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From NZ to Germany to Italy via Singapore

Monday 2nd April

We started with a taxi to the airport, a very simple check in, through security to the business lounge, and several Bourbons later we were allowed to board the aircraft, then after a meal and three movies we were Singapore.  Singapore with the heat and humidity, wall to wall shopping, and the massive air-conditioning bill all that they must run up every day to keep the shops and hotels to a temperature that will encourage the tourists to stop and spend money.

On the way in from the airport to the hotel the taxi driver was telling me that the worst days to arrive in Singapore were from Friday through to Sunday, this is when the majority of the tourists arrived and consequently taxis were hard to get and hotels were working on a full occupancy.

I booked the hotel through the Internet, through a company that did not require a deposit, and claimed they charged no premium, and looking at the map and looked like it was an a reasonably good location, wrong on all counts Ivan!  If I had booked on the hotel's website it would have cost me considerably less and with a little bit of local knowledge I would have known that the hotel around the corner would cost about $100 less for more or less the same quality!

For my own reference, and that of others, I will be making up a Singapore page on my website with all of my thoughts because by the time I return to Singapore I will have forgotten all of my findings and probably make the same mistakes again.

Computers and electronics, my friend Harry suggested that the Fong Lim centre was now the place for a good selection of these products, so we investigated this and found that was still not a patch on the Sim Ling square that was thriving with activity with lots of people and a multitude of product compared to a almost deserted Fong Lim centre.

Luda found the shopping for computers and electronics totally boring and she says did not compare to the previous day when she was shopping for clothes.  I refused to comment on the grounds that silence may be the best defence.

On our departure day we went out to the bird centre where they head hundreds of different varieties of birds on display, Luda found them very interesting, however the writer, preferring to look at the birds that wear high heels shoes found them of passing interest.

We still had time to fill in before we could venture to the airport so decided to go to a movie called “Sunrise” in a large cinema complex, a rather boring drawn out space adventure sometime in the future when the sun was dying and they had the job off planting a huge atom bomb in the right spot on the Sun to bring it back to its normal brilliance.  It took the full length of the film for them all to die with the last survivor being burnt to death as he succeeded the mission.  A film that you could very easily miss…….

Then it was out to the airport, through the check-in procedure, into the lounge while we waited for the boarding call, onto the plane, popped a couple of sleeping pills and I woke up some eight hours later, in time to see threequarters of a film before they turned the entertainment off as we arrived at Frankfurt airport.  It was then on through immigration, then walking the long distance to terminal one, through another lot of security, where we witnessed a lot of duty-free grog being seized, because that had been brought in the previous airport, we fortunately were aware of this and had purchased our duty-free grog in Frankfurt after security, so it had the correct seals on it and so are we were on to the Amsterdam flight.  After a long wait the luggage arrived in the baggage hall, we collected this and went on out on to the arrival hall where our friend Hank was waiting.

Out to his car, then a fast drive to Castricum where our motorhome was waiting having been serviced and made ready for the road.

It was Easter Friday on our arrival, and all the shops were open, so I want to go searching for a Vodafone PCIMA card so I could access the Internet from all over the country.  Evidently the new rules that the EEC are introducing to remove the excess are roaming charges charged by the mobile phone companies has not yet been passed through the EEC Parliament, so yet again I have to wait another year for technology to move on.

Hank did make me aware of a new system that has just been set up where individuals make their broadband wireless WaiFi available to members with a password and these are all available on a data base on several different GPS units.  Another data base that was available was small camping sites throughout Europe that you could camp at overnight for very little money so with this new piece of information I went out and purchased a Tom Tom One GPS unit (€349), loaded in these data bases and felt now perhaps that I was ready for Europe.

Being in the Easter weekend and lots of traffic expected on the Road near the end of the weekend and our appointment to have the back bumper bar fixed on the Tuesday we decided we should get on the way on Sunday before the expected crowd.

Sunday morning we set off North, with a speedo reading off 28900, I did notice that the generator light was on, but as the motorhome had just had a complete service, and I recall that I thought I had seen this happen before I carried on. 

We started using the Microsoft Auto Route software to guide us on our way, I bought up an old small laptop computer and in the first 15 minutes it was obvious that the processor speed was not up to the task, so it saw the laptop as surplus baggage.

