D-36 Ventimiglia (I) – Monterosso (I)

On different occasions people asked me what do I do or think when I ride without talking to anyone for so many hours in a row, where does the mind go?
Obviously this is not my situation, but once in Zacatecas, Mexico, I went to a nice modern museum that was originally a jail. On some showrooms they left the original walls exposed with the comments the prisoners wrote on them. The most interesting ones were written on the walls from the maximum security jail. They were isolated from any other person and had very little or no light. One in particular describes how the mind acts like a TV in which he is able to ‘see’ shows and ‘listen’ to music.
I understood that back in 2002 when I read it, but it is until now that I experience it. The channel that always come first is the one that tries to bring to life unfinished conversations whether they are important or just funny, and how would I improve them by ‘acting’ or ‘saying’ better or more accurate words. Real words would then come out of my mouth at the right time of the play. After some more uninterrupted kms of riding, other channels come up: I listen to music -from the mind and not the headphones- and I join the music by whistling, I see the daily lives of the imaginary people I find on empty towns -nothing really interesting, just everyday tasks-, or a common one too is seeing the forests or fields like a city of ‘people’ where you can identify different personalities and sense their reactions as they see you passing through. Not all their reactions are nice, there are all kind of feelings in there.
It is not nirvana and is not an enlightening moment, is not something that I look for, it just comes when there is nothing else to do. Everyone can do this. If the show is very repetitive or boring, I just change the channel. When there are opportunities to take good pictures, food or anything else and I stop, the show is interrupted and frequently goes back to channel one to start again.
The ‘ultimate channel’ is the one where you can actually be the producer and not just an spectator. This is where I visualize myself and feel the fact of having a nice dinner that night or a shower in the hostel, in that way the daily obstacles of riding, being tired, getting lost, or having an accident, are overcome by a higher purpose. This has also worked for where do I picture myself in the mid-term future.

I just realized that I had these episodes everyday I cycled. Now that cycling is gone, this secondary effect has disappeared too. One more thing to add to the change of lifestyle after stopping cycling, not the most important one at all, but certainly one that occupied a space.

I had my last breakfast and said goodbye to Antonello, his parents, daughter and Emilio, who took good care of me.
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Here is salsa at the door of the hotel waiting to be ridden for long hours by a good-healthy rider.

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Riding down to Ventimiglia train station, an easy, effortless and short journey.

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Getting in the market next to the train station.

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Went through this place by train. (Originally called Loano, but could not resist some photoshop)

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Arrived to Monterosso.

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D-35 Ventimiglia (I)

“Esame obiettivo: presenza di emorroidi esterne dure dolenti” describía mi médico en su reporte después de una larga espera en el cuarto de emergencias y una breve inspección.

El día de ayer fue de los más difíciles por un dure dolenti que se hacía más intenso al pasar el día. Al llegar a Ventimiglia en lugar de acampar donde tenía planeado decidí seguir el señalamiento del hotel la riserva di castel d’appio dado que todo el día había estado bajo la lluvia y aún no paraba. Los letreros no indicaban a qué distancia estaba sino sólo ponía flechas. Subí, según strava, casi 300m de altura en un tramo muy corto. Ni el cruce de los Alpes, ni la Selva Negra, ni Cebreiro, ni nada, tenían este grado de inclinación. Parecía una broma un poco pesada, el camino era casi una pared. Nunca antes me había detenido a media subida para respirar y menos a casi nivel del mar. Esto lo hice en repetidas ocasiones. Además del peso, el cansancio, la lluvia, hambre, etc sentí una pequeña anomalía en mi trasero.

Llegue al hotel, esperé a que mi ritmo cardíaco bajara a un nivel que me permitiera hacer otra actividad como caminar y hablar. Entré al lobby y la pareja que atendía no podía entender porque había hecho eso. Entre admiración y preocupación salieron a ver a salsa y me ofrecieron pagar la mitad de la mejor tarifa que tenían impresa en su lista. Mientras le agradecía miraba el hotel que parecía bastante mejor de lo que esperaba.

