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  1. 1. biciklo guide tocyclingtours 2011 EDITION FEATURING Randonnee’s Puglia Self-guided Tour
  2. 2. features44 WILD AT HEART BIKE ASIA’S WILD MONGOLIA AND NAADAM TOUR69 SPOKES AND THE CITY RANDONNEE TOURS’ SELF-GUIDED PUGLIA, ITALY TOUR88 ALL ROADS LEAD TO MOAB Spokes CITY ESCAPE ADVENTURES’ TRAIL OF THE ANCIENTS TOUR, MOAB, UTAH and THE Four women from a big city without make-up artists, down a theme song by Douglas J. Cuomo and lacking Manolo Blahniks single-handedly take on Puglia’s lesser-traveled roads, king prawns and Verdeca grapes with Randonnee Tours. PHOTO BY ANGUS ROWE MACPHERSON 43
  3. 3. We never day heat like we are right now. thought we’d be craving the mid- We’re in the luminous White Cave, the furthest possible point in the mag- nificent Grotte di Castellana and we’re cold, for the first time. Clad in cycling shorts and sleeveless tops, fumbling in flip flops and carry- ing our handlebar bags, we’re huddled together for warmth but also to lessen the offending sweaty smell that’s emanating from us and ungraciously up our fellow tourists’ nostrils. We haven’t cycled far today, but we’ve been out for hours in the same close-fitting, sweat-soaked gear. Outside it’s hotter than a complimentary hot towel in an Indian restaurant and about an hour ago we were plunged into these cold and close quarters with unsuspecting strangers. We apologize to the French-speaking German man to our left and brazenly ask if we smell as bad as we think we do. “Um, oui, a little, like cheese” he nods sheepishly. Hysterics ensue. And thus our trip unfolds.It ’s a Sex and the Cityesque scenario. limestone plateaus. We’re sold.The four of us are friends, living in a big city and The four of us city-slickers have come to thisenjoying full lives. One of us is in the throes of lesser-known region of Italy for a 7-day cyclingstarting her own business, one gets married a trip organized by self-guided experts Randonneemonth after this trip ends, one is curious about Tours of Vancouver, Canada. Randonnee ownerstarting a family upon her return and one has Robbin McKinney has been in the cycle tour-left her 2-year old twins to come away for her ing business for more than 20 years and sincefirst good night’s sleep in years. 2007 has expanded the company’s tour offerings Although our names are not Carrie, Miranda, significantly, turning Randonnee Tours into aCharlotte or Samantha we are four self-govern- flourishing boutique tour operator of self-guideding, comely and audacious women embarking cycling and walking holidays around the world.on a different journey in our lives. Randonnee’s self-guided cycling holidays offer Puglia (pronounced as you see it but without all the services of bicycles and maps, accommo-the g) is the heel of the famous boot of Italy. If dations, food and luggage transfers, but withoutthere’s one place Carrie Bradshaw would take a the services of a guide.cycling trip, it would probably be the heel of a Does that mean you’ll get lost? No. Does thatboot. Blahnik or Choo? Definitely Blahnik. mean you have to carry your clothes and gear in panniers? No. Does it mean you have to beSun - scorche d an d wi l d , Puglia is a an ace bike mechanic? No. Does it mean youcoastal region blessed with magnificent scenery, won’t learn as much about the areas you ridecloudless skies and cobalt waters. Refreshingly through? No. It means you’ll enjoy all the luxuryfree of foreign tourists, Puglia boasts Roman and of a guided tour, just without the actual humanGreek ruins, Medieval towns and Baroque build- guide accompanying you.ings, framed by grape vines, sandy beaches and Randonnee Tours provide your touring bike 71
  4. 4. Italian and Puglian culture. THE INSIDE TRACK Our personal itinerary consists of laughs and wine, food, cycling and music, swimming, The tap water tastes like bottled water and is getting to know each other better, shopping and very clean. There are fountains throughout the more cycling. The four of us traveling together day on all the rides, so don’t worry about find- have very different personalities, very different ing enough water en route. priorities, very different traveling styles and very The Italians enjoy an afternoon siesta. If you different items on our “must-do” lists for this know you’ll need a bank, or food or shoes at trip. some point in the day, go before 1 pm. Other- Beth is a backpacker to the core, never waste- wise, you’ll have to wait until 