Approaching Slovenia, 29th June 2007

I've found that most Italian towns, in this area at least, have a car park at the back of beyond, where they send camping cars that want to park for the night. I asked in Pinzolo, before I went to that super valley, and was directed to the sports ground. Must have been the right place, 3 other campers arrived later.

I went shopping, and noticed I could not unlock the driver's door. The key turned, but nothing happened. I guessed something had fallen off. I stopped a little later, stripped down the lining, again, on the door, and noticed the operating bar was loose. I still had the old lock, I had noticed to clips were a different colour plastic, but what the heck, it worked. On closer examination they were different, so I swapped them, and, as I write, several days later, all is working fine.

This was my first sight of the Dolomites.

The views improved.

I pottered on. Views like this rather reminded me of the flights I made over the Alps, coming to look for a landing.

This is a street. You are expected to drive through there. This is one of the advantages of driving a small van such as mine rather than a larger camping car. You can get through narrow gaps.

There are other advantages. Regular camping cars are banned from various places, such as some car parks, and they are not allowed to drive through that valley where I took the waterfall photos for example. I'd like mine to be a bit higher though.

Well, the above was a regular road through a village. This is the main road, where you'll find huge trucks winding their way through. The trucks generally have twin flashing orange lights on the roof, to warn of their approach.

Remember I talked about Italian design? Well you can hardly beat that for a view. But take a quick look at the guard rail........

Looks like a Bavarian castle, but this is Italy.

I stopped soon after this. I drove around a pretty village which had time limited parking. I noticed a free car park at the start of the village. There was another park just lower down the hill with a height restriction, so I pulled into that, I thought, that's me!

Then I noticed another, even lower park. This had the height restriction gates open, and there already was a camper there. I moved.

According to the time stamp I took this photo just after I left my overnight parking in Flé, just after Bolzano. I don't remember taking the photo, at all, well it was taken at only 8:20 am......

I think this computer has passed it's allotted life span. Mainly the charger plug doesn't work properly, it is very touch and go to get a connection to make it work. I keep the computer sitting on a large book so when I move it the plug and socket charger connection don't move. The on/off button doesn't work, fortunately there are some direct program call up buttons I can use to kick it into motion. Except now that is not enough, it hangs on start up, I have to press the buttons 2 or 3 more times to get it to go. Sometimes it will tell me to press F1 to continue. The wireless seems also to have bad contacts, if I take it out I have trouble getting it connected. Sometimes the wireless software does not initialise and I have to reboot. The mouse pad and buttons have been bust for ages, I have to use an external mouse, and of course, now, an external keyboard. And now the thing that caused this current tirade. The insert button switches itself on and off, all on it's own. I go back to change a spelling, or an idea, sometimes it wipes out the next letters, sometimes it does not. Sometimes keys will not work - just while writing this I had to reboot, the spacebar would not work. It will sometimes head off and hibernate, all it's own, for no apparent reason. Sometimes it runs slower than a snail. And of course the hinges have been busted since Mexico. I have 2 batteries. Both are about shot. And with keyboard and mouse taking power from the USB ports it will barely run unless it has mains power available.

Now if you think the next picture is a load of shit, you're right..........

However the views were still, shall we say, stupendous.

This is a somewhat stronger picture of a mountain.

And a couple more pretty pictures.

Tom Donnelly might tell me it's the same village from a different angle, he's picky on things like that, but me I'm not so sure. Looks like the same church but they all look like that round here.

Round this are there are hikers everywhere, the small towns are thronged with people in big boots with ski sticks which they use as walking sticks. Certainly it's a good area for walking.

It started to rain, and rain. Cloud descended and I could only see 30 or 40 yards, so I decided to stop, even though it was only about 5 pm. I saw a sign to a car park and a 1st world war museum, on the top of a pass, so I followed it. In the park were 5 or 6 camper cars, apparently well settled in. I joined them.

It was bitterly cold during the night. I got up and put on a shirt and socks, and added my large towel and jacket to the 5 layers of admittedly thin blankets I already had on my bed, and I was still cold. It was raining, and sleeting. I have a sleeping bag with me, I should have used that. Hindsight is great. My ex wife was wonderful on hindsight, almost 100% accurate. If she'd been here I'd never have heard the last of it.

There was a cable car running to the top of the mountain so in the morning I took it.

Yep, my camper is not so big as some of the others. Not so wide certainly. That's why I can get to places others can't. (Mine is the blue one!)

At the top of the cable lift I found one reason why it had been sleeting. Up here it had been snowing, around 4 inches of snow, at the end of June!

Up here the views were rather good. From there I could see small groups of hikers dotted all around, on the many clearly marked paths.

In the First World War Italy declared war on it's neighbour to the north, Austria. The Austrians - and the Italians also - dug tunnels and lookout points right at the tops of the mountains so that they could control the roads below. Here's an Austrian tunnel. The shaft of light part way down is a branch tunnel leading to a lookout point/gun emplacement.

It was while up here looking down at the valleys below that I started to be scared about flying over the Alps. Flying balloons over this pointy stuff then trying to land in these narrow valleys. It worried me today even just looking down.

What is the cause of this? Have I become wiser with old age, or just lost my nerve? For I have made almost 50 balloon flights high over the Alps, high flights I define as one where you launch in one valley, and land in another. Probably more flights than just about anyone who does not actually live in the Alps. In all this time I only had one difficult landing and that without any consequences except perhaps some worry while the event was actually happening. (I landed on a steep avalanche slope and the basket rolled down the mountain side until it reached the road). Ah I forget the flight in Bavaria in 1976 when a thunderstorm suddenly arrived and I had to crash land half way up a mountain in the pouring rain. I have never been so wet in my life, "carrying" that balloon down the mountain, even my underpants were totally soaking wet with the rain. And the mountain rescue guys who picked us up were content with a couple of rounds of drinks in the pub afterwards, it's late, but if you read this, I've not forgotten, thanks guys.

We did have other events. On my first ever serious balloon flight over the Alps in about 1978, from Filzmoos in the first ever BP Alpine Balloon Race, we heard an explosion in the basket. Oops! Turns out I had bought a couple of (glass) bottles of water to take with us, one had frozen and exploded. The second went over the side, very gingerly.

Does a flight without problem count? Taking off from Gstaad in gentle rain, entering cloud at 7,000 ft asl, reaching clear skies at 14,000 ft, then not seeing ground again until we reached Italy. Or the couple of times I have exceeded 100 mph in the air and landed without problem. One time the balloon kept going down, gradually, we had a mountain some 10 miles in front, approaching very rapidly (at 100 mph) but finally the balloon followed the mountain wave and climbed. We missed the first valley we tried for but got the second.

So I've got a 120 envelope for sale. Little used, because I bought it to replace my 105 which I wore out in the Alps. Anybody interested? 50 hours only.

The lady cyclist that I'd met earlier had suggested I visit Innichen San Candido, since it was pretty. Yes it is, I stayed there the night, and had a pizza in the adjacent Sportsman's bar, both on the suggestion of the tourist office.

Hey we were talking road trips. I some while ago mention flowers on balconies in France. Oh, wow! Here in Italy they got them beat.


Now I was away for the popular tourist areas there were more possibilities of overnight parking. After Tolmezzo I took a small road heading to Slovenia and was soon able to find a hidden spot next to a river.

Best regards

David Barker

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