Subí a mi cuarto y el dolor se volvía mucho más intenso, me inspeccioné mis partes y encontré una anormalidad que de entrada pensé pinchar con un alfiler. Consulté varios forums y todo apuntaba a que eso no era buena idea. Le pregunté al señor de la recepción, que para entonces me imaginaba que era el dueño del hotel, si sabía de algún médico. Me preguntó qué tenía, le expliqué, y me dijo que él tuvo algo similar, le llamó a su mamá para pedirle su opinión y ella recomendó que me llevara al hospital dos pueblos al sur de Ventimiglia. Hoy en la mañana fuimos al hospital, en lugar de dejarme ahí, busco estacionamiento, me acompañó a emergencias y le explicó a la enfermera mi situación. Se fue y me dijo que le llamara cuando estuviera listo. Le expliqué a las enfermeras más a detalle lo que había hecho, y ambas dijeron que yo me lo había buscado y que como mínimo tendría que tener hemorroides. Pensaba que de los 11 países que había visitado, este era si no el que ofrecía el mejor servicio, el más divertido para tener una emergencia de esas.

Al lado mío estaba Manuel de 12 años que jugaba de medio campista y se había lastimado el dedo.

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Pasó Manuel con su mamá después de más de una hora de espera y poco después me llamaron. Me inspeccionaron, me pusieron pomada y me mandaron a poner suero para bajar la inflamación.

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Me prohibieron fumar, tomar café y tomar bebidas alcohólicas. Hasta ahí todo iba perfecto. Pero la lista terminó con abstención de chocolate. Si los mayas estaban hechos de maíz según el Popol Vuh, yo estaba hecho de chocolate desde hacía casi 60 días. Mi dosis diaria oscilaba entre los 100 y 400gr. Lo peor, e inevitable vendría después, cuando en cámara lenta escuché a la médico decir que no podría andar en bicicleta por lo menos una semana.
Los siguientes 7 días serían la culminación de mi viaje. El único libro que ha pasado todos los filtros de sobrepeso era el ‘Cycling-Italy, Lonely Planet’, con el cual he planeado esta ruta final como ninguna otra en mi trayecto.
En mi mejor italiano repetí lo que entendí y confirmó que eso es lo que había dicho. Como en todos los países, la médico ya había sido clara en su mensaje y ahora era la enfermera, quien sabía un poco más de mi historia, la que haría las mismas palabras un tanto más digeribles. “Ya llegaste a Italia, ahora llévatela tranquila y vete en tren a Siena” palabras más o palabras menos decía la enfermera. Era un cambio de estilo de vida al cual le había invertido mucho esfuerzo y disciplina pero sobre todo lo disfrutaba y su inercia no la detenía ningún obstáculo mas que la fecha en el calendario y lugar en el mapa: 12 de junio, Siena.
Las tarifas estaban bien explicadas y tendría que pagar alrededor de 55€ por mi visita. La enfermera me preguntó si prefería pagar ahora o que me llegara el recibo a mi dirección en México y pagarla desde allá. Le dije que ahora mismo porque no sabía si llegaría a México o no. Me dijo que lo mandaría a México y que si no la veía me olvidara de él. No me detuve a discutirle.

Pensé en cierta forma cuando alguien tiene un accidente y ya no puede caminar por algún momento. Llamé al hotel, nos pusimos de acuerdo para que me recogiera Antonello -el dueño del hotel- en una parada de autobús. Salí del hospital y, caminando en la calle entre decepción y alegría por llegar al país en bici y descartar cáncer o infección, no pude evitar soltar una carcajada al ver mi propia situación.

Cuando alguien me preguntó si no había tenido un problema mecánico en Holanda, al siguiente día tuve el primero. Ayer por la mañana alguien me preguntó qué haría si algo me pasara de salud porque veía peligroso viajar solo, a lo cual contesté que no había estado en esa situación pero que seguramente iría a un hospital si me llegara a pasar algo.

Me puse a nadar por un buen rato y comí unos ravioles con alcachofas de la zona hechos en casa.

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El mesero Emilio, cual familiar cercano, me ha atendido todo este tiempo. Lleva más de 50 años trabajando en el hotel y su papá ha sido la persona más longeva de Italia con 111 años.

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D-34 Antibes (F) – (MC) – Ventimiglia (I)

Camping and traveling by bike is one of those things that keep you very busy without seeing quick results. I spent all morning arranging things, storing stuff, and getting myself ready. A lot of work to have everything just as it was before, no improvement or anything to be seen. The kind of work that cleaners do, the best case scenario is to see no difference, otherwise something is wrong.

