What is with the passion for motorcycling? with that the wind buffering, the vibration on the handlebar and the seating position sometimes uncomfortable, and all that goes with it, the very same passion that push us to ride a motorcycle milling Miles after Miles into the Horizon is something that all people are not prepared to buy into.
Sometime ago when scrolling Motorcycle Associations on the internet, the name *Ironbutt, a dedicated Motorcycling Association that promotes Long safe distance riding, caught my eye more than the others.
To become a member of this association you have to be a Succesful finisher of an *Ironbutt rally or one of the ride that they sponsor, such as: *The Saddle Sore 1000, the one I choose for my first attempt; I like the idea of being included into the Association and above all that Number plate holder that says: “World’S toughest riders”, *Ironbutt motorcycle association, that they’ll send you after verifying the validity of your ride.
The chosen route would be to leave London anytime into the early hours of the night, driving into Exeter, passing by Bristol, Birmingham, straight into Glasgow, across into Edinburgh, down to Newcastle, Leeds and Leicester before finishing back where I’ve started, collecting petrol receipts along the way.
Leaving London at 1.09 am, that’s what the petrol receipt says, I drive into the night full of excitement and perspective, trying to remember the right speed average for the trip while accommodating myself into a comfortable riding position, riding a Motorcycle by night the Motorways, are sometimes isolate piece of tarmac with you being completely alone surrounded by darkness, while a couple of feeble lights are trying to cut through it with the constant rolling noise of the engine firing away is something like meditating while holding an handlebar, a very profound experience as you tend to live every moment. The night reveals to be colder than expected, after only 2 hours into the ride, I can feel the finger tips of my hands getting cold and the wind chill that penetrates into my chest , in three occasion I had to stop for a Big Hot drink to hold between my almost frozen hands while gulping it down quickly while still almost scalding hot. Along the night ride some Fog banks appeared , so thick at times that made it look like You are about to drive into a white wall, even with the fog lights on.
At around 4.00 am I remember the Chilling was so uncomfortable, that my mind had start reconsidering riding the Motorcycle into the winter a thing impossible to do, if it was going to be this cold again, an idea that quickly dissolved away when the much awaited Sun raised on a clear day. The day is now yellow bright instead dark black, I can see the dew raising from the fields and Bristol in the distance slowly revealing as I drove past it on the M5 , the mood has improved and everything look as promessing as it can be, untill tiredness kicks in, as I am forced to stop to take a nap I fill the bike with petrol for a second time then parki it nearby the window attendant while I found a comfortable place to lay down. I am surrounded by soft grass fields which I cannot lay on as they are still wet from the dew, with my helmet at hand like a Gipsy I keep walking about untill I’ve found comfort into the still semi desert Autogrill, on a massaging couch tucked away in a corner of the hallway facing the bathrooms, within 2 minutes I fall in a dreamless sleep waking up 35 min. later by hearing myself snoring , I quickly resume walking away feeling refreshed and ready to go .
The Scottish border is not faraway, passing through Penrith the Horizon is clear and the Peaks in the Lake district are at is most splendour, making me wanting to deviate towards them and start Hiking, but this is not that kind of trip, I am soon tired again trying to keep singing along the music playing into my hears believing that it keeps me awake, holding my awareness on, untill I found a soft grass verge dry by the warm Sun that overlooks the vast field below, where for a second time, I lay down with the helmet beside me and the bike keys secured in my pocket, without bothering about locking the bags with some valuables left in them, it’s 10.34 in the morning.
I wake up 40 min. later by the powerful sound of an RAF Tornado passing on a low glide above me, without realising to have felt asleep I quickly compose myself while observing, squeezing the corner of my eye, the Tornado flying away in an almost acrobatic manoeuvre, I am now feeling totally rested, aware as a light bulb I jump back on the saddle without the need of anything setting into the distance entering Scotland soon after breaking the 500 miles mark, making the rest of the Ride easier knowing that if I rode this very 500 miles, I can certainly run another 500 more.
Passing through Glasgow and Edinburgh without problems I am soon heading back on the A68 towards Newcastle, a sweeping country road that takes me for the first time into the Northumberland national Park, there are vast green field around me, hundreds of small sheeps grazing the grass around and luscious emerald Hills, I absorb it it all while switching off the music playing in the Helmet, being extremely entertained by the Scenery , I enter England without even realizing it.
The ride continue effortlessly into Newcastle, with the vision of the Angel of the North far away in the distance, like a giant emerging from the Hills of Gateshed his maestosity takes away from this, sometimes dull Northern Industrial landscape, the boredom and sadness that an Industrial Town carries within. The ride on the M1, is now a matter of not questioning myself when I get there, but how do I deal with this long mostly straight road that feel endless at times and quite repetitive, stopping in 4 occasion for stretching the legs, constantly listen to music while singing along knowing that I am succeding on completing the ride in the time frame given me , it feels hard to stay put on the saddle, I want to finish it now, I want to experience the end . I enter Oxfordshire with the light slowly fading away, more and more car lights switch on, the battery on the MP3 player completely drained and the last petrol stop coming into place, at the petrol station I pull in and put the bike on the centre stand, quickly fill up the tank with a little petrol and quickly get the important petrol receipt, like a finishing line to cut, that delimit and stops the time of this ride, it reads 21.58 pm, exactly 2o hours and 49 minutes later, I am now overfilled with a simple joy and a fixed smile on my face, while posing beside my mighty wheeled companion for the ritual picture feeling invincible and still buzzing, I know by istinct that it certainly does not end here.
* the name IronButt, SaddleSore 1000 are all trademarks of the Ironbutt Motorcycle association.
5000 Miles, 9 Nations on my motorbike crossing Europe.
I would like to thank:
“We love Pizza” London Camden stablemarkets
“Pippobike” via San Donato Bologna
for theirs support and all my friends and people who believed in me successfuly completing this trip.
I believe that you need 3 fundamental things in order to travel long distances by motorbike:
two wheels with an engine , some petrol along the way and the desire to go places and to Me that one, sure does not lack…
At times when i was driving in total solitude, thinking if I was living a dream and realizing that i was that dream my heart would fill up with joy so I would let go of the grip from the handle-bar and with my arms wide open to the sky I would scream like a madman, oh yes ! because in order to do what I am doing I must be mad , mad like Van Gogh!
Six months ago `when I have had that strange idea popping into my head I did not succeed well into realizing to what I would have encounter along the distance, although I’ve tried to plan of good part of the trip there has always been surprises and discoveries for which I was not prepared for, of places, persons and of myself, I still today notice to have endured an inner change during that trip and a curious and positive approach has created those moments that we dare to call Magical, I am sure that the years passing by will never cancel those hidden memorable days hidden within me which i could visit every time I feel the need of it and without asking permission to anyone.
