Days 33 to 41 – Brindisi

Well, my package never turned up. It was sent on 21 August, and after 16 days I’ve given up. Royal mail lost track of it when it left the UK. The Italian Post service have no trace of it. I was waiting so long that the hostel owner, Maurizio, called in a favour with a friend at the sorting office in Brindisi to make absolutely sure it wasn’t there. So James will be claiming the insurance from Royal Mail.
I’ve had a good time in Brindisi though. Met lots of lovely people at the hostel (in order(ish) – Camilla, Harry, Nike and Rike, Yaniv, Chris, Heather, Tara, American girls from Ohio (sorry! can’t remember names), Sven, Dale and Steph, Martin, and Max). Hopefully I’ll keep in touch with some of them!

My daily routine in Brindisi went something like: wake up, have breakfast at hostel, go to internet cafe, check parcel, go back to hostel, read war and peace, find something for dinner, read more war and peace, go to bed. Quite simple really, and a bit too predictable – the people at the post office and internet cafe got to know me quite well!

When Sven arrived, he was talking about buying a bike, and heading into Greece. I said I’m heading that way soon, and we decided to go together. Fortunately Brindisi has a Decathlon, so we got Sven a good cheap bike, and after a few more days organising and waiting for the package, we set off.

After the 8 days in Brindisi, I could wait for the parcel no more, so me and Sven headed off to Greece.

Ferries from Brindisi go to Igoumenitsa in Greece at 9pm, and arrive at 6am. Two companies have the same schedule, and their brochures say so. We went to the ticket office and said we were two cyclists wanting the cheapest passage to Igoumenitsa. They sold us a ticket for Agoudimos. We go to the post at 8pm, to find there is no Agoudimos sailing at 9pm to Igoumenitsa – it goes at 10:30am or something instead. It was too late to go back to the ticket office and change the ticket, so we were forced to buy tickets with Endeavour instead, and lose the original ticket price.

Because of this, I am declaring an official boycott of Agoudimos and the ticket office opposite the station in Brindisi (it’s to the right as you look at the internet cafe with blue awnings). This boycott, and this message on the blog, can be cleared if the original ticker price is refunded.

Also in Brindisi I got business cards printed. Lots of people I meet ask for my website, and I tell them, and they probably forget, or I spend 5 minutes trying to find a pen and paper to write it down. A couple of tourers I’ve met have given me their card, and a few other people have asked if I have a card. Well I do now. The shop in Brindisi said give us the text, and we’ll design it for you. I went back the next day to check the design, and they’d put a sunset picture as the background, used blue and red text, multiple fonts, and a few spelling mistakes. I asked if I could change it – they said write the changes on the paper. I then said can’t I just do it myself on the computer. A few minutes in Adobe InDesign later, and my cards are now white, with black text, in ariel font. Much better!

I also took the opportunity of having a lot of time to fix up my bike. It’s all running very well now, except for one thing. I changed the chain, and chucked the old one out. The next day I rode the bike, and the new chain is slipping. The old chain had worn down and lengthened, and the sprockets had worn to its length. Now the new chain is too short. I basically need new sprockets. I did manage to get it going in the mean time though by reversing the 15t sprocket, but the 13t can’t be reversed. It means I have half as many gears, but can continue for now.

The problem though, is getting replacements. They are basically only available in the UK, and I’ve already wasted 8 days waiting for one parcel.

One amazing thing happened. Coming out of Decathlon (staff in there got to know me as well!) with Sven, the sky was dark, and lightning was coming down in the distance. We then saw what looked like a meteorite falling through the sky, bright ball of light, with a tail, traveling slowly. Turns out it is ball lightning, which is really cool. The Queen song “thunderbolts and lightning…” suddenly makes more sense, although it was frightening!

Day 32 – Torre Canne to Brindisi

27 August, I left a month ago on 27 July, and what a month it’s been. I think I’ve finally found my feet for travelling, but still need to work on a few things, namely camping wild. Now I’m in Brindisi, at a hostel, cheaper than most campsites, and with breakfast included. I’m in Brindisi until my parcel of bike parts arrives, and I’m going to relax.

Day 31 – Giovinazzo to Torre Canne

Lovely cycle today, not quite 100km. Went inland to avoid the dual carriageway along the coast. Note to Puglia government – don’t upgrade single lane roads to dual carriageways without providing a legal alternative cycling option.

