Monday, January 29
The next morning we impatiently wandered the streets of Paris, getting hopelessly lost, weighed down by our heavy bags. We lost the boys somewhere near a bridge, crossing the river Seine and never saw them again. Finally we boarded the train that would take us all the way to Naples. We had booked a couchette, a pull down bed to sleep on overnight, and were delighted to find that there was no one else in our compartment. We made ourselves comfortable, trying the beds, excitedly climbing up to the third bunk, which is where I made camp for the evening.
C thought she might roll off and hit the floor so she stayed on the lowest bunk, opposite me. As it grew dark we decided to try and get some sleep, tomorrow we would be in Pos and surely wouldn’t be sleeping much!
I was lulled to sleep by the clackety-clack of the tracks below and dreamed pleasant dreams until I was awoken by a squawk. It was pitch black, the train was moving but something was wrong. The small beam of a torch suddenly passed in front of me, shining around the compartment. I stared at it, wondering what C was looking for when she squawked again, followed by a loud slap, hand on skin, a foreign sounding “oof!” and an outraged “you bastard!” I flicked on the light and saw a small dark haired man jump up from C’s bunk, torch in hand, slide open the door and run off down the carriage.
“He had his hand on my leg!” C exclaimed in anger.
“Quick, we better see if he stole anything, where’s your money and passport?” I asked, feeling that mine was still in the money-belt that I had grudgingly put on to reassure my Dad before we left. Hers was under her pillow and nothing was missing, but we sat awake for the rest of the night, becoming rigid and suspicious every time somebody walked past our compartment. As daylight arrived we dozed comfortable and reassured that nothing bad would happen in the light of day.
Our excitement mounted as the train pulled into Naples. We kept our belongings close to us, aware that the city was awash with criminals and thieves, just waiting to pounce on two English backpackers. We didn’t relax until we had found our way through the station and onto the Circumvesuviana, the train that would take us right the way to Sorrento. It was hot and muggy, our backpacks were far too heavy and we were uncomfortable and sweaty where the packs leaned against our backs. In Sorrento we paced around the station forecourt, waiting for the bus that would take us to our final destination.
The bus lurched around the hairpin bends of the coast road, the sea glittered temptingly below, and the less experienced tourists shrieked with fear at the sight of the sea far below. C and I gripped the armrests of our seats with white knuckles too, but it was with excitement at what lay ahead, not the fear of falling into the ocean.
Finally the bus rounded the last curve and pulled up outside the Bar Internazionle. We climbed off and claimed our rucksacks from the luggage compartment. Hoisting them onto our shoulders we gazed around, half expecting to see the friends and boys we had met three years before milling around at the top of the town. We recognised nobody, of course, so caught the little orange internal bus down to the bottom of the town.
Walking uphill towards the pensione where we were staying, we passed the hotel where we had stayed before with C’s family. We walked in to say hello and to enquire whether our friend Alex had arrived from New York. The man at reception was delighted to see us and came around the desk to kiss us on the cheeks. But then the hotel manager appeared, and was obviously disgusted to see two sweaty teenage backpackers marring his territory. We were quickly sheparded out of the hotel and sent on our way.
A bit further up the road we found a sign pointing to our pensione. The steps leading to it were plentiful and steep. But the relief of letting our rucksacks crash to the ground and the cool showers that we immediately took were well worth the wait. As the sun set, red and streaky in the sky, we sat on the warm terrace, clean, hungry and ready for the summer. We had arrived!
at 10:25 AM