Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 89.25km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.0km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 8h 05m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2061.1km (plus 9700km)
Ascent / 上り: +1780m
Descent / 下り: -1365m
By the vertical meters I climbed today, you’d almost think I was cycling in the Swiss Apls…
The day began with some more picturesque Italian alps foothills villages, this one the center square of Villadossola.
And just in case you ever wanted to know, this is what the rear end of my bike looks like. Yes, the rear light is attached by a piece of garden hose. I didn’t have the drill required to drill a hole in steel pipe, so I melted some holes in the garden hose to do the attachment. And hey, it has lasted 12,000km, so isn’t all bad.
Enough of the gratuitous bottom shots, and onto the real action.
I was eased into the mountains slowly, with the haze of the Italian side of the alps giving me teasing hints into the wonder that was to follow.
A road sign pointed towards Siberia. I gave that a miss, thinking it would take another few years if I went via that road.
The task for the day was to get up over Simplon pass to the town of Brig in Switzerland. From Domodossola, that was about 60km with a 2005m high pass in the middle. The plan was to take it easy and see how things went.
As usual, I was feeling good arriving in a new country. As soon as I crossed the border, the environment changed. The air smelt great for some reason. Like Heidi had just skipped past or something, leaving a scent of fields of daisies. Like, honestly, the air really did smell different. I thought maybe they had special scent dispensers hidden in the mountains to welcome tourists…
In search of water after the border, I found myself at Fort Gondo. A massive mountain fotress carved into the rock. To see the whole fort you needed to ring someone to arrange a visit, but the main access tunnel was open to the public. It led to a massive 90mm cannon aimed just right to ensure the quick dismissal of any unwanted visitors heading up the Simlpon Pass.
The road up the pass is steep in places, but never goes over 9%. I was happy enough to spin away in my lowest gear for the four or so hours it took to get to the top.
From the top it was a quick 22km downhill. What took four hours to climb, took all of 15 minutes to descend.
My first ever night sleeping in the beautiful country that is Switzerland was on the covered porch of a deserted building.permalink 1通のコメントあり
I slept in a small shed last night along side the canal that runs from the Ticino River to Milano.
As I was packing up preparing to leave, the apparent owner wandered by to check the water channels in the adjacent fields and seemed none too perturbed when I indicated by gestures that I had slept there during the night. Jolly nice lot, these rural Italians.
I headed from there straight to the Ticino River. The Ticino River flows out of Lake Maggiore. Lake Maggiore is the lake I needed to pass by in order to get to the pass that would link me with Switzerland.
Along the Ticino River towards the southern end of Lake Maggiore is Parco Lombardo Valle del Ticino, a nature reserve. The reserve has many tracks for walking, horse riding, and cycling. I promptly got lost, having a blast in the process.
At times the tracks reminded me of Tajikistan. Big, loose rocks, soft leafy ground.
The 10 or so kilometers to Seste Calendo took way longer than it should have, but hey, what a great way to break the monotony of endless sealed roads.
I had lunch today on the shores of Lake Maggiore. The southern end of the lake where I had lunch is not so great. Buzzing insects, stinky sand, and the air all a bit too hazy for my liking. And waht’s with all the middle aged Russian-speaking women drinking vodka? Honestly, it was the weirdest thing in the world. I thought I must have missed a sign to the entrance of the park saying ‘Park for Russian Speaking Middle Aged Women Only’. There were gaggles of these women spotted all over the place, with no other males in sight. One particularly curious group wandered over and began inspecting my cooking skills. They were from the Ukraine, and were suitably impressed with my fettucine, tomato puree, tuna, and walnut concoction.
I gobbled my lunch far too quickly, and made a hasty getaway after one of the women stated rather too enthusiastically that her daughter was 25 years old.
“Only slightly younger than you!” she breathed, with that twinkle in her eye.
I have seen that twinkle before. It is that twinkle that lays bare a mother’s desire to see their daughter marry a rich young western bachelor. Most often seen in central Asian countries, and very often accompanied by a grin showing a mouthful of gold teeth.
I was happy to get away, lest the mistaken image of me as a rich western bachelor be revealed.
Near Stresa, a town along the western side of Lake Maggiore, I had my first real mechanical breakdown of the trip. My indexing ring on the thumb shifters broke, leaving me only with the friction setting.
