After surgery Peter has been walking, hiking and cycling more and more. We decided to try a tour fully loaded in September. That’s what we did:
800 km, 11000 altimeters
Sillian (AUT) to Bologna (I): Train (1 day)
Bologna to Orbetello: Bike, fully loaded, always wild camping (6 days)
Orbetello: Enjoying the beach and resting (6 days)
Orbetello to Bologna: Bike, fully loaded, always wild camping (6 days)
Bologna (I) to Sillian (AUT): Train (1 day)
Most of the time Peter travelled light, with four panniers and the tent on top of the back panniers.
Petra had four panniers as well, the Weehoo with Ben in it and a little chair in the front with Esmé. Peter calculated, that Petra was pulling 95 kg with this set up (bike, kids, trailer, luggage). Tuscany is extremely hilly and we did a lot of altimeters. Petra managed to cycle 16 % uphill…
… but sometimes she ran out of energy. Luckily Ben and Esmé liked to help pushing the bike.
We visited very beautiful cities (Bologna, Florence, Siena) and saw a lot of nice little villages. Culture in Tuscany is very impressive and extremely rich.
Ben and Esmé enjoyed cycling a lot. Looking around, singing songs and watching the world passing by are their favourite activities. When taking a break or wild camping they liked to play with stones, sticks and plants. Ben loved every aspect of being on tour. Esmé was a little bit grumpy in the morning. She was probably very hungry and it took too long to get breakfast ready. Furthermore she didn’t eat the Italian white, hard bread with no salt in it. She found it more difficult to play in nature.
One of the things why we enjoy touring so much are beautiful wild camping spots.
One day we had some rain late in the afternoon and we asked at a small farm if we were allowed to wait under a little roof until the rain passes. The old farmer and his wife were extremely friendly. We were allowed to camp in their garden, they provided us with fuel for our stove, gave us food and helped us repairing a broken tent pole. Furthermore they had a lot of toys from their grandchildren which Ben and Esmé were allowed to use. Perfect!
Esmé is still sleeping in the afternoon and we were searching for a solution to make her sleep as comfortable as possible in the chair. The Bobike chair we use has a little cushion on which her head can rest, but it is too small and her head keeps rolling off the cushion continuously. The first days she slept only about half an hour due to this problem. Finally Petra made the cushion a little bit bigger by using her fleece vest which was much more comfortable for Esmé. With this system Esmé slept about an hour every day which was enough.
From Sillian to Bologna and from Bologna back to Sillian we used the train. This caused some pressure, because we had booked our tickets already before we left home. We had to cycle with a schedule which we never like to do. Google maps calculated that from Bologna to Orbetello it was 280 km but it took us 420 km (!!!) to get there and we had 6 days. We had to cycle a lot, with a lot of altimeters. On our way back we cycled 350 km and still a lot up and down. We were very tired and had not so much time to, for example, play with the kids.
Going with bikes and kids and trailers and bags in the train is always a moment of stress. The kids get bored at a certain point and we always have to plan the trip with enough time to change train. On our way back we had a very aggressive and unpleasant experience with the conductor. We made a reservation only for two bikes but according to him we should have made a reservation for the trailer too. We regularly use the train with the bikes in Austria and Italy and never payed for the trailer before. The conductor took our bikes, put them into the train and left the trailer outside. He wanted to close the door and let the train leave but Peter put his foot in between and went out of the train again. We discussed for some minutes but the guy was not thinking of a solution at all. At a certain point Petra went to the second conductor and explained the problem: We have to take the Weehoo with us. In the meanwhile Peter was still with the angry conductor, put all our bags in the train and the trailer. Ben was hysterically running through the train: “The conductor doesn’t want to take my trailer!” The two conductors and Peter discussed a little bit more. After Peters words “You only tell us the rules but don’t think of a solution.” and 10 Euro we were allowed to stay in the train. (In the next few hours there were more cyclists taking this train and the conductor kept being difficult about their bikes.)
Conclusion: Nice weather, beautiful cities and villages, nice camping spots, a lot of kilometers and altimeters and some problems with taking a train … Peters back seems to be strong enough to tour again but we still have to be very careful.