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TDE2019 – Day 10: Hello Italy, Hello Switzerland

Given that I slept in a communal space, it was surprising that I woke up refreshed when the rays of the early morning sun filtered into the room.

Grabbing my overnight bag I head upstairs to the upper desk passing still-closed bars to get a glimpse of what’s going on around the ferry and find out where we are.

Another brilliant and blue-skied day greets me. The last hour of our trip takes us along the northern Italian coast along which TW560 and I drove earlier this year during TDI2019 and before that during TDAF2016. Should I ever have the time, I’d love to drive the entirety of the Italian coast. Italy is such a beautiful country!

Italian coast

Italian coast


 

Genoa port and a brilliant new day

Genoa port and a brilliant new day


 
Our ferry slowly makes its way into Genoa’s port – we seem like an oversized log jamming its way in – especially in comparison to the size of the buildings close-by.

Our docking spot ready for us

Our docking spot ready for us


 
As the ferry is inching its way into the dock, I head down two levels to one of the bars which by now is open. As long-time readers of my blog know, I’m addicted to Italian espressos and no day in Italy may start without at least one cup of this liquid gold. Aboard, this privilege costs me €0.90, I’m going to have a few more before leaving Italy at €0.50 (Good Espressi in Zurich now cost around €4!)

Sweet cornetto and Italian Espresso

Sweet cornetto and Italian Espresso


 
Best proof of this is my face during the consumption of an Espresso – happy & relaxed. Life is good!

Daily pic of me - happy with Italian Espresso

Daily pic of me – happy with Italian Espresso


 
An announcement through the PA system tells everyone to make their way back down to the car decks or disembarkation zones for pedestrians. What happens next gives everyone an idea what would happen in an emergency: great chaos and waiting anywhere along the route to the main car decks. It took me 10 minutes just to get to the right level.

On the way I found a poster that was designed to ensure anybody, even those who cannot read understand what it is trying to convey – have a look:

Understandable even for those who cannot read

Understandable even for those who cannot read


 
Even when we have safely arrived at the dock it takes for ever to get the ferry ready for us to be allowed to drive off the ferry. During this wait I see part of the cars that are waiting to board for the return trip to Africa. There is lots being transported here – it looks like a doomsday cult getting ready for the end of days.

More luggage than car... Africa-bound vehicles

More luggage than car… Africa-bound vehicles


 
At last it’s time to get into TW560 and leave the ferry. I’ve decided to drive from here to Aosta Valley and charge there at one of EnelX’s own charging stations. If my app problems are fixed by then, I should just have to charge for about 40 minutes to get a sufficient charge to get to Seb’s. If not, there are a few larger hotels and farms just around the charging station which would be my plan B for today.

Right now, I’m really looking forward to today’s route which will take me across the Apennine Mountains on very small roads. Let’s go!

First few metres off the ferry in Genoa

First few metres off the ferry in Genoa


 
Right behind Genoa, I start climbing steep hills and mountains. Like during TDAF2016, I’m at over 800m in no time and enjoy the fresh air whilst having to say good bye to the sea for another year…

Bye bye sea ... hope to see you again soon

Bye bye sea … hope to see you again soon


 
On the way to the Pianura, I get to see some impressive villages and castles – always a pleasure to drive through 1000+ year old settlements with roads barely wide enough to let two TWIKEs cross.

Impressive Italy

Impressive Italy


 
Not much room to cross with anyone...

Not much room to cross with anyone…


 
And then, as always, within a few km, I enter a featureless and flat expanse which will be my companion for the next 120 or so kilometres. I’ve already written about me not liking driving across it a few times – road surfaces are bad and there is nothing to help you see how far you’ve come.

TWIKE-wrecking Italian roads

TWIKE-wrecking Italian roads


 

At last: driving towards the Alps - Italian Pianura

At last: driving towards the Alps – Italian Pianura


 

Entering the mountains on the other side after 2+ hours of Pianura, TW560’s batteries are in need of a charge. I definitely could still make it to Switzerland as my charge only has to last until the top of Col de Saint Berhard. From there on down to Switzerland I could make it to about Sion with the energy recuperated on the way down and charge there.

But with my current energy left I’ll never be able to make it to Seb’s as he lives way, way up at 1600m which will be a major climb from Sion’s 500m within just 14kms – more on that later.

Let’s get back to my current major pet peeve of public commercial charging. (Just as a reminder: My first TWIKE trip was 2007 and 2011 I travelled across India in my TWIKE and never had any problems charging whatsoever – With Park’n’Charge there once was a fully operational pan-European charging network for which you only needed a key and gave you access to normal high-throughput plugs and with Drehstromnetz there still is one for most of central Europe etc.etc.etc. so please put my ranting into context)

I get to the charging station and start unpacking the cables necessary for a Type2-tri-phase quick charge. When I’m ready, I go to the charging station to see what I need to do by reading the display.

Unfortunately, this is not possible, as the design of the charging station has completely underestimated the fact that the station is outside in the Italian sun and that above a certain temperature, LCD displays turn black.

Not really helpful

Not really helpful


 
This is what I mean – this design might look good but it was never tested in the real world. A small visor would do the trick, as it does in a TWIKE.

