Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day 7-8 (Grimaldi Lines)

Sunday 26th to Monday 27th June 2011

Civitavecchia - Catania - Valletta

Nights sleep was quite nice even on the hard foam mattress.  Woke up at 7am with the annoying hissing of the aircon.  We get a shower in the surprising good ensuite, water pressure is great and the temperature good.

We head to the canteen, well actually that apart from the outside deck is the only place you can go!  The breakfast ticket allowed us to choose a pastry, fruit and a drink.  Anything else and you are what seems to be charged at double the VAT.

We see Mark and sit with him, eat, chat and yawn alot while commenting about the amount of passengers or lack thereof.  We finish up and head outside for a stroll.

Shiny Italian Speedo guy
There is an upper deck where the bathers are.  Including a genuine shiny Italian with Speedos!  Lol, I thought they were a myth.  We stand in the corner looking out to the Italian coastline with a kind of awkwardness with the disillusioned bathers all around us – folks, really...lay off the bread!.  After 10 minutes of taking pictures we go back to the lower deck and I engage in a bit of wind biting.  Similar to what a Dog would do with their head out of the window, except me being a type of human...I do it on a boat.

We head back to the cabin, read a little, watched a movie on the laptop.  The lunch call is announced, we head to the canteen again for the ritual.  We both selected what seems to alot of food, making full use of our token.  The food on this ferry is not too bad actually!
The magical shop of mirrors

After another stroll and little exploration we head to the cabin.  Aimee reads and goes for a nap.  I watch 2 movies and go for a wander.  I kept saying to Aimee that there ‘must’ be a shop onboard this ship.  I passed a room what looks like it should be a shop with mirrors and 5 magazines on the side.  All the mirrors were placed to fill the entire room with magazines.  I asked the reception who pointed to the room, which only had 5 magazines.  I had to ask her 3 times “What? There?”  “ci”, “There? That is the shop?” “ci”.  That was a laugh!  Definitely the Mediterranean’s most boring ship, ever.  I felt sorry for the workers who were assigned here. Maybe the staff were not fit for anywhere else within Grimaldi Lines?  Maybe they were company liabilities so like the English being sent to Australia, they were being sent to the dreaded Civitavecchia to Malta line?

Mt Etna and Catania
I buy some soft drinks and head to the cabin again.  Wake Aimee up and we are travelling in2between Sicily and Italy.  We take the opportunity to take more pictures, looks very nice out there.  We could see the mighty Etna there blowing smoke from its peak.  A couple of hours pass then we dock with Catania.  You are given the opportunity to disembark for a look around Catania.  But since we have been there before and didn’t want to go through the check out and check in procedures we decided to sit in the empty canteen watching Uno1 on the tv.  At sunset we headed to deck for some good pictures of Catania from the ship.

Around 9.30pm not alot of people embarked the ship.  This was going to be a very lonely trip to Malta as we sat waiting for 10:30pm for the canteen to open.  We were quite hungry! 

Once finished, we headed to the cabin for sleep.  We were to land in Malta at 8am so wake up should be 6.30am.  As we lay in the hissing aircon, I had a sudden realisation!  That metal rod was an allan key of sorts and deciding to poke and prod the aircon managed to turn it down to minimal hiss.

Malta! - The End
Sleep was a dreamy affair, waking up every 2 hours unsettled.  We headed to the empty canteen at 7.30am and waited with our gear.  The call was made and so was our way to the bike.  Starter her up, she sounded sweet... She was about to caress the rough yet beautiful land that is Malta.  She did so with grace, and still does today!  Although I think the roads in Malta are affecting the head race bearings already.

The Madonna travelling at 30mph

We headed to the exit of the terminal where we were abruptly stopped by the three most disorganised rebellious looking individuals I have ever seen, who also looked as if they did not have a clue what was happening.  

We manage to survive Marsa and the skidpans and motocross viable roads together with dodgy Maltese drivers into St Pauls.  Park up and this is it, the adventure through Europe was over.  I pat the bike for being a soldier and we share an intimate moment together as Aimee headed to greet the dog.

Ghadira from Mellieha

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Saturday - Castiglione della Pescaia to Civitavechia

Saturday, 25th June

Castiglione della Pescaia  -  
Grosseto  -  Orbetello  -  Civitavechia

Eat, Drink, Plan, Go!

Awoken from the slumber we join others for the usual continental breakfast, it’s like eating bird food and the morning.  Weird huh?  Just throw me some cornflakes or a full English breakfast and I’ll be happy.  So, anyway...

