Monday, August 6, 2012

Nathan Goes Kayaking

While I was in Istanbul in June, Nathan decided to take our heavy, sit-on-top, plastic, tandem kayak out for it's maiden voyage in Italy. Below is the email I received from him:

[After a rough start to his morning, he] "set about putting the kayak dolly together. 
What a pain. It was like a Chinese puzzle - straps and extra pieces - a total disaster.  First, it took me an hour just to locate the parts in the garage closet (btw, everything is soaking wet and covered with slimy, fetid funk),  so the garage now looks like a band of gypsies sacked the place [editor's note: this is not a prejudicial comment, but rather a reference to some specific bands of gypsies who live here in Naples and are responsible for a great deal of pickpocketing and car break-ins at shopping centers]. 
Off I go down the crowded (i.e. beach trafficked) streets of Lucrino whilst dragging a 17-ft kayak (twice as long as most of the cars on the road). Imagine the stares! 
I get to the beach access point and am accosted by some schmuck who thinks it's his job to control who/what gets through. There are poles set up across the pathway under the tracks to prevent cars (and kayaks?) from getting through. However, [not so] remarkably, the tunnel is crowded with scooters.  He looks at my insanely huge kayak and simply shakes his head in the "no" direction. Pretending to not understand the Italian (and international) "no" gesture, I turned the boat on edge and shimmied through the poles and perilously past the line of incredulous ragazzi perched, smoking and/or making out, atop their scooters in the tunnel to the second set of barricades, on the beach-side of the tracks. This guy obliges and removes them since it's clear I am not going to acquiesce to their self-aggrandized sense of import. I'm in. 
But now I am faced with a sea of humanity positioned menacingly between me and the actual sea. There is no way I am going to get this boat in the water without crushing at least 143 Italians in the process. Add the awkwardness of 184,000 people who seemed to hush and stare as though I just landed on Earth aboard my 17-ft pointy orange spaceship.  If I could peel my humanoid face off and expose a reptilian countenance, I may have had better luck by scaring them off with a flick of my forked tongue and the jaundiced gaze of my lizard eyes. 
I dragged the ark to the far end of the public beach and found the narrowest part of the beach where I had to interrupt only one young couple's make-out session in order to put to sea. Lots of yelling and reluctant movements, but I was in the water. I hurriedly paddled off amidst what seemed like the ire of the entire Italian population and briefly considered paddling back to the States. 
So, there I was finally with some peace. Naturally, I immediately started wondering how I was going to get this boat out of the water. I resolved to paddle until the start of the Italy vs. Spain soccer match that was to air in roughly 5 hours. This was the impetus for my decision to paddle to Miseno - about 5 times further than was my intent when I [ahem] "planned" this odyssey. 
Notably, Italians in boats are much more civilized than Italians in cars. Maybe they were too taken aback by this unpowered, extraterrestrial craft and just elected to maintain a safe distance. Nevertheless, their conduct presented itself as courteous and respectful - ironically very alien itself, in this part of the universe. 
I paddled straight to the Baia castle and then hugged the coast all the way to Miseno (about 2 hours). Lots of people on the shore and scattered about the various breakwaters in Baia, Baccoli, etc.  Lots of quiet anchorages with people splashing around, making out, and lazing in the sun. Very nice paddle but for the constant staring, pointing, and general disbelief among the natives of this strange land I have only begun to explore.
I explored some coastal caves, lingered and eventually stopped on a beach in the Miseno harbor (next to the Guardia Finanza marina), ate an energy bar, and then headed back. The wind shifted and made for a long, hard paddle through the mussel farms (about 2 hours). 
Upon reaching the Lucrino beach, my fears were assuaged, and I found a spot to land and drag the boat up. My suspicion was at least partially correct and the beach was roughly 30% as crowded as when I left. Now, I had to field a multitude of questions about the boat, its wheels and why I do these things. The answer to how far I went was invariably received with a stout "MAMMA MIA!" and a horrified look upon their realizing that I may have actually come from another planet since I am capable of propelling my craft at least as far as Miseno. 
Getting up to the house was no big deal, I think because most people were home getting ready to watch the soccer match - still an hour away. 
I parked the boat in the garage, poured myself a deserved beer, and watched the natives in their second favorite activity - second just after making out on the beach."

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