For the second day in a row the warm wind was howling, stirring up the ocean to waves too fierce for the little kids to venture into. At sunset the night before last, the sky had turned ominously dark and a few heavenly spits had landed on our bare arms. Wondering whether all the locals, who continued sitting and chatting apparently unconcerned at the meteorological change, knew something we didn’t, we packed up our outside room. No sooner were we inside than the first lightning sheeted the sky and the spits became bucketloads. Shrieking Italianos scurried around camp frantically packing away table and chairs, wineglasses and washing lines, guinea pig, beach towels, awnings.
The deluge was shortlived, but the wind, which strengthened by the hour, still has not abated days later. Autumn had arrived. As if to confirm its presence, it brought with it a second longer downpour in the wee hours of the morning.
Dawn revealed drifts of leaves banked up against motorhome wheels and waves thundering on the beach. Twenty degrees cooler than a couple of weeks ago, it felt nippy, but being cognitively aware that is still as warm as a kiwi summer (25 degrees), the big kids donned togs, eager to take on the surf. They only got out waist deep when waves higher than any of them crashed down, dumping their fury. Standing against the elements, jumping victoriously with the swell, occasionally going under, the biggies frolicked all afternoon.
Meanwhile, the littlies’ disappointment at finding the beach out of bounds was tempered by the fact that, being the weekend, the previously almost-empty camp had filled up, and ignoring the language barrier, they had made new friends.
All day long giggles erupted around the camp and a train of steadily diminishing (sizewise) children caboosed by ER3 puffed between motorhomes and oleander bushes. Frequently they all congregated in a circle, earnestly talking to each other, each in their own tongue – Italian, German, English, Spanish. They discussed the dead bird discovered, made up rules for a ball game, all laughed raucously when one of the daddies almost fell off a ladder retrieving said ball from on top of the shadecloth. They developed an intricate hide-n-seek spy game with bases and teams and lots of goodwill.
But late Sunday evening the camp emptied out again and when the sea was still billowing this (Monday) morning, we decided to head further south towards our ferry crossing to Greece.
After a five day hiatus, it was comfortably familiar to hit the road again. We smiled, remembering Grandpa’s most recent email – when he had taken his car for a drive at home he needed his hearing aids to detect whether the engine was running. With us he’d taken them OUT before every journey; the significant rattlings and bangings and shakings requiring no further amplification and drowning out any conversation hopes.
Yes, these vans do make a racket, but they get us from A to B.
They give us access to olive trees, down here underplanted with new bright green seedlings and black snaking irrigation hoses.
They take us past flat-roofed houses, all painted a light colour with a darker shade widely framing windows and the side and top edges of walls.
They wait outside supermarkets while we stock up.
They whizz us past the ocean, the palette of blues and greens far exceeding any paint shop selection.
They shudder along the short motorway onramps; so short you need to both be ready to stop completely if any traffic is approaching AND ready to accelerate to 110km in four seconds (ha ha, as if we could, even if we were already going at 80) if the coast is clear.
They transport us through a landscape we thought belonged to the desert; brown dirt underfoot, cloudless blue sky overhead and hundreds upon hundreds of flowering cacti in between (beware of the prickly pear – covered with invisible spikes, it is full of seeds too hard to eat and hardly any flesh worth eating – a memorable experience, but not for the right reasons).
They pull over to the side of the road so we can eat grapes. It just occurred to us that we’ve been eating at least a kilo a day whilst in Italy. And an eight or so kilo watermelon most days.
They camouflagedly smoke their way through smoking fields, burnoff in Italy just like the burnoffs we’ve seen elsewhere, with the exception that here it’s blowing a gale making the conditions seem surely less-than-ideal.
They escort us past houses obviously abandoned. Was there an earthquake and nobody has bothered rebuilding? Does waterfront property just not hold the same attraction here as in New Zealand? Or is the global recession hitting hard?
They even reach – and exceed – 100km/hr on the autostrade, and we realise we really are comfortable driving these monsters now. Even when we get stuck in a labyrinth of narrow lanes with cars parked on either side leaving so little room The Bear Cave has to make two attempts to squeeze between, we hardly slow down. “Hardly,” I said. We weren’t going 100 down those streets. But neither were we holding our breath like in the early days.
The only breath now is outside – as if a giant is coughing, warm-to-hot puffs blow around us. In our experience (apart from the Mistral at Narbonne Plage), wind is cold and so we subconsciously expect to start shivering. But this is a warm wind, more akin to a steam engine belching at us.
We just hope it dies down somewhat before we sail!