Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A Peak and a Pass

After a comfy night, a filling breakfast, and another stroll around the interesting medieval town with huge slabs of Bagoss cheese on display, we headed on towards Lago di Ledro, which at 650 metres held hope for an acceptably not too hot night in the tent.

Bagolino is not a tourist hot spot. It doesn't feature in the Rough Guide to Italy. Perhaps we should attribute this to the richness of Italy's heritage rather than the inadequacy of the Rough Guide. There was one other guest at our hotel; the other hotel looked empty, but the place was vibrant with people going about their daily business. Just the sort of town it's nice to visit.

Our route took us back down to Lago d'Idro then up the Valle d'Ampola. A right turn led steeply up past hordes of road and (mainly) mountain bikers to a car park at 1690 metres a little beyond the small settlement of Tremalzo.

It was hot, but not unbearable. A stroll of little more than 1km took us to the 1973 metre summit of Monte Tremalzo, past meadows lush with orchids and a plethora of other Alpine species, many different from yesterday's sightings due to the higher elevation.

One particular plant had us puzzled - a small white 'orchid' or so we thought. We encountered just two people on the walk - and they chose this moment to pass by - a Gertalian couple armed with a weighty tome - 'Flora Helvetica'. They repeated Gillian's explanation about some of this area, dominated by Monte Baldo, having been above the glaciers in the last ice age, as a result of which some ancient species survived that period. One of those species is 'Monte Baldo - Segge' or Monte Baldo Sedge (Charetsch baldens), a grass rather than an orchid. Very pretty! Not in our reference book.

Having gained a peak, albeit with limited views due to the ever present heat haze, we returned the same way, enjoyed a lunch break during which a serenading acrobatic lark entertained us from the top of a tree, and then wandered 1.5km in the other direction to Passo del Dil, for more hazy views.

Our stats for the day: 5km, 500 metres ascent, 3 hours. Very relaxing for us, but not for the mountain bikers, who were slogging relentlessly upwards and on into the mountains. I can't say I wasn't jealous though!

Down at the acceptably warm but not too hot 'Camping Azzurro' by Lago di Ledro (back amongst lots of tourists) Sue heard English voices in the supermarket, but as I type those voices are silent. Surprised Germans sit bemused in their TV equipped motor homes and Italian children gasp "non è possibile" as Germany quash Argentina in the football World Cup.

We will enjoy a beer - 'happy hour' has just commenced - before heading to the lake shore for an alfresco dinner - salad, I suspect.

Today's image shows Sue in a typical pose with an orchid - scrutiny of the flower book will take place later, but don't expect a long list like yesterday's. We are saving that, in a different format, for when we next see Gillian.

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Hazy Mountains and a Floral Bonanza

Readers may have noticed the glut of strawberries and today's floral delights. We have enjoyed a day in the mountains, which have been engulfed in a heat haze that gives rise to occasional claps of thunder but no rain. Yet!

It was a sweaty day even up high, but judging by incoming messages it's 'orange code alarm' in Venice(does that mean risk of imminent spontaneous combustion?), and somewhat breezy in Durness (so Orkney will be blown just a little further off-shore?). We are glad we aren't there. In fact the hot weather is topping the news bulletins here, so it must be an issue.

Nevertheless, most tourists seem to have stayed low. We saw none on our five hour stroll, and there were no other tourists either at last night's rifugio or at tonight's hotel. In fact, the medieval town of Bagolino, where we are billeted in the comfortable Al Tempo Perduto hotel, appears to be a tourist free zone. We have seen a few of the ubiquitous German bikers on the way here, but that's all by way of tourists.

This morning Marisa provided an excellent breakfast that more or less eliminated the need for lunch (a few muesli bars were sufficient), and we set off on our five hour jaunt, mainly through shady woodland.

Our 13 km route (with about 700 metres ascent) passed through the pretty villages of Moerna (pictured), Turano and Armo before heading along a perfectly formed woodland track to Ponte Franato and then traversing back to Persone. It was similar in topography to the final stages of Alta Via 2, so far as I can recall that trip from the depths of my memory bank.

