Winter is coming …


I entered Serbia in early November. The days were colder and shorter. Mornings were shrouded in fog that slowly faded away. People cleared the fields and gardens, cut wood, prepared salted preserves … everyone was preparing: “winter is coming” …

I tried to visit as much as possible, beautiful places, wild nature, incredible geological formations. The cold penetrated my bones. The sky was often veiled in grey or soaked in rain. Positive was that the tourist season was in hibernation so many places were all for me. Amazing places.

Amazing Uvac canyon
On the road

The endless back roads took me to remote places, rugged valleys, hidden villages, sleepy forests and magnificent monasteries. I visited typical ancient villages, modern museums preserving Neolithic remains, many many archaeological sites everywhere (mostly roman time), even in the middle of cities. Who knows how many wonders still lie beneath the ground! …

Sirogojno, open-air museum
Manasija monastery

But it was not easy. It was not easy to get out of the cosy sleeping bag on frosty mornings. It was not easy to find a open restaurant where I could get a hot meal. It was not easy to find a facility where I could shower and/or do laundry. Sure, there were hotels, but they were not suitable for two cats. Everything was closed. Everything.

Lepenski Vir, the oldest planned settlement in Europe

What worried me the most was when I parked somewhere remote to sleep and it started snowing. What would I do if a lot (too much) snow fell? It was also becoming more and more difficult to start the Pajero in the mornings… the nights outside were now too cold. Even the cats started sleeping in the sleeping bag with me. Winter arrived.

Sleeping along the banks of the Danube

I could have gone further south, towards milder temperatures, but on the one hand I couldn’t enter Montenegro because Cecilia lacked some paperwork (I didn’t want to risk) and on the other hand the borders with Kosovo were closed at that very moment because the situation was becoming tense … and my gut was not really very motivated to go south.

I found some warmth in the various natural thermal baths in the country. I admit, the first impressions of the infrastructure were not reassuring. Everything was felling apart … I felt like I was in one of those documentaries from the communist period. What was in complete disrepair today was for sure a gem in the 1970s. Apart from the aesthetics of the place I have to say that it was the best thermal bath I have ever had.

I looked for a cabin to rent where I could spend the winter. I also looked for a small job related to winter tourism, but without Serbian knowledge it was practically impossible. On colder days I rented small flats from families, mostly elderly people who didn’t know a word of English, but absolutely lovely. For a few dinars per day (12 to 20 euros) I had a flat for myself, completely equipped and with plenty of wood for the fireplace. Lovely romantic evenings in front of the fire with my cats….

Best copilot

Thanks to winter, I came into more contact with local families. To enter their homes, to breathe in the atmosphere of the small villages, the little well-stocked shops, the time passing slowly, the life regulated by the daylight, the grandmothers’ excellent cooking … Lovely people, very sweet, hospitable and friendly. After 2 months practically on my own a bit of human warmth did me good, very good.

Winter in Bulgaria

But I was tired. Tired of the cold. Of the lack of a hot shower. Bad, grey days. I was tired of going out on freezing nights to pee. Serbia did not have what I needed for the winter (a small house to stay in) so I tried my luck in Bulgaria but even there I soon realised that I would not find what I was looking for. I followed my instincts: ‘Go back to Switzerland for the winter and start the journey again in the spring’. And so I did.

… but winter is over now … This means that … She is around.

Un abbraccio

Stef, Popone & Cecilia

One of them … almost


With time I became more and more confident in choosing where to spend the night. On my bicycle I could ride into remote areas without being noticed and this made me feel safe. Whereas now with a big, white off-road car it was more difficult to go unnoticed, but slowly everything began to be smoother and I noticed that people were absolutely not disturbed by my presence. Yes, Bosnian people are really easy-going.

Blidinje lake

The streets were practically deserted and the tourist areas as well. Every now and then I would have liked to have a chat with someone but I also appreciated the privilege of enjoying some places in total solitude. When one is alone, the silence dominates. Sounds or noises were amplified, limpid and clear … it gave me a sense of solemn presence; of me living in the present; now; here; 100%.


The few words I had learnt were a great help in gaining people’s sympathy and trust. I felt so at ease that people thought I was Bosnian: they would talk to me in supermarkets, from the cost of tangerines or a few jokes in the pet department; they would ask me for directions in the street or start a chat in the small village shops: “Sorry I’m a tourist, I don’t understand” I replied smiling. They took a step backwards. They were almost stunned. They studied me with their gaze to understand if I was joking.

Old Mostar

I was starting to get used to the terrible roads, the abandoned villages, the bars at the entrance of the supermarkets in a cloud of cigarette smoke, which ‘Sir‘ (local cheese) to buy, the Plazma biscuits, the great seasonal fruit and vegetables from the grannies placed by the side of the road, stopping and looking at the level crossings (yes, because I discovered that 99% of the flashing lights and barriers don’t work … thanks to my powerful guardian angel). I was one of them … almost.

Leaving Lukomir

Almost. I was still struggling to see beautiful dogs tied to the chain. Those damn short chains! A boulder on my chest. Anger. Powerlessness. The look in those dogs’ eyes was a cry for help. Pure desperation. But what kind of life is that? Why? Why to want an animal to keep it like that? I cried a lot. On a couple of occasions, I asked if I could walk their dog. I still remember Lucky, a name that sounded like a joke. No one was interested in him. Whole days outside in the heat, cold, snow and rain; tied to his less than 2 m long chain. 365 days per year. I was allowed to walk him. Pure joy. Almost 6 km through groves and running through meadows. Tired because he wasn’t used to walk so much, he laid on his back and licked my hand. A powerful “Thank you“. I didn’t turn around when I tied him back to the chain. I couldn’t. But I could hear him crying.


