[Day 1: Rome | Day 2: Rome to Sabaudia | Day 3: Sabaudia (thursday) | Day 4: Sabaudia (friday)]
Today Dan and a few others were keen to cycle in the afternoon, and I decided to join them, so after breakfast we wandered into town, carefully went past the first cycle shop, and hired bikes in the second cycle shop. They didn't have proper racing bikes for hire - they did have one rather nice one but that was demo only - so instead Dan, Amanda, Pamela and I got "town bikes" - pah - but in practice they were fine. Except for Amanda's on the steeper hills, when the chain fell off, but of that more anon.
So, first, the rowing, and we ventured on 2.5 lengths of the lake - originally it was to be three but we saw sense thank goodness. Featuring the usual warm up and exercises, followed by a few gratuitous starts for the fun of it, a significant amount of shipping water from various washes, and then some "battle paddling" of us versus the launch. Which is fun until you work out how to do it. Version one had us going off, James setting the throttle to match us during the first 20 strokes, and then us trying to stay ahead for the following 3 km ish. Or however long it was. We were forced up from 21 to 28 in order to stay there, but we did. The next one was shorter, and I realised it was easier to not pull quite so hard for the fist 20 strokes, tee hee.
Lunch, then bikes. A few more people decided to join us, but didn't because the shop was out of bikes. In practice this was probably good: getting four people to agree on a route was hard enough, even though there was only one way to go. Which was: along the beach, around the mountain, along the coast on the far side to the end, and then (for me) over the top and back. Or in more detail: we set off and happily cycled along the beach road in the sunshine, stopped to look at the tower at the end, then went into territory new to me, as the road gently rose through the forest roughly parallel to the ridge of Monte Circeo. Vair nice, and after a bit we came to the turning that would take us around the shoulder, fairly steeply up, with Amanda obliged to push her recalcitrant bike; but we made it up and into Sant Felice Circeo. An old town - now much extended - and we failed to stop for coffee which was a mistake because it is the last convenient stop. But there's a nice view of the sea. And so on round, up and down a bit but mostly contouring in the way that contouring is never really level; and eventually to the end of the road in a track and a path - we left our bikes - to a view of the sea and the cliffs under Monte Circeo, since we'd come all the way round. Then back - with a false start, sorry, it is amazingly easy to get lost - and then we split at the bit where Google maps clearly showed a zig-zagging road up the mountain, and I could clearly see from below the lines of masonry walls underpinning it. The others went back on the coast road, I headed up. I went straight past a locked gate - obviously - and only realised a bit later that I'd missed my path, and that if you looked closely you could evade the gate. Then I got lost again in a maze of excavation and finally realised - when another cyclist on a real mountain bike went past - that the true path went up the tiny track I'd ignored. At which point I was forced to admit that the "road" up the mountain was actually a track, and I could not cycle it, I would have to push my bike. Not quite the whole way - I rode perhaps 50 m - but the vast majority.
Nonetheless, it is a lovely path, strewn with iris and amaranth, and with gorgeous views, I recommend it if you're hard enough. However, about half way up - thank heaven for GPS altimeters - the skies darkened and the rain came in, and I started to regret my decision to lighten my rucksac by, for example, leaving my raincoat out. On the plus side, the biker I'd seen earlier came back down again, so I got to feel like an explorer again, with no certainty of making the top. I pushed on.
After many twists and turns I was rewarded with some stunning views of Monte Circeo, and out to sea, and a distinct feeling of wetness. Coming to the end of the path I saw a huge barred metal gate ahead of me and thought "I am not going back. How am I going to get over that?" but happily it had a tiny sally port cut into it and I was through, onto road. I wizzed along - still in pouring rain - along a kinda summit ridge but downwards, till I found a deserted cafe with a porch to shelter in and feel wet till the rain nearly stopped. Then down, quickly but carefully, to SFC where I found a nice cafe to sit in and shiver uncontrollably while I warmed up. And so home, happy to do the forested bit while it was still fairly light; a lovely sunset sky of pink underlit clouds coming down to the beach; and a fairly safe bit along the beach road.
Back at the hotel a warm shower and dinner; interrupted by someone saying there was someone come about a bicycletto - oh, yes, I'd put off the business of returning the bike till later, the shop owner turned up and seemed very happy to get the keys back, I didn't even have the wit to apologise but we shook hands and were both content. And so dinner, and later on cocktails, Keith and I both rather confused to order an Americano and get a red alcoholic drink.