42km Bolzano to Seiser Alm
“There can’t be many more corners,” we said to each other over and over again today as we slogged our way up the Dolomite mountains. Switchback after switchback appeared as we rose steadily into the sky. Halfway up we stopped to wet our t-shirts in a mountain stream and then kept on climbing. Bolanzo, the city where we started from this morning, sits only a little above sea level but our target was to reach the Seiser Alm, the largest stretch of pasture land in the Alps. At above 1,800m we had our work cut out for us but by now we’ve learned to take it slowly and we stopped more than once for a little nap by the side of the road; a rest for weary knees and muscles. At 5pm we finally reached the top, a full nine hours after we’d started. Our celebration was quickly halted though by a worrying scratching noise coming from Friedel’s bike and grease leaking out of her back axle. We’d just rounded the last bend and were looking forward to a good break at the top but now we had some unexpected repair work to do. So far on this trip we’ve been extremely lucky. We’ve hardly had to do anything other than clean our bikes occasionally and replace a few brake pads. Now came the test: would all the tools we carry be enough to sort the problem? We took off the back cassette to inspect the ball bearings inside the wheel hub, our first guess as to the source of the problem. We’d bought just the tool in Quebec for taking off the back cassette but then we were prevented from going further because we didn’t have the right size wrench. All of a sudden we remembered that we had meant to buy that size of spanner in London before we left but never got around to it. That’s Murphy’s Law for you. Of all the repairs we were ready for, we couldn’t do the one we needed. Andrew did manage to get a fair bit of grit out from around the area though and that seemed to subdue the sound for the time being. Now we’ll gingerly pedal the last 60km into Cortina where we should be able to find a good bike shop to have a look. Thankfully the hard climbing is behind us so even if we have to walk up the remaining hills we can coast down much of the distance. Repairs aside, we couldn’t have asked for a better view from our impromptu workshop. The craggy peaks of the Dolomites are all around us, the pastures are a lush green and filled with flowers. There are few sounds aside from the birds and crickets singing around us. A truly idyllic place to spend the night in our tent.