About an hour later I saw a LPG station so-called in there to fill up my LPG tank and found that indeed the generator was not working as the motorhome would not start again.

Fortunately there was a Dutch AA there, looked at my New Zealand AA card, got on the telephone and spoke to his head office and reached the conclusion he could help me for a cost of €120 if he got me on the Road, no charge if he didn't, so he recharged my battery over the next two hours, and told me there would get me back to Holland, perhaps, if I used no other electrical devices.

Before we left the service station, I telephoned Hank to tell him of our problems, his comment was to remind me that he had told me to get a Dutch SIM card for my telephone…….

So with careful driving we arrived back and Castricum to wait for Tuesday and the Fiat garage to open, Monday we visited a large Park that was famous for its Tulip displays, that has tulips of every variety, and every year they get millions of visitors.

With time on our hands I started looking at the location we would have to go to have the hydraulics steadies fitted and it became very obvious that while we were planning to go in an anticlockwise trip around the edge of Europe, where we would be when we were ready to start the trip after having the steadies fitted it would make more sense to go clockwise around Europe.  This however would mean we would have to miss out Croatia as we would be too early for the arrival date for Luda's visa to that country, in retrospect, as we could have had a three-month visa, we could have requested an arrival date the same as the day to we arrived in Europe, but hindsight is a wonderful gift.

Monday and the Fiat garage found that there was a master battery fuse blown and somehow the earth strap had come loose.  I feel perhaps that the latter was my problem and the former occurred when the AA guy put the jumper lead on my battery.  So about 1 p.m. we're on our way again North arriving at our destination just before the service centre closed.

The following morning we gave them a list of things to be fixed, and at about 2 p.m. we are told that they had the wrong part to replace the back bumper bar, and after spending all morning removing both sides of the fibreglass back bumper, they had to turn around and refit them.  It was then I found out that there was €1000 excess on the insurance and as the back bumper was about €500 plus fitting the insurance would not cover the replacement.  So while at it was basically a wasted day I came away without a lighter pocket.  We stayed there another night and then headed off South to the location where we would have the hydraulic steadies fitted to the motorhome.

We arrived in plenty of time at Höpfingen, which is just as well, as the workshop was in a new street not listed on most of the maps, the Germans giving directions in broken English were successful in sending me in a circle in spite of saying I could not miss the turning but of course they were talking of a different turning which when they eventually condescended to look at a map there was no problems.

8 a.m. Friday the 13th they started disassembling part of the motorhome, they had the exhaust off, the fuel tank off and goodness knows what else, they fitted and the Jack's, the hydraulic pump and motor, all the wiring and pipes that were necessary and come 4:30 p.m. it was all finished and the only thing left to do was to pay the €4881.24 for the manual adjusting version.  The automatic version would have cost a €750 extra which was a hefty extra to pay for the leisure of pushing just one button.

While we were there we found out about an Italian gas powered 12 V generator for the motorhome that cost €2500 that would make you totally independent of any power supply.  Certainly an item worthwhile considering.

We stayed and their parking lot one extra night, they had an electric connection point into which you could feed €0.50 with the short answer being it cost 2 Euro for the evening is electricity.

Saturday morning we were up reasonably early, used their dumping station and fresh water station to dump and replenished the water supplies and then we were off towards Innsbruck reaching Altenstadt before we were prepared to call it a day.  We found a campsite near the river, quite expensive, and there we tested the hydraulic levelling system for the first time.  It was not a really good test as the ground was quite level so it was able to score 100 with flying colours.

Sunday the 15th we continue on the Road to Innsbruck, stopping at a skiing resort and took their gondola to their first station and then the chairlift to the top of the mountain.  There were some incredible views of the whole valley which we duly recorded on the digital medium and then we're on our way again to the winter sports area of Austria home of the Winter Olympics in 1960’s and again in 1976.  We found a camp ground in “Vol” a suburb of Innsbruck, and a six minute train ride from the centre.  This was a real test for the levelling system as was very uneven ground that gave me the basis for positioning the motor home on future occasions

Monday 16th
We took an early train into the city, hopped on a tour bus and observed how they tried to make an uninteresting city into our cultural highlight for the day.  We then walked around the city a little bit, looking for an Internet cafe, but of these six we discovered, none were prepared for that marvellous invention called a laptop, so with Innsbruck being Done, we took the train back to the campsite, checked out two hours late with no penalty and headed off towards Venice giving the GPS instructions to avoid tollways.