We sit outside and enjoy breakfast, probably the most awkward part of sleeping in a building full of strangers.  Slamming doors, banging walls, creaky floorboards and the sound of chains or tape ripping I can handle from strangers...but, the breakfast awkwardness.  Eat, drink... go.  Or what we seem to do is, eat, drink, pretend to plan our exciting day because our day is more exciting than the others..but plan our exciting day by talking quietly so the others won’t know how much more exciting our day is going to be...probably just as well, because we didn’t know how exciting today would turn out to be.

Aimee does her duty, pays the bill while I do my manly duty of carrying all the baggage in one go.  If I fall, it’s ok lads....I will drag em!

My baggage restraining is getting better!  I will forget how to do this the next time we go journey.

Hunt for Icecream

Off we go!  We begin our journey to Orbetello for an icecream.  For some bizarre reason during our plan pretending I took the plan into reality.  Breakfast plans are never usually adhered to, are they?

So anyway, we didn’t actually plan how we were supposed to get out of this region.  There are 2 roads that lead to Grosseto, which is our way out to Civitavecchia.  We head down a nice road which takes us through forest and lots of people are up and about at 9am walking and enjoying the air.  We continue and hit open country road which has advertisement billboards every 10metres or so... we must have passed 200 of them, very distracting. The only one that I remember was an advert about beer...

We pass policemen waving traffic on.  A few miles down the road is Grosseto and its labyrinth of roads with misplaced signs!  Up and down the gears, twisting and turning we head out of Grosseto and into more open country roads...  We pass policemen waving traffic on, haha this was funny cos we saw 2 policemen on the other road but on the other side of the road.  Wait, what..?!  Yes, well done Kriston, well done Grosseto council... you sent me back the way we came.  We kept going straight and turned off in the middle of the forested area.  This was a shorter route to Grosseto.

Back in Grosseto, we again get lost and had to stop a few times to wonder just where the hell we are.  Being a foreign rider, this gives me a degree of license to break some rules of the road to get onto certain roads.  After 30 minutes riding around sweating, we manage to ‘head out on the highway’ and towards Orbetello.


As we arrive here, I realised it was a Saturday and all pretty seaside towns will be very busy, this was no exception.  It was a slow ride to the centre.  We park up next to all of the wimpy scooter/mopeds, while Aimee guarded the bags I wandered off to find somewhere to eat/drink.  It looks strangely quiet, but it is all happening the street parallel.  Get Aimee and we sit down at a Tea cafe...of all the places... today is not the time for a hot tea!  Locals are really giving us both funny looks with our jackets, leathers and boots.  I feel like a spaceman!

After sitting at the table for 3 minutes, we decide to ditch the Tea and try hit an icecream... none... Finding an icecream should not be this hard!  We decide instead to just get to our destination of Civitavecchia.

Riding around this town, I realise it is very nice with its inner city walls and gates, shame we only stopped for 30minutes.

Heading out, we had a slight altercation and a horn beeping moment. An Italian driver pulled out on me, but avoided any collision.

Civitavecchia, “Mothers that smell of almonds”

We turn off and head towards the city.  The road leading in is long and hardly any traffic.  In the distance you can see container cranes and ships in port.  We meander in, and find buildings and life.  We park up opposite a cafe, now I get emotional and stroke the bike thanking her for getting us here safely – I must admit there was a tear welling up.  I think the emotion was compounded by the fact our journey was almost over!  We head up and chill while watching the bike. 

The cafe is run by Romanians I am assuming, very nice staff and I have fun ordering in Italian.  They of course do not know what the hell I am saying with my crazy Isle of Man accent. But I repeat a few times and they get it.  I go the bar and ask for ice, in Italian.  She laughs at my Italian and I ask her to repeat so I can say it properly.  A polite smile swept her face as she knew I was making an effort.  Remember, even if you cant speak a language, just try....the locals will like it even if they know not of what you speak.  Unless of course you accidentally say “You’re mother smells of almonds and you are a goat”

After relaxing for 2 hours we head off, I could sit there all day!

Getting to the port is quite easy, just follow the signs which do work ok and collect your toll ticket – you don’t ned to use it. It must be to stop drivers parking for days and not actually travelling on a ship.

We find a building at the end, where we ask a port worker who spoke ‘English’ and was really helpful.  He explained that the platform number was 2.   We ride off for platform 2, nearby is a cafe with icecream! At journeys end we achieve another goal.  There is a nice breeze blowing through as we relax with our boots off.

