Day 18 - Saturday 16th July 2016
16.07.2016 - 16.07.2016
After a restless night of sleep - somewhere around 12:30-1am some idiot kept honking his car horn - and also the steamy conditions, I was awake early and first thing I wanted to do was to walk down to the port nearby to make sure the hydrofoils were actually running. At the time I got there one had already gone and the second was arriving soon. So at this stage the services were back on, but as the guy there said, nothing is ever guaranteed when you rely on Mother Nature. I walked just a few streets heading back to see what was open for breakfast, not much, maybe because it was a Saturday, but found a cafe literally around the corner. I went back and showered and we headed to the cafe for our breakfast. The day was gloomy and pretty soon it was raining, at some stages quite hard. Great, we had to lug four suitcases and all our hand luggage back to the port. After breakfast we headed back and packed our gear, all the way back down the stairs. We made our way to the port, only five minutes away, and luckily the rain had stopped.
We arrived there just after 10am, our departure time was 10:45am. The service was late so by the time we boarded and took ft it was past 11am - that didn't matter, at least we were on our way. The trip is about an hour, we were going to arrange to have a taxi pick us up on arrival, a friend of my cousin that lives on the island. But I had a message from my cousin saying he was busy, so when we arrived we carted our luggage and took the public bus. The arrival port is in Lipari, the main city of this island which is also called Lipari. We took the bus to Canneto, a town only a few minutes away around the other side of a narrow patch of land in the island. We jumped from the bus and were greeted by my Aunty, she normally lives in the north of Italy but spends a lot of time here in the south as her daughter and grandkids are here. She is basically the only one that looks after the house we are to stay in which is a few kms drive up the mountain. She had also arranged for me to borrow a car from someone she knows, and this is where more problems arise.
We all walked up the street and went to visit my cousin Daniela, we are first cousins and she grew up in Sydney but moved with her whole family to Italy in 1986. I hadn't seen here in 30 years. Sadly too she suffered a stroke early this year and whilst she has recovered she still has difficulty with a lot of things. She is only 46 so way too young for this to have happened. Needless to say the hug and greeting was emotional, and yes I was crying. It was probably more the fact she isn't fully fit but also the fact of the distance of time. We met her husband Giuseppe and daughters Martina (who turned 13 yesterday) and Alessia (11). My Aunty lives in a small flat beneath, she graciously cooked up a quick lunch that we ate, then took me to the car she had borrowed for us.
I wasn't expecting much from this car, only that it would get us around mainly up and down from the house because it's so high up the mountain you can't walk. The car was a bomb - dents, scratches, bumper falling off, it was very poor. And the guy wanted 30 euro a day to use it! I had no choice as I had wanted to get us into the house, I took Vicky and my Aunty and whatever luggage I could manage and we drove up to the house. This house was built by my grandfather, who I never met as he passed away 11 years before I was born. My mother, who is now 88, was actually born in this house. It is small but well built, solid brick and is at the end of a narrow lane near the edge of the mountain. But - I cannot describe the view accurately. You walk up the steps to the balcony and you can see down to the town of Canneto, the beach, the Mediterranean Sea, you can see the neighbouring island of Vulcano, you can see Sicily in the distance and a bit of the mountain to the right. No one lives in the house, my Aunty maintains it as best as she can but she is on her own and not getting any younger. She tries hard to keep it neat but needs help, it's not easy getting to the house and hard for an elderly lady to maintain it.
My Aunty had people staying on the house that left yesterday to make way for us and they had left the place untidy, I don't know how they managed to stay there. There was dust everywhere, on all the surfaces making wonder how they could even eat. They also had a dog in the house and there were tufts of black fur all over. There was half a roll of toilet paper left, no food or water (not that we expected that). I left Vicky at the house as she started to clean up their mess and took my Aunty back down to Canneto, so I could return with the kids and their luggage.
I got the kids and luggage into the house, and once settled the plan was go to into town and get some necessities for the week. This is where things get worse. I parked the car in a spot just above the house that belongs to the neighbour - I was going to park it higher up the lane once the luggage was all brought in. I tried to start the car, and the ignition block jammed. I tried and tried and tried but it wouldn't budge. I was there for over half an hour, swearing profusely and nothing worked. I rang my Aunty and cousins to let them know we were stuck here. Even worse I was blocking the neighbour's driveway so I was getting worried I'd be getting abused when the neighbour came home. I'd only been on the island a few hours and I was utterly frustrated and angry.
I wandered up the laneway just to get some air and get away from the stupid car, a guy came down on his Vespa and then I heard the car horn so I figured he was the neighbour and was getting my attention. I walked down fearful of getting abused, I explained to him the situation and he wasn't the neighbour but was a tradesman who was working on the neighbour's house (they weren't actually there, they lived in Milan) but he had his work trucked parked in the property and wanted to get it out to pick up a delivery. He tried to squeeze through the narrow gap I had left but no use, he was stuck. He called my Aunty and explained what was going on and asked whose car it was. In the conversation I heard him say his name, when he finished the call I asked him his name as the surname was familiar to me. Turns out his is a cousin to friends of mine back in Sydney, people I'd know for decades. On a small island like this people all know each other, and so many have migrated to Australia there are links to people all over.
Having made the connection we then sat there together and chatted about stuff, in Italian so I had to try hard to understand everything. My Aunty and cousin were trying to reach the owner of the car but couldn't. My Aunty caught the bus up to the house and we sat there for a couple of hours, both Antonio (the man who was trying to get his truck out) and then another neighbour came down to get this stupid car started. While I was a complete stranger to Antonio he was so nice and helpful. Knowing my situation he called someone he knew down in Canneto who runs a legitimate car rental business to get me another car. A car is a must for where we had planted ourselves, several kilometres up the mountain. There is a walking track to get you down to the town but is too steep to get back up. Then Antonio offered me a lift on the back of his Vespa as there was a car available for the week. I hopped on behind him, held on to the seat strap for dear life as helmets aren't a norm here. He took me to the car rental place, it was 6:30pm by now so was lucky he was still open and got a little Fiat. Nothing great, it was a 2 door, bit messy and couple of things looked broken but it worked, so I drove back to the house.
The events of this afternoon left me totally exhausted. From the excitement of being here for the first time in 47 years and seeing my cousin, to the frustration, desperation and anger of the car troubles. I was a mess, physically tired and mentally exhausted. I got wind from my Aunty later that the first car owner is blaming me for wrecking his car - please - it was such a bomb and had history of ignition trouble, I just happened to be the sucker that was using it when it fell apart. I have to confess - it was at this point I wished I could pack up and leave the island. Mechanical issues will always occur, things break down, but to be blamed for this I was totally shattered. I pride myself on being a good person and was deeply distressed at hearing this. I showered as by now we were all getting hungry, there was no food or toilet paper either. We dashed down to Canneto to get to the supermarket before it closed so we could get them, we just made it.
I had arranged to have dinner at my cousin's place, I didn't want to burden her with cooking so we went and grabbed pizzas nearby. We took her husband Giuseppe with us, the prices weren't that expensive but going anywhere with a local means you get looked after. We ordered 8 pizzas for us all, and they only charged 5 euro each. Our first bit of good fortune since we arrived on the island. We ate together and talked, her youngest daughter Alessia is full of beans and chats all day, it was cute watching her and our kids trying to communicate. After eating and a couple of drinks, the wave of exhaustion hit me - I was very tired and needed to rest. We said our goodbyes and made the climb back up the mountain to the home. It's so isolated up there you barely here anything, especially at night. We were all tired and soon headed to bed and I hoped for a better day tomorrow.