We had hoped for lunch in the restaurant at Armo, but it was closed, so we made do with ice creams back at Persone, where we disturbed Marisa from her siesta. Earlier she had charged us just €81 for B&B, evening meal and drinks, etc, which we considered most reasonable.

It was hot; though the flowers weren't wilting the crows were cawing and the buzzards were mewing. Blackbirds were rummaging in the undergrowth, lizards were basking, and I think I saw a shrike atop a post in Moerna.

We had planned to camp by Lago d'Idro, at around 300 metres, but by the time the deserted switchback road had delivered us to that pleasant location we had re-entered a zone of stifling heat in the low 30's. So we abandoned that plan and came up to this small town at around 700 metres. It's still hot, but bearable.

There's a huge church high above the medieval houses and narrow, sometimes covered, streets, with the inevitable swifts swooping around it in their hundreds. I'm surprised there's an airborne insect left!

There appears to be an excellent selection of shops to cater for the needs of residents, including a horse butcher. The network of narrow cobbled streets passes at times under the houses.

Small cars are required by the residents of Bagolino!

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Friday, 2 July 2010

Devil's Claw (Physoplexis comosa)

On today's stroll from Persone, we hardly expected to find such superb specimens of this iconic flower, on a random slab of rock in the woods at around 1100 metres.

We usually see it much higher, on Dolomitic limestone. Today's walk was mainly in woodland, in the 600 to 1100 metre range. The plant life was wonderful, with the following species also in evidence, even to our untrained eyes:

Corn Cockle (or was it a Cranesbill or Storksbill?)
Bladder Campion
Red Campion
Fringed Pink
Buttercups (various)
Common Columbine
Yellow Corydalis
Common Poppy
Biting Stonecrop
Bramble
Goatsbeard Spirea
Field Rose
Dog Rose
Golden Cinquefoil
Wild Strawberry
Vetches and Clovers (various)
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Meadow Cranesbill
Herb Robert
Cypress Spurge
Common Rockrose
Violets and Pansies (various)
Great Masterwort
Numerous unidentified Umbellifers
Sowbread (Cyclamen - in large quantities)
Viper's Bugloss
Field Forget-me-not (Myosotis ramosissima var.)
Various Labiates including Meadow Clary, Ground Ivy and Dragonmouth
Dark Mullein
Common Cow-wheat
Common Eyebright
Yellow Rattle
Broomrape (unidentified variety)
Common Honeysuckle
Black Rampion
Spreading Bellflower
Creeping Bellflower
Harebell
Fairy's Thimble
Wood Scabious
Ox-eye Daisy
Leopardsbane (? variety)
Thistles and Knapweeds (various)
Orange Lily (lots)
Various orchids - to be listed later
Common Nettle!
Greater Stitchwort
Several Bedstraws
Several Plantains

This list is neither exhaustive nor probably correct, it's just a list of the obvious species that we think we noticed as we passed by.

Quite enough for now!

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Yummy!

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Run From The Sun

It's 6.30pm and I've just accidentally deleted the posting I started at 5.30. I'm sure most bloggers experience that sinking feeling from time to time.

Anyway, we've headed away from the mid 30's of Lago di Garda, into the mountains where there is no phone signal but the thermometer is sitting comfortably in the low 20's C.

We started the day at the characterful campsite in Verona, where we had avoided the plague of ants suffered by some of our compatriots (from Timperley - it's a small world!), and we hadn't noticed the rat in the vine trellis above the tents.

We managed to bumble our way through the atrocious Italian traffic with its atrociously poor drivers, to the small town of Sirmione which occupies a 4km promontory of land that juts out from the southern shore of Lago di Garda.

Some had advised us to steer clear of this tourist hot spot, others had highly recommended a visit. We accepted the latter advice, ignored the 'tat', and enjoyed visits to the two main attractions.

The Scaligeran fortress at the entrance to the town dates from around 1277. It's in good condition despite having had a colourful life. Today's 'invaders' were hundreds of screeching swifts, using gaps in the structure for their nests. The first picture shows the view from the main tower.

The Roman Villa at the head of the promontory is a much more impressive structure, though not as well preserved as the fortress. Constructed over a 200 year period between the first centuries BC and AD, it occupies an area of 167 x 105 metres. Meticulous restoration, and an informative museum, are of a very high standard, with useful information boards telling you exactly where you are and what the villa may have looked like in its heyday.

