What Else Could Go Wrong?
Italy's border was in the distance, behind several hundred cars. Noel diligently nursed the throttle and we waited patiently, until, that is, a motorbike roared up the outside empty lane, so we did the same.
We spotted the 'any passport' sign and followed that. This lane was completely empty - that should have been the hint.
We reached the border control and weaved around two barriers (our next hint that we were in the wrong place!), and drove up to a frowning police man shaking his head.
'What are you doing?' he asked exasperated.
'We followed the 'any passport' sign.' Noel said.
With a big shake of head, rolling of eyes and tutting, he allowed us through. I guess it worked, but it wasn't the welcome we were after.
We'd paid our one off toll at Switzerland and it'd be so much easier if Italy had the same system, instead they have frequent road tolls.
We’re not very good at tolls!
'You're coming up to a red light.' I said.
'Am I?' Noel had enough trouble with a hundred cars squishing into ten lanes of varying requirements. But another car was in front and went through. When the toll booth worker saw us he tutted, exclaimed something in Italian (I can only guess what, as he had his
till tray in his lap and was clearly trying to knock off) - he waved his arms at us with his fingers together as only the Italian's can do - he did smirk though.
Especially when we admitted we are Australians.
Just a few miles down the road yet another toll came into view. Here, we just had to take a ticket.
For some reason (tiredness - read the next blog on the Italian drivers to find out why!) we couldn't see where to go and became pushed and funnelled into a 'pass lane'. We missed out on collecting a ticket.
'I am just waiting to be arrested.' Noel said, laughing.
'We can't be the first ones to ever do that!'
With the queue growing behind us, I slid off the bike (squishing against the booth and fighting leg cramp) to dig the map out of the back of the pannier, we had to show him where we had entered the highway system.
He came out of the 'office' and checked our number plate, by this time half of Italy was behind us tapping their steering wheels.
For several long, slow minutes the toll booth man tapped on his computer, frowned, muttered and shrugged his shoulders. He kept keying in numbers, €29, €32, €49.
'I think we're going to be fined!" I said to Noel.
Suddenly a two-foot long, snaking receipt poured out.
'Pay this.' he said, while trying to roll it up into a suitable size to carry.
He pointed to €29, which was a relief, it was the smallest amount, but the receipt still listed other amounts.
'Go over to the office,' he pointed and suddenly his English had become fluent, 'and see if you can explain to them what you did!'
I felt like I was back at school, sent to the Head Masters office.
'What office?' He climbed out of his booth, now the entire population of Italy and France are stacked up behind us, surely plotting to murder us painfully.
'Over there.' He points across the eight lanes of traffic to the middle of the highway, to a small building.
'Park there,' he pointed to a small fenced area.
Noel and I swung our heads from left to right, ‘office,’ ‘park bike,’ ‘lots of traffic in the middle!’
‘Well at least the bike will be safe while we take our lives in our hands crossing the road.’
'Perhaps this is the penance for making people wait and not taking a ticket, instead of lining us up against a wall and shooting us, they squish us under cars!'
The older gentlemen in the office smiled and pitied our lack of Italian, or pitied us as he was about to take the bike and house (or boat) as we hadn't paid.
He spotted our concerned faces.
'No problemo.' He said, creasing his cheeks further, he made the world wide known gesture of keeping calm and instantly put us at ease.
He spent - what felt like - several days reading our massive receipt, unrolling a bit at a time. He tapped away at his computer and nodded sagely, clearly we had been photographed
in the first ticket toll. We produced a map to show where we entered. Noel even produced the receipt of the hotel we stayed in the night before.
He made us sign a form (which could have said 'I gift you all my worldly goods!’). And off we went, back across the highway.
I am sure there is a joke there, why did the Aussies cross an 8 lane motorway...
We stopped soon after for more petrol. The prices having hiked up upon entering Italy. We were slow to learn that the excited petrol pump attendant was not pleased to see us as we are lovely people, he was happy to see us because they can charge 20 cents more per litre if he filled our tank!
'Arrivederci!' A clamorous shout from Noel
The kids retreated and looked terrified.
‘You scared those kids.' I laughed.
'I know!' Noel said, 'yeeehahhh!'
And off we went to do battle with Italian drivers…
Next: Stepping Through a Portal - Lunatics and Lunacy