Dave the motorhome is breathing a sigh of relief, he’s seen sights today that no motorhome should witness. Fortunately he’s now safely parked up and plugged into, yet more, free electricity at a sosta in the small town of Tuscania (N42.42229 E11.87516).
Looking at our databases last night we were stuck for where to go next, there doesn’t seem to be much between here and Rome, where we need to be on Sunday. In the end we decided to follow our old rule of ‘if in doubt, head for the coast’. Despite being on a slope the hour in the thermal spring had worked it’s magic and I slept like a log, the sound of the water gushing over the rocks just a short distance away.
This morning as Jay opened Dave’s door to take Charlie for a walk the smell of rotten eggs flooded in, we smelt it when we arrived, but hardly since then, now it was back with a vengeance The cloudy sky soon released its rain and as the mud wall next to us had already partially collapsed, we sensed it was a good time to leave.
We stopped for a top up of LPG as Dave’s tank was getting low, and the heating is going on with ever increasing frequency, then made our way west. Thick red mud littered with trees and branches marked where the rivers had overflowed a couple of weeks before, our road happily ran alongside at a safe height away from the destruction. As we neared the coast the road grew red with sticky wet mud, it had lost its position of safety and was now level with the fields and river. Around the landscape changed from green or ploughed fields to a smooth flat expanse of mud, the only break in it being the odd tree sticking up at an angle it shouldn’t be at.
Nearing the town of Albinia the bright orange netting, you’d normally only see on ski slopes, cordoned off the edge of the road where it had been washed away, the crash barrier a twisted metal ribbon lying in the mud. Houses either side of the road filled their driveways with possessions, coated in the same red mud, dark lines on the walls marking its height. Cars sat where they had been parked, crumpled, broken and tainted with mud, a semi-cleared car park had become home for the emergency services – police, fire and electricity vans filled it. The rain was falling again, large puddles forming. People clearing out their homes dressed in the white all-in-one uniform of a scientific police officer looked at the sky, concerned.
Our target was once an island jutting out from the Tuscan coast, now permanently connected to it by three umbilical cord roads. Arriving on it we were greeted with a large sign informing us that we were not allowed to park up and sleep anywhere on the island except a campsite or official parking. It’s late November and the coast next to the island has been flooded, so we weren’t very surprised that none of the campsites were open. The official parking places we knew of now had new official ‘no motorhome’ signs, so feeling very unwelcome we turned around and left – but only after Jay cheekily nipped into one of the closed campsites and emptied our loo!
The road back to the mainland took us through the town of Orbetello. It hangs suspended between the mainland and island with only a narrow road connecting it to either. As we entered the town we spotted a sign for motorhome parking, and as it was pointing the same way we were going we followed it, joking that the sign was probably a con to get you out of the town and back over to the mainland. We’re not sure where the car park actually was, the signs stopped as we reached the mainland, perhaps it was a con after all.
We followed the motorway south, tracking the line of the coast, before turning off at Montalto di Castro on the promise of a place to park at the nearby marina. Nearing Montalto Marina, a small holiday resort of campsites and holiday apartments, the thick red mud was back. The resort was unlucky enough to be in between two overflowing rivers, the vast expanse of smooth red mud surrounding it. As we drove into the town we passed fields of muddied cars, overturned caravans and boats resting on mud banks. The free motorhome parking had been turned into a collection point for ruined belongings.
It was now 2pm so we found a place to park and had a bite to eat. Charlie had caught a sniff of the sea and was going nuts so Jay took him for a quick explore of the beach. Its black volcanic sand was covered with pale wood, trees and branches stripped of their bark. The rain got heavier, Jay and Charlie retreated and we agreed that the coast was not a place to be right now.
We made our way to Tuscania, only about 20km from where we stopped in Montefiascone a few nights back, and were relieved as we pulled into the empty sosta. The rain was still coming down, thunder and lightning now joining it, but the town is high up and not a river or patch of mud in sight.
Dave had changed colour today, his normally off-white finish was splattered red/brown with mud so a quick wash was called for, followed up a big clean out inside – the last of the sulphurous egg smell from damp clothes finally banished. The heating is plugged in and the wine open. It’s been a strangely emotional day. We’d planned for some seaside fun, but instead my heart went out to all the people affected by the floods. It sounds like the same thing is happening in the UK at the moment, I hope everyone reading this is safe, warm and dry.