Penne to Paganica (via Campo Imperatore) (82 kms)
After a good nights sleep, we
were both anxious to see whether the weather had improved. Well, at
least it wasn't raining, but the clouds were still very low. We talked
about changing the route for today, a bit concerned that going over the
Campo Imperatore in this foggy weather might not be a sensible idea.
I'm glad to say recklessness prevailed, and we decided to go for it anyway.
We left the hotel for an easy
start to Farindola where we stocked up on paninis and sports socks.
Yes, the ubiquitous sock seller was there - in the middle of nowhere and as
soon as we stopped outside the panini shop in as quiet a place as you can
imagine, he swooped on us. Ever the suckers, we bought a pack each
from him (about 3 euros for 3 pairs of socks) and I have to say - they were
good socks. I still have mine.
So, suitably attired and with
the paninis in the panniers, we started the climb through Vado di Sole up to
the Campo Imperatore. This is a big climb of around 35 km's we
reckoned. Slogging away, with the heavy panniers, we were soon in
dense cloud, with a long way to go. The bravado earlier in the morning
didn't seem so sensible now, as we made small talk as we climbed about the
number of wolves and bears in the Gran Sasso. This really is a great
climb. A very steady gradient that goes on and on and on.
Nearing the top, we started to get above the cloud line and we were in and
out of the clouds for the last half an hour. It was about this time
that we noticed the back tyre was looking a little flat. Definitely a
slow puncture but we decided to pump it up and plough on to the top, not
wanting to stop so near the summit.
As we came over the top, we
were out of the cloud and the sun started to appear. A tremendous
plain stretched before us and we could just make out the ribbon of road
stretching away in the distance. It had been a fabulous climb.
To say the road was quiet is an understatement. We were passed by a
total of 2 cars on the climb. That was in just under 4 hours. A
few more cars (lets say 6) came down in the opposite direction. It was
as if the road was closed!
We rode down onto the plain
and stopped by a closed Refugio with some picnic benches outside, to change
the tube on the rear wheel. While we were doing this, 4 Italians drove
up in a car. They were obviously set for doing some hiking, but first
of all, they sat down at one of the tables, got the picnic out, and uncorked
a bottle of sparkling wine. Class or what ;-)
Once repaired, we headed off
along the plain (not as flat as it looked), and eventually started a
brilliant descent through Fonte Cerrato and on to the SS17 to Camarda.
We stopped for a coffee there, and it was just after we left that we
punctured again - front wheel this time, after I ran over a stone in the
Originally we'd intended to
head down into L'Aquila, but we liked the look of Paganica and found a great
hotel (Hotel Rosa) which cost us 85euro's a night (including breakfast).
As it turned out, we were probably wise to stay here, as we were told that
L'Aquila was full of TV crews and the like who were following the Giro
d'Italia. Once in the room, we patched the 2 inner tubes, and then
went down for dinner, with 2 litres of wine. Finally turned in at
12:30 after a great day.