Monthly Archives: August 2012

Day 48: Bobbio to Genoa – 97k

3,870km down: 2,355km to go

Everyone woke up a bit jaded due to the lack of sleep! We are all looking forward to it being a rest day tomorrow.

We set off with the knowledge we had a 56k climb before lunch. I was a bit apprehensive but it was actually ok. It was up, up, up, but just when you thought you could not pedal another inch it would go up for another couple of minutes and then you’d get a downhill. I got to lunch ok, and thought it was all downhill from there, but after one downhill we started going up again, a quite steep hill but thankfully this was the last significant up of the day.

Summit of 56k hill before downhill to Genoa

Up until lunch at 58k it was quite quiet, we went through some nice sleepy towns straight after lunch and then we went through a tunnel. When we came out on the other side it was like going into another universe. We came into a town called Galieta, it was chaos. Narrow streets, people having coffee sitting outside shops, vans, cars, dogs, shops, it was very busy – they must have been all getting the shopping done before the siesta.

The houses were perched on the hillside, one house I could see was five stories high but very narrow. In the distance on top of the hills you see old castles. We rode through the small villages also of Moranego, Sella, Villamezana, and Canassolo. Unfortunately my camera was flat so I don’t have any photos.

My speed coming down hills is slowly improving, and I’m getting better at cornering as well. Still to break my record of 56kph though. Some of the turns on the downhill were quite tight, and there were cars and trucks in both directions.

View coming into Genoa

When we got down into Genoa I could not believe all the motorbikes and scooters, they were everywhere and they don’t appear to either know or follow any kind of road rules. Riding a bike through these cities takes a bit of nerve and faith – faith that the drivers will not actually hit you. I have learnt you have to move into the traffic with hand signals but don’t stop to turn and look at the drivers because if you look at them they know you’ve seen them and they won’t give way – even when they should! Coming into a busy intersection and going through without making eye contact is not an action to repeat at home, but it’s the only option here!

Scooters in Genoa

We are staying at the Hermitage Hotel, it’s not as flash as it sounds, but there is air conditioning, no noisy partying families, and a comfortable bed – even if it is single.

I tried to post the box home but guess what – Genoa post offices are shut all Friday afternoon! So my first stop was laundry, then we went out to tea at a nice seaside restaurant, I can’t remember the name – Osterio something!  The Wifi is patchy at the hotel so I am not sure how much I will get done on emails. Yay, we have a sleep-in in the morning.

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Day 47: Casalmaggiore to Bobbio – 112k

3,773km down: 2,454km to go

So once again we set off early to try and beat the heat. The mosquitos were pretty savage again in the morning and it’s hard to see them when it is still dark.

We have been noticing since we have been in Italy not only do the Italian women dress so beautifully – very chic! – but so do the riders. When they are in couples you can understand the matching clothes, but you see groups of riders that not only match clothes, but also their helmets, gloves, and shoes. It’s like the last thing they discuss before they finish a ride is what clothes they will wear the next day. And boy, are their whites white – they glisten! I am thankful for wearing sunglasses as they come towards me. We, on the other hand, look like a bedraggled bunch who have been sleeping rough for a couple of months and mostly hand washing our clothes (regardless of what we do, the whites in our clothes are gray!)

The first half of the ride to lunch today was flatish and not too hot. We were at lunch by 10:30am again. The second part of ride was hot and then climbing. We stopped 5k before the camp to go to the shops but they were shut. We thought it was just for the usual siesta, but no, turns out they are shut every Thursday afternoon for the whole afternoon.

So off to camp, we got there and yay there was a swimming river right by camp, so I quickly put up the tent and then headed off for a swim. Later I was talking to Dayna and she told me she saw a SNAKE!!!! In the river!!! Not sure how much more river swimming I will be doing!!

At the rider’s meeting that night Christiano told us that we are doing a 56k climb first thing the next day. I am not sure if some people have been complaining or if he had an idea of the night that was coming, but he gave us a long talk on how this ride was not only a test of physical strength but was also a test of psychological strength as well.

