The Fat Kid Diaries: Weeks 77-79. Cycling in a postcard.

Week(s): 77-79
Ending: Sat 3rd January
Starting: Toulon, France
Ending: On a ferry somewhere on the Mediterranean between Italy and Tunisia; via Monaco, Italy, San Marino and the Vatican City. 
Km’s covered: Approx 1,150km 
The last 3 weeks, straddling the xmas and new year period, have been some of the most classically picturesque of the entire 18 month journey to date…days and days of feeling as if one is riding in a scene from a postcard! Cycling the beach road of The French and Italian Mediterranean coastline, crossing the Alps (thankfully only the foothills!), twice crossing the Apennines mountain range, the incredible historic architecture of the major cities of the likes of Rome and Florence, and in an area where even the most obscure town has a fort, castle or significant church type building, many which have, by my calculations, enjoyed 800,000+ sunrises and sunsets in their lifetimes, there is no shortage of breathtaking scenery…and almost without fail, all incredibly cycling friendly…and full of friendly cyclists.
It’s also been the most testing stretch from a climate point of view…it’s hard to believe a few months ago crossing the Sahara I was dreaming of ice cold water, air conditioning and dips in the ocean…the European winter has certainly turned things on its head, and it’s frankly been pretty testing keeping one’s sense of humour when trying to avoid frost bite, hyperthermia and coming short on snow and ice covered roads…if Garmins can be trusted, then the -6 or -7’C mid day temperatures in the Apennines mean a 56’C or so temp swing from the record high from Lettie’s Ride of 49’C in eastern Chad…seems a lifetime ago! 
The other big challenge is the Euro…the warming street side cups of coffee and the many nights where finding somewhere to camp is impossible, or frankly just too cold and wet, mean accommodation is eating aggressively into the Fat Kid’s budget…really need to get the Couchsurfing and Warmshowers Apps firing for when back in Europe at the end of winter…or just toughen up a bit!
Fortunately though Africa, and a break from the weather, is once again looming large on the horizon (literally; as I draft this aboard the somewhat optimistically named “Excellent” trans Mediterranean ferry from Italy to Tunisia), and Lettie and I look forward to a bit of our ‘normal’ routine back home in Africa for a while…although with the issues plaguing Libya, the final African stretch through to Egypt promises some interesting new challenges…but looking forward to it all tremendously.
The somewhat unpredictable zig zag route across the top of Africa, and the  differences in weather and life in Europe and Africa, really highlight once again the contrasts that have defined the expedition to date…the respective xmas and new year’s eve ‘celebrations’ of 2013 and 2014 are no better illustration…xmas last year was spent at the home of a fantastic South Sudanese family, with my new found Portuguese friend, in a dusty and sweltering hot NE Ugandan town on the border with Kenya; this year Lettie and I took the day off and strolled the streets and explored the sites and sounds of freezing, remarkable Florence. Last year we crossed into Ethiopia on the 31st Dec, which was just some random day in a country which uses a different calendar, swam in the local river for my bath, bought a few ridiculously cheap beers and ended up camping on the floor of a local pub/restaurant fast asleep by 11pm when it shut; this year was spent in Rome, where 2 or 3 extortionately priced beers where enjoyed in a small pub with some locals who where a lot more enthusiastic about getting outdoors for the fireworks than a freezing cold Fat Kid, who once again found himself  fast asleep by 11, this time in a massively overpriced city centre hostel…it’s certainly never boring!
A couple of Fascinating Fat Kid Facts for the last few weeks is that San Marino is the oldest (and surely coldest) Republic in the world, and the Vatican City is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population, and, by the Fat Kid’s reckoning, must have significantly the highest valued art collection per capita than any other city or state in the world! All these tiny ‘countries’ visited over the last month or two, Gibraltar, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City are all quite incredibly bizarre places to comprehend and a bit of quick Wikipedia research opens up a treasure trove of potential FFF’s! 
Finally, a massive thanks to everyone for the xmas and New Year wishes, Mohamed Aboukhdir who is valiantly going to the ends of the earth to engineer a way to get Lettie and I into (and hopefully out of) Libya, Andre Hugo for all the Maltese help, Jimmy Winter and Sony for the replacement phone, Dan Nicholl for all the passionate help and assistance on so many fronts, as well as my Nigrerian friend Chris who I met in Civitavecchia and who looked after Lettie so dutifully while I rushed into the supermarket outside which he was selling clothes…Chris has been in Italy 9 years, tries to go home at least once a year, and when I asked him what he missed most about Nigeria, other than his family, his answer, bearing in mind he now lives in Italy, completely floored me…”the food!”…well I certainly had a memorable time in Nigeria Chris, but the food wouldn’t be top of the Fat Kid’s list of reasons to return! 
Have a fantastic 2015 everyone, and if you’re looking for something unique and exciting to do this year, clear your diaries for the middle week of Sept…and look out for some exciting news coming to your inbox soon!
Lettie and the Fat Kid. 

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Thanks for your support and interest in Lettie’s Ride – The Fat Kid’s bicycle expedition through Africa to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London.

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