Archive for November, 2009

13th to 22nd November

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

22nd November
Making full use of another rest day, we thought we’d try a bit of hotel blagging and headed for the Zone Touristique (tourist area!), where all the posh hotel complexes were. A world away from the hostel, this is more like it! A bit of blagging later, using media and documentary stories, we had got ourselves an all inclusive 4* one for £50 a night – right on budget. Bring on the buffets! I think that thought rocked Jon’s stomach too much, and we had our first illness of the challenge.
Actually tracking back, we think it was a dodgy draught pint from the afternoon before. I headed off to a live music bar with the two ozzies, which was good (although there were only about 10 locals there, and probably much better in the summer), and we spent the evening catching up on all our travelling stories – a nice break with different company, and away from Jon’s constant circular flow!

21st November
 No days are easy on this challenge, so we shouldn’t have had this thought as we battered headwinds through a bleak desert landscape. There was nothing for miles around apart from regular shacks offering water and petrol (we think) from some horrible looking drums and plastic bottles. It took ages to reach the ferry, and as the landscape was the same, I just kept counting down the miles on the GPS – a sure thing to make it go slower!
We jumped on the short 10 minute ferry to Djerba island, and even avoided paying, saving a grand total of 20 pence! As we disembarked, the holiday atmosphere hit us, but still a tough 15 miles left to go. The hostel was really difficult to find, luckily someone guided us to the heart of the medina (town/ market centre), where it was located.
The manager, who Jon described as a Sith Lord from the Dark Side (Star Wars) which is ironic as it was filmed in Tunisia, didn’t know what had hit him when we had to use all the plugs in reception to charge the laptop, iphone, video camera and digital camera. Leads everywhere!
The hostel was basic to say the least and more rubbish cold showers, but our room was a cool little cave, although the walls crumbled the second they were touched. We were having quite a peaceful evening chatting to a couple of older Ozzie travellers, until a Tunisian school party turned up. Bedlam followed, with someone having a full body wash in a sink, in another someone’s feet, and they trashed the toilets.

20th November
After an unscheduled rest day, we could finally jump back on the bikes and off to Gabes -  a mere 86 miler! We hit 32 miles in 2 hours (our best pace yet – not quite Cracknell and Fogel, but getting there!) We were really warming to Tunisia as we cycled through bustling market towns , the air smelling of spice and roadside BBQs. I don’t think Flossy was too happy that her friend Dolly has just been gutted and strung up above her. And to really rub her nose in it, one of Molly’s legs was already on a skewer and cooking on an oil drum BBQ next to where she was grazing on dirt!
The kids  were on fire today (not literally, that was Molly!), running out waving and cheering as we cycled past, which gave us lots of well needed energy boosts along the way.
We rolled into Gabes and I turned my nose up at the first budget hotel Jon pointed out. I shouldn’t have as I spotted the Atlantic Hotel, a freshly painted blue and white building in the centre. The first impression was good, and after seeing the rate of 30 dinars with breakfast (about £15), it was a done deal. However, I think a previous guest had mistakenly used our bath as a toilet and our room was above a night time jet wash garage. (I’ll take Jon’s suggestion next time)

19th November
We got up early and headed straight for the Libyan embassy – it was weird being in a car for the first time in 6 weeks, and terrifying driving at the same time! We heard that the embassy could do a 1 hour express visa, but unfortunately we also needed an invitation number which we didn’t have. So we tried calling all the Libyan tour operators we could, but were struggling to get through and our tempers were getting frayed.
Back at the hotel, we hit the email and got an instant reply from Sami at Ocean Tours. It looked like we were making progress, and after speaking to him on the phone, we had a confirmed police escort and tour company representation through Libya. Now we just had to wait for the invitations and visas to be processed, which Sami said could take upto a week, but we were hoping for 5 days. A celebration Chisha was in order (Jon’s wish since we had arrived in Tunisia)

