Mother Nature dealt us a dramatic change of season on Monday, with temperatures down, and an icy blast from who knows where heralding the start of autumn here in the northern hemisphere.
Being the intrepid bunch that we are, we did not let that deter us from our plans for the day.
Peter, taking a rest day from cycling, offered to do vehicle duty on Garvia, the only ride that needed a car with the cyclists to shepherd them through a quite long and slightly climbing ride through an unlit tunnel. We certainly didn’t want a repeat Gary and Alistair’s adventure the previous day when they accidentally strayed into one of the dozens of tunnels on the motorway – in their words, a cyclist in a tunnel is like an insect just waiting to be splattered on the windscreen of a spending car.
So the first challenge of the day was fitting four men and three bicycles into one rental car (admittedly a station wagon, but no mean feat nevertheless).
Non cyclist lesson for the day – every climb has a right way and a wrong way up. It seemed perfectly normal for them to be during over the top of Garvia and down the other side so that they could do it the right way – howling icy headwind notwithstanding.
Some of the craziness must be wearing off, because I too donned my windbreaker over thermals and set off on the second “easy” 2 hour walk on the guide map. This one more of a hike through the woods than a stroll by the stream… First hike up up up into the forest (and my Woofs&Wine walking group know just how much I love up!).
Next slip and slide your way down a steep scoria incline, into a small village with NO COFFEE! Just a 13th century church, with the oldest bell in the region (cast in 1217!) and the main road raring through, with no sidewalks at all!
And guess what? The next part of the walk was cross the road (carefully) and head back up the hills on the other side! So with the sounds of “climb every mountain” ringing in my head, I gave up on the idea of following the main road home (whizzing as it was with cars, trucks, motorcycles and plenty of crazy cyclists), pulled on my big girl pants and headed up, up and up again.
Yes the view were spectacular, and yes the track down was just as steep – this time cobblestones down through the oldest part of the town – and yes, I felt a major sense of achievement as I flopped into my by now usual seat at Cafe Reiza for my post-walk coffee… But oh my goodness, were my ankles sore for the rest of the day.
Grand plan for the afternoon – Alistair needs to return his rental car to Bolzano, a mere 126km away. Fancy an afternoon drive? An opportunity for me to see Stelvio first hand, we’ll meet Alistair at Bolzano airport, dump his car and all drive back together. Excellent plan! Apart from the roads, the traffic and a minor incident where Peter refused to believe the Navman and took matters into his own hands, resulting in a half hour roundabout to get back on track!
There is an upside to everything – in this case, the discovery for me that hell will freeze over before I drive the car and luggage over the Stelvio on Wednesday (the recommended route as we relocate to Lana! In fact, it was so bad, with 36 switchbacks going up and 41 switchbacks going down that I was having an anxiety attack just being a passenger. Peter got a blister on his driving heel, from the continual breaking and accelerating, all the while dodging weaving cyclists trying desperately to climb the impossible climb at 4km an hour, roaring motorcycle groups hanging over on the wrong side of the road as they accelerate into the bends, and best of all, a couple of camper and who clearly didn’t get the memo that this is in facet close to a single lane road with traffic in both directions! It was a relief, at least for me, when we ended up behind a bus halfway down – what the hell was a bus doing on that road? He had to do a 3 point turn round many of the bends!
Suffice to say, after taking 3 hours to do 126km, we decided to take the long way back – the one we originally rejected because Navman said it would take 3 hours! But thanks to missing the toll road entrance, a major detour, and a questionable decision to ignore the gps and follow the sign to Bormio – taking us along little more than a farm track in the dark, we finally arrived back at the hotel SEVEN HOURS later! Peter was exhausted from all the driving, we were all three weary, and hungry, and dinner was long over.
but highlight of the day – our lovely hosts, having sent the kitchen staff home – had set out a feast of cold meats, cheeses and salads for us, with creme caramel to follow, and were standing ready with the winelist when we staggered through the doors at 9.45pm. This is truly the most hospitable hotel we’ve ever stayed in!L
And wow, did we sleep well that night!