I don’t know who wrote, or if there even is an Italien Highway code, but I think he must have been on drugs.  Anything seems to go and even if the street is oneway, we have watched them just turning into it.  Horns are a must, but there is this constant barrage of them, that everyone just ignores them.  I’ve touched on this before, but anything is okay on a scooter, dogs, barrels, 4 people, kids, building supplies, all riders must be smoking, on the phone, steering with knees, the last 3 points refer to motor cars aswell, (no comments from my Mum are required at this present time, or my brother who seem to think I used to steer with my knees!!!!!!).
Anyway, as usual, I digress..   We followed the coast all the way to Salerno and had a spot of lunch at 5pm and then headed for home.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and we really did like the roads.  The views are wonderful and the engineering of the houses and the use of the slopes, by the locals is quite remarkable.  

 There are lemon and orange trees growing on steep slopes and every bit of land is used, I understand that in this kind of terrain, space is a premium, but they really have made the most use of it.  In many ways I love the simplicity of Italy, if there is a problem, they don’t set up a quango to sort it out and 33 meetings later another meeting is set up to finalise the outcome, they just get on with it, and it is us, who are used to the above quango and meetings, who struggle with it.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

44 Naples Pt 3 Napoli

Sunday 20th March 2011
We decided to take the train into Napoli (to give it its Italian name)  today.
We took the train from just outside the campsite. It was not a good start. We could only see out of one windows as the other was covered in grafitti. About 30 minutes later we stepped out of the station into a bomb site. 
Naples was a complete mess and so disapointing. 
For a start, it was mostly closed, being Sunday, but the place was covered in litter and grafitti. It looked like a once proud place that has been allowed to fall into decay and given up  its image to juveniles with multicoloured spray cans and litter bugs.
The Italians here seem to have given up of their personal pride. About half of the occupants of the motorscooters do not wear helmets and it was not rare to see 3 people on one bike.
If you look closely, there is a small child between the adults on this scooter.

We took this picture as it was the only thing worth photographing. We were so pissed off with the place that we did not even bother to see what it was.
Dunno what this is but it was outside a dilapidated government office of some sort.

We walked around to the docks area to see if there were any boat trips as Karen, you may remember, is desperate to get out to sea. Lots of ticket offices and moorings but no boats and the offices were closed.
We walked around till we found somewhere for a beer and a pizza. While seated I got chatting to an american airline pilot, who was an ex navy fighter pilot. Needless to say we chatted about the  air strikes by the Brits, Americans and French on Lybia earlier that morning. I mention this as it was the highlight of the day.
We then decided, after about 2 hours, to call it a day and walked back to the train station. We came across a market area that was equally dirty as the rest of Napoli, only a lot more smelly.

Smelly and dirty market area
 Naples.......shove it.

Karen's eternal optimism says that she cannot believe it does not get better than this.

43 Naples Pt 2 Versuvius

Saturday 19th March 2011
The weather had improved quite a bit today so we decided to visit Versuvius. We popped to the local supermarket first and stocked up on beer and food (in order of priority of course).

We then jumped on Wallace, programed the sat nav for a parking area near the top of the Volcano and we set off. After a near murderous drive through the suberbs of Naples we were taken by the sat nav towards a bridge over the motorway that had been removed some time ago. A quick U turn and a reprogram and the sat nav took us to the national park that contains the volcano. As we got into the park there was a beautiful pair of 8 foot hight green painted steel gates blocking our way. The road was closed. Thanks again sat nav. Another reprogram to take us to the same place but arpound the other side of the volcano and we were off again.
We eventually arrived at the car park having met a car comiing the other direction at each hairpin bend. OK OK it was not so bad on the bike.
We paid our parking and volcano access dues and set off up the cinder cone of Versuvious.
The track up was steep

A lava flow over softer ash/pumice

Knackered old git with outer caldera (volcanic ring) in the background.

Nearly there and the wind is up.

In the middle is the ruins of Pompeii and Lizzy

It aint dead yet

The crater/chimney was too big to photograph.