I finally get ready to ride myself towards the entrance of the camp site and find the owner with her daughter and company having lunch. They invited me to sit and have lunch with them but I was eager to cycle to my next destination. We started to talk and they were interested on my trip, I gladly talked about it now with a home made sangria on my hand. The camp site was built in the 50’s and now it was the 2nd and 3rd generation that was taking care of it. This was the typical, “I left my office job to take care of the family business at the beach”. We had a nice chat, shared some pictures and they were nice enough to not charge me for the night.

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I kept thinking about the 80 year old painter I met yesterday. It was a great example not only because of his age but the courage it takes to go to very different countries by only speaking French. I did not consider myself much of a traveller to do all what he has done on so many countries. I don’t enjoy much being a tourist, if there is something I really want to see about a place I do it and then flee from the area as soon as I can. Otherwise I’m fascinated by being a local person wherever I go.
At my age and with what I’ve gone through, I’m not embarrassed to recognize this, when I arrived to Bruges I left my stuff in the hostel, bought food and a white cloudy local beer. I ate and then took the beer and a book to sit at one of the main plazas, it was a bit cold but very sunny, the perfect combination for everyone to come out. A couple sat next to me with a camera, a map, a bottle of water, and that particular rush tourist have to see everything around them even if they haven’t done a tenth of that at their own hometown and even if they will forget everything they learn the very next day. They asked me how long I’ve been in town -expecting me to live there and being able to give some advise-. “3 hours” I ventured. They looked at me as if I was pouring my money down the drain by just sitting there. The fact of the matter is, I don’t enjoy much been a tourist, I just like to be a local everywhere I go. I have itchy feet and I like to relate to the culture I’m traveling too. So many new countries like the ones the old painter visited involved a lot of learning, maybe I’m just too lazy.

I had great weather before I got into Nice.

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I got into the city where Chagall and Matisse came from and started to rain right away. If you’ve been following my blog you will know by now that food quickly climbs up in my priority list. It was raining and it was a good opportunity to sit hopping for a clear sky. I did not feel attracted to the good restaurants, instead I could not resist stopping at a hidden rundown for-sale shop that sold sandwiches, pizzas, and sodas on a corner. The other three corners had shops that carefully thought on displaying their products nicely: a fine bakery, a gourmet ice-cream place, and a local branded body-shop. I don’t normally intend to be in the spotlight, I don’t mind if I have to or if I’m in a territory I’m comfortable with, like talking about my trip. It was rainy, I didn’t want to talk or meet people, and I was enjoying my simple vegetarian sandwich observing the people around which walked right in front and barely noticed the shop where I was or not at all. It was perfect. I’m sure even the must attention needy person dreamed to be in this situation. I changed a few words with the Iran owner and sensed two emotions competing with each other in his mood. One, I don’t care about this place cause I’m selling it, and two, I do want to do a good job selling this so I can be with my family in Sweden as soon as I can. I can tell he felt pity for me traveling alone, not having a family on my own, and not knowing where I was sleeping tonight, just like any other day for me. I liked his reaction, it matched the weather and the rundown place, the same way I saw people walking by I observed a tremendous emotion of sadness coming close. It was like watching a movie, stuff was presented to you, but it was your decision to allow that sadness affect you or enjoy it for a moment as a visitor and let it go. I shook my legs and arms to warm up, and wore my water proof jacket in the absence of a clear sky.

Monaco was a nice country to ride through but somehow difficult with all those little roads full of cars and not allowing much time to decide where to go. I followed what it seemed to be a bicycle path but became very narrow, short barriers protected the road. One from the cliff that lead to the see, and the other from the speed demons of the road. At some point salsa did no longer fit with the panniers and the last thing I wanted is seeing them fall to the sea or ran over by a car. I could not go back, so I pulled the panniers out and carried them to the end of the road and then pushed salsa. A couple of times I ended up inside a tunnel with narrow lanes. I passed by the start line where the Grand Prix just occurred and then checked out some nice yachts. The owners waved happily next to their crews when I stopped for pictures.

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The rest of the road back to France and then to Italy offered some great views of the towns and sea. The rain did not stop and I was a bit tired definitely not willing to camp. I found a hotel that ended up being at the tip of a hill, but was worth the climb. The receptionist -and very likely owner- reduced by half the rate after knowing where I came from. The dinner at the hotel was great.

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