Calum Munro did not expect such an intense and diverse experience during the Torino-Nice Rally.
He loved it so much, he had to spread that spirit and created his own route back home in Scotland: The Roam Scotland Rally.
Ernesto was already ahead of me, before we’d even turned a wheel, in Piazza Giambattista Bodoni.
“All these people from so many countries, coming here to ride together, such a beautiful thing.
I think I’m going to cry today.”
I thought I was an emotional guy, but this was mediterranean passion!
Here’s how I got to the same feeling 7 days later in Nice.
Grinding it out
A minute ago my legs were burning with lactic. Now I’m pushing, gasping recovery breathes, that tingling feeling of hyperventilation slowly settling. Suffering already. Then some apprehension up high, with the cloud coming and going, revealing then obscuring the precipitous drops. This is day 1 on the Colombardo.
Also my first encounter with Tobias, a genial German. He was loaded.
All week we had these brief exchanges, and I’d go on past after a while, only to find him mysteriously ahead of me later that day or the next. Determined, patiently grinding it out.
I started to wonder if he was stopping at all. Had he found the perfect tempo to keep that power engine turning over all day? But he was suffering too.
This suffering thing troubles me. I hauled my beloved Shand Stooshie over 14,500m between Torino and Nice. On the morning of day 6, I pulled my bib-shorts up to my knees, before I had to sit down and re-group, mustering the energy to complete the job.
A couple of hours later I was cresting the Colle di Tenda with the maniacal grin of a man so alive he can barely contain himself
It’s always exciting to experience new landscapes by bike, the change of scenery, fresh air, new foods…
And for the most part we don’t need to travel far to enjoy these different experiences.
Europe is a continent full of wonder with its forests, mountains, coastline and even deserts. We all know that cars and planes are most polluting forms of transport, yet it’s easy to reduce our carbon footprint with so much on our doorstep in europe.
Do we need to always travel so far ?
Keep bigger trips to a minimum and enjoy what’s in reach of 2 wheels !
What kind of craziness is this?
An amuse-bouche of jeopardy, starter of spectacular landscape, main course of body-reverberating discomfort and a curiously satisfying dessert of exhaustion.
As a psychotherapist it seems odd that I’d seek suffering. Yet I know we all need fear and anxiety. Without fear we’d all be run over crossing the road. Rarely do my patients have anxiety about physical risks, it’s the social threats of inadequacy or rejection that trouble them. Perhaps physical discomfort can be reassuringly straight-forward sometimes?
I was knackered, grovelling over each pedal stroke, when Rainer drew alongside, slowing his cadence to match my pace and chat.
In my numbed state, between fantasising about cocooning myself in a sleeping bag at the side of the raod and intermittent awareness of the ridge jagging skywards ahead, I vaguely remember images of St Bernard dogs bubbling into my consciousness. Did we talk about that? You rescued me that day Rainer. Thanks man. I’d have been toast without you.
My wife Harriet had flown up the Agnel, like some modern-day Diana, goddess of the mountain and forest, spirited by nymphs to the summit. There I found her with a small band of compadres, sharing the satisfaction of the conquered climb enhanced by a wee swig from the hip-flask.
Ahh the Bruichladdich 10 year old, you never tasted so good you beautiful golden dram!
Crossing the high plateau of Little Peru, just me, the goddess, cows and a few marmots.
It was spacious, like a wide lens on life.
We were insignificant, but it was fine to be a dot in this big expanse, more than fine, it felt great.
The TNR vibe was seeping in.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all harmonious with the goddess.
Day 3 before Briancon, I plumbed the depths of “If you really believed in equality, you’d be carrying half of this bloody weight!”
Yet, the camaraderie with our fellow pedalistas was growing. Like Filippo, who we met at the pre-ride meal in Torino, then on each new encounter on route his infectious enthusiasm lifted us. Perhaps it was the simple need to get from A to B, find food, and encourage one another?
There was a shared satisfaction and a rare generosity of spirit.
So Ernesto was ahead of me on his emotional TNR journey, but I got to the same destination.
TNR was an antidote to the competition, perfectionism, envy, anger and intolerance of our driven digital world, those forces that slowly deplete and disconnect us from each other and nature.
Same mindset, different place: The Roam Scotland Rally
Roaming in Scotland
We have a ‘freedom to roam’ law giving rights of access over land. RSR routes will meander Scotland, with route options for mountain goats and sedate trundlers. Each year the rally will tackle new territory.
Definition: Roam (verb) to move about or travel aimlessly or unsystematically, especially over a wide area.
- Where: Edinburgh to Inverness
- When: Sun. May 5th 2019, 9am
- What: Self-supported bikepacking ride
- Distance: 533 to 920km
- Elevation: 5,759m to 14,029m
- Price : Free!
- Entry : Roam Scotland Rally Facebook page
May is the optimal weather window. Average temperature is around 15. It’s the least wet month, but hey it’s wet and windy a lot! Last year it was over 20 degrees, but occasionally it snows up high. Warm kit and waterproofs are essential.
Good flight and train routes to Edinburgh, accommodation is plentiful in May.
Inverness has a small airport and direct trains to Edinburgh.
Places to stay & supplies
There are many wild bivvy/camp spots, if the weather is kind. The route is planned through areas with campsites, bothies, hostels, guest houses (B&B) & hotels. Supplies are mostly straightforward, but a few lengthy remote sections, require some planning.
Break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.John Muir
My TNR to RSR journey really began age 11, with my 5 speed Puch Pacemaker and my dad carrying all the stuff.
Travelling by bike, a gift for life.
Photos Alan Munro [Ben Wyvis, 1982]