I knew that sooner or later I would give in. I think a dog would have been difficult to get Dimitri to accept (although on a couple of occasions I hesitated a lot) but a cat … It happened at a campsite in Blagaj. A scrawny little face, a terrible coat, bullied by the other cats was prowling around, completely alone and with terrified eyes. I don’t know how, but I managed to catch her. I gave her some food and from that day on I found her every morning outside the Pajero. I gave her a bath and soon found her in the Pajero comfortably sleeping. I made sure with the owners of the camping that the kitten didn’t belong to anyone and so Cecilia had joined our team.

Sunset in Daorson

My trip to wonderful Bosnia continued: me, Dimitri and Cecilia. She was great, as if she had always traveled with us. She was always around and at night she had learnt to use the little clap-door. Inside she carried (she still carries) several traumas and I think there are gestures or situations that still terrify her. It happened several times that I had to wait for her for more than 9 hours. But she always came back.

Daorson megalithes

I loved Bosnia. Its people, its simplicity, the beautiful nature. The situation is not always easy. In some places I felt a certain tension, instability. In some places time seems to have stopped 25 years ago, where the destruction caused by the war silently cries out how much suffering the country has experienced: houses torn apart by gunfire, bombs, entire buildings collapsed, houses ransacked of materials that could still be used, entire properties, factories and businesses abandoned. “It was good once …” older people told me.

It is a country full of resources, with great potential, including tourism. For me it was incredible to camp on an archaeological site (UNESCO heritage site) completely undisturbed. Walking through the ruins and finding earthenware artefacts dating back 2000 years.

Cecilia at the foot of Maglic Mountain

It was incredible for me to camp in a national parks with my cats (absolutely forbidden in Switzerland). I was beginning to feel a kind of conflict: on the one hand, I hope that the country and its people can grow and benefit from an increase in tourism, but on the other hand, mass tourism would ruin many areas that are still wild and untouched today.

Sunset in Sutjeska National Park

A conflict to which I have no solution. What I could do was to enjoy what I was fortunate enough to experience in complete freedom. I felt (feel) gratitude for what I do, for the choices I have made in my life. Yes, because this way of living is not a condition that happened to me by chance/luck … I chose it.


Many people think I’m very brave. I’m not. I don’t think so. For me the families I have met along the way are much braver. I have to take care and I’m responsible only for myself (and the cats), but these parents have the responsibility for their children. This is definitely an intense and fulfilling lifestyle but it can also be difficult and exhausting. The family unit becomes the small world of the children. Spaces are restricted. Social contacts with peers are reduced. Language difficulties. And… and… and… but from my personal perspective it’s a wonderful gift that you can give your children even if they aren’t yet aware of it.

A visit too much interested in my cats

We were talking about this with Rebecca, Thomas and their children Vinz (age 7) and Tina (age 12). Them against everyone. “An unconscious and selfish choice” they were hearing from friends and family. The school had refused to let the children participate in some online classes or organize online meetings where they could exchange curiosities and experiences. A pity. A missed chance (for the school). But they pursued their project. They sold everything, even the house, and left. They are still traveling to enchanted places, experiencing joys and difficulties that no school can teach.

I am thankful for this “Bosnia” chapter, Cecilia’s arrival, the encounters (the beautiful ones) with people (the special ones). Thanks also to Rebecca for the opportunity to use her music for this latest video dedicated Sutjeska National Park.

The journey continues in Serbia … another huge chapter of this wandering of mine that I’ll tell you in the next post.

Un abbraccio

Stefi, Dimitri and Cecilia

How rich are you?


I enter Croatia. On my map I had marked a couple of places I absolutely wanted to see … I don’t know what came over me but as I was driving and looking around my little voice inside me was telling me: go to Bosnia, don’t stop here. Would I have regretted it? Maybe. I followed my instincts and drove straight to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosanska Krupa, Una river

“You cannot pass from here” Excuse me? “This border crossing is not for tourists, it’s only for locals. You have a nice cat by the way”. The young croatian border guard was super friendly. The back road I had taken was too remote. Nothing bad, I drove back for a few kilometres. CLA-CLACK! makes the big stamp on my passport: “Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina Stefani Zioldi”.

Una River

Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was there for more than a month. Even when I traveled by bicycle I usually stayed in a country for the duration of one month (also because visa issue), but I have to admit that overlanding with an off-road vehicle allowed me to see much more and to go into remote areas that by bicycle would have required a huuuge physical effort. I was not just crossing a country, I was really discovering it at my leisure.

Strbacki buk, Una river

Obviously I had many encounters. Even magical ones. Where a look straight into the eyes magically opens the doors of houses, allows you to attend banquets and puts a cup of coffee (very strong for me) always full in your hands. Ah yes!! The Rakija (Schnaps) was never missing. Communication was easier than I expected: whether it was the well-dressed gentleman at the bar or the cashier at the mini-market, many people here spoke German. Indeed. During the war, many fled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Most of them never returned. The elderly who remained died and the villages became depopulated. I passed through many ghost villages. Have you ever slept in a ghost village? Certain places sent shivers down my spine and a couple of times I struggled to find a place for the night where I felt comfortable …

Ghost village

The War. It is 27 years since it ended, but I could still see and feel the wounds … in some places very vividly. I usually ask my hosts a lot of questions: about their daily lives, family, work … Here I didn’t ask anything. I always remained very superficial. I knew for sure that each of them had lost someone between 1992 and 1995.