Not sure what it is with the toilets over here, I have got used to no soap, and even the squat toilets, but once again we are in a camp with no toilet paper!!!! Plus not sure how common flossing your teeth is here, as I had a line of small girls watching me in the wash room, and they ran away giggling when I turned around.

There are not so many bugs tonight but have a couple of things to add to the perfect campsite
1. Mosquito free dome
2. Snake free river!!!

So back to the psychological testing. We had a number of families camping near us at night. One family partied on until midnight, with loud Italian voices, laughter, and children laughing, playing, and giggling. We of course were all in our tents from about 8pm after a long day and a big day the next. While I was lying there unable to sleep due to the noise I thought “I can either get really frustrated or I can enjoy that once in my life I am at an Italian party” (even though I was uninvited, and in a tent a metre away). The Italians have loud, but quite singsongy voices.

Also I’m not sure if I have already mentioned it but last night we had members of the sports club partying it up, yelling and shouting in the pool area (by our tents) until about 3am.

Once the Italian family finally went bed – just after midnight – we had people partying in river until about 4am. I kept thinking thankfully it is a rest day the day after tomorrow. And I hope they fall over in the river and hit their heads. Although if they had, they would probably have just woken up and thought “Hey dude, must have been a good night, because damn I have a hell of a hangover!”.

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Day 46: Bondeno to Casalmaggiore – 140k

3,661km down: 2,564km to go

This morning our bags were by the van by 6am, breakfast was at 6:15am and we were on the road by 6:30am. All in a bid to try and beat the heat. It was another day of mostly flat riding, but also very hot. We were at lunch by 10:45, determined to be at camp before 2 pm.

The sun was a really fiery red colour when we left this morning (photo from here)

The morning started off quite nice and cool but soon started warming up. We were again riding along a levy but thankfully it was not as hot as the day before. I was riding with Brett again, luckily Brett is really good at following the directions, and he has a really good map. We were idling along the levy – it was like water torture. There were glorious blue swimming-pools on one side, and the river on the other. No one was swimming in the river though so we were not willing to risk it, and also there was no easy access down to it. I did think about throwing myself into one of the swimming pools. I wondered what would happen: “Hey mum there’s a lady in our pool”. Just as I was getting tempted to risk it I got distracted by another bee stinging me (this one took 3 days to stop hurting). The bees or wasps – am not sure which – love me, as soon as I arrive at lunch so do the bees.

After lunch we were riding along the main road. We stopped once for a drink but got back onto the bike without stopping too long. I was starting to wilt as we came to the 120k mark, and I had just said to Brett “Wouldn’t it be great if this was a day they had got the distance wrong by 10k in our favour again?” (like they did at the camp the night before Venice). Just then Brett saw a flag and they had got the distance wrong by 20k 🙂

Our accommodation was a weird set up, we are staying at a sports club which has a bar, swimming pool, tennis court etc. We set up our tents where we were told to, but a couple of hours later we had to dismantle them and set up further down the field away from the members (apparently a couple of them had complained about us being there, not sure what about but it could have been the washing lines with bike pants, bras etc, that upset them).

The water torture continued as you could only use the pool if you had a bathing cap (which of course we didn’t), and then to reinforce our torture, there was a hose spraying the lawn in front of us. This also attracted the mosquitoes in droves. When you came out of your tent in the middle of the night they descended on you as a pack. We all left there sporting numerous bites regardless of putting on bug spray.

With leaving earlier we are getting up in the dark, which is usually ok as I have my head light. However, it has been merrily turning itself on in my bag since St Petersburg, and of course it chose this morning to be flat. The spare batteries are in my permanent bag, which at the moment is off scouting for tomorrow, so I will have no light tomorrow either. It makes getting ready a bit difficult as the phone light is useless.

On a positive note we had dinner in the restaurant at the camp tonight, we had 18 pizzas between 13 people, and the beer was cold. However the Wifi did not work so sending this was delayed. I also got a nasty fright when I went to the toilet – it was a squat toilet, basically a hole in ground with foot spaces on either side. Yuck.

Squat toilet. Yuck.

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Day 45: Mira to Bondeno – 129k

We had another early start due to the heat. Today was the first day riding without half the group, though we do have two new riders – Walker and Carol – from Vancouver, Canada.

