A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5

Somewhere in Austria to Lake Garda

all seasons in one day

Saturday 5th September 1998

We woke to the lovely sound of .. rain! We hastily got dressed and went down for a very good breakfast of cheese and salami, whilst keeping a very close eye on the weather situation. By the time we were packed and ready to go, the slight drizzle had turned into a torrential downpour. We suited in up in full anti-rain gear and braced ourselves for the journey. Our plan was to avoid the Austrian motorways and enjoy the twisty Alpine roads. The main route over the Brenner Pass was very busy with lots of road works, and once again we were faced with the prospect of weaving in and out of traffic with the added problem of poor visibility and slippery roads.

To top it off, the heavily laden ‘bike developed a terrifying tendency to go into “tankslappers“ on the entry into corners. We were making terrible time in torrential rain and a grave depression started to sink in.

We squelched to a halt around lunchtime in a small Italian village café just across the border to dry off and warm up. By this time Paula was getting increasingly upset and miserable and the death like stares she was giving me through her steamed up visor were boring laser like holes through the back of my head.

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Once we had stopped, we realised just how absolutely soaked to the skin we all were. Our gloves and boots were completely sodden and our trousers were waterlogged. I tried my best to pacify Paula with the prospect of lunch and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, but not even that could lift her out of her depression - and the rain continued to stream down the windows.

When we were ready to brave the elements once more, we decided that the best plan of action was to continue our journey on the motorway due to the weather and the tankslapping antics of my ‘bike. The motorway was reduced to a grey tunnel of road spray and again we were forced to take an early exit because of stationary queues of traffic. We stopped to fill-up at a small Petrol station, and even the petrol pump automated machine was a having a rough day because it spat out my 10 Millie note into a large puddle. That definitely was the lowest part of the trip.

Once we had passed the traffic queue’s, we rejoined the motorway and very suddenly the rain stopped and the hot sun came out!! Hurrah!! Our spirits soared with the temperature and we all felt elated. By this time we were getting close to Lake Garda so we stopped off at a service station to wring out our gloves and boots and check the map. The wind was quite strong, so Jurgen took off his socks and attached them to his wing-mirrors so they would dry out a little! We must have looked a sight to the bone-dry Italian car-drivers! When Sigi took off her boots and tipped them upside down, a whole torrent of water poured out of them! And Paula’s hands were black from because of the dye from her leather gloves.

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An hour’s easy ride in fine weather saw us pulling up at our Camp-Site “Bella Italia” in Peschiera and once we had signed in, we persuaded the Rep to sort Sigi and Jurgen out with a caravan for two nights (100,000 Lire). Originally they had planned to get a hotel close by, but they were now so hungry and tired from the day’s activities, that they didn’t feel like going out and looking for somewhere else to stay.

Instead of being able to park our bikes outside the tent, we were told by Campsite officials that we were not allowed to bring the bikes on-site. (even though car drivers were allowed to have their vehicles next to theirs) and that they had to be left at the entrance to the camp site. We had to get a trolley, pile all our gear on top of it and then wheel it round to our tent. After voicing our disgust at the stupid rule of no motorbikes, we got changed and had a well deserved pizza in the campsite restaurant. When you are worn out from a hard days ride, there’s nothing better than a good meal with friends, plenty of fine beer and to watch the sun sink down into the lake.

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The End

Posted by mandpevans 11:49 Comments (0)

Day 4

Munich to Somwhere in Austria

Friday 4th September 1998

We were woken up to glorious sunshine streaming through our patio bedroom windows and clear blue skies. Having walked to Trostberg village with Sigi and Jurgen we managed to work up a rather large appetite which was heartily filled by ample helpings of Pretzels and Bavarian speciality white sausage. (Very tasty but rather fattening!)

Our plan was to stay overnight in Austria which was only a few hours ride away – so we took advantage of a lazy morning and drove to see Sigi’s parents who live on a lovely farm just down the road from her. We had a quick tour of the farm and surrounding area and Paula was in raptures after seeing a 2 week premature calf in a barn.

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(Everybody go aaaaahhhh!).

As we left, Sigi and Jurgen said goodbye to their parents and sprinkled themselves with holy water. We were told it was for good luck on our journey – not quite the confidence booster I think it was meant to be!

Once back at Sigi’s, we packed our belongings onto our ‘bike in readiness for our departure. Jurgen’s bike was a customised single seater “StreetFighter”, based on a Kawasaki GPz 900 Ninja, so they took Sigi’s bike: a 600 Honda Enduro. As they didn’t have the luxuries of side paniers and a top box, Sigi had to wear an enormous ruc-sac which was almost bigger than she was! Infact from behind, it looked like the motorbike was being ridden by a huge bag!

After making a couple of pit-stops (once at Sigi’s workplace to see if our hotel reservation for the return journey to Koln had been faxed through [it hadn’t] and once for fuel), we were finally on our merry way bound for Austria.

We drove past a beautiful lake called “Chimse” (Chinese Lake) which was surrounded with mountains and had it’s own island complete with Mad King ‘Ludwig’s’ Castle.