Encounter with the Gendarmerie
I adore taking the Channel tunnel, we motorcyclist are left together in a wagon, like old friends finally reunited talking with zest and energy, about our travels and our destinations . At 20.00 pm the train that has left Folkestone arrives to Calais opens the doors leaving us free to run about wherever it please us all heading in various directions, I have in program to drive all night from Calais to the Dunes of Pyla close to Bordeaux the first stage of this travel, 15 hours approximately, loaded with adrenalin and the desire to go places 15 hours on a saddle driving a motorcycle into the night do not scare me at all. I am well equipped for the night ride I have secured one red blinking lights for bicycles on the bag loaded on the passenger seat, I am wearing a fluorescent yellow vest and added two auxiliary lights on the front of the bike. I am driving through villages nearly difficult to notice, passing long and desolate countryside roads interrupted only by an occasional roundabout or a traffic light , I drive serenely always finding service-station without problems quickly milling miles, towards the 2.30 am in a dark desolate road singing my throat out, I notice from the rear-view mirrors two flashing blue lights , I wonder where are they going at this time of the night?, I recognize the police car and I move myself on the right in order for them to overtake me when they flash me I understand that those two blue lights are only there for me, i wonder what i have done this time? I raise the right arm waving it up and down clarifying my intention to stop at the first lay-by, they quickly stop beside me, it’s the Gendarmerie, two young Gendarmes appears with serious faces, so i remove the helmet, the earplugs and quickly switch off the bike and my first reaction was of asking:
Parle `vou italienne? We can speak English, answers the older of the two.
They asking me the paperwork’s for the bike which they barely observe, when the older of the two begins explaining to me: in France, when passing through villages and town the speed limit is 50km/h and you instead, were driving at 115km/h, with my eyes opens wide i don’t say a word as to prevent worsening the situation await for my verdict knowing to have made it big this time: listens! he says the older guy, I am going to say it to you in French, if the next time we find you driving that fast , we take your bike, rip to pieces your driving license and you go home on your foot, showing me the first two fingers intervalling each other in a walking motion , and I understand everything even the fear that He tries to transmit to me.
They’re letting me go on with my travels: god that was close , where the heck were they hidden? This travel could have end even before it began! Better be careful.
Driving all night on a motorbike was one thing that I had never done before , but I was very ready for it, it carried a morbid curiosity within and an attractive sense of danger hard to resist. Driving at night brings a sense of awareness and the infallible ability to lock up your thoughts within yourself while isolating you from all the distractions around, the sight of the first lights at dawn carries a pleasant relief and also a bit of fatigue.
The Dunes of Pyla, on the Atlantic coast of France with its landscape of marine Pines, where behind I catch a glimpse of the high dunes as a longest sand wall is a sight difficult to forget. I stand on my feet on the foot pegs with the eyes opens wide open, just like a child who plants outside the head from the window to its arrival at its first vacation to the seaside. I find a campsite I plant the tent, unload the bike , I put the swimming shorts on and I precipitate myself towards Dunes, at the highest point they are 100 meters high ,in order to go up you must use a set of stepladder laid on the sand, all joint together to the top with a slope of 30% its quite a hike, at the top the Atlantic sea it’s there in all its splendour, a blue cobalt sea with some sailing boat, a group of persons bathing down the beach and the Dunes that extend for a couple of miles to both sides, i start taking photos and remain to observe two boys doing paragliding until the weather turns bad.
I spend the rest of the day at the campsite eating at the restaurant and smoking cigarettes under the gazebos waiting for the rain to stop without a positive signal, going to bed with the rain and at 6 am and waking up from the rain that continues to strike on the tent, with a bad mood and the eyes swollen up from the lack of sleep I dress myself on my knees inside the tent load the bags on the bike and runaway from it all towards the Basque Countries hoping to leave behind all that rain asking me why the hell I took the tent with me promising myself not to go camping anymore and at the first occasion to get rid of the bloody thing .
Pleasant Surprises in Spain
The rain does not want to stop, arrived in the city centre of Saint Sebastian the situation seems even worse, I jump this stage trying towards mid Spain to the feet of the Pyrenees. 5 hours of driving and close to Pamplona the rain seems to calm itself , my underwear is soaking wet and in the need of rest, i score for cover in the centre of Pamplona only to find no rooms available every time introducing myself at the Reception with the trouser and the jacket dripping water on the pavement leaving a paddle every time I leave , I am not used to introduce myself in this way , fortunately at the third attempt I find a room at the Europa Hotel right next to the bull arena, it looks a bit of a luxury for my wallet but they have a room available full-optional at 60€ , I don’t even blink yearning a warm bath.
After pampering in the room I decide to go out discovering Pamplona . It’s a bit of a village with a medieval twist, walking around i soon understand why Hemingway spoke of it with much ardour, in few week the Festival of San Fermin will start, where they leave the Bulls free to run for the city while humans will run for the life away from them, but I cannot wait for it. I am looking for a bar in the vicinities choosing a crowded one, where i enter only to find: sawdust spread on the floor in order to dry the pavement from the bathed shoes that I haven’t seen in years, rowdy road workers with their bright orange uniforms smoking in the face of the bartender waiting for their coffees at the counter, elderly locals equally rowdy and I, that not knowing how to behave I come near to the counter lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke in the face of the bartender I order a sandwich and a glass of Rioja.
I have always tried to avoid Spain in other travels because, I have always considered it as ideal and easy destination of the mass of tourist despising its popularity but in 10 minutes I find myself at real ease when they says: who despises buys… Viva Espagna!
Towards the evening the time seems not to improve, anxiously I watch the weather forecast on TV listening to it on various channels, a cloud loaded with rain seems to swirl around the Pyrenees my next destination, then I see the south of France flooded from torrential rains so badly that car were floating away on roads that became small rivers, it hasn’t rain so badly since 1940, 20 people died and the situation on the Pyrenees does not seem sure and promising. In the morning I woke up open the curtains and more rain is falling, I always imagine Spain as the place you come to look for the sun and this rain is tiring me out, with all the determination I have I decides to head South towards Barcelona promising myself that if I do not find the sun there, I will go to Morocco!
Along the way the situation improves, I take a deviation towards Las Banderas a semi-desert Mountain range seating between Pamplona and Zaragoza that occupies a space of 45ooo hectares. I had seen it on a brochure in Pamplona immediately attracting my attention, the idea to savour the desert here in Spain on a motorcycle for my very first time was an irresistible temptation difficult to refuse. With a small local aid I find it driving into a dirty road who seems to cross it, around me only red sand, sporadic bushes and small red hills formed by the water erosion and wind, the horizon seems not to end.
While driving it, I come to think if something goes wrong with the bike , I make accounts of the resources; I have a full tank of petrol, a little bread and prosciutto, two chocolate tablets, a bottle of beer naturally San Miguel, and a water bottle at this point warm so I believe i will make it, at least for tonight.
I am driving for a good half hour avoiding craters as large as the motorcycle and sharp rock ready to bite my rubbers if i don’t pay attention, reached a crossway with my stomach churning I switch off the bike open the beer, I make a sandwich with Prosciutto then sat on the red earth I take a break in a peace never tried before well satisfied of my Exploration.
