Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One Hour from the Pullman on the Way to Naples

From the upper deck of the "Pullman," a double-decker bus, I have an elevated view of the passing countryside as we make our way to Naples, now nearly 8:30 in the morning and about one short hour outside of Bari, from where we had departed. The sky is grey, but of a type that, by my meteorologic estimation, shouldn't lead to rain, although it has been either snowing or raining every day over the past week. The Pullman is quiet except for the drowsy grumble of the engine and the rolling thunder of the tires as we move along at a steady rate.

We pass by groves of olive trees, small brown birds dart among the branches, which seem to stretch out for grey-green miles on either side of the autostrada, separated occasionally by the slumbering vineyards, brown and withered now, awaiting more luscious seasons. Much of the damp ground is dark green and smoldering fires dot the landscape which only adds to the ghostly haze hanging over everything. Periodically, a deserted stone structure in the middle of a nowhere field, a distant hilltop town through in the distance and even, sporadically, a trullo, an ancient stone abode with a cone-shaped roof typical of this region and much more common around the town of Alberobello in Puglia, can be seen.

The Pullman continues onward as I look out the window. We seem to be outside the region of stone as all of the fences are made of wire now, the upper strand of which is barbed. The stone walls which seem to divide everything in Putingnano are gone. Even the groves of olive trees have disappeared, replaced by the muddy, endless, tilled fields awaiting a more fertile season.

Rumbling along now, it is windier out in the open flatland, and I can hear the wind whistling as if buffets our giant vehicle on a road with, otherwise, scant traffic. It seems that even the vineyards have been left behind in favor of farms and other agricultural factories along the horizons. The wide sky ahead looks black and we fly toward it with focused attention. The land begins to make stronger curvatures and swells. The road begins to cut deeply into the dark earth. Hills surround us, marred only with veins of electrical wires and abandoned farmhouses. A large green sign above the road indicates with an arrow the direction to Naples, and another sign the direction to Candela, which must overlook this road at the top of the green hill on our left.

The terrain becomes rockier as we move through a green valley with a mild fog now which inhibits any far view. The road itself snakes widely along a dirty stream as we cross from Puglia into Campagnia, ascending low hills and passing through short tunnels every few moments. Everywhere, the white, yellow and grey rock seems to surface from within the crumbling earth, and the trees along the stream persist with orange leaves and red branches.

The Pullman trundles ever higher and the fog becomes so thick that only the road and the rails along the side of it can be seen. Trees and shrubs loom a little further away as shadows. We pass through another tunnel in a foggy yellow light. A small sign reads:
We begin to descend and pick up speed as we drop out of the clouds and return to a more visible world. We twist along and the frequency of houses and farms increases. We're making good time and may arrive in Naples earlier than expected.

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