Basilicata coast-to-coast, Day 1

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From Policoro (MT) to Chiaromonte (PZ), 02 Ottobre 2020

After a first attempt that failed on July 1st 2020 due to various vicissitudes, finally we are off: I decide that the the first week of October is the perfect one to give it another try!

The temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, the weather forecasts do not bring great deterioration along the planned route and I am determined, although fearful and uncertain about the pitfalls that a solo trip can reserve.

For a convenience sake, I decide not to bring the tent but to go for the comfort of the b&b. Excluding tent, mattress and sleeping bag, I avoid carrying an additional weight of about 4.5 kg.

If you want to know what equipment to take with you on a bike trip, here you will find some interesting articles to which I add my list, regarding my specific experience (link to another post)

I ask for a bit of energy from my girlfriend who, although opposed to these solitary activities, supports me (or endures) with conviction (or desperation). I also ask for help from the famous Lucanian brigands @camminodeibriganti who will follow me throughout the journey “electronically”, often giving me intermittent charge doses.

We start from Policoro, immediately after loading my new bicycle. Purchased (semi-new) in Policoro, just two days before: it is a Scott in carbon, size L, scale elite 900, here all the details.

It was overhauled by my “mechanic” and trusted professional cyclist: Mr. Marino Pasquale, who tested the bike with particular attention and fitted the semi-slick tires to facilitate a much more effective and smooth ride on the road.

At about 11.00 I start, here is a photo-testimony taken by the good neighbor, handyman, Franco Mele.

Policoro (MT), 02-10-2020, 10.45

I travel along the SS104 road which was once the main road that, along the Sinni river, led the most important traffic from the Ionian to the Tyrrhenian and vice versa.

I reach Valsinni around 12.30

Valsinni (MT), 02-10-2020, 12.30

Time to eat Mom’s little sandwich and off we go. Speaking of “mother’s sandwiches”, to stay on the subject of food and coast-to-coast, I invite you to listen to the praise of “your mother’s sandwich“, one of the funniest songs taken from the Basilicata coast soundtrack -to-coast of Papaleo (Youtube link).

(By the way, if you are curious about what food to take with you on such a trip, here are some links of other hikers and my inventory)

I cross the old Mussolini bridge, leaving Valsinni behind and continuing in the direction of Colobraro, the town of magic and superstition.

At the last crossroads that indicate the Colobraro direction on the right, I continue straight on, pointing towards the Monte Cotugno dam: the largest artificial dam in Europe made of clay.

Continue crossing the bridge over the Sinni river which leads to the southeastern wall of the dam.

The Whole of the Monte Cotugno Dam, the largiest dam made of clay in Europe – 02-10-2020, 13.30

From here on, I keep on cycling along the south-west side of the lake, on a desolated road, pointing at my next destination: Senise, in the Province of Potenza.

The view from the Monte Cotugno lake, Senise (PZ), 02-10-2020, 13.45

The landscape it’s amazing, but the way is steep, and I’m climbing up within my bike.

I cross by the first car, which is driving towards me: it’s an off road and the guy gently stop nearby smiling and asking to me where did I come from and why the helI I chose to suffer like this!? Anyway he ensure me that the steepest part of the road is almost over and after almost 2 km, finally, I relax my legs on a long downhill which leads me at about 8 km from Senise.

I see I nice small pine forest and I decide to stop here for a merenda.

Entrance to the bird observatory of the artificial lake of Monte Cotugno, Senise (PZ), 02-10-2020, 2.30 pm

Around 14.30 o’clock I jump on the sit and I take the pathway that should help me avoiding the main road (too dangerous for the bike). I see the old bridge to go accross the Sinni river: it’s not anymore possible to drive there with the car due too a huge step that force even the cyclist to lift up the bike.

Bridge (what’s left of it) of the SS92, Senise (PZ), 02-10-2020, 15.10

Around 15.30 o’clock I arrived in Senise (PZ), where I had supposed to stop by the first night.

Senise (PZ), 02-10-2020, 15.30

I decide to change the plan: I search for some b&b in Chiaromonte and I find out that one has still a room available and I immediately bool it. Meanwhile I enjoy a break in a bar in Senise: snack and coffee.

It takes around one hour and a half of constant climb (500 m elevation gained in 15 km -> you can find the GPS track and all the details in my Komoot profile) to get to the entrance of Chiaromonte (PZ).

The b&b chosen is located at the top of the town but I decide that I can avoid the suffering of the last two climbs which are tremendously steep (about 18% gradient): I go down and as they say in English “I walk my bike ..”.

But I happen to run into Mr. Rocco that stops me: he is a nice gentleman of a certain age (we avoid ungalant adjectives) but rather active. After a few usual questions and answers (but “chi t’à fascj fà = does it do?”, Where do you come from and where you are direct) invites me for a glass of wine in what he says is the only winery in Chiaromente where “water is born”.

Moscato wine, taralli, and, after a dutiful thanks, Mr.Rocco, before saying goodbye to me, reminds me nostalgically of the time when, with his motorbike he used to bike between Episcopia, Fardella and Chiaromonte, going downhill. There he liked to turn off the engine, immersing himself in the soul and body in silence and in the surrounding landscape. He is moved and asks me if I can return to greet him some other time. With pleasure I promise him I will.

I finally arrive at the “top” of the town: here I am in a square with a beautiful view of the Sinni valley and the neighboring villages.

There I found a really nice “pubblic” library available for whom wants to stop in the square of Via Giura Giovanni and enjoy, as well as the view, even a healthy reading..

Thus ends my first day, with the arrival at the b&b Casa Miraglia and a walk in the center of Chiaromonte. “Last but not the least”, a dish of Mischiglio , at the restaurant / pizzeria La Torre , that is a homemade pasta with mixed flour of cereals and legumes with tomato and fresh basil. A dish that has a unique flavor like that of the first day of a solo travel just ended.

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