Friday, July 23, 2010

Lago di Garda

After my stay at Cris's place in Oberstdorf, (the little bit of Germany with sticks out into the alps surrounded entirely by Austria) we loaded up Frauke's wee car to it's absolute max and departed south - headed for Lago di Garda for a 10 day bike/climbing adventure.
We drove past the church in the lake on the way to Gardersee

We were staying in a campground in Tobleno at the Northern end of the lake. The lake is over 60 km long, the southern end is very flat and hot, while the northern end tucks into the foothills of the Dolomites, it is surrounded by steep peaks around 2000 m high which plunge into the lake.

The campground was totally filled with German holiday makers enjoying Italy's warm weather. Many people flock to Lago di Garda for its sailing - the lake gets regular and predictable winds. The first thing that greeted us in the campground reception was a miniature of the NZ Americas cup boat Black Magic proudly displayed on the wall.

One of the first things that struck me in total contrast to the peace and quiet I have become accustomed to in Norway was the amount of people and the general buzz! We nearly got run over by a speeding motorcycle on the street, cues of traffic honked and pedestrians veered across the street clutching dripping ice-creams. A totally different world - but great fun.

Pasta pasta pasta! Emily heaven in Riva del Garda

The lake by night - this is two minutes walk from our campsite

The lake - and the sun bathers

We spent the first few days doing some mountain biking, lots of swimming and ice cream eating. I found the heat pretty hard to handle - it was often above 35 and riding up big hills in that heat was hard work. Fortunately there were heaps of springs, as well as the odd river and lake that you could put your head under or plunge into - delicious.

Out on the bikes in the hot sun

Riding through the Biotope
Cyprus trees round the lakeshore

On our third day at the Lago we decided to try a via ferrata which climbed Cima SAT - you could see the spire through the haze from our campsite. The haze was getting more and more noticeable with the days, Frauke said we needed a good thunderstorm to clear the air again. After we had walked 1 hour up to the base of the via ferrata we realized we really needed some more water. I looked on the map and discovered a little spring marked very nearby.

Some ruins on the way up the hill

We headed towards that spot on the map only to find a barred path - until I spotted 'Aqua' spray painted in blue to a rock above and raced up to the cliff to find a strange tank with a lever. Cris came up after me and was also scratching his head in dismay...until it dawned on us that by lifting the lever water poured out of a tap! We were so excited by our discovery we danced for joy and soaked ourselves in the cool water.

After that we were ready for the via ferrata - which turned out to be a straight forward but rather terrifyingly exposed ascent of ladders. Hundreds of meters of rusty ladders, some almost overhanging, and below our feet we could see down to the tiny boats sailing on the lake.

We were ready to head up the via ferrata
Half way up the ladders

Frauke on the rock

Nice views from Cima SAT

Phew, now I need a lift home! Cris collapses hopefully on the helicopter pad at the top

It was lots of fun, but we were quite happy when we reached the top and were able to take off our harnesses and descend lots of switchbacks on an easy walking track back down to the lake.

We spent the next few days on the bikes again, completing several of the rides listed in Frauke's guidebook. One took us over the Biotope Marocche which is a strange rocky landscape created by huge landslides thousands of years ago. The temperature remained around 35 - 40 degrees, but I seemed to be getting a bit more used to it.

Another delicious cook up after a good day out

Cris is just full of beans

Downhill challenges....
The pink tire levers come in handy!
Nice downhill through the forest

We really couldn't eat these ice creams fast enough - it was 42 degrees and we were hungry!

Windy roads the next day
Steep drops down the lake

The trail wound through some amazing old railway tunnels
After 5 days at Lago Di Garda Chris arrived from Trondheim. We had 5 more days to hang out in Italy before it was time for both of us to head back to Norway.

Watching the final of the world cup along with all the Dutch crowd

In Peschare (the very Southern end of the lake) waiting for Chris to arrive by train
Silly girls...

After a couple of days easier riding and swimming it was time to plan a big mission. We decided on a fairly mega bike ride climbing Mt Stivo (2058) then descending 2000 meters of rough single track. Frauke and Cris (being a little more organised than us!) set off at 7am from our campsite. We followed them at 8am, climbing rapidly up to the town of Nago.

