Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Apennine Spring Flowers

We are still enjoying the pleasures of sunny Rome, with little to report since the bull died.

So the above pictures are a taster - a full 'Apennine Spring Flowers' list and slideshow will appear in due course.

We go home tomorrow, so the airwaves may be quiet for a few days. We hope readers enjoyed our reports on this trip, and we thank you for the comments and emails, some of which we know still need a response.

Ciao.

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Friday, 19 April 2013

A Postcard From Rome

A lovely warm sunny day here.

Went to a big stadium to see some racing. The red chariot won.

Then Sue decided she wanted a reminder of her sore foot, so she got an old boy to copy her big toe in stone.

Then we went to watch some more sport. The amphitheatre fitted 75,000 people. The gladiator in green and the griffon vultures won. The Bull lost, we think because it was tired from pulling the red chariot earlier.

This afternoon's earthquake was a bit of a shock. It seriously damaged the Colosseum (pictured below Sue's toe). Several tourists and around 20,000 children had to make a quick exit. The streets were full of them.

Last night we popped into Monte Carlo for a pizza, but tonight we are eating in. Beer (as you can perhaps tell) is on the menu, together with Bull fritters.

We went a fair distance today - 12,820 of your Roman Emperor's metres in 8.7 of your earthly hours.

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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Back to Rome

As ever, last night's hospitality was superb. At Agriturismo Ponte alla Villa, Marco and his wife Sonia, and her sister Erica, fed us with tasty home-made traditional dishes, and Marco was delighted to be able to test Sue's command of the Italian language to its limits.

It was a pleasure to see Martins and Swallows hoovering up insects outside our room, and to hear the familiar screech of a flock of Swifts for the first time this year.

Marco is a mountain biking guide and was expounding on the high quality of MTB routes in this area. He also confirmed that there should be no evidence of trial bikes on the GEA after Montepiano. Their very existence on paths anywhere seemed rightly to upset him.

Regarding paths generally. Although we were on the GEA and 00 paths, it was clear that the area has an extensive and well waymarked footpath/bridleway/MTB route network. Perhaps it is well populated with all of those later in the season. We saw an average of one walker each day, and no horses or mountain bikers at all, despite some perfect weather.

Marco confirmed that this is the first week of good weather after a prolonged wet and windy spell, as evidenced by landslips and the many branches we have seen on the trail, in bud despite being detached from their hosts.

The arrangement at the Agriturismo was typical of half board accommodation in the area - €50 per person 'all inclusive' - including wine and beer. Some places charge a bit less and you pay for beer and wine separately. A couple of large beers and a bottle of wine will usually set you back less than €10.

We often order a half litre of wine with our dinner. Hereabouts, this still results in a bottle being brought to you. You are then charged for what you drink - usually the whole bottle, the 'house' wine is very good. To our taste, anyway.

This morning's bus ride to Prato (Sue is pictured waiting at the bus stop) was simple enough, excepting the fact that we didn't have tickets, which are supposed to be bought in advance and validated on the bus. Where would we have bought a ticket though? In Montepiano? Anyway, when the buses changed over in Vernio the driver helpfully sold us tickets to Prato.

Prato is a city with an interesting centre that we explored only briefly, in between topping up with coffee and cash, and looking in vain for a shop from which to purchase the four maps needed to complete our GEA traverse at a later date.

After an hour or so on the Trieste to Rome train, we called at Arezzo, the starting point for many a GEA adventure. All that effort for an hour's journey!

The scenery that was a uniform brown when we arrived is now many shades of green. The season has completely changed in ten days.

It's lovely and sunny in Rome, where we have a homely apartment just around the corner from an architectural masterpiece (pictured) from Emperor Hadrian's era - it was finished in 125 AD.

After being on our own for so long, Rome is a complete contrast - we have to be careful not to get separated in the crowds.

Just as well we aren't coming home tomorrow - there's a transport strike.

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wednesday 17 April 2013 - GEA - Day 10 - Montepiano to Agriturismo Ponte alla Villa, via Rifugio Pacini and Cantagallo

Our final day on the GEA trail on this trip dawned sunny, as usual, in the pleasant village of Montepiano.

We enjoyed lovely paths to Rifugio Pacini - 18 km and 6 and a quarter hours of pure delight. Unmolested by trial bikers and only mildly scarified by wild boar.

Views are becoming a little hazier due to the continuing warm weather, so the snow-capped peaks to the WNW don't really look much closer, as we march towards them!

It was perfect walking weather again - sunny, calm, 20-25C, no insects, with good views through the unfurling tree canopy.

