I don't think it's worth me going back to the week I missed out in detail so I'll just do it in photos instead. Unfortunately the photography has fallen a bit by the wayside with this silly 'ride, ride, further, faster' mindset so despite having 2 cameras - one waterproof Lumix mounted on my handlebars and a better Nikon D80 to hand in my bar bag - I've missed opportunities and rushed shots I should've taken time over. I'm not the best photographer anyway, which is why I'm looking forward to my best buddy James Oaten joining me on the road to capture some of this trip (and me!) properly. Obviously shots that include me either involve static shots taken by strangers or are awkward arm's length or precariously balanced self-timer affairs so there aren't many, and the scenery only shots are never all that interesting so bear with me while I find the right angle to record this all. So much of the essence of the trip comes in a fleeting glimpse, a soaring bird of prey, a smell or a smile or wave and can't be recorded.
This was quite a pivotal moment for me - arriving at this campsite on lago d'Iseo in Italy after a short ride along beautiful, winding roads bordered right at each edge by mountain and lake, being passed by 100s of other cyclists (including Matteo who I rode with for an hour or so - good luck on your ride to Israel!), stopping in a small town with no need to press on and just enjoying the scenery and my lunch, I wasn't happy. I was here in this stunning setting with nothing to do but relax and enjoy and it was one of the loneliest moments of my life! How ridiculous is that! It didn't help that it was a Sunday, my absolute favourite day back home, and I was thinking of my family getting together for a Sunday roast and playing rockets with my nephew Alex, but even so I seriously questioned why I was doing this trip alone and without anyone to share such scenes with (as yet unresolved, stay tuned..)
This one from yesterday just demonstrates how pared down my life has become and how easily pleased I now am. Knowing that I had orange juice, chocolate spread and a newspaper made riding 50 miles before lunch so much more bearable - this is one aspect that has lived up to expectations and I love the important role small things now play. That's Sibenik, Croatia in the background.
This was the mountain I inadvertently scheduled into my route, not realising until I got to the bottom of it - I just thought the squiggly line on the map looked interesting - the Pian delle Fugazze. It was about 1200 metres, easy compared to the Simplon Pass a few days earlier, and far more enjoyable with almost no traffic and great views. I'm still amazed by the tiny villages up in the mountains and the people that live in them and spent a lot of time wondering what it must be like to be so remote.
These are my last couple of night's wild camps, both at the side of the road behind dry stone walls and trees, both in the rain but both a lot warmer than the previous wild camps. The darker one was pretty remote, between the sea and the mountains, and the second one turned out to be just outside a town and was a last-minute find. Both have been followed by a night indoors, first a youth hostel in Zadar and tonight a hotel in Split, and the 2 best and most appreciated beds and showers imaginable. Leaving a hotel in the morning feels as though you're leaving normality and civilisation behind in some way whereas leaving after packing up a wild camp feels like returning to it. I will certainly appreciate not being woken up at 1am tonight by the sound of howling - I must Google whether there are wolves in Croatia...
I may see if I can put some more interesting ones up tomorrow (seeing as I negotiated free internet here as well as a discount : ) ) but right now I'm off for pizza.