I resume the way for Barcelona covering the National Road a the A1, an endless road that crosses Spain, there are the flood of Truck drivers who follow each other in a procession that at time they all seem like a long train, ready to kiss you goodbye if mistakenly judge an overtaking manoeuvre, it seems that all the Truck drivers of the Iberian Peninsula are using it, a road that I would only recommend to the worse of my friends. Reached the circular road of Barcelona, I catch a glimpse the city far away in distance, and the sea surrounding it, the city seems immense, my heart fills with Joy and I start to sing a song of the Queen: BARCELOOONA! BARRCEELOOOOOONAAA it was the first Time that we meet!!! ….
Not knowing where to go out of instinct I choose the sign “Litoral of the Mar” which takes me right into the City, I can feel vibrating all around, floods of people and Motorbikes and Scooters overtaking me like rockets from left and right, everyone riding in short and Flip-flops, full Palm-lined avenues, the warmest sun and the sight of the Mediterranean.
I find lodging in a Hostel right next to the Monument of the colonizer Cristoforo Columbus (the Monument at the Colon), Miguel the owner is a bold 60 years old man with a vague resemblance to Pablo Picasso, He gives me a brief introduction on how to behave in the alleyways and narrow lanes at night, then He fixes me in a room that sleeps twelve, with six bunk beds left to them self ignore it all and in 15min. I am on the beach watching a group of girls playing Beach Volley.
My mood is definitely on the high side in the evening at the Hostel I get invited from Giorgio a Brazilian guy and Kota a Japanese, to join them; Giorgio seems a classic Brazilian son of Italian emigrates, a clean face with light hairs , Kota instead has black hairs held together in a pony tail revealing the shaved hairs around the neck and his guitar, He says to me that this evening they have been invited at a bar to play, but at our arrival the bar was already closed therefore we decide to go around town towards the Ciutad Veja ( the old city) where a group of Spanish, sat on the floor drinking beer and chatting, recognize Him inviting us all to join them, Kota soon pulls out the guitar beginning with Japanese songs that nobody seems too much interested in, then singing songs of the Beatles which He knows all of them , we begun to sing infecting the other groups of people to sing along, passing my first night Barcelona being sure that when in Barcelona you can always have fun.
The following day Kota and Bruno take a ferry that goes to Rome instead I spend the day at beach and exploring the city , the third day instead I join a group of , two South Africans girls, Victoria and Esmeralda, two Americans Jordynn and Camila and two Canadian guys Karl and Colton, they spent a week already and know the wright places to go, all together we go to the Bar Marsella behind Les Ramblas, it is the oldest bar in Barcelona and famous to serve Absinth, and the bar looks like the oldest one in Barcelona, the brown wall paint is peeling off the walls , the empty bottles on the shelves have collected so much dust along the year that in order to dust them off you’ll need a chisel and the Bar is full of of people having a good time drinking Absinth, we order some our self, we get given seven pre-filled glass with absinth, few plastic bottles of water with the caps pierced and some sugar cubes. To prepare yourself a drink you have to soak the sugar cubes into the Absinth, then letting rest on a small fork sitting on the glass rim you set it on fire adding water from the bottles into the insider of the glass without extinguish the flame, the flavour is bitter like an herbal drink, and going down it warms the stomach, warmth that towards the second glass seems to scattered all around the body, inebriated from the Alcohol we spend the rest of the evening there. The following morning i wave goodbye to everyone and as last surprise a gathering of Harley-Davidson is cruising on the road of adjacent the Hostel, I jump on the saddle quickly blending with them without problems, cruising along them all the way up to Gaudi Park, where I detach from the gathering heading for my way very happy knowing that I could not have left Barcelona in a better way .
Lusso and Casino’
At this point reached the fifth day of the travel I have already covered more than 2000 Miles, I recognize my limits, I am in complete tune with the motorbike, I know to my bones where I have arranged all within the bags, I’ve learned how to drink from the bottle of the water arranged in the front bags taking what I need without stopping , the continuous motion go on , millions of revolutions inside the engine, litres of petrol that slide inside the tubes like blood that slides inside the veins, I ask myself how this all possible, this continuous motion that goes infinitely, it all must be magic, while We milling Miles.
Driving on the via Aurelia, one of the famous road built by the Romans, with the sight of the sea I pass Nizza , Antibbe, Saint Jean the Pin then I see the sign Montecarlo and BAHM! As a lightning bolt I see the Prince, the Casino `, the Formula 1, these are my memories of Montecarlo and this is my occasion to see it in person, following the indications without hesitation I comes down towards the city , it glitters with Luxury, Houses and Villa finely decorated, a Policeman at every angle of the road; what a life they do here? dirty from the travels on a motorcycle with bags hanging out at every angle I feel a bit out of place.
I find a tourist office, dressed like a hardcore biker I enter, my T-shirt collar is a greyish colour, high motorcycle boots over to the Jeans, Helmet at hand and with a striking breath I present myself to the counter where a Beautiful blonde woman, high 1,80 with a long celestial dressing and a gold Necklace around Her neck that is worth as much as my motorcycle, with a bit of shame of what I am about to ask her in a country where an Espresso coffee can cost 5 € with a timid voice I ask Her if there are any Hostel in Montecarlo, Yes ! She’s answers me, If you want I can ring and ask if they have a free space?
I can hardly believe it , she gives a map to me of the city with the path marked by Her, I follow it all the way along the seaside, passing through millionaire Villas all with the name on it until I find the Hostel, it’s a beautiful three storey Villa on the Sea with a terrace so wide that there is enough space for a skating ring and all for 18€! I feel like a Richman with four dimes in pocket.
Arranged in depandance I encounter the room companions, 5 Irish boys who have travelled in France by bicycle and a gentleman on his 50′s that arrives in the room listening the world cup matches with the ears glued to a small portable radio, We greet each other in French when I notice a strong Italian accent, his name is Roberto He was born in Italy in the town of Pistoia but grown up in France, He has greying hairs and brown colour teeth every quarter of an hour, when He laughs from the effort coughs without control. Telling me His story it confesses me that has worked everywhere to Montecarlo in houses of rich people but has never be able to keep hold of the job and His monies that has always spends at the Casino `.
They serve us on the terrace, vegetable soup, Lasagne, Cheeses and a fruit salad, We all eat together with the sight of the sea until dawn, then the Irish boys are going to Montecarlo with 10 bottles , into plastic carrier bags, of Desperado a brand of beer mixed with Tequila, I instead finished the chat with Roberto I explore the roads of Montecarlo, coming down stepping behind the Casino `and the tunnel that I have always seen in TV where the formula 1 cars are going full throttle, where I lean on the petrol tank imagining an insistent contest when, without hearing them, two local motorcyclist shoots pass me reaching point-blank disappearing and the first bend, surely I have lost this contest. I end the stroll passing from the Port where hundreds of Panfili and Yacht are moored, to stop at the sight of the Casino `an on the step of the fountain I stay there to write postcards.
