Today I was heading North along the coast to Marina di Giossa. If I was a car that would be about thirty miles along the motorway but I was having to take the the scenic route and making the day about fifty two miles . It was no bad thing really, as going inland was good for taking me out of my coast road comfort zone and the climbs were always rewarded with some perfect scenery .
And so it proved. I was on rural roads within a few minutes of leaving Policoro, climbing through acres of fruit farms. This kind of agriculture seemed prevalent here, and I noticed the mix of massive commercial farms, side by side with one man small holdings . Apart from the usual squads of migrant workers busy breaking their backs in the fields, it was very very quiet,and very very hot.
I switchbacked up to a high ridge with rolling hills to the left and a deep valley gorge to the right . Birds of prey glided lazily on the thermals beneath me ,with a distant shrill dog bark echoing through the valley .
A twisty bumpy descent, all the way down to the valley floor had the bike jumping around before another climb up to the village of Montalbano Jonica, where I was pleased to see some divine help offered for weary cyclists 😊
A long fast descent took the height off in a way that brought a grin to my face leaving about fifteen miles of flat riding amongst more fruit farms . The roads through these areas were reasonably rideable and definitely saved some miles as they criss crossed the olive groves and grape vines .
I’d developed though a new reason for not being keen on these quiet roads-dogs. More specifically wild dogs, loose dogs, chasing dogs,barking and biting dogs. In fact dogs (and specifically how to deal with them) is one of the most common topics of debate in any cycle touring forum. Some areas of the world were worse than others and tactics suggested included getting off and using the bike as a barrier, carrying a big stick, squirting with water bottles, shouting, avoiding eye contact, throwing stones or even pepper spray.
I’d first encountered them in Spain and they scared the bejesus out of me . A pack of mixed breeds,roaming the ever present roadside rubbish, stood barking and slobbering in my way, bringing me to a halt about twenty metres away. After a short Mexican stand off they seemed to lose interest and peeled off out of sight, giving me the green light to pedal on through
BIG MISTAKE-out of the wings they came,the small brown ones on the left,the big grey ones on the right ,snapping and snarling at my heels as I tried to accelerate away on the bumpy sandy track ,getting away by the skin of my teeth (or Achilles’ tendon) hearing the frantic angry barking fade away as I eventually increased the gap. As soon as I could I warily stopped, heart pounding. I know rationally the dogs were probably just being territorial and were more scared than me blah blah, but rationality of course had no place in my tactical decision making. I decided my chosen strategy was to actively try and avoid them , and outrun them if that failed.
Plenty of times I could hear barking as I approached a house or building, and most times the dogs were on the other side of a fence, but occasionally I was still being taken by surprise-todays treat was two Huskies coming out of a farm like snarling homicidal four legged Exocets, switching me into Chris Hoy mode in the blink of an eye -all I’ll say is that I’d reached twenty three adrenalised miles an hour before I began to make space between me and them. Google was to later tell me they can reach 30 mph and are known to be “an energetic and considerably fast breed…with amazing stamina” which was pretty much completely opposite to how I was feeling after a long day !
I was beginning to let the prospect of dog encounters affect my days and I needed to recover a sense of perspective. I had a word with myself later over a couple of beers later but they were an undeniable issue .
Overall though, today had been superb with some picture postcard views, smooth descents and beautiful weather . All was well.