18th November
We left Monastir at 7.30am in thick misty fog – this isn’t right, we were boasting how hot it was yesterday, but it soon warmed up. We were getting used to vehicles carrying absolutely everything! One small pick up had 12 sofas piled up, another had 4 donkeys and we were both almost slapped off the road by a 6ft sheet of plywood this bloke was holding on his moped! Well he was clearly going to fast as a wobble or two seconds later saw the plywood snap in two, spinning off and hitting a brand new taxi (not many around in Tunisia). The driver was a little upset!!
Showing off and without a town centre map we tried to navigate into Sfax just on the sat nav, and when we thought we were at the hostel, we were actually 2 miles away. After 80 miles of cycling we were nackered and so settled on this hotel with free wifi (and Jon actually managed to negotiate a discount!)
When Jon finally got off the phone to big Dave , I knew it wasn’t good news. Unfortunately no progress had been made with either our visas or sponsorship for Libya. It was only 4 days away until we planned to reach the border, and we were now on our own.

17th November
We were kicking ourselves this morning after realising that we had left Jon’s sunglasses in the Internet cafe last night, and unfortunately as it was closed, had to head off without them. We had a 77 mile cycle today to Monastir, and now getting used to the 28 degree heat, our strawberry and cream tans were coming on a treat! Fully prepared for terrible roads, we were pleasantly surprised as they were 10 times better than the rubbish in Italy.
We arrive in a beautiful marina where we had booked the apartment for £25 at 3pm, so making use of the warm Mediterranean sun, we recorded a video for the TCC fundraising party at Host on Jon’s iphone. We then rinsed a restaurant’s wi-fi to send the video to Holly (60mb file) – gotta love technology! The best bit was being able to cook our own food in an oven instead of out of a trangier on a hotel roof or damp campsite.

16th November
The morning started with someone wanting to buy Jon’s bicycle for 10 dinar (about £5), and then someone wanted to give me his address so I could buy him a bicycle! Africa was seeming strange, but we were relishing our new environment.

We then set about trying to navigate out of Tunis towards Nabeul! Interesting to say the least and we were nearly squashed by 3 trams (admittedly we shouldn’t have been cycling on the tracks). Luckily we eventually found the right road and the 40 miles soon passed. We arrived in good time at the hostel, with a supermarket, pizzeria and internet cafe all in close proximity. Jon got talking to a friendly Tunisian, Sammy, who was working at the hostel in exchange for free accommodation – a cracking £4 each a night.
Sammy seemed pretty keen on catching up with us, so we agreed that we’d meet up back at the hostel after dinner. As he didn’t speak any English, Jon suggested that while he had a cold shower (they were freezing!), I should show Sammy some of the pictures so far. It was hard work, but Sammy seemed to be understanding all the places we’d been to so far. However when Jon joined us he quickly suggested that he did Thai massage and would we like one. We politely declined and tried to carry on showing the photos. But when I showed him a picture of me having a piss over the side of a cliff in Italy, he said something in French followed by the words; “sexy time”. Initially, we didn’t understand, but when he kept saying it, we realised he wanted a bit! We were out of there quick smart and if that wasn’t bad enough, we then had to put up with Abul the dive bombing mosquito who continued his cycling adventure with us.

15th November
Starting to come to terms with the fact that we have now cycled to Africa! (bar a couple of ferry crossings). Tunis is a hustling and bustling city, even on a Sunday. As we left the hotel to find the cheaper hostel alternative, we found ourselves in the thick of the market streets. Luckily another touring cyclist spotted us arguing like a couple of schoolgirls at the side of the road, and helped us navigate to the hostel. It was an amazing little ‘den’ of a hostel, and Jon and I had our own room off the central courtyard for a bargain rate of £10. All kinds of people were there including an annoying Canadian Santa Claus on his holidays (he said he was a seasoned traveller, so it made sense!) A little Chinese man who had been there a few weeks, and some Algerian boxer and his over friendly mate, who loved stroking Jon and my faces for the group photos!

