Beach Ball

by tkos on August 14, 2012

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From a great height, we look down on the amazing Italian sea view. The coastal road into Italy seemed to go either one of two ways, either straight up or straight down.  The winding road divided the crashing waves from the steep white cliffs, reaching sea level when going through the beach towns and half way to the sky when going inland. In between towns we were led back into the mountains reaching great heights in short distances. Steep doesn’t justifiably describe these roads, just like sweat doesn’t justifiably describe our shirts. It was the middle of Summer after all.

My parents were flying into Italy from Melbourne in a few days to meet us, and we were still more than 500km away from the rented apartment in Lucca, Tuscany, where we were to meet. Technically, we didn’t really have anywhere to be as my parents are pretty laid back. ‘We’ll see you whenever you get there!’, but I hadn’t seen them in more than three years and they were flying from the other side of the world to see us. At least we could do was be there on time.

The sun was scorching. We were drinking more than six litres of water each per day just to stay hydrated, slowly climbing the steep ascents at no more than 7km per hour, furiously perspiring and stopping every few hundred meters just to catch breath. The glide down the other side was capped by the need to brake around blind turns and avoid the wild Italian drivers.  Then just to face more perspiration and ascent. It was relentless. But the solution was obvious… we were at the beach, let’s go swimming!

The Italian coast is under the shade of sun lounges

Flying down the mountain into beach town after beach town, we wanted our first Italian swim to be incredible. A couple of towns of inadequate beaches, we wanted our first swim to be reasonable. Then, after a couple more towns of overcrowded beaches, we just wanted our first Italian swim to be wet. The beaches are incredible. Incredibly packed that is. It is like nothing I have ever seen. Sun lounges no more than six inches away from each other with rows and rows of practically naked Italian strangers lying next to each other so comfortably. As far as the beach would stretch down the coast, it would be masked with the various colours of sun lounges, hiding any sight of sand that may lay underneath. Quite simply, it looked like our worst nightmare.

Determined not to be deterred from the masses and deny ourselves a well deserved swim, we toyed with the idea of sleeping on the beach. The downside to this is that we are in a commercial area in the peak season. It means that the police are on alert and alcohol fuelled idiots roam free, making us and our equipment easy prey. When sleeping in public, if you don’t feel safe, then you’re not going to sleep, so there’s just no point. You may as well move. The upside to sleeping on the beach, is that you get the whole place to yourself, you get to have a night swim and you wake up to one of the most beautiful and natural sceneries in the world. This time, the risk is well worth the reward.

Dusk is setting and we cycle slowly along the esplanade. We have no choice now, on one side we are faced with cliffs covering mountains and the other side is the deep blue sea. The chill in the air has sent all but a few of the beach dwellers home. We peruse the beach, looking for a space that is not easily seen from the road that will provide the comfort we seek. And there it is, the perfect spot, up against a towering wall, tucked beneath a set of stairs. A few hundred meters down the beach is a black tie function. We decide to camp on our stretch of the now deserted beach. Kimmi starts to cook and I go for a long awaited night time splash. We’re home for the night. Alone. Perfect.

‘Hey guys! Where are you from?’ Shit. Another couple had set up a tent in the dark, about 30 meters away from us. They have the whole beach to camp, yet they decide to sleep on our doorstep. We are the only four people on this stretch. Strangers, yet they think we shouldn’t be.

Kimmi is making spaghetti Bolognese as I sit and dry from my splash in the sea. My legs crossed at the ankles as my knees tucked up into my chest, I let my towel catch the drips as the bloke from this couple and I engage in small ‘traveller’ talk. We swap a few polite niceties as he stands over me. We haven’t spoken to any other travellers, well, since we left.

‘No problem have a great night, might catch you later!’ our new friend quickly exclaims and makes a sharp exit. That’s odd, I thought. I didn’t think that I was being particularly rude and so was surprised by his hurried and almost awkward exit. I sat on the beach and pondered his strange behaviour. Kimmi looks at me with confusion as the gentle night sea breeze wanders through us.

And that gentle breeze gives me a chill in my shorts. I look down between my legs to see a gaping huge hole in my swimmers and my left bullock hanging out.

Perhaps I had been a little too inviting to our new friend after all.

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