5 pm. ful and always open-minded. She jumps for The bicycles are Cannondale hybrids and are photos, makes lunch out of breakfast and be- included in the price. You may want to consider comes a giddy 6-year old at the sight of water, bringing your own seat for added comfort. stripping off her cycling gear and diving into its inviting coolness faster than you can say mozzarella.and reserve your desired accommodations Melinda enjoys the more decadent things in(there’s a choice of B&B, classic or luxury). life, has a stinging wit and thought-provokingBefore your departure, they send comprehensive questions. Her nostrils and eyes start twitch-maps and directions, suggestions for lunch and ing as she gets closer to unique boutiques anddinners as well as recommended sites of inter- she has an uncanny ability to pick out the oneest and fascinating information on the regions decent wine out of a list of a’ll be traveling through. Cherilee is a foodie whose enormous appetite At the start of your tour, you’re met by their belies her lean and athletic frame. She’s come toregional representatives to fit your bikes and Italy to embrace her inner and genuinely Italiankit you out with handlebar bags, panniers if self. She can smell a fig tree beyond the horizonyou need them (for those unexpected mid-ride and talks with her hands more than a 10th-gen-shopping trips), tools and all the paraphernalia eration olive presser.needed to repair a puncture. These same repre- And me? I fit somewhere in the middle, heresentatives are only a phone call away should you to document in words and images a trip of arequire assistance or advice along the way. lifetime. In truth, lesser-known Puglia is actually very This trip offers much more than just ‘some-well known - but only to Italians, because it’s thing’ for each of us. It manages to offer every-where they come for their holidays. One of the thing each of us could ask for in a holiday. Sun,most refreshing aspects of the region is its lack sea, food, wine, culture and shopping.of foreign tourists. Locals express a genuinecuriosity about our presence with little expecta- Our trip begins on the southeast coastaltions, few judgments and no animosity. region of Puglia in the magical coastal town of Our prescribed itinerary from Randonnee Monopoli. Upon our arrival we’re greeted withTours consists of cycling south along the Adri- narrow, winding, cobbled streets beaming withatic and sightseeing UNESCO sites, visiting an- life as the locals and tourists get on with theircient Roman and Greek ruins, taking a cooking day, post-siesta. Balconies are brimming withclass and enjoying magnificent dinners, cycling plants and spilling with the day’s washing. Theinto the countryside and immersing ourselves in streets are clean and the residents friendly.72
  5. 5. The stark contrast of the pale limestone set e Mare and marvel at its impressive swimmingagainst the turquoise waters dotted with blue lagoon.and red fishing boats makes for an unforgettably As we ride inland and uphill, we sample somepicturesque scene. It’s hard to imagine a more of the region’s bountiful fruit. With its mineral-perfect setting for life, never mind the start of a rich soil and aqueduct irrigation system Pugliacycling trip. is one of Italy’s largest producers of toma- We’ve even managed to time our trip with a toes, salad leaves, olives, citrus fruit, almonds,lively music festival of traditional Italian and artichoke and eggplant as well as the country’scontemporary Spanish music. At first, only the largest producer of white and concord grapes,very young and the very old are brave enough olive oil and get up and swing their hips to the groove, but So, if you forget a snack, fear not. Mothereventually the Limoncello takes effect and eve- Nature and the good farmers of Puglia have gotryone in the crowd takes to the stone-tiled patio. you covered with their delectable offerings. WeWe simply can’t imagine what lies ahead for us stop more than a bushel’s worth of times for aif this is our introduction toPuglia. We quietly agree it ON A SELF-GUIDED TOUR, YOUcan’t get better than this. Turns out we’re wrong. NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. Randonnee Tours has IT’S EXCITING, REFRESHING ANDchoreographed an itiner-ary highlighting the best of JOYOUSLY UNFAMILIAR.Puglia’s coastal and inlandbeauty. The route wanders from postcard-worthy quick nibble off a vine’s branch.turquoise waters in cliff-face towns like Polig-nano a