The drive up to The Dolomites took us past Riva Del Garda and Verona and, whilst we really enjoyed the our time at Lake Garda in April and have yet to venture to Verona, we passed both by on this occasion since it was still way too hot to contemplate mooching around a city – we’ll save Verona until the autumn! Just north of Verona, my eye was caught by a train passing slowly along the track to my left – normally, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, not being a trainspotter, but the fancy blue carriages made me take a closer look – turns out it was The Venice Simplon Orient Express, wending it’s way to Paris, via Innsbruck. We caught a glimpse of the heat haze hanging over Lake Garda too – one wonders if it clears at all during the warmer months? The road meandered along through Valpolicella country, the hillsides covered with vines for as far as the eye could see, all laden with tiny bunches of grapes. Eventually, the Brenta Dolomites loomed up ahead of us, still snowy in pockets – yippee, cooler weather beckons!
It was a long drive and attempts to park up and have some lunch at an official camperstop enroute were scuppered by roadworks and the very road we needed to take for the camperstop was closed to traffic for resurfacing so we pressed on until we finally reached Madonna di Campiglio and a rather picturesque free sleepy spot halfway up a mountain!
That night, we witnessed THE most amazing lightening storm over the mountains – no rain or thunder for a few hours just constant flashes of lightening! We were transfixed! Who needs TV when you can watch nature do it’s thing? Our sleepy spot was so peaceful-the silence only punctuated by the cow bells around the necks of the cattle grazing on the grassy slopes a few hundred metres below us. Needless to say, we both slept soundly and were up at a reasonable hour on Thursday morning to make the most of the walking opportunities around us – several well-marked trails, clearly marked with the time needed to get there. We chose to walk up to Lago Nambino – mainly because it was a woodland trail and, since the sun was now beating down, we needed shade! At this point, we spotted a “bear warning” – apparently, there’s bears in the park here! Sadly, we didn’t see any signs of them, other than the info board which gave instructions on what to do/what not to do in the event that you meet one and the bearproof rubbish bins on the car park!
We then walked down to the town – most of the shops and restaurants were closed since June is their closed season, it being a ski resort in the main, but they were prepping some of the chairlifts in readiness for the summer onslaught of hikers and mountain bikers in July and August – but we managed to find a hotel with a cafe/restaurant which was open and treated ourselves to a bite of lunch (in my case, a huge fruit ice cream sundae!) before walking back to Sebo via the FIS Slalom piste – it looked scary enough without any snow so God alone knows how terrifying it must be when snowclad!
As darkness fell, the now nightly thunderstorm crept over us and we fell asleep to the sound of rumbling thunder and heavy rain – by the time we awoke on Friday morning, the skies were clearing and the air much fresher. As we pulled away from our sleepy spot, Sebo’s brake pad warning light decided to illuminate! Not a good sign when your plan is to hit Austrian mountain roads for a few weeks! Thankfully, we made it down the steep and winding roads to our next destination at Rabbi Fonti in the Val di Sole without any problems but vowed to swing by Bolzano on Monday to get them checked out before venturing any further.
Friday and Saturday nights were spent at the rather pretty, rustic Area di Sosta Al Plan in the Stelvio National Park, where we took a stroll up to Piazzola on Saturday morning and ventured halfway up to the waterfall in the evening, with a view to doing the full walk and crossing the rather interesting looking suspension bridge over the falls on Sunday before leaving. Unfortunately, we had the mother of all thunderstorms throughout the night on Saturday and it was still raining on Sunday morning so we didn’t manage to do very much other than drive down to Bolzano and locate a possible garage to sort out Sebo’s brakes first thing on Monday morning.