Day 39, 40, 41 going home

The swiss alps are quite a bit extremer than the Austrian mountains I am used to. Mountains are higher, valleys are narrower and the mountain pass roads are way more demanding. Starting my ride I headed straight for the Furka pass of which these last photographs are. Very soon the amount of traffic reminded me: Its Saturday! A lot of other vehicles of all kind were on that narrow, steep mountain road. Would that have been my first mountain pass, I would have loved. But it was not. I have seen so many mountain roads in the last days that I decided to leave the mountain roads to those who don’t have time during weekdays and did not go further over the Oberalp pass. Instead I took country roads and stretches of the highway, passing three lakes, riding through Liechtenstein and entering Austria over the Arlberg pass. The tunnel really was closed. 

Day 40: chilling at Hotel Mama.

Riding back home to Vienna I took a similar route as on my first day. My last one was a 10,5 hour ride and I can tell that much: I seriously enjoyed the quality of Austrian roads.

I did a total of 8553,8 km in 41 days, of which approx. 600 were on an Autobahn. I used about 1315 liters of petrol, three sets of tires, one can of chain lube and my tooth paste is finished. I put on my rain gear once, on the last day, because it was too cold without. Most likely I have killed about 4 million insects, but that is just a guess. Sorry for that.

   
           

Advertisements

Day 37,38 – Au Revoir France – Grüss Gott in der Schweiz

Before I start exploring the last two days let me just mention: I am out of France and I am so happy about that. Dear France, You will never see me again. I tried hard to be positive in all of the last descriptions but I just cannot anymore. The roads of that country almost took away my pleasure of riding a motorbike. How can a rich country have so terrible roads? I seriously don’t understand. All the mountain passes I took are just bad roads, seriously dangerous to drive. Yet the whole region partially lives in summer time of people who want to drive there. All the little roads in the country, from east to west, are full of spontaneous gravel or sand. Hotels are expensive yet quality does not nearly match the price. For me that is a once in a lifetime experience. The more important question for the future is: how can I get to Spain without touching french soil?

After the night in that horrible Hotel in Briancon I headed north for the passes Col du Galibier and Col d’Iseran passing some smaller passes on the way there. I prebooked a Hotel in Peisey close to Bourg St Maurice that looked fantastic on the internet just to have a good nights sleep. It was only 200 km away so in the afternoon I took some time to clean and service my Moto.

Arriving at the Hotel, which was actually a restaurant, there was nobody, it was desserted. The whole village, obviously a ski resort, was desserted. Finally I found some people at a Pizzeria and these super nice ladies managed to call the owner. Already a little bit pissed off at that time the room itself made it all good again and put a hug grin into my face. Private Jacuzzi in which you could actually swim. Of course, it did have a price tag.

My plan for the next day was leaving France and I did so going over the Col petite Bernard just to reenter France thereafter. I just had to see the Mont Blanc and go to the top. Going up there cost me 57E but the view is something  one has to do as a European in a lifetime.

Entering Switzerland I had a coffee in Martigny and then just hit the highway for 50 km to get a bit further east. There are quite a few more mountain passes ahead in order to get to Austria, the Furka Pass being the first one. Lets see how far I get. I just learned from the lady who ownes the Hotel I am in that the Arlberg tunnel is closed. So big question, where will I ride to tomorrow. Hasn’t that been the question for the last weeks?

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

Day 35,36 a famous bridge and going north/east

Leaving the camp site at which I enjoyed a birthday party the night before, the goal was Avignon. To get there I had to cross the Cevennes. I took various different roads heading east, of which two I want to mention and remember. The D901, from Badaroux to Le Vans. Fantastic road quality, a rare occasion in France, and the topology of the road is just amazing to play with your throttle and test leaning angles. A lot of locals think the same so going fast on that road requires some attention. The French seem to like to drive on your lane, meaning they cut the curves even worse than Sardegnenes. And the second: Gorges de Lardeche. A breathtaking canyon with the famous Pont d’Arch at the entrance. It was too hot, there was way too many people and cars and I was too tired to stop for pictures; sorry for that. At 40C stopping the bike for a pic means you start sweating almost immediately.