Some of the remains of the villa are pictured below.

But it was hot; a cool breeze was needed.

That's why, after lunching in the shade by the ancient San Pietro church, we headed in increasingly sweaty gloom with great booms of thunder, up the mountainside from the picturesque village of Gargnano, in a bid to escape from the heat and humidity.

It worked. Turano, our first port of call, had a bank, post office, alimentari, town hall and church, but exhibited no evidence of either inhabitants or places of rest for overheated wayfarers.

So we moved on to the smaller village of Persone, which makes a point of welcoming strangers despite having none of the above facilities except a church. But it did have two old men on a bench who helpfully directed us to a bar. (Maybe they were called Alan and Phil!) Literally 20 seconds later we were installed in a brand new double room with a working shaver light in Rifugio Monte Cingla, which is part of the Antica Osteria Pace restaurant - and the bar to which we were directed. We are up at 900 metres here, so it's pleasantly cool.

Later...

The restaurant has no menu - it's a Posto Tappa sort of place but we are B&B, not half board, so have no idea how much our meal has just cost. We suspect it will be good value. For the first time this trip we have not been asked for passports - everything is on trust. Home made ravioli followed by pork (wild boar?) cutlets and salad, etc, has been washed down with some excellent house wine.

A wander around the small village, cool after some rain, has revealed a very pleasant and scenic place, it's one of a number of 'small but perfectly formed' villages in the Upper Garda Bresciano Park, which was only formed in 1989.

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sightseeing in Verona

A hot day in Verona. Sights to be seen. The Verona Card Day Pass - €10 for 13 attractions was the way to do it.

The highlight, perhaps, was the Torre dei Lamberti, reached by an energy sapping climb up 368 steps. Today's picture was taken from the route up this 84 metre tower. On the left is Complesso del Duomo (Cathedral) and on the right is the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Anastasia. Both on our day pass itinerary.

We also visited the Arena, where opera sets were busily being assembled, Teatro Romana - situated just below the camp site - where they were setting up for tonight's jazz concert, and the fascinating Museo di Castelvecchio, with its wide range of historic religious art, architecture and artifacts.

In between all this, refreshments at friendly bars and lunch at an obscure sandwich shop amongst suited business people and other workmen of Verona - not a tourist to be seen.

The wine at this camp site is excellent, at all of €4 a bottle, so we'll shortly be enjoying more of that whilst admiring the shrieking swifts as they harvest the skies before dusk (just as they do in Timperley). Unlike in Timperley, we may also admire the glow worms that abound hereabouts.

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Verona

From by the Camp Site - 8pm on 29 June. 26`C.

There's a Beer down there!

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Castelfranco

These battlemented brick walls were thrown around the town by the Trevisans in 1199 to protect it against the Paduans.

The walls are remarkably well preserved.

We called in today on our short journey to Verona, where we are now happily installed on the camp site that enjoys fine views of the city.*

Lunch was taken in the shade of the equally impressive walls of Cittadella, inconveniently closed to tourists on Tuesdays.

All that after breakfast outside a café near Hotel Scala in Treviso, which itself was good value, with an excellent pizzeria across the road and a supermarket next door.

A trip to Decathlon completed the day's activities. Now Sue has a comfy armchair in which to enjoy the camping element of this trip.

*We habitually use Rough Guides on these trips. We are pretty disgusted with the fact that the guide to the Italian Lakes fails to mention the camp site amongst its 21 pages on Verona, despite having room to extol the virtues of an assortment of pricey hotels. 'Rough Guide' - I think not!

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Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday Mornings

In days gone by, the hour's commute into Manchester on Monday Mornings wasn't always a welcome prospect, though on balance I did enjoy my many years at the 'coal face'.

Sue has been learning Italian, and whilst Amedea's tuition in Northern Moor has proved excellent, a touch of the real thing was prescribed.

So, after receiving commentary yesterday from a Jet2 pilot on an English sporting calamity (he should have chosen the cricket!), we found ourselves spending Monday Morning here in Italy. The sun is shining on what can definitely be described as a 'Blue Sky Day'.