14th November
After 1,970 miles, the day has arrived to leave Europe behind and head for the next leg of our challenge, Africa. Now there are markets, and there are markets, but I have never seen a ferry embarking like this before. One car had two dining tables & 12 chairs on its roof, another had a moped and larder fridge/freezer! The foot passengers weren’t much better either, each person trying to carry 4 large suitcases each. And that doesn’t include a blender, 36 piece tea set and a 40” colour TV (old style!). So much junk, it was unbelievable. On our sparkling Ridgebacks we fitted in perfectly. Stick out and sore thumbs are words which quickly spring to mind!
When we arrived in Tunis (late, about 10pm), all the luggage we saw going onto the ferry had to then go through the Xray machines. As you can imagine this took a while, although we were kept amused when a bloke was required to push his moped through the bigger xray machine – that was funny!
Now with a year of planning you would have thought we’d have a plan next – well we didn’t! We had no currency, no map, no hotel booked, and no idea where we were going.  So we jumped on our bikes (it was 11.30pm by now), and headed for Tunis city centre. Not what we should be doing, and certainly not something I fancy on doing again. We had broken our first rule not to cycle blind in Africa, although not helped by the hostel which was fully booked. It was a 20km ride, and every second we had our fingers crossed for a hotel. Luckily we found one as soon as we hit the centre, and there seemed to be about 10 people working there who all wanted to help. There was also a party going on, but we didn’t want to cycle blind anymore. Despite a deaf DJ in the club below the hotel, we were so tired that we crashed out with the walls shaking and the beds vibrating!

13th November
We ate so much breakfast today, we added it up according to the hotels over inflated prices and worked out that we ate around €65 worth of food!
We then cycled 10 miles to a bike mechanic for a last check over on our bikes before Africa. We killed some time by trying to balance out the horrendous tan lines on our arms down on the beach – I actually look like a dodgy Neapolitan ice cream. Had a right touch though as the bikes were serviced and tweaked for only €40 total, which was brilliant. (wish we had put that saving into the wifi in the hotel!)
Spent the afternoon mincing about trying to find free wifi, but no success – at least I got my Smarties Mcflurry. A couple of supermarket Peronis helped too, and finished the day finding out that our waiter had lived in Bishops Stortford for 5 years – how weird is that!

31st October to 12th November

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Saturday 31st October
Flew like eagles into Rome, managed to get there before 1pm and even saw Holly’s Ryanair flight coming into land as were flying past the city traffic. Pretty excited about seeing Holly and Dom was really supportive about us spending some time to ourselves.
In typical TCC style we chucked together some food we had for our lunch today was jam rolls, we ate them in the hostel as we had to wait an hour before they’d let us into our rooms. We were kept amused by the receptionists ridiculously loud ring tone of Celine Dion’s ‘I am your lady’ which kept going off.
After an emotional reunion with Holly we went for a celebratory beer in the city.

Sunday 1st November
Enjoyed a lie in this morning and planned to go and see the Pope. We were told he was on at 12pm by one of the less than helpful hostel staff but in actual fact he was on at 10am. Holly and I still went to the Vatican while Dom befriended some Mexican lads he’d met on the bus and went to go and see AC Roma play. The guys were media students and had won an award for a documentary they’d made which was showcased in Rome a few days earlier- good contact to keep as they seemed interested in doing something for us when we get to Mexico.

Monday 2nd November
Left Dom in the hostel doing some admin stuff while Holly and I went off to celebrate her birthday. We started at the coliseum but decided it was not worth €24 to see a large pile of rubble. We had a walk around the outside and then soon had enough of the tourist zone. It started to rain so we darted into a restaurant for some lunch. Food was pretty dodgy and ironically it cost €24- perhaps we were destined to waste some money today..
I wanted to take Holly to the opera as she’s always wanted to go but it turned out a film was being shot in the Opera house and nothing was on anywhere else.
Not having much luck so far we ventured off to our hotel our friend Silvia had arranged. It turned out we had a suite, luck had finally changed. Drank lots and got reacquainted with my fiancé, the rest of the evening is censored for parental purposes.

