10th September 2012

Ciao from lake como!

It’s only a few hours since my last post but in recognition of having crossed a border and also in the spirit of diligence, here it is!

I left Lenzerheide at about midday today, dispatched with both a selection of snacks for my journey as well as the fine advice that seeking lower ground for camping may make for a comfortable, and rather less chilly night’s sleep, so it was off south to Italy for me! First I headed in the st Moritz direction along the Julierpass, then stopped at a recommended spot for some lunch. The seafood risotto was without doubt the best I’ve ever tasted but also the largest I’ve ever seen. Regrettably I decided it would be a shame to waste it so polished the entire thing off.

Unfortunately I hadn’t properly explored the map as to what was to happen next - the stunning Malojapass into Italy, which was to feature some of the steepest, most extreme and tight switchbacks I’ve ever seen in my life. Not ideal on a drz with a very full stomach it must be said.

Alas I had also underestimated that having dropped a kilometre in height in about 15minutes, the temperature would soar to the extent that it felt like I had ridden into a hair drier. It was overwhelming - I’d crossed a border but felt continents away - suddenly I was feeling incredibly hot, overstuffed and generally a bit overcome by how many vehicles were on the road everywhere. I’ve barely seen any traffic for days, but now it was ducatis at dawn as I was carved up by hundreds of leather clad boy-racers, not a friendly wave from one. Even worse - I was overtaken by more than a few 4x4 fiat pandas as well! Ouch!

And so it was that I crawled through this alpine valley (at this section the mountains look rather spiky and foreboding like the peaks of Mordor) , the skies darkening and the air muggy, feeling a little lost and a long way all of a sudden from the comforts of Lenzerheide. And then of course, it started to rain! I’m afraid
to say that morale continued to falter.

Eventually I arrived at the top of lake como at the little town of Colico and decided to go in search of a campsite. It took quite a while to find one in the crawling rush hour traffic and alas it really didn’t feel safe to look up long enough to peak at the lake view. Eventually after half an hour I spotted a sign for a campsite but given the intensity of the traffic, didn’t have a chance to turn in time so rode on and pulled into a layby ready to do a u-turn.

By this point I’ll admit that I was feeling a little hot, bothered and beaten by both the soaring temperatures (well over 30) and the chaotic, closed in surroundings of the tight winding streets. It was at this moment though that a lovely man on some sort of fairly large Suzuki pulled up beside me with his smiling wife sitting pillion behind him, and asked, “ciao, are you ok?”, both of them beaming warm smiles that shone all the way to their eyes. I thanked them and replied that I was fine and just heading towards the campsite. After a few more smiles and pleasantries they departed on their way. It was such a small act of kindness in some ways but given this had been a bit of a low moment when I was starting to question what on earth I had got myself into, this unexpected moment of human warmth and care gave my morale a massive boost and put a smile back on my face.

I’m happy to say I’ve now pitched up and had a chance to liberate my feet from my boots and paddle in lake como (with sincere apologies to local marine life). Fantastic. In fact my mood is now so buoyant that this evening I managed to turn what could have easily become a “red mist” moment into a bit of a chuckle. I’d just sat down at a little table overlooking the lake at my campsite restaurant, taking my first bite of food, when a monty pythonesque Italian came rushing over to report that this was his table. I took a moment to reflect on how this could be the case when he insisted “look, ‘ere are my shoes”, pointing at a crumpled pair of flip flops on one of the chairs. Though I was baffled by this man’s adamance, I did consider that any man who believes that his presence can be fully represented through the medium of beaten up summer footwear should probably be pitied rather than argued with, so I let him win this one and scooted off to another table. It’s a nil points score in international relations for him but this experience in no way diminished the delicious taste of my mozzarella and tomato supper.

After all this fun, my thermarest beckons….tomorrow it’s the Moto guzzi museum here on lake como then on to the Dolomites!