The Ultimate Stumble Upon - 9 1/2 Weeks - CycleBlaze

November 5, 2019

The Ultimate Stumble Upon

Venosa to Gravina in Puglia

So it's been three days since I last updated this journal, and in that time we've biked a grand total of 93 km's, most of it on pretty flat land. You're probably thinking 'What the hell have they been doing in all that time that they couldn't update this blog?'

Well, we've been wandering around, up and down some pretty amazing places, eating some fantastic food and drinking some wonderful wine. So there.

Today's destination was Gravina in Pulgia, about 60 km from Venosa. Why? Because Matera is about 90 km from Venosa and I promised Kirsten that the Long March was over. 

Gravina suffers from being only 30 km's away from Matera and as a result it's largely off the tourist map. It still has many of the same attractions as Matera, cave dwellings and church's, incredibly packed 3-D old centre, beautiful historic churches, some great local restaurants. The only thing it does not have is lots of tourists. What's not to like about that?

Setting this place as our end point for the day turned into a great stumble-upon ... and those are always the most fun.

Our day turned out to be one of almost no drama, just good stuff the whole way through. We set off from Venosa under beautiful blue sky, a good wind blowing mostly from the SW and we were traveling SE so not much of an issue. Once again the route we took with secondary and farm roads, all 99% paved (and in decent shape) we had to ourselves ... one hand to count the number of vehicles from start to within 5 km of Gravina.

The countryside once again looked like we were in rural Alberta or Saskatchewan. Grain farming country with long flat valleys set between equally flat plateaus at 50 - 100 m higher elevations .... and no one or towns around!

We rode straight through into Gravina, and the initial impression of the place coming in from the north wasn't great. Cement works, grain elevators, blocks of featureless apartments. Things started to improve as we got towards the old town center as we were looking for a place to get some lunch before everything shut up tight. As we turned off onto a random street and into an old square, we spotted two other bikes with Ortlieb bags parked by a cafe. We pulled up, and as we were dismounting the guy from the cafe came out, welcomed us to a an outside table (beside the other cyclists) and in short order we had a draft beer (ride was over!) and possibly the best panini K or I have ever had! The rest of the day continued in that vein. 

Very nice and welcoming B&B, quite an amazing, if a little rough around some of the edges, old town center with the aforementioned cave dwellings, stacked up layers of narrow streets and staircases (I have no idea how anyone could drive a car here ... but they do!) and we finished the night with an excellent 'chef's choice' seafood  dinner at restaurant Tracce. Quite a change from yesterday (not dumping on Venosa ... looks like a nice place, great wine,  just don't go there on a Monday!).

As we were riding today, thinking we were back on the prairies, we did what we did then ... let our minds wander all over the map thinking random thoughts as our legs dutifully went around in circles and pushed us down the road. A few of these thoughts.

The wind descriptions on the Norwegian weather app we use (yr.no) are obviously for sailors. Who else would think a 25 km/hr wind is a 'moderate breeze'? To a prairie boy on a bike that's either a great tailwind or a bitch of a headwind!

Later in the afternoon the wind turned full south at 25 km/hr, we were travelling SE, so we only had a partial headwind. Haven't had a quiz feature yet in this blog so here's one for all you engineers that I know are reading along ... What was our effective headwind?

We kept seeing groups of identical abandoned houses (5 -7 all equally spaced and lined up) every 5 km or so. They were identical in design and also in their state of decay. Built in the early / mid 1900's?? Part of a collective farm system?? Subsequent web searches have not shed any light on what they were ... so we'll crowd source this (from the massive crowd reading this blog ... lol ...) Any ideas on what they could be ... pics follow later.

I had a MacGyver moment during the day too. Felt like a boy scout though ... totally prepared. My front fender had developed a pretty good stress crack where it's attached at the fork crown. Before the trip I did a repair job with crazy glue and duct tape. It lasted over 3000 km over some pretty rough ground and very wet weather, but today it totally failed. However, 15 minutes with a swiss army knife and 2 zip-ties, I was back on the road. Don't leave home without them ... zip ties, duct tape and the swiss army knife. They can be used for all sorts of repairs ... and for subduing and restraining me when I go on a 'postal rage' about Google maps ... Kirsten's been close to having to do this on a few occasions lately.