And now for those who are not as cycle savvy as some, here is the detailed version of what happened:
My bicycle has gears. When I change these gears, much like on a car, it gets easier or harder to pedal. On the back wheel, there are 9 cogs, all bigger or smaller than each other. By moving the chain from one cog to another, I can select what gear I pedal in.
To make changing from one cog to another easier, my gear leaver that I move using my right thumb has a special thing inside it called an index ring. This index ring makes a clicking sound to let me know that I have moved the leaver just enough so that the chain jumps up or down a cog, enough to smoothly change gears.
Well, this index ring somehow broke in half today.
The object above is the index ring, and it is supposed to be a ring. Not two halves of a ring.
All is not lost however, and there is a backup function on the gear lever whereby I can just move the gear lever freely without the clicking sound to guide me. After 8 months of constantly moving the gear lever to the several positions needed to select gears, I have the positions mentally set in my mind. Kind of like a violin player. I have gone from having frets to no frets.
Old stuff abounds in Italy. Old houses.
As the title of this post suggests, I slept in a warehouse tonight. It was concrete. Massive and echoey.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
I left Shirley and Yuri’s wonderful abode at about 2pm with a nice little 10 minute powerpoint presentation nestled safely in my USB memory stick. Thank you again to Shirley and Yuri for letting me take over their computer for a day!
Oh, and Shirley makes some mean Japanese cuisine. The tofu was awesome.
I headed from Seregno towards Legnano. The general mission for today was to buy stuff. A regular shopping spree. My big break came when I spied a big shopping mall near Legnano. Bought some togs (not ‘man skins‘), some new trousers and a t-shirt, and some rubber shoe things for walking in the water.
All in the name of summer camp counsellor work, due to begin on the 29th of April. After surviving for 8 months with only one set of clothing (the set that I wear every single day), I figured it was time to splash out and get a second set.
After all action, I was hungry. As hungry as a wasp…
I chowed down like a hungry school boy on the bread rolls and boiled eggs and other goodies that Shirley had ever so very kindly prepared for me this morning.
The shopping spree took most of the afternoon, so when I finally emerged from the extra-sensory abuse that was the mall, I rode off after the quick meal in a daze into the fading sun towards Castano Primo, a small town in the general direction of the Ticino River.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
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!permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
I have spent today sitting inside using Yuri and Shirley’s internet that they have kindly let me use. I have updated the last few days of cycling through Italy, with a few decent shots of churches…
There is something that I would really like some help on however. I am trying to put together a powerpoint presentation with some of the best photos of the trip so far. I am trying to choose at the most 50 photos (preferably less) that sum up the journey so far.
Here is what I have chosen after going through the 1,300 photos I have online:
(this link will take you to a special page with small images showing the photos I have chosen so far)
There are 97 photos here. But what a hard choice. I am trying to choose photos that do the following:
For me, every single photo that I have uploaded during this trip moves me. For me, every photo has a story attached. But you can’t show 1,300 photos to an audience. They’d go home bored out of their chairs…
What photos have inspired or moved you? Even a vague description like “the one with the clouds and horses” will help.
In other news, I was accepted by Village Camps to be a spring outdoor education camp counsellor this spring in Anzere, Switzerland. The location is near Lake Geneva. Therefore, the plan is to work with Village Camps over the spring and possibly summer, and then carry on to England once the contract at Village Camps is finished. I will still update this website once weekly with a weekly report during the camp period.
I start at Village Camps on the 29th of April. Till then, it’s all mountains! Bring on some tough climbing and fast downhills!
The Swiss Alps await…permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
I left early again from my sleep spot in the field after a very good deep sleep.
And then the joys of not having a guide book struck again. I had no idea that this existed until I rounded the corner. I let out an “ooof” kind of sound as I entered the Piazza Duomo.
I mean, this thing is incredible. The spikey bits look as though you could throw a stone at them, and they would fall off their stools. Amazing that it has survived.
The interior is breathtaking. How long it must have taken to carve just the floor pieces I can’t imagine. The whole interior and exterior of the Il Duomo di Milano is under refurbishing, but wow. Just wow.
Stained glass windows, embalmed bodies of dead priests, what a place.
The wonder did not end once outside of the church. The galleria to the north of the Piazza Duomo is like walking though a time machine. If not for all the tourists, you’d think you had walked back in time. The glass roof is enchanting.
