Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Tuesday, September 16, 2003 06:23:37|
Central Asia 2003: 2 - Rome, Lampedusa Island, Rome, Istanbul
The night at the Hilton didn't pass quite as restfully as we had hoped. I guess I overdid it a bit with all the running around with luggage - when I lay down in bed I'd start to fill up with gunk resulting in lots of hacking, coughing, blowing and sputtering. I finally gave it up at about 2:15 AM, got dressed and went and sat in the armchair. It wasn't as comfortable as the seat on the plane, but it got me through the night.
The hotel included a breakfast buffet that covered acres, so after indulging we headed off to board our flight for the elusive Lampedusa Island. First it was to be 20 minutes late, then 45 minutes and finally an hour. When we finally got underway the captain explained that there was parking for only two aircraft on the tarmac of the Lampedusa Island airport, and we had to wait for one of the two aircraft parked there to leave. Neither had left by the time we arrived, so we circled over the island for another 15 minutes until one finally shoved off. No one can say getting here was easy!
It took no time at all to establish that virtually no English was spoken on the island. As there was no tourist help desk at the airport Marilynn approached a fellow with a hotel sign, but couldn't get across that we had no reservation and needed a hotel. This didn't deter him from loading us into his van, and when another couple got into the van, he found they spoke some English and so were able to explain our problem through them. He drove us to the hotel but they had no rooms available. He then went to the hotel next door where a room was quickly arranged. After bringing our luggage he was still reluctant to accept a tip for his help and transportation from the airport!
The Martello Hotel was great. We were given a spacious room with a private balcony overlooking the port on one side and an excellent swimming beach on the other. The hotel staff went out of their way to ensure we had everything we wanted, and we were SO delighted that we'd not be sleeping on the beach!
We decided to rent a motor scooter to explore the island. It is small - only 26 miles in circumference, with one surprisingly large town. Lampedusa is located about 80 km from Tunisia and is geographically part of Africa. There are 5,724 residents, most of them living in the town. It is a pleasant place to stroll (or scooter) around, with lots of shops and restaurants in the central business district. There is a very picturesque port at the lower end of the town
The hotel made a call and our scooter for two showed up in about 10 minutes, so away we went. There were no formalities such as forms, credit cards or checking for a driver's license - just here's the key, away you go. We checked out a couple of beach locations, but some were down a pretty steep cliff and we didn't go, as getting back up would be a problem for me right now. We had a delicious lunch at a food stall at the entrance to one of the beaches, and then explored the rest of the island - about a two hour process. To ensure Marilynn's motor cycle experiences with me are kept memorable, this time I managed to dump her into a large thorn bush - which was at least an improvement to abandoning her in the desert of Morocco! The improvement was difficult to tell from her reaction, though.
We stopped at a nice sand beach near the hotel and had a swim in the crystal clear water. It was not as warm as the ocean in Costa Rica, but was fine once we were in. We then stopped at a little pub overlooking the beach where we bought a bottle of wine - I had one glass while Marilynn did justice to the rest of it. I'm afraid I'm still principally on water!
The motor scooter ran out of gas about two blocks before the hotel on the way back - apparently one is supposed to put gas in them. The hotel arranged for the rental company to collect it, then I was driven over to the rental office to pay. Including thorn bush damage to the front fender, going and getting it from where it was gasless and my transport to and from the hotel the bill was all of 15 Euros - about $US 17. We finished off the day with dinner at the hotel and an early night.
Monday, September 15, 2003
After breakfast Mario, the hotel owner, arranged for us to the taken to the airport - at no charge. The Alitalia flight was on time and smooth. It was interesting that the cabin crew did not speak English. We took a taxi to the Sheraton Four Points Roma Hotel, which is a business hotel I'd booked over the internet - in this case a mistake. The map on their web site gave the impression they were near the airport, but it turned out they were on the opposite side of the city - a 60 Euro half hour cab ride away. The hotel was very nice, but was not close to anything a tourist would be interested in.
We were to take their shuttle bus to the airport in the morning, but when we showed up for it, it had left. I had their shuttle schedule they'd emailed to me, but was informed that the time shown was not departure from the hotel, but arrival time at the airport. That meant another cab ride to the airport - this time with that rare breed, and honest cab driver!
On arrival at the airport, I discovered the hotel had not returned our passports, which we'd given to the desk clerk the night before "just for a minute" for his check in procedure. The cab had not left, fortunately. The driver phoned the hotel and confirmed the passports were there, so I went to check in while Marilynn went to recover our passports.
The agent at the Turkish Airlines check in was great. He couldn't take the bags, but checked both Marilynn and I in, ensuring we had an exit row. He hung onto the boarding passes until I could produce both Marilynn and our passports. With these annoyances behind us things settled down and we made it to Istanbul in good shape. I'm writing this as we wait for our connection to Baku, where we will arrive at 3 AM.