Apollosa is a village in the hills somewhere near Benevento and the place where Massimo lives. I’m sitting in the small square just beneath the church watching the world go by…. The clock is striking 11…. people are chatting outside the bar and small supermarket…. old blokes have installed themselves for the day outside the town hall…. and of course some idiot has just blown his horn for no reason that I can fathom.
Today is a day off cycling and the plan, as far as I am aware is as follows; catch the bus to Benevento at 12 (Massimo works for the local bus company so he is making an ‘arrangement’ for me just to get on the bus and not have to buy a ticket – very Italian!) and meet my host, then spend the afternoon having a look at the town of Benevento itself. This evening we are meeting some fellow cyclists to share experiences. More of that later. At some point today I’d like to also buy a plane ticket back to the UK. It’s Ryan Air from Bari or Ryan Air from Brindisi but I need to somehow weigh the bike and bags as they cannot be more than 20 kilograms each. Anyone know the weight of a Ridgeback Panoroma?
As I said last night, I was pushing myself over the last couple of days squeezing into two days what should really have been done in three. Having been offered the accommodation at the farm stay in Sora, I choose that as the mid-point.
After my lunch (which included the chip pizza – see the picture I tweeted) I changed road onto the more major one that lead directly to Benevento. Massimo had suggested that I may not like it as it could be busy and that I might prefer to hop from village to village along the general direction on the main road. Most of the minor roads initially however were north-south and I needed ones that were heading east so for an hour or so I kept to the major road. It was quiet, good quality with a free band of Tarmac by the road that acted as a defacto cycle lane. Cars, lorries, buses could all whizz past without giving me too much cause for concern. However, once the minor roads started leading in the direction I wanted to travel I adopted those instead and for about 15 kilometres cycled through deserted villages and hamlets. The scenery continued to be stunning and in an ideal world this is how I would have continued until Benevento itself.
However, I was a little shocked when I came across a sign that, if I followed it, would lead me back onto the main road. That wasn’t shocking but the fact that it told me that Benevento was still some 64 kilometres away was. And that was via the direct main road. Goodness knows how many it was if I were to continue on the minor roads. I reflected upon the accuracy of the figure casting my mind back to the craziness of the distances that were indicated on my way from Siena to Rome. Even if the sign was wrong by 10 kilometres, that would still mean a significant ride to Benevento and the time was getting on; at this point around 3pm.
The only sensible decision was to return to the major road and slog it out which is what I did. But it was a long, long, very straight road; relentless! I could still cycle in the band to the right of the major traffic but as I approached Benevento the volume of traffic increased substantially. What had started out as a jumped up minor road was now a dual carriageway with pretensions of being a motorway.
Marcello had texted me earlier asking me to text him when I arrived at a village called Ponte. The problem was that Ponte was just an exit on the “motorway” and I didn’t really fancy stopping to text him back at that particular point. What I only found out later was that Marcello, following my track on the website and seeing that it was probably not the best of ideas to continue on the major road towards Benevento was actually waiting for me in the village ready to escort me along a disused train track that had been converted into a cycle track. Probably the first such track south of Rome and I was missing it completely only to continue on an increasingly dangerous path in the same direction. I kicked myself later.
I could see on my map that the road officially became a motorway as it approached Benevento itself so at that point I would have no choice but to use alternative roads. Which is what I did and followed the sporadic ‘centro’ signs until I found myself at the original meeting point; the train station. I didn’t mind waiting for Massimo in the least. He had gone out of his way to help me but because of circumstances I wasn’t able to profit from it.
We chatted for a while as I finished my beer and he explained his plan for the rest if the day. We cycled off to the building where his cycling club is based and I showered and we had another drink. Another cycle back into town took the total number of kilometres past the 170 kilometres mark; that’s about 105 miles or the distance from Reading to Birmingham.
To eat we went to Massimo’s girlfriend’s flat and had a simple but delicious bowl of pasta with tomato sauce with bread. And then it was off to the concert (would this day ever end?). The cycling adrenaline was still pumping around my body and I didn’t feel particularly tired after having been given the chance to sit down, have a drink and something to eat.
The concert, as you can see in the previous couple of posts was a free one held in a village about half an hour’s drive from Benevento. Taranta Power were a Mediterranean mix of musicians from different parts of this corner of Europe including an African rapper. Good foot tapping stuff.
Massimo drove us back to Apollosa in the early hours and by the time I was typing out the previous post my eyes were finally shutting. I slept well.