Friday, February 11, 2011


A few years ago I had this dream.  I dreamt of the most beautiful  place in the world.  There was a pristine mountain lake, some snow and some bright green grass.  Almond trees in bloom.  It was fairly spectacular.  In looking for that place I've had a pretty amazing time.  I hope the search never ends.

As for my trip, I did it, as long as I'm flexible about what ''it'' is.  And I feel really good.
All that was left for me to do was get my boat home.  I contacted a lot of shipping companies online that promised free 24 hour quotes.  Only one got back to me.  I also called a couple of airlines, and getting through to one of them found wonderful news.  They would let me take my boat with me for a charge of 80 euro as sporting equipment.  I stressed that the boat was very long, 549 cm, and was assured that it would be no problem.

I think that if you assure somebody of something, and turn out to be wrong, they should be allowed to punch you in the jaw really hard.  If they're not strong, they should be allowed to find someone to punch you for them.

I was doing this research from a cozy youth hostel I found in Naples, where I also made friends with a couple of fellow travelers.  Like me, they were low budget adventurers, and I'd like to think our souls bonded. Jack and Jill would come with me to the airport in a rental car to help me with onsite logistics.

Q: Dov, I heard you have this great blog.  Can you tell me what it's about?

A: It's about people, good and bad.  It's about deeds, kind and apathetic.  It's the story of what happened to me when I stepped outside the lines, and found a different place.

The car that I could find to rent for the day, after walking from four rental places that were out of cars, only had stick shift.  I drove a stick for a little bit about seven years ago.  I drove through the streets of Naples to my boat.  It was really close.  I only stalled about five times and took one wrong turn.

Driving in Naples was the most dangerous thing I had done on my trip.  Things like lanes, street signs, pedestrians, and other cars are ignored by the drivers of Naples as they would figments of their imaginations.  The rest of Italy is only a little better.

Later Jack and Jill showed up, we got food for the day, loaded my boat on the car and were off.  Jill had a stick shift at home, so she was willing to drive.  My job was to navigate and tell her that she should try not to be too intimidated by the killers on the road.  Jack kept track of the kayak and the makeshift racks.  It was a good thing too, because he was first to notice when it was shifting dangerously.  We stopped, fixed it, and were back on the road.

''The only thing I'm really scared of going wrong is that we'll show up at the airport and they won't let me take my boat.''  A similar thing had happened to me once before with a bicycle.

''What will you do then." asked Jill.


''I think he's under enough pressure without that sort of question." said Jack.

I had an answer.  ''Cry, maybe."

By some miracle, we survived the Roads of Death, arriving at the airport in good shape.  Jack and Jill began securing the boat for transit as I went to find out where to bring it.  I waited in 1,000 lines, and then some more for a supervisor to get back to the woman at the ticket counter.

After a few hours I was told unequivocally, "No."  My kayak could not come with me, I would have to leave it behind.  No, I could not get my money back.

What to do? where to go?  I remembered that Ostia was near the airport and that the LNI there was very kind to me.  I looked into renting a car, it would be expensive.  I tried to get a cab, but nobody wanted to take my boat.  It was explained to me that the police didn't let people have anything on the roof of their car that extended beyond the front or back.

"Would I be willing to pay the 2000 euro fine?"  One cab driver asked me.

"Yes."  I tried.

Too bad, he wouldn't take me anyways.

Then there was one cab driver that was interested.  He said he would take me the 15 kilometers.  So Jack and Jill and I got all of our stuff up the hill over to where he was, since he wouldn't drive through the departure area.  He took a look at the boat and said "No" again, despite the fact that I told him how long it was in advance.  But another cab driver was also interested and began calling cabbies he knew with large vans that might be willing.  Finally, after I finished saying goodbye to Jack and Jill,  he took me himself.

The LNI was closed, so I found an out of the way place to leave my boat and planned to sleep under an awning for the night.  I found in my pocket a single old piece of paper, folded and faded.  Barely legible was the name and phone number of the vice president of the Ostia LNI.  When his phone rang, he dropped what he was doing and came.

A: So yes, I would definitely like to think that my blog is about good people.

I want to thank all of them.  All the people I met on the way who helped me.  I don't remember a lot of your names, but I remember you faces.  I remember your welcoming smiles and kind words of encouragement.  I remember the warmth and care that you gave me.  Thank you, so very very much.

Thank you KayakDov team:

Ben my brother and editor.  Rachee for all the amazing help with the pictures.  Mom and Dad who despite their claim that they would provide me with no assistance whatsoever, gave me overseas logistical support.  And Toby, who was instrumental with the cool logo.

Thank you John from Kayak East, and Boyan from Epic.  Both of you were very helpful in many ways and I hope that my readers seek you out when looking for relevant services.  You both did great jobs above and beyond what one would expect from commercial enterprises.

Thank you DTBH and YPRC for your help in training over the summer.

Thank you friends and family who contributed gear and cash to my trip, as it happens, I'm finishing with no spare change so every cent counted.

And finally, thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read my words.  In your reading, I was a little bit less alone.  I hope you enjoyed my story.  Keep your eyes open for other adventures of mine over the next few decades.  If I have my way, there will be more.