This took us over the Brenner pass via what appeared to be a back road with the almost Zero amount of traffic that was on an almost all of the Road was made up of spectacular hair pin bends with drops to eternity, and as we reached the snowline, lots of snow on either side of the road, but this made for spectacular photography with Luda capturing at least two hundred photographs before we decided to camp on the summit of the following pass outside a Bar Ristorante on Highway SP24 at 2178.40 m Altitude elevation 46.53180N 11.98856E. This Time the Levelling System Worked fine.  It was an extremely cold night with all the snow around and that elevation so the gas heater was well appreciated the following morning.

Tuesday the 17th we carried on this Road that would have made a good test Road for Ferrari Road cars as from the summit some 2190 m in elevation it proceeded to head down round as many mountains as it could in a slalom like trip down the mountains except in this case, unlike skiing, we had to restrain ourselves to about 20 K. around each bend until we reached the bottom and then it proceeded back up another Mountain until finally I think they ran out of mountains so then they just took us through his many villagers as they could all the time avoiding a tollroad, but it certainly allowed us an incredible view of life in the Northern Alps of Italy.  In all not a trip for the light-hearted, all for those that used to German autobahn or American freeway driving.

Eventually we reached the Ca'Savio peninsula which was just a short ferry ride from Venice and after finding most of the motor camp's were not open for another five to 10 days we settled on a parking only location almost beside the ferry, all we need now is for the leisure battery the last the two days,

Wednesday 18 April
This morning we joined a boat load of people for the 40 minute boat ride from the peninsula to Venice.  We had a guidebook and a map when you are in a location that was built before town planning the pathways and alleyways do not always match what is showing on paper, and on good Italian fashion there were very few signposts directing you from one “must see spot” to the next.

So was a matter of just wandering the streets, and realising that if you leave the crowds you're not heading towards the next location.  Talking of crowds we are quite early in the season, and going by the motor camp's that are not open yet, and the information offices that were still closed told me we are very early, and that being the case I would hate to be here when the crowds arrive, it was just comfortable now so in July it would be impossible.

After about five hours we still have a lot to see, but my feet cried enough so we caught a water bus to the ferry terminal and returned to the peninsula.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

This morning we still had battery power, but I suspect just, so I decided to go to the camping store to see if I could get a solar panel to give the batterys some help.  We received reasonable directions towards the camping store and turned right when we saw a sign to a camping bazaar, but this obviously was not it and in my endeavours to return at the way I came, I backed to into a small verandah and that I missed seeing in the vision mirrors and the camera, but I heard the bang, found I had a 15 cm hole in the outer coating allowing the fibreglass mating to be seen.

So it was onward looking for the camping store and we eventually found it, they had no solar panels, but I was able to buy some silicone to seal all the damage and hopefully keep the water out.  We then went off on a hunt for an Internet site, which was fruitless, so we returned to the waterfront, found a campsite with electricity and water, wandered along to the cafe and they had one ancient computer hooked up to the Internet, it had a broadband modem with extra connections, but of course I did not have the correct cord, must bring one next time!

We stayed the other night, recharged our batteries, refilled with water, and then the following morning…

Friday 20 April
We checked out, and went to our parking only campsite which was closer to the port and costs considerably less.

So we bought a 12 hour pass on the boats, went out first to Burano, an interesting fishing island, however now it looked like it was devoted to tourists, the Italians certainly paint some of the houses bright colours, but that does make for interesting photographs.

We then caught the ferry to Murano, the island that is famous for Italian glass, on both of the trips so far we have been joined with lots of teenage schoolchildren from France and Italy obviously doing Venice under the watchful eye of their teachers.

On Murano there was certainly some interesting articles you can buy made out of glass, they of course were not cheap and were priced for the American tourists that were everywhere.  It was getting to the stage that I wondered if there was anyone left in America, but I guess they were and they were coming in June and July to help packed out the amenities on these islands.