An English Man in its own country
My next destination is the Cinque Terre (five lands), than I have never seen and not knowing that existed in Italy, if it had not been for Australian friends who have always told me perhaps I would never discovered them. The name Cinque Terre originate from the five villages that forms it: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore forming a National Park and Unesco heritage of a beauty famous in the world. I find a campsite arranged into terraces dipped shadowed by the Olives tree a small Oasis, even if I promises myself to discard this option yearning for a dip in the blue Sea I camp in good humour forgetting about the last negative experience in the rain.
I spend the first day at the beach in Levanto sunbathing like a Lizard, on the second day wishing to see the Five Lands, I ask advice at the receptionist where the more beautiful places are, and with the map in hand marked I head towards Vernazza 15 miles away , passing for the mountain up and down for roads sometimes with dangerous bends but with the beautiful sights on the coast, the bends seem endless after nearly an hour of driving and drunk of bends I asks myself: where the heck I am going? , perhaps I have taken a wrong turn, a bit more than i will head back , then the road sign for Vernazza that says 1 miles appears, I grin the teeth and I begin to go down for a private road with a slab that blocks the passage to the cars, where I begin to see some houses, that looks like they have been built after the second world war all colour with pastel colours, the alleyways with small restaurants and Bars, tourist taking pictures and the sunlight that leaks through an alley formed by two houses then Bahm! the limpid Ligurian Sea that hits the wharf, overlapping Houses on the rocks wright above the sea, the harbour overflow with small wooden boats with a beauty to leave me open-mouthed and people me scattered on the cliffs laying on the towel sunbathing, a true hidden jewel.
the sea clapper
there isn’t other place
in which I would want to be
this primordial call
takes me back to the origins of my Being.
Hidden places and primary colours
the simple life slides round
I’ve nearly forgot what means
leading a Life
in harmony with the sea.
I spend the rest of the day together with the local people who fishes on of the Wharf in all tranquillity , tranquillity only interrupted by the scattering of the waves , the fishermen, in turn make fun of each other, giving the guilt to one another when the fish doesn’t bite, they are very likeable people as people of sea would have to be, with relaxed nerves and a great sense of the humour, I gladly chat with them discovering who produces a local Wine called Cheo and other people who comes from Viterbo, from Rome or Switzerland, who have bought house here in order to pass the vacations, It would appeal to me to own an house here but the price of a house goes around the 250,000€ benchmark , that leaves me with the wish only.
The life in the Cinque Terre is spent in harmony with the raise of the Sun, leading one owns activity during the day in order then, to withdraw oneself towards the sunset, followed by supper then a walk in order to digest with the addition of Artisan Ice cream ( Gelato) but nothing more , and to Me all this me suits very well, at 10.30-11.00 pm you gladly sleep in order then to raise soon naturally the following morning, I spends three days in total tranquillity . I would like to remain a bit more curious to know more about the Receptionist of the Campsite that asks to me if I stop a bit longer, but wanting to go ahead and not understanding , I wave her goodbye passing a last time from the half-deserted beach with one hand on the heart and one on the throttle I salute the Cinque Terre heading to Bologna.
The arrival in Bologna is always a pleasant experience, in this occasion the weather is torrid and sultry and every time that I stop at a traffic light I feel like tearing my clothes apart, I recognize all around to me, the erratic and irregular driving style of the Italians, the vision of Hills, the Basilica of Saint Luca and the ways that in my childhood i used to cover with the bicycle, awakening almost forgotten memories dusted by time and a sense of belongings difficult to explain, I drive up and down explore it all like a tourist amusing myself of a one way system that wasn’t there before or a new constructed road, driving into the City centre greeting the Two Towers and Piazza Maggiore (major Square) it’s always a pleasure to return home until the memories arises remind me why I have left it all behind my shoulders.
The first days I run right and left like an Entrepreneur full of appointments, greeting all the friends which refresh me of the news, I go to a wedding , go around the Hills by Motorbike and with the aid of two friends that are offering their technical support at their workshop we put on the Motorbike a flashing New Rear Tyre ready to eat the tarmac away, only towards the last days I succeed to spend a bit of time with my relatives which always sees me very little.
At the tenth day directed towards the Stelvio Pass in the very hearts of Italian Dolomities I am glad to leave again, alarm clock set at 4.oo a.m. and the departure at 5 a.m. I load the bike once again with the bags become heavier stacked with Italian Delicatessen , waiving goodbye to my Mother who exchanges waving Her arms from the terrace, instinctively knowing that She is a bit sad seeing me leaving again.
I enter all provincial roads in order to avoid the highway tolls enjoying the countryside landscapes passing Modena, Parma and Brescia where I begin to meet the first motorcyclist, already several, they all go in my same direction the sky without clouds prospect a perfect day, the motorcyclist are indeed many we cross galleries after galleries informing one with the other of an hidden speed camera, passing the Lago D’ Iseo (Iseo Lake) for my first time but without stopping, following the procession of bikes I limit myself to observe it while shooting straight towards Passa di Gavia, following a suggestion of a friend back in Bologna. The road shoots straight up breathtakingly through bends that soons become hairpin, the road tightens more and more to the point that also by Motorcycle one must pay attention who travels in the opposite sense of directions , gravel into the bends with reduced visibility, gorges on the side of the road that when you look down it seems that they have their mouth open, ready to swallow you if mistake one maneuver I ask myself: where the heck I am going? if they remove the tarmac we can call it a Mule track! but the Pictures of the Mountains tops with the snow that melting goes to form infinite streams and small waterfalls towards the greens valley at the foot of the Mountains are like postcards, stopping to take photo always being careful to park the Motorbike in the rite sense of direction, with front toward the top, the bike is so heavy that I could not make it with the aid of my force alone, to do a reversal manoeuvre. In succeeding to reach the summit I’m very happy for being still intact and with the aid of a cyclist I pose for the classic photos in front of the sign: Shelter Passes of Gavia, when I notice three gentleman that observe my motorbike, bending on their knees at times to better check how all this bags manage to hang on it at midair, pointing then at the number plate not understanding the Nation of origins then making comments to each other. I decide to approach them with a warm CIAO! ah but you are Italian! , it answers one of the three, Yes I come from Bologna I answer, from Bologna?! he says astounded, Beh! with that number plate? I come from London, but I have gone wide passing from Barcelona, Whaaat? He beats again, No let me understand, you come from London passing from Barcelona and have made all this road alone? Yes, I say, and now where you directed? Towards the Passo of the Stelvio then the Glacier of Grossglockner in Austria, followed from Lake Kostanz passing then for the Black Forest in Germany and getting closer to Calais passing from Belgium, I think that they should give you a medal you know?! it answers at the same time watching the friends astounded. They continue making me thousand of questions which I answer to all of them a gladly giving me a thousands compliments, they come from Parma: Marco, Gianni and Paolo and as real Emiliani we bond immediately like Bread and Nutella, Marco asks if he can take some photos to the Bike to show to His daughter that lives in London, I accepts very gladly then we take one together resting like two companions that have made the war together, with the arms high on the shoulders and two smiles that shine of sincerity, I then jump in saddle helped by them to make a reversal manoeuvre, all three of them pushing me backward as the mechanics do when they push the Pilots outside from the Pit lane , starting the bike, engage first gear saluting them with my left arm to the sky with the two fingers V-shaped I head true toward the Stelvio Pass well glad to have met them, with the spirit raised from flatteries and a great smile on my lips I understand what the Mountaineers feels when they reach the Shelter at the summit and they find the hospitality that they deserve.
