After Pa Pa Yaw and I went out separate ways, I continued on around the lake on the narrow cycle path. It was a great day. A fresh breeze was blowing, and the sun was shining.
I rounded a corner and saw that the cycle path finished up ahead. I went straight on and was just about to reach the road when a voice piped up in a perfect American accent.
I stopped in my tracks and turned around. This can’t be an Italian. He speaks too good English to be Italian.
“You speak English?” I replied.
Steve and his wife Jutta were sitting outside their house enjoying the afternoon sunshine. We got chatting, and they offered me a drink. It was hot. The drink with ice cubes in it was refreshing.
Before I knew it, I had met almost everyone who lived within a 50m radius of their place, including at least three dogs.
Rhiner and his family from Germany, the 80 year old owner of the hotel next door, the man with his plants, the woman who loved to talk and played a clown for local kids events, the adorable daughter of Rhiner, the cross-breed pooch who liked nothing more than to pee on anything in sight, the manicured princess of a pooch who couldn’t eat the dog bicuits whole (you had to bite them in half for her), and the smiling dog.
It was getting late, and Rhiner asked when he got up to leave whether I would be staying the night. There was a moment of silence, and then there were shrugs of “I guess so”.
I spent a total of four wonderful relaxing days at Steve and Jutta’s place.
Steve and Jutta are both retired, but spent much of their lives in the air industry. Steve was a pilot for various airline companies, and Jutta was an air hostess. They entertained me with stories of life in the air and of the places they had been. What an interesting life they had both led and continue to lead in Italy.
During my time in Peschiera with Steve and Jutta, I went for an afternoon ride with Rhiner, who often cycled from his home in Germany to his holiday apartment in Italy. We cycled down the Mincio River that runs from Lake Garda, along a cycle path for about 13km.
We ended up in Salionze, a smal picturesque town with water powered flour mills. Thanks to Rhiner for the very pleasant afternoon.
So thank you to Steve and Jutta for such a wonderful few days relaxing in their little spot of paradise on the shores of Lage Garda in Peschiera. I will be back one day for sure!
I got woken up on the cycle path on the morning of Day 261 by the sound of bicycles rolling past. What the rider must have been thinking, I can’t imagine. He would have seen a guy wrapped up in a sleeping bag, curled up beside his strange looking bike. Perhaps he thought I had had a few too many and had fallen off my bike and slept where I lay…
I got up and headed along the cycle path towards Lake Garda.
The intention was to cycle past Lake Garda and head on towards Brecia. The travel fairy had other plans, and I have now been on the shores of Lake Garda for the last four days.
The excitement began with a chance meeting with an Ghanian guy called Pa Pa Yaw. He was sitting despondent on the side of the busy road with his head in his hands and a mountian bike beside him.
I stopped and pulled my bike off the road and sat beside him. He offered a limp handshake as I introduced myself. He seemed glad to hear that I was not Italian.
A quick look at his bike showed that the rear mech (the thing that hangs down on the back wheel) had got caught in the spokes of the wheel, and had been wrenched up backwards. Not too unlike this episode in my own experience. The mech hanger was bent, but with the tools I had, I knew I could fix it.
“Italy no good country! Italians no good people!” Pa Pa Yaw would say over and over as I proceeded to take his bike to bits.
“No Italian stop. Many bike pass, no Italian stop. And, me no document, no work.” From this I figured he was here on a tourist visa. I also figured he was either high or mildly drunk. He asked me at least three times how old I was.
I had the bike fixed and rolling again in about 20 minutes of fiddling. Pa Pa Yaw was happy. Happy at me.
I told him that I was going on to Lake Garda, and seeming to have nothing else to do, Pa Pa Yaw decided on a whim that he would come too. We shared a banana and went on our way, Pa Pa Yaw seeming happy to be on his bike and content with cycling rather than sitting and feeling sorry for himself.
Apart from a quick stop at a supermarket to get pasta for lunch, we cycled direct to the lake.
Once at the lake, we set up my cooker to cook the pasta I had bought. While the water was boiling, Pa Pa Yaw pulled out 0.70 Euro in coins.
“An old lady give me dis outside supermarket” he said contemplatively.
While in the supermarket buying the pasta earlier, Pa Pa Yaw had stayed outside to keep an eye on the bicycles. Apparently, an old Italian woman came up to him and handed him the coins, with no solicitation from Pa Pa Yaw at all.
I poured the tomato sauce on the pasta, and we dug in. Me using a pair of makeshift chopsticks cut from a nearby tree, and Pa Pa Yaw using my fork.
I asked him how he got to Italy from Ghana.
“Seventeen days in the desert. No wata. No food” he said in a loud, thin voice. He had one of those accents that you’d expect from a guy from Africa.