Dream big and follow your dreams to where ever they may take you.  I think you'll like it there.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jubilant Glee

Some time in the night, between when I started charging my GPS and when I woke up in the morning, the screen cracked leaving only a third of it visible.  It was a good thing I wouldn't be needing it.

Day 65:

I woke in a small hotel room that the LNI had ready for me.  It was 5:00 and I was ready to rock.  The good people from the LNI wanted to give me a lift in the morning from the hotel to the port, saving me the 40 minute walk.  I explained to them that it wouldn't make sense, trying to use my trip to encourage people not to drive, and then getting in a car at every opportunity.  After a leisurely hot shower and other morning chores, I walked through the town to the water.

Awhile later I quietly pulled away.

I had been told that it would be sunny and warm so I was dressed for it, despite the overcast skys and chill breeze.  I figured the weather would clear up in no time.

I went into many caves, some I followed several hundred feet back into the mountain.  More went farther than I was willing to go without a headlamp, a helmet, and any research about what to expect.  It's a good thing I didn't die on my last day.

The water, even in the extremely foggy weather, was very clear, especially near the caves.  In one of them a school of little fish kept jumping out of the water in the same spot, just ahead of my boat.   The other nice thing about the caves is that they were warmer and protected from the breeze.

I passed an island that was heavily fortified for a 15th century battle.

The air was getting cold and my fast paddling was no longer compensating so I decided to pull over at the next opportunity and put my dry top on.  As I pulled into an area sheltered by a seawall, with a large house on the land side, a man gestured to me from the shore that I was not welcome there.  He made himself very clear.  I kept on paddling.

Soon after there was a fisherman's port and I got dressed there.

Later I found a shortcut under a bridge that saved me from going around a peninsula as I had expected.  The bridge connected the mainland to a giant castle with lots of turrets and very high walls.

My destination was the LNI Naples.  I had passed many small harbors and while I was fairly certain it was still ahead, I wanted to makes sure.  I asked a fisherman and he told me I passed it already and, yes, he was certain.  I ignored him and kept on paddling.  Soon, I arrived.

I paddled 1,000 nautical miles from Barcelona to Naples.  I had set out to kayak further, but more importantly, I hoped to get the most out of an expedition.  In that, I found victory.  As I reflected on this, hot shower cleaning me, I was overcome by emotion.  Joy, weariness, accomplishment.  It's been a long way.

Walking through the crowded streets of Naples, I sang a lot, loudly.

"Jubilant Glee,

Jubilant Glee,

I have kayaked

one thousand miles."


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Current location:  Naples.


A couple more posts will follow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Into the Mountain

Day 64:

Today I paddled to Pozzuoli. While at first the scenery wasn't exciting, the weather has continued to be warm, sunny, and almost without wind.

I passed a small orange hill that had a tunnel leading into it. There were a number of rocks coming out of the water near the entrance to the tunnel, so I had to proceed very carefully to avoid them. The cave itself was a couple of meters wide with a very high ceiling.

As I paddled in I was pushed by waves that picked up strength when forced into the narrow passageway that weaved, turned and got thinner, before a light ahead gave way to an opening. I passed through the mountain and came out the other side into a stream bed.

I paddled up it a little ways then tried to turn around, but couldn't. The way was so narrow that I couldn't even turn around, so I paddled into the turbulent tunnel backwards, out the way I came. The only times I hit the walls were when I stopped to try to take pictures.

The rest of the day I paddled by islands and around large colorful cliffs with lookout towers and castles ready to defend against pirates. At least, they were probably ready 500 years ago. I explored four more caves, and passed others by. The last one was also a tunnel and turned out to be a shortcut through a mountain.  My day ended crossing a bay.

I was paddling near two sailboats when a larger ship came hurtling through. There was no way he didn't see the sailboats and me, and being a more maneuverable vessel then ours, we had the right of way. But the big boat didn't care and came straight at us from behind.

As I turned 90 degrees and scurried to get out of his way I took a moment to share my feelings with the pilot. From his lofty place up high in the ship he wouldn't have been able to hear me. But convinced as I was that he could see me, I hope he could also see the salute I gave him, one from each hand.

Tomorrow I finish my trip in Naples.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bad Lands

I had been warned.  In this part of Italy the people are not to be trusted.  They are bad people, I was told.  There are fights between crime families that leave headline casualties and people come here from all over to buy crack.

Day 63:

I paddled south.  The weather was good all day.  In the beginning there were woods behind the beach and that was nice.  But later there were rundown beach shacks and fences put up from temporary building materials.

Then there was the town.  Finished houses were falling down, some into the sea, and many buildings clearly had never finished being constructed.  It was a slum from some post apocalytic world, and people walked along the beach as though it was normal.

This town was not my destination, I was to arrive at the Lega Navali in the next town, Casta Volterno.  I was told to head all the way up the canal, to the very end.  It was a long canal, lined with fishing boats on one side and empty docks on the other.  The water was filthy with at least two layers of scum on it.  The farther up the canal I got the filthier it got.  Finally at the end up the foulest port I have ever imagined.  There was more trash floating on the water then Cheerios in your morning cereal.  The docks were falling apart and the fishermen that lined the seawalls and smiled were probably pulling out three eyed fish.