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We had planned on using the motorway until we got to the Alps, but after about 20 minutes of weaving between lines of stationary traffic, we decided to get off. Particularly as bored car passengers, sick of being stuck in their hot cages, were increasingly deciding to leap unexpectedly from their cars, wander around the carriageways and even organise the odd impromptu motorway pick-nick.

Once over the German border and into Austria, we started to look for somewhere to stay for the night, as by this time it was getting on for 6.00 pm and the girls were tired, hungry and saddle-sore!

We tried a number of hotels that we passed but found that they were quite expensive, so turning off the main road, we went in search of a cheaper B&B. We finally came across a small Guest House in the village of “Matrei a Brenner” (off the A13 past Innsbruck) which was A) very cheap (34DM or £12 each) and B) had a pub/Mexican Restaurant right opposite our room!! Perfect!
After freshening up, we went across to the Pub and had probably the best Mexican food we had ever tasted. What a way to end the day!

Posted by mandpevans 11:32 Comments (0)

Day 3

Cologne to Munich by MotoRail

Thursday 3rd September 1998

Woke up at 4.30 am (ouch!) to the sound of rain (doh!). After carting 3 rather large and heavy panniers down 2 flights of stairs, we tried to get into the Reception which at first seemed locked. We then went to see if the garage was open, but it was well and truly secured. Starting to panic a tad, we were at a loss at what to do as there was absolutely no sign of life anywhere which I suppose you would expect at 5.00 am in the morning!!

We tried the Reception door again and this time it opened. Relieved, we went into the darkened room. Suddenly from the corner of the room came a sleepy grunt and we realised the night porter had been having a kip on a bench behind a table and that’s why he hadn’t heard our knocking! He had a very bad case of halitosis so we hurriedly settled up with him (130 DM) and got out quick. As we went out to the ‘bike it started to pour with rain and we had to stop to put on our anti-rain gear. By this time we were horribly late and starting to wonder whether we would actually catch the land-train to Munich.

Eventually we found the train station, but couldn’t find anywhere to load the ‘bike as all the signs were German (how inconsiderate) and very inconspicuous! Nobody seemed to know where we had to go, not even the station personnel. After what seemed an eternity, somebody directed us around the back of the station, but after another 10 minutes we still couldn’t see where we were meant to go. We asked at an office block and they gave us a small map. Unfortunately the map bore absolutely no resemblance to where we were. We decided there was no other alternative but to race around a car-park shouting “Bahn-hof” (the extent of our German) and hope somebody would take pity on the 2 English fools on a motorbike. Fortunately, somebody did, in the form of a road-sweeper who directed us to the place we needed to go. By this time we had about 6 minutes before boarding cut-off time.

We could see where we had to be... but there was no obvious route except back out on to the main ring road. I had no choice. To the absolute horror of the locals, I gunned the bike and zipped over a couple of pavements, through a small garden and between a barrier marked “VERBOTTEN”. We loaded the ‘bike on the train with just 2 minutes to spare! Talk about nervous breakdown! We were hyperventilating for the next three hours!

Handy Hint = Before you decide to travel to Germany, don’t assume everybody speaks English, save yourself a coronary and invest in a Phrase Book!!

We bought some nice sandwiches from the station to take with us. Good job we did because all we were offered from the Train Company for the whole 7 hour journey was a croissant and a coffee!
The train followed the River Rhine and we were able to see the boats and take in the lovely countryside and vineyards. After a very laborious and boring 7 hour ride, we eventually arrived in Munich at 1.41 pm (Exactly on time – that’s German precision for you – just like British trains …. NOT!!) and got the motorbike off the train at 20 mins later. We were supposed to meet our German friend Sigi and her boyfriend Jurgen outside the main entrance to the station but had major hassle finding it due to complete lack of signs (our lot in life) and road-works. Completely by chance we came across the entrance and managed to meet up with them.
We followed them out of Munich and soon we were driving along fast twisty roads into the Bavarian countryside. The skies began to get darker and darker as we rode and just 10 k’s from their home the heavens opened and thunder roared! It even hailed! We stopped to evaluate the situation, but decided to keep on going as we weren’t far from their home.

We arrived in Trostberg, Sig’s home town, just over an hour from leaving Munich. We stood in awe at Sigi and Jurgen’s house with it’s beautiful pine balconies filled with flowers and Swiss alpine roof. (A world apart from our 2 bedroom 1912 terrace house in the West Midlands!)

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We were given the whole top attic apartment to ourselves complete with shower, large bed, lounge and kitchen! There was even a microwave!!

After unpacking we all went for a walk around their village and then came back for a dinner of meat, veg and dumplings (which in Germany are called ‘cannoodles’!! (enough said!)

After our ‘cannoodles’ we had a few beers and ‘Radler’s’ (German for Shandy) and discussed the route for the next day, before heading for bed and more “canoodles”!!!

