We set off on the fast and boring motorway. Adam picked up a German in a service station doing a big group tour on a boring-looking bus, and he chatted for while. I think he thought we were a bit mad when he discovered what we were up to though, and he left fairly promptly, though his bus did keep passing us and honking, so possibly he’d informed the driver.
We stopped for lunch at a non-descript garage where there was nothing at all non-meat on offer except one sorry-looking, slightly congealed apricot tart. I ate it. Obviously. The barwoman was out-Italianing the Italians with her loudness and banging about of cutlery, and one old guy got so worried he actually left without getting anything at all. We ran away too.
We rode to Matera, where someone had said to visit the cave-dwellings. So we did.
There was a little tourist-attraction set up of a ‘1950s’ cave complete with disembodied voice-over that lasted a ridiculous length of time and talked mainly of looms. It was fairly unconvincing, but out of the sun. We snuck into the closed-off bits, poked around, and decided they had picked a good spot for it all in all. They lived there for hundreds of years, from prehistoric times up until the 70s, when they were all packed off into the ‘New Town’ up the hill.
the 1950s cave-house, and me.
the 'new' town
We spied better un-touristed caves across the gorge, and spent an hour trying to reach them on the bike on gravel and mud tracks. The paths to them were closed off, but we found our way to a closer gorge and hid the bike behind a very large and convenient bush. The gorge was enormous, with the caves set high up under the cliff-edge, meaning the only direction they would have been able to go was down. It was beautiful but looked very hard work, with the river tumbling miles below, and no other access apart from a steep goat trail in-between the boulders. We sat around under a rock for a while looking at the massive canyon and imagining we were cave-people. It was very hot. Even the lizards looked sweaty. We left them to it.
the gorge minus the goats.
Drove on to Bari port (an industrial pit of a town- don’t bother.), past zillions of prostitutes sat under their umbrellas by the side of the road- at one point there were three talking to a police car that pulled up. I don’t think they were in trouble though. They were an interesting bunch, and I stared at them from the useful anonymity of my helmet. The truckers that went past slowed as they drove by them. In some places there were small concrete bunkers set up for them to take the punters into. Most were young African women, though I saw one Italian-looking girl, and an Eastern-European girl with a horrendous orange tan and a neon pink mini-skirt. (We saw them elsewhere in Italy too, but there were far more here, with dressers and mirrors to sit by. There were a few on the way into Rome- Adam nearly rode off the road when he first spotted them…)
Arriving into Bari wasn’t fun but we found the port, and immediately spotted the first Brit we’d seen on a bike. He was a heavy-set ginger fellow with a predilection for strong alcohol, and the worst snore for miles (He didn’t tell us this. We discovered it to our peril later…)
He was a plane-engineer on contract in Greece, and advised us to visit Halkidiki. Sadly we also later followed his advice...
While we waited for the ferry to leave we sat on the dock with the other passengers staring at us and cooked ourselves up some grub on the wonder-stove. It was good stuff, all the better for being free, and a good spectacle for the onlookers. Proper hobo-style, and by the end of it we even had an Italian tramp sat next to us, possibly out of solidarity.
As we tucked in we heard a massive sonic boom and got a little worried. Someone had thoughtfully decided to put on a show for our dining entertainment- overhead Italian fighter-jets with the flag colours in their tail-smoke whooped and swirled and dropped right out of the sky until the last moment to swoop back up again, for about half an hour, lasting exactly until we were ready to board.
dinner and a show
The ferry was small, cramped and smelly. The men on it were mainly truckers between Italy and Greece. We obviously couldn’t afford a cabin, and tucked ourselves and our sleeping bags into the main seating area- a bit like a cinema with a ridiculously loud TV at the front, controlled entirely by the most-dominating occupant. We watched a Greek soap-opera until midnight, when the truckers all fell asleep and began their snoring. Our ginger friend snored too, sprawled back on his chair with his mouth wide open. At least he slept. I spent the night fake-snoring loudly in time with the truckers to keep myself amused, and at 5am we both crawled into the main lounge to try our luck there. The deranged receptionist was scary. He was also not keen on smeggy bikers cluttering up his entirely empty, peaceful, comfortable lounge, and sent us back into the snore-hall.