Now, I did a very silly thing, booked the ship without a cabin.  I booked 2 pullman seats, Aimee gave me that look.  And I was trying to find a phone number, but found none.  So, I wandered off to find the terminal building as there must be one around here.  After 30 minutes I find it a good 400metres away, go in and find the ferry operator booth which is closed.  Head back and drag Aimee to the terminal as i don’t speaka Italian.  We cannot book cabins there, but she does give us boarding passes.  It was lucky we went because like the UK and other ports you just need the printed paper.

Kriston and Mark
Waiting at the platform we sit on a bench, Aimee is chatting to an Sicilian gentleman and a guy sits next to me and begins chatting to me, Mark is his name.  He rides a BMW and had been across the Alps also visiting friends.  We have a good chat about various subjects, a very interesting gentleman!  Even gave us the lowdown of the ship, apparently it is very boring.  I didn’t really know what he meant, but will go into that later.  I did comment that the ship looks more trucker design and doesn’t look like it has been made for humans as such.
Eventually we are allowed into the holding area, where we grab some pics and chat more.  The port staff lose a key for the gate lol! 

We park the bike onboard and make a move for the restaurant area, with the exception to the cabins this is where it all happens!  A canteen with a bar in the middle. Right now we are anxiously waiting for the canteen to open, we are hungry!  We purchased the meals online and had tokens.  To get the most out of the tokens read the notice/menu halfway down canteen.  Food is actually quite nice!

The Pitbull

We eat, and wait for the ship to start moving when apparently we could book our cabin.
Booked, cards released and we do not hesitate at all to get to the room.  Aimee enters first, and I follow.  We notice a bag and I notice 3 mobiles on the table.  Aimee concluded we must be sharing, a daunting prospect. But I insist we should leave, 3 phones, 3 of 4 bunkbeds open...we were given the wrong keycards!  Just at this realisation, the door opens with a somewhat confused and angered Sicilian with his posse.  Think of a pitbull with teeth bared, this is what this grumpy short hairy guy looked like...for a minute I thought he was, Aimee corrected me.

We head back to the reception and Aimee amusingly explains the situation with an angry pitbull following and waving arms...Didn’t know dogs had arms... What do you call them?  I suppose they are legs, but if dogs were to walk like humans would we eventually call the front legs ‘arms’?  ...anyway... Attendant printed out new cards and checked the room before we entered.  

Ahhhhhhhh!!  Relax!  A hard foam bed never felt so good!  Yet slightly nervous that some stranger will enter our room, I put the bags against the door.

We could not starfish in this room, bad times.  So we got into beds and decided on sleep.  There was an annoying ‘hisssssssss’ coming from above.  Turn on light and notice there is a metal rod stuck in the ventilator.  I remove hoping the hissing would stop, no joy I even pushed the flaps down...ah well...

We manage to drift off to a sleep.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Friday - Deiva Marina to Castiglione della Pescaia

Friday, 24th June
Deiva Marina - Grosseto - Castiglione della Pescaia

The Soil Cushion

Waking up at 8 am, shower and pack our baggage.  We head for breakfast!

Very nice dining area with premium cutlery, well, we did find ourselves a 4* hotel.  Breakfast on offer was the usual continental but ordered.  We much prefer the help yourself approach or even better, a good greasy English Breakfast!  Can’t beat a good English Breakfast! Nom nom!

As I haul the bags to the bike, Aimee sorted out the bill and bonjournos!

Everytime I stack the bags I manage to bungie them down a different way.  Yet as the week progresses the firmer and stronger my strapping down becomes.  Aimee cant move much the back, so I use the bag carrying our previously worn underwear (I had to find a better way of saying ‘soiled’, quite sure this was achieved) to cushion aimee’s back from the hard items in the bag.  Aimee was confused why I brought a load of electrical stuff such as wires with bits and bobs.  I wasn’t too sure either, must’ve been a reason.

Cam installed, switched on, and off we go...not before we both do a little dance infront of the camera.  Sweeping back up the valley to join the Autostrade.

Our plan was to travel to Piombino, but during the ride we decide to go that little further so the final road was shorter.

The Grosseto

It was a fair stretch of 270Km, a good 3 hours ride.  I manage to record some tunnels and Autostrade miles.  We stop off at a few stations, at one point we stopped just for some rest and shade!  The heat is a bit too much when wearing all the protective kit.

Beware the service station pit entry lanes in Italy, the lanes are very short.  Some were no longer than 10 metres, so slow down before you enter.  The UK, you have a good time to slow down before entering the actual service station.

