We were abruptly transformed back into our normal lives of work after our return from the Himalayas. The three month trip rapidly became a distant dream, as the routine of work and life took over. We both came back to a lot of work, which meant long hours. It was surprising how normal it all felt after our experiences away, and we had come back energised and invigorated. We were both enjoying work and it felt good. My poor dad’s deteriorating condition, his time in hospital and care at home was a very sad progression of his life.
After nearly three months back at work it was time for a holiday. Windsurfing in Croatia with Becky and Katy, but we decided to continue our European bike ride from last October when we cycled to Geneva. We planned to cycle from Geneva to Croatia to meet the girls.
Once at Geneva, this time we reassembled the bike at the airport so we could be on our way. Soon we were following the valley and climbing towards the snow clad peak of Mont Blanc
We camped the night twenty miles before Chamonix and watched the snowy mountains change colour as the sun set while cooking our supper.
With an early start we climbed up to Chamonix getting ever closer to the rugged peaks with their clinging snow, ice and glaciers. Heavy timber chalets surrounded us giving a true alpine feel.
On this trip we cheated slightly and took the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy.
We cycled down the stunning Aosta valley with its waterfalls, castles and churches perched high on the valley sides. The towns were medieval with stone buildings and cobbled alleyways. Old timber doors filled arched openings in the thick walls.
The valley narrowed and the turbulent river was squeezed through a slim slot in the rock, forming a steep gorge.
Gradually the valley widened, the gradient eased, and vineyards covered the slopes. Eventually the mountains were in the distance and we were deposited on the lush green flat plain of the Po river where rice was being grown everywhere.
As we moved further from the alps and the plentiful supply of water, the land changed from rice cultivation to vineyards and sunflowers.
Numerous grand picturesque towns dotted our route. The large churches could be seen from a distance standing above the countryside. As we approach the colonnaded buildings with a decaying rendered patina and louvred shutters with flaking paint line the cobbled and flagstones streets that lead to the central square.
We enjoyed coffee stops at cafes overlooking the square, sometimes a market and people going about their day. Locals sitting around drinking wine early in the morning.
We were making good progress on the river Po plain doing 80 mile days. We were on the road at 5.15am and managing to do most of the distance before a late lunch. The countryside, covered with vineyards and all kinds of fruit trees in neat rows was dotted with huge farm buildings set round courtyards. Tall grand buildings that must have housed many workers and been the places of all sorts of farm related activities, from cheese and wine making to fruit preservation. Now they were empty, large ghosts, roofs falling in and decaying windows and doors hanging off so you could see inside the redundant structure.
After a 90 mile day we reached the Adriatic, 470 miles from Geneva. Beaches packed with sun worshipers and neat rows of sun loungers and parasol covered the light sandy beach. The sea was a deep blue and flat calm.
We cycled down the coast to a quiet small campsite in a national park about 50 miles north of Ancona. Pitched our tent overlooking the sea.