Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 62 - La Storta - Rome - 15km

BB
Having ridden our horses into Rome and driven our car into Rome, I am dreading cycling into Rome, but actually it is far better than I expect. We locate the initial (though brief) flurry of VF signs that direct us onto the via Cassia running through La Storta, and from there use the AIVF map to guide us right up to the cycle path along the Tiber river - a journey of just under an hour. Ten minutes later we are in St Peter's Square and posing for the obligatory photograph - as easy as that - though even with the evidence in front of me, I find it difficult to believe that we have got here a second time without experiencing any major disasters.
From here we locate the pilgrim office, have our credentials stamped for the last time and receive our certificates. So now all we have to is find out about the trains home.

Of course, there has to be a hitch and it is even more frustrating, because it is entirely our own fault. We had assumed (as we assume so many things without taking the trouble to confirm them) that taking our bicycles on the train to Paris would not be a problem. Wrong. Local trains take bikes, main line ones don't. The only positive aspect in all of this is that we can now pass the information on so that future, equally unprepared pilgrims, need not make the same mistake. Anyway, we have resolved the problem by hiring a car to the Italian border and then hiring another to go on from there to France.

So now it is time for closure. We have thrown away our battered water bottles, finally given up on finding the other glove from the pair I used to have and pushed our cycling shorts down to the bottom of our panniers. The end, except for a resume from Paul on the state of our bikes, equipment and bodies after 2,000 kilometres.
PP
Overall our bikes have done remarkably well despite the hammering they have received and the weight they have carried. In total we had 14 punctures and replaced 24 individual brake blocks. The Geant bike which we also used for the second half of last year's journey is still running well with some signs that the front (only) suspension is getting tired. The Decathlon bike far exceeded what we expected and is going well other than a slight slip in the gears which we think is the result of a twist to the chain when we broke the rear gear change mechanism, just before Fidenza.
Our panier bags remain water-tight, but unfortunately the fixings are shot. Our dog basket is showing the first signs of disintegration and I am afraid will be retired.
Our digital camera just held out for the last couple of photos, but the mechanical focus and lens cover mechanism has finally died - I think through getting wet in one of the many storms, although this does not explain the sugary goop that I found on the lens. It is now added to our collection of dead electronics.
The PDA and GPS unit are fine and the laptop survives despite various abuses. The worst was down to me when I rolled out of a bunk and collapsed in a heap on the floor with the computer breaking my fall.
We have gathered 4 gigbytes of data including: 1400 photographs, 2500 voice recorded directions, 2300 wayponts and 250,000 GPS trace points. Mercifully this is now stored in 3 places and so I can sleep a bit more easily.
It is difficult to consider this year's journey as a pilgrimage, it was much more a piece of work to gather the information we need for the guide. As a consequence the opportunities for reflection, were much reduced. The bikes were both useful and a burden depending on the situation. Although they certainly took the stress from the nightly issue of finding a bed and meal, they are no substitute for the companionship of our horses. We are probably crazy to take Vasco with us wherever we go, but he so often succeeds in taking the tension out of the more difficult moments and is always successful in winning us new friends.
I think we both feel physically much fitter for the experience and the scales say I have lost 5 kilos.
Our thanks go to everyone who was in touch with encouraging messages while we were travelling. A bigger thank you for those that contributed to the charities. Thanks to those that went the extra mile in helping us. Thanks also to the makers of the M & M's that gave us the energy to keep going and Messrs Maretti and Peroni for the elixir (beer) that blocked the pain and sent us to sleep.
There is a real sense that the route is coming to life with improvements in signing, better knowledge by the communities of the asset they are lucky to share and hopefully with a wider range of information and guide-books. In Italy low cost accommodation is widely available (unless you have a dog), although more still needs to be done in France. We hope you have the opportunity to try it.

42 comments:

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