In summary, one of the most beautiful and grueling days up to date!
Slept like a log at my first ever “wild camping” site! Last night, the guys spotted our personal campground from the mainroad, a sign with “proprieta privata” and an obviously abandoned flat space of rocks and grasses. We pounced on the opportunity, and the site proved one of the most beautiful and well equipped spots ever. While Kasia K. , Edgar and I went for a quick dip in the Med (in lieu of shower that evening), our chefs and campsite guard, Pepe and Sergio, prepared dinner. We returned to some delicious soup and “pan con tomate”, a Spanish classic, served on a table while sitting on chairs. I tell yea – that improvised campsite (photo 1) had it all!
We headed out in the morning continuing along the up and down coast – direction: Genoa. Around 13:00, in scorching 32 degree weather we stopped for lunch and another swim in the refreshing sea. We said our goodbyes with the Catalan guys, a little sad to part ways but with hopes to meet up later on the road and/or later in general, and headed inland to Ferrania – home to our WarmShowers host for the evening. The guys had plans to continue along the coast to Genoa and then to cut across north to Croatia. For more info on their adventure you can check out http://www.pangeats.com
As we rolled inland I looked at Filippo’s, our host’s, directions for getting to his place. As we passed one village and then another I wondered when we would meet the 400m climb that he had warned us about in his email, since up to then the road had been fairly easy. Upon turning into a narrow, and beautiful, road tucked into a valley between mountains, I understood the challenge at hand. It wasn’t the continuous steady climbs I had been used to in France, with steadily burning legs that you can learn to ignore as you mentally set-in for a 5 kilometer long hill…no, this was a climb of a whole other caliber – the very steep, at times downhill and then mad steep once again, type of hill. Mentally, it’s exhausting since you have no idea when it’s going to end and physically, you learn to change gears with lightening-speed efficiency.
We did the best we could. A few times we pedalled, legs flying, chain straining and wheels advancing inch by painful inch. Sometimes we pushed our bikes up. Always we double-checked we were going the right direction by asking a passerby.
…Because the only thing worse than struggling up hills is struggling up them when you are going the wrong way.
Actually we successfully navigated the whole way, right up to Filippo’s village where his instructions ended and we were advised to ask a local for the location of his cascina. This is where our troubles began. It wasn’t the Italian that got us (I’m reserving language barriers for when they get really big, like in Hungary, for ex), but the locals mistaking Filippo for his father and directing us to the wrong house (same last name, you see). 2 hours later we had gone up many unnecessary hills, my chrono was showing 80km and my legs were crying for mercy – all sure signs that it was time to stop riding for the day – and we were still lost and calling back and forth with our host who was was driving around the village frantically trying to find us.
We, thank goodness, did finally find each other, and were soon home safe and sound and tucked into a delicious dinner of home made bread, goat cheese and zucchini-mushroom-pasta dish. But not before Filippo informed us that we were his first pair of girl travelers (he had had solo female cyclists and couples but never two girls) and that we were also the first ones incapable of finding his house on our own!
My navigator’s ego a little bruised, I comforted myself with the fact that it did, after all, take me 22 days to lose my way! …which, for a first time bicycle traveller, is not too shabby
We spent a really enjoyable evening with Filippo and Tommy, of the kind of comfort and easy-going nature generally reserved to good friends who have known eachother for many moons. We learned of his passion, and obvious talent for photography (already a few shots sold to National Geographic!), his young wife, now pregnant with their first bambino, and of course his passion for cycling. He works with an organization that promotes mountain biking in the area, logo of which is the funny wild pig on a bicycle (photo 2)
…and the wine and carbs kicked in and we were arrivaderci for the day…
Kasia – your very-sleepy-cyclist