The Gran Bretagna docked late in the afternoon in Solerno, a small coastal town on the West coast of Italy. We have been sleeping and eating the time away on the Ro-Ro for 4 days since leaving Ashdod in Israel.
Almost R12000-00 (950-00Eu) bought us an inside cabin with 3 meals a day and passage for the motorcycles. The Ro-Ro is a bulk vehicle carrier with only a few cabins for passengers. This arrangement allows normal people to travel with most cargo ships around the world at a fraction of the cost of a cruise ship. Bear in mind there are no TV or WiFi or such luxuries on board and you have to have time to waste, as a typical trip will last weeks for far away destinations.
Being on an Italian ship we were treated to some of the best Italian cuisine. We were allowed to enjoy wine with our meals while the rest of the crew had to make due with non-alcoholic beverages. It is a working vessel and thus no such luxuries for the crew.
Lunch and dinner was a 5-course setting with salami’s, pasta and gnocchi as part of the delicious spread. The chef was part of the look, and typical to such vessels an unkempt, unshaven, fat Italian with a dirty white apron over a worn, fat and oiled stained sleeveless undershirt, black pants pulled over his navel, stopping short of his arm pits. Always friendly and constantly offering us more food than what we were able to consume.
Unlike Africa’s bureaucracy, some idiocies and obsessions over paper work and the need to see an official stamp, Italy and, it seems Europe, had very little issue with trivial things like paperwork. Just after dark we made our way out of the Ro-Ro and stopped at the docks awaiting the officials’ stamp for our motorcycles’ paper work. One customs official eventually told me in very short broken English sentences that there was no need for paper work for the bikes. Zero, Nada, Zilch, you are free to go! I protested, saying the Carabinieri will stop us and then I won’t be able to prove where the bikes came from, let alone stolen or something to that effect.
You go, you go! No paperwork! And so my fears were waved away with a go signal from his hand and a smile.
At that stage the motorcycles were not at all in a road going condition. My indicators were not working, Elsebie’s bike’s headlight were not working and a myriad of other issues.
Most people told us that in Europe the police take no prisoners when it comes to roadworthiness of vehicles. Our loud exhausts and part non-functioning bikes would get us into serious trouble.