Unfortunately today saw the return of my inner ear problem! I rode with Brett, which was good as it meant I did not have to keep looking down at the instructions. This morning there were three boards of instructions, with turns about every kilometre.

We knew it would be hot, but it was going to be fairly flat. I had not managed to find a post office open in Venice the day before so had to fit the post box into my daily bag as well. With a bit of careful rearranging I managed to move enough stuff to my permanent bag to fit (lucky I had already sent some stuff home).

The first part of the day went quite well, we were at lunch by 10.30am but then the heat really revved up! We were riding most of the afternoon on a levy with the wind behind us so the heat was stifling. John recorded it as high as 42 degrees. We stopped a couple of times, once under a bridge where it was nice and cool, and then about 5k later again as it was so hot I felt like I was going to be sick. Thankfully it was not too much further.

We went into the town, found shade, had a cold drink, and hung around for awhile enjoying being cool. When we got to camp there was not a lot to do – put up the tent, washing, have a shower etc. There was no Wifi, and only one shower for  all the riders but as we got into the camp last there was no queue. For some reason the owner locked the shower at 8pm, not sure what he thought we were going to do, all have another shower or something?

After dinner three of Gergo’s friends turned up, they play in a band called Matana, and they were playing that night about 30k away. They played a couple of numbers for us, it was really great.

Matana: Gergo is second from the right

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Day 44: Rest day two in Venice

So we spent the reminder of the first rest day lazing around the villa and then went down to the restaurant for dinner, the food was great. We had an antipasto platter with fresh sardines and prawns etc plus two bowls of really small snails…. I tried them, I didn’t like them.

Snails . . .

For the main, five of us ordered a fish parcel. We had had white wine with the first course but we decided to change to red for the main. We explained this to the waitress and she disagreed with us as we were having fish, and she wanted us to have white. So we explained that this was what we wanted, all good we thought, as she nods and goes off. Then she came back and plonks the white wine on the table and says “White for fish”. We again say “No, no, we want red”. She shakes her head and says as she is walking off “White …!”.

Me and my fish parcel

Earlier in the day John had asked at the villa we are staying at for ice-cream, there were three 3 choices – chocolate, vanilla and limoncello, so he asked or a scoop of all 3. “No, no”, he was told, “No limoncello with vanilla!”.

We received an email from another rider – who was leaving the tour in Venice and who had stayed an additional night in Venice – to say that the hotel reception had contacted her as I had left earrings and a necklace in my room, and another rider Brett had left his glasses in his room. We emailed another rider, Gen, who had stayed another night at the hotel in Lido but was moving into Venice the next day and arranged we would meet her the next day.

Lido is an island and it’s a 30 minute ferry ride each way. As Italy is currently in a heat wave, we decided to head into Venice early. The villa we were staying at is about a 40 minute bus ride and then a 15 min walk each way. Originally we had talked about having dinner in Venice with Gen and her boyfriend – who had arrived that day to join her. However the logistics of getting back to Mira and with an early start the next day, we decided against it.

So we got up early and got on the bus. We got into Venice and had a bit of a look around, lots of tiny windy streets, and canals, old buildings, churches, gondolas (water boats), shops selling masks, and murano glass (used to be called Venetian glass). As we had left early Gen had not yet replied to her email, and of course we needed Wifi to be able to email her. We wandered around for awhile looking for an Internet cafe but no luck. At one point we were standing by a sign that said “Mcdonalds – 5 minutes away”. As you probably know Mcdonalds has free Wifi. We then saw it was five min by boat (which would be 7 euro each way so we decided against it). Venice is the most expensive city so far.

We wandered up to St Marks Square and had a look at the shops. We saw a man sitting in a cafe using an iPad so went in to see, and there was free Wifi for 30 min if you were a customer . So two beers, two sandwiches, and 50 euro later, we had checked my Wifi and had an email from Gen to say what hotel they were at – the Rialto Hotel by the Rialto bridge. So we figured we would go there and find her so off we set with the map.