Tuesday 3rd November
Dom did some tourist stuff this morning while Holly and I took a bus to find out where she needs to go tomorrow to catch her lift to the airport. We ended up taking the longest possible route but at least we got a city tour although Holly did get stuck next to a smelly tramp!
Dom got talking to a drunk Aussie who gave us €10 for the cause which was a bit of a touch because we didn’t have any money for breakfast.
Another yummy hostel meal for dinner- cold lunch time left overs (or perhaps the previous day) hostel staff still couldn’t give a shit.
Some evening bike maintenance found that I’m missing a really important bolt from my brake lever so we did a bodge job to fix it, fingers crossed it will hold out to Palermo where we’ll try and see a bike mechanic.

Wednesday 4th November
Left Rome after putting Holly on her bus around 12, can’t believe the time went so quickly, missing her already but feeling fully charged again now and ready for the challenge ahead.
Nightmare navigating out of Rome, terrible signposting and roads weren’t great. We followed one of Dom’s short cuts along an authentic Roman road which probably hasn’t been resurfaced since the Roman empire, was like cycling over stepping stones.
Got caught up in some bad weather which cut our journey to Terricina short by 20 miles which we’ll make up tomorrow. Conveniently stopped outside a cheap roadside hotel when we were preparing to put on hi-vis bands as the main road was pretty dangerous and no place for two cyclists, plus there was pot holes everywhere – hard to spot at night. Dinner was a bargain pasta dish, steak dish and a large Peroni for €15. The hotelier who can only be described as a Philippine sumo wrestler offered us salad or veg to go with the steak, we both said veg but got salad. Not to self must practice the lingo!

Thursday 5th November
Waved goodbye to the Philippine sumo wrestler at 7.30am – our earliest start yet, and proceeded to cycle a massive 110 miles to Naples, where we were meeting a warm showers contact – Dom did the quickest supermarket sweep yet, only to discover the card got declined – not happy, but we ploughed on. Cycling into Naples Dom thought he had found some new cycle buddies, but quickly realised the situation was a little hostile, and surrounded by 6 illegal immigrants on bikes, we had to cycle as fast as we could to escape an inevitable mugging.
We found the meeting spot for Francesco easy, and while we were waiting an older Dutch couple started talking to us and very kindly bought us a beer each – the most deserved one yet!
We met up with Francesco fine, and although we didn’t really didn’t really know how this all worked, we had a home cooked meal in the most stunning 300 year old flat conversion, and a decent shower and bed for the night.

Friday 6th November
Francesco guided us onto the road out of Naples, which was probably the worst road in the world (he did warn us!). They will not repave the roads as they are historic, so we figure that they are authentic Roman roads, unchanged in over 2,000 years. I thought I had lost a couple of teeth, and it was hardly a good way to promote the safeguarding of your nuts!
This continued for over 25km, before arriving in Pompeii for lunch, and then sent round in circles with rubbish road signs (again!), and realised by 2pm, we had done a staggering average speed of 5mph.
Then came the rain again!
Got to Agropolis just before sunset, and luckily the rain held out long enough to pitch our tent and cook a delicious tuna pasta!
Then came the thunderstorms…

Saturday 7th November
Wet tent, wet bikes, wet pants!
Friendly Italian cyclist called Luca helped us navigate out of Agropolis (a futuristic sat nav!), and through stunning mountain scenary. Poor signposting kept leading us onto roads we weren’t allowed on, especially one road through a valley. Thinking we had found a cheeky short cut, we actually ended up shit alley!
Did a keeno racer in all in one lycra after he overtook us (he wasn’t happy), and as the light was fading, Dom got his first puncture, probably one of the most incovient times to get a puncture as we still had 30km to go. Slow cycle downhill in pitch black followed, and we were looking for a left hand turn which couldn’t be missed, else we would have ended up where we were 2 hours before.
Jon felt like the gods were testing us, as it was Holly’s birthday.