Each village has its own memorial

I let them tell me if they felt like it and many of them really wanted to. Their gaze lost in the void. I perceived that a whirlwind of memories and images was taking place in their heads. Fighting. Imprisonment. Disappearance. Rape. Death. These were the stories I listened to in silence. A boulder on the chest. Perhaps because of this same sad fate, the bonds between them, whether family, friends or neighbours, are very strong and genuine.

I am so grateful to all the lovely people I met

In general I saw few young people. They all live abroad. It’s not easy here. But this country has an incredible potential, also in terms of tourism.
You get the idea that these countries are poor … well, if by poverty you mean not having luxury comfort and/or all those futile or minor things that we surround ourselves with, then yes, they are poor.

Lukomir, the highest and most remote village in Bosnia and Herzegovina

But , is he poor who owns the ‘weekend house’, hectares of land, orchards, vineyards, huge vegetable gardens, bees, sheep, chickens and maybe even pigs and goats? Is he poor who is totally independent? Is he poor who doesn’t need to go to the supermarket because he has everything he needs? Pantries full of preserves, jams, pickled vegetables, salted and pickled preserves, dried fruit, honey, wine, cold cuts, dried meats and juices of all kinds … I come from a very rich country. But if one day the import of food suddenly should stops for a long time, what will we do? Will we eat our money and gold bars in the vaults? I am re-evaluating the meaning of wealth a lot. Sure, it is a hard life of sacrifice and toil that not everyone is willing to do, but I have become curious to try a similar lifestyle. A simple life, without schedules, at the rhythm of animals and nature, without stress, without obligations.

Woman living in Lukomir knitting the typical wool socks of this region
Tomorrow’s shepherds
With Popone it’s great. Occasional headaches with other cats

Of Bosnia and Herzegovina I really appreciated the wilderness. Untouched I wouldn’t say because unfortunately the problem of rubbish in certain areas is evident. Not to mention the mines that still unfortunately pose a threat today (it is estimated that there are still 2000 mines). Diligently respecting the bans on access (mine danger), I nevertheless found myself in wonderful, immense places, completely alone.

Morning coffee
Wild horses in Planina Krug

I missed this lifestyle. Every day is different. I decide where and when/how long to stay in a place. I can stay alone or in the company of wonderful people.

It is not always easy, especially alone when you have to take care of everything and … let’s face reality: I live in a car together with a cat; I always wear the same clothes; my diet is based on tuna cans … but what I have is enough for me. It makes me feel free. Serene. Rich. Rich in experiences. Rich in emotions (good and bad). Rich in special encounters … And you? How rich are you?

Evenings at Planina Krug

I still have a lot to tell about what I experienced in this beautiful country, which was truly a pleasant discovery for me. I still have many stories of wonderful places, funny, brave and inspiring people. But I will show you more in my next post.

In the meantime, I wish you happy holidays and may 2023 be rich.

Stefania & Popone

1, 2, 3, …, 91


I took the road to Uccea to cross the border with Slovenia. A winding road desperately climbing up the forest and the rocky mountain walls. On the road some fallen rocks. The topography was dramatic and the fog and drizzle made everything even more mystical.

There was no one there and I was happy: I could drive relaxed and didn’t have to queue at the customs. After 30-40 minutes (and ca. 20 switchbacks) at about 1 km from the customs: booom! …The road was closed. Nooooo!

“They are fixing the road. There is a sign in the valley indicating that the road is closed!” I hear myself being scolded by a woman who worked in a small bar in Uccea (and who didn’t won miss-sympathy). I smiled trying to raise up my karma: ‘I just followed the sign “Slovenia” and there was nothing indicating that the road is closed’. Well, nothing to do. I turned back, retracing the 20 switchbacks and informing other adventurers that the passage was impracticable.

Triglav National Park

I thought the border crossing at Tarvisio would be an agony. What worried me most was that I was missing a veterinary certificate for Dimitri … there was not a soul in sight. The Slovenian customs, a bit shabby with its broken shutters, was deserted.

After few kilometer without hesitation I took a road that pointed to a national park. I admit it: I had no idea where and what to see in the greenest country of Europe. In fact, for some arcane reason I thought I would cross Slovenia fairly quickly.

Boka Waterfall … where I almost lost my drone.

Love at first sight. Pure nature. Wilderness. Clean. Well preserved. The weather was horrendous and despite the fog and rain the landscape and atmosphere was enchanting … the road a little less: narrow, steep and winding, partly cobbled … better than the road to Uccea, but still a sort of ‘déjà vu’.


But what are those numbers? 17, 18 … aaaah! It’s the number of the switchbacks. Damn, I’ve already done 18! … 25, 26 … what the hell?! Some cyclo-travellers in the opposite direction: very tired faces, soaking wet clothes. I was glad to be in my Pajero. The heating on. Lovely music in background. Warm feet. I remember that sensation to cycle in awful weather conditions … 32, 33 … Geeeeez! I started to be tired … 41, 42, 43 … oooooh pleeeeease! … 50, 51! Yep, that was the road in Val Trenta. Apparently this road is quite famous for its 51 steep switchbacks. This means that in one afternoon I drove 91 switchbacks … what a champion (ironic).

Sunset in Bukovica

But more than the road it was the weather that tired me. Pouring, interminable rain. One day it seemed like they were throwing buckets of water on the windscreen. Humidity through the roof. Humid clothes. Humid sleeping bags. Humid cat. It was really uncomfortable.

