Scorching Siestas And Smiley Strangers
17 May 2000
Written by Lowanna
Subject: Southern Italy

Today has been hard work, cycling through the sweltering dry heat. But after an unexpected hot shower, we are feeling more human again. Last night we stayed on a beautiful organic vineyard. We happened to be cycling past when the sunburnt workers were leaving for the day. We asked in our wobbly Italian if there was anywhere we could camp for the night. They unlocked the gates to the vineyard and showed us a place we could put the tent, right by a water tap! We were amazed at how easy it was to sort out our sleeping arrangements because the night before we spent hours asking so many different people, before finally finding a scrap of land, near the road, to pitch the tent. The vineyard worker waved goodbye and walked back down to the gate leaving us with a whole vineyard to ourselves.

Later on in the evening, the owner of the vineyard arrived with his children Alesandra and Alesandro. If they had arrived one minute earlier they would have found us butt-naked showering under our water bag (with additional shower nossle). We showed them the articles and our website on the laptop and answered all the questions they hurled our way.

It's strange because every time a complete stranger does us a huge favour by letting us stay on their land, they feel compelled to give US a gift!!! At the end of the evening our new friend gave us a litre of organic extra virgin olive oil that they had make themselves for their own use! It smelt incredible...(and we have just sampled it for the first time on our spaghetti and it is completely orgasmic).

But our late night hosts also plied us with loads of coffee and by the time we managed to get off to bed it was nearly midnight and the coffee kept us wired all night, not to mention lots of strange scratchy noises (which we discovered later were the giant slugs climbing the walls of the tent). After sleeping for what only felt like a few minutes the alarm blasted us awake at 4.45am.

Unfortunately we had to get up this early as the workers were due to arrive at 5am, and our tent would have been in the way. But the good thing about getting up early is you can get lots of cycling done whilst it crisp and fresh (this only lasts until about 9am).

Yesterday had the temperature in the 30s by 10am and today was much hotter. We were cycling across arid high plain towards Brindisi and didn't pass a town or any people at all.

Finally we decided we couldn't cycle any more. We were too hot and the water had run out. So we decided to go up to the only house in the area - a farm. It was a few kilometres to from the road and the pack of dogs on the lane were snarling and dribbling, but we got there and asked if we could camp the night. They said 'No' but we asked again with pleading eyes and they finally gave in and pointed us in the direction of our campsite - a geese filled corner of the garden. But when we got out the Italian newspaper article she said; 'Mama Mia - you cycle from London to Sydney! You and you must have a room in our guest house.'

We tried to give them some money and a giant bag full of chocolate biscuits and wafers (a fast melting present we'd been trying to give away for days) but they were not having any of it and insisted we stay here for the night for nothing. Kev is extra happy because the room has a TV and coincidence has it that Arsenal is playing Galatasaray. So this very moment as I type away Kev is happily glued to the screen.

Cycling through a country is like reading a great book. It takes a little while to get to know the characters and get a feeling for it, then you sink your teeth into it and lose all trace of time, and then before you know it you are nearly at the end. Suddenly you try to slow down and savour every last page before it is over.

Italy has been like this for us. We are sad to say goodbye to this beautiful, madly chaotic, intoxicating land, full of thousands of moments with affectionate strangers. We are only about two cycling days away from Brindisi (that's about two driving hours) where our ferry to Corfu awaits us. But we are excited by the anticipation of starting all over again in Greece...