Four Passes and another new country Austria

Today was another fantastic day of riding. The wet weather gear stayed packed which makes it so much more enjoyable. Our plan for the day was to take the motorway via Innsbruck as far as possible. Leaving the hotel we complete our first Pass (Passo Lavazè) through a lovely small village with cobble stone streets before dropping down to the motorway. Having gone about 15 miles and passing hundreds of lorries we decide that we have had enough of this and change our route to Dave’s supplied one. This now sees us complete the Jaufenpass before heading up to Timmelsjoch.

Timmelsjoch is a 2509m climb through the Alps that sees us cross from Italy into Austria. At the very top with icy winds we stop for a bowl of traditional soup which is a clear broth and a large dumpling with bacon in it. Its wonderful and really warms us up as we watch the mist rolling around the peaks.

The descent is lovely with long sweeping bends and we once again join the motorway. With the Arlberg tunnel (14km long) closed we took our final pass of the day and arrived tired but really chuffed at our hotel in the town of Feldkirch,which is right on the Austrian / Swiss border.

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Bellavista Cavalese

Yesterday’s bike journey took us through the Dolomites for the first time with today a rest day. We are staying in a traditionally styled alpine hotel in the town of Cavalese with views across to the Lagorai mountains.

We started our rest day with a walk around the town looking for the farmers market that was mentioned on a leaflet provided at breakfast time. Unfortunately what we failed to realise was it was in the next town. But we did have a nice stroll whilst we looked.

It is obviously popular with skiers as all the cafes and restaurants had racks for your skies outside. Back at the hotel we pick up our discount card that we were all given and walk through the gardens to the cable cars.

Our discount card entitles us to two free tickets for the cable car which takes us 9.3 km up the Alpes Cermis.

At the top it is not too cold but there is still a small amount of snow from the other days dump. Having finished a lovely hot chocolate and wandered up to the information board that shows you which mountains you can see in the distance we make our descent back down.

Just as we climb in our first gondola a paraguider makes a leap of faith off the mountain right next to us. It is amazing watching him rise up on the thermals before drifting off over the valley.

Back at the hotel I spend the afternoon reading whilst soaking up some sun before trying out the spa facilities also available at the hotel. Andy takes the opportunity to ride a couple of the Dolomite passes without all the weight of the main panniers, top box and me on the back.

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2 Passo’s in the Dolomites

What a fantastic day. We set off just after 8.30 this morning with the thermal linnings back in my trousers, long sleeve top and sweatshirt under my jacket and my waterproofs on. Today was dry, sunny but down to less than 4 degrees on the top of the Dolomites. A quick fill up of fuel whilst we are still in Slovenia, as the prices for petrol will be so much more in Italy ,and then five minutes later we cross the boarder. Virtually all day we could see the impressive sight of the Dolomites. With a short spell on the autostrada passing through multiple tunnels it brought back memories of our trip to the Italian lakes in 2015. Climbing to an altitude of 2236 to Col Colle S.Luca we complete our first passo of the day, Passo Giau. At the top everywhere is covered in snow and it is freezing. The main group have stopped but a quick wave and a photo and we start our descent. We stop about half way down to give the bakes a chance to cool off. Although Andy is using the engine to brake it is just so steep that the rear brake is also getting a lot of use. We pass through some beautiful villages and towns that are either clinging to the mountain or spread along the valley floor. Our last climb of the day was on Passo S. Pellegrino to a height of 1,918 meters, turning a corner and we came face to face with herd of cows taking themselves for a walk up the road.

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Crossing back into Slovènia

After two brilliant rest days it is time to don the motorbike gear once more. And believe it or not once again we will have wet weather. Someone on this trip is doing a rain dance on our travel days.

After a fabulous breakfast, but sadly this morning no champagne, we make our way to garage number two where our bike has had a well earned rest. Some of the group have had a ride out to the local sights but we have enjoyed the walks along the coastal path and the swimming in the clear clean sea. Garage number two is on a mezzanine level and Andy had to bend his head side ways to fit through the low ceiling and protruding pipes .