We enter Grosseto, which is a nice looking town.  Then we find a sign for Castiglione and head on down.  The ride is very nice and flat, through yellow fields and past some army barracks.  The road actually seems endless, but there are no awkward signs to negotiate!  Just keep following the road until you hit Castiglione della Pescaia.  The way out offered more of a challenge!  Will go into that in Day 6!

We see the sea, and buildings!  Gently ride into the town with Aimee Navigational System repeating to me, Right Side! Right Side!  Thanks Aimee x  J

Hotel Hunting

We do not see any signs of hotels, as we cross a bridge, I notice in my mirror a huge complex with a huge sign shouting ‘Hotel’.  We carry on into the complex of Beachside apartments and hotels inbetween.  Park up and take off my helmet, so hot here!  Apparently we were stuck in a minor heatwave according the the weather channel.

Aimee checks out a hotel, comes back with a sullen expression. And tries a few other hotels as I ride slowly behind panting.  We cant seem to find a hotel, aimee is mildly distressed.  So we decide to go back across the bridge to see what was over there.  Maybe fate was on our side as the other side was a better placement for tourists and not Beach bums.  We find a hotel called Hotel Lucerna.

Learn how to Starfish!

The derobing process
Aimee strikes a deal and I park the bike in the hotel grounds, unpack and heavy the bags upstairs.  Nice hotel with pictures of Bull fighting and the likes.  The room, well, after sleeping in previous high quality, were..OK.  I am interested primarily in a place to sleep and starfish so wasn’t that bothered. So, of course as per our usual habits, we decide to starfish!  You should try it, especially after a 3 hour ride in 35degs heat!  Instructions as per below:

Step 1: De-robe

Step 2: Jump on a bed, lie down

Step 3: Spread legs and arms at equal angles, imitate a starfish.  Facial expressions not required. Not sure what actual Starfish do

Step 4: RELAX!

Tasting the Mediterranean

We are both confused why we did not bring shorts. Bikini or suitable footwear for a beach!  But fearing not, I found a cheap clothing store selling ill-fitting clothes...must be the Italian TK MAX.  I buy a pair of shorts and flip flops, those annoying ‘between your toes sandals’ that make you walk like an alien.  I much prefer the strap around sandals.  Aimee buys a sexy lil number, nice summer dress and bikini.

Back to the hotel, we get dressed and head out to the beach.  Two options, walk across the beach to the populated area with their lielows etc or walk across the riverbed which is dry and sandy.  At the waters edge are kids playing football and not as many people.  We decide the latter!  There are rocks acting as a break and to protect the sand from erosion, we go sit and chill.  I am the first to go swimming as we have belongings.

Off it comes, my T-shirt followed by a white glow that is my unrefined torso reflecting the suns rays, the clouds are confused..hang on, there aint any.  No wonder I cant get a tan...too white damn it!  I hear the screams while mothers cover their kids eyes...It doesn’t last too long before my white hot body is submersed into the Mediterranean.

I swim out quite far, until my feet are not touching the sand.  I do not really like swimming without snorkel... I like to see what I am swimming with.  After 20 mins I paddle back and we swap places, Aimee is reluctant saying it is cold.  There is a nice breeze though.  I assist Aimee by splashing her with water, seems to do the trick!  Aimee stays out for 10 minutes.  As we dry and chill, we watch the people doing things and inparticular the folk selling items on the beach.  We remark at them and the heat, they walk around with at least 10 towels over the shoulder and carrying all manner of goods.  As far as I witnessed, they sold nothing.  I hope they are doing ok!

The ducklings, castle and dodgy cinema

We head for a walk, stop by the hotel to drop off some items. Then head up behind the hotel where we find we have a hotel right in the heart of town.  Shops, ristorantes and a Castle.  We find a ristorante and order some food!  It looks of Bavarian origin, but I am told the Italians of the Alps also dress like those from Munich.  We eat up, pay up and get up. Walking around looking at the goods we promise ourselves an Icecream later on, Icecream becomes a primary objective for the lasting days of the trip!

We find a steep path which looks like it winds to the castle, on the way we pass a dark stone doorway with what looks to be the local cinema.   Showings are a few times a week, I imagine they use Cinefilm and have a darkened hall or old dungeon to show the movies.  We decide to head back down and again promise to go up there later on!
We find a little promenade and find ducklings panicking, then we hear around the corner the distressed shouting of the mother, no doubt telling off her lil’uns!  We round off and head back for a chill out! 