Having decided that glass was not our thing we then completed the circuit by going on to Venice where I was able to put my 17 mm lens to good use as I had on the two previous islands.

During our wanders we found an Internet cafe there was due to open in a few minutes after having had its midday siesta, talking of which it was very interesting the amount the shops that although they were dependent on the tourists for their business they still had their midday siesta, so business still must be good.

We found an expat Kiwi also waiting for the Internet shop to open, she is now resident in Southern Utah, one cannot help wondering if her residence there was the result of one of the Mormon missionaries that visited New Zealand's shores 20 or plus years ago.

Eventually the siesta being over the Internet cafe was open and I was able to check out my Exta mail to see if there was anything urgent, and seeing off an e-mail about the gas generator for the motorhome to see if and when it could be fitted.

Come 5 p.m. were ready to quit for the day so we headed back to the peninsula where we brought some souvenirs of Venice at a non-Venice price.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

We programmed the GPS for Bologna, again requesting it to avoid tollways, this is in an effort to see more of the countryside, of course heading towards Bologna you are going into the countryside so in reality you could almost be anywhere in the world, except for one occasion when we saw about 40 sheep being watched over by a main and a Fiat van, with a youth helping him, when we saw the youth he had two lambs, one under each arm and I guess he was about to take them to their mothers.  There were several other lambs in the van and I guess they were to about get the same treatment.

No it was not quite a New Zealand sight, 40 sheep being tended by a team of two, I guess we would not have enough people in New Zealand to farm in such a way.

We had programmed the location of the company that made the gas generators into the GPS but again technology failed us, so we're we went straight onto a campsite that had wireless Internet available and we are finally able to catch up with all the waiting mail and Luda was able to make a few Skype Internet phone calls to her family.

All that took the best part of two hours so we were pleased to be able to finally move on to the campsite and get our home setup for the evening.

We decided not to wait till Monday for the gas generator people to get to work, but will wait for the e-mail to catch up with us and that will give us time to assess the necessity of another investment. 

While we have Internet available I will get this newsletter away not knowing when next we will be online.

Sunday, 22 April
We left the campground at Bologna after paying for another hour for the Internet where we set out the newsletter No1, sent off 10 replies to e-mails, had a Skype conversation to Russia, an update of my web site and then we were a way heading towards Ravenna on the coast with the intention of travelling down the coast to a simple camping site which was part of the data we uploaded in to the Tom Tom in Holland.

We were driving down the coast towards Rimini, all day we had been passing lots of fruit trees with beautiful new leaves on them, lots of grapes, three Ferrari's, about 15 Fiat 500 ‘s parked in a car lot, but somehow it did not feel as if we were in Italy, okay on all of the roads, no matter what the speed limit was, no matter how many don't past signs they were, no matter what speed we were doing, we are continually passed a high-speed by Italian drivers, everywhere we looked the signs were written in Italian, all the shop signs were in Italian, but still did not feel like Italy.

In fact the coast Road was getting very boring so we decided to stop and head into the hills of Italy and towards Lake Trasimeno near Perugia.  So we have stopped in a car park with the intent of staying here the night, we have the thought that one of two things will happen, Hallo, I woke up to one of the possibilities as I said this, which was that we would be woken up at 3 a.m. and told to move on, and that did not appeal to me, so we packed up and moved on to Fano, the next location on the data base of camping, this one had a new apartment block built on it, but on the way we found another campsite the motorhomes which we will grace with our presence for the night. 

There is a possibility that this was the intended site and the GPS settings were off that as it was that fifth campsite we had tried to find on this trip I decided to turn this feature off the Tom Tom, along with the Internet WiFi which we have had similar luck in locating.

Of course then we turned out of the previous car park and went around the corner we started seeing what we perceived to be Italian scenery, that is lots of hills with trees and houses, however we will still take to the mountains.



to top right....

Monday, 23 April
The night in the free campground in Fano was uneventful, we were able to fill up with water and dump the all water in a special location, once we had waited for a pedantic Italian to carefully lineup has motorhome to dump as water, then to wash everything down, then had to empty his toilet carefully washing it out three times and then to fill up with freshwater and of course wash down his windscreen, roll up his fresh water hose, and then finally it was our turn, dumping the water and filling up with freshwater at the same time all over in a few minutes.

