Friday, 22 August 2008

Tuesday 29th July - Parma to Pieve Fosciana

Um, yes, the cyclists here do have style

One of the silliest cycle paths I have ever seen

Christ, what a day! After taking a much needed rest day in Parma, I got up at 6 to leave at 6.30 this morning, to try and get a head start on the fierce Italian sun. It worked out well, as by midday I had reached Villa Minezzo and climbed about 600 metres, roughly half way through the Apennines. I felt much fitter too, sticking only to fruit and sugary stuff rather than any 'proper food' seems to be the way forward and I was able to get up out of the saddle and just keep climbing. Also, although my toe is bugging me a bit (I had a fall in the Black Forest and think I have fractured it), my knee seems to have done the worst of its protesting and hassettled back into quiet, uncomplaining submission.

The scenery of the Apennines here, especially above 1000 metres, is absolutely gorgeous. After cycling through the stuffy microwave of Northern Italy, getting up into the mountains was a real dose of greenery and fresh, cool air. Finally, after a rewarding and not unpleasant effort, I reached the Passo della Radici (1529 metres). The descent was a long one, taking over an hour, yet my rebuilt bike continues to impress me with its lovely handling and braking abilities.

As I descended I could feel the hot, muggy air of the Italian lowlands start to constrict around me like a hot damp blanket. Is there no respite from this incessant heat? Whose stupid idea was it to go cycling through Italy and Greece in the middle of summer anyway? Oh yeah, mine, hmm.

When I reached Pieve Fosciana at the bottom of the valley, I went into the local Coop to get some juice and decide whether to stay the night there or carry on another 50 odd kms to Lucca. As it turned out, the decision was emphatically made for me; from the moment I stepped outside I was caught in a flash storm, bizarrely starting off with hail, before becoming a full-scale torrential downpour. Along with this unexpected treat, the elation of having conquered the Apennines had by this point faded away, leaving me with legs of jelly and a 3 1/2 km cycle to the nearby campsite through a hellishly muddy gravel track.

When I finally arrived, I had a meagre 9 euros to my name and, in return, the vast unsmiling matriarch of the site wanted 11.70 and had a defective card machine. Her son, translating into English for me from his fierce looking mother, was telling me that I would have to head (read 'swim', by this point) into the nearby town and find a cash machine to make up the 3 euro difference. After some horrible mangling of the Italian language and an emphatic, pleading 'per favore!' on my part, mama took pity on me.

She looked down at the soggy crumpled note and loose change collected in my outstretched palm, her face cracked into a broad grin and she looked at her son knowingly, parroting my impoverished 'per favore' with a shrug that implied there was nothing she could do now to resist the power of that magic phrase. She let me off the odd couple of euros, and I trudged off to set up my tent in the deluge, where I am now writing this; warm, soggy and in contemplation of what possible minor disaster tomorrow could bring...

Av. 16.8 kph, Max. 57.8 kph, Dist. 142.53 kms, Time 8.29.36

1 comment:

Marco said...

Mate, how are you doing? It`s always sad to read about people as much unsympathetic as to send a cyclist bak off to the pouring rain just because of two euros! It actually reminded me the chat we had in Basel about Greek hostels :-)
As for the silly cycling path, 100% true, I`ve actually mention this lousy situation in one of my first blog entries of my trip.
Anyway, hope everything is fine, I guess you are already in Thessaloniki by now. Instead, I`m in the cold norwegian alps heading to Bergen and to some more cold up in Iceland.