Reaching Avignon completely exhausted due to the heavy traffic in the suburbs I was close to simply collapse right there on the road. Yet rhe sight of the old rown made up for it. I parked my bike at the entrance of a Hotel garag, to tired to care about a possible ticket and took a little walk to look for a Hotel realizing there is a huge Arts festival going on. All kind of artists,  musicians, clowns, actors doing their show on the streets. Lovely. The room rates per night ranged between 200 – 600 E. Well then, camping again. Luckily there was a camp site within walking distance to the old town. Camp site Bagatelle, which I do not redommend. Simply disgusting. After enjoying all the crazy artists, a Hamburger, a Hang concert and a few beers I slept surprisingly well.

Leaving Avignon for the Hautes Alpes I soon realized on one of the mountain passes how tired I am. I did about 7000 km so far and I start to feel every single one of them, particularly as soon as the riding conditions get demanding. And the Hautes Alpes are certainly amongst the most demanding. But even more demanding are cities that never seem to end.  You just get from one village to the next one in heavy traffic and multiple red lights. It finally did clear out and I had some food riding through the Provence accompanied by the smell of lavendar.

Too tired to stop for pictures I passed this astonishing mountain lake, Lac de Serre Poncon. The water color is tourquoise, white-grey rocks at the shores. Beautiful. I reached Briancon, a town that I want to call Fortress Town. The sight of these fortresses within the steep mountains is frightening. During dinner with a swiss biker we discussed possible routes through switzerland and for the first time in weeks I feel cold. I am back in the high alps.
  
          

Day 34 Gorges du Tarn

staying another night at the Campsite Camping les Cerisieres wasn’t a bad idea. That river to go swimming is just too good, particularly because its simply hot hot hot… Anything above 35 degrees makes riding in full gear painfull. However, I did ride through the valley, through the canyon. It pays tribute to its reputation, just beautiful. At 3 pm I was back in that river getting the body temperature down to normal. 

And the man of the mountain was still watching over the campsite.

The guy from the campsite offered me a bicycle to go to the next village for a little restaurant. Thats what I am going to do, right now.

   
             

Day 32, 33 finding a big castle and changing the plan… again

waking up in Bagneres de Bicorre, it could not have been more Klischee. I woke up with some french chansons, the ones everybody knows. Looking out of the window, the street in front of the Hotel has turned into a market. No, the whole town has turned into market. Of course, I had to take a walk, eat all kind of different things. French food simply is good. 

At lunch time I headed of towards Carcassonne. That name, for me that is a fantastic board game, which is the only reason why I decided to go there. I was curious. Taking plenty of differnt small roads to get there, some of them good, most of them boring and some of them even seriously dangerous due to gravel on the tarmack I finally got there. Tired, going in circles not finding a Hotel I decided to take the Cafe – WiFi – Tripadvisor approach. Parking the bike a german biker approaches me: “ hey, hast Du ein Hotel ?“ „Nein, ich wollt hier im Cafe mal Tripadvisor checken!“ „Die haben kein Wifi…“ Well then, no Wifi, lets have a drink and we starting chatting. This guy is travelling with his wife. Nothing special about that, but his wife is in a wheelchair. On his bike he built this special sidewagon for her, the wheelchair mounted on the back and they are travelling for weeks through Europe. Besides the fact that they were supernice, I have the greatest respect for them… No hurdle is big enough to keep bikers from biking. Respect Respect to Toschi and Heide. Come to Vienna and visit me, please! 

Toschi activated his cell phone, build a WLAN hotspot and we ended up booking the same Hotel. At this time point all of us still had no idea about the whereabouts and the fuzz about this castle. ( the town has 50.000 inhabitants yet more than 3 million visitors yearly, must be something there, right).

On the way to the Hotel, crossing a bridge, it was there. What a sight, its just gigantic. And yes, looks like the cover of the boardgame. The inside of this medieval town is so full of Restaurants that it kind of looses its charme a bit. Still worth passing by, I would say.

The next morning I told the couple about my plans to go to Sete and South France. They, just as ALL others that I met on my trip,basically told me: forget South France.