Certain trials and tribulations (phone upgrade - finally got the e-mail to work, just in time; TGO Challenge photos - failed to finish 'processing' them; Sue's tax return - failed for the most unexpected of reasons) have been left behind, and we've spent a most comfortable night at Hotel Scala in Treviso.

Sue's Italian has already been put to the test, and she has passed with flying colours.

Tonight we are dining with an Australian.

Hmmm...

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Thursday 24 June 2010 – The Cheshire Ring

On the Macclesfield Canal's towpath
I was about to commit myself to a trip involving quite a bit of time on a saddle.

‘Better check that I stand a chance of doing it’, I thought.

So on Thursday morning I rose early and embarked on a little bike ride.  This is a very brief report, due to time constraints, but there’s a link to a pictorial journey at the end of the posting.

Anyway, early morning beside the Bridgewater Canal was the province of wood pigeons, foxes and herons… and this lone cyclist who surprised a dog walker in Lymm.

About every three miles I encountered a pair of swans, only 50% of them with young.  Deeper into Cheshire a pair with eight youngsters steadfastly tried to block my way down the towpath.  There was no way round.  They were intimidating.  I managed to use the bike as protection, keeping it at arms length and quickly passing the hissing birds.

At home the towpath is quite smooth and easy in dry conditions.  In deeper Cheshire it becomes very bumpy and grassy.  Very much an ‘off-road’ experience.  Well, virtually my entire route was off-road, though I don’t believe Anquet’s calculation of 1500 metres ascent to be correct.  There may have been 92 locks, but assuming half of them were downhill, that would give an average height gain per lock of over 30 metres!  And the hills over the tunnels weren’t that high either.

Nevertheless, ‘off-road’ is off-road, and the day’s hazards included deep grass, wet grass (it rained for an hour), paths imbued with thousands of tree roots, and numerous ‘anti-bike’ gates, all of which slowed progress.  I only noticed one ‘No Cycling’ sign (in Marple Bridge), and perhaps some of the gates are there to discourage motor bikes rather than cyclists.  Anyway, I soldiered courteously on along the towpath with no complaints at all, all the way to Piccadilly in Manchester, where work on the canal resulted in a diversion down Whitworth Street to rejoin the canal system in Castlefield.  Or did I simply lose my way – it has all gone a bit hazy!

As an aside (Jamie may be interested) the towpath between Castlefield and Altrincham is very easy – it would take about an hour to commute to town from Altrincham, which is about how long it used to take me by car, though the tram is somewhat quicker.

Conditions were relatively benign – cloudy, only occasionally hot and sunny (not good), light winds (why do they always seem to be headwinds?), not much rain, dry paths (apart from in the rain), minimal route finding difficulties (I got misplaced twice going around tunnels, and became confused at other times!), pleasant waterways lined with wild flowers and chirpy birds, etc, etc.  Not forgetting the thorns that delayed my progress for over thirty minutes just after lunch at the appropriately named ‘Fool’s Nook’.

I’d estimated a pace of about 8 mph.  That would have meant 13 hours 20 minutes.  I’m usually pretty conservative with such estimates, and I normally cycle at around 12 mph on our local towpaths.  In the event I probably spent that amount of time in the saddle.  It gave me a sore bum.  So it’s not surprising that after taking a few voluntary (lunch, chats with cruisers, walkers and other cyclists, etc) and involuntary (puncture repairs) stops, it took me just over 15 hours to complete the whole enterprise.

Still, I was back at home well before dark, and in time for dinner, with plenty of energy in my legs and no pain from my back and shoulders (I was worried about that).  The sore bum is now better and the only lasting after-effect is two numb fingers caused by frequent use of the very stiff gear change on the old bike.  You may think canal towpaths are flat, but this trip required a phenomenal amount of gear changing!

Later, I committed to the trip referred to in my opening sentence, by purchasing the tickets to get there.  Did I pass my self-imposed test?  I think so, Markus.

There’s more about the Cheshire Ring canal route here.

My pictorial journey (47 images) is here.

And here’s a map for those not interested in the pictures:

The route taken by the Cheshire Ring Canal System (plus the leg to Stalybridge) [102 miles]