Aimee perspired so much she shrank

At 7pm we head back out to hunt for food!  But become distracted by the castle and find an entrance, looks really old.  Then find ourselves in the grounds which reminds me of Mdina, Rabat, Malta.  Except the streets are steep.  And people live here!  How wonderful, these old buildings are being lived in and kept tidy.  We find the top, where we are blessed with a magnificent view! The view extends far into the distance, hills to the left of us with forest behind the shore line until it meets what looks like another town, possibly Marina di Grosseto followed by an island further on called Monte Argentario.

The Ristorante with Pick and Mix!

We head back down and find a ristorante, Aimee discusses if we can sit outside and we do.  The breeze is still apparent and seems like it is getting stronger as the night progresses.  We are given some pompedoms, for some reason Aimee thinks I said Condoms.  I wonder what was on her mind?  The waitress was shocked that we do not want wine with our food, just table water please! The food took a while but was nice!  Paid up and we decided to venture into the street we had been to earlier to get an icecream.  This place certaintly comes alive in the evening!

The streets are so busy!  The Icecream idea is thrown out for the window for tonight so we wander among the Italians and some Americans.  Aimee spies a candy shop with here hawk like eyes, or extra sensitive buds.  We collect 3 bags worth of sweets, while I am outside waiting, Aimee is struggling with the cashier.  We purchased too much and aimee had to ditch a bag.

We decide now to head back after a short walk along the quayside.

Chill out, I transfer the content of the memory card to my MSI Wind netbook.   Very good Net book by the way, always dependable!  And survived the bumps and maybe the only laptop to travel at 120 mph, probably better than Isle of Man Internet speeds!?

Sleep!  For tomorrow is Icecream hunt! 


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Thursday - Mergozzo to Deiva Marina

Thursday, 23rd June

Mergozzo - Genova - Deiva Marina

We had chosen the 'no breakfast' option when booking.  As Aimee settled the bill I was doing the one load down the stairs routine, was heavy and I was sweating already at 9am as I packed the bike up.

Off we went back along the route we came from, after a little disagreement.  But this time I was Aimee  ;)

Err...That one! (Ci, Ci, Focaccia Graci!)

Through a toll barrier on the Autostrade we stopped off at a station where I reluctantly practiced some Italian as Aimee sat and smirked.  She knew I was feeling uncomfortable, this motivated me to make the most of it, and become the Italian version of Basil Fawlty.  I freaked out however when Aimee decided to order something different and less simple. Aimee kindly stepped in to order her Focaccia and I ordered mine with our drinks.

We decided not to stop until we hit Genova, about 70miles away.  After miles of sitting at speeds I dont want to get into... The bike purring away, tunnel vision and the hurricane like wind buffeting us.  Eventually Aimee nudged me to slow down.  Sign after sign the kilometres to Genova were reducing steadily, I quickly checked the speedometer for a quick km to miles conversion.  Stopped off for a leg stretch before we hit Genova.  There were a family taking pictures, so Aimee offered to take a picture of the family unit.  Had a chat and we moved on.

Motoring at some speed with those Italian bridges where the road is broken up by the annoying metal strips/grids.  Every 2 seconds, the bike slumps and wobbles....then I see a read light!  Red lights aint good, especially when there is an 'oil' symbol lit up in this strange colour.  Confused I back off on the throttle, oil light flickers off but come back on after 10 minutes.  It isnt a real worry, we just need to stop for 10 W 40 Semi Synthetic Oil to top the Ace up.  The Thunderace is known to burn a little oil, and the mileage we have done fully loaded I wasnt that surprised the oil needed topping up!

We come into Genova and stop at a toll barrier, these barriers can be confusing.  The barrier previously they issue you with a ticket.  Arriving at the barriers leaving the toll road you insert the ticket followed by your credit card.  Done!

Genova - Don't leave your bike unattended! 

Entering Genova, we meander through the twists and tunnels we eventually hit the busy city with a Port backdrop.  Full of scooters and beeping cars,  I didnt mind riding in this chaos, the flow is surprising and comforting.  We stop near a car park and ask a local where the hotels are.  He spoke to Aimee in Italian saying "Do not leave the bike or bags unattended, they will be stolen.  And the hotels are near the aquarium".

We find a hotel but Aimee was unsettled by the local gentlemans comments.  I reluctantly agree and we set off further south along the coast to find another town.  This was to be the best decision this day!

Sweeping through tunnels and over valleys, the towns from this height looks very inviting.  The tunnels were long and gave me the chance to appreciate the sound of the Ace, where the optimum sound is achieved at 4,000 rpm.

We actually miss the planned destination and decide to make the next right which would take us to Deiva Marina.

