I’ve just been answering some of your very kind comments about the elephant I met on the Kegale-Avisawella Road, and I began to remember some other unlikely things I’ve come across – other than the hair-raising drivers I’ve met during my travels, like the daredevils who nearly gave me a heart attack on the way into Istanbul, back in the ‘7os – for instance.
Speaking of the ’70s – this was 1976 – in what was then an unremarkable town on the outskirts of Napoli. We’d spent the night in our van, parked on the pavement outside the Carabinieri headquarters in the city – they refusing to talk to us about being robbed, at 3 o’clock in the morning. After making our complaints, and getting little satisfaction other than a piece of paper to take to the American Express office (basically it was our fault being ‘fat cat Americanos‘ – an added insult, he being a skinny French Canadian with an accent, and me a bolshi Australian) we weren’t as enamoured with the boot of Italy as we had been the previous morning.
What we needed was to see the great Vesuvius and walk the streets of Pompeii. A bit lost, as was our want (I suppose we could have bought maps, but where’s the adventure in that?) we were driving through a town, looking for a sign, any sign, to tell us where we were, when this apparition came down the hill toward us, along the road to our right.
To this day I have to remind myself that Torre Annunziata – for that is what the town was called – is near Napoli, not Palermo, for such was the grim romance of the Mafia in my mind, that only a departed Mafiosi Don would be drawn to his final resting place in such a lavishly carved conveyance.