Woke up to a damp morning in our forest campsite at Umbrail in Switzerland, at the base of the Umbrail Pass – this is the pass that we took yesterday when we peeled off near the top of the Stelvio Pass, having approached that from the southern side and been a little jaded with all the traffic – and it appears to me that Italian drivers in their little cars have a manic need to overtake anything in their way, even if the roads are single lane and large vans up ahead will eventually retard their progress – but that’s another story.
Kristoff – the German rider we were speaking with last night was already up and pottering round outside his tent so I fired up the Dragon Fly and boiled enough water for Karen, Kristoff and myself for a tea & two coffees. Kristoff and his riding mate Christian each have 850cc Tenere’s (Kristoff has 10 of them – including an ex-Paris Dakar one), and he was very interesting to chat with. Every year he & Christian go on a 3-4 week adventure ride, and they’ve done Morocco a few times, Turkey a few times, the Balkan states a fair bit, etc etc. Kristoff is a firefighter by profession but learnt his trade as car mechanic at a young age and loves tinkering with bikes, and has established a reputation throughout Europe as the go-to guy for anything Tenere-related. Christian woke up and joined the conversation, and asked if he could borrow our Switzerland map (we’d been gifted that in Tasch by Earnest) so I gave the map to Christian, and in return he gave us a map of Albania – so it all goes around in a big circle I think 🙂
We were packed up first so we said our goodbyes – Bernard stopped by as well to bid us farewell, and we headed into the nearby village to refuel and find breakfast. Refuelling was a small saga as the driveway of the petrol station was that steep I couldn’t get off the bike, and Karen needed to squeeze around the bowser to pass the fuel nozzle, whilst trying to not knock me over, as I was balanced so precariously on the slope. Refuelling finished we idled through town but couldn’t find food, so we headed back up (south) the Umbrail Pass to the top where it meets the Stelvio Pass road. We paused for a few minutes at the junction so I could fit the GoPro’s, and as we started up towards the top of the pass it started to drizzle. The road side was covered in snow and ice, and a few guys were out on their pushbikes, pushing on through the freezing conditions. We crested the top of the pass and saw a few bikes parked alongside the shop stalls there. but rather than stop we kept on going and launched ourselves down the iconic northern side of the Stelvio Pass. Our progress was slow and cautious as the road was wet and I wasn’t completely confident in our deteriorating front tyre, and when I saw faster bikes come up from behind I’d pull over a bit and wave them through. Google just told me that there are 48 hairpin bends on the northern side of the Stelvio Pass and 60 in total, and the 48 switchbacks we dropped down through this morning were a bit of hard work on our heavily-loaded bike.
When the road eventually straightened out we entered the little sleepy village of Trafoi and pulled over for a hot lunch of spicy spaghetti which was delicious. Back on the road it started to drizzle again, and we rode steadily down the valley, following the SS38 to Spondigna, where we turned northwards and headed towards the border crossing in Austria. Shortly afterwards Karen’s digital camera battery went flat so we stopped for a few minutes whilst she grabbed my camera out of the top-box – but the scenery we passed from that point onwards wasn’t quite as stunning as what we’d seen earlier in the day, and we eventually got funnelled onto the A12 motorway that led us into Innsbruck.
Our GPS led us to south Innsbruck and up the hill towards our hotel for the next four nights, but not without taking us off the main road and down a little goat track of a back road that reminded both of us of the rough track into the campsite we’d followed a week or so ago in southern Switzerland, but fortunately this track was at least sealed and it eventually rejoined the main road, not too far from our small but quaint hotel.
We’re about 8km south of Innsbruck, and tomorrow we’ll start on our list of chores, culminating in the bike service & tyre fitting on Wednesday. And on Thursday morning it’ll be “Slovenia – here we come !!!!”
PS: I don’t have any GoPro photos of the Stelio Pass I’m afraid – yesterday morning I updated the firmware on our two GoPros and without realising it, the upgrade changed the video capture settings and switched off the Video+Photos mode. I’ve checked the video but the camera lenses were smudged with rain drops so the video isn’t too flash. I’ll check Karen’s camera later and see what photos she managed to snap and upload a few of those, so watch this space !!!