Another exciting day. I would first go down to Riva del Garda, where I passed by on the second day of my first trip in the mountains in 2000 and before I crossed my first pass ever. This day I did something I am not very much in support of otherwise – I used a cycle path on two separate occasions! There happened to be unusually good reasons to try them out this time. The first toward Riva del Garda you see in the first photo here and could see why it might be a good choice over the busy road. However, I do not know where it started and it did not last very long before it ended up along the road again. (I found it just as I was about to ride out on the main road south, after having taken a small road through the Dro village.)
There was finally not much gravel road to pass over and thus I managed to go a bit longer than before. I could not find any good data on just how much gravel I would eventually find on my way over the ridge road starting near Anfo at Lago d’Idro and up to Passo di Croce Dominii.
Riva del Garda is a very busy town. I managed to get my tires inflated properly, but then had some real trouble finding my way out of town (it was tricky the last time too, but I was lucky then). I had planned to use a minor road going west just off the west corner of Lago di Garda. It was not too obvious, but I later understood it was that road which was closed with a large fence one could not get around (it seemed it had been closed for many years). I found the other only road going west, which is terrible at first with a very long tunnel with many cars in it. There is light in the tunnel, but not very good. (Not exactly like the tunnels along Lago di Garda.) There are no views back to Lago di Garda at all on the way up. So it was disappointing the other road had not been fixed.
This was not the last obstacle for the day. At the Lago di Ledro an accident had happened and the road was closed with a long line of vehicles stuck there. They had even closed off the walking path by the lake, since there was some risk a car could be falling down there. I went down to the path and just went under the tape there, as the polices were all up on the road, and then cycled on until I got up on the road again. In Tiarno di Sopra, I had a little lunch (bought a sandwich and some fruits and something to drink, as usual). After passing the height of the road at Passo dell’Ampolo, the road starts to go down through a narrow ravine and it is a nice stretch.
At Storo I took another cycle path along the left side of the river leading down to Lago d’Idro. Here I had little idea of how to get back up on the road to Anfo and went a little too far (to a parking place by the lake). I just went back and crossed the river at the earliest place before that and took a small straight road to the Anfo road. It was nice cycling along the lake and after a while I came to some huge signs mentioning Passo del Maniva and other places that I should go to and even though I knew there should be an early road going through Bagolino and with a shortcut road to Passo del Maniva, I thought that road should have been earlier than where I came up from the lake. So I mistakenly climbed this (very nice) road all the way to the crossing with the shortcut road mentioned. This was not the way I had planned to approach this pass though and even though I had climbed a few hundred meters, I just headed back again to the lake and went further down to Anfo. (There were a sign saying Anfo earlier on that also helped fool me.) Just before reaching the actual village of Anfo (you descend to it on the main road), there is an extremely small road signed (blue sign unbelievably!) also with Passo del Maniva and something more. I went down to Anfo and refilled my water bottle, which is something I recommend before going up this road!
This road is very exciting and the whole of this road should be climbed from here, there is no doubt about that at all. It is very quiet and comes across as an insane cycling path going steeply and windingly up through the steep valley sides. It changes valleys here and there and it is not easy to understand where one is after a while. It is no big point to try and speculate where one is heading, but it is up the mountains somewhere. If you manages to keep a steady speed up to the top at Passo di Baremone you must be in good shape! It is perhaps 9% on average, but it often seems like more. Part of the challenge is the rather rapid change of climate and temperatures.
I bought a coca-cola at the restaurant there and continued. Amazingly the surface improves here and seems it is newly surfaced, until you reach a quite spectacular ridge. This ridge is not much wider than the gravel road going on it and through small tunnels on it. This bit is only two kilometres long and is the only unsurfaced stretch before you reach the bigger asphalted road at Passo del Maniva. As you can see in the first photo here (taken just where the tarmac ends and the ridge road begins), there are no barriers and there is virtually hundreds of meters below you on this one side, there is a few meters of boulders to shelter you from the other side which is almost as dramatic. I must have tilted the camera a bit in taking this photo – the farmland one can see in the distance could not be that steep. The tunnel in the other photo look like one could not possible drive a car though it (my reaction at the place too), but the cars went through. I was passed by one or two cars on this little gravel stretch, making it a bit tricky to cycle on without stopping. The road was rather dusty and somewhat stony, but it was a short stretch.
I took four photos here, but one did not look very exciting to me now. As usual it is very difficult to successfully capture the drama of a place in photos.
I tried to refill my water bottle at the restaurant to the left (the nicer looking one) at Passo del Maniva, but the bastards only sell bottled water. I went over to the cheaper looking place, and the girl there reluctantly refilled my water bottle. Well, well … . There are, however, not many places to find water around up there otherwise.
Now you advisably continue up on the new road toward the highest point at Goletto del Giogo della Bala (2162m). I am not sure this highest point is actually on this road (I think someone said you had to go up another gravel road near the top), but you will be close to it anyway. The pavement for this road is apparently something the United States pay for since they have installations at the top, which you can possibly see in the clouds on my photo (making it look more intriguing ;-)). Just around the corner in the photo the tarmac ends and then a longer gravel road continues. It is gravel all the way from there to Passo di Croce Dominii (around 5-7 km) and it is not always so good, but cyclable (it gets worse the nearer you come Croce Dominii).
At Passo di Croce Dominii, you meet another road – the road I first by mistake went up from Lago d’Idro. At first it goes up a little, but then it is only downhill on a very nice little tarmac road. In Bagolino I went into the city and then turned up a road to the left and proceeded a short distance until I saw a sign pointing down again for the direction of the main road (do not remember for which place it was signposted for). I did want to find another smaller road from Bagolino that should go further north and I asked an old man about whether I could get down on the road I was on to the main road, and he admitted that it was possible, so that was the road to take. Just after the sign there is a non-signed restaurant, which was very good (served pizzas of course). This smaller road is recommended – it is shorter, nice and more quiet.
Down at Ledro it was twilight again. This route over the Giogo della Bala is really the only one starting in this valley that bypasses altogether Ponte Caffaro, that seems rather unavoidable at a first glance at the map. (Why you should avoid the place, I will not tell you. ;-))
Time to look for a place for the night. I was not really happy about the first places and wanted to get a bit further up the valley and possibly over the next little pass (Sella di Bondo (823m)) before the dark. It was soon clear to me I could not get there before the dark, but turned on my lights instead and cycled even faster up the slowly steeper valley (it is never steep). I reached Sella di Bondo late and there seemed to be some places on the way there and at the pass (a little village itself), but something was not quite right with the places I saw, so I went down to Tione di Trento, which I at the beginning of the day had hoped to reach. It turned out to be a very disappointing little town/village and I only saw expensive luxury hotels and half-criminal looking youngsters in the street (they seem to go together).
I was a bit tired and it was getting late now, so next decent place would be it for me now! Still had to go several kilometres and then finally in Javré I saw an odd place announcing they were welcoming motorcyclists and it looked very unserious, but what the hell, I thought. It turned out to be the most original place I have ever slept over at. The man looked rather suspicious at me showing up that late and I sort of had to convince him I was a nice guy though he himself did look a bit like a Harley-Davidson guy ;-). All the rooms had very special furniture (I quickly concluded). Everything was really like a very curious museum. Then I had a few beers and something to eat (a hot sandwich I believe) in the very curious bar. It was a rather popular place, I noticed and they had many good beers. He had reserved a table for me, which was probably a good thing. I took a photo inside there the next morning when I was leaving.