Like Germans say, “Man trifft sich immer zweimal im Leben“

Day 363, Pescara, 24.261 km

After arriving in Bari, I struggle (a little) to climb the two floors that lead to the hostel while carrying bike and luggage. I hear the manager swearing « another huge bike! Well, I think, another cyclist is already there! Indeed, I quickly meet Florian, German living in Denmark, who left Greece a few days ago and rides back to Germany… We get along quickly and we decide to ride to Pescara together. Well almost, I want to go to the Gargano park, Florian prefers to cut inland. We will separate but we will meet again, it is anyway what the Germans say…

But before that, I had to reach Bari. And I won’t talk about hangover, we’ll just say that I’m not at 100% when I get up in the morning. Ah, the aftermath of the final… The preparations take a little longer than usual, it takes some time for my brain and my limbs to (re)find their synchronization, but I finally manage to get going in the middle of the morning. I soon find myself (and without really knowing it, my eyes too are obviously not completely coordinated with my brain) on the highway.  Considering my past experiences, I tell myself that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Then I quickly change my mind: this time, every second truck honks as it passes, every third car too, and there are so many people that I’m rarely passed with more than a meter of margin. Not so nice after all. Fortunately, a service road is calling me, and it has the good idea to follow the highway all the way to Bari. And it takes me through some nice towns on the coast: Brindisi, Monopoli (I sadly do not have my Monopoly with me) or Polignano a Mare. Always under a radiant sun, on flat ground and without wind…

Monopoli
Polignano a Mare

Before arriving in Bari, I notice the proliferation in the fields of what I take at first sight for some kind of bread oven. A little big, but maybe the local tradition wants the loaves to be the size of millstones… Or maybe the pizzas are all one meter in diameter… In short, nice ideas that go through my head… The truth is much more trivial, they are « trulli », dwellings of farm workers, houses after all… For big loaves of bread, we’ll pass.

The trulli by the sea

I arrive a little late in Bari, and especially very hungry, so I quickly look for something to eat… For the visit of the city, we’ll have to come back… The next day, after a breakfast and a provisioning at the supermarket, it’s a quartet which takes the exit of Bari, a quintet even counting Bob! Tailwind, a few clouds to prevent the temperature from rising too much, a not too busy and flat road, ideal conditions to discuss. A little less to take advantage of the landscape, but it’s a classic coast / beach with thousands of parasols / coastal city / seaside resort. And when it seems that it is going to change, that we are going to be on an narrow stretch of land with the sea on both sides, we are in fact going along salt marshes (of a not very pleasant pinkish color) and factories. It’s fortunate that we can discuss in the end!

Two bicycles…
… and two cyclists

A little before Manfredonia (I checked, all the inhabitants have Manfred as a middle name, since the foundation of the city by the King of Sicily Manfred the 1st), our paths separate for the first time: I set off to climb the Gargano park, Florian will ride the Foggia plain. The road rises. A little before arriving in the village of Mattinata, I am confronted with a Cornelian dilemma: on one side a winding road that climbs up the mountainside, on the other a tunnel.  A flat tunnel. But a tunnel that is forbidden to bicycles. Since the road doesn’t seem to offer particularly interesting views, I decide to save my strength for the next climb that should take me to the cliff side and take the tunnel. The crossing goes smoothly, without horns, almost without cars. At the exit, however, a police patrol is parked on the side of the road. Ouch. They signal me to stop. Double ouch. The guy says something to me in Italian where I catch the words « bici » (=bike) and « galleria » (=tunnel). I deduce that he’s asking me if I’ve just cycled through the tunnel. I answer candidly that I did.  I imagine that he is saying something about the fact that it is forbidden, but even with all the good will in the world I don’t understand a word. I say a timid « no comprendo ». I see the disappointment in his eyes. He then says to me with a great Italian accent « ah, you don’t speak » and signals me to go. It’s hard not to laugh as I leave. At the exit of Mattinata, same situation: tunnel or road? I take the road this time, and rightly so! On one hand I have great views on the coast, and on the other hand there are again cops at the exit of the second tunnel… The « ah you don’t speak » technique might not have worked twice…

The night will soon fall and I have to think about finding a place to sleep. There is a beach, a little far, but which seems very nice and not too far from the main road. I say to myself: « let’s try it, and if ever it’s too late I will stop in a high place with a view on the sea ». The call of the sea is too strong, and in spite of the growing darkness that my lamp hardly manages to dissipate, I finish to go down (fortunately!) the last kilometers in the dark to arrive at the beach of Portogreco. I don’t fully enjoy the view in the evening but it’s a treat the next day when I wake up…

The morning is all the more pleasant as the road continues to wind along the sea, with a plunging view on the white of the cliffs and the black abyss of the caves. It’s well worth it to add a few hundred meters of climbing to admire all this! And the villages of Vieste, Peschici and Rodi Garganico are arriving just at the right time to take a little break and fill my water bottles…

Vieste
Peschici

Then comes the least nice part of the day: headwind, endless straight lines, not a tree to break this damn wind, which makes annoys me so much that I start to insult it, and I think it had not happened to me since Spain… Besides, we reach the hottest hours of the day, the water of the fountains is tepid, and it becomes complicated to find a shady place… Only positive point, I ride along fields of tomatoes, of all shapes and colors and I allow myself to pick up a few of them to quench my thirst and appease my hunger at once.

More and more tomatoes

After a quick passage through Termoli, I meet Florian on a beach a little bit away, perfect for a bivouac. Except for the mosquitoes, the evening is good, the feast royal, and the night not too hot!

The next day, direction Pescara! I leave the navigation to Florian and I’m glad! He first finds us a small path along the cliffs and then a beautiful bikeway! At the beginning I am a little too excited, I have the impression that it will bring us to Pescara. Then I look at the map a little more in details and I realize that it stops in Ortona. And in reality, we come across some works that force us to turn back and to push the bikes on a small paved road to get to the main road again… Yon can’t always win…

Track along the cliffs…
… and bike path along the sea

When we arrive in Pescara, we have a nice pizza and a cold beer to celebrate the arrival and our paths separate again: Florian continues along the coast and I go for a ride in the mountains in the Grand Sasso park. I take advantage of the afternoon to have a look at Pescara and of the evening to, guess what, eat! We won’t change the good habits!

The installation Ecco Trash People on the piazza Salotto

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