Aug 31, 2006

Brenta Dolomites

8/31/06 Brenta Dolomites Part1
8/31/06 Brenta Dolomites Part1 magnify

August 31, 2006

Okay, so I didn’t notice that I lost an hour driving from Nice to Borzago. I got up at what I thought was 6:30 and it really was 7:30am. I was having breakfast still when Delio, my guide came to meet me. Talk about being on time. Alas, he was not a young, dashing guide. Nevertheless, Delio has one of those faces that I seem to have seen before, weatherworn and friendly. He was very nice to suggest that we not rush; believe me, I was tired of rushing.

First snag for the morning….the first Bancomat would not take my card. The second one did, but I only took out what I needed thinking it was a limit thing that was working against me.

It’s chilly and I sadly realized I’d left my gloves in the car.

We arrive at Rifugio Valinesella and start the hike. It’s immediately uphill. BAM – first step and you are going up. Average age of the people around me….55 and up. I am the only one huffing. It gets worse when you try to hide it.

Rifugio Casinei is the first stop. I don’t notice any cold anymore. Ten minutes…Delio takes a smoke.

Up, up and away…I’m getting used to the monotony – the path really only goes one way – up. But what did I expect!! It’s the Dolomites! Thankfully the average age is going down.

We arrive at Rifugio Tuckett, a place notorious for bad food and smelly rooms. I bought the most expensive water yet – Euro 4,00 (something like $5.30)

Instead we hiked down-hill (reprieve for only a moment) and then back up-hill to Rifugio Brentei for lunch. On the way I smell something stinky and think “Man, I need a bath” Only a few seconds pass when Delio turns to me and comments “You smell that bad smell?”

I think, “I must REEK!!!!”

He continues, “It’s the kaka from the deer.” I couldn’t be more relieved.

At the refugio, there is a memorial dedicated to climbers who have lost their lives over the years. The few I looked at were all in the 20 – 30 year range. So sad but I guess I'd rather die young doing something I was passionate about.

The last hour to Rifugio Alimonta was the toughest. It was after a meal; it was all uphill; it was on gravelly rock; at the end of a long day. With each step, I kept saying, “Posso, posso, posso” - oh forget bloody Italian! My body understands English “I can, I can, I can.”

Alimonta was a pleasant surprise – right down to the lie Delio told the owners. He was taking a famous American actress from California on a trek. It explains why they stared long and hard at me when I came in. They were having trouble placing my face.

The rooms were more than comfortable. Down comforters and sheets already were provided. Newly renovated bathrooms and eating area. And yes, I loved the hardware. If only I had a screwdriver…..

I met Eddie, the only other English speaking person there….traveling alone from London. How can I describe Eddie…think of a rabbit and you’ll get a visual. But that’s where the comparison ends. For all Eddie’s dweebishness, he was fearless and self assured, taking on the ferrate on his own…knowing he’d had vertigo in the past. Talk about conquering fears.

By the way – cell phones work up in this wild and forsaken place. Wish I’d carried mine along….

There was a general stir when a bunch of climbers came in towards the end of the day. I’m sure every woman noticed and just about every man envied. They were mostly tall, dark and good-looking. They were in excellent physical shape and it didn’t hurt that several were not wearing shirts. It was really hard to not stare and then every time I did look over, Delio would start talking and I’d have to look away to pay attention to him. At least he did me a favor and helped me keep from drooling.

I wish I could say I slept well and was refreshed for the next day’s journey. NO. A very large German slept on the bunk above mine and snored in ascending notes practically the entire night. When his wife joined in I knew it was going to be a long night.


Aug 30, 2006

Notes to self on the first day....

Entry for August 30, From London to Borzago
Entry for August 30, From London to Borzago magnify

August 30, 2006

Must have’s before 6am: (completely sarcastic here...)

  • The wrong time: My clock was set 45 minutes fast (how did that happen???) so I got up that much earlier to get ready for my flight at 6 this morning. That would have been wonderful sweet sleep….
  • Being stuck in close quarters with women wearing cheap perfume.
  • Almost being bowled over by a big, bald headed man. He didn’t even slow down.
  • Easyjet’s recycled air smelling like exhaust and then baby farts.

Nice...just how I wanted to start my day.

Picked up the car, in Nice France, and started my journey into Italy. It was wonderfully warm and I loved the drive….until I realized the hotel was much further that expected. Then it wasn’t a nice, casual, sightseeing drive….it was a mad dash to get to my destination so I could rest up for my trek the next day. Yes, I am an idiot who planned to fly from California to London, sleep one night and catch an insanely early flight the next morning so I can DRIVE from Nice to Lake Garda.

Look it up on a map and tell me if I didn't leave my marbles somewhere when I made these plans. I am sure this brings to mind some marvelously idiotic things you've done too.

Note to self: follow the cars ahead of you when in doubt. At the toll, I went down a lane that didn’t have a line. That was because it was, um, closed. I had to reverse out and start again.

Along the way I stopped long enough to take some photos – Torbole was breathtaking coming around a bend. But I had two minutes to enjoy it. And on the road again. (Photo above)

Stayed at Hotel Moleta in Borzago – a little town that I thought would never arrive. I cried that I finally was standing still. Jet lag and driving really takes it out of you.

So far it’s hard to believe I am on vacation.


Aug 29, 2006

Only the beginning....

It started yeeeeears ago when I saw "The Godfather". I know, I know....you are thinking I saw a romanticized version of Italy. Well I had to see it for myself and for three years I planned and planned. Money. that was the problem for me because I wanted to spend three blissful months traveling and that requires mula.

I'll spare you and myself the details of the savings but finally, in August 2006 I found myself on a flight to Europe eager to begin my adventure.

For many, it is easier to just take a direct flight to Milan or Rome and be done with it. I have the mentality that once the day arrives for my flight, I am on vacation and everything along the way is part of the experience. So I chose to do the cheap version but time consuming itinerario. I flew to London where I found the cheapest fare with the intention of catching a hop-over flight. On this particular occasion was arriving late at night and flying out early the next morning. There are many buses or shuttles that will take you to your hotel, some cost a small fee but others are complimentary. However, at the London airport is an avant garde hotel that rents cabins on the hour (NO, if you have a dirty mind like me, that is not what I meant) for travellers who only need a place to crash between flights. I found it to be extrememly comfortable with soft beds with comforters, bathroom, TV with internet capability, internet connections, radio, wake up service....exactly like a hotel except for a couple of things. Space and a view. But hey, if you are only going to sleep that isn't really that relevant. It's a compact cube but it has everything you need or could want.

What is it's name again?....Yotel. Don't laugh. It's a good deal (if you aren't exchanging a weak American dollar) and you will sleep well.

http://www.yotel.com/ Check it out.