The Sahara and Us Morocco 2011

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pat and Belinda, Tour De France and 40th anniversary

Just a Little 40th Anniversary Kiss!

Gran San Bernardo Summit
Aosta Castle

Great Supper


As we left Levanto and headed north that mindset of the trip is over and we’re heading home starts to set in. But when we got to Aosta Italy we were excited by the fact Pat and Belinda were going to meet us there. We hadn’t seen them both together since ‘06 and Pat in ‘09.
Our time was going to be short again, only 3 nights but we made the most of it.
After a great tour of one of the Aosta castles, we headed out the next day up the Gran San Bernardo pass to Switzerland. It was spectacular, and when we got to the top we became the centre of attraction for a lot of other riders there since we were from Canada. First we chatted with some Swedish riders then 2 German riders one who had the same make model year and color Vstrom as ours. Lots of video was shot on the way up and down as it is a very scenic ride.

From there we decided to take some back routes to our destination and we definitely found ourselves on some incredibly beautiful goat trails that you would never take a car on. Switzerland mountains are so much more accessible than the Rockies, people live everywhere in them and the views are amazing.
Finally our third day we took a drive to Murten where Pat and Belinda will be housesitting for a week and we met their friends, and then onto the Tour De France. With the side trip to Murten we ended up trying to get to the finish line after some of the access roads closed, so we decided to stay in this one small village and see the race pass by from there. As you can see from the pictures we had a great vantage point to see the racers and the support vehicles.

The Peleton
Yet it all happened so fast that the event was over in 5 mins. where we were. Next time we will try and get to the finish line first thing in the morning.
With road closures and all it took a lot longer to get out of Switzerland  and to our final destination for the night, Mulheim Germany where we celebrated our 40th anniversary with Pat and Belinda who took us out for an incredible meal. Thanks again Pat and Belinda! 
Fab Beer

We each ordered a meal, then we shared it with each other so that everyone could taste the various wild German meats that were offered. Coupled with  great German beer a good time was had by all. It was sad to leave them today as we headed back. We ride similarly, have great travel learnings to share back and forth, so keep in mind that you can check out their blog offerings by clicking on the link to the Horizon’s webpage ( on the right side of the web page).

Tour Support

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cinque Terre 2012


Each year there has been one common element to every trip and that is our visits to the Cinque Terre in Italy.
Harbor Boats
This year has been no exception other than about 6 weeks after we left last year two villages, Monterrosso and Vernazza (The crown jewel), were hit by a flood that devastated their towns. When we caught news of this last year we had emailed our friend Cristian in Levanto where we stay how things were. For 3 weeks we did not get a response to several emails. Finally he replied by saying that for awhile power was out, then while Levanto was OK he was busy helping the other villagers in those two communities dig out from the terrible damage. 

Dredge Crane in Harbor
No doors? They are 10' down in the mud and debris
As we hiked the 5 villages this year, yep we still did the cross country 15 km hike in 5 ½ hours, we saw first hand the damage that was done as not all of it can be repaired within such a short time. It is amazing though that the small cove that was completely filled in by debris, and the main village street that was 10 feet deep in mud, that they are back operating in most locations again this year. The tourists are back, which says the money will come.
Our hike was different this year since we were confident of our knowledge of the area and provided some helpful tips. Also, the temperature was easily 35C, and very sunny, and while we had applied lots of sunscreen beforehand we likely sweated it all off in an hour. Cris, when we came back and we were talking with him remarked, “you are so black, I live here and I do not have the color that you do“. He’s right.
We never grow tired of this area. Levanto is our second home, the Cinque Terre region is so beautiful and when the weather is great, like we always seem to catch it here, it is remarkable. 
Crystal Blue Waters
It's a Bit hot standing here,
Take the @#$% picture
Each evening we go down to the village centre to get gelatto as our treat. Usually we walk which allows us to rationalize that we walk off the calories associated to the treat. The flavors are amazing. The shop we go to makes the gelatto fresh every day and he constantly tries new flavors. Last evening, we went out for our Mussels appetizer, red wine, and spaghetti with pesto, Genovese pesto being famous in this region (due to Genoa). We decided  that we could have the gelatto as well and we tried his newest flavor “chocolat/orange intense“. Wow, the creaminess, the flavors, it was just exceptional. 
The devastation she felt is palpable

As we had our cones we sat back in the village centre, watched the village activities go on, and just immersed ourselves in such a friendly and peaceful culture. The Italian people are such a joy to be around, except on the highway where they turn into potential assassins. 

Dredging continues today
Cruiser, Red #12 Princess Cruises
now don't lose your ticket!
Our biggest watch-out-for here are the cruise/bus tourists that sweep into a village inmass for a few hours, follow a guide with a small wand reading (Red #12) while wearing a FM frequency receiver, trinket shop and disappear to the next village and think they have been to Italy. Some, like the guy pictured here are totally oblivious to their surroundings only taking cues from their wives, “Here’s your ticket, now don’t lose it!”  You can tell them by the tags they have to wear (Red #12, Princess Cruise). 

One guy, not this one, I saw was so intense that he had lost his group (they all had radio transmitters to hear their guide and he was hearing they were leaving) that he nearly ran over us and  the children in the streets of Vernazza looking for his group. Then a couple minutes later he ripped back down the street again frantically looking for them.

 I said to Sandra, “Man I missed an opportunity. If I had caught his tag number when he had come up the street, I could have commented back to you when he came back down frantic in earshot of him, Well at least tour XYZ has left by boat.”  

I know, you’ll say it’s cruel, but it would have been funny, except for the CPR part! 


Hope it doesn't fall on us!

Wanting a day outing that would keep us from the sun, we had been toasting a bit too much on the beach, we decided after breakfast t head for a day trip to Pisa.
All the Old town buildings
Down the coast on SS1 after La Spezia to Pisa it took us over 2 hrs to cover 100 kms. And on arriving in Pisa we realized how small it was compared to it’s reputation for the Leaning tower.

Making sure it's Steady
Inside a walled city component we had parked the bike and walked in. Along side the area were small shops set up like Morocco with tons of trinkets for sale. We walked around, took our pictures then bought some Panini’s ( salami) for lunch and then got post cards and gelatto and wrote post cards home in the 35C heat. Whew it was hot. After filling with gas we decided it was worth it to head back on the autostrada , It was just after 3:17pm. At 4:00pm we heard the bells of the church in Montale ring as we passed by off the autostrada. 105 kms in 45 mins. Not bad. The way down and back was interesting since we could see where they mined marble and granite from the mountains, then cut it up and slabbed it. Maybe ours came from here? Then we went out again for mussels and Pizza. Way too good to be true! 
Great Parking right out front