National Parks & Mountain Goats
After leaving Matera, Fanny the Satnav, had a slight crisis. Well, she was doing a good job, the roads weren’t. There were three roads in and out of Matera that had been closed. We did venture down / up / across one, which resulted in real off-roading for a while. Nothing drastic; it was great fun. Especially when we had to go back the same way to find the road!
What was strange was the amount of roads that lead to nowhere….. Lots of them! Some even beautifully engineered, but not used. Well, I say ‘beautifully’ with reservation. This is Italy after all.
We worked out that it had taken about an hour and a half to cover only 18 miles. That included two closed roads, one of which we ignored and rode through anyway. Italian roads in places are just pants. We ended up in some strange villages. One in particular we will never forget. I would have taken a picture, however, I was too busy hanging onto Smoggy, front brake engaged and both feet firmly on the ground. Kill me now. We had to cut across the village square. It was slippery, with rain covered marble. Even at a standstill, my feet with their Vibram soles were all over the place. Hawd on! Just imagine if you have a tiled floor in the house, it’s NOT non-slip. Multiply that by 10 on the slipperiness scale. Now imagine riding a fully laden motorbike across it, being watched by locals who look like they have never, ever, seen a motorbike in their lives.
I’m glad to say, even Ed admitted to riding cautiously too. Phew. He’s human after all.
Eventually, we got to the main road. Ed got bored. I don’t blame him, I was bored too! So, we pulled over into a closed filling station and Ed reprogrammed Fanny. In the meantime, I was furtling in the bushes. Highly successful too….. I came back armed with satsumas. Ed was astounded. I was chuffed to bits. He was so busy working on his Fanny, he didn’t see the orange tree that was all of 2m away! I picked as many as I could fit in the space in my top box. They were (still are) beautifully sweet.
It was about 1:30pm at this point. A change of direction into the mountains. Ed’s plan was; play about for a couple of hours, head back down to the coast to look for accommodation. Aye, that’ll be shining bright.
Now, I would like to say at this point that we have covered one or two miles on our bikes in the Alps. We know what hairpin bends look like, we’ve ridden thousands of them. What we didn’t expect was finding routes that were just twisties. In the Alps, there’s a bit of a run to get to the bends. Here, no. BANG! Straight in about it. We rode our bikes for three hours of solid bends. I mean, SOLID. There were also lots of goat herds, mega cute, however I was too pooped to take a picture!
We were in a national park, Parco Nazionale Della Sila, Cosenza. Go and Google it and zoom in on the tiny wee roads!
It gets dark here at about 4:30. When we got off the mountains, it was dusk. I was pooped. There was no respite from the corners. Included was a close call with a silly cow in a blue car. I believe her car came off worse than my pannier did. (This is on the big list of things that we don’t share with Mum, Ok, got it?!) There are some of my readers who know about this *ahem* incident already. Those who don’t, I will share with you at some point over a glass of wine, or two.
We found a hotel, had wine and beer and a pizza place for Ed. I took my GF pasta. I thought I would get some back, however, the chef cooked the lot with a spicy beef sauce. Not bolognaise, much simpler and very yummy. I ate it all. And all the parmigiana too.
So, today. An easier day? It was my choice apparently. Yesterday, we had 3 solid hours of bends. Today, we turned out of the hotel; right, second right and whammo, bends again. Good bloody grief. I thought it would be fine, starting the bends in the morning.
The villages were something else. Fanny had a crisis. We ended down a tiled road. We both knew if we went any further, we would probably have to do a three point turn in someone’s kitchen. I did a really girly thing at this point. I got Ed to turn Smoggy and take him back up the hill. I’m not too proud to admit it, yesterday nearly did me in. I am beat. I need a couple of days off. We’ve now covered over 2,700 miles, which, in the scheme of things isn’t much. A great deal of those miles have been highly technical.
So, today’s run, 10am, leave the hotel. 3:30pm, off the mountain. Thankfully.
To start, it was about 18°. Stunning, great bends, the best fun I think I have ever had. The roads were so incredibly twisty that it was 14:45 when I used 4th gear for the first time that day. Miles and miles and miles of corners. How can I put it into perspective? Take the Stelvio Pass; half an hour up. Buy tourist tat. Lots of ‘oohs and ahs’. Half an hour back down. Do that 7 times. That’s what we did, without the coffee and the tourist tat. Then it turned so cold. 7°. Brrrrr. We both put on our Gerbing jackets which had been pretty redundant for about 8 days!
A lot of the corners were either pine needles or leaves. Then it rained. It was mushy pine needles or mushy leaves. Then, joy of joy, both. 2nd gear, engine braking and thighs firmly clamped on Smoggy’s (non) tank to help keep my arms and shoulders relaxed. Even Ed was picking his way very slowly through the piles of stuff on the road. I have never been so relieved to see the rain stop and the temperature rise from 7° to 18° in about a kilometre.
Fuelled on coffee and chocolate, after a stop at a petrol station, we bullied our way through the traffic jam that was holding everyone up. Much honking of horns. This is when I am glad I’ve had plenty filtering practice. Also, it’s a test of nerves. Good job. Wound our way through the mental Italian drivers. Down to the coast and found a hotel. Pizza for Ed, risotto for me. Washed down by a Sicilian red. It’s now 9:30pm. Bed time. Lightweight? I don’t think so. Not for a minute. I am, however, meant to be on my holidays. Time for a wee breather I think.