There at the end of the canal I saw an old rusty sign, barely holding on to a dilapidated building, windows all broken, that pronounced to whatever bum might be interested "Lega Navali."  I was not encouraged by this,  In fact, I was depressed.  I saw a place to get out of my kayak, the seawall was low and there were stairs going up.  The lower level was covered in a layer of slime, old decayed things, and nastiness.

A happy-looking woman approached from above, her name was Rosa and she ran a restaurant here in the port.  She asked if she could help. "Sure."  Soon people from Lega Navli showed up and were kind and welcoming.  Their chapter had effectively been shut down with the rest of the port, but they were still happy to have me.  I ended up staying the night with Rosa and Antoni, her husband.  Their home is a warm and soft place in a city Antoni told me ''Is not really Italy.''


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll

day 60:

[gallery columns="2" orderby="title"]

On Wenesday I hung around some small town in the middle of nowhere.  There was the canal and I was waiting by it since it was a good place to wait.  I was using my computer, nerd stuff, but I left it for a moment and when I came back it was ruined, as though somebody had stepped on it.
I walked along the canal for a while and then laid in the grass on its bank and watched the birds fly through a clear blue sky overhead.  I dreamed.
Back at the mouth of the river I sat with some men.  They were there all day, standing around and chatting.  One of them told me he was in the mafia.

Day 61:*

On Thursday I paddled in good weather to Terracina.  For the most part I was not near land, but I did pass right up against Capo Circeo, and it was the beautiful forests, cliffs, and ruined fortifications that turn my happy sunny days into more then just great kayaking, but a fantastic adventure along an old land.
As I made my crossing to Terricina with the sun setting behind me, a couple of motorized coast guard boat pulled up to harass me assure that I was a law abiding boater.  They wanted something from me and I couldn't figure out what it was across the language barrier. They started being nicer when I told them I had kayaked from Barcelona but asked me to wait while they figured out what to do with me.  After a time I told them that the ''Sola finito, io canoa porto.'' And was on my way.  One of the boats rode alongside me for a while, but when I tried to drop back to take advantage of their wake they stopped altogether.  I explained to them that their wake was good for me and they said ''OK'' but didn't start up again.  I continued paddling and they continued alongside me.  Eventually they left me.

I paddled into a busy port that appeared to be at the convergence of at least two cannals.  Lots of big fishing boats were running up and down the lanes, fortunately careful not to run me over.  The seawalls around the water were high, so when I found a ramp up into a shipyard it was a good place to take my boat off the water, and, fenced in, a secure place to leave it.

A coast guard officer found me there as I was unpacking and told me it was private property and I could not stay there.

''Could I speak to the owner?  Maybe I could get permission.''

I expected him to say no. ''One moment.''  The Coast Gaurdian left and came back with the owner.  Yes I could stay there overnight with my kayak, ''If anything is wrong, then I will kill you.''

''Nothing will be wrong.'' I told him confidently, but I was scared.  Later he came back and introduced me to the night security guard and said that if I needed anything then I should speak to him.  He also let me into a big yacht that was being repaired, and had a comfy couch that I could sleep on.  The security gaurd woke me up at around 8:30pm with some hot rice, but I told him that I needed to sleep.

Day 62:

On Friday I paddled to Scouri.  It was another sunny day, and in the afternoon I enjoyed a wonderful tailwind.  There were a number of sea caves more than large enough for me to lose time exploring, but I passed them by to arrive as early as possible before the approaching Sabbath.  I did get in one small one though.  Paddling into sea caves is awesome, it was my third so far.

I passed near a giant castle with lots of turrets.  Aparently this area was involved in lots of fighting with turkey back in the 1400's.

In Scouri there was a large group of people waiting to meet me.  There was wine and cakes.  I met the mayor and was interviewed by two news crews.  No I'm not making this up.

For the Sabbath I was in a hotel that the Lega Navli here was happy to cover for me.  I spent the afternoon with some of my hosts walking around a park just outside of the city.  I have stayed in many places and here, as in a few others, their kindness is overwhelming.

* I am told Day 60 is still in the bowels of Dov's damaged computer. ~ ed.

Another Kind of Repairs

Dear Friends,
I apologize for the recent dearth of posts.  Though I would like to blame my editor, since he puts up with it,* the reason is because my computer broke.  I think somebody may have stepped on it while I wasn't looking.  Some posts will be lost until I can rescue the contents of my hard drive, if they are still good, and will probably appear in my book along with other material that was too wild or scandalous to put on the internet.
I hope to do some writing tonight and again when I reach Naples, if all goes well, on Tuesday.  As my trip wraps up I would like to express genuine and heartfelt honor at the time you have spent reading my words.  Please, read my last few adventures and thoughts in the upcoming week or two, and then go on your own awesome adventures.  When you get back, buy my book if it's out.
All the best,

* It wouldn't be funny.  Your mother has been calling me. ~ ed.