SLOW RIDE GARGANO
Slow Ride Gargano is an outdoor journey, a documentary and the story of a territory experienced in a slow way, seen from different perspectives, in close contact with nature. Cycling, canoeing and with a tent.
Nicola Totaro, the author, is a photographer originally from Puglia who last spring embarked on a bikerafting trip inside the Gargano National Park, a vary famous destination well known by seaside tourists but almost unknown to bikers.
He was accompanied by a Lightent, a waterproof Kunene and the desire to cross forests, cliffs, sea. Let’s discover his journey through his own story...
“Nowadays we tend to define adventure on the basis of the endless stream of exotic and dazzling images that social media feed us daily. However, it is not necessary to fly to the other side of the planet to embark on an adventure. There is no need to be an expertly trained athlete to experience one. Don't get me wrong, everyone would love to cross a continent by waking up at dawn to chase the sunset or sail the seas in search of waves to surf. But the problem nowadays is not the lack of inspiration or enthusiasm for challenges. The world population is increasingly urbanized, crowded and stuck in front of a screen. We are constantly timeless. Always hurried, too busy, every day seems too short. Yet at the end of most of these days we don’t feel like we have done something memorable. What a waste!
Mondays pass and after all life is what happens to you while you're busy making other projects.
That’s why last spring I decided to live an adventure that I had been thinking about for some time. Take my bike, my packraft and my tent and wander around the Gargano National Park.
Like many guys of my age, years ago I had to leave the place where I was born to follow my work ambitions by moving to Milan. A very different place from the one I grew up in, where splendid rocky mountains overlook a unique stretch of coast made up of caves, cliffs and small bays. The emerald sea surrounds an ancient beech forest declared a World Heritage Site, the green lung of the Gargano National Park. A park where one third of the Italian flora species lives and that has a rich biodiversity.
Every time I go back to my hometown, Monte Sant’Angelo, a small white pearl set between sky and sea, I try to slow down my pace and live in contact with nature.
What mostly made my journey relaxing was the desire not to be in a hurry to travel the entire 120km route, the perfect distance for a 3-day trip.
Not all bikepacking trips have such a nice start. Before getting on my bike, a beautiful sunrise made me forget about those apprehensions that usually accompany these trips. Did I bring enough food and water? Did I get the pump? Is my bike too heavy? I didn't think about any of this, I just wanted to go and leave everything behind me for a few days.
After crossing the historic center of Monte Sant’Angelo, a labyrinth of white houses from the Middle Ages, I left the village following an ancient trail. Scannamugliera is one of the oldest existing mule paths that was used by pilgrims since the end of the 5th century to visit the Cave of the Archangel Michael, today a World Heritage Site.
The view is breathtaking. During the 700 meters of negative gradient I struggled to stay focused on the trail afraid of its treacherous rocks.
Approaching the seaside, the territory changes. The steep slopes becomes more gentle and there begins an expanse of olive trees that reaches the sea, the true protagonist of this land. That’s the reason why I decided to bring my packraft with me.
I love bikerafting because I think it's the perfect combo of two different ways of traveling. Mtb, with its high speed and technique, and an inflatable canoe that allows you to continue even when a trail meets the sea, but in a more slowly way in order to have all the time necessary to look at the coast from a different point of view, admiring its colors, scents and getting lost observing the seagulls that glide on the surface of the water. I like the opportunity to sleep on beaches under the stars and to reach, thanks to my mountain bike, inaccessible, hardly beaten places that would otherwise be impossible to explore.
It’s hard to describe the emotion that I felt travelling along the coastline that goes from Macchia to Vieste.
From the sea I was able to admire the white sedimentary rocks with all its layers, the cliffs shaped by the waves, the bays and the beautiful caves where it is easy to be dazzled by the emerald green of the sea which is reflected on the white rocky walls.
Fortunately there was a nice weather that allowed me to fully enjoy the colors and scents of the sea.
I decided to sleep on the most beautiful beaches, Baia dei Mergoli with its two stacks and the high white cliff behind it and the Porto Greco bay immersed in the Mediterranean scrub with its coastal tower dating back to 1600.
After spending two nights on the coast, I folded the packraft, set my bike and started cycling towards the Umbra Forest. Soon the shadow of the beeches sheltered me from the hot May sun that could hardly make its way through the branches of the trees. The Umbra Forest is one of the largest in Europe and being in the presence of beech trees that even reach 40 meters high always leaves me speechless. The silence is broken only by animals and birds that live there and by the sound of the leaves blowing in the wind. The perfect stop to rest before going back home and to my everyday life.
This journey was a great achievement for me. Three carefree days, with the right amount of adventure.
The Gargano is a seaside destination crowded with millions of tourists during the summer, but in spring and autumn it becomes a magical place where scents, colors and silence surround you and never leave you, making you fall madly in love with this park.
It took me a while to realize it, but from now on, whenever I will think back at my adventure - as I am doing now - I will be able to appreciate having turned a wish into memories. And all this simply because in the end I took the opportunity to make this adventure possible".
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