The Stelvio Pass is very close the sign only indicate few more miles while the roads widens more and more, when i notice the first number that signal the first of 44 hairpins bends, which the Stelvio is famous for, when I raise the head BAM! the summit is up there, with all its hairpin bends that gently caresses the crest of the mountain, and I laugh, laugh and keep laughing inside the Helmet not believing what I am seeing , being Sunday the are hundreds of motorcyclist climbing it, there are Police officers giving indication in the blind bends, stopped along the path I observe the motorcyclist climbing up, they look like hundreds of ants that follow the trail of the bike in front all heading towards that Anthill called Summit where it seem a country fair , motorcycle parked everywhere, bikes stuck in the traffic struggling to find a way through , skiers who tries to find a space through the mess wearing ski boots and carrying ski on their shoulders and rows of people waiting at a kiosk that sells Sour cabbage and Sausages, yes! it seems like a real Anthill.
The Dolomiti has left me with pleasant memory , directed towards the Glossglockner Glacier at the sign confirm me I am entering Austria, I stop to edge road to take the classic photo, asking in Italian, the aid of a Street sweeper who’s maintaining the road dressed with its fluorescent Orange uniform, I pull out a sparkling smile for a pair of releases then I buy the sticker necessary in Austria for the use of motorways, leaving a full throttle all curious to see the famous Hochalpenstrasse (High Alpine road) 48km of roads that sweeps through the mountains, passing thousand years rocks formations where active waterfall appears like magic, and conifers forests this road is considered one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the world. The road connects the State of Salisburgo with the Carinzia, for 18€ you receive, a pamphlet and an adhesive that symbolizes the centennial history , the views are not less than breathtaking making hard to pay attention at the road ahead, the valleys looks like green Emerald carpet and nearly convinced of being in a fairy tales I prepare myself to find a small wooden house with Hansel and Gretel inside.
The Glacier is enormous, the biggest and meanest one that I ever seen, If I stretch an arm out, it seems your are able to touch it even if its stand 300 metres away with its peaks sometimes hidden from clouds and the ice sheet in constant movement , with an altitude of 3798 Meters it is the highest present in Austria and the Oriental Alps.
Descending I succeeds to find accommodation in a mountain Chalet, just before the arrival of a thunderstorm , the kind Owner lets me to park the motorcycle in the garage and gives a reduced price of 35€ for a double room with all the optional. All day the thunderstorm does not allow me to go far away even if I would want to, near mountain of the Wilder Kaiser, so I decide to pass the evening at the restaurant where I eat for two, where I meet an angel with Blonds hairs in traditional Tyrolean costume called Nina, much likeable, when speaking with a German accent able to revive the sexual desire even in a dead men , at the Bar I am trying with every excuse, to start a conversation without to be banal even if the insufficient communication and Her basic English we only succeed to understand us at times leaving the topic of conversation at small talks, as I would want to speak German in this moment, returned in my room I laying on the bed watching the ceiling feeling that this travel is almost reached its end.
The following morning waving Nina goodbye I leave Austria in the middle of a thunderstorm towards the Germany, where I make a stopover at Lake Kostanz , a natural Lake formed from the River Rhein that covers a space of 570 squares Km. spending two hours at the local Theraml baths where in a Sauna I make an encounter wich i would think for the rest of the day. She is lying naked on the wooden benches, her body half-hidden by a towel, a beautiful German girl with a perfect breast and a physique borrowed from the goddess of Beauty Venus in this room full of steam that makes her even more
attractive and mysterious, seated in front of Her I attract attention and we exchange a small chat on the benches of wood until Her friend appears taking Her away, a bit disappointed but 5 year younger i leave the sauna.
In the evening in the public square with the local people I watch the game of Holland-Uruguay before returning in the Hostel preparing for the following morning for the ancient black Forest. The name originates in times when the forest of conifers was still impenetrable, it has an area that occupies 12.000 squared kilometres and a the summit the endless Horizon is covered by the Forest, they says that in these dark forest are populated by Werewolf and Demons who assume thousand shapes, and that the balance of the Forest is maintained from a small population of Dwarfs, but ill-fated I encounter nobody at my passage. Exited from the Forest I am in the need of company, I decided to go to Koblenz to meet two girls Nina and Susanna, which I meet in Belgium some month before, I have the address but not telephone number even if I am not sure to find them I try however. I find their address in a Small Village dispersed in the German countryside, where at the I meet Peter at the door, the boyfriend of Susanna, very surprised in seeing me I quickly explain why, and what I am doing here, He then tells me that Susanna and Nina are at theirs parent’s house not far away, then He calls them informing them of my arrival. They are very happy and surprised to see me, they invite me to the pub for the evening to watch Germany-Holland playing.
After the delusional match we return at the house drinking beer in the garden in the pitch dark , the Stars are so many that I nearly forgot that they exist, I observe them for more than a minute almost hallucinated at their vision wishing to pass the night sleeping under the Stars, but Susanna and Peter are offering me their Couch for the Night, offer that i gladly accept being prepared to camp in the garden. For how much people have always spoken to me negatively about the Germans like cold persons, I always convince myself more that the Germans are only extremely reserved people and once you’re braking their shell they are exactly the opposite, they just have to know you. The following morning as German traditions dictates, is the man job to go to the bakery to buy breakfast, and as Peter as already left for work, I gladly offer to go myself to repay the hospitality given me for the night.
Passing in the Netherlands I decide that it is the moment to take a well deserved break, spending the Night in Maastricht, in that little tip of Netherlands that sits in between Germany and Belgium, finding accommodation in a Botel where the owner lets me park the bike for the Night on board of the Ship finding it bizarre but we are in the Netherland and bizarre here is always on the menu. Next day in Luxembourg City I have a last pleasant surprise. The small city that goes up and down with the steepest road and ancient Walls that surround the city and with its three spoken languages, French, German and Luxembourgish and a financial and important world-wide center the City remains one of most unusual in Europe.
At the Hostel I ask advice at the receptionist for the best place to go for Nightlife, where it seems that is all really happening, hordes of young people are drinking and chatting away, observing it all i notice that they are speaking in German, for then switch in French at the arrival of someone new, and the girls are all dressed impeccable and are beautiful, tall and blonde like German girls but with delicate French features a mix of beauty hard to forget .
