Italia
 

 18/9/6    As I type this I dicover to my surprise that it's exactly a month today that I have left my parents' place. In a toss-up I decide not to go via Casterino and Col de Tende, but via Col de Lombarde instead, despite the mixed weather forecast. At the top of the Lombarde I explore some pistes and get some good views from the top. After that it's back on roads I have travelled before, but again, I have trouble remembering where to turn, and I don't have a detailed map of the area. No problem, though, I find Demonte, Elva, Marmora and Sampeyre again, the only route possible to go up the Eastern side of the Alps without travelling through the plains (boring).

Castle in Castellar


In the afternoon a few showers come down, but nothing major. The mountain roads are firmly in the hands of German trail bikers. I meet several groups of them. One lot I meet again at the camp site in Melle and we spend an enjoyable evening together joking and telling tall tales. On the mountain tops we can see for hours the reflections of lightning, at a frequency I have never seen before.

On the road to Viù

19/9/6    Perfect and warm weather. I try to avoid riding through the Po Plains as much as I can. Most of the time I spend on tiny winding mountain roads. On the outskirts of Biella I get lost and end up on a freeway heading East, not exactly the direction I want to go. Just before I leave it at the next exit I pass an old man on a new bike. He's going so slow that I wonder whether he's broken down, but it seems not. I stop after the exit to look at the map when he pulls up beside me and starts excitedly talking to me in a stream of Italian. I understand only that much that after 40 years he's back on a bike (brand new 125), he's all excited about it, but also full of fear, which is why he rides so slow. Since it is getting dark I ask him where to find a camp ground, but he doesn't know. Nor does anybody else, for that matter. In Mosso I stop to ask some young people, but strangely, they have to ask an older guy, because none of them speak English. One of them leads me to a hotel in the back of beyond. Since it is getting dark I decide to stay here. It's a very nice rustic place run by a Fillipina lady.

 


20/9 I leave the country hotel near Pistolesa (Mosso) and take backroads to Domodossola, Cento Valli, Passo San Bernardino and Passo dello Spluga to Novate Mezzola. When I arrive at the camp site I find it strange that the nice wrought iron gate is invisible behind all the big signs telling campers in 4 languages of all the dire consequences should they misbehave in any way. The prices, however, are only displayed on the inside of the gate. The place is right by the lakeside, nicely laid out and spotlessly clean, but Thomas, a German biker and I are soon having a dispute with the owner, who doesn't want us to park our bikes by the tents. When I ask why I'm only told "no discussion". And for the privilege of parking the bike inconveniently away from the tents they charge 4 €. All in all a very unpleasant experience and expensive to boot. Thomas is from Karlsruhe and travels on a bike labelled "Monsterkuh" (Monster cow, a reference to the fact that flat twin BMWs are colloquially known in Germany as "rubber cows").

21/9 We both leave in opposite directions and I travel along a very busy road along the valley East to Sondrio, where I get onto the Net with my laptop without any problems. Continuing further East late afternoon I end up near Bozen, but there is a big traffic jam at road works at the entrance to the city that I can't safely pass on my bike. So I turn around. I was planning to camp early, but the only camp I can find I don't like the look of. So, for once I take the motorway to get around the city. Unfortunately, Bozen is where all my maps end, so I ask for directions to Cortina d'Ampezzo which I know lies East. I get sent up the Eggental over the Karerpass. This is how I finally get to see the fabulous Dolomiti mountains. I've been here twice before and both times it rained hard and I couldn't see anything. This time, however, it's blue skies and the vistats are fantastic. Every bit like what you see on the postcards.


It is getting late in the afternoon and very cold in my summer riding gear. No campsites at all until Vigo di Fassa. This is at 1382m altitude and German campers tell me that it gets very cold here at night. I unpack my fleece sleeping bag, but don't need it in the end. The campsite is very friendly. My laptop however, isn't: DEAD as a doornail. Won't power up. Not bloody Windows this time, this seems terminal. All my pictures and my diary are in there...

22/9 I get up very early and leave without breakfast, as I don't have any supplies. No shops open, either, till the next town. The thermometer on the roadside says 9°C. Bloody feels like it, too. Breakfast in the sunshine makes up for it. All the while I get to watch the locals rounding up cattle with a trial bike and loading them on a truck.

The pass is again firmly in German biker hands. When I get to Cortina d'Ampezzo I'm almost on my Slowenia map. There is a road to Ampezzo and seeing the area is called Ampezzo you'd think the town would be signposted. Assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups. Coming down the Passo di Falzarego Cortina lies spread out before me, about North to South. Behind it rises a sheer mountain range. There can't be a road going up THERE. Assumption again. Now that I am writing this I can see a map, there is a road, but it doesn't matter. I decide to go North and almost end up in Austria. Happily, I discover road S52 which on my map goes to Ampezzo. A little later I get horribly confused, when signs on this road point back to Cortina. Now, looking at ViaMichelin, I can see that there are in fact TWO roads S52 in this area, running almost parallel, but quite a distance apart. Go figure. My Slowenia map is quite large-scale, se when I see a sign pointing NE to Valle di Resia I take it. There is Slowenia over there somewhere... At the next turn off it's signposted, but at the one after that it says road closed for roadworks. As usual in Italia, no detour signposted. The locals know... I explore just about every other turn in the road, end up in a village (Coritis) where the sign says no access in winter. There is only one way into this valley and one way out.

Near the end of the road. Getting off the bike wasn't hard, but getting back on...

Back down I meet a couple of German bikers who tell me they have come over the closed road. Off we go. Only one hair raising moment, when on the winding one lane road a heavy truck comes the other way. So I end up in Bovec, Slowenia. The camp is cheap and has free Internet access.

23/9 I meet Willi and his wife from Rosenheim in Bayern who tells me a bit about this area. He comes here every year for the last 25 years. They also kindly provide me with bread and hot water for breakfast. Just on the offchance I turn on my PC and it works! Beats me.

23/9/6    The day dawns overcast with very dark clouds on the mountains, but Willi thinks it will stay fine. He is right. I pass over the Vrisic Pass (pay the warden to park your bike here!) to reach Kranjska Gora. This seems to be a tourist resort, but I manage to find a supermarket to stock up more or less for the weekend. On to Jesenice. This looks like what I always imagined communist towns o look like: drab and run down. Finding the turnoff to Bled turns into a mission, as the town is only signposted once I'm on the right road out of town. I climb up to the castle in Bled for the view, then pootle around the lake and onwards to Bohinj. I'm supposed to take backroads here, but can't seem to find any. My large scale map is of not much use. This beeing in the National Park there are maps posted on billboards from time to time, but I find them confusing and eventually get completely lost in the mountains, ending up on dead-end dirt tracks. There is another lake here, but it's a weekend and there are tour buses and lots of locals here and to boot you have to pay to park by the lake. I buy a road map and then head to Skofja Loka. To my surprise the road over the saddle soo turns to dirt. I was planning to camp early, but my new map doesn't show any camp sites in this part. But I'm in luck: a lady at a service station sends me down the road and luckily I recognise the name of the place, because it is signposted as a sports centre. What a great place: cheap, friendly and there is a whole bunch of locals partying and grilling here with loud music. I have barely pitched my tent when a plate with meat and bread arrives, brought by Smiley, a Bosnian living here. I soon join the crowd, bu can't really communicate. At the tent I get cornered by Drago, who speaks good English and is very interested in my trip. I think I'll stay here for a day and perhaps explore Ljubljana.