Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Now the fun really starts

The next three days are going to be "pass hopping" over the high mountain passes of Austria, Switzerland and Italy. We plan to go overt about 12 "seriously big and demanding" passes. And the weather forecast is three days of absolute sunny weather. Bring it on ! 

But first we have to head a little east  of Salzburg. So it is a three hour motorway jaunt to a town near the Swiss border called Landeck. We say goodbye to motorways and hello to Bavarian alpine architecture 


 Immediately we are what seems a totally different country. I think we are in Switzerland. The map tells me clearly we are still in Austria. We see all the characteristics of Switzerland , men  hand sything grass on steep steel slopes. Absolute neatness everywhere. 


I think it must be against the law in Austria to have unstacked wood. I never saw a "pile" of wood anywhere. I am sure they must have wood stacking competitions and in Switzerland at least the grand champion being eligible to be the countries President. 

Anyway we go over the first of our passes  - Silvrettastausse pass. The road climbs and climbs. A silly comment really as I guess a road always climbs to go over a pass just as water always flows "down" a plug hole!  


Avalanche shelters everywhere 



Then down and hey presto we are in Leichenstein!  Not quite sure why but never mind. Then 10 minutes later we seem to have crossed the whole of Leichenstein and are now truly in Switzerland. 

Now  we enter the real Switzerland. We have an immediate agenda. Some 8 years ago Diana and I walked the "Via Alpina" across Switzerland starting in the east at a town called Sargans. On day 5 we left a little town called Linthal and we walked across Klausen Pass. That afternoon we have vivid memories of slogging up the pass in the hot sun. Next to our track was a zig zag road leading up th the top of the pass. For 3 hours as we slogged up the pass all we could see and hear was hundreds of motorbikes zooming round the tight bends as the went up and down the pass. I swore if I was ever reincarnated I would come back as a motorcyclist and " ride the pass " 

We I haven't been reincarnated but I have taken a shortcut and become a motorcyclist in this life. So it was revenge time ! 

We pas thru the little town on Linthal where we started walking from those years ago. Up the road the bike went. The sun shone, the bike purred, Diana's camera clicked incessantly and I am sure the birds were singing there little hearts out.  Oh, and the air smelt of new mown grass, and you could hear the ringing of cow bells through the helmets. It was heaven! 


The cows got interested in the bike. One stopped me while it licked the front tyre. Then it got " tyred"of that and let us through ! 

The walking sign we followed so many years ago 


We cross over the top of Klausen Pass and there 800 metres below the summit is the hotel we stayed in on the walking trip. So we can't do much better than to stay there again 



It was almost an impossibly pretty setting. We sat on the open deck drinking firstly " Rivella" then Swiss beer, eating Rosti and ruminating about what a marvellous day it had been. 

As impossible as it might seem the next day even got better. We started early and headed down  Klausen Pass.  Almost at the  immediate bottom is the turn off to Susten Pass. Yawn, another pass! 



Up and up we go   It is impossible to get in photos the true perspective of steepness 


Then the top 

We head down  the other side to Meiringen. Just before the town is a side road back up into the hills to a place called Engstlenalp . It is just below Joch Pass. The only thing there is a hotel and we also stayed there on our tramping trip. It was reminiscing time again. 

The narrow road up was very scenic



And Lo and behold there was the same hotelmComplete with silly hikers ! 


There was not a cloud in the sky and the setting was drop dead beautiful 


And the hills were alive with the sound of music. Somewhere in the photo archives back home is a picture of Diana in exactly the same spot but with tramping boots on. And now she looks just the same ! 


But there is work to do. There are two more passes to go over for the day. 

Next cab off the rank  is Grimsel pass. Again it is very very tight horseshoe bends as we climb the steep pass.  


Some of the cornets were so tight that the bike was on full lock, maximum lean, slowest speed, back brake on and still struggled to get round the corner  Diana could not take any photos of the tight corners as she was holding on for grim death. It is certainly "interesting" getting a fully laden bike with two people on it around the corners 


The pass in the distance on the right hand side of the valley is the one we have just come down 


We get to the bottom of the pass and is immediately over the next pass called Furken Pass. You can well imagine it was discovered by an Englishman! 
It was even steeper and tighter. 




Down the other side and time for a well earned rest in the town of Andermatt. As I closed my eyes for the night I was still going round corners. " Change down, lean, brake  and again and again!" 

And the next day is another 4 passes. Any more of this and I might "Pass out". It is exhilarating fun but at the same time exhausting work slaving away all  day in the cockpit as I have to do ! 

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