On the bikes out of the campground. There were some nice cycle paths to follow.

Chris actually got into the fountain it was so hot! Much to the amusement of passersby. I followed his example (-:

Cool narrow streets

After that was a very steep section of sealed footpath through some forest. This turned out to be one of the most testing climbs I have ever done - we were swarmed and attacked by killer flies with demon fangs (otherwise known as horseflies). They bit us all over and the only way to escape was ride like crazy....not surprisingly we did that part of the climb in record time, only stopping at the very end of the fly zone because I got a flat tire.

Steep climbing (we were out of the flies now so I was smiling again)

It turned out Frauke and Cris had also been attacked there. After that the climb was much more pleasant but got progressively steeper and more technical. We caught up with the others and shared fly stories (very thankful that that part of the ride was over). After some food we pushed and carried our bikes up through the alpine meadows to the summit.

Some Italians were very amused and impressed to see 4 bikes arrive on the summit of Monte Stivo.

Carrying the bikes the last bit to the top
Nice downhill trails

The descent was amazing, we descended some single track then traversed the ridge before flying down more single track to a saddle point. The others all outstripped me with their downhill prowess, but I was having a great time anyway.

Tricky bits

After a couple of hours descent we were all getting pretty tired and sore - we had finally had enough rough downhill - so we rode the last bit along the road and arrived back at our campground after 12 hours out!

The next day was our second to last, so we had to make it a good one. We rode up valley to the base of a very large cliff face - the sheer rock side of Monte Casale. We planned to do the Via Ferrata Che Guevara which climbs the 1300 m face. The sun was beating down and there wasn't much shade, but we had come prepared with at least 4 litres of water each so we hoped it would be ok.

Setting off up the fixed wires, the ground was rapidly falling away
Hot midday sun and a big rockface

The first part of the climb seemed quite tricky and we wished for rock shoes instead of scuffed running shoes (I had my falling apart icebugs with spikes on!) Within the first few minutes Chris, Frauke and I all had blisters on our hands from holding onto the wire and we stopped and taped up our hands. Cris was the only one showing he had been doing some climbing - his hands were tougher than ours.

The climbing got easier and we were soon over halfway up the face. The view down to the town of Daino and out to the Lago di garda was amazing.

Into the bush

We sweated our way upwards, enjoying the easy rock climbing but trying to conserve our rapidly diminishing water supplies. After a couple of hours on the face we entered the bush on a steep track which lead us the final few hundred meters up to the summit.

Nearly up and we left the face behind

Cris and Frauke about to reach the top

It was really weird to pop out on a flat grassy lawn with people picnicking and sunbathing! We still had on all our climbing gear and we immediately felt a little out of place. After admiring the tremendous view from the summit we headed back down a rather steep descent track into the valley.

The grassy paddock on top
Safely clipped onto the summit cross

After a couple more hot sticky hours we made it to the bikes, then cycled down valley for a very necessary plunge into the cool river, followed by a huge ice cream in Arco. That evening we decided to eat out - and being in Italy it wasn't too hard to decide what to eat - pizza pizza pizza, mmmm!

Ice cream time


Finally the time had come to part ways with Frauke and Cris - they drove back to Germany on the Sunday while Chris and I took the train to Milan and flew back to Trondheim the following day. Trondheim was gray and rainy when we landed and I had some depressing thoughts that maybe summer was over....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ravioli, sun, truffles and the beautiful Schreksee

One hot stuffy Ryan Air flight and I arrive in Memmingen. From there I took a very long train trip to Freiburg to stay with Julian and Jana for a couple of days, before making my way down South to stay with Crispin in Oberstdorf. I managed to reassemble my dismembered bike in the sweltering heat at the railway station and cycle round to their place.
Jana had cooked some yummy nutty pasta for tea - then Julian and I headed out for a quick ride in the Schwarzwald before it got dark and it was time for bed. The next day Jana and I had a nice time hanging out and begun by eating breakfast at a nearby cafe. We constructed a vege strudel for dinner, much to Julian's delight.

On Wedsnesday Jana and I had the plan to head to Switzerland (about 1.5 hours drive) to spend the day rock climbing. We bhad bought the guidebook the day before and spotted a suitably shady crag which would hopefully stay out of the sun for most of the day. We had the crag and its multiple routes to ourselves all day, and slowly worked our way through some fun climbs.

