Friday, 17 May 2013

What if the Hana Highway had no development restrictions?

I like the Hana Highway in Maui. 84 km, 620 curves, 46 one lane bridges, and a lot of greenery plastered on to the side of volcanic cliffs. Now, imagine if anyone could build along that highway anywhere they wanted, so long as an Italian group of concrete dudes designed, built it and decorated it. That's what the Amalfi coast is.

Running south from Sorrento on the south side of the Sorrentine peninsula, it features impossible development glued to the cliffs. And a road that full size busses ply that is at best 1.5 lanes wide, has 1,200 corners (many blind) and a 1,000' drop into the sea on one side.
That's where we're heading
It started off raining but cleared less than 30 min into the trip and spent the rest of the day sunny.
Looking back, the road a line along the cliff
You trip through a bunch of development...
On a moderate slope
...then arrive at Positano, plastered on a hillside (we did not stop here in the AM, but on our return on the PM, so photos from the town later).
Looking down. Prianio in the distance 
The impossible colour of the Med
Once man's ceiling is another man's floor 
People who live along this coast put their swimming pools wherever they can.
If you can't make a beach...
Oceanfront swimming
Heaven help them if they spring a leak
...and access their houses/hotels in the most fascinating of ways.
Private zig zag road 
Stairs to the house 
An elevator, probably, or a staircase next to a garage 
Stairs down to here 
Imagine living under a G8 Gas Station
Folks have been living here a long, long time. Amalfi itself used to be a capital city and quite the main centre between ~800 & 1200 AD. It sits in the cleft of a mountain...
From the pier
...and because it was a "capital" has 1,000 year old fortifications.
Towers tower over the city 
Towers guard the port
Towers hide in the hills 
Towers guard the land access
Almalfi's got a really fancy cathedral...
11th Century Byzntine 
With a whole lotta steps
...but is otherwise a rabbit warren of tiny little passageways and stairs.
A "main drag" 
A side road 
Main road down. House access up. 
Another main road, fading into the blackness 
One of three leading off the waterfront
Positano's not much different. Just steeper. EVERYTHING goes up or down by stairs. No ramps.
Down to the sea 
House entrances are corridors 
Some are just dirt paths 
Nothing's on the level 
Some are narrow 
Up or down, your choice 
Someone with style
Positano, too, was part of Amalfi's emprire, so also features towers and ramparts.
Not one but two for your firing pleasure
People come here for the beaches, which suck. They are gravel beaches.
Amalfi: gravel and coarse sand 
Positano: the same, with strips of gravel in between 
More Positano 
Apparently they're popular -- just not on a cool day in May.
One day, I'll post a Greek beach photo for comparison
The bus ride from Sorrento to Amalfi and back's a bit of a chore. It's not even the height of the tourist season and:

  • The 9:15 AM bus leaving Sorrento was full by 9:05 and left;
  • The 9:30 bus filled within minutes of starting to load at 9:10, and left with no standing room, turning people away at the start;
  • The 9:30 bus we were on drove past stop after stop where people were waiting, without stopping cause it was full
  • Finally around Positano more people started getting off than on, but we were full again after Positano;
  • The bus from Amalfi back to Positano was full, standing room only (with a lot of school kids) and left people at the start;
  • We got off, toured Positano, and barely got back on a later bus. It was a cattle car and we were standing. Over half the people waiting didn't make it on, and the bus sailed by stop after stop where people were waiting.
One the way back to Sorrento from Positano, we happen upon the previous bus, broken down in the middle of the road. The big wide bus. In the middle of the little narrow road. We couldn't get by, so we waited until they got it running (about 15 min). The people on the bus in front waited 45 min.

Still, as I told KC this morning, "the journey is the destination" as the bus ride itself, standing or sitting, is a wild adventure of too wide vehicles on too narrow roads with Italians driving and parking along the way. It's the road to Hana with big vehicles. A hoot if there ever was one.

Not a bad way to spend my birthday (they even gave me free limoncello at the restaurant at dinner).

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Happy belated birthday, my friend!