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Day 15:Fidenza to Aulla 74m (120km)

Got up at 6am (still dark) and out by 7am as sun was rising. It is so delightful riding in the coolness of the morning. Last  night, the Polish parish priest who is looked after by his parents, spoilt me. They provided me with food and wine, with no expectation of payment.

Passo della Cissa This climb dominated the day’s journey, landing right in the middle of the route. Though not in the same category as the Gd St Bernard, the climbing begins (seriously) 36km (23m) from the top. So that occupied about three hours, taking photos on the way up, and meeting a few very interesting VF pilgrims.

This Dutch couple (I hope they will be in touch to remind me of their names) started their trek a few days ago to complete the final 600kms to Rome (she had done stages of the route before). Charming people and I hope to meet them again. (Delighted to say they got back in touch with me on January 6th 2011 and they are called Peter Lammers and Stans Ligthart. They finished their pilgrimage on the October 29th).

This German gentleman had taken up long-distance cycling only 4  years ago, and has completed the route to Santiago, and has started the VF in  Milan.He said he used to weigh 86kilos and is now down to 70. No wonder! If you look carefully behind him, he is towing a trailer.

Motor bikers I had been warned the Passo della Cissa was a favourite climb for bikers from Parma. They always “hunt in packs” (usually of six or more) and they race up behind you and tear around the corners. They stop at their favourite watering hole and stand around admiring each others’ bikes and, yes, they are all men! All in their mid-forties and above and this is obviously their mid-life rejuvenation activity. However, some do come to grief, as you’ll see here.

An invention needed. Any volunteers? When I’m climbing big mountains, I always begin wondering how I can save weight. For some a few pounds of body-weight would help! But then I got wondering…….My drinking water (1.5ltrs) weighs about 1.5kilos, and I have both bottles full before beginning a climb. What if someone developed weightless water (or its equivalent)? There would be a good market for it amongst cyclists and walkers.

Some views from the climb today.

Castle accommodation I am using a computer at the Castle of Terrarossa, and have just been informed by the warden that I can stay the night! In fact, he will give me the key and I will have this enormous place all to myself. My first question, of course, was to ask if there are any ghosts! He assures me there aren’t any………………………….