Mare and Otranto to the rich agricultural B efore we’ d even set foot in Italyand fruit-laden lands of Salento and Le Murge we’d been repeatedly cautioned about Italianand picture-perfect hilltop towns like Locoro- drivers. So we brace ourselves for the unnerv-tondo and Martina Franca. ing whoosh of wind from too-close-for-comfort Having cycled and explored this region for vehicles and unfriendly honks from impatientthe first time 20 years ago, Randonnee’s Robbin drivers waiting to crest a hill behind us.McKinney knows the land well. He wouldn’t The reality, however, is very different. We aretake his clients anywhere he hadn’t already fallen met with friendly waves and encouraging beeps,in love with, and Puglia consistently provides warnings of big trucks yelled enthusiasticallyquality accommodations, cycling, scenery and out of car windows and an unexpected amountculture. “When we design trips,” Robbin says, of patience on hills and blind turns. Is it because“we look for outstanding scenery, quiet roads to we are four women on bicycles or simply fourcycle, interesting sights, great hotels, good food people on bicycles? We don’t know and quiteand wine. Puglia has all this and more.” frankly don’t care. We’re four safe and respected people on bicycles, and that’s all that matters.F or the first two days of the tour, we The great thing about the self-guided format isride out of Monopoli’s shiny cobbled streets, past that every day it takes you somewhere new. Evenits fruit stands and head out along the coast. We with the maps, directions and descriptions youvisit Egnazia, an ancient Greek settlement, enjoy never really know what to expect or how longlunch and a walk around the beautiful Polignano the day will last, what the accommodations will 77
  6. 6. cheese, a pork-shoulder-wrapped sausage stuffed with provolone and a baked egg and THE INSIDE TRACK cauliflower dish before watching Merinda sugar For great shopping look out for Boho in Cis- almonds to turn them into decadent almond ternino and in Ostuni. There’s also really good pralines. shopping in Martina Franca, Locorotondo and It’s a joy to see the women at ease with food Otranto. A visit to Lecce is also a highlight for in their hands and flour in their hair. Full of its architecture, history and shopping. character and energy, they talk as much with The white wine is very good and the reds are their hands as their eyes. They enjoy our ani- strong. Even the locals drink white because the mated reactions as we taste the food, so simple, reds are very strong. Because of the intense, delicious and healthy. all-year-round sun the grapes produce a lot of After our lesson, we wander the streets. A sugar, therefore producing strong flavours. town festival is being set up with crepe stalls In Monopoli you’d be wise to check out and brass bands, decorative lighting and white Il Celliere for dinner. Apart from having a very candyfloss. Once again, a perfectly timed show- good menu and wine list, they also make the case for Italian love for food, music and life most delicious mojitos. If you like seafood, seems to be unfolding just for us. be sure to sample the delicious Mixed Fish. The landscape changes dramatically as we ride inland from the coast. Along the coastbe like, what you’ll have to eat and what you’ll it’s dry and flat, offering intense blue-greensee along the way. It’s exciting, refreshing and waters, craggy white shorelines and beautifuljoyously unfamiliar. sandy beaches, not an animal in sight. In our everyday lives, we’re always conscious The coast is dotted with inlets, porto diof the time available. But in Puglia, it quickly rifugio. Originally used as refuge by ships inbecomes clear that our time is ours. Every glori- danger, they now offer a safe haven for swim-ously long minute of every blue-skied day, we mers and sun worshippers. We stop in manydo what we choose. We sleep in (sometimes), for a swim, a paddle, a photograph and a briefwe enjoy relaxed breakfasts, we ride for as long respite from the we want, we take long leisurely lunches, we Inland, the soil turns a deep reddish-brown,see the sights that we choose to. There is no time the heat intensifies and the animals start toagenda, and not surprisingly it takes us no time appear. As we ride, we smell mint, eucalyptusto adjust to this new, more relaxed pace. and bougainvillea, and pause to eat fruit and nuts. Every one of our senses is invigorated andI n O stuni , one of the most beautiful enticed.towns