The road down into Monopoli was lovely. Quiet, smooth, winding corners, just the right gradient so I didn’t have to brake or pedal. Perfect. Along the way an Italian registered BMW X5 slowed, and the passenger stuck his head out. The conversation went like this:
Him: “Oi, you English mate!?”
Me: “yeah, English”
Him: “where ya from?”
Me: “London”
Him: “you ‘ave an house out ‘ere, or you just on ‘oliday?”
Me: “I’m cycling around the world for 5 years”
Him: “Oh right, good luck then!”

And the car roared off.

Monopoli, though, was a dump. The roads were so bad and potholed, it was the first time I was seriously worried about the integrity of the bike. The campsite though, wants €27 for a bit of gravel. Haven’t paid yet, and have no intention of doing so! Also, I arrived at 3pm. They said it’s quiet time until 4pm, so I can’t build my tent. What a ridiculous rule.

Day 30 – Villagio Residenziale to Giovinazzo

Excellent day. Left campsite at 6:30 with the sun just coming up. Found a bakery, but I was confused over if it was the customer entrance or the production entrance. There were flowery men putting dough into ovens, but also a counter and cash register. Anyway, some bread was ready, and they made a sale. After that the kilometers tumbled.

At the campsite the bar had double chocolate Magnums. I didn’t think they existed anymore, I last saw one 4 years ago. It was delicious. I also met Giuseppe, who bought me a beer and we chatted about travelling. Also,arrived very late at the campsite was an Italian cyclist travelling the entire coastline, with a trailer for luggage. To anyone who said a trailer was silly, I’ve seen 3 others in 4 weeks now.

Day 29 – Testa del Gargano to Villagio Residenziale

Wow, incredibly hot today. The Gargano coast line that I’ve been cycling for the past 2 days is very hilly. The southern side, which I cycled today, seems more dramatic than the north, with no flat roads, just either up or down. Lovely part of the world, but think twice if you’re a cycle tourist! But I managed 60km today, and escaped onto the flat coastal plains again. I think stuffing myself in the pizzaria last night though was no such a good idea. Today I had stomach cramps and I’ve also been a bit ill.

At the campsite an Italian guy has taken a liking to my Tilley hat. He has offered to swap it for a heavy, bulky gas stove, and a heavy, bulky torch. I declined, he said beautiful hat, I said yes, my beautiful hat.

Day 28 – Peschici to Testa del Gargano

Much better day. Left campsite at 7am in the cool, and had nice, but tough uphill ride to Vieste. I met a guy who was amazed at me cycling from London. Lots of ‘Mamma Mia’s’ were said incredulously! I asked him and the by then group of others if there was an internet cafe nearby. ne said he’d show me in a few minutes, so I waited. He turned up in his Smart car, and I tried to keep up and not be killed following him as he raced Italian style through Italian traffic. Made it, and what a ride!

Only did another 15km after the internet cafe, to make 45km for the day. But I’m 4 days ahead of my provisional schedule anyway, so who cares. At the campsite is a nice restaurant/pizzaria, so I ate there to get some proper food to recover from yesterdays water disaster. Didn’t think about the price, and enjoyed lovely food, even if I did look silly at a table for four by myself!

Day 27 – Torre Miletto to Peschici

Terrible day, one to forget. Didn’t sleep much because the bar near the campsite was playing a selection of the worst 90’s love songs, and then the live musician thought a keyboards built in melodies are the best thingsince sliced bread, and having a sense of tone is not necessary for a musician. I also discovered in the morning that both tyres on the bike were flat. Had a look and discovered 3 spectacular thorns in the front tyre. It turns out kevlar tyres are quite good for most things, except thorns. Three punctures in the front, and two in the rear. I must have only just made it to the campsite last night as they were going flat.

Only got away cycling at 9:30, and it was hot by then. I’ve been adding effervescent vitamin tablets to my first litre of water for the day, and they also add a bit of flavour. What they masked was the undrinkability of the campsites water. By 11am I was feeling nauseous, and had to stop for an hour. By the time I set off again it was even hotter, and I was still feeling ill. Only made it 45km today.