Slovenian impressions

Fortunately there were meetings to warm up the heart. In front of the Boka waterfall a car with Ticino plates (!) pulls up beside me. Immediately a pleasant chat began with Marica (of Slovenian origin) and Tino. We ended up in a bar in Kobarid over a cappuccino. Or the super nice couple Dario and Francesca with whom we shared many opinions, laugh and life philosophies. And the very sweet Dutch couple with their two small children with whom we exchanged travel experiences. And then of course the locals: very friendly (and very talented with the Italian language!), proud and attached to customs and traditions. All this sweetened by a genuine, locally sourced and delicious cuisine.

I knew practically nothing about Slovenia. Taking the time to visit a part of it allowed me to learn more about its culture, traditions and history.
To think that the beautiful valley where the enchanting river Soca (Isonzo) flows was the scene of major battles during the First World War … More than 300’000 between Italians and Austro-Hungarians fell … if the riverbanks could speak! I kept thinking about how many young men died in this region. Surely as young as those who come here today for a dose of adrenaline by practicing rafting, canyoning and other activities …

Fantastic Soca (Isonzo) river

I would have liked to have seen more. I could have, actually, but I wanted to continue my route south, not to miss the autumn colours of other Balkan regions of which I had heard very very very good things… and I think I did just right! But I will tell you about that in the next post.

Un abbraccio

Stefi and Dimitri

Meeting Otzi

More than a month has passed since I left home.
Although I had already taken that step more than five years ago and I knew how much that “act of courage” had changed me, given me and made me happy, I felt a certain nervousness. I was more nervous than five years ago. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the general situation, which is rather unstable and tense. Or maybe it was because I myself was unwilling to give up certain comforts and stability … I mean: living as a nomad in an off-road vehicle … I promised myself to always be brutally honest with myself and if it doesn’t work (even with/for Dimitri) to not force things.

The team

I only spent a few days in the Ticino and Graubünden Alps. Absolutely beautiful places but the roads are very busy and you don’t get that sense of ‘wilderness’. In Ticino I had asked a gamekeeper if I could stop in the forest. “Are you alone? No, problem. Only in summer we don’t allow it’.


I placed myself in a really lovely spot, when … rubbish, nappies in plastic bags and toilet paper everywhere. Is it really so difficult not to leave a trace? The behaviour of these pigs also affects good campers … I was so angry.


In Italy I didn’t see much of the Dolomites. Fog, pouring rain and wind. I know the region a little and I was ready to use the camera as never before, but nothing. This is why not so many pictures in this post.
Even at night it was not easy to find a place to sleep. The season for many camping places was practically over and they were all closing down.

A group of campers suggested me to spend the night at Hans’s farm in the Alto Adige. “It’s a beautiful place with a wonderful view and Hans is soooo nice”. And so I did. Hans was really lovely, with his light-green smiling eyes. I immediately felt welcomed.

Swiss National Park

“Hans I have a cat, is it a problem?”. He became serious. “Uuuh yes, it’s a problem.” I laugh, thinking he was joking. “Blacky has already killed several cats. He just can’t stand them” and points me to a beautiful Labrador with shiny black fur and sweet eyes. “That sugar candy is a killer?”. “Yes. You can stay, but – and he stared straight into my eyes – take care of your cat. I really don’t want it to die”. OK, no, no, no. None of us needed that “stress”.


I asked him if he knew where in the area I could stay for the night without running into trouble or bothering anyone. He rubbed his chin: “Mmmm … you could ask Ube … we call him Otzi” he laughs. Otzi? The only image I associate with Otzi flashed in my head. Yes, exactly this image:


“Oh poor guy? Is he sick?” (what an idiot I am). He laughs: ‘No no, he’s just very “special” … you will see. Do you see that building up there? Drive there and ask for Ube”.

I was almost nervous to meet Otzi. A boy with incomprehensible pronunciation babbles something to me. “Wie bitte?” He pointed me towards a jungle of bushes. A voice rised up: “Who is looking for me?” and there he is, Otzi.

A man about my height (160 cm), ice-blue eyes, a beard and thick grey hair. On his head a leather cowboy hat. He wore a waistcoat made of many pieces of leather. His jeans were covered in a layer of dirt. And the thick hands, also dirty, were those of someone who had worked hard all his life. I immediately understood what Hans meant. Ube is not just “special”. Ube is a real character. The look was that of someone who had seen a lot. Proudly he showed me where and how he lives. In symbiosis with nature. The yurt (his house). The mud oven. The tea ‘veranda’. Figures carved in the wood. The cornfields. The geese … He allowed me to stay on his huge estate, in the forest.
“What do you do for job?” he asked me. “I am a geologist”. His eyes lighted up: “But then you know how to find water!” … and here begins the circus.

Dolomites (somewhere)

“Well, yes, geology also deals with water – hydrogeology.” I replied. “Come with me! Come!” said to me and he took me to the middle of a meadow: “Here there is something! Do you feel it?? Go like this!”. He spread his arms out with palms facing the ground and started moving around very slowly. “Do you feel it?”.

At that very moment I understood what was happening. Laughing was out of the question. He was extremely serious and I really felt bad about ruining his enthusiasm … so I imitated him. Me and Otzi. In the middle of the meadow, probing the ground with the palms of our hands. “If my colleagues could see me!!!” and I concentrated not to laugh. “Do you feel the energy? Or maybe you need the stick?”. I was dying inside.

I tried to be as gentle as possible: “Ube, I’m sorry but I don’t feel anything. I think you have to be very sensitive for these things.” He didn’t gave up: “Come here! Feel! Do you feel it?” … I moved my hands around “Mmmm no. And you Ube, do you feel it?”. Silence. “No I don’t feel anything either” and we burst out laughing. “You know Ube, I’m more into “rocks” than hydrogeology”. I could see the disappointment on his face but in a certain way I saved the situation a little.

