The small shovel I bought in a supermarket in Switzerland goes into the soft snow. I dig and dig and dig into what must be a layer of three meters snow. The sun has set, it’s dark now and with my head torch to see I’m making space in order to spent the night all comfortable here on the Falzarego Pass in northern Italy. All the soft snow has to go before the harder snow is in sight and I try to stamp the snow with my feet. Fortunately, it’s freezing and that means that the snow that has been stamped on will be hard in some time. But it all keep being soft and I go deeper and deeper. That way I keep myself busy for almost two hour before the little surface is finally good enough for my tent to put on.
I make another hole in the awning of the tent for my feet so that I can sit comfortably to melt snow and make a risotto and tea from it. So I sit all dreamy looking at the large snow wall while stirring with my do-it-yourself made pine spatula into the risotto that absorbs all the snow water.
It’s quiet, deadly quiet. Only my petrol burner whistles in the soft wind. I like to be alone in nature. Cycling the mountain passes, making a place to sleep and then cooking gives me so much to occupy my often talkative mind. This demands my full attention. Taking care of myself is the art within this adventure. Especially in these somewhat more extreme circumstances. It challenges me but on the other hand it makes everything all very simple. I have no real worries about the purpose of life, it all seems to come and go naturally. Every now and then I even experience that transcendent moment in which I completely melt with what I’m doing. Its the feeling that there are no worries and everything is ok. The mountains, the snow and me active in it, it makes me all feeling very humble but also powerful. The powerful feeling of being part of something greater than my little self so my ego is all out of sight and I’m only being present.
The next day I cycle the surprisingly beautiful Passo Tre Croci. The descent is a long way down through a beautiful natural area with almost no people living in it. There is nothing, just trees covered with snow and the rocky mountains proudly presenting themselves up in the air. It’s all wonderful and I don’t want to wish for anything else then this snowy pine trees that also smell so delicious.
“My first test,” I say to myself two days later as I walk to a COVID-19 test place in the center of the Italian town Udine. Letters, big letters say tamponi and an arrow is pointing to the right. Is tamponi a word for the large tampon on a rod that will soon go all up my nose? I neatly join the queue outside. When I come in, everything turns out to be perfectly arranged. A friend from Slovenia who speaks Italian had arranged this appointment for me. Because really no one is speaking actually good English in this place. I have to sign a few papers with a pen that is laying in a bath of disinfectant gel. Everything sticks, but I’m happy with the beautiful curly signature I put on the forms with this slippery pen. I pay the €82,- and then continue walking into a room. “Take a seat,” says a guy my age who is going to arrange this tamponi. I’m having a sit. And then he asks me a question: “How long did your hair grow?” I look at him in surprise, how long did my hair grown? I’m completely confused by this question. Is this personal or is it related to the test? “At least six months!” I explain to him. Now he looks at me in surprise. He doesn’t understand it either. His English is a puzzle with 1000 small pieces and my Italian is next to zero with only a beautiful accent. Well, at least that’s what I think. It becomes one confusing conversation that ends with a cotton swab deep in my nostril. Meh, what a strange feeling, now I have to sneeze! But the sneeze doesn’t come and I smile at the guy with a contorted face. I walk out with a form that contains a username and password to search for the results online later. To prevent me from spelling it wrong, they have put all letters and numbers and written them out extensively. This really cannot go wrong.
In a remote hotel in a desolate industrial estate in the north of Udine, I log in during a surprisingly good breakfast the next day to check wether the results are already there. Everything is in Italian, but with a few clicks I can download a form. All the mountains, snow and cycling make me feel all strong so I have every confidence in that I’ll not be carrying that COVID with me. Still, it feels like I have taken the last resit of a math exam and at this point it is really the end or a new beginning.
Negativi, it says in shaded letters. I let out a deep relieving sigh. Fortunately, I think, I can now cross the border into Slovenia with confidence. I finish breakfast and quickly jump on my bike to go south. I cycle like crazy, I don’t know why. The road is going all down and all of a sudden I hit a pebble and my rear tire starts deflating. “No!” I shout. “The wobble! The wobble!”
Repairing the tire was no problem, but I had bought a new rear tire in Switzerland. One with wich I could easily cycle in all snow and ice to come. But I could not get this tire mounted without a wobble. The tire doesn’t go in very well and especially at the valve the tire is larger than in other places. I drove with this wobble from Sils Maria to Bolzano and in Bolzona a bicycle repairman got the wobble out. It probably had to do with using a good pump. That small hand pump of mine did not provide enough pressure for the tire to plop properly into the rim. Now that I have to fix my tire on the road means that the wobble is coming back. And after replacing the inner tube, the wobble is indeed back.
“The wobble is back!” I shout loudly. “I missed you oh dear wobble! Take me to the Adriatic Sea! Oh, wobble, wobble, wobble!” And with signing this beautiful wobbly song I’m wobbling all to the Adriatic Sea and into Slovenia.
And that was it. The Dolomites have surprised me so much ignites beauty that I think she is one of worlds most beautiful devout areas for cycling. Although many passes were closed due to the winter and the snow, I’m very happy with the passes that I could cycle. Here is a list of the route through the Alps:
- Lenzerheide – 1549m
- Julier – 2284 m
- Bernina – 2328m
- Tonale – 1884m
- Mendola – 1363 m
- Costalunga – 1752m
- San Pellegrino – 1918m
- Falzarego – 2105m
- Tre Croci – 1805m
- Mauria – 1298m
In Slovenia I stayed with Gaja for a few days. I met Gaja in Thailand five years ago when I cycled to Singapore and we have always stayed in touch.
After this visit I’ve gone back into lockdown modus to celebrate the holidays at home. That with beautiful memories of me in my tent surrounded by large snow walls that are so beautifully white and they all look at me and say: “We are the snowflakes and we are with so many that we completely surrounded you! And you know, if you melt us you can make tea and we all think that’s completely okay!”
A big thanks to you, for reading this article and taking an intrest in my weary writings. It has been exciting to do this at a time where almost all countries are in complete lockdown. Even though I was mostly alone, outside on the bike and in a tent. I wish everyone a happy new year to come, that despite the circumstances dreams will never fade and may create a hopeful future for everyone.