Snow still adorns some northern slopes above 1000 metres, and today we found ourselves striding across several snow patches in the sun.

We had two maps* (all that I could find in the UK, and not the ones recommended by Gillian) for this trip, one of which started 5 km into the walk on Day 1, and the second of which we fell off the western edge about 5 km before we reached Montepiano yesterday. Perhaps that's why we made a minor, inconsequential, error at the end of yesterday's walk. So today we had no map, but luckily the signposting (until the end of the day) was good so all that we lacked was the 'peripheral vision' that a map would have provided.

To cut the c**p, anyone planning to stay here should, on reaching Cantagallo, telephone Erica on 00390574956244 and ask to be collected. We walked, and succumbed to a badly positioned signpost that led to us covering an unnecessary 3 km, bringing our total for the day to 29 km in 9 hours 30 minutes. The celebratory beer was indeed most welcome.

Later: fantastic hospitality here, from lovely people. Not unexpectedly, we are the only guests.

Alan R - I think it must have been a 3HP Massey Harris Mower, as there were three cow tags hanging off the front! (Sorry, I should have mentioned them!)

Jules - 2014 - go for it - feel free to borrow our maps and to consult further.

Today's photos:
Top - the lake at Montepiano
Middle - Sue takes a swig from Fonte del Canapale (cup on a chain provided)
Bottom - a view WNW from the Apennine crest.

*Our maps - Kompass 1:50000 numbers 2459 and 2453 were adequate for sections 1 to 11 of the GEA.

[Apologies if today's. Entry seems. A bit. Disjointed - keyboard. Problems. First job when home is toreplace phone.]

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tuesday 16 April 2013 - GEA - Day 9 - Passo del Giogo to Montepiano

Another great day's walking, mainly on the Apennine crest. We met two Germans who were walking a route from Bologna to Florence. We met nobody yesterday.

The Germans were encountered at Passo dell'Osteria Bruciata, where the triangular marker (picture - top) relates the history of this 'Burnt Inn Pass'. A few years ago an enterprising chap set up an inn here, to meet the needs of passing pilgrims. Meat was always on the menu, but sadly a pilgrim or two would regularly disappear. The locals put two and two together and burnt the inn down.

Nearby, I found an Alfa Romeo (Alan R can correct me if necessary) on which to make my bid for freedom from Sue's ongoing foot problems (middle picture).

Yesterday we passed a massive quarry that in summer would largely be concealed by foliage. We heard about a dozen blasts then, but only a couple today. The area is renowned for its marble quarries.

The main issue with the last couple of days' paths is that for much of the time they have been shared with trial bikers, who (except for two brief encounters on Sunday) remain invisible. So noise is not an issue, but their knobbly tires tend to be unkind to the ground. This is an observation, not really a whinge, but anyone choosing this otherwise brilliant venue for a trip should embark on it in the knowledge that some of the paths are shared with both trial bikers and mountain bikers - the latter of whom we have seen no evidence whatsoever.

By the time we went down for breakfast this morning, Sonia had returned, cleared our debris from last night, and put the coffee on. Some of 'last night's debris' was put to good use by way of our most sumptuous packed lunch to date, and we were off by 9am, having apologised for the plumbing disaster (blocked toilet) that occurs at some point on nearly all of our trips (and regularly at home as well).

Today's route, admirably described in Gillian's guide book, subject to a few minor amendments (mainly that the route along the road from Passo della Futa has been superseded by a non road route accessed from the north of the WW2 cemetery - allow an extra hour), enjoyed the usual 'crest top' scenery, but it was noticeably more difficult to grab the wider views as the beech leaves seemed to be unfurling by the hour.

Readers planning a visit should also note that the GEA now follows the direct '00' route over Monte Gazzaro, so far as we could see. An excellent revision, as it's too hard for trial bikes. Be sure to visit the panoramic viewpoint.

We spent just under 9 hours on the trail today, in our now de rigeur shorts and t-shirt uniforms, covering little more than 29 km, every one a delight.

Tonight's hotel, the Margherita, came highly recommended by John Hayes, who bimbled through these parts last October. Vito (our host) remembers John - he spent some time fixing accommodation for him in an out of season period. He also remembers John's courtesy and his thank you letter. Today, Vito's 'customer assistance' has been more onerous. He and a colleague (sister?) at the hotel were pressed into service as witnesses. Nick and Maya arrived here from Romania a week ago. For one night. They liked the place. They liked it a lot. They stayed. They were in love.

Today they got married here. They have us for company for dinner. (Not at the same table.) The food is superb. There's a birthday party going on in the adjoining room. It feels as if the season has started, although Vito admits that business is slow.

