Day 9: Rain Delay in Menaggio (Menaggio to Campodolcino – start of Splugen Pass)

Another guest post from Bert. I’ve been too slow on getting mine done, so enjoy another great one from Bert!

Rain Delay in Menaggio (Menaggio to Corti – start of Splugen Pass)

I woke up several times throughout the night; cold and wet. Small puddles of rain had managed to cross the sacred tent barrier; a violation. Sounds of hard rain and violent winds encouraged me to override the urge to empty my bladder overnight.

With morning came the realization that it was still raining and that the weather would keep us landlocked. Hearts sank as we checked the weather forecast: rain throughout the day.

Cold and wet, we walked into town, passing several closed stores until we located an coffee diner open for service. We ate panninis and drank coffee/tea to warm ourselves and to wait out the rain; a reprieve. Overjoyed at the sight of an air dryer in the bathroom, I dried the clothes on my back and wet hair; warm and dry.

I left the bathroom and my eyes were drawn towards a golden hue shining through the diners open door; our water torture had come to an end. Sensing a limited and time sensitive opportunity, we rushed back to the campsite.

A magical timely wind, so forceful that a moving car would feel it’s strength, helped dry our wet tent. Holding on to the tent tightly, I lifted it into the air. The wind raised it in flight, like a kite dancing with the wind. We rushed to pack our wet clothes, said goodbye to our camp friends and began cycling for the day.

As we left camp, the wind slapped our faces, reminding us of nature’s power over us. Thankfully, this would not last; once we passed the open lake, housing structures made the wind impotent.

The sights along the way contined to delight and astound. We stumbled upon two goats on our bike path; one black and one white, simultaneously running parallel away from us and with us.

We briefly stopped at a cafe for a cupuccino/ice cream and Haribo gummy bears; strength regained. With stolen hours, many kilometers to make up and facing threatened rain, there would be no allowance for rest breaks for a while.

Many hours and kilometers later, we sat down on a cement pad housing a power line, made sandwiches and stared longingly at the mountains in the distance, grateful that the rain had not returned.

Despite the start, we managed to complete the days’ kilometer objective. The plan for the next day (Monday) was to ascend the Alpine mountains to the summit; it was to be the hardest cycling day on our adventure.

In good spirits and with energy in reserve, we decided to continue to the start of Splugen Pass, like a child reading ahead one chapter in their school readings. We cycled 18 kilometers on an incline, ascending from 200 meters to 1100.

When we arrived at our camp site, it was nearly deserted, save for a few stragglers attempting to cheat time and enjoy every last minute of their weekend escape.

The camp’s curator was nowhere to be found, but via phone call he directed us to a suitable place to camp. Sensing a long cold night, and seeing countless empty RVs, we chose to shelter ourselves between two for protection.

An Italian couple walked past us and we inquired if they knew if any open restaurants, albeit unlikely given we were in a remote Italian town on a Sunday night. They pointed us towards town, only to return five minutes later to invite us into their trailer home for a warm home cooked meal.

We entered their summer home; beautiful knotty pine wood panelling hung on the walls, each intermittent knot reflecting a unique story, just as each location and encounter we experienced created knots on the panels of our lives.

They told us about their lives: they have one daughter; he is retired and she works at the post office, a few years away from retirement; they have travelled the world. They took our travel history. Jonny made us spaghetti, fresh salad using vegetables grown in his garden, bread accompanied with Tuscan olive oil for dipping, red wine, and finally, some late night coffee. As we departed, we felt rested and fed, and most importantly, spiritually fed by the kindness and hospitality of our Italian hosts.


LiveTrack outage explained

Hello from Switzerland!

We made it to the summit of the Splügen Pass yesterday and kept on cycling down into Switzerland. The views have literally blown my mind.

Unfortunately, the country has also blown my Internet connection. Since Switzerland isn’t in the EU, I don’t enjoy access to my German Internet plan here and can’t broadcast my journey.

We will be leaving Switzerland later today, breezing through Liechtenstein, and arriving in Austria later in the afternoon or evening. We might even make it to Germany.

I’ll turn on the tracking when I get back to the European Union, as soon as I escape this beautiful but way too expensive country.

Sweat, Slopes and Scenery on the SS45

Today’s post is written by Bert. Enjoy!

We started our day in Varazze and started cycling on the coast. After 6 consecutive days of enjoying the coastline, ocean views, villas and beaches, the moment had come for a change in scenery.

We cycled into Genoa to start the day. To put it kindly, it is an industrial city. Interspersed among the city skyline were the Ligurian Apennines, which are beautiful mountains in northwest Italy.

The stop lights were frequent and determined to show off their rosy hues. As a consequence, our pace throughout the city was slow; we battled cars and buses for road space.

As we left Genoa, the glorious mountains grew in stature. Our objective for the day: pass through the Ligurian mountains by ascending to 850 meters above sea level. This was always planned to be one of our most challenging days; in total we would be cycling nearly 30km on an upslope.

With each grueling km, the teachings of sensei Horton rattled through my head: I hate it, but I love it; just imagine you’re ascending to 1800 meters, 900 doesn’t sound so bad?; if you need a break, take a break!

We took many breaks; one at a fruit stand where we drank water and ate watermelon to reclaim lost fluids that now saturated our shirts.