Well then, where to go: Cevennes, Valley de Tarn, Viaduct Millau. Ok, I am going there. Taking again plenty of various roads to get from Carcassone to Millau, meeting french arrogance and grumpiness in some villages, some roads fantastic, some boring, some dangerous because slippery: the sight of the Viaduct Millau was worth it. The tallest bridge in the world, the highest in Europe. ( tall = height of pillars, high = bridge deck to valley floor.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest_bridges_in_the_world ).

I found this camp site. Camping le Cerisieres, small, clean, lot of trees and a perfect river to take a swim in after my ride. 
   
                             

Day 31 fight with the wind … wind wins

what a day. Yes, one of the mountains showed me and my bike are not more than a piece of domino. The mountain won, laughed at me. But I‘ ll get back to that.

Waking up in the Hostal Orialda ( dear bikers, do not stay there, do not eat there) in Ochagava i had to take the NA 140 again… What a road what a road what a road… Heaven, just heaven. Took breakfast at another village and met some english bikers again with Tatoos on their heads and everywhere. They looked dangerous, have to say, but I had a good time with them.

Off to France, its time to move on. Espagna, I love you and the spanish people. My expectatipns are hard to beat. Catalunya and Basque, you did it. I will be back !!!

Crossing to France over the mountain pass Port de Larrau almost ended in disaster. The mountains and the pass are beautiful, breathtaking. But it was a bit windy, no, it was storm. Just imagine a narrow road on a mountain peak, on the one side some grass, on the other a mere cliff. Well, thats were a gust of wind simply pushed me over. It felt awful, that wind just punshed me in the face and me and my bike fell like a little stone in a domino game. Luckily to the grass side, not down the cliff. A men in a van stopped and helped me lift up the bike, well it stood for three seconds, another wind gust and it was down again. A farmer, some 100 meters away was watching the scene and came down with his 4×4 car to help. It took  three grown up man, fighting that storm, to push the bike out of this  wind spot. Thank you for helping me, no way I could have done that alone. Lession learned again, never underestimate high mountains cause they might just show you how tiny and unimportant you are.

Riding on, that little incident, although frightening, won’t stop me. I did three or four more mountain passes on the french side. The most impressive: Col d‘ Aubisque leading to Col d‘ Solour. They are Tour de France and you can feel and see a bicycle culture there. Just do them!

Riding on I went through tiny french roads through the woods. And I mean tiny, sometimes not paved, hard to ride. I just did not want to stay in Lourdes or Argeles-Gazost. I was getting tired. The temperature at 6pm was still 36C. Dehydrated, sweating, beaten from the day I finally found a room in Bagneres de Bigorre. What a day. 

                     

Day 30 mountainroad racing …. Again and again and again

Roads here in the western pyrenees are just absurdly good. The region doesn’t have the views or landscape compared to the east but that doesn’t bother me much… There is THE one thing to do. Just ride.

Todays route: leaving Pamplona on the N135 towards Esteribar, turning left on the N138 towards the french border. In the beginning the N138 is a tiny mountain road, bad quality, you meet cows and sheep and tractors and maybe some wild horses. After the border to France, in the Valle de Aldudes this road gets beautiful to ride.  In St Etienne de Baigorry I turned left to the D949 passing the Col d‘ Ispeguy ( a Tour de France mountain pass ) and that road is just perfect to get your tires shredded. So good. Hitting the N 121B ( nothing special about that road) I headed towards Biarritz for lunch. Biarritz: not my thing!! You can feel the arrogance almost instantly after you enter it. I had a fantastic Canard though. Anyways, my plans to maybe stay a night in Biarritz, no way, get out of there as fast as possible. I left Biarritz via the D932 and D918. Boring road until Uhart Cize. So I turned right to the  N135 and soon after the border ( back in Spain ) that road is so good for hitting the throttle I forgot that I am on a public road. Also because: there was no traffic, nothing, the road was mine alone to leave rubber marks. On the mountain peak it was so foggy for 5 minutes that I almost coudn’t see the road before me. After Orreaga (which seems to be a monastery) i turned left to the N 140 and again. Another road just to good to be true. Found a room in Ochagavia, having a beer while writing this.