Well. Venice – as I said earlier – has lots of tiny winding streets, canals and a mask shop and a murano glass shop on every corner. Plus it was so hot and full of people! There are apparently 20 million tourists a year to Venice, I reckon a good proportion of them were here today.

I also went to a post office to get a box to mail some stuff home, I waited in line, got to the top of the line and was able to buy the box, but was told I couldn’t post it because they were shutting – I had not clicked about the siesta at this stage.

Anyway, we got lost. When you google the top 10 things to do in Venice, “Get lost” is number 1, so tick that off the list. At one stage things were looking familiar and we thought we were on the right track but probably it was just because there were lots of mask shops, canals and glass shops, as just when we thought we should be just about there we came out to the arsenale (old navy base) and when we looked at the map
1. We were on the other side of the island from where we wanted to be
2. We had been nowhere near here before!

So we decided to back track to St Marks Square where we last knew for sure where we were, and start from there. So to cut a long story short we eventually found the Rialto hotel which was right by the Rialto Bridge (which for some reason in my mind I had got confused with another bridge so I sent Kelly photos first of all saying “photos of the Rialto bridge”, then “No, scrap that, it is not the rialto bridge”, then “Yes, hang on, it is”. I don’t know how she puts up with me).

Anyway. We got to the hotel and Gen came down but Tyson was asleep so we did not get to meet him, but Gen did take us up to the balcony of her hotel to see the view. Would you believe it, from there we looked down and saw the same ruddy sign “5 minutes to Mcdonalds” that we had been at three and a half hours earlier!! One can only laugh and appreciate that we probably saw more of Venice than we otherwise would have.

While we were there Gen told us a very funny story. She had done the bike ride with her dad, Rob, and so unsurprisingly they have the surname. Rob was leaving Venice the same day as us to go to Florence for a couple of days and then home. Tyson, Gen’s boyfriend, was arriving the same day that Rob was leaving. Tyson had been sending emails to Gen at the hotel which she was not getting. “Hmm … frustrating and strange”, she thought, however she was managing to get hold of him via her email enough to organize stuff so just put it down to one of the frustrations of travel.

Well it all came to a head when 30 minutes after her dad left she came downstairs and asked at reception if she was going to be able to change to the double room that she had requested. When she was told no, she asked if she could have the beds pushed together and clean sheets. Well to cut another long story short, the receptionist had thought Gen and her dad were married, and that Tyson was her lover!! The receptionist had been really conflicted and had sought advice from her boss about what she should do when receiving the messages from Tyson, and had decided she was not going to be involved, hence no passing on of messages or emails. However when Gen arrived at reception with Rob barely out the door wanting a double bed and sheets she decided enough was enough. Once they cleared it up they both had a good laugh.

One thing I did not do in Venice is go on a gondola ride. The price starts at 90 Euro, and given that I get motion sick I decided it would not be worth it. I saw lots of them, but only men gondolier (drivers). One gondolier also sung opera as he was going down the canal, it was very special to see and hear as he disappeared off through the bridges.

After wandering around a bit more we decided to head back to Mira to get ready for an early start the next day. We got lost again finding our way, we came to one place that we knew we had been at that morning but frustratingly could not remember which way we had been going when we were there. We stopped in a square to check the map and have a cold drink. We found we were surrounded by Irish, English, and Australians. The waiter gave us very simple directions “Go that way for 5 minutes”. So all was well, we found the bus.

As we had not told the hotel by 2pm that we would be there for dinner, we had to go elsewhere. The restaurant from the night before was shut on Sunday nights, but we had been told that the guys who had gone out to do laundry had seen a number of places in the village. Well they were all shut, and the Chinese restaurant that Geergo (tour guide) had seen by the bus stop was in fact a bar with two Chinese guys behind it, that only sold toasted sandwiches. So we had one of those and an ice-cream and laughed at the contrast from the night before.

Venice was more beautiful than I had ever imagined, and I will definitely return and spend some time here.

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Day 43: Rest day one in Venice

I woke up this morning feeling a bit jaded from the alcohol intake last night. It was a great night though.

