Sunday, 11 April 2010

Day 3 - Rosenheim to Motovun

The hotel in Flintsbach am Inn had turned out fine, despite the initial formality of my reception. I only saw one other person there during my stay. The young lady who was on reception, served the meal, the drinks, dealt with the music, did the breakfast the following day, and the check-out. But there was evidence of at least 8 other guests staying, judging by the places set for breakfast, each table with the room numbers labelled and the specific number of place settings depending on which room it was. She said that some guests were quiet and that was that.
The breakfast was good, fresh bread and so on, and I took an apple and a banana for a snack later in the day. I set off at 08:30, slightly later than anticipated, but I only had 430 km to do today, unlike yesterday's big push of 670 km. I expected to arrive in Motovun at about 15:00, but was not sure about the satnav's estimate of my time because it didn't contain the maps for Slovenia and Croatia. So I texted Ranko to tell him to expect me at 17:00, and this would give me a margin of error in case of two things. First I might get lost, second I wanted time to enjoy the alps.

As I left Flintsbach behind me, I was straight on to the autobahn again, with the river Inn alongside me, marking the boundary between Austria and Germany. It was strange looking to the left and to the right seeing farms, small towns and churches, all in the same style and arranged consistently, yet to the left was Austria and to the right was Germany. If it were not for a map, I would have no idea that I was looking at two different countries as I rode along this valley. After a few miles, the road crossed the river, and I had to stop at what used to be a national boundary and buy a special vignette that is supposed to be some kind of road toll for using highways. The charge for a 10-day motorcycle vignette is 4.5 Euros. It was a bit annoying that the last two times I had been through Austria, despite being dressed in bike gear and carrying a helmet, they had sold me a car vignette for twice the price. This time, I'd specifically asked for a motorbike vignette. Since I'd stopped anyway, I decided to fill up the fuel tank as well, and then I was on my way once more, into Austria, headed towards Lienz (not Linz, which is what people here assume I am trying to say every time I mention Lienz, which is in Tyrol). I have stayed at Lienz a couple of times before, and really liked it there because it is so close to the alps. As I progressed, the hills were getting higher, the mountains of the alps were more visible, and air was clean and fresh. The sun was shining and the temperature was dropping as I gained altitude. I suddenly remembered that I had chosen ths route to pass through Matrei-in-Ostirrol, because I have booked my first night there on my return trip. It was a good choice, because this is an incredibly beautiful valley. But I was enjoying the roads too much to stop and take pictures. I did stop a little later as the skies clouded over and the temperature dropped. I saw a good lay-by and pulled over. It was just beginning to snow and the temperature was down to 4°C. I felt a real chill off the bike, being exposed to the cold wind. It made me realize how protective the fairing and screen on the bike really were. I took a picture of the scenery, bike in foreground, and was keen to get back on the bike, to be a bit more protected from the elements.

The road was going through awesome scenery as the elevation increased, until I came across the Felbertauern tunnel after some nice fast riding. This is a 5.3km tunnel that gets through some big mountains. I entered it making a mental note that the speed limit was 80 kph, and as I accelerated into it, I kept glancing at the speed display on the satnav, which indicated about 54 kph. I accelerated to 80 mph before I remembered that the satnav didn't get a signal in the tunnel, and I sheepishly slowed to the proper speed. The tunnel finished with a dangeroud sharp left hand bend, but there are plenty of warnings to slow to 30 kph. Then I was at a toll barrier, thinking that my vignette would get me through, but, no, I had to pay 8 euros toll, which meant removing the gloves and finding which pocket had the wallet. I pulled over after paying to get my gloves back on properly, and saw that there was a tunnel museum here, so I dismounted and had a look at its locked doors, seeing only a few photos through the entrance. So I took a few photos as was off again.