Then it was off to the mountains, we have noticed every morning that there is a mist or fog over all the mountains, we are trying to work out whether this is pollution or fog of some sort.

I requested the GPS not to use a motorway but we're on the main motorway to Rome almost all the way, I first destination was Perugia and I made the mistake of setting the destination in the middle of the city.  As we started climbing up the hill to Perugia I realised this was no place for a motorhome with this city being one of the oldest in Italy, having a very large University, with most of the streets built for horse drawn chariots and not the modern 40 seater buses and all of the other traffic a University city.  As soon as I entered the outskirts of the city I knew it was a mistake to go further, but was wall-to-wall traffic you can only go forward and is certainly no room to pull over with a motorhome to reset the GPS all consult a map.

We pulled and to a Road that indicated parking but this was parking suitable for a Fiat 500 or the Mercedes Smart car and we ended up going down a one-lane street with no area that we could turn round till finally I found the car park that was slightly larger than the motorhome and after about 10 manoeuvers or was a 15 I ended up being able to go back the way I came, back through the narrow part that gave me about 10 cm on each side of the mirror, however Luda maintains it was 1 mm on each side.

So I then set a course to go downhill, on the theory that would take me away from the city, until I found a petrol station where I was able to fill up with diesel and reset the GPS to the Lake Trasimeno area and then of course to be back through the centre of the city for the second time, through streets that two chariots would have problems passing, no footpaths so pedestrians walking all over the Street, kamikaze Italian drivers male and female taking advantage of any hesitation in my driving to sneak past me on the inside, all of this happened during incredible old Italian town charm and character and Luda was too nervous to take any photographs of this incredible journey and we only made two wrong turnings which the woman in the GPS quickly coped with.

Then it was down at the motorway in the wrong direction and she directed me to a exit which led in the right direction so eventually we reach the Lake found a free camping site at Passignano without the GPS  assistance where I planned the next leg of our journey and Luda sat out in the sun and enjoyed an English version of Robert Ludlum’s novel appropriately named “The Moscow Vector”.

We then went for a 5 km walk around the lake to the old city close to a parking area, found a supermarket of sorts, bought some interesting Rosé wine, using the word interesting in its most liberal context, and then on the walk back with Luda got some interesting Sunset photos over the Lake. 

Tuesday, 24 April
After a restful night beside the lake we decided to catch the train into Perugia so walked the 3 Km into the railway station, bought a train ticket and Bus ticket which took us into the centre of the city, where we went walkabout, first to the information office, and discovered there was no sort of tour of the city, so we just walked around for about three hours and then decided to head back to the camp ground knowing possibly we had missed the best bits.

Back at the camp ground or I should say parking area, everything was well an accounted for so we set off South again with the aid of the GPS but this time we found a took us through every hill village on the way South until we got wise and instead of turning into the village we kept on the bypass and ignored its requests for us to turn it into a village.  Before we learned this lesson we again found out just how narrow they can make the streets and the locals treat them like German autobahns with the way they drive.

We finally worked out that in Italy the speed signs before villages or built up areas the Italians treat as recommended speed unless they are in a hurry, which of course they always are.

We are in the centre of Italy in the Umbria area which appears to be off the beaten path for motorhomes as there is a real scarcity of campgrounds and consequently tonight we have camped in a car park and a Y junction at the edge of town and hopefully the traffic will not be flowing all-night.

Wednesday, 25 April
After a quiet nights sleep we got away and early heading towards one of the campsites we loaded into the Tom Tom in Holland, it took us all in the right direction, that was South, and by the we ended up at Montenero Sabino RI a hill village and the campground it present us with was a small car park that was occupied by six small Italian cars. 

So we drove down the Road to a rest area, did some photos of this interesting hill village, then reprogrammed the Tom Tom to go South to Bari, I checked it out and sure enough that took us in the right direction so we headed off in the Tom Tom directed us to a steep right turn, one that took me to swings and getting round, and as we are going up the steep incline in first gear we saw what sure had been an ominous warning, the sign indicating it was unsuitable for trucks at 3.5T, but being never one to give up lightly I carry on up the steep hill, to be greeted by a bend that required three attempts to get round in and after a couple more corners like that it was plain sailing, and if you call driving down a road that was marginally wider than the motorhome plain sailing.

