All good things...
Ahhh, the delights of a villa in the Tuscan countryside, friends, food, wine, beer, a pool, a BBQ, and of course a wedding. A week was spent enjoying the high life and the wedding was beautiful in its simplicity and the 7 course meal that followed was out of this world, so congratulations to Ben and Jane!
JB as 'official' photographer here....
We waved off our friends before the long race back to Blighty, trying to cover the distance in only a few days. Through Parma (very disappointingly no huge 'ham' cardboard cutout at the town - one for the council I think). Mistakenly rode through the centre of Milan and up what I can only assume is their equivalent of Oxford Street on a Saturday evening (arghhh) to Lake Maggiore, very beautiful and again, some of the best riding. We sat by the shores of the lake having a breakfast pastry whilst the ritzy locals looked upon our trangia brews and scruffy attire pityingly...
Took the fabulous Route 33 into Switzerland - you've gotta love the Swiss, their roads, their choc, their cows, nazi gold (thanks Green Wing!), blissful riding and in cold (yet oddly warm) sunshine.
Rode for a while with an Italian on a BMW who showed us some tops routes, so we went up the Furka pass (2431m) to Interlaken and a swift view of the Eiger.
Through Belgium and a stop in Chimay for one of the best beers you will ever taste (Chimay reserve at 9%). IM found that a vole had started making a nest in her lid as we packed up our gear one very soggy morning, so cue much merriment from JB and pics of the wee fellow jumping in and out of our gear.
Our last night was spent near Calais and it was so cold and wet that the evening was spent sitting in the gents loo as it had walls and a roof and the thermarest's had worryingly developed a "bulge" fault, so time to head home we felt.... bye bye euroland, hello Blighty.
So this is it! Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed it... thanks to Ben C for the Pie-rats logo and to Steve (Anvil) Trout for the bike side stand mod.
And if anyone needs an Arts Administrator/Office Manager, then Imogen is your girl, driving and aikido lessons from James.... all donations happily received!
Total miles: 19,043
Countries: 27 1/2 (Republika Srpska being the half): France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Andorra, Monaco, (Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily), Italy, San Marino, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovenia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium
Total days: 187
Bike Repairs: new inner tube, new tyres x 2, new chain and sprockets, oil change x 3, headlight bulbs x 2, oil and air filters change x 1
Bike drops: 18
Mosquito bites: 86948347783847673485676384
Items missed: Harveys beer, flaming hot monster munch, baked beans
Beer list: 32 (I'll email you Big Bob!)
'Hombres' poos outside: by IM - 13; by JB - a paltry 1 (wuss)
Most indispensible items: double silk liner (wusses, again), mozzie bite 'clicker' and Ortleib folding washing bowl
Items ditched: 10L water bag, 3 t-shirts, rubbish cotton pants x 3, socks x3, long-sleeved shirt x1, techno top (too horrible and had 'piled' - IM), trainers (IM)
Equipment list (take a deep breath):
Thermarest mattresses and chair converters x2
Softie 9 (Hawk) sleeping bag, Coleman liteweight summer sleeping bag
Inflatable pillow (but finally died!)
Vango Spirit 200 lite tent
2 trek towels, 1 small hand towel and flannel
Panniers: soft Bagster (fell apart in France, gaffa tape to the rescue), Touratech Vega topbox, Bagster tank bag
Bike stuff: puncture repair kit, bike pump, tools incl tyre levers, spanners etc, spare clutch cable, throttle cable x2, bulb kit, AT bike manual (thankfully unused)
1st aid kit: incl painkillers, antiseptics, various medical unguents, crepe bandage, triangular bandage, 'toilet issues' pills, charcoal pills, hayfever and sting relief items, a sterile set with needles, tiger balm, plasters, 'Captain' TCP
Bottle sterilser tabs for 2 Camelback waterbottles
Cooking items: Trangia stove, 2 thermo mugs, wooden spoon, sharp knife, cutlery set (now missing knives), plastic baggies
Aerobie (health and fitness!)
Books: Lonely Planet "Europe on a Shoestring" and Turkish phrase book (our only guide books); Bill Bryson's "Short History"; White Fang; Ben Hur (last 2 purchased in Croatia); Collins Bird Guide; Collins Butterfly Guide (!); Helm - "Where to Watch Birds in Britain and Europe"
Candles and lighters, flint lighter
Copies of bike docs, insurance docs, passports etc
Mini Ganesh (for good luck)
Mini screwdrivers for spectacle mendage
Mosquito net and spray (pah)
MP3 players and mini speakers
Pack of cards
Penknives x 2
Phone charger (and mobile)
Mini scrubbing brush
Sponge bag incl: moisturiser, deo, soap, shampoo 2-in-1, spf lip protector and suncream and talc (IM luxury item!)
Thermarest repair kit (used twice)
Posted by Imogen Mitchell at 03:04 PM
The Fatherland and beyond
From leaving the harrowing Auschwitz and Birkenau, we hit country no. 21 1/2 (thanks Republika Sprska for that one!) and the Czech Republic. Rain, rain and more rain meant fairly miserable riding and a trip to a bike shop for emergency new boot purchasement, the old ones being consigned to bio-hazard and the fact that toes were peeping through in a rather unsatisfactory manner.
A low point, after all that rain, was a clamp on the bike in Cesky Krumlov (rhyming slang somewhere surely) and muchos handing over of hard earned wodges of notes to the local coppers - darn that local BMW rider who said it was OK to leave the bike there >sulk, sulk<
Had our last "mad local" incident outside the Spar, and only a few breakfast beers had been had I'm sure, so much arm waving and attempts at a Czech/German conversation to gain an insight into the local colour.
Into Germany and the fantastic roads through the Bavarian Alps and the many passes therein into Austria, including the Hochtannberg Pass at 1676 m and the billion Harley riders we saw (a memorable moment, pulling up behind a couple of hogs and yes, the dudes had snakeskin boots and were playing "Born to be Wild" on their stereo - absolute class).
For riders out there at the mo, take the 198 to Lake Constance - gorgeous, smooth roads and the best bends....
More passes through Switzerland and Liechtenstein (just to get that sticker!), and of course we did the Albula pass (2315m) and the Stelvio Pass, at 2757m, the highest in Europe (apparently) and so many bikes racing on the haripins and the novel sight of seeing a load of Lotus Elise's being stuck behind a large camper van (arf arf).
The better pass in that area had to be the Gavia Pass, slightly lower at 2621m but far more rufty tufty, with only the more hard core bikers on enduro/dirt bikes grooving around the hairpins on the weeny twisty roads with no other vehicles on it, less chrome and moustaches = better roads, surely?!
Over the Alps (again) into Italy for the wedding of the year just south of Florence, so saw sunrises over the lakes, with amazing roads (again) but way too many tunnels (over 4km in one stretch - ugh).
Our last official night before getting to the villa rented by the happy couple (Ben and Jane) was spent free camping in a church ground with the blessing of the church caretaker, after an unsuccessful few hours trying to find a spot near Bologna.. the light was going, all spare ground had "private" signs, and the one spot that we did manage to source in our growing desperation, was then visited by some ladies of the night, so we thought it prudent to move on. A wise move we felt! We asked at a farm whether we could pitch up, and they told us to try the church, which then gave us water and toilet facilities, plus a table to cook up on, result!
Arrived at the beautiful villa in Impruneta, smelling like bikers that have, well, been on the road and camping for 6 months, so we disrobed and flung ourselves into the pool..... bliss....
Posted by Imogen Mitchell at 02:00 PM