We had to change hotels which required a 30 minute boat ride back into Venice. I sat very still and focused on the horizon, and luckily did not get sea sick. This was doubly lucky as I then had to get on a bus for 35 minutes. We caught a bus to Mira where the new hotel is. Our bikes and bags came in the tour trucks but there is no extra space for riders. Once we got to Mira we then had to walk 15 min to the hotel. I am pleased we are not biking today, it is so hot!

I had thought about going back into Venice today, but the place we are saying in – Hotel Villa Alberti – has really lovely gardens, and nobody apart from Jan and Dayna headed back into the city. Mostly people caught up on emails, laundry and read and dozed. Tomorrow the plan is to go in early and get to St Marks Market early before the crowds, and have a look around before the heat sets in. The place we are staying is 350 years old, amazing!

There is a really nice fish restaurant 300 metres down the road that some of the riders checked out for lunch that we are going to go back to for dinner. Then I think it will be early to bed for me.

Venice (Ciran’s Head)

Buildings seen by boat just before the Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge

Vapperrato (water taxi) passing us

Rob and Walli on the water taxi

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Day 42: San Stino to Venice!!!! – 58k

3,392km down: 2,833km to go

Sadly the talent show did not get up and running as after dinner we walked down the road for ice-cream and then sat around talking.

So this morning we had a 58k bike ride before we met in Punta Sabbioni at 12pm at the dock to take a boat into Venice. I set off about 7:20am as I wanted to get to Punta Sabbioni and hopefully Skype my children. There was quite a lot of traffic and lots of turns, I was worried at one point I had made a wrong turn but thankfully I had not. Jan and Dayna had their first turn at getting lost, but still turned up in plenty of time.

Unfortunately there was no Wifi connection at the dock, so it had to be a phone call instead. I shopped at a cafe where the owner was quite interested in the bike ride (but he did not speak a lot of English so it was not a long conversation). I was the first there and then in twos and threes the other riders arrived and joined me. The owner got more and more enthusiastic as we ordered food and drink, and started bringing out food for us to try. He then started bringing out sparkling wine – at 11am – and was very insistent that we should try it. We ended up being there a couple of hours waiting for our boats to Venice.

Waiting for the boat at Punta Sabbioni

The tour guys had organized for us to do an hour water tour on the way to our hotel. We set off in two boats, and our bikes in another. What an amazing and beautiful city, it is everything I have imagined and more. So many intricately decorated and detailed buildings, the water is only about half a metre from the front doors. The buildings open out into the canal and there are boats and people everywhere. And it is really, really hot – not sure if you have heard that Italy is having a heat wave.

Approaching Venice by water

Sadly about 15 minutes before the end of the trip I decided to look in my bag to get my iPad out to take a photo, and just that one act of looking down was enough to set off my sea sickness. By the time we got to land I felt dreadful. I got to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours, and luckily woke up feeling better.

We are staying at Hotel Atlanta Augustus. Amazing – in my room I have a four poster bed, complete with tapestries.

We had the farewell dinner at a restaurant just down the street. Or I should say the farewell feast. We had Prosecco Frizzante (a white sparkling wine) provided by Tour De Afrique, and Daphne and Shirley. We had numerous courses – sea food pasta and risotto, salad, baked fish and squid rings and shrimps. Then we had limoncello to drink, and sgroppino, which is made from lemon sorbet, presecco, vodka and menthe.

After dinner, Gen, Rob, Walli, Brett and I went down the road to a local bar and sat outside by the canal. We should have only had one more drink (well I should have) but we ended up drinking two really large glasses of beer, I woke up the next morning feeling a bit seedy – with another boat trip in the very near future! Not such good planning.

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Day 41: Ozeljan to San Stino – 112k

3,334km down: 2,891km to go

Today started off reasonably cool but was blazing hot by the end of the ride – 38 degrees. We had a small hill at the start and then it was downhill to the border of Italy – only 7.5k from our camp. It was very exciting, as I have always wanted to come to Italy, and now I am here 🙂

Once again it was an open border, but least it was clear where the border was, and there was a sign so we could take photos.

Italia – I’m here!

There was an interesting town called Palmanova that you have to go through an arch to get in and out of, and the town is set out in the shape of a star. We stopped there for coffee and to have a look around.

