Monday, June 3, 2013

Italy - Stray Cats and the Mediterranean

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A cat sanctuary in Rome. Photo credit: Amos Faritano. Image used from:
27 miles - Sunday, October 16

We frequently woke all night long, to the frenetic yowling of campground cats. The Italians have an affinity for felines, though it's more probable their populations are beyond control. They prowl roadsides or antiquities like the Coliseum in Rome. Andy and I observe them in campgrounds where–I suspect–a constant supply of travelers take pity and provide sustenance. 

We often leave the screen door unzipped. It helps ventilate the tent. I was awakened however, by weight on my ankles, startled to discover a creature–and in retrospect, most likely a cat–camping with us. However, in my groggy state, I kicked the tent walls, whipping up a fury. The animal disappeared. For safety, I zipped the screen door and went back to sleep. Later, Andy shooed a tiger-striped feline out of the vestibule.

And so it was with disbelief the next morning that neither Andy nor I could locate a white plastic bag with two yummy rolls. Hungry touring cyclists do not throw out food. We horde anything edible because we never know where the next meal will come from. I waited patiently while Andy rechecked panniers. He has a tendency to misplace items. However, this time he came up short.

The cats took them,” he said, with a straight face. “It had to be them. Where else would they've gone?”

I smiled. Cats ate meat, cheese, egg. And, of course, milk. Anything beyond those two food groups seemed too finicky for felines. I waited for my husband to cough up the rolls.

No, really. I don't have them.” He shrugged.

Now, I know cats are crafty, but rolls can't just disappear. “Are you telling me they unzipped our bags and helped themselves?”

Actually, I threw a couple cereal pieces at them earlier and they ate it.”

Now he tells me. Actually, I find his generosity amusing. Andy normally hates cats. He's allergic to them and dislikes their instinct to kill birds.

So, somehow they made off with the rolls?” I said, realizing the bag was likely on the ground while he rummaged for cereal. 

“Looks like it.”

Well, if that didn't beat all, I thought.

In all fairness, since we were the only campground inhabitants, the cats had adopted us, hoping we would adopt them. Unlike Andy, I love cats. However I can be cranky if I don't get a restful sleep, or an animal has made off with food. I pictured a tiger-striped mongrel, bag in mouth, trotting off to inspect his plunder, devouring tasty rolls that would no longer accompany my breakfast. Instead, I put jam on a rock hard chunk of bread that chewed up the roof of my mouth. Hope you're satisfied, kitty.
A shell found on the beach. I traced the edges in my journal then drew in the lines.
Putting distance between our food cache and foraging cats, we pedaled away under warm sunshine and headed towards the coast. A shift in climate, even since Rome, has propelled us into more arid terrain. It seems like long ago that we dodged the northern region's wetness and cold. Palm trees thrive in sandy soil. We cruise southward, catching glimpses of the Mediterranean between resort areas. It's lovely, quiet Sunday riding. Lycra-clad Italians zip along on their own bicycles, intent on speed and completing their own course.

South of Nettuno, Attare, and Torre Astura, the aqua waters draw us like a cyclist to ice cream. It's a nice spot for lunch. We walk bare feet in the sand, enjoying the ocean sounds, watering toes. Barely a dozen people are on the beach, testament that tourist season is over. Before we know it, we've found a nearby campground for 10,000 Lira (7.00 USD), least expensive Italian accommodation yet (except last night's free spot without amenities). It feels right to stop at noon. No mad scramble at 5 p.m. to locate open camping. We take advantage of time to relax, wash laundry, and bathe in the afternoon instead of evening. And, fortunately, without hungry felines to contend with.

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