During a nocturnal exploration on foot I discover a premises loaded with so much energy not to believe it , the Cafe`Des Artist founded in 1940 as thee name suggests, was a meeting point for local Artists, even if during the years the Artist have decreased the Art remains still. Attracted from the music and the choruses of people I enter only to meet a Lady on Her 50′s that plays the piano with Her sigarette smoking in the ashtray beside, the customers that sings along , songs are sung in German, Luxembourgish , French and also Spanish , a magical place where since I stepped in I felt surrounded by friends, convinced to have uncovered the True Essence of the City in the heart of Luxembourg, I sing along.
At this point of the travels now three weeks, I spend the greater part of my time on the road, living on the road I finding comfort where there is a road t, the road is alive, the road is my friend, She speaks and guides me towards the Horizon, I feel safe when I see it laying before Me.
On the way home in a reflective mood I ask myself which is the price to pay for all this freedom ? knowing in the heart that normality is about to set in, with a bit of sadness trying to find solution I start to consider the idea of what would happened if you continued to go on, if you continued until I can continue, what would happen to me? I notice to have been bitten by the pleasure of Travel, a bite difficult to forget, all these memories destined to fade away slowly with time, carries an even bigger desire to re create new ones.
Reached London it seems to be still travelling, I notice taht I am no longer that foreigner on that Motorcycle loaded with bags everywhere and that strange number plate, encircled from even stranger number plates , I recognize all around me,I re-enter the House only to be greeted from a heap of letters under the door one of which reveals to be a parking fine nearly expired, that my memory cannot even recall, a bit of dust around and an empty refrigerator smelling badly, but the I see again the map of the World hunged on the wall, I approach , it seems beautiful, I remain to fix it noticing Europe and with a finger tracing a new imaginary route I plan a new Trip toward far away lands still unknown to me.
Vikinghi , Barbari, terre lontane, battaglie contro gli Inglesi e Castelli secolari, impossibile non trovare paesaggi mozzafiato in questa terra che sembra non far parte del Regno Unito, ma bensi`di un luogo molto piu` lontano di un era preistorica oramai dimenticata.
Londra e Glasgow distano 650km, passo` Birmighan, Carlisle, Glasgow ,dove le autostrade finiscono ed inizia il divertimento.
Passata Glasgow costeggio Loch Lomond, il primo Loch che abbia mai visto, il sole ed il cielo blu aumentano la bellezza di questo bacino d`acqua dolce il piu` grande per superficie nel Regno unito lungo 39 km e largo fino a 8 km, impossibile non fermarsi a scattere le prime foto.
Proseguo fino a Fort williams, la piu` grande citta` nelle Higlands Scozzesi ed un ottimo punto di riferimento per visitare i Glen , il piu` famoso di tutti e spettacolare e` Glen Coe, con le Tre Sorelle (the Three Sisters) . Nel attraversale capisco pen presto il perche`, le vallate che mi circonadano sono verdi, ampie, danno la possibilta` di poter vedere nuvole in lontanza la loro pioggia cadere , di ammirare le Montagne il loro sussegurisi, certe quasi liscie alle loro estremita difficile non distrarsi dalla strada ad ammirare tutto cio` che mi circonda, mi fermo a piu` riprese ad assorbire meglio tutto cio` la loro presenza e maestosita` mi rendono cosciente della mia insignificanza di fronte a loro e mi resteranno impresse nella mia memoria per gran parte del viaggio.
Vengo accolto con sole, per poi ritrovarmi coperto da nuvole, seguite da un leggero temporale per qualche minuto per poi dar spazio a un sole candido, sembra di essere in un crocevia metereologico ove le svariate condizioni metereologiche si incontrano per poi decidere che strada prendere.
Arrivo a Mallaig dove per sbrigarmi decido di prendere il primo targhetto che porta all Isola di Skye, un biglietto singolo per me e la moto, mi costa 13£ sterline, caruccio per un tragitto 25 minuti ma non ci penso due volte e ne acquisto uno mettendomi in fila per l’imbarcho dove ad aspettare in prima linea ci sono gia` parecchi motociclisti, ed i piu` apparescenti sono una coppia di Francesi arrivati da Parigi che come me hanno in programma di visitare l’isola di Skye e ripartie il giorno dopo sulla loro Honda Goldwing, un divano messo su due ruote con una presenza sulla strada che non passa inosservata.Le moto sono le prime ad imbarcarsi, seguite da macchine e Camper, mi chiedo se mi tocchera` stare vicino alla moto per tutta la traversata ma le moto vengono fissate con corde e tiranti per evitare di ribalatarsi, quindi posso salire a poppa dove ho il tempo di rilassarmi ed ammirare il paesaggio. Il cielo e` limpido si possono vedere in lontananza L’isola di Eigg, L’isola di Rum, che fanno parte di un gruppo di Isole delle Ebridi esterne ed i loro “Sound”, il “Sound” non sono altro che uno stretto canale fra due masse terresti, simili ai Fiordi nordici ma piu` larghe. Arrivati al Porto di Ardvasar, io mi sento gia` eccitato, disembarcho velocemente salutando gli altri motociclisti i quali rincontreo` a Portree, il paese piu` grande nell’Isola di Skye.
La strada per gran parter del tratto costeggia il mare alla mia destra e le vallate alla mia sinistra sono un misto di steppe e piccole montagne, si inerpica in salita a volte tagliando in mezzo a pareti rocciose per poi riaprisi in rettilini lunghissimi dove la visuale sul traffico che arriva dalla direzione opposta aumenta notevolmente si puo` aprire l’acceleratore senza troppi rischi, passo la Distilleria di Talisker, difficile non notare le insegne dei parecchi Bed and Breakfast che costeggiano tutta la strada, ci sono anche Campeggi ed Ostelli, scelgo uno Ostello per la sua comodita` nella citta` di Portree, il Bayfiel Backapckers dove nel parcheggio al retro posso sistemare la moto senza problemi, per £13 sterline mi danno un letto in una camera con altri quattro ragazzi, c’e` anche un altro Ostello ma il cartello NO VACANCIES indica nessuno posto disponibile. Non mi posso lamentare della mia scelta, al piano terra c`e una grande cucina comune dove posso cucinarmi una bisteccha ed un insalata, ben meritati cosiderata la strada fatta fin qui e fare amicizia con tre ragazzi tedeschi in visita.
Portree in se stessa non ha tanto da offrire, un porticciolo di mare con un paio di ristoranti su due fish and chips shops, i Pub locali, il Pier Hotel, e L’Isle inn, un Ufficio postale, un Supermercato, un Ufficio informazione , insomma in una buona mezz`ora la si puo` visitare.
Al mio arrivo in camera, incontro Vienna, un ragazzo tedesco, ed i due francesi Christof e Jerome anche loro come me, ripartiranno il giorno dopo, cogliamo l’occasione per rompere il ghiaccio decidendo piu ` tardi di andare al Pub L’ Isle Inn, dandoci appuntamento giu` alla reception per le 20.00. Al nostro arrivo il Pub e` quasi colmo di gente, c’e` pure una banda con la musica dal vivo, cosa molto comune in Scozia, la banda e formata da due Armoniche, una Chitarra ed un Violino, suonano musica folkloristica rimaninamo subito catturati dai loro suoni a volte melanchonici a volte allegre ballate che sembrano quasi riassumere tutta la Scozia con le loro note. Restiamo al Pub fino alla chiusura, dopo sei gire di bevute, con qualche whisky nel mezzo, sembriamo conoscerci da parecchio tempo e tutte le nostre barriere sono crollate.