Today with the forecast of more rain showers, we have decided to take the option of the more direct motorway route rather than the five hours of wet mountain switchbacks.

Having negotiated the boarder crossing back into Slovenia we can see the rain clouds building, so time for waterproofs again.

Twenty minutes later and we have diversion signs and it is a battle between myself and the satnav as who is right. This time for once I am correct. Speaking to fellow riders later in the evening they ended up on horrendous tracks when they followed the satnav.

Satnav was still battling with us and saying 4 hours to our destination. Time for plan B. If we put in the hotel as our destination then it is only 1.5 hours – perfect.

Ok – we miss out on what turned out to be a wonderful mountain pass (in dry conditions) for the main group but they had nearly a five hour trip.

The last twenty minutes were in light rain and slow traffic as the majority of vehicles were quening to go through the tunnel into Italy. Thankfully our exit came just at the right time and we had a lovely slow climb up to the small town of Kransjska Gora situated in the Julian Alps. It annually hosts an event in the Alpine skiing World Cup series, also known as the Vitranc Cup.

Checked in and having enjoyed a ham and cheese toasty we wander down to the village/small town made up of sport shops, bars and ski appartments.

Following a long forty winks we join the rest of the group for our evening meal. The food is fine but we now appreciate how spoilt we have been at Hotel Ambassador. Tonight we retire early and watch TV properly for the first time on this holiday catching up on the International football, tennis and Formula 1.

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Rest days.

On arrival at Hotel Ambassadors I hop off the bike,well actually it wasn’t elegant, by now we are so hot, tired, sore bums and tight shoulder blades. At reception they ask for our passports so he can give me a key for the garage, but them and the bike have now gone back round the block to the garage entrance. Taking pity on me he kindly offers to open the barrier when he spots us in the cameras. Finally we are in, parked up, and registered. We are on floor seven and have a wonderful view back along the coast. This our base now for the next three nights and boy am I ready for some relaxation and some personal contemplating which is best done with ones eyes shut.

The next few days are spent reading and swimming. The water is so clear and although a bit of a shock when you first get in, lovely. The hotel has two swimming pools, one indoors with a large powerful jaccuzi alongside and a large outdoor one both salt water. Wandering down through the garden there are plenty of sunbeds in amongst the trees and umbrellas. Crossing a small bridge over the Lungomare (a 12k promenade along the coast from Volosko to Lovran) and there are several sunbeds amongst the rocks and here you can enter the sea.

In the evenings after a fantastic buffet style meal we have strolled through the town or along the promenade completing the evening with a nightcap or two listening to the live music on the hotel terrace.

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Adriatic coast is on our left

Ogulin – Opatija

Hotel Frankopan last night was the smallest hotel so far of the trip. The rooms were good, the food, what there was of it was average. Some of us didn’t get any vegetables or desserts, which will help with the waist line.

It was an early start to day as we needed to be ready to leave at 8:30 am. With a 2 hour hike around the Plitvice Lakes as part of today’s ride, we needed to have shorts on under the biking gear.

The ride to the lakes was somewhat adventurous. As we take the D42 the road is twisty and up and over a long and steep hill. The road condition is ok but not the best. We are the fourth bike from the back and the first of the two bikes in this group that are two up (pillion and rider). As we start to make a left hand turn, on the decent, we go down a small dip in the road that causes the bike to “bottom out” – (hit the bike stand underneath) and cause a momentary loss of steering. This means we now can’t make the bend. Andy is pumping the brakes as too much and we will loose control, and stearing left and right urgently to stear us out of the skid. Luckily this bend is the only one that actually has a small gravel run off, a couple of trees and then a steep drop off. This is just enough and I do mean just enough, as Andy, my hero, does an amazing job and brings the bike to a halt, inches from the edge. As this is happening dust and gravel is flying behind us. The second two up bike with Doug and Marlie come skidding round the bend, they also have bottomed out. Having already just started to slow down a fraction before they hit the dip, as they had seen us going off. Doug also does a sterling job of just managing to make the corner, and steering in all the gravel on the bend. The final two bikes stop and with hearts racing we confirm with each other we are all fine and set off to catch up with the group who have no idea what has happened.

