The Fellowship sets out…

(Emily) After much debate, a decision was made to ride south to avoid the bad weather front that was about to sweep across northern Italy and Croatia; the plan being to go down the west coast via Florence, Sienna and possibly Rome, cutting across to Bari in the south-east from which point we could get a ferry to Croatia. This meant that Matthew could ride with us for a few more days and Jack would have the option of coming across to Dubrovnik with us or riding back up Italy to get home. We also hoped it would give Jessie some dry riding experience…

Progress down towards Bologna was slower than anticipated, so we ended up burning it on the autostrada for a while. Some great roads south from Bologna though; Jack and (by default) Jessie went tearing off, waiting for us when they got to junctions, whereas we took a more leisurely pace. Poor Jessie was all too soon experiencing the ‘numb bum’ situation so it was suggested she go with Matt for a while (far comfier, and frankly, a more sedate experience!) We were all well aware of the ominous dark clouds gathering but being camping ‘veterans’ by now, Matthew, James and I were not to be deterred from finding a site for the night. Jack’s map was great, showing scenic routes in green and also the locations of campsites so his “my sat nav is showing lots of hotels in this area…” didn’t wash. (I have to admit though, as it started to get dark and there was still no sign of the alleged campsite we were heading for, resolve did start to weaken). Nevertheless, we came upon salvation in the nick of time and of course it just had to involve a dirt track and steep grassy knoll up to where we could pitch. Not ideal for me and Matt (him because his bike is very heavy and not suited to rough terrain, me because I’m still a novice and thus still a wuss!!) Cue bike drop number two for me, from stationary though so no biggie.

It’s debatable whether this campsite was ever considered for tents (it seemed to be at the top of a mountain and had lots of permenant set up caravans, though all were abandoned at this time). Pitching up in the dark and wind was interesting, especially as for Jessie it was the first time with her Tesco value £7 jobbie, and Jack had only ever used his at a festival thus has never seen it erected sober! Good thing James and I had four torches between us so could lend them our head torches… Matt’s mallet also came in handy as the ground was rock solid and we didn’t want to risk not using pegs for fear of blowing away in the middle of the night (there was a storm brewing to be sure)!!! By 9.45 pm we were all set up but hadn’t had anything to eat since our service station stop at lunchtime. And we were in the middle of nowhere. I was not up for tackling the dirt track in the now pitch black, and Matt was worried that if he took his bike off our knoll, he wouldn’t get it back up again, so we mixed it up a bit: Jack on his bike with Jessie as pillion; Matt on James’ bike; James on mine with me as pillion. Found a great little trattoria, still in full swing despite the late hour, and enjoyed a feast of antipasti, pasta and grilled meat.

Made it back (we were all quite concerned we wouldn’t remember the way) and fell into tents, exhausted. Didn’t sleep well though – I was so convinced rain was on its way, I found myself listening out for it all night…

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