Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Italian Riviera

We were given a tip by someone from Barcelona that riding from Pisa along the Mediterranean coast would be a beautiful ride. In the summer it wasn't so nice, he said, but now that the holidays are over and the crowds had gone home; we would be in for a treat. And, we were! But not because of the beautiful coastline, or the beautiful ride…

We have never been here in summer of course but even late in the year, the traffic is nothing short of madness. It's basically one big Italian town all the way to the French border. Chock-A-Bloc with traffic. Italian traffic. Scooters are flying past everywhere. Left, right, middle and wrong side of the road, you name it and you'll find scooters there. They all have the throttle to the stop too. Italy is fully emancipated and everyone is equal when on a scooter, as demonstrated by young, old, male and female all going full throttle! 

In the beginning it drove us mad, but then we remembered the old saying: 'When in Rome, do as the romans do…' and we thus started riding like the Italians! Looking at Italian driving, and riding, it seems madness; and it is. Yet when we started riding like they do, it all seemed to work. Maybe it's best described as organised chaos, whereby someone does something and the rest respond. For instance if I ride a motorcycle in a northern European city at speeds of 80 km/hr, in a busy street and on the wrong side of the road… things wouldn't end well. It'll be plaster for 6 weeks at least and quite possibly a lot more. I would also receive quite a few 'two fingered salutes' and other expletives. Not in Italy. The traffic coming towards me just adjusts it's flow around me.

On your scooter through the MacDrive... where-else but Italy!
At first we left our Italian riding style behind when we noticed the Policia, but quickly realised they didn't care either. At one point we saw 4 scooters on full bore, side by side and on the wrong side of the road… passing two policemen… who didn't even blink! Great country to ride a bike :-) Simply taking a break and watching Italian traffic chaos is a great way to get a smile in your face. Anything goes here. It reminded us of Honduras traffic but then heaps faster. An old man on a moped of some sort was pottering along, being overtaking by a juvenile on exactly the same moped but tweaked somewhat and doing 15,000 revs through an open expansion chamber... magic!

While we were enjoying the Italian madness, the Italians were amazed by us. 'Where are you from' we were asked several times a day. One older lady was quite funny, Italian type of funny. Her husband asked where we were from as they apparently had an argument if it was Austria or Australia. When Mike replied 'Australiana' to her question she was stunned, threw her hands in the air and said 'Mama Mia!'

The only downside of the riviera is the total absence of parking areas to enjoy the view. Most of the coastline is in private hands, so there isn't much to see apart from houses most of the time. Yet when there was a section that was still public, there wasn't anywhere to park.

Mike had managed to find another big nail… and thus ended up having a flat tyre again. I think flat number 7 between the 3 of us on this trip. Time to use the Repsol leak stopper in a bottle we had been given by Sayto in Mexico, I thought. It's actually for tubeless tyres but worked a treat on tubes too! Enough pressure in the bottle to put the tyre up to operating pressure and when the foam stopped coming out of the hole in the tyre, we cleaned up and rode away

Just a bit further up the road we found a campground called Bella Vista. Promising name and as we found out when we arrived, owned and operated by a Dutch couple. Now I say couple but I'm not really sure if the two girls were an item or just friends, but my money is on the first. The campground had been setup by one of the girls' parents in the 1970s and they had taken over at some stage. To call them grumpy farts would be an understatement. They showed no humanity or emotion whatsoever. The weather was fine, somewhat hazy and threatening to rain in the distance in the mountains but when asked about the weather the grumpy girls answered that there wasn't any rain expected. 

The next morning I decided to replace the tube anyway, as it was the front tyre, and keep the other as a spare. The problem was, again, getting the tyre to seat on the rim. It's not the tyre, the same tyre works fine on the Triumph rims. We had the same problem with the Metzeler too: it's the Yamaha rims. The last time we fitted new tyres, we needed 90 psi to seat it. Try that when you're out in the field and have a flat tyre… 

That night a freak storm hit us at around 3 am. The winds were incredible. The neighbours' scooter blew over and all around us people were tearing down awnings and stabilising campers. We were literally hanging onto the tent ourselves too. The pegs weren't holding and all we could do was try to sit it out, hanging on as best as we could. Later one of the girls appeared with a casual remark that these winds were the only downside to this area. They had lost quite a few tents because of it… She could have warned us I thought. But then came the most incredible bit when she said 'the radio had forecasted it and they were spot on time too…' I was gobsmacked, what about warning us??? We folded the tent down and moved all our stuff to the toilet building, packed it all in properly and then slept in the covered restaurant area, only to be woken up by the local cat poking his nose in my sleeping bag. 

The next morning owner nr 2 arrived, looked at us, but never said a word. Nothing like 'are you ok' or something. I looked at her and thought 'My God, Imagine being as heartless as that one'. Later the Swiss neighbour said the measured windspeed had been 180 km/hr. Two tentpole sections were bent but could be bent back and for the rest no damage, or so we thought. That night we found one of our Thermarest mats had a hole in it, more than likely a result of rushing it to the toilet building and past the rose-bush through stormy winds… Why does anyone want to keep flowers with thorns! I patched it with a bicycle patch and ordinary glue as I had nothing else.