Deiva Marina

The twists and downhill slopes here were wonderful.  The trees and valley in the foreground as we ventured further.  As the road settled we entered the beginnings of a town which we passeed through quickly and entered a seaside area.  Aimee hopped off and asked the first hotel for the prices, we moved on to see if there were any more hotels.  We then found the sea, and a bridge with plenty of hotels in sight.  We decided on crossing the bridge, parking up and trying the hotel 'Lido'.  Aimee returned with EUR120 including breakfast, I was happy, Aimee was happy... We unpacked and entered the hotel to be greeted I assume were the husband and wife who seemed stuck with one word 'Bonjorno'.  Everytime I would pass, an attentive "Bonjorno" would pass the lips even if they had to jump up and leave another room... "Bonjorno".  This folks is what you call "service".
Again, we starfish for a while!  I have a quick shower and we go off for a wander.  We notice a river bed with a bonfire and wooden effergy with kids running arround throwing bits of wood on it - curious!  Aimee spots an Emu walking around 'doing things', no seriously... An Emu in Italy raoming about a Tuscan riviera... We decided to call it Jack.

It didnt take us long to walk aroud the village to end up with Jack.  Walked to the beach and had a 'toasted' thing.... Why do Italians like toasting the shit out of everything?
Headed back to the room for a chill out,  Bonjourno!! Bonjourno!! Came the vioces of the attentive staff.  Aimee chills out on the bed while I go and fill up the oil some more to be sure.

Peering Pressure

I make a funnel from an empty water bottle, and while setting up an Italian biker decides to watch me.  This I dislike, trying to ignore the man I spill oil all over the casing and floor....the gentleman leaves, it would seem I satisfied his lust to watch a fellow biker make an arse out of himself.  Or maybe I stroked his 'see someone less mechanically competent than me' mechanical ego.  Anyway, cleaned up the oil and get back to the room to chill until feeding time!

Teatime! (no, Aimee... Not Dinner!)

We get dressed and head out to hunt for food!  We stumble upon a Ristorante called Hotel Clelia.  Very busy and antique looking room, we are seated and order our food.  Ordering just water, not wine with food always brings awkward faces with queston.
The steak is nice, but Aimee finds a leg of some sort in her food.  We contemplate if it is a cockroach leg or not.  Brought to the attention the waiter looks shocked and takes it to the kitchen, leg is identified as a Prawn leg.  They kindly deduct the meal from the bill, much to the annoyance of the cashier whom I think is the mother of the owners.  They always have too much to say don't they...

On the walk back we walk along the river to see Jack and find a crowd gathering, this bonfire turns out to be a John the Baptist Festival.  There is a band passing by behind us as we look at the unlit sticks and still people running around the huge pile of wood.  An Italian group gossiping next to us about how the locals who use the camp site are alot messier and dirtier than the foreigners... Wow, I think this is an online process of spreading worthless gossip...(shudder).  People becoming bored at this unlit fire, so we walk down to the bridge which is closer to our hotel. Nothing happening and the breeze is cold so we head back to the hotel after 10 minutes more of waiting.  Bonjourno!! Bonjourno!!  As we pass the reception to the room.

We relax and sleep!  Tomorrow....where ever, but somewhere south!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Wednesday - Basel to Mergozzo, Italy (Via the Alps)

Wednesday, 22nd June

Basel - Luzern - Grimsel Pass - Brig - Mergozzo

Swiss breakfast

8am wake up in Hotel Wettstein, we head down for breakfast.  Choice of indoors or al fresco (outdoors).  Aimee and I go for the croissants, cheese, meat and fruit.  It is so peaceful in the outdoor breakfast area, smells so fresh and sparrows flying around.  We finish up and Aimee settles the bill while I go to the garage to pack the bike.

To Luzern

I attach the camera, the lense looks free of condensation.  We head out of Basel and look for the E35 to Luzern.  On route rain appears and we pull into the service station to get waterproofed up.  There are 5 other bikers doing the same, with a woman and family onlooking while shaking their us or the weather I don't know. 

The camera is packed away, the rain had fogged up the lense again.  Typical eh, had to crack it for the best part - The Alps.

Aimee walks to the fuel pump while I ride over and fill up.  We notice the station is also an adult superstore, I look on with intrigue, Aimee with not so much intrigue.  Still, they have a website.

Back on the E35 in the rain hammering on, the rain settles after 40minutes with the Alps in the distance, we are near a lake which is before Luzern where we pull into a parking rest section.  We take the opportunity to stretch legs and view the lake.  Looks outstanding as I wrestle off the top half waterproofs to release some steam (literally).  I have never released so much sweat in all my life, dripping from my jacket inner!  If there was a market for it here I would sell it.