The physical effort was rewarded with eye watering mountain views and cycling through remote Italian villages. From a distance, these looked like houses built randomly into the mountain face without a linear connection, like darts thrown into a dartboard on a mountain wall.

After a long period of time and cycling effort, we knew we were close to 850 meters. Every bend in the road brought hope that we had finally reached the top. Hope….and then despair, as each ascent was followed by a descent and the realization that these vertical meters would need to be reclaimed once again.

As we mentally prepared for one final summit, we enterred a period of prolonged downhill cycling and realized that we had reached and passed the summit without even knowing it.

The tree leaves overhanging the guard rails to our right offered high fives and pats on our backs for our accomplishment, gladly accepted.

Poor signage directed us to the Le Fontanelle camp site. After missing our turn, we again prepared mentally for one last unplanned ascent.

Gigi, the curator of the camp site, greeted us, took one look and said: ‘one tent, two people? I know exactly what you need’. Leading us to an outdoor sheltered dining area, he told us to camp there, away from the rain that would come overnight and directed us to the pizza tavern. Gigi was our third guardian angel on our bicycling journey.

Day 6: Onward through Genoa and up the mountains!

Today was another great day! We got a late start but we needed a lot of recovery after yesterday.

The day started with a feast – of course. I whipped up some oats and then mixed them with fried French salami and garlic. We also had leftover ciabatta with butter, Tiroler ham, and some young pecorino cheese. Oh yeah and some hard pears and a few grapes.

After stuffing ourselves and stuffing our bike bags, we rolled down the hill and got back on the coast. That took us to Genoa, a big port city and former trade power in Italy. We got pretty badly bogged down in endless city traffic but we did manage to get our hands on some focaccia.

Wait, is this a bike tour or a food tour? Continuing the bike tour with an increasing desire to escape the city, we headed upwards along a valley and out of Genoa. It was a long climb, to almost 900m with repeated downs and ups – it was great!!

Along the way, we stopped at a fruit stand, run by a really nice lady. She gave us a plate and knife to eat our watermelon – and somewhere to sit.

Once again, the views were amazing but finally we got a nice change of scenery, after so much coast. Going into the mountains was really nice. I can’t believe people are building villages and towns in these hard-to-reach places! It was also nice to cool down, after so many 30+ days of death.

Our trip took us sometimes off the main road and onto these small and ever-climbing country roads. We went through some really cool small villages, mostly with old people but also some with children.

Our original plan was an impossible 160km because of 70-80km of downhill but we called it a day at 90, due to the time of day and state of our legs. Luckily, the camp site was beside a pizzeria!!!

Amazing stuffed pasta and spicy salami pizza. I was in heaven! Bert had some other stuff, as you can see, and he also enjoyed it.

Anyhow, we are in for the night and I might just fall asleep at a reasonable time. The only thing keeping me up is my loyal readers. Good night from Italy. Buona notte!

Day 5: From Ventimiglia to outside of Genoa

Yesterday we completed our best day of cycling yet. Amazing views, personal records broken, and great food. I know it’s a little out of order but I’ll come back to the other days later.

We started the day around Ventimiglia, a town more or less on the Italian border. I transfered trains there during my European backpacking trip!

We got up at a decent time (7 something) and worked to get out ASAP. It’s hard to pack everything, eat, and hit the road by a good time, especially when you always get in so late. We’re trying to reverse this trend without much success so far.

Our breakfast was bread, salami, and apples – and this Sicilian treat, called cannoli! They were pretty decent. Italian supermarkets are filled with amazing food, including a long aisle devoted to pasta and even a whole meat-counter-style area with fresh pasta of all kinds.

Well-fuelled, we got underway and made our journey along the coast. The biking was straightforward and the views were jaw-dropping. I asked Bert, how many mind-blowing views can one man take?

Unfortunately for you, the reader, those will have to stay mental memories for me, but I did get this one of Bert along the coast! We were almost always going along the coast. At one point, it was just us and the sound of the waves.

We were making such great progress that we decided to eat out and hit the beach, after around 67km. It was a cafeteria-style place at the beach and I got pasta (farfalle and bolognese) and a mixed dish of veggies and cold meat. There was actually multiple bottles of olive oil around, as if it was ketchup!

The water was a bit cool but it hit the spot. The waves were really fun.

Filled up and cooled down, we set out to continue our epic journey along a beautiful stretch of Italian coast.

Just kidding – we went for ice cream! Actually, I think that was quite a while later but it gives me the chance to introduce my dinner shopping! I found trophi noodles and fresh genovese pesto – it’s from this region. A great reward was set out.

Well that’s a weird photo. Also, I really think my new glasses look dumb. But they keep the wind and sun out of my eyes, so that’s all I care. I can’t see myself!

We rolled into the camp at about 20:30, which was actually one of the earlier times. Like always, reception was already closed. But this time, we couldn’t get ahold of anybody!! After a massive hill of doom, we were preparing for the worst – then the woman suddenly showed up and let us in. Time to eat!!

Those are rice arrancini on the right. They were cold but who cares when you need calories.

We did a personal record-breaking 135.1km yesterday. What a great day. We are back on track, minus only 1 full day. We are feeling really positive now and are ready to seize this day, even if it is predicted to rain. Good thing we came prepared! Now to eat some breakfast.