Riding through Lienz was odd. I had never seen it crowded with cars and pedestrians before. I think it must have been so busy because it was a Saturday. I filtered past lots of queues of traffic, and was not sure whether this was permitted in Austria, but this way I was soon out of the town and heading upwards and onwards. The road to Plöckenpasse was open and clear, with good runs of speed. I missed a right turn, because I was having such fun lining up the bends and setting up smooth accelerations, that I had to turn round and go back 2 km. This was the first batch of hairpins and I passed a car on the straight and got into the rhythm of accerating out of a bend, braking into the next one, lining up the entry, seeing the apex point, looking up and over my shoulder at the the line, and then accelerating hard out of it, braking into the next one. Each time I was getting the entries better, braking into the bend, rather than too early, which I had been doing, and getting the tires to bite before accelerating, as well as getting the widest line by going for the apex. Again and again, hairpin after hairpin, all the time getting higher up the mountain. The road straightened became a little less bendy until the old boundary crossing into Italy at the top of the pass. On the way down, the weather was better, it was warmer, and the bends sharper and mroe frequent. Many of these stretches had a half tunnel over them, with an open structure on the outside where the sunlight streamed in. Some were complete tunnels, and totally dark inside. After the brilliance of the sunshine it was unnerving to be plunged into darkness for a few seconds, then out into the light again.

After the excitement of the mountains, the roads through the foothills went from village to village, with fast stretches in between. Then I got to the motorway about 2 pm and stopped at the service area for my fruit and water, and a proper espresso - one euro. Glass of water to go with it, no messing around, no fuss. The Italians know what do with coffee! I texted Ranko to give him a new estimated arrival time of 16:00, sure I would make it before then.

The Italian motorway took me to the Slovenian border, an easy crossing now that they are in the EU. From the border, I headed for Kozina, and managed to avoid the highway, particularly because i had not bought the vignette that Slovenia now likes to sell to the tourists who are passing through. I found my way through the route, with only a couple of wrong turns. I could buy the maps for my satnav for this region, but they are about £100 for this region, and I figured it was not worth buying maps of the entire Balkans and Eastern Europe just to get through a bit of Slovenia to Buzet.

After Kozina, to Crni Kal, then to the border with Croatia, where they seemed to be asking for passports and IDs from cars in front. I took off my gloves and got me passport out, but them woman with the uniform blanked me and turned to talk to the guards. I waited a bit then she turned back and waved me through in a very disinterested manner. Clearly, they only talk to Slavs at this border. Off I went to head for Buzet.

The last run from Buzet to Motovun was easy and fast. These roads are very smooth, with some very straight stretches that are wide and clear with no side turnings. The two cars in front of me were gassing it, and try as I might, I could get nowhere near them. My clock indicated 150 mph, but the satnav had it as 140 mph, and that's the fastest I've been on this bike. By now, I had learned to get my head down at speed, and the weaving didn't happen. It might have helped that there were no crosswinds, either. I was slowing down well in advance of any bends or turnings, which is perhaps why I could not catch up with the cars, but they were really moving.

I made it to Motovun in the sunshine, and wound my way up the hill, on an atrociously surfaced road that is in dire need of rebuilding. The guy at the entrance to the town who turns back traffic from the cobbled streets waved me through with a smile. And I picked my way up the steep narrow streets, bumping over the cobbles, through the town gate to the lower square, which has tables both sides for the coffee bars, and there was Ranko who was getting me a large cold beer. All the tourists watched as I bounced to a halt next to the table, and settled down to a nice cold pint and a chat, and I presented him with a bottle of ultra-hot chilli sauce. For the first, time, I had arrived earlier than I'd given Ranko to expect, to I was quite pleased with having navigated through Slovenia and Croatia without the satnav to guide me. So, by way of celebration, we chatted and caught up with each other's news till well after midnight, with the help of a few beers, of course.

In all I had covered 1863 km (1158 miles) in 19 hrs and 24 minutes of moving time, 23 hours and 20 minutes of travel time including stops. Maximum speed was 225 kph (140 mph) and overall moving average 96 kph (60 mph). Now I need a rest for a few days before doing it all again on the way back...

No comments:

Search This Blog

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

Total Pageviews