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Friday, July 20
When in doubt, go to Venice!
Another bright and clear morning greeted us at the Rifugio Rosetta (now our 6th straight day of clear weather). There was nothing difficult physically about today's activities: walk 15 minutes to the top of the Cablecar station, take the lifts down into San Martino di Castrozza, then drive east towards Agordo, where we were hoping to meet up with the Author of my ferrata guidebooks. More on that later.
Upper cablecar
Rifugio Rosetta in the morning
Big cablecar
After a breakfast of bread, cheese, coldcuts, and coffee, we settled up with the cashier and headed off to get the first lift down at 8:30am, managing to get ahead of the students, who were milling about and getting ready to head down themselves. We didn't want to get caught in a traffic jam of students at the lift.
San Martino di Castrozza
The ride down the big cablecar of the upper lift was fun - gliding down the super-long cables of a modern mountain cablecar is very much like flying.

Back down at the parking lot at the bottom of the lifts, we re-packed the cars and headed into San Martino di Castrozza to find an Internet Access point. I was trying to contact Graham, the author of my ferrata guidebooks. Our itinerary was taking us close to where he lived, and I was trying to firm up a meeting with him. But first, a little background:
View from the town
Over the course of the last year, I had noticed that a certain 'Graham Fletcher' had been making very informed posts to my via ferrata page's message forum. He often answered questions posed on the forum, and did so in a very authoritative and knowledgeable manner. I wondered if this could indeed be the same Graham Fletcher that wrote the Fletcher / Smith ferrata guidebooks that I own. Well, it turned out that he and the poster were indeed one and the same, and we struck up a correspondence over time. When he heard that we were visiting the Dolomites this summer of 2007, he offered much advice, along with an invitation to visit with him in his home town of Agordo, Italy. We were more than happy to oblige and were excited to meet him.

Although we'd been in contact via e-mail since Riva del Garda, we had still not firmed up exact meeting plans. We had exchanged cell phone numbers, but today I was unable to get a hold of Graham - perhaps he was out in the mountains somewhere?
Driving in the dolomites
Even though we had not successfully contacted Graham, I decided we might as well drive over to Agordo, since it was in the general direction we wanted to take, and I was thinking of a climb in the Civetta group anyway, which was just north of Agordo. So, off we went, heading east, navigating over more excellent and fun dolomite roads towards the Agordino region.
Church in Agordo
We arrived in Agordo, a distinctly Italian-flavoured city in the southern dolomites (many communities in the dolomites have more than a dash of Austrian or Germanic character, but this one was firmly Italian in flavour). We again attempted to contact Graham, but to no avail. I was at a bit of a loss for what to do - wait around for Graham, immediately head off on another ferrata climb, or, perhaps, do some city visiting. We had promised Pu that we'd spend at least a day exploring Venice at some point during our trip. Perhaps this was a good time to do that? After all, we were in the southern Dolomites, and the drive to Venice from here was as short as it was going to get.
Water fillup, Agordo
We waffled (well, actually, *I* waffled) for quite a while. I waffled about waiting around. I waffled about doing a mountain climb. I fretted about the waffling. I even waffled about whether we should take one car or two to go to Venice. Not very leader-like today, I was!

Finally, by about 2pm, still unable to contact Graham, we decided to go for Venice. In both of our cars. Down for the rest of the day, and return at the end of the next day. There - decision made - whew!
courtesy PChen
Central Park, Agordo
In convoy, we drove south out of Agordo down highway S203. In nearby Belluno, we hopped on an Autostrada and started a 130km/hr beeline for Venice.

With the return to the lowlands of the Po valley, we re-entered the heat and haze. I watched as the outside temperature gauge of our Volkswagen crept higher and higher: 33, 35, 37,... 39, and for brief time as we neared venice, the gauge touched 40C! I was quite grateful for the car's air conditioning system.

Our aim was to park the car on a side-street in the town of Mestre, a small city that lies on the coast directly opposite Venice. It is quite convenient (and a much better deal) to park your car on a sleepy side-street near the Mestre train station, then take a 15-minute, 1 Euro train ride right into the heart of Venice.
Our hostel
We struggled for a bit to find some accommodations for the night. The usual places that I've stayed at before on previous visits were all full. Eventually we found a dingy little place less than a kilometre from the train station. It was dark, musty, and hot - but they had a room available for all four of us together and it was pretty inexpensive, so we went for it. It had a very hostel-like feel, the place did.

After a cold shower (you know it's hot when a cold shower feels refreshing rather than shocking), we we ready to start our walk towards the Mestre train station. A ramshackle old air conditioner unit above our hostel room's door was coaxed into operation, and we left it on 'super cool', hoping that the feeble stream of cool air would get the room's temperature somewhere down below molten before we returned later in the evening. It would be fun to give Pu his first taste of the 'serene city'.
Taking the 1 Euro Special
A short walk of about 10 minutes brought us to the Mestre train station, and we stopped at the special automatic kiosks reserved for purchasing short distance tickets, and spent 1 euro each for our ride in (a much better deal than spending twenty-ish euros at the Tronchetto parking garage in Venice).
It takes his breath away...
We arrived at the bustling Venice train station shortly before 7pm. I had my camera to capture Pu's expression as we walked out the main doors of the train station. With the late-day sun casting a gentle light on the Grand Canal, one gets a potent immediate dose of the beauty of Venice. Pu was suitably impressed, even after seeing many pictures of Venice in advance. Words nor pictures just don't do it justice!
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