12 April 2012

Checking out the new Engine

APRIL 4 2012

I hadn’t been able to ride my bike in Italy since the engine had been replaced in the fall, so I was eager to get back there and check it out.  I had planned to go in early March, but repeated delays due to work meant that I couldn’t go until April. 

Last fall I had hoped to check out Cinque Terre, a region along the coast south of Genova, supposedly very quaint and beautiful.  So I landed about 11:30 and went to pick up my bike at the garage.  This time Eligio was in, so we got to chat and I even had lunch with him before getting on the road about 15:00. 

Of course it started raining almost immediately; I was not too psyched about riding in the rain in the mountains, so I thought about staying in Parma or some nearby city, but ultimately I only had a few nights and didn’t want to stay in some blah city for one of them, so pushed on towards Cinque Terre.

I took the road through Bobbio which I took on my last trip, a very nice road, although this time it was not a sunny fall day but a rainy spring day.  Not so nice, here is a picture for the atmospherics:

Anyway, I was making really slow time, and I hadn’t even reached the coast, much less Cinque Terre, before it started to get dark.  I was following my PGS through all sorts of little mountain roads in the rain, and had absolutely no idea where I was…  Finally just as it was getting really dark I came to some town on the sea, and basically stopped at the first hotel I found, which for better or for worse was a pretty nice hotel.  For the first time during my travels, I literally had no idea what town I was in… 

So I got a room with a balcony, took a warm shower, and went out for a nice dinner before heading back to the room.  Here is the hotel:

The view from my balcony was interesting, so I took several shots under different conditions (last one is my fav):

By the morning, all of my wet gear had dried thanks to those handy European towel-drying racks.  I finally figured out that I was in a town called Camogli, pretty far north of Cinque Terre and even a bit north of Santa Margharita, where I’d stayed last time.

APRIL 5, 2012

So today I would ride down the few kilometers to Cinque Terre and pick the best place to stay, I was looking forward to it.  The weather was not that great, but at least it had stopped raining.  So off I went along the nice coast road.  I realized last night that I’d forgotten the base plate for my camera to attach it to my tripod, so I thought I’d pick one up along the way, surely I’d be able to find one in this touristy area?  But in Rapallo, the biggest town in the area, a camera shop told me that “maybe” I’d be able to find one in Genoa…oh well, looks like I am without a tripod this trip. 

So my first stop in Cinque Terre was Monterosso. I thought I’d have lunch there, and if I liked it, spend the night.  I got there, and the whole town was a construction zone—drilling, hammering, trucks, etc.  I had a quick sandwich and got out of there, not very peaceful!  Here is a view of Monterosso from far above in the hills (it’s the white blob on the water):

OK, that was a little discouraging, but supposedly the best Cinque Terre town in Vernazzo, so I went there…  The road to Vernazzo was very narrow and twisty, and it was foggy as well.  Here is a shot from along the road:

Finally, as I got close to Vernazzo, there was a sign across the road saying “Chiuso” which I’d learned meant “closed” in Italian.  But I couldn’t tell what was close, the road, or what?  So I kept going.  Then I came to some construction worker; he didn’t speak English but after much gesturing I figured out that he was saying the road was closed, but I could try to get through on the bike, and if I couldn’t get through could turn around.  So I kept going until a came to a huge boulder which had fallen on the road, blocking it for cars but leaving plenty of space on the sides to get by on a bike.  I was pretty pleased with myself and imagining all of the free hotel rooms that this would mean when I pulled up to the edge of the town itself.  They had a couple of guys posted there who spoke some English, and they said that the “town was closed”.  I didn’t get what they meant, how could a town be closed?!  Apparently over the winter there had been towns which basically destroyed the town, or at least all of the hotels, so the town was closed for reconstruction.  Well shit!

So I kept going, this time I decided to Portovenere, which is technically not part of the Cinque Terre but close enough.  I didn’t reach there until evening, even though I had only covered less than two hundred kilometers all day—the roads along the coast were very twisty and steep, so quite slow.  Anyway, I was able to get a room with a balcony at the first hotel I came to in Portovenere and started walking around town a bit. Here are some pix:

APRIL 6, 2012

Portovenere was OK, but there was really not any reason to hang about, so I decided to go back to Lake Como and look for a place to use as a base for the last night before heading back to Moscow on future trips—previously I’d been staying in Milan the last night, so that I’d have time to drop the bike off and get to the airport, but I don’t like Milan and wanted to find somewhere better to stay.  I’ve already stayed in or looked at Novara and Pavia, and wasn’t very impressed, but I thought that either Como or Lecco on Lake Como could be good choices.

So I set off for Lecco, riding several hours on the highway.  Not particularly fun, but I wanted to have plenty of time to find a hotel. I got to Lecco about 14:00 or so, and after looking around a bit I couldn’t find a hotel I liked and didn’t care too much for the city, so I decided to go up to Bellagio again.  I took the great road from Lecco to Bellagio and stayed in the same hotel as before, the Metropol, for two nights, but in two different rooms.  I really like the location of the hotel so will probably stay there again.  Here it is, the pink building at the end of the piazza:

Anyway, here are several more photos, some with a fisheye lena:

Almost forgot to add—everything OK with the engine, so far, so good!

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