we visit, evocative corners pull us through The riding distances are not long. They rangearchways and up steep alleyways. Church bells from 22 kilometers on the first day to an op-chime, green shutters block out the inevita- tional 100 kilometers on the sixth day. All of usble midday heat as the town accordion player are experienced cyclists, so we assumed we’d bewashes his feet in the fountain. riding the longer options - provided the longer Here we have a cooking lesson, organized by options still took us to the sights and townsRandonnee Tours in the small open kitchen of we wanted, and were recommended, to see.Merinda and Anna in the San Filippo restaurant. Another tip of the hat to Randonnee Tours forWe get our hands floury making orecchiette, providing not just two or three cycling optionssimple fresh tomato and basil sauce with ricotta78
  7. 7. each day, but ensuring the worthwhile sightsand places are on both routes. WHAT RIDERS SAID Our riding days end navigating our waythrough narrow streets with the locals slowly “One of my favourite things to do was stop at thespilling out from their obligatory siestas. Shut- many vines along side the road for a handful of grapes, or at the blackberry bushes for a quickters reopen on shop fronts to reveal shoes, baked nibble. I even cautiously bit into a prickly peargoods and gelaterias, children bound out of their once. Not my best idea of the trip.” Cherileeafternoon slumber and tablecloths are laid outready for the arrival of evening appetites. Melinda’s favourite hotel was in Locorotondo. Our beautiful accommodations are always “Having a lovely and luxurious place that wesituated close to town, within walking distance could all enjoy and gab till the wee hours was brilliant. The ladies in the morning cooking usto shops, restaurants and main squares. During breakfast weren’t so bad either!”the trip we stay a mix of charming B&Bs andstunning hotels, each one a wide-eyed surprise, “Having the freedom of being able to swim atfar too clean and luxurious for our sweaty, just about any point along the way for as long assmelly bodies. Luckily, we scrub up well. I pleased was as close to heaven as I could get. One day alone I swam in four different locations! Perfect.” BethI t ’ s har d to come up with a singlehighlight for the trip, but the final day’s ridesouth from Otranto is simply spectacular. Weride along a rugged and rocky coast dotted withpine forests and barren farmlands, blessed withturquoise waters and draped with bronzing bod-ies on the beach. Before we leave for the southern spectaclewith our bathing suits, we take a left turn at Orteto see an Uluru-inspired rainwater well just offthe main road, wholeheart-edly believing we’ve just OUR RIDING DAYS ENDtaken a left turn into Africa,Australia or Costa Rica. It’s NAVIGATING NARROW STREETSa huge ochre-coloured well WITH LOCALS SLOWLY SPILLINGwith green bushes and treessprouting along its rustic OUT FROM THEIR SIESTAS.walls and dark turquoise wa-ter at its base. Set against the bluest of blue skies,the well makes for a dramatic scene. We also stop at the Banyo Marino swimminglagoon, taking the steps down to the left whereit’s free and as beautiful as the side you have topay for. We enjoy its clear and refreshing watersbefore setting off once again. Further along thecoast, the large and impressive anchialine caveGrotta Zinzulusa is another beautiful spot for82
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  9. 9. a swim, a tour or a gelato. As suspected, Beth CYCLING ITALY AT A GLANCE Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria, Abruzzo,strips and dives in. It’s a long climb out from The North - Valle d’Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Le Marche, Emilia-RomagnaZinzulusa back to the main road, so we’re care- Adige, Friuli-Venezia, Veneto and Liguria The central regions offer hills, the Apen-ful not to overdo the post-swim gelato. The North is for those unafraid of cycling’s challenges. Valle d’Aosta nines and coastal terrain where every riding is home to the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc; mountainous. Piemonte, ability is satisfied. Emilia-Romagna pro-A n d so we come to the en d of our comprised of more mountains and hills than plains, is one of Italy’s vides mostly flat plains but does have theonce-in-a-lifetime trip and prepare to leave. renowned wine-making regions. Lombardy is characterized by Apennines running through it for some hilly mountains, hills