Mountains,Mountains everywhere.........the Dolomites

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April 30th 2013
Published: May 2nd 2013
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We just love boiled eggs for breakfast and we indulged again this morning before packing up and heading off for the mountains close to the Austrian border.Not that we should be without a facility to cook eggs anyway we want as our next stop is in an apartment with cooking facilities for 3 nights.

We had the feeling that the holiday season is starting to show signs of being near as the guest numbers in the Hotel Germania along with the school party was higher than we have had in other places we have stayed.But it is time to leave the thousands of umbrella stands and deck chairs to the incoming throngs and head off for more remote places at least for a few days.

Vicky had worked out a route that was certainly shorter in time but the distance was greater and wasn't going to take us up a road that is marked on the atlas as scenic so we opted for another route which was longer but would take us past the scenery.

We stopped in at the supermarket and topped up the grocery box and also bought some red meat(we believe it to be beef!)and fresh fish(no doubt about the fish!)as we don't know what will be available by way of a supermarket where we are going.Often the little village stores have a lot of stuff for sale but we have found it never seems to be exactly what we need.

Our general direction was north but the maze of roads we took switched us from west to east and then again to north across the plains inland from Venice that was not dissimilar to Hawkes Bay with vineyards in great profusion.

We made steady progress towards the foothills of the Dolomites ahead and it didn't seem to have taken that long and we started to climb.We had the option of the A27 which is not a toll road but instead did the SS51 taking us through the towns and it became noticeable that the style of housing was changing from the heavily built up areas of the coast to homes that actually had front lawn and gardens.

Our lunch stop was next to a towering bridge /viaduct(another of those Italian road marvels)that carried the A27.These structures are really quite amazing and when we come across them we often find ourselves standing and looking at them in awe of how they were built.The cardboard top from a box of beer that we snaffled at the supermarket came in handy as a table to prepare our lunch of rolls,cheese,salami and tomato on as we couldn't do the usual boot lunch due to a few spots of rain and cooler temperature that we were already noticing even though we were only at about 300 metres.We had stopped in a dedicated picnic area with the road above and a lake below.Finding dedicated picnic areas have been few and far between so this made a change.

Further on up the hill ahead the A27 came to an abrupt end and merged into the road we had been on.It was like 'well,we have run out of money so the highway stops here'.

A few corners later and the scenery came to real life with a lake in the foreground and the towering Dolomites behind still with much of their winter snow at the upper levels.

The Dolomites are a different sort of mountain range with peaks here and there as part of the alps that they are but do not present themselves as a range that form a line such as you might see in the Southern Alps in NZ.The peaks are often ragged with sheer drops where snow would never lie.

The scenery was interrupted by a couple of long tunnels of 2km and 1.4km long but it was there again as we emerged from the darkness.

We climbed steadily towards Cortina where the snowline was down to just above the town although it had the appearance that it was retreating quite quickly.The temperature had dropped to 11C but with no wind it wasn't unpleasant to be out in.

What came next with the road we were on was unexpected and had we taken a look a bit further out on the GPS we might have been put off.We also had not observed that the Passo di Falzarego was actually on the road we were on.

The road was ever upwards with S bend after S bend and the snow on the side of the road was getting deeper and deeper where it had been heaved up by a snow plough.The snow looked like it had been there a while and although the weather was overcast it didn't look like it was going to snow while we were driving the road.

We reached the summit of the pass at 2192 metres asl where there was snow all around us although the road was clear.We only saw a couple of other cars for the 10 odd kilometres we had travelled since Cortina so we gathered this wasn't a main road to where we were heading for and we realised why Vicky wanted to take us a longer route but that was shorter in time.

We were very pleased though that we had taken this road as it had been a good one to drive with relatively easy grades and absolutely gobsmacking scenery with mountains all around us.It ranked up there with a couple of passes we have driven in Switzerland although it wouldn't quite make #1 or #2 in the high roads we have travelled.

Before the road started downhill we passed a museum to the battles that were fought in the mountains during the 1st World War.It would have been worth a stop had it not been closed.It would have been interesting to see what the Italians and the Austrians fought over in the area.

The road then started a steep descent not unlike the Crown Range down to Lake Hayes although the series of S bends made the driving slow but steady.

At the bottom we were into the valley that the main town for the area,Badia,was located in.Still all around us were the Dolomite peaks and every turn in the road revealed different views and different mountains.

We passed the area of hillside where in December 2012 a large part of the hill had slid taking several houses with it.Apparently the authorities knew it was going to happen and everyone had been evacuated from the area which was just as well when one considered the size of slide that had occurred.

We weren't disappointed at the location in the mountainside village of La Valle where our apartment was located with views across a valley to a mountain with trees at lower levels and a rock face where the incline of the mountain was too steep for anything to grow.

The houses here are like you would find in Austria and the one containing our apartment was in that style and only a few years old.The interior has been immaculately finished with light coloured wood and as we are on the upper floor we have a timber ceiling like you would find in a Lockwood home.

This place might just about equate to the one we had in Umbria although for reasons of the mountains all around rather than the rolling countryside.

We needed to stretch our legs so took a walk up the hill(there are no other options other than up or down!)and found the bakery and small store that the owner of the apartment had told us about.

Dinner of fresh fish with new seasons asparagus was delicious and we are already thinking about our first real red meat for several weeks for tomorrow nights dinner.

With no street lights penetrating the bedroom in the apartment it didn't take long to get to sleep after a day of spectacular scenery.

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