La mattinata seguente, con la bocca un po` asciutta dal Whisky, saluto i compagni di stanza carico i bagagli, ho in programma di seguire tutta la strada che costeggia l’isola per poi abbandonarla puntando verso John O’ Groats, il punto piu` a nord del Regno unito. La mattina e `coperta da un cielo uggioso ed una pioggia leggera ma non fastidiosa che aumenta la drammaticita` del paessaggio, passo il castello di Dunvegan dove sulla strada noto le mie prime mucche col pelo lungho molto famose originarie delle Highland Scozzesi. Faccio inversione velocemente e mi fermo ad osservarle piu` da vicino anche se restie ad avvicinirami sono curiose e mi fissano tutte quante, io le trovo molto buffe, hanno corna lunghe ed appuntite come tori ma sono docili come vitelli, i loro mantelli sono coperti di peli color marrone tendenti al rosso ed i loro ciuffi le coprono completamente gli occhi e mi chiedo come possano vedere chiaramente, ma ad ogni mio gesto sembrano rispondere senza problemi – il mantello serve a proteggerle nei lunghi mesi ed i forti venti invernali e la loro abilita` a trovare cibo in zone scarse, la capacita` di mangiare piante che normali mucche scarterebbero le rende ideali per queste zone selvaggie, scatto qualche foto rimanendo ad osservarle stupito, prima di salutarle con il clacson della moto. Proseguo verso the Old Man of Storr, un gruppo roccioso di diverso numero formatosi da precedenti eruzioni vulcaniche induritesi col passare del tempo, la strade che scende in discesa dopo una curva me lo propone alla mia destra, rimango con gli occhi splancati da questa formazione che ha un po` di un paesaggio lunare anche se alte solamente 719, la zona e molto nota per fare trekking ed i piu` avventurosi con un po`di tempo a disposizione posso camminare fino in vetta passando attraverso la foresta sottostante, arrivati in cima si e` ripagati con viste mozzafiato delle coste.
Il mio stomaco si lamenta, sono partito senza fare colazione questa mattina e sono passate oramai due ore, al primo Cafe` aperto che trovo parcheggio la moto propio di fronte alle vetrate che danno sulla strada e mi lancio dentro. Ordino la colazione Scozzese – simile a quella Inglese ma con qualche variazione: 2 salsiccie, 2 fette di Bacon, fagioli, mezzo pomodoro scaldato sulla piastra, il tipico Haggis scozzese che consiste in: cuore, fegato, polmoni macinati e mischiati con cipolle, avena, sale e spezie e fatte bollire con lo stomaco della pecora, non male e certamente piu` saporito e digeribile del Black Pudding, anche quello incluso, il quale viene fatto con sangue bollito fino` ad ottenere una certa consistenza e mischiato con carne, patate, grasso, pane ed avena, ne riesco a finire solo meta` ed il resto lo lascio nel piatto, ed una tazza di te` che al suo arrivo si rivela essere un cappuccino mi sento sazio. Un occhiata alla mappa prima di partire e lasciarmi l’isola alle spalle passando per il ponte di Skye che la collega con l`entro terra.
Giunto a New Kelso, punto in direzione Inverness per poi puntare in direzione Torridon, il libro guida ne parlava molto bene di Loch Torridon anche se e` quasi mezzogiorno e non so` ancora quanto tempo ci voglia per arrivare fino a John O’ Groats, realizzo che non mi capita spesso di venire fin quassu` e decido di prendere la strada per Torridon, non avrei potuto fare scelta migliore durante il corso del viaggio.
Durante il tragitto, incontro un altro crocevia ed un cartello che dice chiaramente: questa strada sale fino a 2053 piedi (600m circa) strada singola panoramica per Shieldag non consigliata per Camper e neopatenti, con gradienti da 1 a 5 e curve a gomito, ed un altro che dice: strada alternativa a basso livello a destra, naturalmente scelgo la strada piu` lunga e panoramica. Gia` dall inizio della scalata la strada stretta si impenna sul bordo della montagna alla seconda curva una macchina accosta nelle apposite piazzole a bordo strada per lasciarmi passare, continuando a salire la vista sulla valle sottostantea aumenta ed io difficilmente riesco a prestar attenzione alla strada davanti a me, continuo a girar la testa alla mia sinistra per ammirare tutta questa bellezza le gole a picco sotto di me sembrano non finire mai nel mezzo un ruscello la percorre fino a valle, la cima della montagna si fa sempre piu` vicino e noto le nuvole che ne sfiorano la cima, l`acqua limpida esce dalla pareti rocciose, mi accosto per riempire la borraccia, continuo ad arrampicarmi arrivando in cima dove lanciando un occhiata a valle rimango a bocca aperta, accosto nuovamente parcheggio, spengo la moto, mi levo il casco e rimango ad ammirare il paesaggio sottostante – una grande apertura a forma di U mi da` la possibilta` di vedere tutta la vallata fino ai piedi della montanga, riesco a vedere un pezzo della strada percorsa, il lago a valle, la prossima montagna e le nuvole che ne accarezzano la cima, sulla mia destra il proseguimento del lago che continua all`orrizonte finche` i miei occhi riescono a vedere, rimango ad osservare in un silenzio che solo l` altitudine puo` offrire congratulandomi con me stesso per la scelta fatta e con uno spirito rissollevato inizio la discesca lentamente continuando ad ammirare l’orizzonte.
John O’ Groats, e il punto piu` a nord nel entroterra Inglese, anche se la vicina Baia di Dunnet guardando la mappa e` la piu` a nord , la strada costeggia la costa per gran parte del tratto con viste sul mare , il sole esalta il blu cobalto del Mare del Nord passo` Dunrobin Castle e prendo per Thurso, la citta` piu`grande dove campeggiero per la notte. Al mio arrivo non e` difficile trovare il campeggio, e` in posizione strategica si affaccia propio sulla costa, con viste sul mare e le isole Orkney in lontananza, che ti fa` pensare perche` uno vorrebbe chiudersi in una stanza d’albergo quando si hanno queste viste qua`, il porto sulla sinistra con il traghetto che porta alle isole Orkney a fianco del campeggio vi e` un benzinaio ed un supermercato, c’e` molto posto, scelgo il piu` vicino alla costa, comincio a scaricare i bagagli ed a montare la tenda, il pernottamento mi costera` solo £7 sterline, non male, mentre preparo qualcosa da mangiare: Cozze, Tortellini alla panna con una bottiglia di vino rose` comprati al supermercato, ammiro` la costa, faccio conoscenza con i vicini tedeschi e mi rilasso fino a tardi, rimango sveglio fino alle 11:00 di sera, c’e` ancora luce e riesco a leggere la mia guida senza problemi, finquando decido di andare a dormire cullato dal rumore delle onde del mare sottostante le quali mi mandano in un sonno riposante e profondo fino a mattino presto.
