Wednesday, 30 May 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran: Storm

I shot this video when camping in Italy.

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 29

Day 29: On the Fast Lane: From Somewhere near Lago Sarino to Taranto in Italy

May 28, 2012; Distance covered today: 176 Km; Total: 2005 Km

It is of paramount importance to have good food and good sleep when you are traveling by bike. Last night, I slept very well. I woke up at 6 am feeling very well rested, packed and left. 

I didn’t know how long I had to climb to get to Lago Serino, but later on, I figured it was 5 km. Five Kl of the steepest roads in my life. For part of the way, I had to walk my bike. Walking the bike was even harder than biking. 
The Valley I Climbed

Finally, I got to the main road. I was on 850 meters high. From there, I had no other hills. I was flying. It was payback time. My top speed reached 67.3 Km, the fastest I have ever done. There was only one thing on my mind: getting to the east coast. I was surprised to get there at 2 pm! 100 Km at 2 pm. 

The East coast is by no means similar to the west coast. You actually don’t see the coast. The area is flat, industrial, and ugly. I had lunch in a bar: three pieces of pizza, and a sandwich. I could feel rain in the air, and I knew that there would be no place I could find in this ugly industrial area to spend the night. I then decided to push on. Another 60 Km to Taranto. So I did it and to my surprise again, I got to Taranto at 5:15!! 

By then, it was raining. I found a tourist office and asked if there was a hostel. And again, I was surprised to know that there was one. I was so happy, so happy to have found a hostel with Internet. I checked in, I have the whole room for myself. There is no kitchen so I went out and had two pieces of pizza and a hamburger.

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 28

Day 28: From Capaccio Scallo to somewhere near Lago Sarino in Italy

May 27, 2012; Distance covered today: 95 Km; Total: 1829 Km

Without having enough sleep, I left the spot I spent the night at 5:30 am. I was awake before 5. The road was full of debris, gravel, and broken branches. The storm last night had swept the whole area. A little further, I saw some hail stones on the sides of the road. Anyways, I was glad that all went fine with my tent and the stuff. 

It was really cool to bike in the very early morning. The fresh air and the smell of rain added to this pleasure. Soon I arrived in Agropoli. The scenery was getting better and better. Instead of hills, there are mountains now. I was so excited that I got lost at one point. Instead of turning right along the coast, I turned left, and again, I found myself on a highway. I looked at the map and realized that it is too late to double back. I would waste a lot of my time and energy, so although it was illegal, I kept riding on the highway. It was pretty boring. Somewhere in the middle of the highway, police found me and kicked me out. Fortunately, they found me when there was an exit just right there. I exited and happened to be riding in some very small villages. Then it got so much beautiful. I had been climbing for a couple of hours now so I was expecting to coast down very soon. I was right. After two villages, I was coasting down and I saw some of the most beautiful views of the sea.

I met an English cyclist on the main road. His name was Grayam. He had been in Iran with lots of  good memories in the 80’s. He regretted that he was given only a two-week visa. He had started from the south and was cycling up to Switzerland. He looked like 60 years old, but when he shook hands with him, he was a bone crusher. 

I got to Sapri at about 1 pm. This would be my last point in the east coast. I should cut across Italy now. I stopped at a gas station to ask if it is OK to take the road I thought was OK to ride on toward Brindisi. Then the same police man who kicked out of highway showed up and I asked him about it. He acted very arrogantly, like a father giving directions to his sun. And I could feel that the gas station staff were afraid of him. I thought it as not a good sign when people are afraid of the police who are supposed to maintain peace. 

When the policeman asked me where I was going, he laughed and showed me the high mountains and said, “it’s a long way”. He was actually making fun of me, or meaning like, “you are not gonna get there for sure. Good luck!”. 

I had two pieces of pizza and hit the road. I started climbing. The climb took me a long time, 4 hours. A light rain also had started. Then I was coasting down real fast. After 15 minutes or so, I was at a fork. Left was Lago Negro and right was Lago Serino and all the other towns the policeman had written down on my notebook to pass. I was thinking, “why should I go to Lago Negro on the right when all the other towns are on the left?” So I turned right. I rode very fast for some 10 minutes. All the climbing that I had done for 3 hours passed in a whim. I then faced with another fork: left was Lago Serina, but it was still going down toward a big, steep valley and in front of me, even without riding down yet, was a huge mountain. That meant if I were to take that road down toward Lago Serino, I would have to climb that monster up again. 

I stopped a car and asked the driver for direction. He advised me to double back and go to Lago Negro, and then go to Lago Serino! I told him that I was up there very close to Lago Negro. I didn’t want to climb all that way back. 

I went down the huge valley.

Soon, I was climbing, and climbing, and climbing some of the steepest roads I had ever ridden on. Every 50 miters, I had to stop to catch my breath, every 50 minutes. 

