European Alps Rumble 2001 (long) pt.5


Mapping the next ride...
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7.October Sunday

Another set of blue skies and a brilliant red sunrise.
And it’s pretty chilly out there, too. Thanks to last nights arrivals the breakfast is a smorgasbord-feast. It’s off early, turning the wheels north to Waidring, then east to Lofer continuing to Berchtesgaden/ Germany, along the way we encounter a service station with the most elaborate entry/exit roads during a fill-up.

With blue skies and dry roads the going is quick, the bends are open, the scenery great. Both bikes are humming away happily.

Big, rocky outcrops stretching out of the forest, creeks and rivers everywhere, livestock kept by timber fences, noting the moss covered fence posts.

Through the resort-town of Berchtesgaden and up the Rossfeld-Road, a one-way toll road of about 20km leading to some spectacular lookouts. Views forever, only cut short by the Watzman Mountain towards the southwest.
The views into the steep valley below, Berchtesgaden, the Koenigsee (King’s Lake) and the East Wall of the Watzmann Mountain are breathtaking.

Turn around for a fantastic view into Austria, across the city of Salzburg and the Salzach valley.


Back into town via the 24% descent, smoking the brakes into another workout.
The centre of Berchtesgaden is an all-pedestrian-zone nowadays, as well as many other changes stopping us from re-visiting more old haunts, so we turn up the Rossfeld-Road once more, going for a huge lunch on a sunny terrace of a restaurant/pub, overlooking the whole valley-bowl.


The Rossfeld road passing just below makes the myriad of passing bikes a virtual mobile exhibition. It also makes us understand the growing resentment by the locals and the closure of quite a few roads in the Alps region, the number of bikes concentrated on the “nice” twisties is numbing, any resident will throw a spastic sooner or later, living anywhere around here would constitute a constant barrage of sounds and speed, not a second of peace and quiet.


Across the Spur and down into the wide Salzach-Valley, hitting the autobahn to south-east and some 50km of “giving-it-the-berries”, we’re turning off to go east to Filzmoos, a fantastic ride along the Wilde-Kaiser Mountain range, very picturesque and not too touristy, just right for our bikes.
Up and down various small passes, by now we’re too blasé to bother to remember the names of all the “small-fry” (after a while it just seems to get that way, there are just too many of them).

Following the Enns-Valley eastward, the turn south from Gatschberg up the Soelk-Pass proves a surprise. Another road heavily frequented by bikes, big signs announcing the eminent closure of the road if we don’t keep it slow and quiet.
This must be good then…
After the first few turns it’s obvious, why…this thing is a scratchers wet dream.
The scenery stops us from trying to give it a burn though; the feast on the eyes is stronger than the urge for throttle-gymnastics.

At valleys end the road climbs parallel to an old Roman pass-road, the structure is still clearly visible. 5ft wide, rocks lining the road, a hand-laid roadbed supports bends and hairpins, amazing for stuff done 1000s of years ago.
The downhill stretch is brutally bumpy, both bikes bottom out continuously and we’re glad when it’s over and can turn west into the Mur-Valley.

The afternoon is getting late, we’re on the search again for a bed for the night and are lucky to come across a cute little room in the timber town of St. Ruprecht, which is all decked out in timber complemented by blue-white chequered furnishings and bunches of dried flowers, very cosy.

It’s cold out there; the wind is chilly but still: the dark, old timber buildings along the main street and the smell of wood fires give the place a lot of warmth, the canopy of stars completing the picture.
Let’s hope for another good one tomorrow…

8.October Monday

Part of breakfast this morning is a small local newspaper, the front-page covered in news of the US bombing Kabul the previous night….
…. So, finally the shit hit the fan and we just look at each other, feeling like being hit with a plank, speechless.

The paper stays with the dirty cups… nearly 3 weeks without papers, TV or radio, THIS being the first lot of news…we don’t feel like joining the rest of the world, too much to see, too many roads to ride!
But it stays with us; throughout the foggy morning we keep talking about it when stopping.

We have to get cash, the use of cards over here is still in its infancy, and the local bankomat (hole-in-the-wall) gladly accepts the Australian Cirrus-Logo Commonwealth Bank account-card spitting out 5000 Shillings (about A$800) in cash.
Those machines are everywhere and can handle any Visa/Master/Cirrus card, no sweat. Menus are multi-lingual, easy.

