01258 474 300 |
Free Delivery on orders over £45

OPWT2 DIARY - DAYS 48 - 52

OPWT2 DIARY - DAYS 48 - 52

DAY 48 – Brindisi – Cerignola

Thinking that nothing could equal the shit show of embarkation we slumbered our way over towards Brindisi for the morning docking. Words actually fail me when it comes to the debacle of disembarking. Along with the rest of the bikers, we had no idea which deck our bikes were on and no way of finding out as not a single crew member chose to speak any intelligible English. Rather they communicated in vague grunts and hand gestures which were clearly saying, ‘Sod Off’ and ‘Don’t Bother Me’.

They had to be near the stern of the ship we figured so headed in that direction and plunged into a stairwell that headed downwards – emerging onto Deck 2 we found ourselves in the under deck garage housing massive trucks and lorries and the drivers there made it clear that our bikes were not there so we trooped back up the stairs, against the flow and emerged on Deck 5. Nope. Tried to find Deck 3, one above the garage. Went down some stairs and came out on Deck 4. Stairs again. Deck 2.  Stairs. Deck 4. Deck 3 was clearly harder to locate than Narnia so we decided to walk Deck 4 to find the stairs to Deck 3. The 12 year old made an appearance and gestured for us to go down the ramp currently being trafficked by 40 tonne artics at some speed. We took the ramp with trucks rolling past inches away – horns blaring as they couldn’t believe how stupid we must be to be on a live ramp with live traffic. We agreed but the 12 year old was adamant. That was the only way down and he made sort of squishy gestures as if that was what he was expecting  to happen to us.  Making it to Deck 3 we spotted the bikes on the other side but had to dodge between the lorries that, like the previous night, were now five a breast and making for the exit, Wacky Races style.  I know us Brits have a thing about Health and Safety but this was on another level of risk akin to juggling live toasters in a swimming pool full of electric eels. Utter bananas and we have vowed to avoid Grim bloody Aldi for ever more.

We finally emerged and gathered ourselves dockside before heading towards the Port Exit where, with the briefest of pauses to ignore us completely apart from a hand gesture that read ‘Bugger Off’, the border staff and customs checked nothing and we found ourselves on mainland Italy once more. No one, it seemed, was in the slightest bit interested in checking any paperwork or doing any border checks. So much for Brexit and Schengen.

We’d booked an Agriturismo place about 4 hours ride north and batted our way towards it in some gusty sidewinds that had us barrelling across the carriageway which was fun the first time but got a bit wearing after the hundredth. Pulling out of a service station we heard honking and a van with British plates rolled past us, the occupants waving merrily – it was Icky and Dicky with their two trail bikes in the back, steaming northwards, we gamely overtook them and we all sat there for a nanosecond before they got bored of our pedestrian pace and wavingly honking, steamed past and disappeared into the distance. If, by some quirk of fate, they ever read this or you know them, do tell them to get in touch.

We had an assignment at a factory near Cerignola and arrived, hot and sweaty. We did the thing we’d come to do and headed for our digs for the night. The blurb promised a warm welcome, free flowing wine, lovely food and convivial surroundings and company.

We pulled off the road to find a makeshift swingy up barrier fashioned out of white painted scaffolding poles with part of a tree trunk tied to one end as the counterbalance. The barrier was very firmly in the Piss Off position. Down, closed and not quite as per the blurb.  This, clearly was on trend for the day ever since trying to find the bikes on the ferry. Sod Off, Bugger Off and Piss Off were clearly the order of the day.

Managing to get the barrier to a semi lifted position we trundled up the track to find a desolate building with a faded sign indicating this was our goal. We pressed our faces to the grimy window into what might have once been a dining room. Now, not so much a place to eat lovely food in convivial surroundings but a storage place for various dead things, knackered furniture and old mops. We called our host who told us he’d be there in five minutes.


30 minutes past. A dusty Fiat rolled up the track. A man got out, fumbled with some keys and gestured for us to look beyond the door he’d opened. Our eyes began to adjust to the gloom and what we saw held few surprises as it was very much a continuation of the once fine dining room and, once again, did not reflect the blurb.

At this point, we turned to Google Translate and ran away. The man was not in the slightest surprised, it seemed, and sat in one of the flaking chairs and waved us a forlorn farewell as we headed off to find something where we were more likely to survive the night.

DAY 49 – Cerignola – Amalfi

Using an online app to find accommodation is both a godsend and the riskiest thing on the planet.  As someone who struggles to place a bet on a one-horse race and, famously, once spent three days in Las Vegas and only gambled $5 on a single hand of blackjack before breaking out in hives and had to be taken outside for a damp rub down with a copy of Gambling Monthly, online booking platforms are not my ideal way of spending time. However, travelling as we are, they are a necessary evil.

