A week is a long time in politics
If that is the case then my life must be worst than politics. Last time I posted on the blog I was going to hike the Appennini and then start planning the big hike in Israel, now the former has not happened and the later is in serious doubt. I guess the lesson here must be: do not advertise your move too far ahead or you’ll spend your life explaining why they have not come to pass.
The mountain hike proved to be a bit too much for my joints. When I was 19 I had a really bad motorbike accident that required two separate sets of surgery to put right. The doctors always told me that it was going to come home to roust, well, I think it just did. The first and only of the 21 days planned on the mountains was fun but was also littered with reminder of the fact I’m not twenty something anymore.
The 36 hours I spent on the mountains were however not a dead loss. The scenery was breathtaking, sleeping in the tent was comfortable and remarkably cooler than sleeping in the bed back in Modena.
The contour of the hiking day was flat then up then flat then long down then flat and again up and down at the 11th mile end. I’m only telling you this as it will contribute to the explanation of the rout cause of the abandonment. Flat and uphill hiking did not prove to be a problem, despite the higher than necessary weight I was carrying.
Downhill was a different thing. On the first big one I fell twice. This was despite the fact I become quite adept quite quickly at using the walking poles, without which I would probably have fallen five or six times. The following flat bit was extraordinary scenic and it restored a bit of the good spirit taken away by the falls.
What completely killed the enterprise was however the last mountain I had to climb. A small peek of approximately 320 feet that took me 25 minutes to ascend and just over an hour to descend in near continuous pain.
If it was just that I could have tried it on, but when I got to the end of the stage, where I was expecting, at the very least a fountain, I discovered that it was deserted, with the “Albergo” business shut and no life in sight.
I made my way to Sansepolcro and then Arezzo, Florence and back to Modena in less than 6 hours, testament to the efficiency, if not the punctuality, of Italian public transport. The following day, just to satisfy my academic curiosity I weighted the load I was carrying, including water and it came up to 21 Kg. After trimming to the absolute minimum however I saw that it was not possible to go below 16 Kg, considering that following a mountaintop trail requires you to carry at least 4 to 6 litres of water. I think even that trimming would not solve my knees problem.
So, back to square one, with a fair few days to fill before I get back to the UK. I did a bit of studying (RYA Skipper Theory), but quickly decided that I needed some other back breaking activity to keep me busy.
My sister told me she was going to spend a couple of weeks camping with her family and some friends in Vieste (Puglia) in August, so I thought about going to spend a few days with them, only going there by bicycle. It’s roughly 650 miles so it should give me the opportunity to reach the next, 7000 miles, milestone before the year is out (started to cycle on the 10th of October).
I started from Modena and as a first stage I went and stayed where my parents were spending the week with the camper in Piane di Mocogno. This is my home territory as I grew up not far from there and learned to ski in the Piane ski resort. I ended up staying two nights as the first day riding, all uphill, really took it out of me.
When I left the pain was not over as I had to cross the Abetone Pass, well known location for followers of the Tour of Italy. This stage was going to get me out of my home region and into Tuscany following south the route across the Appennini mountains.
It is a rather steep route and, as i was suffering on the painful ascents I more than once thought, Why????????
The reward for getting to the top was 10 miles of descent. The punishment for that was further miles uphill on the Tuscan side. In the end I finished in a campsite near Montecatini Terme where I treated myself to a Mojito and a swim in the pool.
The night was hot, having descended into Tuscany all but removed the cool of the mountains and the day after it was going to be grilling on the Tuscan hills.
I started early enough and managed to get to where I wanted but progress was painful cycling in temperatures exceeding 40º C.
I decided to take the Empoli Siena route to avoid as much of the hills as possible, but, as anybody that knows Tuscany knows, that is not an easy task.
Anyway I got through it even if with far fewer pictures than I had hoped, the heat was literally sucking the life out of me.
I got to the Luxor Chianti Village with very little breath to spare but a couple of hours in the pool and a good meal put some energy back in me. To be honest the legs are not the problem, the bike is really good with that with the right ratio of gears to manage all situations. I think it’s the temperature and the head that are playing tricks on me.
Anyways I had a good but hot night and I was ready to go in the morning.
Today the aim was getting out of Tuscany and into Umbria which I did if only by a few hundred yards.
The notable thing from today was, aside from the oppressive heat, which I am told will diminish from tomorrow, was the state of the road. In some bits it was like going through Sarajevo after the bombings. I cannot believe the state of some of the roads. On a good note the drivers appear to be much more obliging than I ever expected.
I am not sure when I’ll be posting next, probably in a few days, I’m putting stuff on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and will do a round up post every now and then so for now I’m off to get another beer (only €3.50 here in the camp) and perhaps some food too.