It’s also time for phone-calls after which the wheels face west to Goppelsbach, then south the Paalgraben-Valley to Klein-Gloetnitz at which the fog finally lifts for good and the sun takes over for the rest of the day .

According to the map there is a shortcut via Sirnitz and Bad (thermal springs) Leonhard.
It’s sealed single lane for the start, then dirt leading into the forest before it starts to climb the hillside, everything is dripping wet from the morning’s fog and it’s getting narrower and rougher all the time. Due to their weight and lack of manoeuvrability of the 2 barges, as well as the absence of suitable spots, we keep bumping uphill with a sinking feeling in our stomachs, things are turning increasingly pear-shape. Wet autumn leaves are covering the few good spots of the damp clay and dirt; it’s getting dicey, definitely too much for those bikes which were handed over with a friendly smile, we hadn’t planned to return them with an apologetic one…

Eventually we finish up at the spa-resort, which it looks to have been a long time ago, now abandoned and left to decay, apart from the little chapel presenting fairly recent paint on the rendered walls.
Not feeling game enough to take the same road back down, we decide to keep going.

Another kilometer of slip‘n slide and we’re across the ridge, onto the other flank of the mountain drenched in sunlight. It’s getting drier.


Gently the bikes are nursed down the forestry road and after about 7 klicks back onto a narrow, sealed road.
We stop for a long and deep breath before taking the liners out of the jackets.
That was too close too many times…

Autumn is in full swing; the colourful trees dropping a carpet of leaves onto the roads,
better be careful in those shady, damp corners. But it’s a feast for the eyes and fascinating when following Goodie, a curtain of colour swirling up behind her.

Pointing west it’s up another road into the general direction of Klagenfurt, a bigger city not far from the Slovenian border. There are road works and I sink the Beemer into a freshly spread layer of 3-inch road-base rocks. The bike goes spastic, then bogged.
The road-crew is having a giggle as I tiptoe the beast out of the mess in reverse gear. Thanks to BM for reverse gear once more. Goodie watched the show from a safe distance, the grin just about to crack the helmet, doooohhh…

I have to wait for the roller-compactor to clean up before it’s off again, at the end of the stretch it’s south, then onto the toll-road up the Gerlitzen Mountain (ski resort).
Fantastic views across the line of lakes in the valley below reward the effort (it wasn’t
an effort, really, the road was fun) the cities of Villach and Klagenfurt clearly visible and overshadowed by the rugged peaks of the Karawanken-Mountain-range.

Back down the mountain and towards Villach onto the Faaker-Lake where most places are closed after the summer holiday-season, a coffee shop being the only salvation for the time being. Flowerpots along the road are full with bottlebrushes in early bloom, what a strange sight…

The touristy looks put us off a bit, it’s off to the Woerther-Lake where we find more of the same at an even larger scale, the south shore is also pretty shady, the road damp.
A few klicks into the hills, more searching for a stay for the night.
Finally we hit potluck in Keutschach-at-the-Lake with a guesthouse run by a 70yo bike-crazy grandma, her joy at seeing the 2 bikes is stirring.


We’re offered to call her “Oma”(granny) right away, making us feel like we’d come home after a long time abroad.
She also recommends a local place for a meal (and calls to make sure they’re open).

We walk across…and crawl home with bellies scraping the sidewalk, this wasn’t a meal…this was a demolition-derby.
Thanks, Oma !! We owe ya…

9.October Tuesday

First on the list is a visit to the local bike-shop in Klagenfurt.
We’re stunned by the high prices; some of the stuff is just ridiculous
We turn south to the Loibl-Pass leading into Slovenia. A few klicks short of the border we park the bikes for the day and change into walking-gear.
Oma recommended the Tschuppa-Gorge walk and we’re not disappointed.

The climb through the narrow gorge is something else, the boardwalk in most parts wet and slippery as are the narrow, little footbridges crossing the 10ft-wide gorge carved by millions of years of roaring waters.



The place is certainly something special and easily worth spending the day. A few hours later we emerge out of the autumn coloured forest to finish up at a small village for some food and drink before the return to the car park, making use of the entry ticket that also covers the Postbus which is the local public-transport system.

After swapping back into bike-clobber it’s a leisurely ride down the Loibl-Pass and back to Oma, our bike-mad granny.

