Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 24 - Ostello della Cisa to Sarzana

After yesterday's huge day of climbing, we kind of enjoyed the remoteness of the ostello. No internet, no tv after a days riding you tend to just vege out wasting time with either of those two. Instead we relaxed with a few beers out on the terrace admiring the views and enjoying the sun between clouds. The Cisa is renowned for Ferraris and motorcycles, only 50k from Monza the home of Ferrari the weekend are supposedly a parade of them flying up the perfect bends. On a Monday arvo we only saw the occasional moto, more likely tractors!

Our accom included dinner, which is always a gamble. Sometime after 7pm they told us, 4hrs wait when we arrived, already starving and no spare food in our bags. 7 arrived and no movement, 8pm almost arrived and we saw some movement, "Cena Pronto!" He calls out, a nice simple 3 course meal, tortileni, salad and a sausage. With a glass of vino

We later learn that no one running the place stays at the ostello, and we are the only guests, meaning we are to be left alone on top of a mountain, in a giant old building! He shows us how to lock the door and is off, still twilight outside, images of all the horror movies ever seen start to come to mind. So went go around closing all the windows, there are heaps and they are all left wide open!

We had a good although uneasy nights sleep, the wind whipped up overnight, with a few of the shutters clacking in the wind, waking us each time at first. But we wake live and well, to mostly blue skies with some early fog burning off in the sun.

Top of the Cisa not even half the GSB
Ostello della Cisa
Here comes the fun
Can see why the Ferraris like it

After our "interesting" breakfast of instant coffee and tostadas with packet maramlade we were off to climb the final few k's of the Cisa pass since the ostello is not quite at the top. With almost no traffic we cruised to the summit with ease, it's a really gradual climb at the finish. Now for the descent! The other side was much steeper and with quite a good surface. We had around 10k of sweeping bends still to ourlseves with only a few cars coming past.

Rolling into Pontremoli
Pontremoli bar, pity this one was actually shut

The views on the way down were spectactular again, Almost at the bottom we passed through a heap of small villages which were starting to come to life. We then arrived in Pontremoli which was a really nice little village, with lots happening in the old town. So we found a nice little coffee stop and had second breakfast and uploaded last nights blog, since we didn't have internet!

Pontremoli coffee stop

Back on the road, instead of climbing back up into the vineyards we took the cycle route which followed backroads through more villages all the way to Aulla. It was a great ride and we had made great time, with a little climbing but mostly still descending.

Tractor back! Say what??!
Looking more Tuscan

Stopping for lunch just on the edge of Aulla which was an average looking town we only had about 13k left on the road to Sarzana. Looking at the map the cycle route climbed up the mountain on the outskirts of town and then followed some paved and fireroads around a few villages joining up with the road again into Sarzana.

Yep we are going right
Climbing up to Monte Grosso
Little hill towns everywhere

With plenty of time up our sleeves we thought we might as well take the scenic route.

With a really nice although steep paved climb up out of the village, we got to a small village and thought we had followed the directions to the cycle route knowing there was a walking route described as strenuous over the face of the mountain. Arriving down the bottom of a long descent we hadn't come across the cycle route turnoff. That was when we should have turned around! Looking at my map however it looked easy enough to do the first bit of the walking track and then join up to a Fireroad further up. The walking track was not too bad at first, a few steep sections, and a few bits were we had to get off and walk. Then we got to a crazy steep section. So we get off and push, a few hundred metres is OK. Then we ride a few hundred more metres and a even steeper section. Not to worry the Fireroad junction is coming up! We really should have turned back. It just got steeper and steeper until we actually got to a section too steep to push the bikes loaded, so I pushed my bike up unloaded, Rishi carried 3 bags and then I pushed Rishis bike and carried one pannier. The first part like this was about 500m and the second was steeper and longer! That Fireroad junction never came, it didn't exist. So we ended up doing about 4k on mountain walking trails. Parts were so overgrown there was barely a track, and to make it worse the track was edged in vines covered in thorns. Some were so thick they would grip your skin or jersey and stop you in your tracks. I didn't even get any decent photos of the steep parts, it was getting so worrying how bad it was! It wasnt until the top I realised I should get a few shots.

Start of the walking track this was fine
Doesn't really show how steep it is, but this was still barely rideable
Getting too steep to ride, didn't get photos of the super stupid parts
That's the track, and those vines have thorns!

Checking the map on the phone every 10mins we were barely moving towards the next junction, not even knowing if it would exist! The forrest was quite dense at this stage, the views were amazing, and we were on a 1ft wide track with shrubs on one side masking the sheer drop. In the distance I could finally see bright sunshine, hoping it was the Fireroad junction I pushed ahead harder and was relieved to come out into the open!

Finally emerging
That's what Rishi thinks of that track!

Now pretty much at the top, we just had to get down, back to the road at sea level! Back on the "cycle route" we descended the rocky fire road, trying to make sure to protect the tyres. It's a fine balance between going slow enough to avoid the drops and big rocks and not braking over a sharp rock and ripping the sidewalls. After about 20mins of sketchy descending we got to some better trails and finally onto some pavement, arriving into a remote town we followed the trail signs again sending us down a really steep road paved in hollow pavers which jutted our already tired arms, then we had to climb back up on the same pavers. Finally arriving in Ponzano Supperiore we could jump back onto the paved road which would take us right into Sarzana with a quick descent and 6k of flat cool down!

Views to the coast, almost worth it??
Interesting road surface

It was a relief to arrive in town, for a short while we were a bit worried, in a remote location trying to lug 30kg bikes up the mountain, it could have easily gone badly with a sprained ankle or worse. We certainly learnt our lesson about being stubborn and not being afraid to backtrack if we can't find the suitable route.

Apertivo on another level
Ahhh first Spritz!
Well earnt dinner

Thankfully Sarzana is a really nice town, after a well earnt shower we headed into town for a couple of apertivos including our first Spritz for the trip (prosecco with Campari) and a nice meal of pasta, salad and wine in a wine bar.

Tomorrow we head to the coast with a nice easy spin at sea level, finishing with a climb back up into the hills into Lucca.



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