Sunday, 24 March 2013

Milan to Rapallo - The Long Saturday - Part 4 & Conclusion

After more twists and turns and drops I reached a T-junction with a main road. At this point there were streetlights and even a few cars. Not being entirely sure where I was, I consulted the map and found that I was in Cicagna. On the map it did not look far from the coast, but talking to the locals I realised I still had some way to go. And, guess what, more climbing!!

I popped into a bar where there were alot of people singing, dancing and merrymaking. It looked like the folks were having a salsa evening and people were speaking in Spanish. They were a little bemused to see a cycle tourist walking into their joint! "You want to go to Rapallo? Seriously, my friend. It's too far for you to travel. You've got a 10km climb up a steep hill and at this time of night going up that steep twisty road with no proper lights would be dangerous! Stay here, have a party. We have a spare room."

I still felt keen to stick to the plan. Anyway, my legs were too tired to do any salsa dancing and dancing in cycle racing shoes would look ridiculous! The woman then ended up having a debate with another reveller who seemed a bit drunk but was suggesting that I ride 20km down to Chiavari and then ride up a shorter easier climb to Rapallo. I didn't really know who I should believe, but in any case I was fed up of cycling. It was after midnight, and if I could find a taxi that would be the best solution for me.

The folks were friendly and they offered me a mojito, which made a change from the energy drinks I'd gotten a bit sick of. The guys were from Colombia and they were having an end of summer party. They were impressed at my cycling challenge, though the woman seemed worried about me. She probably thought I was half crazy! The revellers wished me a safe journey, but not without warning me again not to take the direct road to Rapallo.

A few streets away I found an old man's local bar, and asked them about taxi ranks. Initially they said there was no firm in Cicagna, but if I headed 18km down the main road to Chiavari I would find taxi companies there and they could take me to Rapallo. I really wasn't in the mood to do any cycling. I had had enough of turning pedals. I asked if they had a telephone number but no one did.

The guys must have read the pained expression on my face when I realised I may have to do more riding. In the end, they called over another man who was a taxi driver but was not on duty that night. He agreed to take me to Rapallo. His usual catchment area was Genova, but he would be able to take me to Rapallo. At that point Higg rang me, hoping to ask me how my ride had been. "You haven't arrived there yet??" He said, shocked. "But it must be going to 1 o'clock in the morning over there!"

"Er, yeah. But it's ok, I've found a guy who is going to give me a lift to the hotel." I explained to him.

He was mystified. "But what are you doing out riding at this time of the night, and who is this man?"

I was trying to talk to him but the taxi driver was asking me what time I wanted to leave. He was having a coffee and wanted to finish that before leaving. The bar man was also asking if I wanted a coffee, and the pals of the taxi driver were curiously asking about where I was from, how far I'd ridden etc. I couldn't properly answer Higg's questions while trying to make pleasantries in Italian with the blokes in the bar. Higg was a little annoyed at not being able to get proper answers from me, and being in London, powerless to help me out. The the last thing he heard from me, was when I told him I had to go, as I needed to load my bike into the taxi man's car.

The sight of a bona fide taxi cab gave me reassurance that this guy was not a crazy or a pervert, so I was happy to get in.

Rapallo was not far away - about 13km. However, it was quite a climb to get there. The taxi driver, who was called Giovanni, agreed that this would have been a pretty tough and dangerous climb to do at that time of night. It was different to the previous climb I had done from Montebrune. This climb to Rapallo was steeper to climb and to descend. It was narrower, twistier and the road surface was poor. I was quite relieved to be now sailing up this climb effortlessly!

Giovanni described the elite Milan-Rapallo cycle race that takes place in late September - a race I hadn't realised existed. Apparently it is roughly 210km, so not quite as long as the Milan-San Remo but just as challenging. Again, the riders face a few climbs near the finish which are even tougher than the Poggio and Cipressa ascents of the Classica Primavera.

I am sure that riding this section over to Rapallo during the day would have given some beautiful views of the sea below. The area looked quite dramatic, with lots of rocky outcrops mixed with palm trees and other interesting vegetation - at least that's what I could only vaguely make out at 1.30am!

Finally, I arrived at my hotel in Rapallo, forever grateful to Giovanni, who made sure to get me to the place safely. The receptionist at the hotel was pleased and quite relieved to see me. "We knew you would arrive." (which probably meant they'd been worried about what had happened to me!)

I was pleased to see my bed, and the room looked very comfortable - exactly what I needed. From what I saw of Rapallo at almost 2 o'clock in the morning the place had a Riviera feel about it. I went to bed, looking forward to what I would see in the morning - but not without texting Higg to let him know I had reached my destination safely. My long Saturday was finally over!

For those interested, this is the route which I took.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed my ride, but as you have probably gathered, it was a little bit too long! I made a few mistakes in the mapping out of my ride. I did not have a GPS and I had not researched the route properly beforehand. I completely miscalculated the distance and the amount of hill-climbing for the route, which was almost 210km and included God knows how many metres of ascent. My lack of fitness had not helped either!

Thankfully, I has set out with a back-up pack in case of the unexpected (as I usually do). The fact that I did this ride on a sunny day in September when the days were still reasonably long meant that conditions were not too miserable!

Finally, the people I talked to along the way were very helpful, friendly and kind. That made all the difference to this trip.

I would not wish to go through these inconveniences again, and I would not recommend it to anyone. However, when I look back at it I think that it was an interesting adventure which put me to the test. And I did not come out too badly in the end.




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