Day 42 Thursday July 12
Bosco Fontana, near Mantova, Italy
70km. Total 2575km.
Flat terrain. Very hot and humid. 1 broken spoke.
Montichiari; breakfast hotel, dark, hot already before 9. A long dark wood bench, copies of magazines a television, telephone, big hot cappuccinos. A voice says hello while I wait by the cycles and a truck driver invites us to have a coffee with him. He regularly drives to Italy and it has taken only 24 hours to get here so he can have a holiday and a good time instead of driving too much. He carries waste paper to Milan and said that when he wanted to go though the French Italian border tunnel his load had spread and was too wide for the tunnel. So after consultations he got a French driver to back into it to put it back in shape.
We got lost or were misled by signs many times. The day is very hot and breathtakingly humid. Tempers not good. In the valley are countless irrigation ditches filled with flowing water and tractors pumping the water out into the maize or up in the air above the crops. One of the most refreshing things to see in these hot days is a ditch full to the brim of clear rushing water. Also in these parts are the big farm houses interesting to watch as we pass. Coloured ochre or pink or cream and faded, set within trees, they provide shady havens from the dust and heat.
Often today as I cycle it is just a matter of watching the shadow in front and keeping up with it. The sky a white molten haze and the country drained of colour by the heat, there seems no interest in it, no energy anywhere, just grime and sweat. There is lunch beside a flowing waterway (a quiet ecology co-existing with the rumbling road where lorries’ down-draught sends our lunch things flying), watching the dragonflies dipping, green, turquoise black blue, white quiet butterflies moving through green watery leaves. We move onto ice creams at a noisy roadside café, it is too hot in the shade, there are many lorries on the move, (the story of Italy) We decide its time for a rest, earmark a campsite on the map and head for it.
Wait for the shops to open to buy food, but they don’t open. A man riding down the road on a sporty motorcycle with a thermally covered racquet makes a U turn to greet us in English, and to tell us that the camp site no longer exists. We do without buying any food, and go to a farm. A small road leads to the revered and only wood, Bosco Fontana, where there is a big casuna, another white pebble path leads to it. Two old people seem wary, and ask for identity cards, but are friendly. The man in a straw hat talks to us a while he says neither of us speaks the language of the other, but we understand some things. We are brought a piece of cake.
Later the kids are riding cycles in the courtyard where our tent is, they are being cyclists at the end of a world tour, running closer and closer until they run over the guy ropes. Occasionally they gather and stop, watching us.