1. Good Friday 22nd April 2011
Sometimes you just have to go. There is no time to make every arrangement or get everything right, as we may imagine that to be. Is there not more than a little fear in that? Sometimes just commit, and go.
There has been little chance to plan and to practice. Hurried adjustments to bikes which have been commuting, or locked in a Bernese cellar – don’t inspire confidence. New attachments are not rock solid, heights and distances of saddles and panniers are wild guesses rather than informed judgements! The bikes are neither new nor expensive…in fact we have paid less than £200 for both.
Dark and 6am at Bern Hbf. Swiss Railways.. not the UK! So we know we will get to the new start. So, it is Bernto Etroubles in Italy via Visp and Martigny. The trains arrive and leave exactly. At Martigny we get a bus..it arrives on time. At Bourg St Pierre there is an Italian bus to take us under the still snow bound St Bernard Pass via the tunnel. We know the tunnel well… and its graceless, right-angular concrete, with unloved customs posts at both sides. It is a construction of it’s time – but we are soon through the mountain and in Etroubles. The name is French, and so are the war memorials. History and politicians have transferred the area to Italy. The population seems to have changed.
The bikes feel heavy with panniers…very heavy, and it is cold.
All of the first day of our route is going downhill into the Valley of Aosta and with every meter of height loss the air is getting warmer. A strong wind blowing from the plane up into the Alps is breaking the downhill ride quite a bit. The route brings us past Bard where an impressive medieval fortress stands – a perfect place to protect the valley from intruders.
Later as we are heading for Chatillon the first bike issue – to Regula’s aged “Specialized” ladies commuter – ebay, 50 CHF, original tyres! Rusty pedals and a chain guard give away it’s stately purpose. But it’s actually a very well made bike. It’s a Specialized! It’s only a puncture but even with the help of a bike specialist, the problem isn’t fixed for good…our specialist is the nicest of Italians. He tells us of his rides to Spain and further afield. But he installs a very bad new inner tube! ..South Korea has made finer products. Few worse ones in fact. It is 30 per cent too long…. He does however have two suitable, “bombproof” German tyres – reduced. Problem over! Well, for 3 km. when the rear tyre is flat again.
Sometimes, it can take several attempts to get things in working order, despite the best efforts of man and manufacturer, and some failure is to be expected and anticipated. It is accepting trial and error with good patience which is the key… it’s not necessarily a crisis.
Looking for accommodation for the first night we find the website of Aosta Valley and this address in a long list of B&B’s :
B and B I TRE CILIEGI. Lucia Meroni e Vincenzo Baruzzi, Via dei Mulini 24, Borgofranco d’Ivrea (TO),
tel 0125 752216 mobile 3383976258 email@example.com
If you happen to be on the VF in Aosta, and looking for an introduction to Italian life – this is the one. On the route, out of town, and the most generous family you will find. A former Mayor, and VF enthusiast. We eat, drink and talk the evening away (in English). Religion, Physics and Politics…. This is intelligent interesting if unexpected communality we will struggle to find anywhere else. Our thanks are given here in public, with this recommendation!