maandag 26 augustus 2013

GR2013 Day 7 & 8: Sulmona & Manfredonia

Waking up in Montefiascone, I just didn't know where I was for the first couple of seconds. Quite weird, as if my mind was still trying to grasp to concept of the trip somehow. "Wait, where am I? Huh? Oh, right."

Today, Rome beckoned. This proved a pretty worth-while effort, but more about that later.

First, onwaaaards! Also, note another amazed onlooker on this pic below:

It was time to descend the mountain, and move on. Montefiascone is one of those little cities which makes you appreciate a country for exactly what it is, as opposed to the big tourist leviathans like Rome or Florence. It's been a pleasure - I'm sure I'll return someday!

Time to get mah lean on, awwww yeeeeeah!!11


Just look at that perfectly banked tarmac. No wonder so many racing cars originate from this country...

Mind you, you can also tell by the way people drive... and soon enough, I was riding exactly like the Romans did. The Beast seemed to enjoy itself as well!


You just wait until you see a nice gap...

...and go for it! "What, there's a stripe in the middle of the road? How nice!"

Excuse me, coming through!

Ofcourse, this seems alot more dangerous than it really is. Italians are always on the lookout for other motorists, and if you do too, nothing will happen. Screw the rules, respect each other, it's amazing how well that works on the road. 

Even la Polizia didn't seem to mind - as Jeremy Clarkson once said: it's impossible to commit a motoring offense in Italy. I would notice later just how far this went.

That's the whole thing - if you keep your eyes on the road, you're fine. If you go and text or do something else dumb-witted, you get an accident.

Now it was just a matter of enjoying the scenery... well as the nice swooping bends...

...until I found myself on the GRA - or Grande Raccordo Anulare - the big ring road around Rome. I expected terror, but this wasn't too bad!

Ack, spoken too soon. Ofcourse. 

Time for some fully-laden filtering, YET AGAIN. Some made way for The Beast, but others stayed put... blocking my way.

Thankfully though, I looked to my right, and saw the answer.

You see, because half of all Italians ride a scooter (and also do this on the highway), they just occupy the emergency lane in case of a traffic jam, following a fire truck if they have to.

Well that does it. I've got two wheels as well, so there!

No fire truck? No emergency lane? No problem in Italy. I love this country.

But one exit before the one I wanted to take, things got too hairy, even for me. Time to get off the highway and into Rome... the place I had heard of many times was a flaming cauldron of automotive Hell.

I recorded my entire ride into Rome towards the spot I shot the pic below (some of that footage is in today's randomness vid). It was quite nice to almost dance my way through traffic, riding like a scooter. 

I heard that days after I visited, this very street was closed down to all traffic except for buses and taxis. Timing, it's a wonderful thing.

After the Colosseum and Forum Romanum, it was time to flee the city, and go to Sulmona! Right outside the city, I reactivated the timelapse, and headed on in an easterly disposition!

Bye Rome, it was great fun riding your streets.

The road East was nothing other than spectacular. The scenery, the mountains... 

...both left and right!

Heck, it proved so much fun that I noticed I'd missed my turnoff about a 100 kilometres too late. Let's have a cheer for 200 kilometer detours! Hurray!

Now, taking the long way round makes a person hungry. So I stopped for a bite to eat. The Beast immediately became the center of attention, so I went to get some grub. Which... proved impossible, really.

You see, I wanted a slice of pizza (clich├ęs, I hear they taste just like chicken), but instead of paying over the counter I had to go to a cashier to get a ticket (wut?) to get my pizza. And if none of the people speak English, you've got 3 Italians rolling their eyes behind you, you're hungry and tired after riding a few hundred extra kilometres... then you tend to get annoyed when a cashier doesn't understand you. 

So, after The Beast had kissed its groupies farewell, I left. Pizzaless. 

Still, the scenery of my detour well made up for it.

Hmmm yes.