Carnic Alps

He told me many stories. About wars. Of Russian prisoners. About his family. He desperately rummaged in a box. “Here it is! Look. That’s me”. He was so proud. “I used to dress up as Otzi on special occasions in the village, more for the children, you know?” The photo depicts a younger Ube, dressed entirely in skins and furs adorned with accessories and tools like those found on the famous mummy … Otzi. Ooh Otzi, you really did my time in Italy.

Un abbraccio

Stef, Popone and Otzi



My blog has been incomplete for a long time. The last part of my journey was missing. The return “HOME“.
It wasn’t an oversight … I really didn’t want to write this last post, because symbolically it represented the closure of an incredible experience of which I didn’t want an end.

Grosse Scheidegg

I had crossed the border into Basel. Seeing the familiar number plates, the road signs, hearing Swissgerman …. pffffff I was really home. A lump in my throat. In a certain way I felt proud. Proud of myself. I had succeeded. I had undertaken what 14 months earlier I was not sure I could do: cycling alone, me, a woman alone.

Gotthard Pass
Grimsel Pass

I admired the beautiful Swiss landscapes from the saddle of my bicycle. At the top of my lungs I appreciated the smells of the mountains that have accompanied me since childhood; the smell of the grass, the sound of cowbells, the church bells… home is a lovely place and as I have always said in my posts I am a lucky and privileged person.

Grosse Scheidegg

At home there are many rules and that thin thread of a sense of freedom that I still felt was completely broken. Wild camping is forbidden and campsites are not exactly cheap. Swiss people are very respectful and reserved. I never received an invitation from anyone; no greetings; no interest; no questions. What a pity. Only once did a curious couple approach me after seeing that Dimitri was with me.

Grimsel Pass

Nature is wonderful and as it should be, everyone wants to enjoy it: many tourists everywhere and you rarely find untouched, wild nature. The country is small and the topography forces us Swiss to live ‘piled on top of each other’.

Reuniting with friends and family was very emotional. I was happy to be home, but at the same time I felt a kind of melancholy. I was/am the same Stefi as always, but in fact many things had changed deep inside me.

Furka Pass

For a while I felt like I was inside a glass bubble. I could see what was happening around me but I was distant from it. I felt far from people and situations. I actually felt more connected than ever, but not with that (this) reality.

Gotthard Pass

I knew it was going to be hard to be back in the daily routine and I certainly didn’t expect people around me to understand: such an experience is hard to explain, you really have to live it. A difficult period. The salvation came when I a got a job. A contract of only six months but the team was sooooo good. The subsequent work was equally rewarding with kind and extremely understanding people … a real blessing! Sooo thankful.


You may be wondering: “OK thanks, but why write in your blog now??”
… well … because … SHE IS AROUND again!

Sunday ride


Winter was coming and time was running out. It is in the Cordoba province that I decided to reach my parents’ house in Faido on my bicycle from a point within Europe … spontaneously I bought a flight ticket to Amsterdam, Netherlands.



My family and friends knew of my new plan only when I send my GPS position with my satellite transmitter, as soon as I landed in the old continent … I like this kind of surprise twist.

Only Anneloes and Adrian knew about my arrival in Netherlands. I met the lovely and funny couple in Ushuaia (and then again in Cochrane). They were riding to Santiago de Chile and they have also been on a 3-week cruise in the Antarctica …. I was so jealous!

I arrived exhausted in the evening … it was a relief to see friendly faces after a nightmare flight. While Anneloes was taking care of me, Adrian was preparing my bicycle. Thank you my friends!



When I started this trip I categorically excluded Europe … probably because one years ago I had others needs. I wanted to start in a place different of my home, I wanted to get away from everything that was familiar to me. This is why I started in Georgia. But now, after 13 months on the road, it seemed to me interesting to end the journey here and to experiment how I would have looked at “my” reality.


Haar castle

I should admit that I was positively surprised … we know: in Europe at the moment there is a social crises, but despite this I had generally positive experiences. Netherland is really a very nice, very green, very clean and … very flat country.

The cycle paths are fantastic. You can travel for kilometers in the countryside submerged by nature, or straights along the highway,  but never happened to find myself in the middle of a busy road.

Netherland-2People are kind and helpful. Like the lovely Marja. She asked me if I needed help and, if I wanted, she could accompanied me for a stretch: “Sure, it would be a pleasure!”. She explained me about architecture, history, uses and customs of Dutch people … we rode about 20 km together.

Preparation zero (as usual) … not having internet it was difficult for me to download the maps necessary to navigate. Marja was the one who saved me. Thanks to her paper maps I could make a sketch of the path that I had to take … it worked out very well. In this way I rode through Netherlands. Thank you dear Marja!



Although there are no more borders, I noticed quite quickly when I entered Belgium. Everything was a little more neglected, the gardens were not perfect and flowered like the Dutch ones and the attention to aesthetics (architectural and also personal) was lower … in other words, it seemed to me that the Belgians are more easy-going.

For the second time during this trip I decided to try the warmshowers hospitality. I ended in a goat farm in Borlon. Geraldine and her family are just amazing and I had a funny stay there.

Is the goat winking at me? Aaah noooo, it is for what is hanging behind me!

Gaston and the little horse … Ehi guys a bit of privacy please…

Geraldine takes care of bout 30 goats, milks them and makes delicious cheeses. The family has a very simple lifestyle and produce practically almost everything they need … even delicious beers.