The ride today had villages interspersed with long stretches of farm land and a bit of forest. The villages are still really pretty, but not nearly as many window boxes.

One of our instructions today was missing but luckily the first truck spotted this on its way to the next stop before any of us got to it, and they covered the turn with flags so it could not be missed.

After lunch there was a really long hot stretch of highway about 20k long, with a very slight up gradient, plus favorable wind (behind us). I should have been flying along it but my legs must have been tired from yesterday, even though they weren’t sore, and it was hard work.  I stopped for a cold drink thinking we had about 8k to go, but then 1k up the road we saw the flag to the place we are staying – Casa Mia. Yay, with the heat and tired legs today was certainly the day to have the kilometres wrong in our favour.

I have to say the tour guys come up with a range of places, last night was more the traditional sort of camp with a reception, ablution and cooking block, tenting area, cabins (well, bed boxes is what they were really called, and it was a good description). Today there is a house, no reception, two showers like in a guest house, and the campsite looks like a back yard, with a small kitchen for campers like a kitchen in a house.

There are rooms available – one with 1 bed, and one with 4 beds. I grabbed the one bedroom. The lady who owns the house sleeps every day from 1pm to 4pm. So she put me in charge of rooms for any of the riders who came later and wanted one.

Tonight is the last night camping for a number of the riders. Tomorrow we bike 60k then we catch a water taxi to Venice to our hotel. We are having a farewell dinner and then for them it’s all over. We move hotels the next morning to be closer to where we ride from Venice.

I am looking forward to the chance to get into Venice and look around. We have two rest days so I should see a bit of it.

Leaving the tour in Venice:
Gen – is meeting her boyfriend and looking around for a week
Rob – going to Florence for two nights then home
Daphne – meeting her husband who is Italian and staying here to visit with family for  a couple of weeks
Shirley – staying with Daphne in Italy for a week
Walli – staying one night then home
Brian – going home, he is stopping in London to see his granddaughter on the way
Louise and Gareth – going home
Plus Ciran one of the tour guys is leaving. He has done a fantastic job fixing all sorts of problems with the bikes.

We are getting a new rider on the 29th of August. Danya’s dad is going to join the tour for a couple of weeks. If he is anywhere as nice as his daughter he will be great addition to our group.

The place we are staying tonight has a small hall with a stage. Dayna, Jan and I think that as it is the last night this could be the night for Tour de Africa (TDA) Idol Contest, so we are trying to enlist other riders to participate! So far we have had a mixed reception and have plenty of slots left. We will do another recruitment drive after they have had a beer and/or a wine or two!

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Day 40: Ljubljana to Ozeljan – 85k

3,222km down: 3,003km to go

I had an interesting start to the day. I had organized a wakeup call, as I always worry about not waking up on time and keeping everyone waiting for the convoy (I could of course just set the alarm on the phone). I was awake at 5am but then I went back to sleep and then I woke up with the sound of banging. I lay in bed for a while and then worked out it was the sound of knocking on a door. I lay there wishing the person in the room would open their blimmin door! Next thing a man unlocks my door and walks in and politely says “Time to wake up” and walks out again. I had not realized it was my door, as my room – as I said yesterday – was huge!

I thought to myself, after he had gone, what a quaint way to do a wakeup call, if I had known he was going to come up to my room maybe he could have bought me a cup of tea! I wondered if they had had problems with wakeup calls with people going back to sleep after they rang them. Haha, all was revealed when I went to unplug the iPad and found that I had unplugged the phone when I had plugged the iPad in to charge – doh! I had to rush around as by this stage as it was 5:55am and bags had to be down at 6am! Luckily I had packed last night.

So the good news today was that we were only riding 85k, the bad news was it was in 33+ degrees heat, and there were two significant hills – one was 5k and one was 10k, with some serious steep bits, one with a 15% gradient. I managed to get up the hills, although at one point I did hit my slowest speed ever without falling off.

The hills were up the Julian Alps which is the mountain range in between Slovenia and Italy. We stopped at 44k for lunch, this was at the steepest bit. It was the site of old Roman ruins. After another 10k we got to the peak but it was more rollers from lunch than steep hills.

