Sunday, August 21, 2011


Waking up to the sound of rain is not as soothing as falling asleep to it, or at least not when you need to pack up a tent. We had such good intentions when we chose to put the tent up to dry out instead of sleeping in the tent dorm but although the tent did briefly dry out, it was wetter than it started when it was time to go.

The rain was bucketing down so we decided to get breakfast first and use the wifi in the cafeteria in the hopes it would ease. At least then we would be dry even if the tent wasn’t. For the first time we had a real, strong wifi signal and spent the next couple of hours on the phone to family, Courts on Skype and me on our Voip line.

Courts had the privilege of being overheard talking to his Dad about the surfers in English Garden and questioned on them by quite possibily the most miserable human being I’ve ever come across. He was an English guy and he spent the next hour or so complaining about everything that had ever happened in his life. Courts has trouble politely edging away from conversation with anyone, he feels like the very idea of it is rude but I happily sat there looking extremely busy on the computer. Even Courts eventually started ignoring him, which I’ve not seen before.

Actually, I didn’t see it this time either, because as soon as the rain eased, I raced off to pack up the tent. Courts didn’t need to be wet and grumpy for the 6 hour ride to Venice but we did need to get on the road so I packed everything up as quickly as possible, wrapping the dry stuff in our Wacken ponchos and putting the wet stuff in between them as I strapped it all on the bike.

When I got back to Courts to tell him it was time to go his English friend had only just left and that was all the motivation he needed to get on the road. By this time it was noon and we were well behind in our day. For a 6 hour ride we would normally leave about 8am and take our time so the possibility of doing one with shorter breaks and a late arrival was daunting, and I wasn’t even the one riding.

For most of the ride through Germany it was raining still so there was little to see and we had to go a lot slower than normal, pushing our impending arrival time further and further out of reach. I had completely forgotten that we would cross through Austria to get to Italy so it was a nice surprise to see the border and even though the weather didn’t improve, Austria is amazing. At home mountains tend to gradually rise from the land so much so that they don’t really have a bottom, they just are. Not so in Austria, where there is perfectly flat land, massive fields with not a bump in sight and then BAM! Mountain. Not just any mountain, huge mountains. There was one that Courts unfortunately couldn’t see because I was looking to the right and then saw shadows in the clouds above us and realized that when I tilted my head back as far as it would go I could still see mountain in the sky. Easily the biggest mountain I have even been next to and by far the coolest. The flat land around them makes the mountains so breathtaking and humbling, especially when there are tiny house right next to them.

At one point we climbed higher into the alps and crossed a 192m bridge. I know it was that tall because that’s what the sign for bungy jumping from it said. No, we didn’t bungy! We did however, stop at the McDonalds next door, which hung out over the edge of the mountain and must be the McDonalds with the best view in the world. When we got off the bike we discovered that a little grasshopper we had seen when we got on way back in Munich had survived the whole ride. He was still there when we left Maccas an hour later and so he became Jiminy from Germany, and had his photo taken in the Alps.

Coming down the other side was a relief, in part because we soon reached the Italian border, and long rides are powered by milestones. The other cause for relief was that with Italy came sunshine. The weather was perfect and the second we crossed the border I was grinning. I didn’t stop until we reached the highway to Venice 2 hours later because Italy is everything I ever dreamed it would be and so much more. It’s stunning, I love it, I love it, I love it!

We had been told by friends at Wacken that when they attempted to drive from Austria into Italy they lasted an hour before turning back because of the number of near death experiences the Italian drivers provided them. Since hearing that I had been freaking out a little and while still on the Austrian side of the border we had two idiots on two different occasions pull out in front of us at the last minute. I figured we must be getting close to Italy and I was right, however as soon as we crossed the border everyone behaved and we didn’t have any issues the rest of the ride.

Most of the Italian leg of the ride was through the Dolomite Ranges and if you ever drive or ride through Europe, you have to go through them. More mountains, yes, and I can’t explain how so many mountains can all be amazing and not look the same, but they don’t. These ones had sheer cliff faces of rock where nothing could grow, and tiny houses dotted in higher places with seemingly no access. That’s as well as the vineyards and farms and the castles. So many castles! We didn’t see a single one in Germany, where we thought we would be flooded with them but Italy took one for the team and I think we saw more castles in that ride than we have in total since leaving Ireland.

Jiminy, or Jiminiiiia as he became when we crossed the border, hung on until just after we had stopped for petrol about an hour and a half into the Dolomites. I saw Courts swing his head back and I realized instantly what had happened. We thought he was our friend but he was really just hitchhiking to a warmer climate. I don’t blame him, I just hope he didn’t splat onto someone’s windscreen.

Once we were through the Dolomites and on the highway it didn’t take long to get to Venice and there was an added motivation for getting there in one day despite our late start. Awaiting us were two real beds inside a real cabin and they were all ours. It was tiny, little more than those 2 single beds and a cupboard, but that size made it only a couple of Euros more expensive than tenting it so we had booked it before we left home. Courts hung the tent out over the bike to dry and after a very long day we slept very, very soundly.