It was time to get back to Italy and make the necessary arrangements to get both myself and Vic home , back to sunny South Africa , the shipping arrangements had still not been confirmed , the collection point was Milano so it was logical to make my way there and start the process. I left Lyon amidst the morning chaos that comes with a city and her inhabitants making their way to work by any means possible . The temperature had dropped by 10 degrees overnight and the steel of grey had moved in , with it that sharp cold that cuts to the bone as you ride. The first couple of hours passed very slowly in the heavy mist with the roads treacherous , narrow and wet . In the gloom our progress masked by the blanket thrown over us by the weather Gods.
I stopped every couple of kilometres to add layers of clothing to my body , which helped initially but as we climbed higher into the Alpes the additional layers lost their impact as the higher altitude and lower temperatures ransacked my body of warmth , it was getting really unbearable , my clothing far from adequate for HELP D Heuz .
I was riding through the magnificent Alpes , on a scooter that had now been touched by all kinds of environments , some more physically uncomfortable than others , from the sands of the Sahara to the snow capped Alpes , we now made our way to our destination. The route from Lyon via the back roads to Grenoble up to Alpe D Huez , then on to Briancon , back into Italy , then Turin and on to Milano was both beautiful and bitterly cold .
Climbing up into the sunlight thankfully offered some relief but by now I was wearing most of my clothing , plastic bags on my gloved hands and a couple of buffs to try and maintain some core warmth . With the below zero temperatures flashing on the billboards compounded by the wind chill factor , I was the blue of smurf combined with the red of the nose reindeer , the shivers of a newly committed addict into rehab and lips that could form no words or create a seal between cup and lip . Vic was loving it though , the fuel up here was 98 octane and the clean , crisp grey day matching her paint job gave her a sense of belonging .
I passed abandoned ski lifts waiting patiently for the season to open , hanging quietly , limp and cold . In a couple of months they will offer laughter , excitement and thrills for those they carry high up into the mountains , their cold steel seats full of the vibrancy and colour of the latest ski fashion , the bravado of the youth jeering or cheering each other on and the lure of powder , off piste and pleasure .These towns now like empty shelves , low on stock waiting for the new supplies to arrive , then they will once again burst with choice and plumpness for now they are just lost in the mountains ,with a skeleton staff preparing for winter wonderland and the ski invasion .
The bars will entertain late into the night , the restaurants will overflow , the streets full of laughter , conversations , the slip and swerve as the marriage between alcohol and ice fails , the victims of schnapps and bravery nursing injury , so the ski season will return .The late night snowfall will hide the towns indiscretions , cover the foot prints and offer a brand new start and a day full of possibility .
By the time I crossed into Italy , I knew that it was time to choose the shortest and fastest way to Milano , which I did and by late afternoon we arrived in the city , all that remained for me to do once we found the hotel was to unpack the scooter , run a bath to stop the shaking and shivering , wolf down a bowl of warm soup ,apply thermal underwear , imagine a bed full of Viking furs , not the thin blanket before me and off to bed it was.
I knew winter had come , the cold had removed all the warmth of Africa , it was time to return . In the morning the preparations would start and with it the realisation that a journey had found the point of return.
Until we meet again.