Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cycling Swiss Alps and the Dolomites… We Smashed it!

Tired and still stressed from the weekend (and the traumatic kayaking) we set off for Switzerland. The morning was a short ride with a post-lunch relax by a very busy waterfall. We decided we should get riding for the afternoon and even took a gamble on another bike path… bad move! Was steep and gravel – but we did make it across the Swiss border and found a lovely campsite with friendly staff and lots of green grass…not the ‘but its soft gravel’ sold to us by an Italian campsite.

The next morning had threatening rain so we had a slow start but raced off as soon as we saw the sun. After a lot of motivational encouragement for each other (ok, mainly Emily needed this!) we began the ascent of the Maloja pass (1815m). Not sure what we were worried about as it was short and no trouble at all. Despite the drizzly forecast we made the most of the sun and continued cycling alongside some beautiful lakes arriving in the ‘tourist mecca’ Sankt Moritz. Everything in Switzerland seemed to be PERFECT and Sankt Moritz is no exception – it is gearing up to host the ‘World Alpine Ski Championships’ in Feb 2017. Our luck with the weather ran out here and we managed a good deal at the Swiss Youth Hostel… Dinner, breakfast AND hot shower… YES!

We stupidly keep thinking that each bike path we take (rather than road) will be better than the last. The following day 30km of path turned to un-rideable gravel hills! As we finally made it to asphalt road it started raining yet again. Determined to keep going we began our ascent of the Fuorn pass (2149m)… interesting feeling so cold and wet on the outside but burning hot on the inside from the effort (both of us in lowest chain rings both front and back!). Numb fingers and glasses constantly fogged by the steam that we were breathing. To top it off, as soon as we hit the highest point of the pass we had a freezing cold downhill ride (about 20km worth) to our campsite = hot shower!

The next two days were brilliantly sunny and we enjoyed the easy downhill riding all the way to Bozen/Bolzano – a strange italo-germanic town where everyone thought we were German. Not wasting any sunshine time we continued on through to the Dolomites. Our campsite 6km from the top of the Gardenia pass (2136m) was beautiful – and an ideal starting point for the final ascent the next morning. Valparola pass was our highest (2168m) and thankfully by this point we were like a ‘well-oiled 2-person, mountain-cycling machine’. We barely noticed the Falzarego pass before the downhill into Cortina. Here we jumped on another bike path (how many times can we make this mistake?!?). Despite being gravel, this one had a hard base and had no crazy-steep hills. We were particularly keen on taking the path as we knew we would find a secluded campsite and the path certainly delivered! – Dinner (and breakfast) with a view!!

All taken by your riding one-handed photo professional!

Through the Cimabanche and Misurina passes without even realising (ok so they were not that high!... we’re not that pro yet!!) Misurina town and lake were idyllic! Problem was that no one around was capable of taking a photo of us that met Tim’s high standards in photo quality… Oh well! Tim attempted to take some video while we were speeding downhill 1000m in altitude to Lake Santa Caterina (don’t worry – both collarbones are still currently intact!). We got stuck in a ‘no-man’s land’ area between road and bike path but found the Museo dell’Occhiale in Pieve di Cadore. This was fascinating for both of us as it included everything from the history of spectacles to eye disease and even funky glasses worn by celebrities like Elton John.

We had a major adrenaline rush riding through some high-speed tunnels before finding a beautiful campsite in a riverbed… yes, ok after our near wash-away experience you’d think we would’ve learnt (especially as it did rain during the night) but this one was similar to a Central Australian riverbed with only a trickle of water.

After our successful hills riding we were pretty confident that we could cycle south just as fast as catching a train to Venice. Over 100km and one day later we rode into the campsite at Mestre (mainland near Venice). Wandering around Venice was indeed fascinating… and full of tourists! We fitted in a boat trip to Murano where we were able to observe two very different kinds of glass-blowing… one based on blowing a vase and shaping the glass and the second mixing in coloured pieces and forming a drinking glass. Beautiful city and the sun was perfect for plenty of photos! I even persuaded Tim to sit (yeah really!) to enjoy pasta and wine for dinner beside the canal near the Rialto Bridge.

Slow start using wifi to complete some ‘travel admin’ this morning. We’re off to ride east towards Slovenia and into Austria.

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