Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 17- GSB to Pont Saint Martin- 88km

First some photos from last night! We spent the remainder of our day yesterday hiding from the storm that we JUST beat to the top of the mountain. Several beers at a cafe with a waiter from England who kept topping us up with free peanuts (must have seen the ravenous look on Bens face), a visit to the Great Saint Bernard Museum to visit the puppies, and in a break in the storm a quick walk around the mountain edge to view the lake and a glimpse into Italy. Dinner with some other pilgrims and a very early night for us with us both conking out at 8:30pm :)


Visiting the doggies
View of the lake


The church inside the hospice where we stayed

We woke this morning feeling rested and refreshed! Ready to go, we layered up for the first time of the trip, with our start temperature being an icy 4 degrees! We only had to roll about 150m to cross the border into Italy. Ciao! If yesterday was all about the climb, today was all about the descent! Leaving the mountain top at around 8:30am there was little to no traffic, just a few motorbikes, so we got to take our time, enjoy the views, and a little bit of whooping round some very nice bends. A 36km descent in all, and it took us about 1hr 15minutes including photo stops. A lot easier than the climb!


Layered up and ready to roll!!


We are in Italy!
View back to the hospice


Down we go!



Round the bend


He loved it!


Looking back it's amazing to think that we came from all the way up there!

Arriving at the bottom in Aosta, Italy, the first thing we had to do was de-layer!!! So hot!!! Second on our minds was COFFEE!! Italian coffee!! So we found a great little cafe, then we looked at each other....no one is saying "bonjour!", no more "Deux cafe s'il vous plait". We had a little moment of culture shock. So used to French after what has been over 2 weeks, I found myself automatically responding with "Oui" when asked a question, the shaking my head "Si!!". So we had our first Italian espresso (very strong!) and I procured some very good onion bread and some Nutella filled cornettos (and a language lesson from the lady behind the bar who told me they are not croissants, and that my Spanish word for onion, cebolla just won't cut it and now it will be cippola). I am the appointed "speaker" on this trip so I will now be studying furiously to learn Italian and trying to switch the French button off in my brain ;)


Our original plan yesterday was to continue to Aosta after sumitting GSB but as you know due to fatigue and the storm we decided to stay on the top. The original plan was to ride down and then stay two nights in Aosta, having a rest day, so staying at the top meant we lost our rest day. We were both feeling pretty good this morning and surprisingly the legs were in good shape! So we decided to try and get our rest day back, riding all the way to Pont Saint Martin which was to be the next days ride. It was actually a really easy 88km, what with the 36km descent, and then essentially a long long flattish ride down the valley. It felt great to just tick the legs over. There was an option to take some trails up into the vineyards which terrace the hill sides but we didn't think that would be a good idea, so stuck to the main road for the day. There was a pretty decent shoulder and the traffic wasn't too bad, so it was ok. The Italians drive like Australians so we were on defensive mode. No more waiting till it's safe to pass, they just go, if there is enough room they move over into the next lane, if not, you are squished to the very edge of the road. It's only really a problem when you get a big bus or truck passing as there is not enough room for them to move over. We emerged unscathed :) got some fantastic views of the Val d'Aosta which is peppered with castles and forts on both sides of the valley, with an enormous, fast flowing river right down the middle. Except for the eye sore that is the freeway cutting through, it's a very beautiful area. The last 20-30km of the ride was a bit of a struggle with the most amazing head wind I've ever experienced. It was a little hair raising at one point where we had a pretty awesome descent around the edge of a cliff with views down to the river. I was right on the edge of the corner with a good view to the valley floor when the gust pushed me right to the edge with a truck on the other side of me! It was a stop, unclip, take a breath and keep going kinda moment.

Enjoying the flat




Castle in the distance


Lunch stop- our first pizza



So we made it to Pont Saint Martin! We had a quick stop at a bike mechanic to try buy some chain lube (no luck) where I have found my cheats way out....when all else fails just use Spanish :D with an apology in advance I told him my Italian is not so good but I can speak Spanish, so we conversed with me speaking Spanish and the mechanic responding in Italian. It worked! So it's now my fall back. We have had some beers downstairs at the restaurant bar, a walk around town to find our dinner for later tonight (might have to be pizza again) and been to visit the amazing roman bridge here. Incredible that the Romans were able to build such an amazing structure. Apparently in medieval times they couldn't believe that it could possibly have been built by humans as they didn't have the technology or expertise in that time, so they believed that a Saint tricked the devil into building it....and hence...Pont Saint Martin :)

The view from our hotel room


Pont Saint Martin


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