Italy

I made it to Italy!

It’s been a long 24 hours getting from Naxos to Bari, Italy. Of course my phone isn’t working as promised, so I’ve spent the morning trying to get a new sim card up and running so I can get directions to the next destination, Gargano National Park. I don’t yet trust myself to make it without turn by turn directions on these busy, confusing streets.

So, while the phone sorts itself out, my most recent traveling adventure:

I left Naxos on the first ferry to Pireaus, Athens yesterday morning at 9:30 am. It’s a long ferry ride and after not getting very much sleep the night before I tried to catch a few winks knowing the rest of the day was going to be a long haul. That didn’t work particularly well so I caught up on a bit of work and rested as best I could.

We arrived in Athens a bit late, around 3:45. My original intent was to take the subway to the airport where I would pick up the car I was driving to Igoumenitsa, the port where I’d catch a ferry to Bari. Unfortunately the drive was estimated to be 6.5 hours and the train ride was 90 minutes… I wasn’t going to make it in time for the midnight ferry! I opted instead for the more expensive taxi which I hoped would expedite my getting to the airport and getting the roadtrip off to a good start.

Expedite it did… My cab driver had lived in northern new jersey for 30 years, and now, back in Greece, unfettered by speeding laws (or at least enforcement) he seemed to be making up for all those hours of gridlock. It was hard to see his speedometer while I was wincing in the front seat, but a bit of panicky math confirmed my suspicion that 170 kph is pretty darn fast. Speed is one thing but steering and shifting gears with one hand while talking on the cellphone with the other (no shoulder pinch of cell phones in that car!) was truly astounding. Once I’d made peace with my imminent splatter all over the back of some truck and opened my eyes a bit I did have to admit his driving was truly impressive.

As you might suspect, we made very good time to the airport where I had a Suzuki splash waiting for me. I’ll attach a picture in a new post soon but it’s a terrific little two door car that’s going to suit me very well over the next couple of weeks. Despite the hurry to set out I still didn’t get on the road out of Athens until 5:00, 7 hours before my boat was supposed to leave, 6 and a half hours away.

The next 6 hours of driving were some of the most fun and most challenging of my life. It turns out my cab driver isn’t alone in his love of speed and in fact, isn’t even that far out on the tail of the speed-demonness continuum. Highway driving was fine, that’s just like American highways, just 20 mph faster. It was the two lane secondary highways where the excitement really began.

Pretty much every time I drive in Boston I complain about their blatant disregard for lane lines. It’s a trait they share with the Greeks, only the Greeks do it much faster. These two lane highways had speed limits around 120 kph (quick hint, divide by two and add everything before the last digit to convert to mph), everyone drove at least 20 kph faster and, with an extra wide breakdown lane, slow traffic rode straddling the breakdown line and faster traffic passed them as close as possible so as to minimize time in oncoming traffic where other drivers were doing the same.

I had to drive this way almost the entire way to Igoumenitsa on frequently hairpin roads watching my clock slowly count down to ferry departure. To make matters worse, about an hour from my destination, still 100 kilometers to go, my iPhone ran out of batteries so I had to navigate the rest of the way based on memorized quick glimpses of the iPhone map directions during straight sections of the road.

In the end though, I made it with 40 minutes to spare to run into the ferry terminal, check in my car and get my boarding pass, find the right dock and figure out the bizarre lines of cars being loaded up onto these massive ferries. As it turns out, the ferry loading as I arrived which I thought was mine was actually the previous ferry which was running late. In the end I had to wait an extra 45 minutes before getting loaded onto the proper ferry which gave me a much needed chance to catch my breath, organize the car a bit and get everything I needed for the night on the ferry.

We finally boarded the ferry around 12:45 and I managed to find as great spot in one of the rooms with an outlet to recharge my phone and enough floor space for me to stretch out. I’d brought my sleeping bag so I made myself a little nest and was actually able to sleep for several hours, way more than I’d hoped for when anticipating the night on the ferry.

I woke up this morning outside of italy with about 2 hours to go before landfall. I had a nice breakfast and did a bit more work and tried to prep for the next stage in Italy. As soon as I realized my phone was out of commission that jumped to top priority so after getting off the boat and through customs I started driving around downtown Bari looking for a Vodafone shop. They assured me everything would be good to go in 2 hours, and I’ve been stringing this post out to give the phone a third hour to sort itself out but still to no avail. I think I might just try my luck one more time with the hope for the best and head in the right direction strategy. You’ll hear about it when I make it eventually!

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