La Roche en Ardenne

La Roche en Ardenne

I was enjoying peaceful, nice, relaxing rides … I had the impression to be on holiday!



Even Luxembourg and France were pleasant surprises. In France, in the beautiful camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker, the owners offered me the two nights I spent there: “We too want to give our little contribution to your trip!” … an adorable and great-hearted family. MERCI beaucoup.



On the way to the camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker


Camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker

I noticed that at my passage people laughed, maybe because of my faded and worn clothes, the shoes that had better times and the bicycle loaded with bags covered with dust and patches … sure, in the midst of so much elegance and attention to the physical appearance my passage didn’t go unnoticed. I didn’t care … how could I care? I had almost accomplished what one year ago to me seemed unreachable!


I was in Alsace … I was very close to Basel, where live my sister and her family … difficult to explain the excitement and happiness at the thought of hugging my loved ones … I think it was the adrenaline that made me practically fly on my bicycle.





And the star of this trip? I think it enjoyed quite much: sunny and hot days, a lot of countryside, mice to chew everywhere (yes, it is a murder) and  long sleep in the fresh grass … do you think it was suffering?

I would define the European route as a Sunday ride: beautiful, easy, pleasant and relaxing. Thanks Europe it has been a pleasant time … but wait a moment… yes, something is missing: my home country! To the swiss ride I’ll dedicate my next post.

Un abbraccio

Catwoman, Dimitri the murder and some chewed mice

… 4 Heads …


I was in the heart of Argentina. An area very little beaten by cyclists.  At my passage people looked at me with amazement, wide eyes, smiles, greetings and encouragement. I seemed to relive what I lived in Central Asia, but here I had a huge advantage: I speak Spanish … I could converse with people, respond to their curiosity and exchange friendly chatter. I really enjoyed every stops in the little  villages.



Yes, the landscape was boring … but I liked it. I liked the people. I liked to imagine the life there in the middle of the “campo” (fields) 100 years ago. Big houses, long, straight roads, the abandoned railway, little schools in the middle of nowhere. Simple, humble and genuine life. Freedom.


Rio de los Sauces

I was amazed by the extent of the crops, the amount of hectares of land and the unimaginable production of soybean, wheat and cereals. Argentina has 42’000’000 inhabitants and produces an amount of these raw materials that can feed up to 100’000’000 persons.  Despite this … unfortunately and incredibly … a part of the population is suffering malnutrition … why? Politic. Money. Power.



After the flat Pampa province I entered in the Cordoba region. Finally some topography. People were really friendly but …. geeeez! Sometimes it was difficult to understand their accent. People were calling me with any type of nickname: flaca (tiny), gordi (fatty), madre (mother), niña (baby), hija (daughter), negra (blacky), chica (girl), loca (crazy), muchacha (girl) … . At the end  I didn’t know my name anymore.



Villa Yacanto

Beautiful forests, rivers, eucalyptus trees with silver leaves that perfumed the air with a refreshing aroma and …  rain, rain, rain. 24 days without seeing the sun. 21 wet, rainy days. 234% of humidity. Curly hair. Even the locals were tired.


Villa Yacanto region


Despite the rain and the high humidity Carla, a young woman, was washing her car … “crazy, who is washing the car with this weather? …” I tough while I was riding in front of her house … well, guess what? … 2 amazing days with a wonderful family. “I will miss you  till the sky” said the little Joaquin, Carla’s son, when I left.


On the way to La Cumbrecita

Not only the encounter with Carla was weird: I wanted to reach the northest part of the province but the weather was just horrible. What to do? Generally I follow my instict but for the first time during this trip I was really torn on what to do … I threw the coin. Head: continue toward north (rain and fog). Cross: heading eastward (toward Buenos Aires).



Feeling at home. La Cumbrecita.

Head …”Nooooooooo! Ok, I throw it again” (actually I knew what I wanted! ahahaha) … Head … “Mmmmmerda! Ok, once again” … Head … “Ahahahah WTF! Ok, the last one and I follow the result” … Head … 4 Heads … What is the probabilty to get 4 times head? 12.5% … I was not motivated at all to continue toward north but I trusted the coin … guess what? … 2 amazing day in a beautiful, incredible villa with two amazing souls.


La Cumbrecita

I really would like to tell you about  A L L  the magic encounters I had in Cordoba and Santa Fe provinces but, as usual,  it is not possible in few lines …


La Cumbrecita

Guido, Julia, Fatime, Meli, Anita, Anibal, Cacho, Guillermo, Lua, Carla, Abril, Joaquin, Maria, Carlos, Raquel, abuelita Eva, Renzo, Daniela, Coty, all the firefighters of Tio Pujio, Mario, Alexis, Carla, Leo, Marcos, Silvina, German, Sergio, Alejandra, police officers Romero and Rossi, Silvina, Alicia, Fabio, Martina, Pablo, the girl of the fry shop that offered me the lunch, the baker that offered me a dulce de leche cake … ok, ok, I stop. For you are just names, for me are smiles, laughter, cries, hugs, warmth, affection, generosity, stories, curiosity … GRACIAS.


My hosts treated me like a queen with delicious asados

I have mixing feelings … I’m living an incredible experience … I’m happy to embrace my loved ones, but … how will I return to my daily life?


I’m not yet home and I’m already planning my next trip … but there is a problem: I have a couple of candidate destinations … which one choose first?? … I think I’ll throw the coin.

