2011 Iceland

Tour 2012 Verbania – Iceland – Verbania
Travel “Progetto Giovani San Vigilio”

starting date: 27th July 2011, Trobaso – Verbania
arrival date: 25th August 2011, Trobaso – Verbania
across:: Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, France, Switzerland
distance covered (km): 5.200
average speed (h): 18km/h
total cycling time: 292 h
pedal strokes: 1.138.800
bycicles: Milena Merida height 213, Tiziano Specialized, Enzo Specialized, Gigi Bianchi
stops: 30
flat tires: 15

postcards sent: 550
charity organisation: CRIAQ, Croce Rossa Italiana – L’Aquila, Abruzzo
amount devolved: 3.000€

Watch our videos on mi&ti Onlus youtube channel.

A quick roundown on our travel:

We did thoroughly think through when it came to choosing this destination, a trip we wished to take for a long time to fullfill our love for the wilderness… as we are a bit wild ourselves.  Special guests of this long trip were three of our good friends, Enzo, Franco and Gigi, an happy bunch of biking enthusiasts from Brescia who we shared a handful of experiences with.

We were all pretty stoked on this trip and couldn’t wait to start. We left from Verbania July, 27th and went to pick up raggiunto Enzo, Franco e Gigi, in Brescia, then headed immediately to Iceland.

We identified the first main goal in reaching Copenaghen. From San Vigilio  we passed Treviso, Gemona, Tarvisio and entered Austria, via Klagenfurt.
At that point in time, we are definitely having a good time.
Franco’s motto: “I am not dumb, but I play dumb to make you look dumb”:
While all we hear from Gigi is: “Per la Madonna!”  (Literally “For Virgin Mary’s sake!”).
We spin on, is cold and sometimes we have to bear with the rain for entire days.
We get through passes at 1500 m of altitude and our legs shake for the effort we are producing. Over Trebien, come yet another tough pass, called Triebener Tauern Pass at an altitude of 1274 m, Freistadt and another height named Pyhmpass located at 945m of altitude. Some of those uphill roads  exceed 10% inclination.
Votice, Mělník, and we reach Praga where Gigi re-joins the group by plane, so we can proceed together.
The squad of 5 is complete again! For the record, I am the only woman.
Praga is undoubtely fascinating, I just love it.
Pretty soon we are leaving Czech Republic, hitting the road towards Zagan, Gorzow, and in Rostock we catch a ferry to Gedser, Denmark. We are lucky enough to catch the last boat of the night at about 23.30. We reach our destination at 1.05AM and spend a rough night on some benches. The following morning within 168km we reach Copenhagen2191km after we are checking in for our 3 hours flight to Reykjavik, Iceland.

Once there the objective was to complete the perimeter of the Island on our bikes, so every day we left early in the morning, accompanied by a very non-summer-ish temperature of -2°, -3° down to a minimum of -7/-10° during the day, so we had to stay warm and wear pretty much all of our best winter equipment. Endless rain and endless wind, but it turned out to be a great adventure, exciting and filled with breath-taking views.

We opted to proceed counterclockwise. The capital is very cozy, very livable.
We settle down at a camping site, take a look at our maps and double check all our stops.
It’s pretty much winter here, so we take cover in our tents and wait for the next day to proceed in our trip.
We pass by waterfalls, lunar landscapes, glaciers, volcanoes…. since civilisation is still rather near we make sure to post the 726 postcards, buying 101.450ISK (about 650€) worth of stamps.
We are ready to dive in the journey to live this wild land, so we pass Selfoss, Vik, Hofn, Stafafell, and have the pleasure to stand next to the immense Hvannadalshnjúkur, 2118m tall.
Sheep and horses are small dots populating the vast  grasslands, the yellow beak seagulls and seagulls twirl by the sea. I won’t even take chances and try to pronunce any city’s name, but the people are warm and welcoming. We are free to set camp anywhere or alternatively spend the night in schools for just a few Euros, or again sleep in one of the cute b&bs around the island.
Skógafoss waterfall is mesmerising, such a water mass jumping right down towards the ground.
We proceed towards Laugar, Myvatn, where the presence of countless lakes unfortunately attracts an unbearable amount of mosquitos, so we push even faster on the pedals. Another wonderful waterfall in Lyosav, then we reach Akureyri, Iceland’s second biggest city. Our tour around the country is almost completed and emotions are piling up.
Beatiful fjords, breath-taking views such as Flugumyri, Laugarbakki, Lambhagi or Borgarnes.
In Borgarfj the wind blows so strongly that we have to step off our bikes and struggle to push them on foot. Soon after we manage close the circle in Reykjavik.
We jump on a plane and 3h after from Reykjavik we land back in Europe’s mainland in Amsterdam, third part of our fantastic journey that will lead us back to Verbania.
Iceland constituted 1571 km of covered distance and is a land we wish to return to. Amsterdam though, is completely the opposite: sun and warm welcome us to the Netherlands.
We head straight to Belgium, where we get to spend a few hours in the enchanting Anversa.
We hit the road again headed to Waterloo, Anseremme, and towards France from there where we encounter the river Meuse and finally get to Dinant with its characteristic bridge, decorated with colorful saxophones.
The road is up and down, with peaks of 11% inclination.
Stenay, Montras, Verdun where we visit the International Peace Museum.
Chambres d’hôtes (guest rooms) restore our tired bodies. In Neufchateau, we pass by Joan D’Arc’s house.
Cornimont, Belfort, and we can see the Swiss border of St. Croix, located at about 1100mt of altitude. It is downhill from there to Yverdon-les-Bains, the place where I was born.
At that stage we can afford to speed up quite a bit towards our final destination Verbania: Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, Martigny in a rapid sequence.

Thursday the 25th of August 2011, km202 h.12

Leg of the journey: Martigny – Switzerland, Verbania – Piedmont

The night we spent  before arriving in Martigny was long, cold and uncomfortable, the wind never ceased to blow, but luckily we camped right by a building that offered us some cover from the cold breeze. My hands were tingly the whole time.

In the morning we got to Martigny, had a quick breakfast in a cafè and left to reach Sion. Few kilometers in this segment, Tiziano loses his pedals, which literally fall off his bike. We are stuck. What to do now? We decide to hitch-hike and eventually a kind hearted truck driver agrees to take Tiziano and his broken bycicle to Sion, where we decide to tap in and contact each other again.

Once in Sion we spot him talking with the truck driver, but there are no good news since it seems impossible to have his ride fixed any time soon.

The truck driver is kind enough to take him to Sierre, but the answer won’t change, nobody is able to fix such a serious damage in short time. We agree to meet again in Briga.

Tiziano is forced to catch a train there but is able to eventually contact his good friend Florido Barale, who owns several bike repair shops ciclo- in Val d’Ossola. The man hooks Tiziano up with a trusted person who will keep the broken bike and provide him with a replacement.

The last 20km leading to Briga are the worst with the strongest of winds blowing against us.

We are finally able to regroup outside a grocery store in Briga, eat something, to then face the last uphill towards Passo del Sempione, altitude 2005 m. It is 14.25 and the weather is nice and warm.

By 18.15 we reach the Pass, producing a great effort between the loaded bycicles and the heath. But we are home, almost home!

Milena, di mi&ti

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