Every journey has its ups and downs. Now it was turn for some “ups” again. My obscenely good luck made a comeback.
After a good night’s sleep since the previous post’s events, I rolled downhill to Pinzolo and bought a new phone. Madonna di Campiglio was at an altitude of 1520 meters, which was easily the highest point of the trip so far, so I didn’t want to climb the same hill twice. I decided to take a ride. At the bus stop a couple locals told me I was at the wrong stop. The correct one was 5 minutes away, but the next bicycle-friendly bus would leave in 3 minutes. No problem, one of them simply called the driver and told him to wait for me. That’s pretty good service. So I got to Campiglio without problems.
I still felt like I needed to recover from recent troubles, so near Dimaro I stayed at Warmshowers hosts Anna and Pasqui. They were a very nice couple who gave me a lot of advice and help. Sleeping in a bed made me feel almost normal again. And they even gave me a good tip for a campsite behind the Ossana Botanical Garden where Pasqui worked. Since I had permission to camp (which is rare in Italy) and it was weekend (which is less rare) I was able to stay for two nights in peace to get some more much needed rest.
After I left the gardens I visited Forte Strino, a 19th century fortress - now a museum. On the way I saw a cave by a footpath, and decided right away I was going to sleep there. Felix, the nice man in the museum’s office hesitantly gave me permission. He seemed to think it was a bit of a weird request. But if life gives you an opportunity to sleep in a cave in the Alps, I say you go for it. I was out of water, but a tour bus operator at the parking lot shared some of theirs.
Admittedly sleeping in a cave wasn’t that comfortable in the end. The rocky floor was tough for my thin mattress, the spiders were large and plentiful, and I spent half the night imagining the roof caving in. But it was an interesting new experience, which is what counts.
In the morning I climbed the rest of the way to Passo del Tonale, which was at 1870 meters - another record. It was a ski resort, so not particularly pretty if you ask me. The landscape in such places tends to be dominated by hotels, the unnaturally open hillside, and a network of ski lifts. But in the camper area I got a lucky free shower. Someone had left their access card in the departure gate, and it still had money in it. I found another card too, and passed on both to some German campers who arrived while I was drying my laundry.
In the tourist information the woman behind the counter said I could take my bike into the ski lift and down to the next village, if I wanted. “Lady, I just spent two days climbing up here. Going downhill is the best part, so I’m not gonna skip my reward by paying for a lift.” Tsk.
However, after the thrilling descent, I was down at Ponte di Legno, facing another long climb to Passo Gavia. That one rose up to 2650m. This time I chose to hitchhike. While trying to find a good place to do it, the sky opened up into increasingly heavy rain. I cycled on and soon found a picnic table with a cover. I haven’t seen a picnic table with a cover in months, but here was one just when I needed it.
A couple nice cyclists were also taking shelter from the rain, and said it would be impossible to get a ride to the mountain in bad weather so late in the afternoon. I said "we’ll see". People tend to call all kinds things impossible for no reason. I cooked some pasta, and the rain stopped after I finished eating.
As soon as I pushed the bike back onto the road, I saw a white van approaching and raised my thumb. It stopped! A French guy called Augustin was organising an Alpine tour for motorcyclists and driving the support van up the mountain. And it just so happened to have enough room in the back for my stuff.
Yep. Sometimes I can be pretty lucky too.