It was too much for a day. I was very tired; I hadn’t slept the night before, I hadn’t had good food, and now this monstrous mountain. I had to call it quits. I had to find a place to spend the rest of the afternoon and the night. It was about 6. I was in the middle of small villages. How could I find a place here? And how could I climb more with this condition?
My Spot for the Night

I saw a playground in one of the villages. I parked the bike and went there to check it out. I pretended that I was going there for a washroom break. It was actually a very good spot. It was Sunday afternoon and not many people were around. That was that. I pitched up my tent, had a mini shower with soap and cooked some good spaghetti. Then I had time to write for my blog off line. And soon I was in dreamland. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 27

Day 27: From Pompeii to Capaccio Scallo  in Italy

May 26, 2012; Distance covered today: 117 Km; Total: 1734 Km

Naples and the towns surrounding it are covered with garbage. As I was cycling from Pompeii to different towns, I could see mountains of garbage everywhere. Now I understand why people do not recycle or put the garbage in a garbage bag: because it actually doesn’t matter; no one collects them anyway. 
Garbage Everywere
Beautiful landscape murdered by garbage

The first couple of hours of my ride was really bad: garbage everywhere, lots of potholes, headwind, and crazy drivers. What else do you need to ruin a ride? After two hours or so, I reached Salerno, where I rode along the coast again, and the streets were better according to Italian standard. Early afternoon, I had only flat roads soon I reached 85 Km when I decided to have lunch. I had some bread, cheese, nuts and dates. I continued toward Eboli where I could decide whether to cut across Italy there or cycle even further south. In Eboli, I did some rough calculation and realized that there isn’t much of a difference if I cycle south specially since I was told this part of Italy was really beautiful. Besides, there were a lot of campgrounds along the coast. 

At about 6:30, I started to look for campgrounds. The first one had only a big sign; the camp itself didn’t exist. The second and third were not operating yet. The fourth did not allow campers with a  tent!!! I had already wasted a good hour looking for campgrounds. I decided to go into the bush. I filled my water bottles and another two litter bottle, then I hit the road and kept my eyes open for possible places to spend the night. It was getting dark. I needed to find one fast. Also, there were a couple of villages in the next 10 Km. I found one on the slope of the mountain/hill where there actually was an olive garden. It was kind of hard to take the bike and the bags down the hill especially since you should do it so fast that no one sees you. As I was taking the stuff down, it started to rain. With the water I had, I washed myself—mini shower, then I decided not to cook. I didn’t want to attract animals. I only opened a can of tuna and had it with bread. Then I put the empty can in two plastic bags and tied it tight to keep the smell in.
The Spot Where I spent the Night
I was getting ready to sleep when I heard snorts or something like that some 5 meters down the hill. I also heard heavy steps of moving. I was absolutely sure there was a big animal, most probably a bore. I took out my knife, which is nothing but a Leatherman Wave 2 and listened. The sound was getting closer and closer, then I took out my Iphone and played rock music loud for a few seconds. I didn’t want the farmer’s dogs to come and find me. Then I stopped the music and listened. I heard the sound was going away. Then the dogs were going crazy—barking like they had seen a ghost. 

It took me a while to kick the excitement/fear out of my system and calm down to sleep. I was drifted in and out of sleep. I saw a nightmare about my tent being torn apart by a storm. I woke up a couple of times and fell asleep. 

In the middle of the night, I woke up to the loudest thunder claps I had ever heard in my life. A storm had just started. The nightmare I had just seen was actually going to happen! The wind was pushing one side of the tent so hard that I thought I should wear my rain gear to get ready for a night out after my tent being torn apart. The rain… so much that I could hear water falls coming down from the hills. Oh My God! I was so afraid of being washed away by a flood. I was calming myself down thinking that thunder storms do not last long; they are fierce but short. I was wrong.  This one kept at it full speed.
After an hour of storm, it got downgraded to rain. I fell asleep.

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 26

Day 26: Pompeii, Still a Beautiful City! From Primevo to Monte San Blano in Italy

May 25, 2012; Distance covered today: 41 Km; Total: 1617 Km

My first bush camping was not actually bad although finding the place was rather challenging. But it always is. For me, finding a place to spend the night is the most challenging thing to do on my trips. I don’t stay in B&B’s or hotels so my choices are very limited. And if it is clear that there is not a campground or a hostel, then the challenge is doubled. 

Last night I slept well. It did not rain and the temperature was just OK. I woke up at 6 am and packed and left ASAP. I didn’t want the drivers to see me. 

I stopped at a town and had breakfast: bread, cheese, sausages, and chocolate milk. At 11am I arrived in Monte San Bleano and I got on the 12 o’clock train to Naples. Then I changed the train in Naples to Pompeii. 
In Naples, there is graffiti all over the trains. Even the front of the train is sprayed. When the train stopped at each station, I was trying to find out which station it was, but it was impossible because the signs at the stations had graffiti on them. I then had to ask people where I was. 

Right outside the station in Pompeii, there was a campground. I checked in, took a shower, washed my clothes, and went to the ruins of Pompeii. 

It was very interesting to see that Pompeii was like a modern city. It had different buildings for different services or entertainment. There was a theatre for example. The bodies of the residents were also interesting but sad.
At night, I made some spaghetti and had it with vegetables. Tomorrow, I will have an early start to cycle south toward Sorento, and then decide whether to cut across Italy there or from further south.  
The Theater in Pompeii
One of the Bodies