Toll for motorcycles, it should be outlawed. This is how it usually went:

Go to Neutral. 
Honk #1 from cager behind you
Open up motorcycle coat.
Honk #2 from cager behind you
Try and get wallet out. Realize this goes better with gloves off.
Honk #3 from cager behind you
Think of punching said cager in face. Realize this goes better with gloves on.
Read amount from screen. Try and find the right coins.
Honk #4 from cager behind you
Settle for a banknote instead. Get 5 million coins in change. 
Barrier immediately opens when money is paid, so cager becomes even more stressed.
Try and get change from machine in wallet whilst balancing motorbike. 
Lose half of the coins on the way to wallet.
Honk #5 from cager behind you
Miraculously close wallet with the extra 4 kilos in metal. Try and fit wallet back in motorcycle coat.
As soon as it fits even remotely, try to close motorcycle coat.
Set off.

Eventually, I made it to Sulmona - like Montefiascone, another beautiful little gem of a city hidden away in the countryside. I checked in the B&B and spent the rest of the day being the annoying tourist. 

At long last, I even got my pizza too!

The next day, I thought about going a different from than I originally planned. First, I wanted to go to Pompeii, but as I was already in East Italy and I would be there anyway the day after tomorrow, I thought it to be better to stick to the eastern coast. 

Not the best decision of the trip, If I'm brutally honest... but I'll get to that in a minute.

Because first, I wanted to check tire pressure and fill the Beast up. This was when I got my first real taste of what I eventually was to call 'Greek tarmac'

Because the tires were still cold, grip was already limited. Most of the time this isn't a big deal... but on Greek tarmac, a road surface which rides like you're on a dance floor, things were different. 
Pulling out of the petrol station I made a U-turn, and as I'd grown accustomed to let The Beast growl a bit on the way out of turns I gave it a little twist of the wrist.

That's when the Beast wagged its tail for the first time. The rear wheel lost grip, broke out but I wrestled it back, immediately regaining composure. That'll wake you up in the morning!

Time to find out the route...

...and get cracking!

And let me tell you, the road from Sulmona to Isernia was mindstaggeringly amazing, in any respect.

Sure, you have the occasional jobbo that passes you where it's prohibited, but remember: this is Italy - screw the rules, respect each other, expect the unexpected. That's how they roll.... that's how you roll too! Just take a look at this pic. People overtaking the people overtaking, on a place where you're not allowed to overtake. What a beautiful country this is.

Beautiful in more ways than one, I might add. Eventually, the views became that spectacular I just had to let the cam roll for a bit.

So here you go - a piece of uncut footage from this very road!

Them Italians... they can even make an endless straight beautiful!

And after some nice right turns...

...and some wrong ones...

...Isernia beckoned.

And even though there were still some nice Windows desktop alternatives...

...the real amazing roads were done for.

Meh. Time for a break.

At this petrol station, the guy pumping gas (you can just see his legs to the left) saw where I was from. Wanna guess what the first question he asked me was about?

Yes. Drugs. He even asked whether I had any marijuana with me.

No, riding is my high! Onwards, to Foggia!

Now, the road leading East towards Foggia from Campobasso is pretty fun for the first half. Lots of twisties in the mountainside, splendid views. Alot of fun, both left and right.

(Can you hear the big, voluptuous BUT heralding its approach in the distance?)

But then I got to the second half of this road. Just look at the road surface, for starters.

It was like riding into Mad Max. Endless straight, nothing as far as the eye could see, a blistering heat with a strong crosswind trying to steer you off course whilst you're trying to navigate through the immense minefield of potholes, cracks and tears at 100 km/h. The suspension was doing overtime. God, it was as exhausting as it was terrifying.

Foggia itself was also Mad Max-like, in the sense that it had the atmosphere of a town where anything stationary for too long would either get stolen or burned.

So let's skip ahead towards the Adriatic!

It's kind of strange to find yourself at the edge of a sea you know you're going to be riding at the other side of 10 days later. Myself, I felt a strange excitement being this close to Brindisi - the final stop to Greece.

Even the enormous death squadron of mosquitos in the camping's toilet couldn't bring me off my good mood. I just cued the Mortal Kombat music, and swatted away!

Tomorrow, it was time for the final leg till Greece.

Enjoy today's randomness vid!