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You wouldn’t say we’ve been getting much sharper if you were watching us working our way towards Rome. We tried to cycle until morning to make it just outside of Verona last night, wanting to have had left and entered the Alps in the night. Coming in to the Alps we could only see shadows of snow peaked mountains seeming more like storm clouds, way too massive and near to be physical earth but we woke giddy, big smiles out the tent door, to their real-life enormity. Early on last night we (I) got too tired and set the tent up under a grape vine canopy outside a small city 70 km from Verona. Every night, no matter how exhausted we get, there have been bizarre animal noises keeping us up. A couple nights ago, in a friendly Baron’s apple orchard, there was what sounded like a deranged pig flying through the night. Finally, last night there was just sweet, familiar city noise; a track close by with freight trains roaring past and a motorway humming consistently enough for us to both sleep solidly for a chunk of hours. When I looked at my phone and tried to get back to dreamland I imagined I was on the roof of our studio in Limehouse again.

After leaving Kleinwassertal we did what seemed a heroic 1200-meter climb, cocky that night eating dinner thinking we’d be fine climbing the snow cappers that kept growing ahead of us. The next day we climbed for 4 hours without a plateau. All the uncomfortable aspects sound like petty complaints but it was rough. Cold, wet, and with a 15% gradient, we weren’t cocky eating dinner in Imst that evening. The next day, dried out and fed we laughed and sang our way up 1400 meters cocky yet again. We camped inside a fenced-in wooded area off the cycle path that had taken us out of Austria and into Italy. The bells, which we had become familiar with, dangling off the necks of alpine goats and cows, should have been a clue that we’d wake up to drooling cow face out the tent door in the morning.

Before we even left the Dolomites we both agreed the Alps had been too easy, however dim or arrogant that sounds. We had built them up as a grueling week of snowy passes, pushing our bikes up roads that were impossibly steep and long. We did 3 big climbs and we had gone through it in 5 days. It just doesn’t seem right when you zoom out on google maps and can see them as a lumpy scar.

We don’t quite have the balance yet of doing big days and also absorbing what surrounds us. We can’t get much fitter on our bikes so the exhaustion won’t go away but I can’t shake the sense that we have slightly missed out on really getting to know where we are. How the hell is it possible while cycling for so long each day? At least this morning, waking up and sitting on our balcony overlooking the river running through Verona it seems like the enjoyment to effort ratio is closer to where it ought to be. We’ve gone about 1400 Kilometers all in, from London to Harwich, from the Hook of Holland to Verona and there’s 700 odd left on the map until we arrive in Rome. Maybe Tuscany and down the northwestern coast from here, maybe Bologna and through the middle but we definitely aren’t heading over to Croatia. We have 7 days until we want to be in the capital with our dilapidated bikes in boxes ready to fly to Nova Scotia.


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