The alarm went off at 7am and we just lay there for a while pretending that it hadn’t. Our bodies were sore from riding and climbing; legs aching, fingertips tender, saddled arses keen for a rest. But we got up, had breakfast and packed away (with fewer tiffs than usual!) and headed into town to resupply.
By the time we’d stocked up on food and camping gas, it was 10:30 and first lunch was required before we started up the mountain, so we stopped in a town square for a cheese sandwich, then pedaled on up.
Today we were facing 30km of unrelenting uphill, starting at 250 meters elevation in town and going up to 1600 meters at the top of the pass. So up we went under the hot sun, stopping to drink and eat and enjoy the views in between me moaning about the heat.
It was actually a lovely climb, there were hardly any cars and the views were amazing. But it was hot and it was 30km of uphill! On the way, we saw beautiful little towns, a few friendly locals waving at us, and even some cow herders.
The little villages often seem abandoned from a distance, but there is usually a mixture of abandoned buildings and nicely maintained houses. There are a lot of disused buildings along the roads though, a mixture of farm buildings and houses.
As we got to 1300m we started to see patches of snow and it was chilly when we stopped riding. Then we’d set off again, sweating in the sunshine.
The last few switchbacks were gruelling, the sun beating down and our tired legs struggling on the steep hill. Then we found a viewpoint and thought we must be almost at the top – agh! We stopped for some biscuits and jam (as you do), and chatted to an English couple who were driving through.
Finally we set off up the last little bit. But wait! We rounded the next corner only to see that we still had a long slow stretch of more gradual uphill to do before we got to the top of the pass at 1600m. Damn. Pedal, pedal, pedal… finally, we made it! We pulled in at a picnic bench to enjoy the views and had to layer up in the cold wind.
It was now 5:30pm and we were both pretty hungry, so we put our gloves on and headed down. The way down started off steeply and we zoomed down, pulling on the breaks to take the sharp corners safely. The landscape on the far side of the mountain was totally different – trees replaced by rocky cliffs covered with yellow lichen, and the river flowing fast and steep in the gorge. It was an impressive and imposing landscape.
After a while it opened out into floodplain, there were loads of good potential wild camping spots and we found ourselves having to pedal every now and again. I was keen to ride into the next town but Dave wanted to stop so we decided to call it a day. It turned out to be a good idea – it had been a long day in the saddle and we were tired and hungry. We found a large rest area by the river to cook much needed pasta dinner and wash in the freezing cold river! Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we set up camp as the light faded and the mountains either side of the gorge became great shadows against the darkening sky.