June 23, 2014
Sorrento. “You pick up right at eleven and keep till four hours up,” the man at the booth says, lifting his eyebrows like a used car salesman.
It’s the evening of our last non-travel day and we are debating on renting a boat. Tomorrow, we leave on a train from Sorrento to go back to Naples so that we could catch another train to bring us back to Rome to catch a cab sent by the B&B so that we could rest before leaving on a plane to go back to Chicago the following day. The traditional trains, planes, and automobiles. And boats. Just thinking about our upcoming travel schedule gets my nerves jumping.
“Could we pick it up any earlier?” I ask. “We have to catch a train at 15:30 (3:30pm).”
“We have office right at train station!” he says happily, waving his hand nonchalantly. “You bring luggage there in morning, go to dock, and no worries! Bring back boat when you need!”
I look at Steve. He looks at me. One of the things on our “must-do” list was cruise on the Amalfi and go to (or at least see) Capri. We looked into taking a boat tour, but they were all at least eight hours long. It was either Pompeii or a cruise, and we had chosen Pompeii which was absolutely amazing. Then we got this idea: rent a boat and go by our own schedule. But this is going to be cutting it close. Real close.
“Alright,” Steve confirms. “Let’s do it.” I smile at him, then nod my head in agreement. It will be our last hurrah.
“Okee!” The man in the booth says excitedly. He smiles and hands us the paperwork.
The next morning, we pack up, say arrivederci to the lovely Grand Hermitage Hotel, ride the shuttle down, down, down the mountain while chatting it up with some Brits, and then make our way into the train station. I feel as though my back and arms have gotten stronger, carrying all of our things around for three weeks. Although I have gotten used to it, it will be nice to not have to carry everything I own on my back anymore. (And yet, I know that I will miss the adventure of travel-life as soon as I have caught up on all of the sleep I have missed.)
We find the representative of the boat rental company, put our things in an unlockable locker, worry about that for a few minutes but then decide to go with it. Who wants to lug all that stuff on a boat and possibly soak it before having to travel to Rome?
Following the directions of the guy in charge, we walk, and walk, and walk to the dock on the other side of Sorrento. It takes longer than we thought it would (as everything on this trip has) but eventually we arrive at Captain Ago’s dockside office.
“Hello!” He says happily. “Welcome! Your boat is on its way here from another dock. Be here real soon.”
Steve looks at his watch and gives me a slightly worried look. It is already a little after eleven. We pass the time by using the bathroom, petting Captain Ago’s German Shepherd, and asking basic boat operational questions as well as how to get to Capri. He explains that Capri is an easy ride and about a half hour drive from the dock.
“Yes, once boat arrives, you take driver back to other dock to fill up with gas,” the Captain states nonchalantly as I give Steve a look. “Then you will have boat to yourself. Keep the coast to your left and just follow up. You will see Capri.”
Steve takes another look at his watch. “Well, you see,” he starts. “we don’t have a lot of time. We have to be at the train station at 15:00 (3pm).”
“It’s no problem!” Ago laughs, throwing his hand out. “The other dock is only about five minutes away. We go out there now. It should be pulling up any minute.”
We follow behind him and the dog follows behind us. We go out to the last dock just as a nice little speedboat is pulling up. I am pleasantly surprised- I half-expected to be riding in an old rusty fishing boat. Captain Ago greets the driver. There are quick introductions and salutations as we hop in and the driver shows Steve how to work the boat. When Steve has the hang of it, he takes over the driving while the man directs. In about ten minutes, we pull up to the dock and start filling up. I sit in the front, ready to go.
“So, just follow the coast that way,” Steve points back the way we came. “And we will see Capri? In about 30 minutes?”
“You’ll see Capri in fifteen.” he yells over the boat motor. “Make sure you go through Lover’s Arch and-” he makes a kissing sound. “Oh! And drinks are under that seat.” He points to the back left one.
Amalfi Coast. We say our thanks, take one more notation of the time, and then Steve backs up and moves out. Once we are out of the no wake zone, he takes off like a bat out of hell! Salt water sprays all over me as I am lifted into the air. I laugh in spite of feeling a little nervous and look at Steve, who is having the time of his life. He has definitely embraced the captain role. My eyes gaze over the coastline, which is littered with colorful houses and buildings hanging onto the sides of mountains. Up ahead, I see some castle-like ruins resting on a cliff. Once a large abode, it is now a crumbling home to seagulls.
Mount Vesuvius watches us menacingly in the distance. A feeling of freedom washes over me. I stick my arms straight out like I am flying. We go over some waves and I catch my balance. When I glance back at Steve again, he is laughing and carefree. A smile practically breaks my face in half as the stress of travel is washed away. As we clear the edge of the coastline, Capri comes into view. With the sun beating down so bright, it looks like a glowing mountain in the middle of the ocean. As we get closer to Capri, we slow down to take it all in. Steve opens up the seat with the drinks and finds beer amidst the water. We each crack one open and coast along, marveling in this haven. I take a good look down at the water. It is sapphire blue glass, so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom. The sun glistens off the surface. Along the left side of Capri, we find Lover’s Arch; a giant natural-made arch of solid grey rock.
We see boats going through it and decide to follow suit. As we get closer, I stare up at this gorgeous natural sculpture standing proudly in the ocean. Birds, gliding on the breeze, soar right through the center, back and forth, back and forth, like a game. We sail cleanly underneath it, sneaking a quick kiss so Steve can continue driving safely.
He takes a look at his watch. “Quarter after noon,” he announces.
We decide to find a spot to cast anchor so we can swim. When we are still, I realize how hot it is. I take off my sundress and flip flops, put my big toe in the water to test the temperature.
“Geronimo!” Steve rushes past me and off the side of the boat. I follow in after. To say the water is refreshing is an understatement; feeling that water wash over me is like being reborn.
We swim for awhile, looking through the glass-like water and watch the multicolored fish swim beneath our feet. I look around at the jagged cliffs and coves carved into the sides of them, the water rushing in and out like ruffles in blue satin. I ask Steve to hop back in and check the time, although part of me is thinking about forgetting the train and staying here for the full four hours. Forgetting reality and staying in Italy.
“It’s 1:45.” He says regretfully. “Should we just take a later train?” It’s as if he reads my mind sometimes.
“We already set up the driver to pick us up in Rome, at 5:30.” I remind him. “Although, I can’t say I wasn’t thinking the same thing!” We stare at each other wordlessly. “We better start drying off,” I reluctantly decide.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
And so it is settled and we are back on the boat, cruising along the coastline of Capri. We check out one of the many coves and see that the water looks even clearer inside. I’m regretting that we don’t have more time to actually go onto Capri and look around; I guess that means we will have to come back someday and fulfill that unrequited desire.
At 2:15, Steve says, “We better start heading back.” I verbally let out a groan.
“Hey, want to try driving?” Steve asks to lighten the mood.
“Uh, okay.” I say and get behind the wheel. Steve shows me the basics to driving. “Forward means go, so push it slowly.”
I push it, a little too quickly, and the boat jerks forward. Steve gives me an I-told-you-so look and then guides it forward the right way. I soon get the hang of it and am riding the waves, squinting in the sun, and going back towards the coast. It occurs to me that this is our first in our journey home. I fully take in these final minutes of this experience; of our time in Italy; of our three-week European adventure. The water has mostly dried off of me and there is a grainy residue left on my skin and hair. Here I am: right in the middle of the stuff life is made of.
**We missed our train, but that’s a whole other story altogether.**