On reflection the organiser of the field trips for four-wheel drives would have been delighted in finding such a route to tax the participants.

I just hoped that was no other silly fool driving down towards us.  Luda was very quiet on the whole length of the road taking no photographs at all and started breathing again when we got to a normal road.

Travelling through Italy we had been continually amazed at the number of motorbikes on the Road until one realises that several of the large motorbike manufacturers are located in this country, these bikes are driven by a particular class of Italian that is obsessed with speed and likes roaring past motorhomes with millimetres to spare at full speed so it was somewhat similar to a jet fighter doing a passing manoeuvre on the Road.

They are also very keen on another form of two wheeled transport and that it is bicycle racing, we are continually coming on groups of people peddling furiously up and down the hills of Italy which of course makes one additional hazard and driving through this delightful country.  Of course one takes no notice of cars parked in the middle of the road whilst to people talk, groups of people walking down highways and not bothering to move, and every other possible traffic violation that occurs on a daily basis.  It's not as if there are no police on the Road, were possibly seen more in Italy than any other country except Russia and the Ukraine but in these two cases the police are actively stopping every car they can looking for a reason to issue a fine.

Today a Mercedes must have been driven by one of these former motorbike riders, because it pasted me so close with a van coming in the opposite direction, I braked to let him in, and the van coming in the opposite direction swerved towards him, and of course in doing so swerved towards me, so along with the braking I also did a slight swerve and carried on our way wondering more about the drivers of this country.

The Road took us past and interesting village on the side of a hill at Borgo Velino fortunately there was a car park on the side of the road so we spent the next 30 to 40 minutes exploring the village that had been there for centuries.

We then passed through a reasonably large town called L'Aquila and hoped to find a camping ground or a parking area with no luck whatsoever but about a further 20 km along the road we found a signpost indicating a camping ground near the old village of San Pio delle Camere, we pulled into the area and the owner indicated it was closed but indicated we were welcome to stay at no charge and present me with a mug of red wine which I consumed with out any bad effects and then we spent the next hour walking through the village which was a mixture of abandoned stone buildings in various states of abandonment and some that had been recently restored with the latest model BMW sitting out the front.

The last two days driving South we have been aware by the roadside signs that Rome is less than 100 km away from this whole area so I guess these abandoned villages are slowly being taken over by the new breed of Romans setting out to re-establish their presence in the countryside.

We just been joined by another two Italian motorhomes who look like they'll be spending the night with us, NO after cleaning out the toilets, dumping all the grey water, refilling with freshwater, they moved on to some other location for the night!

Thursday, 26 April
This morning we dumped all of our waste products, filled up with freshwater, had the internal 12 V system fail, it closes down when the battery becomes to low, however once the motor started running this was quickly rectified.  I must do something on our power system!

It was on continuing our journey south, through the hills and over the past's on our way South, passing an incredible number of interesting looking hillside villages, have almost reached the conclusion that some sort of motorbike - scooter that will comfortably carry two people, up a steep incline, light enough to be carried on the back of the van, is a necessity for travelling through Europe.

We are continuing on the minor road exercise of travelling through Italy, today's prospective exercise was going to take five hours if we completed it, compared to three hours on the motorway, seeing very little, and not being able to stop.  It certainly improves your cornering skills travelling on roads like these.  This morning LPG gas tank was empty, and we managed to fill this up and LPG station on the Road, however the attendant had never seen anything like this before, he was not quite sure what to do or if he should!

We passed by Pettorano sul Gizio, Vinchiaturo, Volturino adding to our collection of photographs, all the time looking for a motor camp, but evidently no one needs one in this part of the country, eventually at Carapelle we drove off the minor motorway through town to the commercial area were camped on the front portion of what appears to be carrying company.

Tonight we discovered we had surplus water floating underneath the carpets and traced it to a waste pipe from the sink coming apart at a bend, somewhat similar to last year's experience of a hose clip not being done up, this bend had not had any adhesive applied during assembly, makes one wonder just what other shortcuts have been done on Hymer supposedly one of the top German brands.