I notice a rather large map of Switzerland, more detail than my map.  So I decide to find the passes through the alps and note the roads.  This proved to be a very good idea!

We arrive in Luzern cross a fantastic bridge and park the bike on the pavement near the boating area.  We walk briefly and find a little cafe/bar called Hotel zum Rebstock and order some food.  Aimee orders Soup of the day and Orange Juice, I order a Burger with Cola.  This came to CHF 31.00 includes 8% service charge.  A gentleman is sat at the bar drinking a beer and smoking, he looks on into the mirror with some kind of Swiss sophistication.  Maybe he thinks himself a human Breitling, I dont know... Would a Breitling human really drink alcohol in the day time?  The timing would be off, I dont think the Swiss would accept that.


Wo ist Sarnen?

We head off in a direction towards the Alps not really knowing where I am going, so stop for fuel and ask the attendant "Wo ist Sarnen" and point on the map.  She directs me the opposite direction.

Back through the city and head what seems to be the wrong way, but we end up riding alongside the lakes twisty roads and through little villages with the first hints of wooden chalets.  These roads are really tight and sharp, 30mph is possible too fast on some areas here.

Stop at 'Pilatus Bahnhoff' to stretch legs, remove our waterproofs and jacket inner.  Very hot now and I decide to change shirts as the current shirt saturated.  Aimee went off and took a picture  :)

The Alps

All freshened up we head off along route 8, which turns into route 4.  Along the way we stop off at a lake which is stunning with the alps in our grasp, trees sitting there almost perfectly placed.

Now the roads are twisty and are at an incline.  A smile sweeps my face and I am beginning to get a little emotional as I guide the Thunderace sweeping the corners.  We go past a parking area which would look down from a higher viewpoint of the lake we stopped at.  As we go by, I regret missing the stop and promise myself to stop at most viewpoints.

Twisties here and everywhere we reach the top and descend into Rytz, the downward twisties make me nervous and I miscalculate some really sharp corners, but with some harsh engine breaking and nervous front anchor squeeling we manage to get off the mountain to stop at some crossroads.  Sitting looking at the map a couple on a BMW stop and ask if we need help.  Aimee didn't believe that biker cameraderie existed where other bikers will usually stop if you looked confused or needed help.  The friendly couple pointed to a valley Meiringen which will get us, you could see the valley ahead very clearly.

We took off for the valley and passed through a nice straight road which allowed us to take in the mountains views and distant waterfalls.  This area was surprisingly populated with wooden chalets and even had petrol stations.  Would it be cheaper to do airdrops into the villages here rather than take lorries for supplies down the twisties?

In the village we go around the round about twice before heading back up some more inclined twisties.  We stop off to look at a river and waterfall and take in some Alpine air.  

The Grimsel Pass

After a a series of interesting bends it really gets interesting, the air becomes chilled and snow appears on the mountains beyond our reach for the moment.  The lakes are no longer green with trees and appetizing to swim.  They are grey and look dirty, apparently they are high in minerals.  The roads now are not so tempting, they are wet and look slippery!  Rain and snow becomes more apparent the higher we loop up the side of the mountain.  We go through some short tunnels and get stuck behind a coach, we pull off to look at the lake and surrounding mountains.

Back on the road we see the coach pull off down a long road which stops at a Hotel!  A hotel this far up the Alps with no sign of life.  To be honest the hotel looks similar to that from a horror movie.  I briefly imagined what the staff must be like.  My imagination brings up images of pasty looking bored maniacs muttering to themselves and rubbing hands at the sight of humans.  The concierge with a humpback munching on a stale bun and a strange voice.  The room attendant looking upon every guest with murderous scowl.  The chef sharpening his blade before the joints of meat that suspiciously looks similar to that of a human leg... 

If I let my imagination run wild at this crucial point of focus I would have been able to say only 7 words - "I can see my house from here" or reduced to 2 words in panic - "Oh f***"

Anyway, I am not writing a Poirot episode - that I shouldve decided when we were in Zeebrugge.  

We meandered up the twisties and could see what appears to be a dam, this is Grimselsee.  Is is very near the summit as far as the roads go.  We rode alongside the lake and carried on up a further seires of twisties until the summit is reached, Totensee.  By now the weather was really miserable.  There were a few cars and bikes parked up, however I decided to press on down the other side.  Really wanted to get out of this cloud and rain as soon as possible.