Day 26 – Torino di Sangra Maria to Torre Mileto

The campsite last night was actually lovely. Across from my spot was a very pretty girl who kept smiling at me, and at dark as I was sitting outside my tent reading in the streetlight she invited me over to her families campervan. I met about 10 people, but I only remember her name, Elena. We muddled through between my Italian and someone else’s English. But then Elena’s interest in me faded when some guy who actually spoke Italian turned up. Never mind.

Passing through Termoli today I found an Internet cafe full of obnoxious Brits. One guy was saying “I’m trying to run a f***ing business here and this internet cafe wants a f***ing document, I keep trying to tell them we don’t have or want f***ing identity cards in England”. I kept a low profile, but thought if he’s trying to run a business, why is he using internet cafes, and it is recent Italian terrorism law that they need an official document. Also, why can’t he use his passport. I usually hand over my Florida ID card. It expired 2 years ago but they don’t know that, and there are fewer organisational repercusions if it gets nicked or copied.

Scenery is changing also, the norm is now parched grass and olive groves, and cactus has become a legitimate plant for making hedge rows from. But who designed these Italian roads? I didn’t care about a shower tonight, ad at 90km I started seeing wonderful camping spots. All of them innaccessible behind a crash barrier and over a metre wide, metre deep drainage ditch full of thorny plants, broken bottles, and rusting tin cans. Anyway, finally reached run down campsite with depressing lack of hot smiling girls called Elena.

Day 25 – Rosetto di Abruzzi to Torino di Sangra Maria

I tried sneaking out of the campsite early, but the owner caught me by the bar. ‘I was going to the office to pay, honest!’ was my excuse, but it was only €10, which is not bad.

Fairly boring days cycling. After 30km or so I thought I’d go to the beach. Mistake. I’ve watched on TV as Ray Mears has got a 4×4 stuck in sand less powdery than this. If he can do it, what chance did I have. Four thin wheels, and only one drive wheel meant I stood no chance in the sand. I dragged the whole lot to the beach, didn’t go in, then dragged it all back again.

After 65km I saw a sign to a ‘Cimetro Inglese’, so thought I’d have a look. I was reassured enough by the offiial Commonwealth War Graves Commission sign to slog up a ridiculously steep hill. What I found was the Sangro River Cemetary, the loveliest and most moving war cemetary I’ve been to so far. The entrance is on a hill top, and the cemetary in a horseshoe shape just below in the curve of the valley. Over to one side you can see the Adriatic. There are over 2000 graves, and a memorial to Indian troops cremated rather than buried. Reading the messages on head stones such as “how could you die, without saying goodbye”, “to live on in our hearts forever is not to die”, and finally “we miss you big brother” on a grave for an 18 year old was so moving I was at one point reduced to tears, and just sat and wept at the ridiculous sacrifice made by millions in wars. Whenever the trip becomes ‘too hard’ I will think of the millions who have given their lives for their country (as one message in France said, “they gave their yeterday for our today”), who endured unbelievable hardship, and remember that I’m just on a jolly cycle ride for a while.

After 75km I came across a ‘camping village’. Turns out itwas more like Butlins, so I carried on a bit further to find a proper campsite.

Day 24 – Ascoli Piceno to Rosetto Di Abruzzi

Had a nice breakfast with Giuliano and family, and then he drove me to the highest point on the mountain pass on the way to Teramo. I don’t consider it cheating, as I’d have gone straight down the coast without the detour inland to meet Giuliano. The tarmac was smooth, and curves sweeping, but again the brakes were overheating. When that happens they start to squeak, and I know I have very little time to stop before they simply fade to nothing. One time it took all the strength I had left in my fingers to pull the levers hard enough to just stop in a layby.

Later on, on the way into Teramo, a fast Lycra clad italian cyclist named Lucio slowed to chat. He was amazed at my plans and bike and trailer, and I followed him in to Teramo to have a photo by the cathedral there. He then helped me find an internet cafe, where I ordered some bike spares (I think a rim will be a wise addition to my kit what with downhills taxing my brakes to the limits), and a Brooks saddle. Giuliano’s bike that I rode the day before had one, and it was so comfortable. The parts will be sent to my brother, and he will send them on to me in Brindisi.

Didn’t cycle far today, just a bit further down the coast. But I dd pass 2000km, which is 5% of the way around the world!