Our last couple of days were spent at little Liechtenstein… a country with about 34,000 inhabitants- a country that you could cover from one end to another in approx. 30 minutes. This was also the country of Robert Schmidt and his fellow Ducatistas- some of whom we met over an evening beer at their favourite restaurant La Piazza. Something that I will take back from Liechtenstein was Robert’s kindness towards us- aliens whom he had never met. Hearing about our trip, Robert reached out to our AirBnB host Alexandra with a package to be handed over to us… and when we received it, there was a welcome note, brochures of the attractions as well as personal recommendations about things to do during our stay in the country. Needless to say, by the time we met Robert that evening we had already experienced his brand of hospitality- and of course our bond was further strengthened over alcohol and stories of the road. That was yesterday evening.
But this morning was not easy- I woke up grumpy with a heavy head. It was past 10.00am and we had a long ride ahead of us. The packing seemed infinitely long- with Anu doing most of the hard work… breakfast followed and then finally it was past 1pm when we were ready to ride. Phew- the story of our riding days, I mused… everytime it ends us with late evenings and starts with equally late mornings. By the time we got going from our little town of Eschen in Liechtenstein, we were far behind schedule.
The past few days were gloomy and grey- but today the sky got back its colour. The sun claimed back its warmth after playing hide and seek with clouds. And we celebrated it in the Upper alpine regions bordering Liechtenstein and Italy. One advice for those that seek out the fast highways- don’t. Because beauty lies in tiny corners, in the small country roads and in those high-up passes hidden in the Alps. The tarmac was black, the mountains were green with splashes of colour carelessly woven by the dancing wild flowers… and far above the peaks glistened white with fresh snow from last night. We threw ourselves into the hairpins- and there were plenty, around every mile of the way. We followed the route 13 through Felsburg and Tusis- with the majestic Rhine keeping us company. Often it was joined by majestic waterfalls crashing from above the mountains- and it formed clear pools and lakes- whose shades would change from blue to green depending on its play with the sky. Every once in a while the road snaked up the mountain passes of the Alps and as we ascended the steep slopes the temperature dropped to 12- 15 degrees on that sunny morning. And thus it continued all the way till Bellinzona, the Swiss border town.
The road was dotted with tunnels as well- some short but some as long as 7 kilometers. They were well lit but nevertheless tunnels always had a hypnotic appeal to me- chasing the widening circle and the repetitive stripes and lights- especially on a motorbike… I had to work hard to stay alert within those long winding pathways. As I navigated them, I would often think back to my train journeys during early school in Assam- from Guwahati to Silchar. That rail journey took us through 101 tunnels- what an incredible experience it used to be- the highlight of our summer vacations!
The last of such tunnels opened into Bellizona and from the cool Alpine air, we were suddenly thrown into 36 degrees of Swiss-Italian sun. It was 7pm but the summer sun still had plenty of gusto. We passed by fields of maize and corn- and the farmlands brought with it the smell of cow dung. It took me back again to childhood- making dung cakes for fuel, using the dung from our cows as fertilizers for our fields: that was a smell we grew up with during my Guwahati days… amazing that the country life feels so familiar despite my experience from tens of thousand kilometres away.
Meanwhile the road took us through the golden and green Italian countryside, its rolling valleys, vineyards and crowded highways. We crossed Milan and carried further- our destination was the little Italian village of Voghera located midway between Milan and Genoa. It is here that the fruity Pinot Noir grapes are grown- it is here that our host Mirella awaited us at her home. It was when the sky had changed- from deep orange and mauve to a deep share of violet that we finally arrived- with the sweat and dust of many lands- with our faces bearing a worn smile; but with our eyes glistening with the excitement of another day well lived.