We gently rode down the first corner, the roads here were wet and the corners very steep.  Stopping to take a picture of the twisties from above so we could appreciate them later on, Aimee was very nervous of the edge.  Eventually we got to the bottom of the main corners and headed along the the river.  The further on we went through further corners and along the river the dryer and sunnier it became. Civilisation appeared by way of wooden chalets, some were falling apart but these were for sale.  Wondering how much these places cost I checked, apparently between CHF500,000 - 3,000,000 is quite normal! Out of my price range unfortunately.

The Cow Watering Swiss Woman

So we rode through the valley via village and further village.  I failed to see the stereotypical Swiss women with upturned blonde hair roaming around the valleys milking cows as their husbands/father looked on between each swing of the axe.  I noticed one lady wandering about with a watering can, she paused in step and pointed (ah, that way) to the direction she needed to go, I assumed she went to go water a plant rather than fulfil my weird Swiss imagination of cow milking...Maybe she was going to water the cows??!!

Entering Brig

Finally we arrive at Brig.  This town was not a planned stop but one that was needed for a good leg-stretching.  We park up next to what looked like a cafe and indeed it was a cafe but part of a swimming pool.  We sit down and immediately the German speaking woman announced "bitte schon", we were expected to have our order that moment.  We ordered a coke each and expected her to come back for the other part of the order.  She came back with the coke and carried on chatting to the local biker sat outside.

We head off to find a petrol station, not really knowing where we were going once we found the petrol.  We get lost, my fault for not listening to Aimee on this occasion.  Finally we get a fill up and find a local with his son, we ask him which way to Italy?  For fun I originally wanted to ask someone in panic which way is was to the border, Aimee persuaded me not to as it probably wasn't a great idea.  The gentleman with his son directed us and pointed to the highway in the distance climbing over the mountain.  Another pass!  Fortunately, this pass was not like previous.  It was 16:00 and we were a little tired so wanted to reach Italy to find a hotel.

To the Border! QUICK!!

We get on the highway climbing up the mountain, passing through tunnels the views were very good.  The tunnels are wet and they have plenty of corners!  At one point we skidded to a halt, the driver in front turned off their car (A Swiss habit when in a traffic jam), I stopped just in time!

Further along the mountain I noticed the bike was very sluggish, losing power dramatically.  This is the oxygen/fuel mix.  The higher you go the less oxygen, thus the fuel mix was richer.  Summit reached, the downhill begins. As we progressed further into the valleys the air became very moist and sticky.  We pass a few hotels on the way down while noting the driving becomes dangerous as we get closer to Italy.  

We pass the border in Gonzo and we are in Italy!! 

The Dead Town

We head toward Verbania, instead we take a right into a town.  We get to the centre and it is empty and looked ruined.  Restaurants with shutters drawn, I looked around situational awareness for any hidden gimps or zombies.  We see two local old ladies, Aimee asked them if there were any hotels around here.  They told us there is nothing here, and we should try the next town.  So, we do.  We head off in speed leaving the Village of Wax in the mirrors.

After a good 20minutes riding we negotiate a left followed by a right towards Verbania.  We go through some suspect villages with Ristorantes on the wayside.  We end up riding through a little gem of a village all lit up and seemed alive with a few people.  Our senses were pickled we rode straight through.  

The Hotel

2 miles down the road we come to our senses and head back to look for a hotel, we find one called La Quartina with a room price of EUR90 per night. Turns out we are in Mergozzo! We get the gear and head to the room.  Well, when I say we...Aimee carries the helmets and I carry all the bags.  Men when they have to carry bags into a house always have to carry ALL of the bags at one go, I am no exception to this bizarre habit.

In the room, which was very nice we note the mini balcony and the beautiful view of a campsite  ;)  but to the left a stunning lake with geese.

Again, we do the naked starfish.  It really is not as bad as it sounds, trust me....Aimee, tell them!  Once we compose ourselves we head to the Ristorante for some well deserved food.  I have a feeling the menu is pricey, but smells good.

Aimee and I order the steak with a bottle of table water and enjoy the lake views as dusk, it was perfect!


We finish up and go for a lakeside walk, on the way Aimee finds a bird hopping about.  Aimee as usual is concerned and would probably want to attach it to the tank bag to add another pet to our collection.  I persuade her to leave it, it is probably supposed to do that - it was a hopping bird.  We find a nice spot near steps to watch the lake. Aimee was not convinced that the splashes of water were fish jumping out of the water to catch little flies on the water surface.  

We head back to the room for sleep.  Tomorrow is Genova!