Yes, the biggest doozy of the lot had to be Stelvio Pass which is a very Italian pass - i.e. lots of flair and passion!
The day starts well .......... Wet! A light rain but rain never the less. On goes the wet weather gear. Don't you think it somewhat flatters me? I could be an Italian fashion statement! Particularly as we are going to Italy today.
Plans will have to be flexible today because of the weather forecast. . Nevertheless we start by going over a pass named, very oddly, after a sewing machine. No , it was not the Singer Pass or even worse the Suzuki pass but rather the Bernina pass. The temp drops to 10 degrees as we go over the pass. But the rain stops, the road becomes dry and the corners become beautiful to ride.
Then again we are at the Italian border. Diana looks inside the " control booth" The officer sitting there appears to be sound asleep. It was deemed a wise move not to take a photo of him!
We then then turn right and head up towards the famous Stelvio pass. This pass has been somewhat immortalised by Jeremy Clarkson in one of his driving programs and thus has become a magnet for motorcyclists even though he went over it in a car! There would not be enough room anyway on a motorbike for Jeremy Clarksons ego!
The road wound up through lots of tunnels, some new and wide in the lower reaches and some old and narrow ( probably a bit like my arteries!)
The valley steepens. You can just see the road going up the pass in the distance.
The road got steeper
And then there was the top
There were motorbikes galore of every shape and size
We look over the other side of the pass. Wow! And this is just the upper bit!
In all there were 48 consecutive tight hairpin bends going down the other side ! Yes, 48 hairpin bends which is according to my calculations 96 extremely tight corners without a break! Left to right, right to left it just seemed endless. Because of the extreme tightness ech corner had to be carefully evaluated and manoeuvred around. The inside of some of the bends was about a metre across, ie the seal on the inside of the corner went thru a 180 degree direction change in just one metre if you can work that out. That is a tight bend !
. I was sure we were going to end up below sea level we dropped down so much. And the top bit was so steep you had to wonder just how they could have ever built a road there Then the steepness of the terrain eased off a bit but the hairpins remained.
What really amazed us was that at the top of the pass there were cyclists who had just ridden up the steep side. Thst would have entailed a continuous effort hill climb of getting towards 2,000 metres in one go which just defies the imagination. It is almost as if it is a rite of passage for athletic cycling Italians! It certainly says something I guess for a Pasta diet!
We felt a little overwhelmed and exhausted when we got to the bottom. Going down the pass there were many big patched holes in the crash barriers as testimony to those who did not make it. Sobering stuff !
Well you could well think that you cannot top all of that for the day. Well wrong!
After a brief break to change to fresh underwear and wash sweaty palms we head down to the small city of Bolzano where we had planned to stay for the night. But the threatened rain and thunderstorms had not only not arrived but it was unexpectedly sunny again. So an executive decision is made in the front office to push on to the alpine resort town of Cortina D'Ampezzo ( think Queenstown ) for the night
We got briefly " stuffed up" on the short tolled motorway section near Bolzano. We could not work out the tolling system. With impatient Italian drivers hooting behind us I squeezed round the edge of the toll barrier arm to solve the problem. So far so good! . However at the other end of the motorway section the toll man was not amused to find we had no ticket. . He laboriously wrote down our number plate. He filled our a very long form - all in Italian of course. He gave us his opinion of ourselves in voluble Italian. He was not amused. He pointed to a sign indicated a fine of about 75 Euros for no ticket. I think payment details are set out on the form. But we will never find out!! So now we will have had our case reported to Interpol no doubt and there will be an Italy wide search for us with border crossings alerted! But firstly, tell me, from which of a possible 100 countries does that number plate come from?
Anyway, Thst minor problem aside we suddenly find ourselves in Dolomite country. The vistas of the approaching Dolomites with the afternoon sun on them.were unexpected and just superb. Let the pictures do the talking.....
Interspersed with lovely ski towns. When I say ski towns they are also very much summer vacation areas with heaps and heaps of people out walking and hiking and,judging by the dress, taking it seriously.
You have to admire the flowers on the bridge handrails This was repeated up and down the road.
More winding roads and it was down to Cortina for the night. One of my first cars was a Cortina ( That dates me!) Now I know where it came from!
And we are almost there
And we arrive in Cortina about an hour before the thunder and lightening and promised thunderstorm. It was a nice feeling. And we stay in a lovely "Tirolian " style hotel with geranium window boxes and serving ladies in pinafore dresses.
Tomorrow is a rest day. Our first one since Helsinki! Then it a 300 km zip down the road to Opatija in Croatia where we meet up with our daughter in law Melba's family. The bike is to be left there whilst we come back to NZ. So the next post will be a brief wrap up of observations of our 50 days on the road so far.