Pinzolo, Italy, 25th June 2007

In my last email, I'd arrived in Carate Brianza. I was there to visit with Piero Porati. Last time I was here was in 1975, I came with Renee Thornton and Simon Faithfull, with the intention of the three of us, between us, teaching Piero to fly, in his own balloon. Unfortunately he wrecked his balloon, before we could fly together.

But I digress. I had intended to start with a grumble about big emails being sent to me. I better explain again. Apologies to those who already understand. You see, I am travelling, I don't have an always on connection. I don't pull into a field entrance at the back of beyond, and plug into the internet to download stuff while I am dining. There's no internet connection there. And I can tell you it is boring, really boring, to find that the few seconds of internet connection I can find are being taken up with pictures, pictures I have taken, and sent out, and then people are sending them back to me. I know they are great, fantastic pictures, but I've seen them, I've already got them on my computer, I don't want them again, thanks! I make the photos as small as I sensibly can, in deference to those people with a slow connection. As the ladies know it's not size that counts, it what you do with it.........

Worse than photos though, someone on my list just sent me a 5 Megabyte pps file with pictures of special shape balloons. I used to certify these balloons, I've seen most of them before. And if I want to see special shape balloons I'll go to Bart's special shapes web page. I forget his website address - Google it if you're interested. He's got photos of them all. But with that 5 Mb file I thought my connection, or my computer had crashed. Then you know what? He sent it twice, to two of my addresses! Duh!

Please feel free to send me big files but to the special address I use for that. You will find it as 'eec list', the 'to' address above on this email. I check that address when I have a good connection. Sorry to bore you with more housekeeping but if anyone has my address as david@barker.net that is being discontinued very shortly. Any other address works.

But back to my friend Piero. Our trip to Italy was paid for by a display we were making for the Carate Brianza Firemen's 100th anniversary. We brought 2 balloons, and for the display Simon was to fly his, Renee was to fly ours, and I was to fly with Piero. Simon flew, came back and said, don't fly, it's horrid, no wind, thermals everywhere, impossible to land, I was lucky. So we put Renee up on a tether, organised by Simon and myself.

Meanwhile Piero thought he better do something. He tied off his balloon to one of the huge stadium lights, and inflated the balloon. I was still involved with Renee. He put one man, a very small Italian, on the handing line, and launched. He took off too hot, shot into the air, the man on the handling line had to let go, and Piero drifted with the wind. He was tied off, of course, but to a stadium light in the way he was going.

He very neatly stuck his balloon on that self same light, you know what they look like, great big sky hooks. The only good thing, it was the fireman's centenary. They brought their ladders out and unhooked his balloon, next day.

Piero is still here, he now has about a dozen balloons, so I guess his flying skills have improved.......

So this time I arrived at his house and rang the bell. No reply. I drove around, explored a local supermarket, and waited, and waited. For 3 hours. Neighbours said, if he's out, he's usually back around 6 pm. At 7 pm the gates opened and Piero drove out.. He'd been there all the time and hadn't heard the bell. We haven't met for over 20 years but he jumped out of his car and said, David? He hasn't changed a lot either.

I passed a pleasant couple of days with Piero. He still doesn't have a word of English, and I still don't have a word of Italian. We manage.

I think - but I'm not sure - that he's 79. And yes. I can't stand up inside the van. And yes, my beard needs a trim!......Later - it's been done! Pity I can't fix standing up in the van so easily.

I left and headed east, following some incredibly useless road signs. In my experience Italians are brilliant on design but sometimes rotten when it comes putting it to practice. For example I would see a road sign to 'x' which is where I want to go. Then, shortly after, there is a 'y' junction, with place names I have never hear of, and no indication which is the major road. Hey, to be Italian is rather special.

The route didn't seem right leaving Bergamo so I stopped to check my map. A lady cyclist stopped to see if she could help. Well, she said the quickest way to get to my original route, but since I liked the pretty way she suggested another way, by a lake. Then she said, make sure you visit the Val di Genova and later the small town called San Candido. Good ideas.

It was a neat drive around the lake. They had to work a bit to make the road.

The lake.

Hey it was after the lake I had the problems with the road signs. Heck, it's only an email, I'm not going back to rewrite it.

But, eventually, I decided to look for somewhere for the night. I turned off the main drag and headed towards a pass. I went up, and up.

There was nowhere ideal. Eventually I reached the pass itself. There were a couple of restaurants and a church at the top there. I parked near the church.

Hey do you realise I type all this with one finger? It doesn't slow me down much, I don't think all that quick.

There was a rather fine view in the morning.

I went to make some shopping and noticed the lock did not work. Now the last time I locked the car was in Carate Brianza when I went to the supermarket to fill in time. When I came back I noticed the door was unlocked, I was sure I had locked it. Some of wiring was unplugged. I have lots of wires. The touchpad on the laptop doesn't work so I use a mouse. As you know I have an external keyboard and a USB hub. I have an inverter so that I can charge the computer, and an electric cooler. The result is a tangle of wires similar to everyone has behind a

computer. Anyway, at the time I thought no more about it, nothing was missing.

Oh damn! I've just thrown another glass of wine over my keyboard. I'll have to stop drinking wine or writing emails. Guess which will win. Sorry you lot out there!

The keyboard is still working. Maybe because it was white wine that I'd bought by mistake.

I had a look inside the door, and realised I had a similar lock on all four doors. I took the lining off the back door and sure enough it looked exactly the same as the main lock. I don't ever use the key in this lock - I have an electric system, also a manual system inside.

So I dived into a garage at Storo, I said I've got a problem. Sure it was obvious the lock had been forced, and was broken. He had it out in moments then spent ages trying to fix it. Eventually I managed to get him to understand I didn't want that lock, throw it away, use the one from the back door. It's difficult when you don't speak the same language. Now he understood, the locks were changed in moments, and the new one worked fine. He tried to put the old lock in the back door but the clip was missing. I had troubles again, but finally he understood, just fill in the hole with a big washer and a bolt. Now no-one can get in my back door from outside, there's no lock and we've taken out the inner workings.

I've forgotten where this picture was taken, but it was soon after the lock was fixed.

This is the road through the village.

I went to the Val (valley) di Genova recommended by the lady cyclist. It was superb. I drove all the way to the end of the road and back. Here's a waterfall.

And another.

This just fast water.

Ah. Now we have a narrow street.

But this is the best waterfall in the Val di Genova, the Cascade de Nardis.

It's way more magnificent than on the photo. I came back in the morning, because when I came in the valley the first time it was cloudy, and I didn't think the photo did it justice. I still don't think it does. But I have to mention. When I came back in the morning I was stopped and told it was a National Park, it was 5 to enter with a vehicle. Now I've no problem with that in general, but I said, I only want to go 5 minutes, to take a better photo, I don't want to pay 5 just for that! After a few moments, OK said the charming young lady park keeper. Wasn't that nice of her? So there's the photo above. Not much better than the one I took yesterday though........

Best regards

David Barker

Actually now near Cortina Italy

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