The instructions for a 28k bike ride through the Italian hillsides said ‘moderate difficulty; time 11/2 hours’
At 9am it was already boiling hot so we took plenty of water and, even allowing for getting lost and plenty of rests to admire the view, expected to be home for a late lunch.
I have to tell you that Bradley Wiggins could have done it in that time, but only if he had had gangs labouring with machetes in front of him, followed up by the full road-laying team from McAlpine.
The paved road in town became a dirt track through fields (look! A bee-eater!) became a precipitous ravine to the bed of a boulder-strewn bed of a stream became an impenetrable path through oak forests.
Pushing up hills, cycling for one minute, off to push and struggle for ten more. Wild roses and razor-wire brambles joined hands like bouncers at a rustic nightclub as the path closed in and we imagined stepping on sleeping wild boar, or vipers lurking under every branch or rock.
At the worst part, lost, we stumbled and bumped our way across a field ploughed by giants years ago and marked with a Keep Out sign. We ran out of water, and a hare got up and ran away in front of us.
Nestor’s Torrent might be that in the spring, but now it’s just a cool trickle buzzed by dragonflies, with small trout circling in the deeper pools. Off with the shoes and socks and in to cool off, while the only chiffchaff left awake in the heat called from a poplar overhead.
After that things improved, the track became recognisable as one, and then joined a proper road. No shade now, but feeling encouraged by signs to a village, we pedalled on.
The bar was open but deserted, except by Michele who gave us cold beers. An old geezer came in and fell asleep in the corner - he’s at the edge of the frame of a photo, so I can prove it.
A huge lorry driven by a woman - she’s dead centre in the next photos, smiling and happy - came to unload wood for a pizza oven. Let’s have another beer. Silence except for martins swooping up to the eaves to feed their young. Minutes passed and a car drove past. Distant sound of Eurohits of Yesteryear.
A small Fiat screeched up as though it was being chased by the cops, swerved into the car park, made a handbrake turn and was abandoned where it stopped. According to Italian law, he got out with the compulsory phone to his ear and fag in hand. Just another regular coming for a beer. More silence.
We comfortably got home in time for supper. Perfect day. Go on Bradley, show us how you’d do it!