Un abbraccio

Stef, Dimitri and 4 Heads


Like in a movie


I was happy to leave that part of Chile. Believe me or not but the air was heavy there, in Futaleufù … Beautiful nature and the valley is just stunning, but have you ever experienced to “feel” a bad energy in a place? Not only the energy was dark but even the weather: cold, grey and a lot of rain … I wanted to escape from there.


Ruta de los 7 lagos

I was riding fast with a big smile on my face toward the Argentinian border. As usual I crossed in the other country without problem. I stopped in a little village to buy some bread and finally happened something that for looong time I was looking for: eye contact, big smiles and short chatting. People were polite and very friendly … I was positive, the new chapter was promising … and dulcis in fundo: the weather was great! (at least for few days).


Ruta de los 7 lagos

I stopped in beautiful camping places, empty because the end of the tourist season. I had very interesting conversations about people, education, politics … like with Gustavo, a young gaucho, owner of more than 2000 hectares … yes 2000 …


Ruta de los 7 lagos

I pitched my tent below an incredible 30 m high tree. I looked 360° around me. Mountains, high picks, forests, a green crystalline river, horses, cows, sheep … I was imagining Gustavo telling to his son: “Look my son, all what do you see here will be yours”. Like in a movie. Incredible.


Lago Falkner


Lago Falkner

Everywhere I was stopping people were curios, talkative and very friendly. Laughs from the streets, loud conversations (yes the Argentines are very loud), colors, sweet smell from the panaderias (bakery), life. It seemed that my soul was resurrecting from a long hibernation.


Lago Falkner

After the beautiful touristic part of La Ruta de los sietes Lagos I decided to move away from the Cordillera. I was tired about rain, cold, wind … it was from Ushuaia that I had most of the time this kind of conditions! I officially abandoned my original plan: reach Colombia, or Peru … or Bolivia.


Ruta de los 7 lagos

I was a bit sad but as I was thinking for China: those country will not move from there, or not?… at least not dramatically in the next few years … (yes, I’m a geologist). I will visit those countries in another trip. So I decided to move quickly eastwards.


San Martin de los Andes

Reached the warm and sunny Neuquen (where I met   l o v e l y   people) I accepted the proposition of three exquisite young veterinarians I met in the 7 Lagos region few days before: a lift from Neuquen till Santa Rosa, trough the Ruta del Desierto. Let’s go! (no no, don’t tell me it’s cheating …I call it audience assistance … everyone lives, makes decisions and creates his own trip as best he likes it).


On the way to Neuquen


On the way to Neuquen

We had fun in the camioneta with Danisa, Guadalupe, Ezequiel, Choco the dog and of course Dimitri … packed like hell, with a dog and a cat … in the middle of a desert … so funny … like in a movie. Gracias chicos! Son  d i v i n o s!


Crossing the Ruta del Desierto. Front: Ezequiel, Guadalupe. Back: dog Choco, Danisa, Catwoman, Dimitri


Pampa province

I enter in the Pampa province. I was ready to have boring, monotonous, flat rides there but … cabooooom! I had so much fun. Cars, camionetas, huge trucks were respecting me in a way that I never experienced before, but most important: people were   a m a z i n g.

Left: Adriana, Lujan, Ema and Fabricio. Right: Daniel and Gustavo. Thank you my dear friends from Winifreda!

I was sure that in those little villages in the middle of the flat Pampa I would have spent only one night in each locality …well I was wrong.


Embajador Martini

I met such lovely people … it was difficult to leave them. Simple people with a great, generous heart. They were not used to see a traveler on a bicycle. They were so surprized that in all crossed villages between Santa Rosa and Rio Cuarto I was interviewed by the local TV channels.


Lovely Jaqueline and Carlos … it has been difficult to leave them. Gracias de todo corazon. (Am I tired??? ahahaha)

In Tosquita happened something magic …C H I L D R E N! Finally children!!! A six years old girl: “Why do you sleep in a tent in the park and you don’t go at your home?“. “Well, there is not a hotel here and my home is really very far”. Silence. Open mouth. She run away screaming to her friends: “Hey guys come here! This woman is sleeping in a tent because her house is very far!!“.  A dozen of children surrounded me. They were asking me all about my tent and the gas stove.


Embajador Martini

In the evening came some teenager. They were curious and asked me lots of interesting questions … I told them, that as theme, I come from a very small village and that it is true that everything is possible … They brought me mate, cakes and a delicious soup. So lovely!

Almost one year has passed … I think that I don’t realize yet what I have done … I mean: I was just riding a bicycle, everybody can do that! But I had the courage to follow my instinct, my heart, my needs … and I hope that those lovely teeny from Tosquita will never forget my story.


One year. I scroll my pictures and I see again all those incredible places and fantastic people … a sort of melancholy arise but on my face there is a big smile and my eyes are full of tears of joy. Wow!


This year has been   f a n t a s t i c.     I n c r e d i b l e.     U n f o r g e t t a b l e.   Almost surreal. My year has been like in a movie.


Un abbraccio

Stef & Dimitri





“Gracias hijita”


(Very loooong post) The Caretera Austral. The Mekka of cycling tourists. I though that Pamir was busy but after few kms from Villa O’Higgins I quickly noticed that the high Tajik mountains in comparison were isolated places.


can you see the road going up up up up….?

On the Pamir I was used to stop and have small chats with other cyclists … and here? Serious faces, a quick “hola” and they were already gone (of course a couple of funny exceptions!).Caretera-2

I was amused because most of theme were young couples … generally the gentleman pedaling in the front and behind (much behind) a very serious and exhausted partner … I had the impression they didn’t have much fun … but this was just my perception.


Beautiful birds everywhere. Here a Woodpecker (crazy sound!)