Al mattino sono svegliato da una luce quasi acciecante, sono appena le 5.00, e sembra che sia mezzogiorno, infreddolito mi inizio a muovere accendo il fornello per il te` ed incomincio a smotare la tenda e a smistare il bagaglio nelle borse della moto. Il campeggio dista solo qualche kilometro da John O`Groats - il libro guida mi aveva avvisato avendo descritto il posto come una trappola turistica; al mio arrivo, siamo solo io e la moto il parcheggio e` deserto, l’ufficio informazione e` ovviamente chiuso, manca il cartello con le indicazioni ed nome del posto, pure i bagni pubblici sono chiusi mi guardo attorno, osservo le foto sulla bacheca di tutta la gente che prima di me, e` venuta qua`, chi in moto, chi in biciletta con le loro facce sorridenti e le fronti sudate di fronte a quel cartello, anche io come loro voglio quella foto e riesco a trovare il cartello con le indicazioni che cerco poco distante - piazzo la moto di fronte e trovo un muretto dove appoggiare la macchina fotografica, corro` davanti all obbiettivo, click!
Prossima destinazione e` Edinburgo, passando per il famoso Loch Ness, dimora del famigerato mostro marino. Al mio arrivo parcheggio ed inizio a scattare foto, mi accorgo di un altro motociclista in lontanaza, della sua targa, e` Italiana! quasi non ci credo, volgio conoscerlo, si sta`mettendo il casco in sella alla moto pronto per partire, affretto il passo, lo saluto con un caloroso Ciao, sperando che sia veramente italiano, in quel momento i suoi occhi da sotto il casco si spalancano, scende dalla moto ed incominiciamo a parlare; si chiama Marco, guida una Bmw 1200 GS Adventure, che inconfronto alla mia Yamaha FZ6 sembra essere Golia la osservo con un po` di gelosia, lui viene da Siena, ha un paio di settimane per vedere la Scozia, anche lui andra all`Isola di Skye, dice che sono il primo italiano che incontra in questo viaggio, siccome il suo inglese e` un po` arrugginito puo` tirare finalmente un sospiro di sollievo e comunicare senza troppi problemi, parliamo per una buona mezz`ora sulla sponde di Loch Ness prima di salutarci e scattare la nostra foto ricordo.
Passo lo Spean Bridge, le Distillerie di Dalwhinnie e arrivo a Perth, dove mi ritrovo sul Forth Road bridge un ponte sospeso costrutio nel 1964 , attraversandolo si vede Edinburgo, mi affretto e seguo i cartelli per il Town centre.
Subito mi innamoro della atmosfera romantica di Edinburgo ben diversa dalla frenesia Londinese, decido di girovagare un po` attorno l’ Old town (la citta` vecchia) mi ritrovo in vie con ciottoli invece che asfalto, gli edifici sono bassi e coperti da un velo di fuliggine scura, c’e molta gente che gira a piedi, difficile perdersi, il Castello in lontanaza ne fa`da padrone. Decido di fermarmi a consultare la guida e scegliere uno ostello, il dito cade sul Castle Rock Hostel, propio dietro al castello. Non e` lontano da dove mi trovo e cerco di orientarmi tra vie a senso unico, deviazioni per lavori in corso tenendo come punto di riferimento Il Castello, lo trovo dopo 15 minuti ai piedi del Castello in una posizione strategicha nel cuore della citta` vecchia, vicino al Royal mile, la via piu` famosa di Edinburgho, c’ e` un parcheggio gratuito per le moto in strada, parcheggio scarico i bagagli e mi dirigo alla reception dove trovo un letto a £13 in stanza con altri cinque ragazzi.
L’ostello e` un edifico molto grande a tre piani, lo spirito e` molto giovane con ragazzi e ragazzi di un po` tutte le nazionalita`, Italiani compresi naturalmente, c’e` un salotto con il biliardo, riviste e giornali in cinque nazionalita` diverse; trovo pure la Gazzetta dello sport, un sala internet con poltrone e divani, un pianoforte funzionante e la possibilita` di fermarsi a chiacchierare e fare amicizia – preferisco sempre gli Ostelli che ai Bed and Breakfast quando viaggio da solo per il semplice fatto che viaggiando da solo sia ha sempre voglia ad un certo punto del viaggio, di qualcuno con cui parlare di rompere la monotonia che la solitudine puo` trasmettere ritrovandosi al pub locale con i compagni di camera ad ubriacarsi.
Sistemo i bagagli in camera e comincio a svestirmi, ci sono 23 gradi oggi ad Edinburgo, ed Io sono vestito a strati: giacca cerata foderata, maglione, maglioncino da ciclista, maglietta di cotone, sottoveste da moto, maglietta di lana, pantaloni cerati foderati, sottoveste oramai incollata alle gambe sudate, due paia di calzini dei quali uno di lana, finita l’operazione sembro un altra persona, appicicaticcio e con odori insoliti mi dirigo per una meritata lunga doccia.
Una amica, che ha vissuto ad Edinburgo per parecchi anni, ha organizzatomi un incontro con dei suoi vecchi amici australiani, ho il numero di telefono di Cathy e Micheal, li chiamo senza esitazione ci incontriamo propio di fronte al Castello, mi accolgono come se ci conoscessimo gia` da tempo promettendomi di farmi conscere la citta`.
Edinburgo e` una citta` bellisima la si puo` visitare tutta a piedi senza bisogno di mezzi pubblici, una parte della citta` vecchia si trova in collina, ha vicoletti nascosti i quali si collegano con le vie maggiori da scalinate di pietra consumate dal tempo, negozi e botteghe di artigianato, la Cattedrale di St.Giles con i suoi vetri decorati i piu` belli in Scozia, la sede del Parlamento, i giardini di Princes Gardens ed l’Arthur Seat – una collina alta 250 metri formatasi al ritirasi di un ghiacciao 2 milioni di anni fa`da dove in cima si hanno viste su tutta la citta` ora un parco, ed il Castello di Edinburgho il quale siede su i resti di un vulcano alto 120 metri oramai estintosi vecchio 450 milioni di anni.
Prima che Io parta mi suggeriscono di assagiare l’HOG ROLL ( panino col maiale) un istituzione qua` in Scozia. Giunti al negozio dalla vetrina che da’ sulla strada c’e` un maialino cotto, molto similie alla nostra porchetta, che viene letteralmente ripulito dalla carne si intravedono gia` le ossa, ne ordino uno con l’aggiunta degli Haggis ed un po` di salsa di mela e` una vera delizia, non potrei aver lasciato la Scozia in modo migliore e con il sapore della Scozia ancora in bocca ci salutiamo lasciandomi alle spalle questa terra stupenda promettendomi di tornarla a visitare.