Posted by mandpevans 11:23 Comments (0)

Day 2

Dover, UK to Cologne, Germany

Wednesday 2nd September 1998

We were rudely awoken by infuriating bleeps from my Swiss army digital watch(!) at 5.30 am but even in our groggy state we remembered the adventure ahead of us, (there’s that word again!) so we almost sprung out of bed in our haste to get going.

The weather was pretty reasonable for September in England, but as it was so early it was quite chilly with an early morning mist. We got fuel and arrived at Dover for 6.45 am. Unfortunately we had just missed a Dover-Calais crossing and had to wait for the next one which was an hour later. We were first in line though, and so decided to go and have a coffee and a rather stale and not very jammy donut in the ferry café. As we were too busy stuffing our faces, we didn’t hear the ferry call, and so when we did emerge and make our way back to the ‘bike, we were faced with a rather irate ferry personage who was not very happy that he had to direct a line of caravan’s and trailers around our heavily laden XJ900. We gave him the benefit of a withering stare usually reserved for traffic police, Volvo drivers and other lower forms of life, before riding off

The crossing was fortunately very calm and so we were able to eat breakfast aboard ship. We stocked up on sandwiches for later on, but on reflection, we’d have done better buying them before boarding the ferry as the selection was poor and very expensive!!

Our crossing arrived in Calais just after 10.00am (frog time). I’d been a bit apprehensive about riding on the wrong side of the road but at least while we were on the (very quiet) motorways it seemed straight forward enough. I’d heard a number of horror stories regarding the Gendarme and on-the-spot speeding tickets so I kept the speed down and we stopped a mere 50 miles later at St Eloi Services (10.50am). After another 120 miles we stopped again (12.15 pm) and got more fuel.

We arrived in Namur (Belgium) at 1.15 pm to see my relatives. Having had a brief but very nice family reunion which included a meal of pizza (getting in practice for Italy!) we left at 3.00 pm.

We stopped for fuel at 4.30 pm near Aachen (after 130 miles). Unfortunately for us we needed lead additive for our politically incorrect ‘bike which drinks gluttonous amounts of 4 star and is completely ozone unfriendly! (According to German standards anyway!) We managed to explain what we needed to the petrol assistant using the only German word I knew (blei, blei!!) and amazingly he understood us and even marked the bottle for us to show how much to put in the ‘bike! What a guy!!

We rode into Koln about an hour later, but had a heck of a time trying to find our hotel, which we’d booked in advance from the UK. It must have been painfully obvious that we were lost, as we were accosted by a very nice Harley rider (complete with obligatory pony-tail, beard and Kaiser helmet) who enquired in perfect English where we wanted to go and then led us to our final destination of the day “Hotel “ at 6.30 pm.

We explained at the Reception that we were leaving early to catch a train and that we didn’t need any breakfast (if we were hoping for a reduction in price… we were sorely disappointed!) They told us that there would be somebody there to check us out at 5.00 am and let us out of the locked garage in which our ‘bike was parked.
After unpacking and getting out of our leathers, we availed ourselves of the rather nice shower and then feeling remotely human, we went out for a meal.

As chance would have it, our hotel was in the Italian district, so we had no other choice than to go and have a pizza! (what a life eh?)

Posted by mandpevans 19:12 Comments (0)

Day 1

Wolverhampton to Dover

Tuesday 1st September 1998

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny and perfectly matched our excited mood. We were eager to set off for Dover but the bike’s front tyre needed replacing first. I’d booked the bike in at a local tyre garage and whilst I got that sorted out, Paula finished the packing and prepared the house for our long absence.

While the bike was on the ramp, I was wondering how it would handle all the extra weight (we calculated it would be carrying around 155Kilos between us and our luggage) but the unhelpful grease monkey refused to adjust the rear suspension.

Back home, we had a hasty lunch and then loaded the bike, setting out just before 2:00pm.

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The weather was still fine and sunny and we made good time on the boring but mostly empty motorways.

We only made 2 pit-stops, once for a butt and sandwich break and once for fuel. By 5.00 pm we had travelled 160 miles and were making good time. The weather was keeping its end of the bargain and although the clouds were starting to build up into large grey mounds, it was still warm and very humid.

We finally ‘rode in’ to Dover a little after 6pm and found our B&B without any major difficulties. We had already booked a night at the B&B as Paula has a strong aversion to not knowing well in advance where she’ll lay her head. As for me – well, I think all that uncertainty is exciting and part of the big “Adventure”!! (A word that by the end of the trip Paula would hate!)

After putting the ‘bike away for the night in the rather convenient double garage that belonged to the B&B, we got out of our sweaty leathers and changed into clothes more befitting a drink and well deserved meal in a pub. In view of the enormous quantities of alcohol we planned to consume, we decided to be old fashioned and actually ‘walk’ into Dover Town Centre. We had been assured that it was only a 5 min walk but in actual fact it was more like 20… not that we cared – this was the start of our holidays and we weren’t keeping count!

We had a lovely meal in a really nice olde worlde pub which didn’t cost the earth, and we were very happy with life in general. We unsteadily walked back to the B&B and prepared for an early night as we had to get up at some unearthly hour the next day.

Posted by mandpevans 02:45 Comments (0)

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