What a contrast to last night, when we were left alone in our hotel on the pass!

The lower picture was taken in tonight's hotel before we realised we weren't revisiting the Marie Celeste!

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Monday, 15 April 2013

Monday 15 April 2013 - GEA - Day 8 - Casaglia to Passo del Giogo

Last night we enjoyed a lovely meal outside Casaglia's Posto Tappa, formerly the village school, as the sun went down. But inside it was just 11C and a bit clammy/cold - in a period of adjustment after the heating has been turned off but before the summer warmth has kicked in.

We managed fine.

We'd been told to phone to confirm today's booking at Il Giogo Hotel the day before we arrived. We phoned - "we are closed tomorrow" was the reply, "you need to phone Sabine when you arrive." Anyway soon after that Sabine phoned us to confirm that the hotel would be closed, but.... "The key will be under the mat, and would you like us to bring a cold dinner when we arrive after seven o'clock?" Well, beggars can't be choosers so we went along with that.

As usual we set off around 9 on a brilliantly sunny morning, and we enjoyed rising back up to the crest of the Apennines, on an ancient path through elderly beech woods.

An area of mown bracken (pictured-top) revealed Alpine Squill and Crocuses being amongst the first to take advantage of the light at ground level. I wonder whether they will succeed in controlling the bracken?

Snow-capped peaks to the WNW are getting noticeably closer. I think we'll save those until later.

Today we travelled in an arc, heading north as far as Poggio Roncaccio, then wending our way through a complex valley system with quaint old buildings (pictured-middle), rejoining the main crest shortly before our destination.

It was hot. Sue's feet were playing up. The keyboard of this infernal phone is playing up. So I'll be brief.

Weather and scenery wonderful. Quite a long day with fab views. 28 km in 9 hours 20 minutes. Arrived at hotel after 6 to discover Sonia. She'd been waiting since 5 (when we said we'd arrive), obviously reluctant to leave key under mat. She showed us to our food (pictured-bottom) and our room, accepted Sue's "you are an angel" compliment, and drove off.

Sabine has not arrived, but we are replete, and masters of our universe - the legendary "albergo-ristorante il giogo" www.passodelgiogo.it that happily takes in English backpackers even when it's closed.

Tomorrow is a longer day, so the posting should be even shorter.

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Sunday, 14 April 2013

Sunday 14 April 2013 - GEA - Day 7 - Passo del Muraglione to Casaglia

Thanks for your comments, everyone, they are as always much appreciated.

"You are on a walking holiday, can't you walk up to the pass?" said the hotel staff yesterday when we asked for a lift. However, by the time we went down for dinner Luigi happily informed us "I have found someone to take you to the pass."

Albergo Silvano proved a good place to stay. Again we were the only guests, but three locals turned up for their dinners.

The day dawned clear and blue. Down at 400 metres the green hue of spring is really getting going, with lots of signs of fresh leaves unfurling on the trees. Higher up on the GEA it's more a case of the buds sprouting forth. The leaves will come in a week or two. We are led to believe that, as in all of Northern Europe, spring has arrived late this year.

Jean Luca and his lady turned up slightly early and willingly transported us back up to Passo del Muraglione on the lovely sunny morning.

The crest hugging path soon found us disturbing some foraging red deer. We just caught sight of them scampering away.

We had originally hoped to enjoy a scenic diversion an hour along today's continuation of the GEA/00 trail, but the return trip to the Acquacheta cascades would have added an unacceptable 3 hours to our day.

Most of today's paths were shared with trial bikers, four of whom politely waving as we stood aside. If I was a trial biker I'd love this area, and it seems fair enough that they use some of the paths - there are few other walkers and the churning of the path isn't too bad and will lessen as conditions get drier.

Today we met just four day walkers and eight trial bikers. That was on a brilliantly sunny and warm Sunday that called for shorts and t-shirts for the first time this year. Summer has arrived! What a contrast to the winter conditions we experienced yesterday morning.

The path along the crest of the main Apennine ridge afforded extensive views south west over Tuscany (pictured), and north east over Emilia-Romagna, as it wound in and out of beech groves and over a series of small crests at around 1100 metres.

By 4pm we had reached the place known as Poggio degli Allocchi (knoll of the owls), from where we chose to descend steeply over slippery leaf litter and through prickly brambles to the small village of Casaglia, where we have the run of the Posto Tappa. Sue is pictured outside with her first pot of tea. It's much warmer outside than inside on this lovely sunny evening.

We walked 22 km in 7 hours 40 minutes today, on this leg of our journey.

We have the place to ourselves, but there is no chef tonight. I must go now and put tea on...

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