Earlier in the week, I had received an email from an old aquaitance from my time in Japan. Shirley was doing the same job as me in another small town in southern Japan, as Coordinator for International Relations. She and her husband, Yuri, now live in Serengo, about 20km north of Milano. We arranged to meet up when I passed through the area, and I stayed the night with them tonight.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 110.23km
Average speed / 平均速度: 15.5km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 7h 05m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1751.9km (plus 9700km)
I got up early. Just after daybreak. My bike had left tracks in the freshly planted field. It was dark last night when I had wheeled the bike to where I slept, so I hadn’t noticed the newly planted grass. Dumb.
I finally found my way out of Piacenza and onto some small roads leading out of the city along the banks of the Po River.
The small roads lasted until this bridge, which crossed the Po River and headed into Pavia, another beautiful Italian city. The city reminded me of Dunedin, a student city in New Zealand. Students everywhere. Graffiti everywhere.
Through Pavia, I saw my most beautiful sight ever.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a bike lane. With its very own distance signs. Oh the joy and jubilation.
The bike lane runs all the way from Pavia, right into the guts of the sprawling city of Milano, along the Pavia-Milano canal. No traffic, just beautiful flat cycle path.
I didn’t make it right into Milano today. I slept in a freshly cultivated field, and decided to make a dawn attempt into the big city tomorrow morning.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 68.62km
Average speed / 平均速度: 15.0km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 4h 33m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1641.6km (plus 9700km)
Was it the bad sleep last night near a small row of batches on the banks of the Po River? Or perhaps I had cycled too hard yesterday.
Or perhaps I had just had my fill of beautiful Italian towns with beautiful Italian couples enjoying the beautiful Italian spring weather. Europe can be a lonely place for a guy alone on a bicycle. I yearned for the adventure of Asia.
Whatever it was, today was a generally blue day. No energy. Went to a supermarket to buy food and didn’t know what to buy. Just wandered around for half an hour. I finally bought some sandwiches.
And my SD memory card for my camera finally gave up the ghost and stopped working. I bought a replacement. A 2GB SD card for 22 Euros. The 1GB one was 18 Euros. Twice the memory for not twice the price.
A tap outside a small playground in Piacenza reminded me however that fun was still being had in the world.
I chose a spot in an open field to sleep and only dozed for most of the night.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 112.26km
Average speed / 平均速度: 19.0km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 5h 54m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1573.0km (plus 9700km)
Ascent / 上り: +105m
Descent / 下り: -110m
Smooth riding with a good tailwind today. More of the same great architecture.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 76.40km
Average speed / 平均速度: 16.2km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 4h 42m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1460.7km (plus 9700km)
It was kinda tough to leave Steve and Jutta’s. What a wonderful couple.
I headed back to the Mincio River where Rhiner and I had cycled the day before. Rhiner reccommended that I head down the Mincio river along the cycle paths, down to the Po River. The Po River is the most significant river in northern Italy.
It was amazing weather again today. A mild tailwind helped me along the cycle path, and I got stares from other cyclists, many of them overweight men with bellies hanging, their lycra cycling tights straining to hold it all in.
I arrived in the historic town of Mantova just after lunch. It was a weekend day, and there were many stalls set up in the central square. A large marque caught my eye. It was for Grana Padano parmesan cheese. Next door was a competitor tent showing their cheese also.
That’s a big block of cheese. 35kg to be exact.
I asked if I could buy 200g. That request was met with strained faces. It’s a little too little, I’m sorry, their faces said.
I wandered out of the tent a little disponded, and started towards the competitor’s tent. i heard hurried steps behind me and one of the Grana Padano staff members tapped me on the shoulder. She indicated that I should come back.
They handed me a handful of small off-cuts. Enough for a cook up of pasta, so I was happy.
I was about to leave on my bike when another Grana Padano cheese master strolled over and we began talking about my trip.
You’re from where? You came on that? For how many kms?!
Suitably impressed, I was herded into the tent once again and given a big 400g slice of parmesan cheese, a small grater to grate it with, and some brochures for Grana Padano cheese.
That stuff is gooooood. I put way too much of it on my pasta, but I can’t help it. I had eaten the 400g slice within two days.
The rest of the day was again on good cycle paths along the Po River flood banks. I arrived at Torre de Oglio late, just before dark. This is where a floating bridge crosses the Oglio River, just before it joins with the Po River.
I found a small side road that lead downstream towards the Po River and slept in the grass to the side of the road.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く
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.permalink この記事についてコメントを書く