Design fail

Design fail


 
Anyway, I take the app and suppose that the screen is only really useful if you are using an RFID card. The app problems seem to be solved: I can start a charge via the app. YAY! … until I notice that even if the app says that the charge has started, there is no electricity present at the Type2 plug. GRRR.

As a geeky computer guy, my next step is to stop the charge (which was charged at €0.30) and just use the adjacent plug as a control. Aaaaand – YES, the Type2 plug indeed is activated and has 400V available when I push the ‘start’ button within the app. So, can we start charging now? No, unfortunately not, as my charge lasts about 1 minute and 45 seconds before the Type2 plug shuts down … all whilst I see a cool charging animation on my app. I should charge these people for the time I’ve wasted with their horrible non-solutions!!!

I call EnelX’s support and tell them about my problem. The person on the other side of the line tells me that first of all, the other plug is out of service and this should be clearly visible as this was on the LCD screen! (I was about to let out a pained howl) She continued by telling me that the charging station was barely active since the internal temperature was extremely elevated (I’m in Italy’s Alps for god’s sake!! Does this mean that all other charging stations further south, where the temperatures are even higher are all non-functional at this moment? I just can’t believe what I’m being told matter-of-factly.) She told me that when I started charging (at 8kW, not 22kW) the circuit breaker/power meter just overheated and shut down. The fact that it took 1:45 was due to the fact that my Taiwanese chargers ramp up the charge much faster than the third phase which is hooked up to the main inverter.

Eventually, I was able to charge at ~5kW by not letting the inverter charge and leaving all the charging to the Taiwanese chargers. Whew… Who knew that electric mobility was such a pain 😉

At least I got 1 of two to work

At least I got 1 of two to work


 
I then went off to relax at a restaurant close-by. When I got back, my chargers were still charging at full rate and were very, very hot. They were already with me in India and proved to be extremely resilient against variable grid voltages (In India we charged off plugs providing 80-260V at 32-56Hz). Kudos to the engineers that designed this piece of kit.

Nearly ready to fry some eggs

Nearly ready to fry some eggs


 
On my way up to the Col de St-Bernard I decide to go and buy some locally produced meat and cheese. This meant me leaving the main road up to the pass and about 2km of very bumpy offroading to the hut where the family produced their products during the summer.

These places usually sell super high quality products at reasonable prices direct.

A spot of off-roading

A spot of off-roading


 
When I arrive at the hut and get out, I see that my oil leak problem has gotten worse and that thanks to the dust and dirt it becomes very visible. Got to take care of this as soon as I’m back home.

With a bag full of goodies, I’m back on the road up to the Col Grand St-Bernard. Golden summer light and perfect temperatures around 20°C on my way up to ~2500m.

Up the road snakes

Up the road snakes


 
After another hour I finally make it up to the top. Surprisingly, there aren’t too many tourists here.

All the way up to Col Grand St-Bernard

All the way up to Col Grand St-Bernard


 
From here, it’s 45 km of coasting and recuperating down to Martigny and the Valais valley. No extreme gradients, just engage cruise control and see how the battery is charged for free whilst driving through extremely beautiful landscapes.

I love the hills and roads here

I love the hills and roads here


 
In Martigny, TDE2019’s loop closes as this is the starting point for the drive to Charmonix, the road I took just two weeks ago whilst driving to southern Spain. 😉

Just under an hour later I’m in Sion, ready for my climb up to Seb’s.

Very picturesque road up to Seb's

Very picturesque road up to Seb’s


 
In favour of getting to Seb’s early, I didn’t fully charge TW560’s batteries. I roughly calculated how much energy I’d be needing to get over the pass, how much I’d be getting back on the way down and how much it would need to get to Seb’s.

About half-way up I was getting increasingly worried, as my pack’s voltage was dwindling precariously due to the ever increasing gradient of the small road climbing towards Seb’s chalet.

The road itself was very interesting and offered many great sights:

Valais and Sion with hill and castle in the background

Valais and Sion with hill and castle in the background


 
The last part of the road was single-laned and boasted 15%+ gradients. I had to slow down to a crawl at 30 kph in order to make it up – my pack was at 302V when I finally, finally, made it to Seb’s. The pack wouldn’t have done another kilometre – that’s how finely I cut it.

I’m always intrigued how precise my calculations turn out to be even after hundreds of kilometres and thousands of altitude metres! But still, today, I’d rather have liked it to have been less close.

I made it!

I made it!


 
Seb and his wife are long time friends of mine and we get to see each other 2-3 times a year – it’s always a treat to be with them as they have the same values around what constitutes good friendship and living. We all enjoy good food and always have more to talk about than available time allows for.

We prepare an apèro and sit in the evening sun that shines much longer than in the valley.

Well deserved apèro

Well deserved apèro


 
The view is as spectacular as Seb’s cut and dried meats. We start with some beers and eventually tuck into Sebs delicious risotto made with rice he imported himself.

That's life in Valais!

That’s life in Valais!


 
We stay outside for a very long time and continue with Whiskey and Rum and some cigars. What a perfect last evening for what has been an epic trip: TDE2019!

What a view!

What a view!


 
Late, very late, I get to my room, open the balcony door and hear nothing more than some far-away bells from some cows and the very subtle sound of grass leaves moving in the wind whilst I breathe the gloriously fresh evening air.

I’m so lucky to be where I am and being able to live the life I live!

Day 10 GPS track

Day 10 GPS track