The shower is most welcome tonight. After the day had cleared during the morning, it hit the mid-20s again. The Devils Bridge will stay with us for some time; what a great piece of engineering!

10.October Wednesday

Another foggy morning, today everything is dripping wet out there.
We have to re-organize our gear and do a bit of a stock-take on everything.
All but the finances looking good, hehe…

Oma keeps coming up with more stuff for breakfast, she’s a real gem, but who’s supposed to eat all this stuff? We even get a rap-over-the-knuckles for not-finishing all of it, urged to make sandwiches for a lunch-pack out of the leftovers.

She studies the maps with us and comes up with a swag of suggestions of where to go and what to do, looks like she’d love to come along.
She brings along a small radio during breakfast, so we can catch up on the weather report.
Packing the walking-gear again, it’s off towards the Loibl-Pass once more but just short of the climb uphill we turn east to Fellach, known worldwide for its craftsmen producing handmade hunting guns.

Signs on homes and small commercial buildings point out the specialty of the house: handguns, side-by-side or over-and-under shotguns, whatever…it seems incongruous for all those small family businesses to be concentrated in one small town.
Quite a few businesses seem to go back a few centuries too, making for the traditional part of it.
We’re scouring the town for a turnoff heading east, the map tells of a small road running parallel to the Slovenian border along the foot of the line of rocky needle-like peaks.

Eventually we find it and are in for a ripper of a single-laner meandering it’s way through the paddocks and fields then climbing into the forest; which turns out to be another small pass without a name on the map.


25km later and through Eisenkappel staying on the easterly tack it’s on the Bleiburg and Lavamuend.

Then it’s up the famous bike-road of the Soboth, which is speed-limited for the first 15km ONLY for single-tracked vehicles (speak: motorbikes, everyone else can go for it). Of course this is the best part of the road (the blast up the mountain), to be honest, in most places the barges wouldn’t have been much quicker than the 70kmh posted, but on a sporty??

Along the way we tack north to Deutschlandsberg and have a fantastic Brettl-Jause (cold cuts, bread, pickles, cheeses…you get the idea) at a café overlooking the calm waters of a dam. Most notices and printed public announcements are in 2 languages here, German and Slovenian, even the primary School is signed bilingually.

The turn north-west to St. Leonhard is another nice piece of road, medium sized sweepers chasing each other up and downhill before it’s west across the ski fields of the Klippitztoerl-Pass. The wraps are off and it’s time to find out how hard 400kg of Bavarian lard can be pushed (quite a bit actually), that road’s just got it all, good surface, great views, wide enough to correct errors, narrow enough to not go overboard.
The front end bails out early, better not push it too much, the ABS also cuts in too early for my taste, something to get used to with my chooky (off-road)-style of riding

Too early it’s finished, after a short break to calm down it’s south to Klagenfurt to catch some peak-hour traffic before the turn west for the last 10km to Keutschach.

Oma has finally gathered her courage and the short 10min ride into the next town and back put a huuuge smile on her dial. She’s whooping and carrying on, showing us how she “flew” through the bends on the pillion seat (at a sedate 70-90kmh), she even squeezes a couple of tears of joy.

This is FUN…watching a 70y/o breaking the mould and going to pieces, all for the joy of a short ride, I’m sure she’ll tell everyone in her sight for weeks to come.
Strange what bikes can do to some people, hehehe.

She also fills us in on some ‘recent” local history and the reason we saw all those flags flapping off balconies and flagpoles today.
It’s been a local holiday celebrating the referendum that brought the region of Carthania back under Austrian rule in 1920 after being occupied by the Yugoslavs before.
Local resistance and partisan activities prodded the Yugoslavs to put it to the people, who decided to kick out the current mob and return to Austria.
Apparently it was a tight race and the referendum won by a handful of votes.

We discover the TV-room downstairs and catch up on the world-news, most of it pretty scary. It’s dark now and the fog rolls in from the west, slowly blanketing out the clear, starlit night.
Tomorrow will be our last full-day on the road, the map is spread out across the bed, some serious planning has to be done to catch the most promising roads along the way back to Vienna.
Impossible that 3 weeks-and-a-bit have already past since we left, we’re sure that we made a mistake or some mongrel-bastard wound forward the clock…we wanna stay here for a bit longer, please…only another month or 3, pleeeezze???

For the run to the line (part 6 final):
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