Wednesday, June 13, 2012


  “Porso avere uno cafĂ© Americano e’ latte per favore?” “Can I please have an Americano coffee with some milk?” This is basically the extent of my Italiano. For everything else I fall back on the tried and true method of pointing, miming and holding up fingers. Then at the end “Grazie, ciao”. Pretty much fluent right?

 My favourite cafe in Ivrea..

 ..and inside
I forget regularly how different the cultures are – Italian people do pretty good double takes when they realize you ARE actually wearing boardies and jandals in a CITY! Ah the horror!  

 Turns out Italians stare

After our first weekend in Italy we had to pick Jamie Sutton up from the airport so we drove from Val Sesia back into Bergamo city, which is east of Milan where we had a friend who is studying there. We had a fairly interesting time navigating our way into the city but we made it with no meltdowns. We spent the next day hanging in a city for once, which was fun but slightly manic – plenty of opportunities to butcher a beautiful language ordering food once again. 
A super cool cathedral in Bergamo. Before the internet, when people were bored, they sculpted stuff...

The inside of said cathedral. Imagine this photo but in 'surround view' as it were. And four hundred times bigger. Impressive I know.  

 Family shot at Hope's apartment in Bergamo. Cute.

Arty alleyway family shot...

We picked Jamie up the next day minus a kayak and all his gear (don’t fly Easyjet) and headed to another valley called the Aosta. We turned up and drove into the mountains again to try and find a place to camp (Everyone here is fairly staunchly anti - camping for free so it’s harder than it sounds) and scored a perfect spot looking out over a beautiful section of river/mountain scenery. The next day we ran a section of the Ajasse (say eye arse) which was super cool and pretty steep (had a casual violent side surf in an innocuous looking but rather retentive hole didn’t I?)

 Camping on the old road where a new tunnel cuts the corner - ideal for concealing your common or garden type kayak gypsies. 

The mad Swiss, Lars Lammler running a hole on the Ajasse

Samuel on a glorious boof

Sam running one of the waterfalls at the bottom of the Ajasse canyon. I wasn't feeling the love this day because it was a tad 'sporty' and I am still harbouring a healthy terror of sticky holes. 

B on the second of the set

 and the third...

  The next item on the itinerary was another competition at yet another mountain valley. We had bolstered the kiwi numbers with the arrival of team Sutton e’ Uhl and we rolled into the campsite (vans only – no tents please) to catch up with more boaters/friends from all over the world** The racing was pretty disappointing with the river (the Chiusella) being ridiculously low and as a result the sections weren’t the same as previous years. Then it was into Ivrea (A city further down the valley) for the rest of the debacle – (whoops! meant to write event there…) on the artificial slalom course. Te kiwis did pretty well with Samuel coming in second overall and some good results in the teams racing (although strangely the Italians still podiumed even though they came in behind our boys both times – go figure….)

The team Sutton whip. 

 Patti not coping with the stress of watching Sam in the boatercross

The reason she didn't really need to stress...

 Mr Severin Haberling ladies and gentlemen. For all you kayakers out there, make sure you are incredibly terrified of sieves. Lars went into this one. Twice. We went to try to pull his boat out and snapped a 1200kg rope in the attempt. This from the sheer pressure of the water. Luckily Larsy boy jettisoned himself just prior to his kayak ending up here...

The upside of me not racing at the Chiusella (apart from the 70 Euro entry swindle) was that I got to go kayaking for fun on a river which actually had water with some of the most hard case Germans I have come across.

As I’m writing this***, I’m sitting in a car on the Motorway out of Italy (which is savage – their freeways are privately owned and they charge you a shitload of cash to drive on them) en route to Switzerland where we’re going to paddle some more rivers then hang at Severin’s parents house and do some work blacksmithing which will be super cool (his house is older than New Zealand – or at least the unified version…)
**One of my favourite parts of traveling this season has been meeting people who are friends of friends. You meet them and hang out and it’s like you have known them for years, it goes to show how similar the people you surround yourself with are no matter where they are from. 
***This was a few days ago but that's ok; you, dear reader, don't know any better. Update from Severin's amazing Hansel and Gretel - esque house to come soon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


 So I left the mighty US of A and got hit with a $400 charge to get my boat on the plane which wasn't ideal but never mind.
Walking through Frankfurt airport my first impressions of Europe were favourable; A guy wandering around the international terminal with a casual bottle of red and a plastic cup strolled past, everyone was nicely dressed (except myself of course - standard Kiwi singlet, jandals and boardies) and there was a bakery in the airport making fresh bread/brezels/delicious other stuff.
I found B, Soph and Severin at the arrivals with minimal fuss and we were off to the Sesia river festival in Val Sesia (Val means Valley in case you were wondering..)
We're staying in an amazing little village called Campertogno which is one of many that you drive through every five minutes on the way up the valley. Beautiful old stone houses line alleyways and the river. A huge church steeple (circa 1595) dominates the village and faithfully tolls every hour which is nice during the day but not so much at 2 am...

 B partaking in the standard Italian breakfast

There are a couple of tiny stores which sell amazing local produce for ridiculously low prices (like a dollar for a hunk of cheese which would cost you $15 in NZ)
The coffee is amazing and is $1 for an espresso which makes it tough to not enhance the already formidable morning habit. 

 Looking across the town bridge. The river sesia flows right next to the road. Just under the bridge was the finish line for the boatercross.

 The campground where we are staying

 Campertogno church

 Closer up
The end of the boater x course.

The racing for this event consisted of a team time trial down a fun but quite long grade 3-4 section and an individual time trial on the same section of which the top 16 qualified for the boatercross head to heads. 
Our team of Myself, Brendan Bayly and Severin Haberling managed to get second in the teams race which was surprising considering we had never even seen the race section let alone paddled it. We all qualified for the boatercross as well and B and Severin managed to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively which was awesome. I then took part in the "throwbag olympics" and with a spot of cheating managed to win that too (thanks to Severin's speedloader bag..) The prize haul was impressive, with Sweet clothing been thrown out haphazardly along with a new Palm lifejacket for my throwbagging efforts. 
We're going to paddle some side valleys today and then pick up Jamie tomorrow and head to the Teva Mountain Games in Ivrea. Might put some kayaking photos up soon but probably not... Lifestyling is the way forward.