Sunday 8th November
Weather looked dismal this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to create some waterproof socks out of a bin liner which were great for about an hour then it was like having my feet in two goldfish bowls! Boy did it rain.. all day..torrential monsoon style.
Dom resembled a pizza delivery guy carrying last nights left overs on the back of his bike in a pizza box which did us for lunch with some cookies.
Horrible headwind and winds along with the rain slowed us down for the first part of the day but we ploughed on and still managed 70 miles by the end of the day.
Found another deserted faulty towers type hotel and climbed out of a window onto the roof to cook some tuna pasta trouble was the gusty winds meant it took nearly 2 hours to cook.

Monday 9th November
We left the hotel reasonably early after managing to get our room for €40 cash – felt a bit guilty with the negotiation, but call it a TCC charity donation! Continued our pikey journey by stopping at MD Discount supermarket, eating our breakfast out of a shopping trolley, and listening to very bad Italian covers of Radiohead’s “creep” and sheeza sisters on their outside PA system. I certainly didn’t feel like dancing!
Made really good progress until a monster hill hit us just after month (basically the boil on Italy’s foot), but once at the top we enjoyed some distance across the plateau. Quick stop for some more camping fuel saw us purchase some very dodgy looking flammable liquid, and while topping up we were amused by a bad Italian driver reversing his Alfa into a CInciquento, reducing its length by another 10cm! The funniest sight was watching him blame the car park, lack of signs, weather and anything else which averted the blame from his cock up!

Tuesday 10th November
Exciting day today, as we were leaving Italy mainland and heading onto Sicily. We had 35 miles to cover first, and got to Villa Giovani in good time to find the ferry. Well typical Italian signposts saw us try a train station, goods yard (where a train was coming out of a ferry!) and cafe before finding the ticket office. And even then we weren’t convinced until we actually got onto the ship. Got pretty tangled up when we arrived in Messina, and I nearly ended up in a Smart car, when a foxy chick opened her car door straight into my path.
Followed the coast road (25km more than required), but it was beautiful scenery, and it was different to see mainland Italy from the other side. We found a campsite just as it started clouding over, and after another negotiation (33% off), got the tent set up & food cooked, just before it started hammering it down. We got about 2 hrs of sleep each as the rain continued all night, but Jon was also worried about slugs and worm juice on his flip flops – tart!

Wednesday 11th November
After a terrible night sleep because of the rain, it didn’t get much better today. The light drizzle when we started quickly turned torrential. I didn’t need a bike now, I needed a canoe! At least the road was reasonably flat. Well until we turned a corner on the cliff edge and a landslide had blocked off the road. A large part of the road had actually disappeared into the sea! We then had to follow a diversion up the steepest hill you can imagine, climbing to 2,500 feet. No chance of cycling, so we pushed the dead-weight bikes to the top! We found a tin shack for lunch, which helped escape the rain, but a flash then a crash of thunder – shit, it had just been struck by lightening!
Just as we were about to leave I jinxed it in typical style saying “what we don’t need now is a puncture” just as that was said Jon got a puncture- probably the worst place and situation anyone has ever had a puncture.
Shivering and soaking, we braved the dripping gloves and water logged socks to another fawlty towers coastal hotel marking it a 64 mile day where we enjoyed a feast of wieners and pasta cooked on our trangier .

Thursday 12th November
Woke up early negotiated a cheaper rate by excluding breakfast and were on the road by 8am. Come rain or shine we were determined to reach Palermo today to the sanctuary of our 4* hotel our friend Silvia had arranged, the buffet ‘fill your boots’ breakfast has kept us going this last week.
The weather actually turned to be good and we nailed the 85 miles to Palermo by 4pm. Found the hotel easy although Dom was disappointed with the poor quality of the room. When I ran a bath to find brown water coming out of the taps, we knew it was time to call reception for an upgrade. We were given the best room in the hotel- sometimes it pays off to be an arse!

