56 km, 4.25 hr
Writing this post felt a little like a grade school report on “what I did on my summer vacation”. Sorry if you find it rather verbose, but everything is so new to us here it’s difficult to know what’s important and what isn’t.
At the Internet café last night, we discovered that Andrea (a couchsurfing host we hope to visit) is actually in Nicotera, which is north of Gioia Tauro, not south. So, we decided to head back towards Gioia Tauro and do some exploring. Our decision was also influenced by the desire to go down the wonderful 10 km hill that we climbed yesterday!
Looking at the map, we figured we would go check out San Ferdinando and possibly stay in Rosarno (which appears as a bigger town on our map). We are both still feeling lost. Becky was reminded of the English saying “just off the boat”, which does a good job describing how we are feeling, both figuratively and literally!
By 10 am, we were on our bikes heading up the hill towards downtown Palmi. We were heading up the way we had come down, which involved a rather steep hill. Just before getting to the steep hill, a lady stopped Becky. She explained to Becky (completely in Italian) that the hill we were going to was really steep, and that we could get to the same place by going around the hill. She said to go right (destra) until we got to the top. She was rather emphatic that we not go up the steep hill. Becky yelled for Scott (who was a bit further ahead) to turn around. The lady honked her horn to help get Scott’s attention. Eventually, Scott turned around and came back and we took the less direct and more bicycle friendly route up the hill to the center of Palmi.
Once we reach the center, we discovered a small open-air market. Scott stayed with the bikes while Becky did a quick survey. During her survey, she was stopped by a lady, who only spoke Italian. The lady asked many questions, and grabbed Becky by the arm in a friendly way, not letting her walk away. One of the questions was asking where Becky was from, which she said Canada and pointed to her socks (which had Canadian flags). The lady showed her a pamphlet which was clearly a Christian document. Once she agreed to take the pamphlet, she was allowed to leave an find her way back to Scott. Scott examined the pamphlet and confirmed that Becky had been greeted by her first Jehovah’s Witness in Italy!
One of the booths at the market had fruits and vegetables, so Becky picked up a couple of bananas and apples for the road. Once that was completed, we were on our way again. Our plan was to stop at the grocery store we had seen yesterday and pick up a few more food items, ensuring that we would have a snack available if necessary.
The grocery store was a little bit busy, and they only had one cashier, so Scott ended up waiting patiently outside while Becky picked up a few items: juice, prosciutto, olives, and some hard dried bagels.
The downhill ride into Gioia Tauro was glorious. The road was windy, and the slope was not too steep, such that we could get some reasonable speed and enjoy the ride. It took us 10 minutes to go down what took us 90 minutes to climb the day before!
Once we arrived in Gioia Tauro, we discovered that we had missed the main shopping district in town – it was along the S.S. 18 highway. We saw many more stores and business than we had yesterday. Most were closed as it was noon. Siesta time was soon approaching! We saw a Pizzeria, so we stopped for lunch – fast food pizza.
Once our stomachs were happy, we headed out again for an afternoon of exploring. San Ferdinando is just north of the Gioia Tauro container ship port. It appears to be a nice small community, with a couple of beach front hotels. It has a large beach front, which in a strange way reminded us of Maine and New Hampshire; however, there were mostly old falling apart and half constructed buildings on one side. The beach area had many small open boats on it. There was not a person in sight.
Since it was only 1 pm, we decided to head towards Nicotera before going to Rosaro. This would allow us to have a nice bike ride before calling it a day. The ride to Nicotera involved quite a large climb (higher than the hill we climbed into Palmi yesterday). Many people cheered us on as we climbed, and one person stopped and asked if they could take a picture. We are always happy to oblige!
Once we reached Nicotera, we discovered that everything was still closed – it was still siesta time! We find ourselves wishing we could try some of the local Gelato (Italian ice cream), but the places don’t seem to be open when we want them. 🙁 With everything closed, we decided to head back down the hill and go to Rosarno and find a place to stay for the night.
Rosarno does not appear to be the nicest of towns. We found a reasonable hotel near the train station – with English speaking receptionists, but they did not have any rooms available. There was an Albergo (small hotel) next door, which did have a room – for much less money. So, we are in a very basic room for 43 Euro a night. Clean and dry, but definitely somewhat the worse for wear. We went to the hotel next door to ask about Internet, and discovered that they have free wireless from their lobby and lounge area. So, we have a cheap room with a short walk to free Internet.