Having cancelled and ran away from the Agriturismo that wasn’t, we’d ridden into the nearest town, hacked into some Wi-Fi to find somewhere else. Aha! The Oasis Hotel & Restaurant beckoned, was less than 10 minutes away and was a bargain.

In 1996, Quentin Tarrantino and George Clooney starred in the film From Dusk Till Dawn that has the description: Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in a truck stop populated by vampires, with chaotic results.

That’s what pulling up at The Oasis Hotel & Restaurant felt like. A Hacienda style compound, overgrown and faded signage, set well back from the new highway and positioned on what must have been the old road and I’m certain there were Deliverance style banjo’s playing in the distance.  We parked the bikes facing outwards and prepared for the worst.  Opening the door to what we thought might be a reception area we were faced with a vast gloomy room, set with tables and chairs as if a restaurant with, at the far side in the distance, a stretch of bar counter that was backlit and providing the only light in the place.

“Buonosera. Welcome.”

The evening didn’t feel very good at that point and we weren’t that certain of the welcome either. More concerningly, we weren’t entirely sure where the words had come from.

A shape detached itself from a table off to our right and began to lurch towards us. It was a curiously smiley chap using a single crutch hence the lurchy movements. He ushered us to the bar, took our passports, gave us a beer and disappeared. We heard a clang as the compound gates closed with a definite ‘shut for the night’ sound. Done for. No Passports. Possibly Drugged Beer. Gates Closed. Outlook not good.  Outside the sun was setting. Dusk approaching and the witching hour upon us. Vampires were surely all around – waiting for a juicy neck.

Twitching a bit, we sipped the beer and watched each other for possible signs of collapse. Nope. All seemed OK. Suddenly, an almighty flash and we were totally blinded – crutch man had found the light switch and, apparently using his crutch, had deployed them to full brightness. What new torture awaited?

He lurched back in our direction, handed us our passports, told us the beers were on him and showed us, lurching a lot less menacingly it seemed now, to our room. Spotless.

Perhaps all would be well.  We enquired about supper. Yup. Supper was available and would be served at 19.30. Right Oh.

The menu was fixed. Primi and Secondi. The first a Pasta Dish, the second, a sort of a meat dish. Man with crutch said he would fetch the chef. Suddenly, it all got dim again – Chef was in the doorway blotting out most of the light as he more or less completely filled the doorway and much of the adjoining room as well.

Chef was the shape of a bowling ball below with a billiard ball on top, no neck with hands the size of shovels on the Flying Scotsman. He kind of overflowed himself over to our table and loomed over it to ‘explain the menu’,

“Prima Pasta – Marita in Sorrenza – we make pasta - dotto, dotto, dotto,” this he underscored by smacking his right fist into the open palm of his left hand on each of the dotto, dotto, dotto’s – at the sort of speed that implied anything but gentle was taking place. It wasn’t.

Marita means married which, for this dish was supposed to be two types of pasta joined together to form a joyous union. What got delivered was definitely joined as the two pastas had definitely become one, Spice Girls style, although smashed would be a better description. I looked it up – smashed = fracassato. As for Sorrenza – who the google knows? It was a tomatoey sort of saucy thing that, I guess, covered the joins. It was lovely but I feared for my next course as I’d plumped for the chicken and, from the sounds coming from the kitchen I’d kind of guessed it was a no longer going to be a plump sort of chicken.

Chef returned to explain, somewhat redundantly, the chicken dish

“Take chicken and gently make thin.”

“Oh, like the Marita thing with the pasta?”

“No. Pasta is Dotto, Dotto – Chicken is Bashy-Bashy, Bash-Bash.”

This underscored, like before but this time with feeling and what we sensed was some pent-up aggression. Tasted fab.

We locked the doors and slept like angels. If ever you are passing the Hotel Oasis at Kilometre 706 on the SS16 we can recommend it highly. Genuinely lovely people and good food – all much needed after a long day in the saddle.


DAY 50 – Amalfi Coast

Think Italian Sports car, top down. Something like an old Alfa Romeo Spider, red of course. Wooden steering wheel, leather driving gloves and the soundtrack of nothing but the throaty roar of the engine bouncing of the rocks with wheeling seagulls above. The smell of leather, waft of citrus and warm tarmac with a giggling partner; both of you glamorously dressed with at least one of you wearing something floaty, plunging neckline and a headscarf.