23rd to 30th October

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

22nd October (Day 14)
It all started off ok, and well pleased to leave the ‘cave hotel’. We left the UK in such a rush, that we had loads of unwanted leads/ plugs, so found a post office to send a package back to the UK, with a couple of letters too. My French is so pony, that even a simple task like this is a misson, but we got it done eventually.

About mid morning it started spitting as we made our way through windy roads, and after a brief stop for lunch the sky went black. For the next 4 hours it rained constantly, along with a bruising headwind, so by the time we arrived in Draguignan we were absolutely soaking to much amusement of the locals. Sadly no hotel blagging tonight, but did get a great pizza next door, which set up a good movie night of Casino Royale.

23rd October
At last, a sunny day – hurrah. And the roads all looked pretty flat too. We headed off towards Grasse, and it just got warmer and warmer. Beautiful warm day, but slow progress around the windy mountain roads which didn’t actually matter we were just happy to have a dry day and beautiful scenary.

3 english guys who overtook us yesterday, went flying passed again, and funnily enough we met them at the intermarche for lunch. They were cycling from Barcelona to Nice. Stuff the patio furniture for sale outside – it all made perfect picnic beneches for us all.

After lunch we reached Grasse – a stupid town which went on for ages – we actually entered it 3 times! but it was worth it – in the distance we caught our first glimst of the med – sparkling in the afternoon sun it was like we’d found the treasure we’d been looking for for the past two weeks- great sense of achievement. The best cycling followed, apex, hairpin downhills all the way into Nice.

One scary moment, when Jon and I took a wrong turn and ended up on a single lane motorway flyover in Nice rush hour traffic. The French were not amused – in fact our best traffic hold up yet – so many beeps we found highly amusing but left the motorway pretty sharpesh!

As the sun was setting, we decided to push onto Menton (on the Italian border), rather than set down in Beaulieu sur Mer. This meant going through Monaco at night – very glizy and sparkly, with as much boat porn as you’d ever need. Sadly no time to stop at the casinos, but did have fun upsetting more traffic – Jon did a Porsche 911 C4 off the lights, and I managed to annoy a Z3 driver. A budget 1 star hostel meant we had to carry our bikes upto the first floor and keep them in the room over night!!

24th October
With our planned rest day in Menton, we had a chilled one, although still admin stuff to do! We enjoyed a lie in, although seriously upset the cleaner as we hadn’t left our room at 11am. Key jangling, foot stamping and lots of huffing and puffing, she was rather upset! Anyway, we then made our way to the laundrette, and finally managed to enjoy some sun by the med for a couple of hours. We laid all our clothes out to dry along the promenard wall, and everyone who walked past thought we were selling things! We decided to do a short 20km ride later that afternoon across the Italian border, and found a campsite soon after. A serious lack of grass made for an uncomfortable bed, but we chilled out watching a funny yank talking about the 9/11 conspiracy, and telling us all the things “…you never thought you’d know!”

25th October
Didn’t realise the clocks had gone back in Italy too, so later that day we found out we had left the campsite at 8.30am (our best, non mincing time yet!) As well as being religious, it also seems that Sunday is the day of cycling in northern Italy, and never before have I seen such posing cyclists, all in their white lycra – not something I really want to see again! We were making good ground today, passing through beautiful Italian seaside towns, but lots of cycling up and down in between. We pushed onto Savona, but the light was starting to go when looking for the youth hostel. We couldn’t find a hotel for directions for love nor money, but just when we were about to give up, we found a plush 4* hotel in the docks (much more Dom’s cup of tea!) We realised that the youth hostel was miles away, and as the hotel manager took pity on us, she offered us a half price stay including buffet breakfast – touch – that was definitely getting nailed the next day! The massive power shower also sorted out the last few days of sweat!!

