Today we left the golden sands and emerald sea of Paestum’s beach front van park.
and headed off to the other side of southern Italy. Across the ankle of Italy’s boot, one might say.
As usual, the day dawned bright, sunny and hot. Already as we prepared the vans for moving on, we had all worked up a good sweat and we were pleased to be on the move –getting some air movement around hot bodies.
We did not really know what to expect in today’s journey: we knew we had to cross over the end of the mountain chain that extends, spine-like, down the length of Italy. But how rigourous that would be, we were ignorant. We were hopeful of doing the journey in one day, but were quite prepared to pull off the road at any suitable spot, had either the vans or drivers had enough for the day. (we had in earlier encounters with mountains, learned that sometimes 50km in 2 hrs is good going)
The early part of the journey was on fairly flat terrain, and the road was surprisingly quiet and of a good width. Pleasant driving for our captains. We found a small town with a supermarket after about 90km and made a strategic stop for a bit of shopping, and lunch. It was very hot, so before lunch we cooled off with an ice-cream.
I should digress for a moment, about Italian ice-cream. I used to be of the opinion, having sampled ice-creams from many parts of the world, that there was nothing to touch NZ ice-cream for quality. Wel I am afraid to have to admit that the Italians are the master-makers. Their gelato is rich, creamy and comes in an astonishing variety of flavours. And their sorbet-style tartufi is really refreshing and again comes in a bewildering range of flavours. Finally, the supermarkets sell boxes of mini ice-creams for a very reasonable price, so we have taken to grabbing one of these when we see one, as a bit of a treat.
After luncch the terrain changed and we began to wind through valleys with the high hills pressing in on all sides and with mountains filling the horizon ahead. And so we started climbing.
The temperature on the van’s indicator started rising significantly as we laboured our way ever-upward. We found ourselves driving through an optical illusion: the narrow, winding road did not look particularly steep, but suddenly we found that the only way to keep going was in bottom gear – and then the vans were protesting. It was steep!
Fortunately, justb as we were contemplating calling a halt to let the motors cool off, we crested the summit – and found a roadside fountain. So we pulled over and as usual found a plentiful supply of cool refreshing water gushing endlessly from the spout. Water bottles were refilled, the motors cooled, and we were on our way again.
Almost immediately we became aware of a change in the countryside. We had left behind thickly-wooded hills, masses of olive groves and vineyards
and now stretched out before us was a landscape not unlike the bleak desolation of Mongolia. The landscape was an endless vista of rolling brown hillss for as far as the eye could see. Almost no trees, barely a blade of grass (and what there was was burned brown) just an unrelenting bronze sun and brown earth.
After a while it dawned on us: as we crested the mountain range, we had left the watershed side of the mountains behind, and here we were on the rainless side of the range. We reminded ourselves that the same contrast can be seen in the South Island of NZ – moving from the wet rain-forest type vegetation of the West Coast. onto the often-arid McKenzie country, or the Canterbury plains. But the heat of the sun, the clear blue sky and the brown-ness of earth and vegetation made this seem a very desolate region.
To add to the impression, we saw no signs of life. Many abandoned buildings and many ploughed fields, but nobody actually working the fields. It was rather weird
But the going was good, and we were making good time, so we finally reached our planned destination late in the afternoon.
And a very pleasant destination it is (because we are still here) We are staying at a sort of agricultural park set on the top of a hill with wide vistas of the surrounding countryside all around. There is a complex of old barn-like buildings which house a restaurant and accommodation blocks. There is a mini-farm, with horses, reindeer, peacocks, chickens etc etc, and our van-parking space is next to this area. We have power (for our ‘fridges) and our own toilet block with hot showers etc so we are really enjoying the facilities. We have the option to pay a fee for our stay or eat at the restaurant. Being Italian, the restaurant did not start serving dinners until 8.30pm – too late for our hungry kids – but just right for Rob and I to go and sample.
The food was really excellent and we have got some ideas for some nifty dishes when we get home.
There is a cool breeze blowing,, I am sitting in the shade of an old gnarled olive tree, and life is very pleasant! It is a bit of a ‘downer’ to think that in 4 days time I will be winging my way back to NZ, my wanderings over and done with, but all good things have to come to an end. So I am savouring the moment!Tags: Food, Observations, Transport, Travel, Weather, Tag Index