I had the impression to be in an Equatorial jungle: rain and mystic fog. Even the type of vegetation was similar and the chirping of a bird remembered me one of the Borneo jungle … do you know when you listen a music and boooooom you are living again a specific moment? A sort of melancholy raised up … how are they doing my little friends Penan?


Baker river

Ups and downs. The sweat was mixing with the rain … wet smelly cloths … cold head wind … Frozen hands … Frozen feet … Frozen nose … When possible I just tried to enjoy the majestic view. In the distance blue glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, lakes and forests. A sweet smell of Rosehip. From Equatorial jungles I was cycling in something that was reminding me Canada … or even my home at bigger scale.  B e a u t i f u l !


Puerto bertrand

I always say that my trip is not about bicycle but about people … eyes contact, a generous smile and the connection is done. I scroll my pictures and almost NO ONE with people or children. Where are the children???


Bertrand lake

Here nobody was screaming “heeellooooo!” like in Uzbekistan; women were not shaking their hands to invite me for a Ch’ai like in Georgia, Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, no one was stopping me just to ask you if I was OK like in Iran … no smiles … no greetings … Indifference.


View from Cerro Color property

I was a bit disappointed. A couple (more!) of occasions I was angry … angry to be treated with contempt. Completely wet and cold, doors were slamming in front of my face with any kind of stupid lie or bad comment … “What is wrong with the people here?!?” I ask once to a an incredible rude man.


Caretera Austral from Cerro color

I was also feeling bad for Ricardo, a generous and comprehensive man who allowed me to pitch my tent below its veranda. Heavy rain like shower. He wanted me to stay at his house but I refused because the kitty. Fortunately! When his wife came back in the evening she was not angry, she was furious. “What is this??” … This??? I’m a person!! I heard theme disputing that night. The day after she didn’t look at me and she didn’t say goodbye when she left slamming the door …


Hiking in Cerro Color property

I had mixed feelings. I could tell you many other stories  but as usual I try to be short with my posts (already long). When I was telling my experience to other travelers they were looking at me with suspicious eyes: “?? Really?? Noooo we had great experiences! We were invited at their home, they gave us food and we had fun … best people ever!” I think they were trying to tell me that I AM the problem …


Cerro Color

Only few travelers had my same experience and in a certain way it consoled me: ok, maybe I AM NOT the problem … Probably I was just unlucky … 2 months of bad luck … or maybe what I experienced in Central Asia was so incredible that now everything appeared insignificant … mmmm no … I’m lying to myself: people with me were unfriendly and this is a fact.


Shepard-cat in Cerro Color

Of course the situation affected my enthusiasm … the Catwoman was passive … the Catwoman was moving by inertia, by the curiosity to see what the region could offer me and by the hope that things would change…and finally somenthing happened. In a warm day I wanted to wild camp but I saw: Camping Cerro Color, Agua caliente.


The entry of Cerro Color camping

“A shower would be nice”. I stopped. “How beautiful is this place?! Don’t you need some help here?” I joked spontaneously to Filomena and Saturnino. It didn’t pass 10 minutes and they were back: “Yes, we need help. How much do you want and how long can you stay?”. They were adorable. My soul was nourished with generosity and kindness. I stayed one week and of course I didn’t want money.


Filomena, Juri and Amigo


Cerro Color property … amazing

With the kitty we had a great time there: greenhouses, sheep, cows, horses, camping … we were busy in the 400 hectares property. They were very happy. “Gracias hijita” (thank you little daughter),  they said when I left the property on my loaded bicycle. They wanted me to stay one month. The apex of joy was when we fixed the water pump.


This is how a geologist repair a pump …  with rocks of course. Temporary reparation before  fixing it properly.

After that week I was filled with food, gratitude, joy and enthusiasm … I needed it. Thank you abuelitos.



On the way to Chile Chico


Everytime I’m surprised … he really like it.

Another special person that warmed up my heart along the Caretera was Alisia. Little incredible woman. I had a lot of fun in the kitchen with her and Raul, the chef. She had a comedor where about 50-60 workers per day came to have lunch. Busy busy days but I had a lot of fun with them.


Raul and Alisia

Gracias hijita, when you come back the door of my house will be open for you”. Told me Alisia and I left also Villa Ortega with my heart filled with gratitude.



On the way to Chile Chico

I’ll also remeber the abuelita Luzmira who filled my belly with delicious guisos (stews). Also at Luzmira place I helped to fix the water pump … I still remember the big smile and light in her eyes Gracias hijita.


On the way to Chile Chico


On the way to Chile Chico

Honestly, if you ask me how was what I saw of the Caretera Austral I can summarize it by saying: nice … but why is it so famous I don’t know exactly. Don’t get me wrong: beautiful, but for me that I come from the swiss Alps I was more impressed when I was riding on roads like the way to Chile Chico or Futaleufù … but this is only my opinion.

Villa Ortega-1

On the way to Villa Ortega

Probably my disappointment was because for me is not only about nice landscapes but also the connection with people. I’m so happy that I meet those 3 amazing women and Ricardo. They did parts of the Caretera special.

Villa Ortega-3

Villa Ortega



Cordero al palo

Villa Ortega-2

Ñirehuao region

I declare the Chile chapter officially closed. Now it is time to cross again the border to Argentina. It is sure that in this trip I’ll not reach Bolivia, Perù or Colombia… I think I’ll ride in the north part of South America in another trip, with a lighter bicycle and probably without the kitty … Don’t worry, the adventure continue in Argentina!

Un abbraccio

Hijita Stef and shepard Dimitri