The bay of Naples

They drive cars (fiat pandas) up here

A beer on the way down

Sunset over the bay

How wierd is this lava

More lava flows

Friday, 18 March 2011

42 Naples Pt 1 Pompeii

Wednesday 16th March.
Today was a pack up and admin day. We sorted the washing and flushed out the grey waste tank in Lizzy - horrible job but necessary.
Wallace was loaded onto the trailer and we just chilled out for the rest of the day.
Thursday 17th March.
Today, we have been retired fo a whole year. It seems like a few months. It is also St Patricks Day and the 150th Birthday of Italy as we know it today.
So, final "prep for voyage" and we were off at about 10am for Naples. We had decided to go the cheaper, slower scenic route avoiding the tolls on the motorway but it was raining so hard it was a bit pointless so we switched to the motorway and paid another 28 euros for the privilege. As we approached Naples we could clearly see Mount Versuvius in the background. (the rain had abated somewhat). We passed through Naples and arrived at our campsite called Zeus in Pompeii at about 3pm. This site is literally 100m from the workings of the Pompeii disaster.

Just visible at the end of the road is the campsite and on the right is the entrance to Pompeii.
Getting lizzy into place was a squeeze. No shortage of oranges thgough,

Pompeii was a prosperous self ruling Roman city till it decided to rebel against  Rome for a more political and social respect in 89-90 BC. Rome placed the city under seige and eventually Pompeii caved in in 80 BC and was downgraded to a colony and renamed " Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum". Following this it was given many public and private buildings by Emporers Octavian Augustus and Tiberius. A violent earthquake hit the region in 62 AD and the damage was extensive. Reconstruction of Pompeii began immediately. 17 years later, on the afternoon of the 24th August 79 AD the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted. That day the city was covered with about 1m of ash. The next day Versuvius exploded and sent a pyroplastic wave of ash and rocks the 12 miles to Popeii and its sister city Herculaneum. This wave was travelling at about 100kph and could not be ran from. The whole city was buried and fried instantly. Nothing survived. Those that were hiding were either buried alive in collapsing buildings or suffocated and burned with the air/ash mix being over 500 dec C.
Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried under 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice, and it was lost for over 1,500 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1599 by an engineer who whist tunneling found some painted walls.Exploration did not begin till 1748 and has been going on virtually constantly since then. In about 1875, an archaeologist working at the site made a small hole with his hammer. On looking inside the void he saw bones. The director of the dig stopped work and called for plaster of paris and water. He filled the void left by the body, now long gone and what remains is a series of plaster casts of some of the bodies and it also shows the boxer style stance that most of the victimes ended up in due to the heat contracting arms and legs.  Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. It recieves approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.

We chilled out for the rest of the evening and as it got dark the rain came back - in torrents. This lasted most of the night - luverly.

Friday 18th March
The quote Karen today, "Another hard day at the office".
We awoke to more torrents of rain and as such had a slow start and decided to watch a video. By the time the film had finished the weather had improved and we dicided to go an visit Pompeii. We walked out of the campsite and turned left into the entrance to the site.
It was a very interesting visit of about 3 hours. Fortunately closing time saved our legs from complete destruction.

Now the piccy of Pompeii.

Our first view

The temple of Venus

Mosaic of a dog. Dogs are welcome on the site and there are many strays that are officially cared for.

Teatro Grande - Big theatre.

Social space or Odeon (singing place) behind theater later believed used as a barracks due to weapons found.

Yes these are willys. Not hidden either, on display in the main street. Sex and debauchery was part of normal life.

These are the plaster castings formed from the voids left from bodies.

A spoert ground. Swiming pool in the middle.

Outside of the 20,000 seat Amphitheater

Karen inside listening to the dialogue for the building.

A view from the wall of the Amphitheater. Shows the height of the ash not yet removed and Versuvious in the background.

Some surviving paintings in a Villa. Venus on the right , Mars on the left. This villa was also bombed in 1943 - presumably by us Brits.

Pompeii equivalent of a zebra crossing. The streets being used for drainage, this allowed the crossing without getting poo on your shoes. The stones were set so that wheeled carriages could pass between. See the worn out wheel ruts.
Karen in one of the Thermopodiums. Open air hot food stalls. An early McDonalds ! Nice to see her in the kitchen again.  OK I'm running.......

A general street view.

The Basilica. For justice and administration.

Temple of Apollo. Statue of him on the right.

Sun dial in Apollos Temple. In Roman times there were 24 hours in a day. They were not 60 minutes like ours. They had 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark regardless of the time of year so in the winter and hour could be 45 minutes and in the summer, 75 minutes. There were also only 10 months in the year.