Stage 46: Catanzaro Lido to Ficarella

Distance: 47.7 km

Time: 3 hours 1 minute

Speed: 15.8 km/h

Ascent: 466 metres

Total distance: 2359 km

Total time: 126 hours 25 minutes

Wordle scores: N/A, technical issue 😉

Word of the day: “attraversare” (at-tra-vair-sah-ray) – to cross

The Stoker writes:

After three nights of being catered for in Capo Rizzuto, it was a nice change to cater for ourselves last night. We arrived at our lodgings to be shown in by our hosts father, with the common southern Italian first question “Parlate Italiano?”! The apartment was great, it even had a bath, bliss after the hard day. We popped out to shop, and picked up some Calabrian sausages, dolce rather than piccante, but still quite heavy on the paprika, very tasty. An early night beckoned, and we slept well, waking this morning to a message from our hosts for today, telling us to come early as it was going to rain. Rain!

Unfortunately the Captain was so excited by his Wordle score today that he showed me before I’d had a chance to do it myself. Now, while that would be completely understandable in the case of a ‘one’, this was not a ‘one’, so today was ruled null and void 😁.

After breakfast we went in search of a bike shop for a quick tyre pump. The first had transmogrified into a barbers. The second was the other side of the railway, only accessible via a huge staircase arrangement. Third time lucky then, and with fully inflated tyres we bid goodbye to the Ionian sea and pedalled off in search of the Apennines.

There are two ways to cross from Catanzaro on the east coast over the mountains to the west coast. The first is the expressway, where bicycles are not allowed. (Mostly… 😉 See blogs passim). The second is what is presumably the ‘old’ road, and that’s the one we would be taking. To get to it, we had to wiggle round from the bike shop, including persuading a small crew of road workers to let us past their enormous trench and digger. The head worker insisted on wheeling the tandem himself past the trench, I think because he didn’t want us to accidentally drop it into the trench on his colleague’s head. The Captain hates people touching the tandem, let alone wheeling it, but he bore it well, perhaps distracted by the guy in the trench squealing “Tandem! Tandem!” repeatedly as his boss wheeled it past.

That achieved, we completed the wiggle, and joined the little trans-apennine road. I woke this morning with an unfamiliar feeling – I was really looking forward to the riding today, even the climbing. I don’t think I had realised up to that point how mentally exhausting the SS106 Jonica had been over the last two or three days. It was our only option to get to today’s crossing point, and we’d coped very well with it, but it wasn’t really the sort of route anyone would pick by choice.

We still had the headwind, and knew it would get stronger, but without the traffic the little road was lovely, winding gently upwards.

It weaved back and forth, under and over the big new road, we gained height almost imperceptibly. We had quite a few toots and waves.

The skies looked a bit threatening, and there were a few spots of rain, but nothing major. We stopped at the hour mark at an incredibly helpfully placed cafe, and quaffed some water. I was surprised to see they even had a little electric car charging point!

After the break we started up the main part of the climb, two hundred metres to climb over six kilometres, pretty gentle to start with, but with views opening up back down the valley.

We knew the last part was going to be harder, it was showing red on Gilbert’s climb display, which always means more puffing and panting.

On checking the route yesterday we realised the road was marked as being closed at the summit of the climb, so we’d plotted a ‘go-around’, which seemed to come up terribly quickly, leaving us around sixty metres vertically remaining to conquer. This would be the red part, then!

It started just fine, we had gears to spare, but the road surface deteriorated fairly quickly, and then suddenly became occasional blocks of tarmac, and then just a field!

The Captain did a quick recce, to see whether it was going to be impassable, and pronounced it doable on foot, so on foot we did it, with the tandem and our feet collecting thistles, grass and grot on the way through.

The track became more road-like, but too steep to ride, so I’m afraid we completed our heroic passage of the Apennines on foot! To be honest, it was hardly comparable to our last crossing in 2018, they are barely foothills here, but it was good to be on the summit, knowing it was all downhill for the rest of the day. It was marked by a little tower.

It was also immensely windy up there, so despite the temptation of a café, we decided to head straight down, in the hope that at lower altitude the gusts would be less, well, gusty.

Our destination today was to be a little house on an organic farm, just off the SS18, the main road which runs down the west coast of Italy. Knowing that it would be far from shops, we’d planned to stop at a centro commerciale with a big supermarket on the way, about twelve kilometres from the farm, to pick up some provisions. Our hosts had very kindly agreed to supply the heavier items, some pasta, water and milk, and we’re taking alcohol-free day today, so no need for wine. We picked up what we needed, plus some sandwiches for lunch, and just as we headed for the check-out, there was an ominous drumming on the supermarket roof. It sounded like the rain had arrived early!

When we got outside it was absolutely teeming, the panniers were already sporting puddles of water in the tops. One thing we can be confident of, after many rainy days on various tours, is that they are absolutely waterproof, so we had no fears. We stowed the food, donned our rain-jackets and pedalled off.

It was still pretty warm, and it was a strange sensation riding through the lying water, with your feet and legs being soaked by warm water!

It soon passed over, and we were able to complete our ride, arriving at the natty purple gates of the farm.

The little house is absolutely gorgeous, and our hosts have done us proud in the supplies they’ve given us, we shall eat well tonight. The products from the farm, which includes thirty-five hectares of olive groves, look fabulous, and if we were travelling by car we’d be filling the boot. Alas, on two wheels, we have to enjoy what we can while we’re here, and then move on. Which is bicycle touring in a nutshell.

The Captain tells me we passed by on this road in 2018, right by the gates of the farm, in fact. We’ve linked up with our 2018 route now, which will take us tomorrow to Tropea, where we will take a couple of days rest and hopefully get to swim in our third sea, the Tyrrhenian sea.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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