Carate Brianza, Italy, 22nd June 2007.

I've wrecked my keyboard. Wi

th wine and mo]squy3tos. m]use o]k you'/ll# have t'o guess at the text but here arpi

ht's wo] it's nut. I'lllllllll keep typing wabe it will clear itself. rst is a p;icture of my camsie 3in barckkk

View from my campsite above Barcelonette

house in Barcelonette. It's morning. Some keys are working now. . not the letter n. I have to copy and paste with the mouse. v is not going. nor is d. It is slow. kkkkkkkkkkeeps repeating, near impoiosible to stop it.

Later........Well you'll be thrilled (I wonder ?) to know I've got my computer fixed. In case you could not understand what I was trying to say earlier, whilst trying to eliminate around a dozen mosquitoes that suddenly invaded me when it became dark, because I'd left all my windows wide open and still had by big light on inside the van, I tipped over a full glass of wine over the computer and it wrecked the keyboard. I'll leave that bit of writing in at the start so you'll get some idea of the impossibility of writing with the busted keyboard. I'll get back to that later. Meanwhile I'll jump back a touch further. I must have been getting tired when I wrote report number 3. I missed out the photos on the way to Italy.

First there's an area of Barcelonette filled with gorgeous old villas. A lot of people went to Mexico, at one time there were 5,000 people in Mexico recorded as coming from this area. There's even a Mexican Tourist Office here. Anyway some of the people made fortunes, and some of these came back and built these magnificent houses. This is by no means the largest.

The next 2 shots are climbing up the French Alps to cross into Italy

This a bunch (flock if anyone's being picky) of sheep, they are with a shepherd, temporarily out of sight. Note the donkey following along, bottom left.

Another view of the French Alps.

A field packed full with flowers.

The pass over to Italy was 2000m, about 6,500 ft, not the highest in the Alps, and certainly not as high as the one I went over in Colorado 3 years ago, which was 12,000 ft. Here's the photo to prove it

Eventually, back on this trip, I reached Mondovi where they fly balloons. Giovanni Aimo has a balloon school - he's in the basket below with a student from India. Also there is Paolo Bonnanno and his wife Nicole. Paolo not only flies balloons, he builds and designs burners for a couple of the balloon manufacturers. Paolo Oggioni is another local pilot that I met. Visiting were an army group from Middle Wallop, which is close to were I lived In the UK. With them was Peter Gooch also from Hampshire. So there was a flight the evening I arrived, and one next morning. I parked for the night on the launch field so was well place for the morning flight. There are usually calm winds in Mondovi, so it's flyable about 300 days in the year. I sort of crewed for Giovanni. Sort of, because they were so well organised it was difficult to jump in and find something to do.

After the morning flight, and an Indian lunch with the Bonnanno's, I set off the explore Piedmont. I had no idea this area was so bumpy. Big bumps that is, real big bumps. Hills. I previously had thought that all north Italy was a flat plain, like the bits I've seen, but flat it absolutely is not. The day was somewhat hazy, the pictures do not do it justice. They also do not show just how steep many of the roads and hills were. It's a wine growing area, dotted with farms and villages everywhere. Many of the villages, beautiful old villages, have a castle on top of the hill. The first I visited dated back to the year 1,000 AD. Eat your heart out those of you living in that land with the high mountain pass.

The second castle, somewhere on the picture, was a touch newer. Probably only about 300 years BA (Before America)

There was a car park in the village, with a couple of spaces reserved for camping cars. I asked in the castle, would it be OK to park there overnight. Don't see why not they said.

I can't remember much about the next day. I think I was suffering the after effects of the 6 am ballooning start. I don't do morning stuff with balloons. Although, now I'm travelling again, I'll have to get used to dawn starts. Just in case I'm parked somewhere I shouldn't be, if I get away soon after dawn, I'm away before anyone would find me to object.

During the day I found a castle

and a cemetery

These pictures are smaller than normal because when I tried to reduce my 2048 wide pictures to 400 wide none of the wine soaked number keys would work, so I just deleted the 8 making them 204 wide. The height automatically stays in proportion. I drove around some more super Piedmont countryside, checked through emails, and finally arrived at Casale Monferranto. I'd noticed a suitable looking parking spot on the way in, but on the way back to it noticed a caravan and camper van sign outside the local airport.

There were some caravans around the parachute school but that are was not accessible and there was no one around. Finally someone passed by and said yes, should be OK. In the morning, after the glass of wine episode, after I'd been late to sleep trying to dry the computer, I was woken at 6 by a load of traffic, I was by a main road. Someone checked that I would be moving soon because someone else was coming, and would need to put his camper van in the exact same spot that I was parked in. Obviously it was no problem for me to move.

I said to him I'd noticed a nice new toilet block with showers next to where I was parked. Could I make a contribution to the overhead I asked, and take a shower. No he says, you're welcome, free, gratis. So if you are anywhere near Casale Monferranto and want to take a parachute jump - they do tandem jumps too - look them up, they are nice people.

I headed off into town and noticed a computer shop. I asked if they did repairs, a man, I later found out to be Antonio Zonca said yes. I told him my tale of woe, he said oops, but bring it in. After a few tests he said you need a new keyboard, sorry, can't do anything with this one, it's unrepairable, sorry again, it'll take a week to get one. I'm just passing through I said.

He changed gear into thinking mode. He disappeared and came back with a box. We could try an external keyboard he said,. Brilliant I said. I've only got Italian keyboards he says. I'll manage I said. He plugged it into the USB port. After what seemed like 30 mins - twice he said, slow computer, during this time - the computer recognised it, it seemed to be working. But it was working in tandem with the original, and we were stuck with the ever repeating k key. He set to work on my old integrated keyboard, using similar tactics to my butcher dentist, but on a much gentler, more informed, style, and successfully wrecked the operation of this key. Just as an aside, it was now possible to see all the dried red wine stains around the innards of the key's operating system. He took a little while to set the computer up to continue to run in English, but at the same time to fully recognise the Italian keyboard. Hey I can now type, directly from the characters showing on my keyboard: ì è é ò ç à ù and . I'm sure there'll be a time when that will come in handy. Hey, right now. Today it was about 35C. I couldn't easily type 35C before. And since I often write in (bad) French it will be handy to have some accented characters. Some of the other keys are in the 'wrong' places, but I'll get used to that.

Brilliant I said. Wonderful. Now. I've only got 2 USB ports, these are used by the mouse, and now, the keyboard. I need to download my photos. I need a cable to connect my USB hub (the one I got when I needed a cable for my camera) We haven't got one he says. Best we can do is another USB hub, which uses a different cable. OK I say.

At the end of all this he asked me for about 40. (Can you read the Euro sign? Even my original UK keyboard can print the Euro sign) Now 40 is the bare price of the keyboard and the USB hub. Nothing for his time and skill. So we have a friendly argument. You don't need to give me anything more he says. Yes I do I say. Finally, OK he says, I'll buy some nice wine. If you need help it's worth going out of your way to find his shop Cogito, it's just on the way into town from the airport.

I continued on towards Milan and Carate Brianza and found the flat uninteresting north Italian plain I had been expecting. Flat rice fields with, close by towns, flurries of ugly advertising hoardings and then the businesses themselves. The autostrada around Milan was packed solid with traffic, often not moving, as was the one heading north to Carate Brianza, my destination.

Best regards

David Barker
Continue to EEC 5

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