26 September, 2006

. . . On the way to the forum! 3352miles

Later that day after posting the previous, I took a wee run in to see Pompeii. Titter ye not! Not far, about 20 miles from where I camped. After observing for a while, I learned! Here's how you do the Italian thing . . .
  1. Remove all panniers, luggage and sticky-out bits from your bike. This lessens weight and provides for much better breaking, acceleration and handling.
  2. Zoom along behind apparently moronic motorcyclist of similar size (Ducati Monster 600 was my tutor).
  3. Observe carefully, then let him go and try on your own so;
  4. Launch fearlessly into the overtaking manoeuvre.
  5. The car in front of you will slip to its right, giving you room. (Until you do this, it seems they have little idea their mirrors are there, but they must be constantly staring into them waiting for you to do exactly this).
  6. Oncoming traffic - no matter how big - will move to its right, providing an extra wee 'lane' for your bike.
  7. Slip through, sooking in the paint as you go, scrape a wee bit of paint off one or other vehicle to show to your mates later.
  8. Presto - you're a genuine Italian male!

Of course the whole thing comes down to selfishness. The alternative to this stupidity is that everyone follows the rules, more or less, and then everyone gets there quicker, not just the idiot who manages to stay alive after frightening the life out of everyone else on the road. But then I guess the Italians are used to such daftness. I was once a motorbike instructor and before that dispatched so I felt qualified to have a go. It was a little bit better but still tiresome. I even overtook one or two other bikes. But it really wasn't worth the grey hairs. Children beware - do NOT try this at home. Other traffic will not be ready and you will be splatted exactly like a fly.

Got new tyres in Naples without too much bother (anyone ever heard of Scotland Motorcycle wear? Check the sticker on the door) and Pompeii was huge. I'll need to go back!

Then, the next day, it took a horrible, scary hour to get back the 20 miles to the Autostrada. I decided, against my nature, to forego the wee coast road. Paid my 1Euro (grumbling about it being free in Scotland!) got onto the motorway and all was well. The boredom set in . . . had on the iPod and everything . . . but on the map in the tank bag in front of me there's this wee red line squiggling its way down the coast. I tried, honest I tried, but after about 40 miles of boredom . . .

I think if you're on a motorway then you're not really enjoying what you're doing. You want to be at your destination. But I was at my destination already, I was on the bike. And I was bored!! So at the next opportunity, I decided to give it a go. At first it was horrible, but then at a vague point somewhere south of Salermo, the traffic thinned out, the road surface became smooth, fellow motorcyclists even waved for the first time since the Dolomites! They were enjoying themselves. The road wound and wound along the coast and along through rolling, green hills, nobody but me on it! Then along the coast before heading back into the hills again. And then a tiny wee village with a snackeria on the sea front. The fine gentleman running the place made me a fresh pannini with a very strong, tasty coffee, and I sat on the beach soaking up the atmosphere. It was a lot like being at Kinghorn but with more people going past. An elderly gent with his grandson on the petrol tank of his bike (not at home either, kids!) patrolled up and down the promenade. Another guy was singing to himself on his bicycle. They waved and said hello to each other and even to me and I was tempted to live there forever!

But I left, smiling and happy, and the road improved further. So I concluded that Italy is fine, stick with it. There's a nightmare area on the west coast from about Pisa through Rome and Naples until Salermo but otherwise it's fine. Sicily is okay too. Lovely scenery, but it's 30 miles of 'High Street' if you don't take the motorway out of Messina. Still not too many people smiling though. All seem to be taking things very seriously indeed. I have seen bits of Africa in a better state of repair as well. It's a good preparation. It's very windy here in Trapani, but there's a funny guy running the Snoopy Bar (I knew they couldn't take themselves too seriously!) and he showed me a fine wee campsite. The boat's only once a week!

Portuguese is useful too. I couldn't have a proper conversation but I get enough to understand the gist of things. The man at Snoopy's said the languages were equal and he had no English. Nobody speaks much English.

Still no Libyan visa yet but I'll get the ferry tomorrow anyway and then trust!


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