Friday, 22 March 2013

Milan to Rapallo - The Long Saturday - Part 3

Not wanting to dwell too much on the fact that my day of climbing was still not over, I set about riding uphill. The gradient was steep and very quickly the Saturday night revellers in Montebruno became a small detail a long way below me. The road went into woodland and there were no longer any streetlights. It was scary. No way would I be able to ride through that!

I dropped down back into the village to go and ask the locals about taxi firms. The old boys in the bar gave me very intriguing looks as I walked in. To them, I might as well have been a martian. Cycling Lycra could hardly be described as typical Saturday night glad rags!

When I told the folks where I was headed they immediately told me not to bother. At this rate I wouldn't get to Rapallo until the following day. There was no taxi firm in the village, so I would have to contact a company in Rapallo or Genova and it would cost me a fortune. I should stop giving myself a hard time and just stay in Montebruno. They knew a lady who ran a B&B - I could stay there.

I was duly pointed in the direction of the hostellerie, and knocked at their door - silence. I rang the bell, and asked a few locals if they knew of any other B&Bs in Montebruno, but this was the only one. There had been a village festival that day so many people, including the proprietor of the B&B had gone out for the night.
When I rang the taxi firm they confirmed what the locals had said. The fare would cost a fortune - 200euros!

So, there was only one thing for it - ride over the hill. By this time it was around 10.30pm. I rang the hotel in Rapallo to say I was still on my way. The man I spoke to didn't seem phased at all, even though I said I was on my bike in Montebrune. It was probably the night porter who answered the phone and he may have just thought that Montebruno was a suburb of Rapallo!

It's a good job I had remembered my motto from the Scouts - "be prepared". I put on my flourescent jacket, some city lights and wolfed down some cereal bars had a swig of energy drink and set off. Even though I had taken precautions in case of unexpected events, I still felt pretty scared.

Every sound through the trees gave me the jitters. I suddenly kept thinking some strange creatures might leap out and bite me. Even a bogey man might grab me and drag me away somewhere. Sometimes I'd jump at the sight of my shadow when I suddenly passed a farm with its lights on.
The road twisted and turned and my lights were not bright enough to show the the road surface in detail. The only sure thing I knew was that the road was going up! I needed to watch out for where there might be potholes or ruts or gravel in the road. At one point the bike went over a big rut, and I was sure I'd got a puncture. Thankfully, the bike was fine.

About two thirds up the climb I stopped for another snack as I passed through a hamlet. A little dog came up to me and sniffed around curiously. I thought it might have barked at the sight of a stranger in his manor, but he was friendly. Some people who were returning to their home after dining in another house across the street saw me and bid me good evening, like it was the most natural thing in the world to see a cyclist sitting at the side of the street in their village at 11.30 on a Saturday night. Maybe it was normal, and I was just making a fuss over nothing! Afterall, I had never been on these country roads late at night before. How would I know what was customary practice in these strange parts?!

Eventually, the road plunged downhill. Thank God. Sadly, I couldn't enjoy it since my eyes were peeled, focused solidly on every hairpin as the road girated through the pitch black. It was quite cold and an autumn fog had now descended. I was glad I had high vis clothing, and also an extra coat. Although I was going downhill for over half an hour, I had no idea which way I was facing. I had expected to see something glistening in the distance that looked like the sea. But all I saw were trees.

In fact, it looked as though I was even going further inland and away from the coast. It was pitch black so there was no chance of reading a map. I had come up to a few junctions and not been entirely sure which way to go so I had plumped for a right turn on a hunch that this road led towards the sea. Could I have missed a turn? Might I be heading back towards Montebruno? I wanted to panic, but realised I really needed to keep myself together. There was no one around, and I had to somehow make sure I arrived somewhere that had warm, indoor accommodation!
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