#2 - The mindfuck.

Ok, here we go. The first real newsletter. First of all, thank you everybody for joining. It's more people than I expected and believe me, I won't be upset if you decide to unsubscribe after this one. I will need to get into writing and this will take a tad of time.

I imagined fabulous things. I imagined that I would tell you that I had a glorious time in Rome November last year. That I would speak now fluent Italian and that I met tons of great people. My Italian is still non existent. I didn't meet people. I did not have a glorious time. But I had a good time. Every day I went for a run, every day I was exploring the city and its churches and every Saturday I went to the farmers market (which I totally recommend if you are in Rome). I made adjustments in my life, which I won't tell here, at least not yet. They were important and good. All in all, the last few months were unspectacular, exactly what I needed.

Monday, 27. February 2023

Taranto, Apulia
EuroVelo 5 - train station in Grottaglie

What is being described below is not the fault of Grottaglie. It's a beautiful town. I think I just got a bit too much into my head.

Last week I started my trip. I celebrated a tiny bit my birthday in my hometown and then went with the train to Brindisi to start my biking on the Eurovelo 5 route. The train ride took a total of three days (could have done it in two) and I decided to write down some of my learnings here: Train-ing with a bike in Germany and Italy.

By now I should be on my second day biking. But I'm not. My first day biking was yesterday. And it was all fine and dandy. The roads were fully ok, I was absolutely fit enough to manage a not too long ride. It could be all rosy. But then I had a major mindfuck and basically changed my plans.

Starting from the beginning. I decided already early on, that I would not knuckle myself through the first few weeks. Camp sites are not open yet and wild camping is something that I need to warm up to. I changed the original route as well. Initially I planned to start in Sicily, but decided then to take the seemingly more simple route from Brindisi, following the Eurovelo 5. Again, to warm up. Not to start with big hills. I planned the route, sliced it into parts between 50 and 80 kilometres and booked BnBs along the way. Off season they were actually very affordable. All great. I was specifically keen to visit the farm of an old colleague.

Now to the mindfuck.

Tldr; Dogs.

Long version: Some weeks ago I shared my plans on a forum. Great feedback from all sides, very encouraging! Somebody mentioned that I should be aware of the (wild) dogs in Southern Italy. That's where it started. I did a lot of research, read about how to behave when dogs approach and got a dog Dazzer and pepperspray for dogs. I did not intend to use it, but wanted to be prepared.

As soon as I left Brindisi yesterday, the first dog came running out of a farm. White, small, not too much of a hassle. I do like dogs. I'm cautious, but not afraid of them. Roughly 10kms in, I saw an open gate and a big dog barking, on a chain. I was relieved, until I noticed a second dog, not on a chain, running towards me. Considerably bigger and more aggressive than the first one. I continued biking and left the dog eventually behind. Some kilometres later a group of three came out of an open gate behind me. Same spiel. From then on, I was keenly looking for every gate if it was closed or not. For quite some kilometres all was good, no farms. I only scanned the area around me, whether I could spot wild dogs. Luckily none appeared. Almost in Grottaglie two people approached me with a big white dog. The dog came running towards me. I stopped and waited for the owners. They were really sweet and apologised. I continued biking a few meters and saw a big shepherd dog noticing me. From far away I couldn't see whether it was in or outside the fence. I was already a bit traumatised. So, I biked back to the folks with the white dog. Strangely enough they signaled me, that I should come to them. With hands, feet, broken Italian and google translate I asked them whether the dog is behind a fence. They said yes, and that there are no more scary dogs until Grottaglie. Until Grottaglie. That sticked. I passed the dog and arrived well in Grottaglie. Close to my hotel I was again greeted by a big German shepherd in front of a restaurant. I thought it was on a chain. But no. It came behind me barking on the street. I had a bit enough. While having dinner I texted a lady from the forum who mentioned the dogs. I somehow wanted the confirmation that it won't be so bad going forward. But she mentioned on how she brushed shoulders with a gang of wild dogs on the way to one of my destinations. They did not get to her. The reason why made me even more anxious. A car had stopped and dumped some slaughterhouse waste for them.

Obviously I can't validate this. But you can imagine the pictures going through my head.

Long story short. I decided to get to Rome by train and start my trip there. The weather is anyhow pretty bad at the moment, and I can visit Naples for two days. Which I planned to do already in November, but didn't.

Traveling by yourself gives you that flexibility. But it enables you as well to create the biggest nightmares in your head and to think about them over and over again. To create your own mindfuck. I decided that it would not be worthwhile for me to just fight through it. Even on the bike ride to the train station I was sort of scared. Didn't help that there was a lot of barking in the air.

I'm fully aware that I will encounter more dogs on the way. That's how it is. But I hope that it will be a bit less.

Still, very much looking forward to the real start in Rome. There seem to be more people on the road there and the weather is a bit colder, but should have cleared up.

That's it for the first real edition. You can find more ramblings from week 1 here: I have started!

Ciao Ciao, k

p. s. I'm going to think a bit more about the structure for the next edition. I want to share more interesting things than my ramblings

p. p. s. I'm fully aware that my website is called staunchy, which means to me adventurous, daring and stubborn. And wow, quite the opposite at the beginning. I'm very sure though that a lot of people who go biking or hiking have similar battles from time to time. I would say that's part of the journey.

Mood: happy :)