“From Lybia, I come by boot” he continued. He pointed a skinny, calloused finger at a fast-speed passenger boat on the lake, speeding towards its destination.
“No boot like dat! Nooooo. Noooooo way. Slow boot. People died. Up to here the wata was.” He held his hand up to his chin.
“Had to walk in the wata to the boot. Tirty six hours on the boot to Sardegna. Noooooo wata, only what you carry.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. I had no reason to doubt him.
How much did it cost to get from Lybia to Italy?
“One tousand five hundred Euros!” he scoffed.
“I will go with you to Switzerland. You can help me cross border. Switzerland good country. Italy baaaad, bad country.”
It was tough work convicing him that there was little I could do to help. He had explained that his brothers lived in Verona.
Finally I convinced him to go back to Verona.
He cycled a little way with me along the lake. After a while, I heard a weak voice.
“I go back now.” He stood over his bike looking down.
I offered a hand, and he shook it weakly.
“Pa Pa Yaw.”
He talked in a serious and meanful tone, as if to make sure that the Italian authorities that denied him his documents heard it and understood.
We went our separate ways. Pa Pa Yaw from Ghana to the east, and me on to the west.
Fair Verona. Fairly crowded.
I got up early this morning. By 6:30am I was on the road. I figured it was less hassle not to be found sleeping in the big tunnel house that I had bedded in last night.
It was still cold. I oculdn’t be bothered to get my gloves out of deep within my panniers. I just alternated hands on the handlebar. One in my pocket warming up, one on the handlebar.
I stopped at a delicatessen – the only shop open before 8am – and bought some cheese, ham, yoghurt and dried mushrooms. The yoghurt went well with my polenta for breakfast. The other items I saved for lunch.
From Belfiore to Verona, it was just a short blat along mostly quiet country roads and a great cycle path along the Adije River. At one point I got a hearty round of applause from a group of young picnikers waking up from a night camping out on the banks of the river.
The path becomes a little more exciting the closer you get to Verona. In the end I was on single track. I go crazy on single track. All thoughts of saving my energy for a long day on the bike go out of the window, and it becomes all about how hard and fast I can ride, keeping to that little line of clear ground. Dodging horses and joggers, I finally made it to Verona in one piece.
Verona was worse than Venice in terms of hoardes of humans. Granted, it was a public holiday, but any notion of cycling through the old part of the city was quickly done away with. I locked the bike to a rail and wandered into the fray.
However, as it was with Venice, Verona was very nice once you got off the tourist routes. I wandered around for close to a whole day, and watched as the city dipped into darkness, the grand colloseum looking all the more impressive with the subdued lighting.
Once again I left the city only once it became dark. The west was calling, and I made my way out of the city at around 8pm, along the banks of the Adije. Spots to sleep were thin pickings, so I finally set up my sleeping mat and sleeping bag directly on the cycle path, hoping noone would run me over during the night…
I spent a lazy day in Vicenza, sitting for almost four hours in the central square, watching Italians.
They’re a funny bunch, these Italians. Wonderfully friendly, and oh so stylish.
They wear well cut clothing, and ride classy, often single-speed city bikes. I felt out of place in my dirty, damaged travel clothes.
The city itself is a very pretty city with quiet cobbled streets and the same narrow alleys that I have become accustomed to here in the old Italian cities.
Towards the end of the day, I was sick of watching. So I got on my bike and cycled west towards Verona. I knew I wouldn’t make it (I left at about 5pm), but I needed to be on the bike.
I cycled on into the night, something I rarely do. A flashing light at the back, and my puny LED headlight on the front of the bike. It wasn’t until around 10pm that I stopped for the night. Towards the side of a seculded road I spied a quiet tunnelhouse with some farm machinery in it. It was obviously private property, but there were no fences. I figured if I was found sleeping there in the morning that the owners would understand my plight.
Poor lost New Zealand cycle-adventurer needed a dry place to lay his head…
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 105.95km
Average speed / 平均速度: 15.4km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 52m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1191.4km (plus 9700km)
First things first. The 14degrees Off The Beaten Track website had the honour of being chosen by .citycycling online magazine as the website of the month this month (Issue 22). Woohoo. Check out the stylish .citycycling online mag here.
And now to the daily action…
All these cities starting with ‘V’…all rather confusing.
I ate half a chicken for breakfast today. I couldn’t help myself. It looked so good. And at 2 Euros…I just had to indulge. Who knows how they can produce and cook a chook for that little. I hate to think.
This is what remained in my food bag:
Click on the photo for an ‘interactive’ photo with ‘notes’ for a description for each item
I felt a little tired today. All that walking in Venice perhaps. Give me cycling any day over walking…
I don’t know what it is with me an cemeteries, but I saw lots of people going in and out of a pretty looking building, and when I wandered inside to have a gawk, it ended up being the Padova cemetery.