That’s what the Amalfi Coast conjures up for many. We did it slightly differently but none the less evocatively. OK, so I didn’t have a plunging neckline (well, not for this trip) and both us preferred the safety of crash helmets to a headscarf. Soundtrack and smells were about there although, every now and again something a bit whiffier and pongier made its way to the nostrils. Possibly because someone had lost control of themselves at having to drive so close to sheer drops with oncoming buses giving no quarter.

The SS163 is an impossibly curvy, narrow and bowel loosening stretch of road that runs 50km or so along the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Just for good measure we rode it twice – once there to see the views from one direction, then back the other way to see the views we’d missed the first time.

Rather than us have a bash at describing it here’s what the internet says:

The Amalfi Coast is a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-coloured fishing villages. The coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliffside lemon groves.

Deemed an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape by Unesco, the Amalfi Coast is one of Italy's most memorable destinations. Here, mountains plunge into the sea in a nail-biting vertical scene of precipitous crags, cliff-clinging abodes and verdant woodland.

With its chalk-coloured towns clinging to the wooded coast, glorious food, fragrant citrus groves and glamorous beaches backed by Italy’s most stunning seacliffs, it is one of Italy’s highlights.

However, if you’re planning on driving it you need to strap your big pants on and be aware that, during peak times there are restrictions on which vehicles can be on the road – if the number plate ends in an even number, it cannot be on the roads on even numbered days and vice versa with odd numbered plates. Canny locals simply have two cars – one even, one odd.

If you fancy a look at the map of it – go here: Amalfi Coast Road

We missed it the first time we were here some 32 years ago and all I can say is that it was worth the wait.  Definitely needed the big pants though.


DAY 51 & 52 – Amalfi – Naples – Palermo - Ragalna

Amalfi done and survived, the next challenge was the Naples to Palermo Ferry. After our grim experience crossing from Greece to Italy we’d decided to use another ferry line. Oh my. What a difference. Naples docks, though, pretty much lived up to expectations.

We rolled into the dock area and, spotting the Bar Italia, decided to treat ourselves to a beer before our appointed check in time.  We parked up and went in – the bartender greeted us without a smile but at least we got a ‘Buonosera’. We responded in a similar fashion only to hear a sort of pained screech, ‘Ber Wun Oh Saaaar Ahhhh’ coming from somewhere else. I looked behind me to see if I could see a parrot or Mynah bird in a cage somewhere but all I could see was a garish poster of what appeared to be some sort of grim clown advertising toothpaste or hair cream.

I turned back to the bartender only to hear the screech again – I glanced over my shoulder and saw the clown move. Startled, I turned to look at it face on and it was a woman who had definitely seen her best summers and an awful lot of not very good ones as well. Bright orange ginger hair the same colour as an Aperol Spritz and a lipsticked mouth in bright crimson that clashed like a warzone with the hair and turquoise eye shadow. Rouged cheeks finished off the ensemble until she opened her mouth to reveal a set of arctic white teeth that positively glowed. If you’d put a Geiger counter anywhere near it would have been clicking off the charts. I stuttered a greeting back and hurriedly turned to the bartender and asked for two small beers. Now this was the Bar Italia. On the docks in Naples. A very Italian place to be.

The barman placed two bottles of Tennants on the bar. Tennants? Really? Surely some mistake. Tennants is the archetypal strong Scottish beer – the sort that can only be drunk on park benches in Glasgow. Somewhat surprised, I gestured to pay and was directed towards the lady of the hair, lipstick, teeth and eyeshadow.

I produced a €20 note and placed it on the bar and also got €4 in coins out. I didn’t see any movement at all but the note and coined were no longer on the counter. One hand had the note gripped, vicelike; the coins were in the till - €24 had suddenly passed from my possession and I had no idea of the bill. She passed me a €5 note and made as if that was the sum total of my change. €19 for 2 small beers? My turn for a Bugger Off.

“Quanto per le birre?” I asked.

She reached for a pen and a pad and scrawled 1 6 . 0 0. Not a chance.

“Mi dispiace – but that is outrageous. Not happening. No beer. Money back.”

I removed the €20 note from her grasp and, on seeing this, she began to reach to close the till drawer as if to keep the other €4.  Somewhere, once, I had pretty quick reactions and have, in my time, learnt a few tricks with sleight of hand. All of which meant that, as the till closed, the coins found their way back to me. We retreated and found the delightfully named Donna Slag Bar in the truckers area and paid €3 for two beers.

Oh, and it’s correct. Tennants super strength lager is seen as a delicacy in Italy.

Weird. But not as weird as a clown with ginger hair.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

What are you looking for?

Your cart