While we continue to feel lost and confused, we are managing to survive and find places to eat and sleep. We’re reminding ourselves that the first week of any journey is the most difficult, so it should get easier. Scott is trying to focus on one day at a time, rather than worrying about the future – difficult and completely contrary to his nature!
Scott’s Adventures in Rosarno
While Becky relaxed in an overstuffed leather chair in the lobby of the Hotel Vittoria, Scott left on a mission. He was to find a pay phone and buy a “carte telefoniche” (phone card) so we could call Andrea and confirm when we’re meeting tomorrow.
First, he went to the train station, and confirmed there was a pay phone there. He also confirmed that the store in the train station did not sell the carte telefoniche.
Thinking that the Centro (city centre) might be the best place to look for a card, and the Centro was likely at the top of the hill, he set off. (In many old European towns, the oldest part of the town was built on a hill, where it was easier to defend).
First he climbed several residential streets, then found a staircase leading straight up the hill. At first the staircase was fine, but then he climbed higher. First weeds covered the steps, then whole steps were missing. Nearing the top, the weeds and missing steps got worse, and junk filled two thirds of the staircase. Finally, he reached the top – and it was open, not blocked as he had feared. Phew!
He arrived in a small park, with people loitering about, and a large fire lit at the base of a tree. Perhaps not the best place to be in twilight? He hurried on, looking neither left, nor right, seeking a busier, better lit area. Aha – the central square! Several churches, a few shops, and nothing of interest. Sigh.
But wait – there’s a view down the hill, and a well-lighted street with many shops. The sky was still light enough to see where the sun had set, so he was able to maintain a sense of direction as he descended the other side of the hill.
No luck though. This area was much busier, with heavy, fast-moving traffic, but not a Tobbaconist in sight. He stopped at a stationer (similar to Grand and Toy in Canada) thinking they might have something, but they didn’t. What they did have was a young shop employee who spoke fairly good English, and was able to rescue the other employees from Scott’s pathetic Italian.
After much repetition of directions, Scott was off again. 600m, on the right, near the Hotel Vittoria was the “Snack Bar”, which carried phone cards. He walked briskly along, but then repeated honks came from behind. It was the fellow from the shop! He pulled up on a scooter, and gestured for Scott to hop on. This could be interesting… Scott’s first ride on a scooter or motorcycle, behind someone he’s just met, in Italian rush-hour traffic, in the dark. Scott hops on, not without some trepidation, and they sped off. Weaving in and out of traffic, passing cars on the left who appear to be waiting to turn left, Scott would have feared for his life, but the ride was over too soon. There it was, the Snack Bar, and with a quick “Ciao”, his mysterious benefactor rode off into the night.
The Snack Bar was within 100m of the Hotel where Scott had left Becky, only in the other direction!
Phone card successfully purchased, he marched off to the train station, ready to call Andrea. But no. He reached the station, inserted the card, and… “error!”. Try another orientation? “error!”. Three of the four possible orientations give an error, and the fourth won’t accept the card.
But wait – this phone is one of the rare ones which accepts coins! Becky has all the Euro change, so back to the hotel he trudges. This is getting a bit tedious…
Fortified with currency, he returns to the station. Insert coin. E1.00 credit. Dial number. Error. Repeat. Error. Perhaps he’s being too clever. In many European countries, a zero is used to prefix dialed numbers, so he automatically added one after removing the +39 country code. Try without the zero? Aha, a different error. Now the machine won’t accept his coins…
Back to the phone card, he sees a small corner with a perforation and a label. “Sta…” I wonder if this is meant to be removed? He bends the corner and it breaks off cleanly. Now the card can be inserted in its fourth orientation. Wow! 5 Euro credit. Dialing again, and he actually gets through! … to Vodofone. Sigh. Vodofone says something in Italian, but conveniently repeats the message in English. The phone is offline or out of area. Oh well, at least we have a phone card now!
Morals of the story:
1. Pay phones are hard to come by in countries with 90+% mobile penetration.
2. Ask at the hotel where you can buy a phone card – they might have a good suggestion!
3. Learn something of the language of a country you’re visiting before leaving home. Every little bit helps!
Other realizations today:
1. We could use some lessons in basic life skills (what to buy where? At what times?)
2. When looking for accommodation, try a nice hotel first – they may have people who speak English, and if it’s too expensive, they can probably give a recommendation.
3. A dinner of Primo, Secondo and Dolce (salad) and a litre of house wine is too much for us when starting to eat at 8 pm.