Friday, 27 April
Well it started off Wet today but after about 30 km the rain got less and less and by the time we got in to Bari the weather was fine but looking like rain!

We found the motorhome parking that was programmed into the computer, the Tom Tom took us straight to there so perhaps it works after all.

We went in to the city for a walk and looking for a Vodaphone shop to buy a Internet connection via one of their two system's but this was too sophisticated an item for the local Vodaphone shop.  However was interesting walking there looking at the parking, if there was a spare space there was a car park there, but parked on pedestrian crossings, corners, in fact there was a whole street of cars double parked.

There were no sign of any Internet cafes in any of the areas that we walked through today.  In the shops almost nobody can speak English, and fact it is worse here than any country I've been in, including France, who are known for not wanting to speak English, to Russia where there is always somebody they can manage a little English, not so here in Italy!

Nothing interferes with the closing for the siesta at two o'clock, I visited a very large motorhome sales yard and as I walked in at 1:45 p.m. I was told they were closing and really they were telling me, get off this sales yard so we can close in 15 minutes.

Driving into Bari, Luda made the comment that Russia and Italy were very similar when it came to the traffic laws, in Russia the sign indicating 100 KPH, most Russians think applies to bicycles, and I'm sure the Italians think the same.

All through the time we had been in Italy with seen an incredible amount of Fiat 500 Bambino motorcars, some restored into new condition, others in the condition that one would expect a car of the 60s to be!  It's not uncommon in a day to see at least 12 of these cars on the road.

Having no luck in the Vodafone area we decided to move on, first filling up with fresh water can dumping the old water and drove on to a parking area on the Tom Tom Near Monopoli, but striking 2 by this method on the one-day is just asking too much!  We did find lots of areas that were designed for daytrippers to Park whilst they went to the beach, but we're too early in the season for this, but we did find a sign for a motor camp which we visited and decided to stay, very very comfortable at this time of the year, but looking at the size of the pitch in the summertime and the wall-to-wall misery.

Saturday, 28 April
After doing the normal services on the motorhome we left to continue our journey south and after travelling for a while decided we would miss out the heel of Italy, and cut across I guess you had to say the ankle!  So was a 15 km journey back to the junction, however about 2 km before this we saw a large shopping centre and I thought I would have one more try on the Vodafone set up.

So we pulled in and I went on to the very large multi product cash-and-carry shop that sold everything and yes they did have a Vodaphone connect PCIMA card but the were having problems with their computer setting up the SIM card.  He advised me to go to the Vodaphone shop in the centre of town, it was just a two Km drive down the Road, I said yes but where would I Park the motorhome, he said how long is it, I stretched at a little and said 7 m, he said you will have no problems with parking, I told him straight out I could not handle the Italian parking in the centre of any town. 

Could he get me a taxi?  He said yes, it'll take 15 minutes, and after about 30 minutes the taxi arrived, talk me into a packed town, packed with vehicles, no sign of any parking anywhere, the taxi of course parked in the taxi rank, and then it was just a short walk around a corner, and that I had been by myself I would not have found it, most Vodaphone shops have their names is plastered all over it and you can see it from half a mile, this one of course and other names, but they did sell Vodaphone, but of course I needed my passport to to purchase a SIM card, they call at a connect card!

So was back on to the taxi, back to the shopping centre where the motorhome was parked, collected the passport and back to the Vodaphone shop, at this point I discovered this CD drive was not working, I discovered 12 hours later it was not working because it was running on battery and this is one of the items that gets disabled in this situation.

However the Vodafone Mobile connect card was successfully purchased, with a free 100 hours of the Internet use in the first month, I guess that has got to be worth something.  The little lass that completed the transaction, did all the paperwork, dialled the number to get the SIM card working so when I left the shop or I had to work out what to do was how to get the information on the installation CD into the computer.

Back at the large superstore, I decided to buy a external DVD writer and reader, Luda’s  DVD reader/writer on her laptop was also out of action so this seemed to be the logical step.  At this point I was able to complete the installation, and low and behold everything worked, so that sorts my e-mails and communication out for Italy.  It appears as if Skype also works satisfactorily but will know more about this after a couple more tries.

