Day Four! Up early, fully refreshed after a good sleep and another good breakfast I’m up for it! Makes me wonder why we ridicule continental type brekkies. I was soon loaded up and on the road. At least I didn’t feel so bad about being charged for a double room when I found my landlady hadn’t hit me with the bill for phoning home.
Uphill bends, roads on stilts, corner after corner, absolute magic! The air was so clear all the way over the Hochtannbergpass to the small tourist town of Warth at a miniscule 4500ft but the first one feels high. Next in line was the Flexenpass at 5400ft to Abergpass then down by Landeck and Imst swinging right for Oetz and the challenging Passo d’Rombo Timmelshoch at over 8000ft!
The route up the by the snow-filled glaciers on the Austrian side is a dream, good tarnac and scenery to die for!
This is the Austria I’ve imagined since I was captivated by the views in the Sound of Music back in the sixties. I was never much bothered with Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family but the opening scenes when she came skipping across the upland meadows, knee-deep in flowers has stayed with me ever since. I bought a new BSA Lightening in January 66 intending to ride to Austria that summer but life got in the way and I’m in the midst of it now almost forty years later! Magic!
I had been riding with a Dutch guy on an Aprillia Tauno on the way up that morning. He was heading for the Italian Dolomites, a popular biking region so we exchanged cameras and photographed one another at the top of the pass. I paid my eight euros at the kiosk, received a proof of passage sticker and crossed the border into Italy.
Italy! Boy what a shock! Austria had been bend-swinging, givinitsum all the way to the top and looking at the scenery, especially the glaciers. That’s when you realise why the rivers are grey with melted snow even in late summer.
Italy is so different! The road just drops off the mountain! Short straight followed by tight hairpin followed by another short straight into another hairpin and so on all the way down the mountain! That’s when you’re pleased you picked the little tankbag because you are on full lock getting round!
That descent was a real challenge, particularly with full luggage. I was overtaken which is itself quite unusual. First to come past was a German rider on a Triumph Triple. He was the leader of his pack and had obviously been there before but the real top-dog in my estimation was the young Italian on an oldish looking Guzzi. Wearing combat jacket and jeans he was going for it like there was no tomorrow! Gunning it down the short straights, dragging her round the hairpins, Burberry check scarf flying in the breeze! Only an Italian could ride like that!
After the snow-line you are down into forests, feeling about in the gloom in your fashionable tinted visor. That’s when you realise that some gippo has nicked the tarmac and you are sliding around on the damp dirt! I was tucking into a lunch of taglatelli and frites at a fresh looking, pine clad open air cafe when my Triumph riding friend went past. He had waited for his mates at a hostelry further up the hill. Of my young Italian hero on the guzzi riding with all the skill and panache of his fellow countryman Valentino Rossi there was no sign. He was probably halfway to Milano by this time!
I watched the Transalps, Beemers and Africa Twins heading up or coming off the mountain and could imagine the rider’s heart beats going just a little faster than normal. The deep, melodious sound of the cowbells as their wearers shook off the flies in the shelter of the trees behind the cafe helped slow my own to sensible levels before I got back on the road.
All too soon I was back on the bike and off down the mountain to cross the main Innsbruck/Verona route at Sperzing. On the way I picked up another young Italian riding a Ducati Monster with his girlfriend on the back. I had a great blat with him on the old road running alongside the new auto-route. No respecter of speed limits, it made for an interesting ride. When I pulled alongside him at a temporary set of traffic lights at some roadworks I used my two words of Italian, pointing at him,’Valentino Rossi,’ the beautiful Madonna riding pillion just smiled and we were off again! I was so engrossed watching her tidy rear that I missed my turning for Brunico and had to back track!