Your're saved now, we didn't ride long enough to have more random thoughts.

Song of The Day, Long Gone To Saskatchewan by Corb Lund ... yes that's right.

If you take out the start and finish or today's ride, the rest of it could have been back home in rural Alberta or Saskatchewan. I stopped to take one picture (in here later) that looked to me exactly like the Stranraer Hills that are by the McLeod family homestead where my dad grew up (and my cousins still live). That's when this song flashed into my head as SOTD. Later in the evening, as we are walking around the truly amazing scene that is the Sassi in Matera, I'm thinking  ' This is so not Saskatchewan' .. but that just reminded me of when my cousins Ian & Deb McLeod, who live on the Sask farm, came to visit us in Saigon many years ago. When we picked them up at the craziness that is Than Son Nhat airport and were driving through the motorbike chaos that is Saigon, Ian calmly says 'You don't see this in Saskatoon' ... so true! So give Corb a listen and enjoy the pic's.

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My turn to be the morning 'poster child'
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what a beautiful way to start a ride. We came out of our hotel, and turned right onto this! This is not Saskatoon!
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... but this could be Rosetown! All the big modern windmills have gone but we did see this old guy, somewhat inoperable, by this equally inoperable farm house
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Take out the extinct volcano in the back, and yes, we could be on the prairies!
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Mount Vulture, which gives it's name to the local wine region around Venosa. Classic volcanic cauldron!
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just loved the light playing off this bridge along the motorway we were paralleling
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Since we were beside a motorway ... far enough away that we did not really see or hear it ... and the road we were on had a few small wash outs like this .... we were the ONLY traffic on this road ... bliss
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now this could be any ride along hwy 22 in Alberta!
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Scott AndersonOh, fine. So now we have to plan another tour up your way, I suppose. I love country like this, but we didn’t make it quite that far east last time.
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5 days ago
Time for a MacGyver moment ... my crazy glue and duct tape fix on my fender finally gave way after 3000 km
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Swiss army knife awl, two zip ties and 15 minutes ... back on the road ...I did trim the zip ties ... the real test will come if this is still my set up when we do our next tour!
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Hey, isn't this the same as the one two pic's ago .... almost ... but another 20 minutes down the road ... just like on the prairies back home
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This is the pic that inspired Song of the Day ... it may not look like much to you, but this looks exactly like the hills to the north of the farm my dad grew up on, and that I've spent may a day at, in Ruthilda Saskatchewan
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A sailor's weather report ... not a bikers!
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Best panini ever ... no joke!
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Our B&B in Gravina ... you really had to hunt in the narrow streets to find it .. does not look like much from the outside but very nice and the owners were great!
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a few night shots of Gravina ... here are more church's here than I've seen anywhere ... almost two on every corner!
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This place really looks spectacular at night ... it has a canyon and cave dwellings just like Matera, but on a smaller scale ... and no tourists
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...moonlight illuminating the Rose window in the Gravina cathedral .... ok they had some artificial light helping out
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the old town is built in a 3-d fashion, it looks like a bunch or random building blocks dumped down with staircases and bridges connecting them ... fascinating to walk around
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another 3-d section of town near the 'cave church' ... we are coming back here in the morning for another look around
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no need to 'count your steps' if you live here. Just living is a good work out! Amazing place
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.... and you have no idea what is around the next corner ....
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.... must be shoe washing day!
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Skeletons seemed to be a feature in Gravina. Haven't found out why yet ... if anyone knows ... drop us a comment
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This kid sat under the stature in perfect alignment for several minutes ... until i snapped the picture!!
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Kirsten loves these ... they are everywhere in Italy .... their version of the F-150 ... very practical around here ... they can fit almost anywhere
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Dinner tonight in a 'cave room at Tracce .. a lovely seafood focused restaurant
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cos with a potato puree and chard
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ricotta leek and asparagus ravioli ... yum
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sea bass and scampi - more yum
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lax with pink peppercorns - more yum still
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pretty cool light fixture in 'the cave'
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I like this place - desert was a medley of at least 5 things ... fruit, panna cotta, creme brulee, tiramisu, biscotti
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Good night from Gravina in Puglia
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Today's ride: 64 km (40 miles)
Total: 2,911 km (1,808 miles)

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