Subject: Re: Death-defying car trips
Hi Everyone

There are drives that bring on anxiety attacks, such as driving the Amalfi coast, and then there are those that are death defying (preferably completed in ignorance).

Our first:

Thursday 18th May 2000. We decided to leave Sorrento as early as possible (7.45 am as it eventuated), to avoid as much traffic as possible for our drive over the mountain, through Sant Agata, and onto the coast road down the southern side of the peninsular, from Positano to Paestum. It#s never early enough. The trip down, driving on the right side of the road, means you are driving beside a cliff face of some hundreds of meters to the water below, with only a meter high fence between you and oblivion, and every oncoming vehicle trying to send you into it. It was an exhausting drive, with adrenaline starting to pour out my ears. I needed a caffeine stop 15 km down the road, and another one when we cleared Salerno. To hell with cappuccino, I now need constant transfusions with espresso. I've had eye washes with more liquid than they serve in their espressos, but there is more caffeine than you'd get in four cups of regular coffee.

and the return trip

Back on the Amalfi coast road, it is 37 km to Positano. One and a quarter of an hour later, we arrived at Positano. Let me repeat that, it's no typo and we double checked, 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover 37 km. On two occasions, I had to reverse back around a hair pin bend to let a bus through. At least I was on the inside cliff face, not looking down on the #oblivion# side. Not only does the road run along the edge of cliffs almost the entire road, but that inside lane, is in many cases, overhung by the cliff above. The locals continue to overtake. The best example of the total disregard for safety we have ever seen was in passing through a cluster of restaurants/hotels clinging to the cliff faces, just around a blind corner, three guys had an extension ladder up the side of their building, with the foot of the ladder several meters into the roadway. By this stage I was beyond either laughing or crying. I just wanted to get to Positano, and not move from a sun drenched balcony for 24 hours.

Our second:

We were driving from Florence to a village called Vellano, which is in the mountains to the north of Pescia (north-east of Lucca), where we had booked accommodation in a farmhouse. We had spent most of the day wandering the countryside, and late in the afternoon headed from Montacatini Terni up into the mountains.

Cheryl and I are likely to go to our graves without ever having fully resolved the major issue of every holiday we take. I drive, Cheryl navigates, we get lost, I loose it, she hands the map back to me, and I drive and navigate at the same time. Up in the mountains above Montacatini Terni, Cheryl declares that non of the last three villages we have passed through, are on the map. The fourth village is so large, it must be on the map. I stop and check the map, and find that we have missed our turnoff by 20 km. We backtrack the 20 km, and then head off around the other side of the mountains for another 20 km, and arrive at Vellano. Our road map is detailed enough to include dirt roads, but it doesn't have the detail to include the names of streets or roads in small mountain villages.

We stopped at the bakery, and the baker hopped into his van and signaled us to follow. A km. out of town he stopped, and pointed down the mountain, where a single lane dirt road descended in hairpins through a dense Chestnut forest. All he said was sinestra, sinestra, sinestra. We understood this to mean, just keep turning left. Five minutes later, we were still turning left and descending, and then we began to hear a car horn blasting in the distance behind us. We paused. Had we gone too far, and was the baker trying to catch us? Had we gone past the entrance to the Pelligrino's farmhouse, and was she trying to chase us. Was it just another traveler, tooting at each hairpin, which we had been told was obligatory. For another five minutes we descended, with the car norn sounding closer and closer behind us. Finally we saw the sign, and pulled into the driveway to the Pelligrino farm, and not 15 sec. behind us, around twenty rally cars flew past. We shudder to think what would have happened if we had still been on the road. The Pelligrino's were outraged, as the rally organizers had failed to notify any of the residents of the mountain that they would be rallying that day.

Isn't ignorance bliss?

Cheers Gavin (Sydney, Australia, where we are entering day 16 of our bush fires)