01.08.2009 - 01.08.2009 35 °C
No stats or even photographs from our last day unfortunately; the GPS didn't have enough charge and the camera batteries mysteriously died. A shame for sure, but hopefully my excellent literary skills will take you places neither of those media forms ever could...
At roughly seven-thirty this evening on 1 August 2009, Jon and I looked around and wondered why the smooth, ordered surfaces of the town square had suddenly given way to potholed roads and chaotic pedestrians, striving to dodge beeping traffic on their way to kebab stores. The answer, we quickly realised, was that we had accidentally fallen into Como, Italy.
The trip is over, and perhaps just in the nick of time. For the last fifteen miles I had a pain in my knees akin to someone putting a screwdriver under my patella and giving it a bit of gain every now and then, with the occasional streak of numbness down my left leg. It was very similar to the symptoms John described after Belgium, so I suppose it's down to repetitive strain and the impact of the mountain yesterday - everyone has their limit, and I guess this is mine. So we'll stay in this hotel for a couple of days while we arrange for the bikes to be shipped back to England and figure out whether we'll take the train or plane back, and in the mean time spend a while in Lake Como evening out our ridiculous bike tans (i.e. having our finger tips and a patch on the back of our hands tanned while everything else remains as pale as when we left because of the cycling gloves), do some swimming, go on a boat trip, maybe even throw the bikes in the lake. Who knows; we're tourists now, and we have all the attached freedoms. When I get batteries for the camera I'll get a photo of my Cambodian Kromar (a traditional type of scarf) wrapped around the "Welcome to Italy" sign with the two of us, then it's off home: for me to organise all kinds of things from loans to work, and for John to start running his business again. Tough times.
As for the day, we made 90miles and except for my knees near the end we really did it very well. I think we're getting better at this cycling business. Admittedly after San Gottardo a lot of the journey was down hill, but there were plenty of straights with a strong wind in our face and one memorable moment where we had to push our bikes up a medieval road-come-riverbed for a mile to get to the top of Monte Ceneri 550m high, as we'd missed our turn-off and it was the only road available without backtracking for over 6miles. A woman gave me a knowing smile as I began cycling near the tarmaced base of the hill and it didn't take me long to realise why. I'm covered in fresh mosquito bites. At one stage we had to dip our heads in a nearby pool of mountain water, which was cool only for a moment before immediately forming a hot vapour around us which refused to clear. I may go so far as to say that was the worst moment of our trip; good to know we haven't lost our knack for incompetency at just the right time. Generally however the descent from the mountains was glorious. The cool alpine air gave way to meditteranean heat quickly as we dropped altitude and followed the clear, fresh streams from the mountains down again as they began to slow and enter the lakes of Northern Italy. Lakes which were unmistakeably Italian in the architecture and attitudes of the people who populated them; German tourists and locals who effused money from their speedboats, good physiques and choice of watersports. Highlights certainly included passing through a beautiful village on our descent through a glacial valley, where the Swiss route took us through small tunnels and past tiny vineyards so perfectly rustic it was as if they'd been made solely for our pleasure. Then there was Lake Lugano, surrounded by mountains, stiflingly hot and dotted with Italian buildings on the land and jet skis on the water. Plenty to commend it. I suppose I haven't done as well a job of painting a visual picture as I'd claimed I would, but I suppose this portion of the trip will just have to be secret to us - feel free to cycle it yourself some day.
I think that's all that needs to be said. I may add post-scripts about our overall statistics, maps, any more correspondance form Togh Main (the Cambodian headmaster), but really that's all there is to tell. If you've read this far you must be interested in what we've done, so I'm sure it would be worth adding on those extra pieces of information. It's nice to know someone's read this as well, as if they recognise the hard work that has been involved in all aspects of this journey.
Heartfelt thanks to all readers and donors,