With that little excitement over, it is another glorious hot day. Plitviče Lakes National Park is a 295-sq.-km forest reserve in central Croatia. It’s known for a chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, that extend into a limestone canyon. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water, and an electric boat links the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes. The latter are the site of Veliki Slap, a 78m-high waterfall.

Veliki Slap

8.4km later us, and many others have made the climb to the top where we catch the amazing Unimog off road looking bus that takes you back to the where we caught the boat for the 300 meters or so trip across the lakes. The lakes are lovely. The water a beautiful turquoise and so clear.

(picture with thanks from the internet)

Back on our bikes, Andy and I ride the remaining 100 miles on our own to Opatija. It feels long and the temperature is now over 30 degrees. We travel on long stretches of just grass areas with the odd house or two. Most houses are not finished and many have small stalls with the grandma of the household sitting under an umbrella selling honey, jam or surplus vegetables. We eventual wind our way down to the Adriatic coast and join the coastal road at Senj. With the sea now on our left this signifies the turning point on this tour, we now start heading north and homeward.

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Croatia – first but not our last visit.

Lake Bled – Ogulin

Hurray – today we stayed drý and in fact had sunshine all day. But I digress as I need to start at the beginning.

Hotel Park although lovely is massive and has a very clinical feel to it. There are just loads of tour groups everywhere. The restaurant is buffet style and there is loads of it. It is not my favourite way to eat as the food can at times all end up tasting very similar, but so far on this trip the quality of food has been good.

Waking to sunshine we get up even earlier to have a quick wander along the shores of Lake Bled in that wonderful sunshine that has been missing for so long.

All too soon it was time load the bike again and hit the road, not literally, and on to Ogulin in Croatia.

It was only 156 miles today with an excursion to the Postojna caves. The caves were first discovered in the 17th century but it wasn’t till 1818, when the cave was being prepared for a visit by Francis I, the first Emperor of the Austria-Hungary that a new area of the cave was discovered accidentally by local Luka Čeč.

In 1819, Archduke Ferdinand visited the caves, and this is when the caves became officially known as a tourist destination. Electric lighting was added in 1884 which further enhancing the cave system’s popularity.

In 1872, rail tracks were laid along with the first cave train for tourists. At first, these were pushed along by the guides themselves, later at the beginning of the 20th century a gas locomotive was introduced.

During World War I, Russian prisoners of war were forced to construct a bridge across a large chasm inside the cave. During World War II, German occupying forces used the cave to store nearly 1,000 barrels of aircraft fuel, which were destroyed in April 1944 by Slovene Partisans. The fire burned for seven days, destroying a large section of the cave and blackening the entrance.

After 1945, the gas locomotive was replaced by an electric one. About 5.3 kilometres (3.3 mi) of the cave system are open to the public.

In June 2015 the cave administration reported that cave divers managed to explore a further underwater section of the cave leading towards Planina Cave, thus lengthening the cave system from 20,570 m (67,490 ft) to 24,120 m (79,130 ft).

Today you catch the electric trains that take you 2.5 km into the caves where we are met by a guide who takes us through a further 1.5k before we board the train back to the entrance again.

Coming out from the constant temperature of 10 degrees we are hit by the sudden heat. Following a lovely crepe each we decide to set off ahead of the group. The satnav plays up and we pass the entrance to the caves three times but eventually head off in the correct direction.

The ride for the rest of the day is through some very rural areas. Many of the houses haven’t yet been completed and the state of the roads are poor. But it is a wonderful ride with Annie and Terry down from the hills and towards the Croatian border.

Another first today was crossing a boarder which was actually manned. However our passports were checked without having to remove helmets or raise our visors.

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Posted in Croatia, Motorbike, Ogulin, Uncategorized
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