and plains. Flatter routes are found along its rivers and routes. Tuscany is surrounded and crossedWe depart open-hearted and blue-swathed magnificent lakes including Italy’s largest. Trentino-Alto Adige is an by the Apennines, dominated by hillsPuglia with fuller jeans and deeper friendships, extremely mountainous region covering much of the Dolomites and especially in Chianti, with few flat plainswith less money and more respect for it than we Alps. Veneto has something for everyone: flat plains, rolling pre-Alps, along rivers and coast. Umbria is also hilly,arrived with. We leave behind tire tracks and towering Dolomites and easy coastlines. Friuli-Venezia is characterized dominated by the Apennines. Neither re-take with us a greater understanding of a culture by mountains in the north, central plains and some hills in the south. gion are to be avoided for the hills though,with ancient roots and deep hearts, of people they’re not long or steep, just rolling and fairly consistent. Undiscovered Le Marcheliving in harmony with the land and seas and of offers flat river valleys, a narrow coastala language spoken as much with hands and faces plain, inland hills and the Sibillini with mouths and minds. Abruzzo is characterized by a beachy and Carrie Bradshaw once said, “if you are a single rocky coastline and the Apennines. It’s onewoman there is always one thing you should of the most mountainous regions in Italy but if you want flatter terrain, stay close to thetake out with you on a Saturday night ... your coast. In Lazio you’ll find hills, with lots offriends.” Well, I say “if you are a woman there is mountains and beautiful coastal plains.always one thing you should take with you on acycling tour ... your friends.” For Beth, Cherilee,Melinda and myself this has been much morethan a trip down the shimmering Adriatic onour trusty steeds; it has been a journey into eachothers’ lives, limits, loves and longings. We’veaccepted and disagreed, questioned and backeddown, cried and hugged. We don’t know if we’llever do this again but we all hope to get thechance again, one day. The Islands - Sardegna and Sicily Sicily has three main landscapes: coasts, ESSENTIAls: Randonnee Tours | Vancouver, Canada mountains and valleys. The northwest is the 800 242 1825 | | wine region, characterized by endless rolling farmlands and saltpans. The northeast offers The South - Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Campania and Molise Randonnee Tours Puglia 7-day 2011 Tour, Monopoli to Otranto: The Ideal TOUR FOR: • Those who like to be flexible with Mt. Etna and two mountain ranges, southwest The South is known for beautiful coastlines, unique cuisine and tour runs any date March-November and ranges from $1,790-$2,660 their route rather than being pointed the Hyblaean hills and inland fetures rugged rich culture. Calabria is mostly hilly with magnificent coastlines. USD depending on the luxury level of the accommodations you choose. in the right direction beauty and hilltop towns. Sardinia is hilly, Basilicata has a relatively small coastline and covers an extensive Price includes bike rental, all breakfasts, one dinner and a cooking class • Those who like a little pampering and if you’re looking for challenges, you’ll part of the southern Apennines, giving it the dubious distinction of with dinner included. Single supplement $445-$650.There is also a along with their active adventure and find them here. The island has high coastlines being southern Italy’s most mountainous region. Puglia’s amazing those who like to shop, eat and enjoy 9-day tour available ending in Lecce for $2,390-$3,540. For those want- wine with mountains in the center, in the northeast coastline is mostly flat to rolling in the south and inland regions are ing a guided tour, consider Great Explorations, Randonnee Tours’ sister • Every type of rider from beginner to and running across towards the north. For moderately hilly. Campania, home to Naples and Vesuvio, is mostly company also owned by Robbin McKinney. Great Explorations offer advanced. The inland rides are some- a more relaxed tour that avoids the climbs, hilly, with some mountains and plains. Undiscovered and traditional what hilly, but the local guide can cycling tours around the world, including Puglia - but with a guide. head to Lake Omodeo and the island’s west Molise is fifty per cent mountainous as it rolls from sea to plains assist you if you need a transfer coast. and into its hilly inlands.86