Finally after about five hours were able to get back on the road and we camped near the beach near a town called Sibari heading towards Crotone in the direction of the toe, and our crossing point for Sicily.

On our drive South today, the Tom Tom notified us twice of possible campsites, and sure enough there they were, I guess this information is useful to have had something extra when you travelling like we are.

On the Road to Taranto we passed many interesting looking houses that had dome roofs with a hole in the top, the only other place I've ever seen this construction was an a town near the Syrian border in Turkey, we were told, on that occasion, that this type of construction kept the rooms cool during the hottest days of summer.

The countryside with been passing through has been occupied for thousands of years, first by the Greeks and then of course the Romans, so consequently there are many ruins from these ancient times waiting for the tourists to arrive starting sometime in the next month.

This whole area is a tremendous grape growing area, with the vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see, and when they stop the olive trees start, and some of these trunks on some of these trees, looking at their shape and size, and got to be hundreds of years old!  …………. if that is possible!

The various times today when I had either been driven in a taxi or driving the motor home there was one thing that is constant, and that is the moment the light turns to green, the person second or third from the front starts blowing the horn, and of course if you're only doing 35KPH in a 30KPH area that warrants a blast of the horn as the car passes you on a double solid white line, often in a no passing area, but this is Italy, and things are different here.

Sunday, 29 April
Well another day travelling South, another day of Italian traffic, another day of stupid overtaking, another day of swerving to the right to avoid somebody on my side of the line, and quite frankly, in this area, another day of boring scenery!

While with the type of traffic we're been experiencing, it was inevitable, that I would be involved in some sort of the incident!  There was the normal line of double parked cars, about 200 m long, and I started passing them having to cross the centre line a fraction, and I was aware that about 400 m away there was a car coming towards me, he had plenty of room, but driving as fast as he was he obviously miscalculated by a matter of 10 to 15 mm as he hit my mirror with is mirror, mine being substantial suffered no damage, but I found out later that his was smashed.

He turned round and chased me, wanting me to play for his mirror, I told him he hit me, he had plenty of room to pass, and basically told him I was not interested.

He wanted to call the police, I shrugged my shoulders and drove on, he followed me, and eventually the police caught up with us, and finally the matter was resolved that he would write to my insurance company, I told him all along that it was his fault, he was travelling too fast, he had plenty of room to pass, and he missed judged things by 10 to 15 mm, he should have not been cutting in so fine.

He made the comment that I was driving on his side of the road, a fraction, so therefore it was my fault, and to expound on the a little, that means as I was parked on his side of the road, and he drove on to me having seen me from a distance of 400 m, it would be my fault!

Well that was some of the excitement for the day!

Other things we saw were about 200 or more motorbikes in a pack taking up the whole Road, stopping all traffic, making quite an interesting site.

A couple of other incidents, after the Mirror incident, a bus was coming towards me, I gave way to him, likewise when I went through a narrow Road, two cars gave way to me!  So appears there is a little bit of cense with most of the motoring traffic.

We cut out quite a lot of the toe of Italy, driving across the centre which was a Road that was built on a almost continuous Bridge through our wide range of valleys with a large tunnel and the centre of the construction and it certainly looked like it was going to save us considerable time getting to the Ferry, that was until we got to the last 20 km which turned out to be a single lane road under construction, with no passing bays, no rest areas, and a limited speed zone all the way, not the easiest of driving.

We eventually got to the ferry to take us to Sicily, you drove in to a four Lane queue, stopped, ran over and bought your ferry ticket, which cost 34 euro, and then the four lanes went and two lanes with the usual Italian imagination of manoeuvring to see if you could get one car ahead, for all the good that will do you on the ferry.

Uneventful crossing which took about 15 minutes, then on to the camper parking area, that was in the Tom Tom, this turned out to be a parking area on the side of the motorway, and we gave this idea away opting for a motor camp about 20 km away, which when we arrived there about 8:30 p.m. we could not find, no signs no nothing, so we just parked in a public area and here we are in Sicily, I'm not sure for how long looking at the traffic congestion and of the density of the housing but tomorrow will tell.

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