26th October
After a 5 course breakfast of bacon, eggs, cereal, chocolate croissants, chocolate muffins, fruit, yogurt, bread and cold meat, some more internet mincing meant we didn’t leave until midday. But the weather was beautiful, and soon we were battling traffic (and potholes) in our first Italian city, Genova. We were starting to realise how bad Italian roads are compared to France, so avoiding potholes became our next challenge! We cycled 55 miles today, a bit less than we wanted, but we pounced on the first campsite we saw, and luckily it was open and right by the sea. Another pitch on gravel rather than grass wasn’t brilliant, but at least they had warm showers, and we finished watching our 9/11 conspiracy.

27th October
A hard, hard day cycling today, rising over 800m into the hills above the med. The views were stunning, but it was at the detriment of our milage, only managing 20 miles before lunch. However, there aren’t many places as beautiful to enjoy a sandwich, far reaching views across the hills to the sea. We must have looked like a couple of sweaty aliens, as a few of the locals tried to come over one by one and speak to us (and we didn’t have a clue what they were going on about – we think that one Italian farmer used to like cycling before a nasty accident with a tomato cutting machine, but to be honest, it was anyones guess! After lunch followed some sweaping downhill which we had earnt!, and apparently was flat all the way to La Spezia. But it was still tough gradual gradient, finished off with a 2.5km tunnel – not fun at all! Beaten by the light again, we found a 2 star family hotel, which had a massive room for us.

28th October
After some admin, and Jon finding a supermarket eventually for lunch we started off heading towards Pisa. We utilised Mc Donalds outside benches for lunch & then you can’t beat a smartie mcflurry (universal language) for desert. Good news for Jon too – Holly confirmed her correct flights to Rome, landing on 31st and leaving on 4th Nov. So a few days for admin catch up, washing, bike maintanence etc. After lunch we saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the main road – as one of Jon’s mates rather obviously said “…its just a tower!”, we carried on towards Livorno, passing hissing prossies on the way – actually more like ugly grissly bears! We found a nice 3* campsite by the sea, and our stable diet of wieners, pasta and bolognese sauce accompanied the glowing sunset over the med.

29th October
A big day today – we now have added pressure of needing to get to Rome to meet Holly by 31st, so set ourselves the target of reaching Grosseto (120km). Another warm day, and the stripey tans are coming on a treat! Strange goings on at the supermarket we stopped at – someone tried to sell Jon a dustpan and brush, and I was not happy getting overtaken by a grandad on an electric bicycle!! Realised today that we are not allowed to cycle along dual carriageways, so I have a habit of stopping on very bad junctions just to make sure!! Luckily we managed to find an ‘A’ road which followed the motorway all the way down. Calorie intake now is upto 4,500, so we are now eating 3 kitkats a day as well as breakfast, lunch, dinner, apples, bananas, crisps, yogurt and a bag of sweets! Found a cheap hotel in Grosseto, which included another buffet breakfast, which is now almost mandatory for us!

30th October
We knew today was going to hurt! Without being able to travel on the SP1, we had to head for the hills of tuscany. Beautiful scenery, but the rolling landscape made for tough cycling. And man, the Italian roads are terrible. It feels like you have punctures, but in fact it is the sound of cycling over lose, rubbly tarmac. And this is a main A road! The bikes were being battered (probably a test for when we hit India), luckily they held up, and after an hour of nightime cycling we reached as far as we could, to a town called Vetralla. We started panicking a bit when we couldn’t find the hotel, but a restaurant helped with directions (which we later found out owned it!) We headed for that restaurant for some pasta energy, but didn’t have a clue what anything was! We managed to get a pasta starter right, but my main course was palma ham & mozzerella and Jon’s was lamb chops with a slice of lemon!