In the evening we meet Julian and his workmates at a beer garden (they had just finished a mountain bike ride) for some delicious German radlers. Jana had to go back to work on Thursday so I mucked around getting things sorted for leaving on Friday, before Julian and Jana got back from work and we decided to go and sit in the Dreisam (the river which flows through Frieburg) and read our books! It was very refreshing and is apparently a very popular thing to do!

Friday came around all too quickly and it was time to hop back on the train - back through Memmingen and onward to Obertsdorf. I arrived in Oberstdorf late in the afternoon. It is a small town in a broad valley surrounded by tall peaks. It reminded me very much of Austria - not much of Germany anymore. As soon as I arrived in Cris's little attic apartment he proposed a swim in the Frieburg See - I was keen after a long hot train trip getting there.

We rode up into the forest for some time before reaching the deep green lake. After cunningly avoiding the 'pay to swim in lake area' we found a spot to dive in - the water was clear and surprisingly warm.

Cris had to work the following day and it was another stinking hot one - so I decided to slog up a steep road on my mountain bike. I climbed right up to the Seealp, then on up an amazingly steep sealed path. I bravely rode through a gigantic herd of mooing cows, then the path got even steeper till my legs gave up!

At that point I looked at my map and saw the track was described as an 'extreme downhill' and maybe you were supposed to take that big gondola drifting overhead? Nevermind, I jumped on my bike and whizzed back down the many switch backs through about 800m of descent.

That night we stayed at Frauke's place (Cris's girlfriend) in order to get organised for a two day tramping trip we had planned for Sunday and Monday. Frauke had another friend staying with her - Bini - and she was coming on our trip too.

In the morning Frauke's Mum drove us to Vilsalpsee and we started our walk up into the mountains. We reached the ridge after a long climb up through pretty alpine meadows and a farmhouse with very friendly ponies and goats. After lunch we continued along the ridge, then dropped down to the beautiful (but badly named) Schreksee. We pitched our tents, then dived into the lake and swum out to a little island.

Friendly goats

and ponies....

Amazing Funghi

Cris and Frauke on the ridgetop

At about that time some spots of rain began to fall, and by the time we were attemoting to BBQ our dinner it was pouring! Needless to say we went to bed early that night.

In the morning it was still cloudy and a bit drizzly, but we decided to head up anyway; over a saddle, along a ridge top, then a steep descent into the valley which lead to Hinterstein where we would be picked up again by Frauke's Mum.

Schreksee in the morning light

We dumped our packs on the ridge and went up to another of the many peaks along the way which are topped by big crosses. Cris and I decided it was a fun game to have a race to the top - resulting in us collapsing on the summit. We ate lunch, then continued along the ridge to where we needed to descend - and it started raining again.

Stormy cross on top

Phew! That was too tough!

With our jackets on we descended down a slippery track that was covered in cold little lizards that had obviously been caught out in the downpour - there were so many it was an effort to avoid standing on them! We were looking for a track to our right that we planned to take down the valley, but when it never appeared Cris and I lead the way bush bashing downwards to find it.

The girl's quickly decided this wasn't such a good idea (probably sensibly) and convinced us to head back to the main track where we made a slightly longer but more straight forward descent down to the valley. We mooched about in Hinterstein playing in the little fountain before Frauke's Mum arrived and drove us back to her place for some drying out of gear, hot showers and yummy dinner.

Yesterday Cris and I cycled back to Oberstdorf (about 2 hours ride) through some pretty German countryside. It was still a bit rainy, so we spent the afternoon mucking about at his flat and buying copious quantities of food for our ten day trip to Lago De Garda on Thursday.

Today Cris headed off to work and I went for a neat run up to the Schattenkreuz, up a very steep hill near Obertsdorf. The weather had turned sunny again and we are almost ready for our trip to Lago De Garda tomorrow. We have 3 bikes with us and climbing gear and huge amounts of food - so we are all set for some good times. In 4 days Chris F will fly over from Norway and join us for the last 6 days of my stay.

So, better hurry away because I am supposed to be packing and so this post was a bit rushed!