Going down was great. It was about 15k, I still did not get over my top speed of 55 kilometres an hour but hit that three or four times. After the 55kmph mark I always start thinking about landing with face on the road, and then I start breaking!

We passed through some lovely little towns, one called Črniče looked really old, I googled it, and it is.

Ciran said to us that as soon as we got over the top of the ranges that we would be able to see how dry it was and he was right. Along with Ljubljana, this area is also suffering from lack of rain. It is so dry that the grass is brown.

I got to an intersection before the camp and there were two directions and no flag. “Damn,” I thought “Don’t tell me I have made a wrong turn again”. I took out my notes and spent a couple of minutes pondering, as it was about the right point to be near the camp. I decided I would ride another kilometre and otherwise I would go back to the last flag. Well would you believe it! I went another 100 metres and there was the camp. The ground here is so dry it’s cracked.

Camp Lijak (today’s camp)

Even with the hills we still got here by 1pm. It was 5 Euro for Wifi and 16 Euro for a wooden box called a room. Prices are starting to climb! The camp owner sells beer but not wine. Rob saw a sign for wine across the road and went over to buy some, he came back with a bottle that was like a fizzy drink 1.5 litre type bottle. We asked him what sort of wine it was, his answer was “red”. We all had a small glass, it was surprisingly good.

Is it a prison? Is it a toilet? No it’s my accommodation for tonight! Bit of a contrast from last night’s kingside bed.

Side view of accommodation. It is eco friendly (even has a straw mattress)

My accommodation for the night

There are a lot of flies here, Yarn spent a bit of time catching flies and setting up a fly farm, his aim was to have two flies under each glass.

Yarn with his fly farm

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Day 39: Rest day in Ljubljana

I was awake before I had to be, of course on a rest day, but was excited as I was planning on Skyping my children at 8:30am. I had breakfast and came back to the room to Skype, we chatted for over an hour, it was good to catch up! I am going to talk to them again soon but probably by phone instead of Skype, depending on what time we get to Venice.

I had arranged to go out straight away afterwards so that I would not get homesick. I met Walli and we headed off to sightsee. We spent ages (about 3 hours) at Ljubljana castle, we visited the museum up there, and went up and down on the funicular railway. We also had lunch up there.

View from Castle Ljubljana

Tourist train Ljubljana

We then went on a boat trip along the canal (or Kanal in Slovenia). There has been just about no rain this summer (usually they get lots of thunderstorms in summer) so everything is dry. The canal is lower than usual and quite stagnant. The highlight for me of the boat trip was seeing a musk rat – also called a nutria – they are really big and look a bit like otters. They can grow up to 10kg but the average is about 4kg. It was swimming along, and then just as we got our cameras ready it dived under the  water into a pipe. (Photos of these rats can be found here).

View from canal trip in Ljublijana

Canal trip Ljubljana

Church in Ljubljana (forgot the name of it)

Afterwards we looked around town, and watched a few street performers and buskers. I had dinner with Daphne, Shirley and Walli. We went to a Pizzeria called Ljubljanski Dvor – it had 102 different kinds of pizza, and we had some nice red wine with it. I had a mixture of sardines, cheese, pepperoni, tomato and onion. It was really nice but even though it was the small one, it was too big for one person.

Then it was back to hotel to pack up again, it is an early day tomorrow, with our bags out by 6am.

I have really enjoyed being in Slovenia, and Ljubljana is a beautiful city. The people are friendly, and the city is not too big and not too expensive. Slovenia has t-shirts and all sorts of other tourist stuff that says “Slovenia the only county with LOVE in its name”. A lot of people from neighbouring countries come here for honeymoons, stag dos and hen parties.

There is a large student population; the total city population is 280,000 of which 60,000 are students. Readers Digest 2008 called this the world’s most honest city. I must look up what that was based on. The national symbol is a dragon (green). Anyway, it is 10:30pm so I better go to bed.

Here are some links:

Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)
Old Town
Julian Alps, Slovenia
Butcher’s Bridge
Ljubljana Castle (Grad)
Landkarte – ÖAI EN

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