A very impressive cemetery at that. I couldn’t help but think that upkeeping a grave is hard work. Hundreds of people were at work putting fresh flowers on graves, trimming bonsai sized trees on the graves, washing graves.
I liked Vicenza even before I arrived. It has a long cycle path running from the east of town all the way west into town. It was nice to be off the road for a while.
A big basilica called Monte Berico distracted me however, and I made the steep uphill pedal to this impressive church.
By the time I had walked around the basilica, it was time to search for a spot to sleep, finally settling on a secluded spot of grass just off the cycle path.
Ended up sleeping near a small marina last night. I slept unusually well.
Now you see, I never intended to go to a really famous place when I first set out from Japan 8 months ago. The name of the game was off the beaten track. Venice is about as beaten as you can get, but it does not disappoint.
First impressions were ‘yikes, I took a wrong turn and ended up in Disneyland’.
People everywhere. The entrance to the city is amass with busses and parking buildings. In the center of the city is a huge square, with people lining up in droves to get into the best attractions. Ugh. First impressions were not good.
However after a nap in the early afternoon, I began to feel more at home, noticing the smaller things as I wandered the almost completely deserted side alleys.
Walking in the unassuming alleyways, you get more of a feeling of a normal city.
Meeting the locals is always fun.
Streets so quiet, you could sit there for hours, just watching the shadows.
I took more video of Venice than I did photos. When time permits, I will do something with it and upload. Until then we’ll have to be content with stills.
If only I had a big block of polystyrene or a lilo…
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 140.03km
Average speed / 平均速度: 18.0km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 7h 46m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1067.08km (plus 9700km)
Ascent / 上り: +200m
Descent / 下り: -200m
Mmmmm. Flat roads.
I felt the excitement growing in me as I neared Venice.
Venice. Am I really going to be in Venice?
That’s where the streets are made of water, right?
I’ve never been so excited about a city in my whole life.
I arrived late, at around 6pm. I had made the mistake of only emailing one potential CouchSurfing.org host. His email told me that his house was full. I decided to leave the Venice sightseeing till tomorrow, and search for a place to sleep. It was great weather, and promised to be a fair night.
I got an email from a Couchsurfing member today, and ended up in Cervignano in a house full of avid soccer fans.
My host for the night was Filippo, and what’s more, I was his first ever guest. Big thanks to Filippo and the Cervignano Amateur Football Club for taking me in and feeding me and giving me a place to sleep.
Filippo doesn’t always look this crazy. This is the funny photo version of our photo together.
I leave you with some photos and a vid from Palmanova, the craziest city ever. It is perfectly symetrical, in a round shape.
Spent the good part of a whole day in the internet cafe updating.
The excitement came when I was looking for somewhere to sleep. It was raining, and I found a cemetery with high walls and big bushy fur pine trees to shelter under.
The rain kept on raining, so I took a stroll in the cemetary while waiting for the rain to stop.
When I returned to my bike, I noticed that the cemetary gates had been locked shut. There was no going back now, I was locked in till morning. The gates were high, as were the walls. No way to get my bike over them.
I slept like a baby.
Or a dead person.
A somewhat suitable end to Peter and I’s trek across the karst region of Slovenia, was a day of visiting cemeteries. We found many along our route, two of which were the resting places of more than 10,000 soldiers who died on the Socho (Isonzo) Front in Slovenia during the First World War from 1915 to 1917.
In the Brje pri Komnu cemetery, 2,400 soldiers who died in the Brje military hospital are buried. In the Gorjansko cemetary 10,000 soldiers of various nationalities are buried.
In Nova Gorica, we visited an old Jewish cemetery. Unlike the other two cemeteries, this one is not sign posted, and there is no obvious path to the entrance. It seems almost forgotten.
On a lighter note, we had our hardest climb of these four days today. 150m pretty much straight up. The church at the top made for a good reward for the hard work.
And how’s this for a big bridge? The biggest stone arch in the world in Nova Gorica. This arch has been destroyed twice, but has also been rebuilt twice. Jolly good.
Like all good things, our trek over the karst by recumbent bike had to come to an end. Peter escorted me to the border with Italy and we said our farewells.
I feel very privileged to have cycled with Peter for these four days. He is very well learned on the history and geography of the region, and a pleasure to be with. I had become accustomed to being able to forget about the cycling, and just enjoying the surroundings – something that is hard to do when you have no one to talk to on the road.
For Peter’s version of events, take a look here. In Slovenian, but he takes great photos.
So thank you Peter for taking the time to cycle with me in Slovenia. Thank you for arranging accommodation and connecting me with interesting people along the way. I hope we can cycle together again one day. Perhaps in New Zealand even?
Fern frond on the West Coast of New Zealand