Saturday, 14 August 2010

Alps, Austria and the Vinegar Strokes

I wake up to the sound of a roller blader with ski poles wizzing through the tunnel, I snooze again, another cyclist passes. I wonder what folks think when they see us....homeless? drunks? travellers? Guilty on all counts I think! The pack up happens a little quicker thanks to the lack of tent collapsing. We roll down hill for a few km's into Traustien where we take breakfast. I've converted Mihailo to the delights of the Jam Sandwich, I think together we will sample to whole spectrum of confitures. he tells me his Auntie makes the best Apricot Jam - I have to meet this lady.

We know we are heading for the Alps today and are somewhat concerned that we seem to be heading downhill, only slightly, but for perhaps 20 or 30 km's we cruise easily, a little too easily - I think we will pay dearly for the luxury. We constantly stop for photos I haven't seen the Alps for 10 years or so and never in the summer. Mihailo takes a great video of me cruising downhill through switchbacks and tunnels. I scream downhill and hit a new record of 83kph...I can taste the ton!! Soon Jimmy soon.

We reach the bottom, the sign reads 12% for 6km, nothing crazy but sufficient to get the legs burning I think. Having conquered the Black Forest I feel my climbing has progressed considerably, and while I may be along way off Himalayan fitness this hill, I can cope with. The last kilometer was though but music helped me through as it often does. I've decided to call the last few pedal strokes of any worthy opponent the "Vinegar Strokes" - the release at the end is not quite so ejaculatory by nature, but the felling of "yeeaaa I think my work here is done" is identical...if only I could roll over and go to sleep afterwards! We get to Bad Reichenhall, home of the Eagles Nest by mid afternoon. We attempt to ride up the hill - ha! At 24% it's just not possible which is a shame. It gave me a real appreciation for the energy required to heave 1000gk+ of car up the hill. I think if I took everything off the bike and maybe cycled up naked it would be possible, but Mihailo with his road biased gear ratios has no chance. We lock the bikes and get to walking. It's pissing it down for a change and Mihailo is not a happy chappy. We get misdirected several times on the way up which didn't help the situation. The owner of the last house we ask at meets us down the road in his car and montions for us to get in. My German isn't good enough to say 

"Actually, my intention is to use minimal amounts of carbon on this voyage and while I'm most grateful for the offer, in this instance I shall decline".

And "No" would have sounded pretty rude. I reluctantly get in, technically breaking my rule. It's not really a principle that makes sense to most folks I mention it to, I don't think I fully understand my motives. I guess I just want to see as much of this fascinating planet as possible, without denting it too much in the process. I never felt quite right cruising the beautiful welsh mountain trying to appreciate the glory of nature - while spewing Hydrocarbons from the exhaust of my motorbike. But anyway, best not get to preaching -  though I'm in the process of finding some additional reading for any interested in such matters...

So the rather nice guy gave us a lift up to the bus stop where we then have to get a bus to the top. Perhaps fortunately, we get chatting to a German couple who have been to the top, and thanks to the rain/fog seen S'F'A'. Dissapointed though I am, we make the decision to save our precious Euros and take their car back down - double fail!! They tell us that there is little at the top in terms of educational reading and fill us in on what was available, but really it's the kind of place to go for the view.

We snap some pics at the Austrian boarder - a new country 4 weeks in, sweet! We ask for directions into town though I feel I know the way. I don't know why I'm bothered by it so much, I don't even like to stop when we stop to ask - like the teenager who can't walk through town by their parents side. So, I've learned something about myself -  I really don't like asking for help!! Who knows, maybe after this Mihailo will be a kickass map reader/navi and I will be able to ask for help. One of an ever growing pile of reasons why our decision to pair up is a good one., I hope it's of use to him too! We ask again for directions and it turns out to be the right thing to do as we are just about to pass the centre of town. Salzburg is a beautiful city, even in the pissing rain. We snap some pics and get the tourist info. There's lots to see and Mihailo wants to spend the night. I'm reluctant despite having no real reason - only child wanting to swing his weight maybe?? I tend to forget that he is not so well equipped for a night in such weather, it really wouldn't be much for for him. We head to a youth hostel, time to pop my cherry then - something I've wanted to do for ages but never had any reaosn to do. We get 2x successful directions to the YH. We arrive and go to check in, they only have room for one and wont allow the other to crash on the floor or even pitch a tent outside! Kindly the receptionist rings another hostel which also has one space and I volunteer to ride to the otherside of town where my hostel awaits. It's a grim night, with heavy rain, I enjoy the ride all the same and Tom Waits provides a suitable soundtrack. I consider sleeping under one of the many bridges, I'm getting quite a taste for it, and Salzburg has plenty to choose from. I figure the youth hostel will be good fun, and a new experience. I lock up/dismantle my bike which seems to take for ever and head inside to check in. Anna my room-mate has also only just come in from the rain, she is from California and doing a few weeks inter-railing through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Our other room mate is out already. I figure it's useful to get in early as this is when plans are made to hit the local town bars etc, the hostel is pretty quiet, it appears I missed the boat on this occasion. I inhale some kebab type thing from a very friendly Turkish guy and then go to sample Austrian beer. I don't get much beyond pleasentaries with the local drinkers thanks to my limited German. So I'm content to sit at a table made from tiny Jagermeister bottles drinking Gusser and listening to Johnny Cash. Back to the hostel and to a matress that doesn't go flat in the night.

Distance 96km, Jam: Apricot, Music: Tom Waits.


  1. very impressive so far james, you will have the legs of a supermodel, always reading your updates - Ben & Laura xx

  2. Thanks dude, no animal tradings thus far - I'm holding out for an exchange in the Middle East : )

  3. Keep it up James !! Good times !!

    Were all heading out for a meal tomorrow but Jess has said she wont come because she only really hung out with us because you made her !!! And she said that she cant help giving Danielle Evils !!

    You will be back for my stag doo at this rate !!

    Don't forget to give reach around's its the decent thing to do for a Travel companion !!

    Also james im intrigued Do you also do wild Wanks as well as Wild Poo's ?

  4. Nice read dude, U have got to write about "the animal"

    and what about the WW's?