The Ricks capped the Africa leg of their journey off with a 2 night ferry ride to Europe. Kit initially had a hard time summoning the same enthusiasm for sitting on a boat for 36 hours that Kyle and Elise did. But that was quickly remedied with a bottle of Grappa and some Jack Elise had snuck in all the way from America.
Upon arrival in Europe, the Ricks got their affairs in order and parted ways. Kyle and Elise were headed for another ferry in Marseilles while Kit had his sights set on the Alps.
Arrival in the Alps
After a brief stint along the Southern coast of France culminating in a visit to Nice and Monaco, Kit turned his KTM North into the foothills of the Maritime Alps.
As he steadily climbed the temperate Mediterranean climate quickly fell away. His first night spent camping at altitude near Isola 2000 saw temperatures drop to near freezing. Since he lacked the proper gear for prolonged living in these conditions (or the proper temperament for that matter, it had been sunny and 80 degrees less than a week ago in Morocco!) Kit pushed to make Col de la Lombarde and the Italian border the next morning.
Descent into Italy
Kit made the summit late in the morning. The morning fog clearing and the temperatures quickly rising to more reasonable levels. Wonders of fall in the Alps were unfolding before him.
The proceeding plunge down took Kit along narrow but well maintained mountain roads. As he dropped down into Italy, the hills around him were on fire with the shades of late fall.
Kit took a break to tour a decaying fortress guarding the entrance to the valley he had just conquered. Built by Charles Albert of Savoy in 1834 it was later bombed by the Allies in World War II and abandoned. Now in various states of restoration, it’s 1200m of massive walls guarding the steep valley are still quite impressive to walk along.
Across the Piedmont and into Lombardy
Avoiding the highways, Kit wandered his way across the rolling hills of Northern Italy’s hinterland. He stopped occasionally along the way to admire rural churches or have a caffè latte at a local caffeteria. What the region lacked in expansive vistas or interesting motorcycling it made up for with rustic charm.
Along the way Kit had been keeping an eye out for a local moto shop of the type that had been so ubiquitous in Africa. Eventually he happened upon an outfit north of Asti that looked like it could help him take care of a few of the items on his to do list without too much of a fuss.
The repair shop was owned by two brothers. One of whom ran the desk while the other supervised the busy garage. Being near the end of the day, both came out to inspect Kit’s bike and of course tell him how things should be done. This was all translated through one brother’s kindly wife who spoke English much better than Kit spoke Italian, all while her son looked on.
City life in Milan
Skipping many of the famous Italian cities in return for a chance to ride through he Alps, Kit figured it was time to hit at least one urban Italian metropolis before he climbed back up into the mountains in the East. Armed with the name of the hostel that supposedly had secure motorcycle parking, Kit headed into the fray of navigating the busy city at rush hour. In town he made his way to the hostel at nightfall and proceeded to clean himself up and dive into the city nightlife. An invite to a house party at a nearby college sounded like a welcome change to the previous months spent traveling conservative Africa or camping alone in the hills.
The next morning, Kit woke up ‘early’ and prepared to make the final few hours to his main destination in Italy: Lake Garda.
Taking flight above the largest lake in Italy
On her way over from America, Elise had gone to great trouble to retrieve and transport Kit’s paragliding harness and wing to him in Africa. Now taking up a lot of space in his tail bag, Kit figured it was time to put these goods to use. It just so happens that the incredibly steep and beautiful mountains surrounding Lake Garda are serviced by a cable car (funivia), making it one of the top paragliding locations in the world.
Other than some brief flights at Isola 2000 a few days prior, this wing (Swing Mirage 11.5m) was new to Kit so he spent his first day at a local training hill. He worked on the skills to foot launch a wing that was designed to be launched from skis due to its speed. After a long day of flying the small hill, hiking back up, and repeating, Kit was confident he could foot launch and land the Mirage. With the weather clearing on the epic Monte Baldo massif, Kit boarded the funivia in the afternoon and headed up almost 2000m above the town of Malcesine on the shores of lake Garda.
The flight that followed was incredible for many reasons. Due to weather Kit and the other pilots had waited until near sunset for the winds to die down enough for a safe launch. The downside to this was a layer of clouds began to form in the late afternoon. The clouds were well below launch and word from the landing area was that it was clear below. But the cloud band still partly obscured sight of the landing area from the launch over a mile above and made for an intimidating flight plan, particularly for Kit who had never flow here before.
Kit elected to wait to follow another experienced pilot down. The final soar above and then through the clouds at sunset was an amazing experience. Though perhaps one Kit wasn’t able to fully appreciate amidst the nervousness of such a technically demanding flight.
Over the next few days Kit worked around the changing weather of late fall to fly this amazing playground as much as possible.
Truly this was a spectacular place. One could spend a life time exploring it’s ridges, sailing it’s waters, riding its twisting roads and soaring it’s skies!