Day 25 Friday 17th June 2016 90km (2269km in total)
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” Chief Seattle
I had asked the receptionist whether the rain hangs around in the mountains for long. I was pleased when she replied that no, normally just short showers. However today as I was stocking up for the day in the mountains, I had my first hail storm in weeks. With my hands stinging from the hail, I wondered what the weather was like on top of the mountains! Sheltering under some trees by a church, I ate my muesli breakfast, hoping it would stop soon.
The hail stopped, but the rain continued for the rest of the morning. The cycle path was parallel to the river which was very high and brown. Sticks and branches were being washed down rapidly. A local told me it was the highest he’d seen the river, having lived there for 20 years!
I reached the point where I joined the Euro Velo route. This is a EU funded project which has many different long distance cycle routes through Europe. Many signed by connecting regional and national routes together. For example, in the UK it uses the Sustrans bike paths.
If I’d planned my route in advance, I would have realised that the route 7 does a similar route to me. Starting in north Norway and finishing in south Italy. As soon as I joined onto it, it was obvious it was a popular route, for the first time I was starting to see lots of other cycle tourers. Even on a rainy day!
This route went up over the alps, but there was a short train, for cars, passengers and bikes to cross the unassailable parts of the mountain.
Before I could get the train though, I would have to climb the majority of the mountain myself. The first part was another 25% climb, with the wet roads making traction very tricky. If I stood up out of the saddle, the rear wheel would just spin and slip.
Once the main climb of the day was out of the way, the road levelled out. Any rises in the landscape, they had seemed to have built a tunnel through. Some of them felt like there’d never end! One was around 2-3km long, slightly uphill, I imagined the rest of my life stuck inside this tunnel!
The road carried on for much longer than I expected it to take, though it had many magnificent views on the valley below and surrounding mountains. In Badgastein, a popular resort, especially for skiing in the winter months, there was massive waterfall. One of the biggest I’ve ever seen I think.
Theren was a large group of cycle tourers and knowing the train only took 12 bikes, I raced the to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, just as I arrived at the station, I saw the train slowly pulling away. Still, I was first in the queue, even if it meant I had to wait another hour.
It was a very basic station, with the train driver doing all the jobs. Telling people where to get on, directing the cars, driving the train and running the ticket office. He had a handy scooter to quickly move around the station, very original!
Another cyclist waiting told me that he had planned to cross the alps on the next pass along. I had seen it but it was 250km high and looked like there were many hairpins. Apparently on the top was around 10-20 cm of snow! Most of the mountains looked a little white on the top peaks, but none at the high I was riding.
After the short train journey, I enjoyed my best decent ever! Going on for around 10km with perfectly smooth tarmac and views for miles. It was the kind of decent with hairpins not too sharp that you have to break, meaning I could whizz down the mountain side with ease. I could do it all day, one of the closest things to flying.
It was approaching 6.30 and the rain had started again, this time very heavy. I saw a campsite in Möllbrücke and decided it was time to rest. It was only a small campsite and the reception was closed. I rang the number on the door, but felt more confused after having a conversation in German without understanding a single word.
I assumed I was allowed to pitch my tent and pay in the morning. However just as I was about to set up camp, a man from one of the caravans came over and started pointing to the toilet block and reception. He sounded like I wasn’t allowed to camp here.
After him taking me and with a few signs and gestures, I realised he was telling me to sleep in the small area above the reception, for when the weather gets bad. He was meaning well after all!
Another camper cpassed, who was luckily from the Lake District. He could translate all of the infomation from the friendly German. This was the first English man I talked to in weeks! It was so easy to talk to him, I had got used to speaking a little like Mr Bean! In english but with a German accent!