Monday, 22 August 2011

Carabinieri Without a Handbag

Trani  -  Gioia del Colle     87.3kms        1408’ ascent.
We knew that today would require some determination as our flat land had run out and we must climb some 1000’ in temperatures which are still rising. I think it is probably best that we don’t know how many degrees we are cycling in. Between us, we are consuming 6 to 8 litres of fluid during our day’s journey and much of this we are purchasing at greatly inflated prices from the garages, as the weight of all that water is more than we want to add to Herman or Sherman. Not only that, the drinks we buy en route are COLD. The water that we carry (still several litres) is warm in 30 minutes and hot in 45 and is not something I shall ever develop a taste for. Ugh. Needs must.
I digress. Apart from dodging cars, bikes and Vespas in the towns, our start was a gentle warm up. Then……..we had to take the ring road around Bari (a very large town) and start dodging more cars, Vespas, trucks but no bikes. (No other bikers were that daft) Some considerable time later and bathed in sweat (it’s no longer perspiration) we were relieved to find that our chosen road showed a considerable decline in the volume of traffic. As we moved further from Bari, it was altogether quite manageable but by now the road was a constant incline. To assist us though, whizzy wind had found us and so we plodded our way up to Gioia.
Now, yesterday, we had a lady with a car to chase; today we had two carabinieri! I will explain. Having done our usual exploration of the town and failed to find anywhere to stay, I approached two scary policemen, who were busy booking a sad looking motorist, and asked in my best English if they could help us find a hotel. In his best Italian, the driver told us to wait by the roadside and then they would lead us to a hotel! This was the fastest chase yet with feet flying on the pedals and wheels bumping on the potholes. However, not only did they fulfil their promise, the one carabineiri insisted on accompanying me into the hotel lobby to explain my case. With many thankyous they left us to it. For the first time since arriving in Italy, we were not the only English in the place – it was full of the RAF who were using an aerodrome close by to engage in activities in Libya. This history of use went back to the early 1990’s. (must have been a lot of wars in that time.) We were joined later by a bus load of men who sat down, very noisily, for a meal. We still have no idea who they were or what their purpose but Alan has speculated that they were mercenaries!  Such a fertile imagination.

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