Day 17 - Friday 15th July 2016
17.07.2016 - 17.07.2016
Today was shaping up as a big day - a lot of driving, car ferry, more driving and then a hydrofoil. We were going to cover more than 500kms to get from our hotel in Sorrento to the island of Lipari off the coast of Sicily, to the town of Canneto where my parents were born and all my ancestors before them. We all got up early so we could hit the road, the last leg of the hydrofoil was not booked as we had no idea what time we would get to the port to catch it. We did our packing and met at breakfast at 7am, I was still full from the dinner of last night, I only ate a couple of bites and some fresh orange juice.
By the time we got organised and packed into the car one last time and hit the road it was 7:55am. I had wanted to get going a little earlier but we soon took off back through the streets of Sorrento for one last time (thank heavens for that!) and was glad to see the end of the crazy drivers and motor scooters there. Again we struck traffic getting onto to the autostrade, once we hit that we had open road. I drove for two hours before having a rest stop at a roadside diner. We kept going, stopping a little while later as I was feeling tired and had lunch. By now we had crossed into the southern Italian region of Calabria. There were some roadworks that slowed us down for a long while, then we had a massive downpour of rain - I could barely see the car in front - so had to slow right down. It was the first i had seen of rain of any magnitude since arriving just over two weeks ago. The rain came in strong bursts several times but as we neared the southern mainland it eased away.
We stopped one more time about 40km from where we would need to drive the car onto a boat to cross from mainland to Sicily. We got to the port and drove around looking for a ticket, once we bought it we lined up in a queue. One ship was just leaving so we had missed that but the crossings are frequent, within about 10 minutes the next boat arrived and we drove the car onto the boat. The trip across to Messina on Sicily is only a short one, about 20 minutes. It only travels about 5km, I had thought many years ago that they were going to build a bridge across the strait but that never occurred. We drove off the boat and headed for the final destination of Milazzo, to return the rental car and catch the hydrofoil to the island of Lipari where we would spend the next week.
And now this is where things all start to go wrong!!! I dropped Vicky and the kids at terminal where the hydrofoils leave, drove downtown and filled the car with petrol (gas) and returned it. I was hoping we'd catch the 5:45pm service across but by the time I walked back to the port it was 5:40pm already. Vicky was lined up at the ticket window, people were there and it seemed a little crazy. We had turns lining up as it was hot and little aircon, it was evident something was wrong as the queue wasn't moving. It took 45 minutes to reach the ticket window only to be told all the services leaving today were full. I hadn't booked tickets as I didn't know what time we'd be able to get there, the best they could do is put our name on a waiting list in case booked passengers failed to show. This was a lost cause, the waiting list was long and people all around were getting frustrated. The reason they were all booked up was because of bad weather that morning. All the morning services were cancelled, therefore those passengers then all booked up on the later services, creating a jam of people. We were then told there was no way we'd be able to get off tonight. I asked a lady what were we to do as we now had no car and a ton of luggage. She just shrugged her shoulders and said I needed to find somewhere to sleep. We bought tickets for a hydrofoil for the next morning so we had reserved to get off the mainland. I had wanted to get the first one out at 7am but Vicky wanted to sleep in and not rush so we booked the 10:45am.
So now the race is on to find somewhere to spend the night so we could leave the next morning. Given lots of people were stranded there would be a mad scramble now for rooms. I dashed across the road to a place similar to a travel agent and asked where the hotels were and if we could get room and was told they were all full. I went further along and asked at another travel place, they pointed me to a hotel close by so tried there. They also had no rooms but the young lady was very helpful and knowing we were stranded and from Australia she mentioned she knew a lady just up the road who rented rooms, she called it a "Pensione". In English it would be similar to a dorm or hostel, she rang them for me and said they had two rooms for the four of us. Not knowing what condition they'd be in but knowing we had to share bathrooms with others, I told her to reserve them - we were desperate and that might have been our only hope. The cost was 20 euro per person, very cheap so I knew it would be simple.
I headed back and grabbed the family and luggage and we made our way over. As we got there the lady owner was out front talking to other people I'd seen that were stranded too as they were asking for a room. She told them she had none left, we were lucky we grabbed the last two. I laughed when I saw the name of the place - get this - it was called "HOTEL CALIFORNIA"! I imagine the one The Eagles sang about might have been a touch nicer but a cute name. It was a four storey apartment building, the owners lived on the ground floor and there were 3 floors that each had 4 rooms and two bathrooms (although I think some rooms had en-suites). Of course there was no elevator, I had to carry the heavy suitcases - by now Vicky's weighed a ton - up the narrow stairs. We were up two floors, the kids were on the first floor. By the time we got everything into the room I was sweating badly.
The rooms was very simple - two small single beds, there was a window and balcony, no aircon but they had a floor fan, a wardrobe and a table with two chairs - that's it. The shared bathroom had the smallest shower I've seen other than those on a cruise ship, and there was no shower curtain. But all that didn't matter, we had shelter for the night and hoped this problems of today would disappear overnight. We all showered as we'd been traveling for 12 hours by now and were tired and frustrated. We headed down the street just a few steps away and ate at a restaurant and once again were not disappointed with the yummy dishes we got. We ordered way to much pizza though and couldn't eat it all. We headed back to our rooms and went to bed hopeful of more luck tomorrow. The room was stuffy so we slept with the balcony doors open and the fan going all night, but I was still sweaty throughout the night.