Well we are in Rome, with two bicycles and in the accommodation we booked from New Zealand.
Getting here can only be described as an endurance test.
Firstly, we took four flights with a combined flying time of 26 hours, with waiting times of 2-3 hours in Auckland, Hong Kong and Frankfurt. Long distance travel really is a unique form of torture, that we undertake for the privilege of living in New Zealand and visiting the rest of the world.
The low point was when we were assigned separate seats (one behind the other) on the 12 hour Hong Kong-Frankfurt stretch. Luckily they had done the same thing to another couple and we were able to swop seats around on the plane to everyone’s satisfaction. Then a large group of Chinese tourists got lost in Frankfurt airport (airport shopping?) and delayed our plane by another three quarters of an hour. Our tolerance was wearing very thin when they looked so relaxed and unhurried getting on the plane.
At Rome airport we found that it costs almost as much to take the metro to the Decathlon sports store as to take a taxi. Especially after I negotiated the taxi price down. I was amazed that it worked really – down from 25E to 20E – train was 17E plus a half hour walk on other side.
They had the bicycles we had ordered at Decathlon – so far so good. We spent a couple of hours putting everything together and were on our way by about 3pm. Everything looks ok, I am not too happy with the quality of the pannier bags, but we will make them work (or replace if we cannot).
The reality of Roman roads soon set in. Far worse than expected. Kris says these are the most confusing roads he has navigated (from a cycling perspective). As a cyclist, it is difficult to cross highways – and getting to our destination, an expected 20km away, we were forced to cross the same highway about 5 times. We zig-zagged and back tracked the whole time to stay on roads where cycling is permissible (if not wise). The journey that is 15km by car took us 35km. We also had to stop frequently to consult the map on the phone and consider our alternatives (alternatives we tried did not pan out). The whole journey took us about 3 hours.
I was just amazed at the poor condition of the roads. Many pot holes and wash outs, particularly on the side of the road, which is where bicycles ride. They also like putting drainage grids directly in the cyclist’s path. There is not really much space on the side of the road for cyclists, and naturally the traffic was heavy as we rode through the rush hour.
Typical road hazards for cyclists – not the worst we saw by far
We got out unscathed but the mobile phone took a fall out of Kris’s front basket. He went over a particularly large pothole instead of veering out in front of a car and it flew from the basket with the maps and tools. Bounced off the tarmac breaking the case and cracking the glass. I am impressed that it still works, but we wonder for how long.
Exhaustion was really setting in when we finally got to our accommodation and attracted the owners attention to let us in after a while (I had a scary moment thinking we were at the wrong place!). The accommodation is really nice. We have a private room and bathroom, and shared kitchen and living room. She is also washing our clothes for $3 laundry fee!
After unpacking and showering, we went and had some pasta, gnocci and red wine at the local cafe. It was very good.