Saturday, January 11, 2020

Destination Stelvio - Part 3

Carrying on from Part 2.

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The two days at Como had been great. I’d eaten my weight in pizza and bruschetta, drank gallons of Aperol and done little else. Now it was time to get back on the bike. I had been looking forwards to today’s run for a while. We were heading to Livigno, heading up to Chiavenna, back through Switzerland and up the Maloja pass. I had ridden down this pass a couple of times and I was really looking forward to heading up the other direction. We were also meeting up with Rick at St Moritz. He was joining us for a couple of nights at Livigno before we all headed over to his place in Germany’s Black Forest.
It was sweltering leaving Como but it soon began to cool down a little once we began to climb back up into the Alps. The Maloja is a tremendous road, like big steps up the side of a huge cliff. You’ll see plenty photos of it in magazines like ABR as it looks mental from above. It’s pretty technical too, with quite a few tight hairpins which are still open enough to take right at full lean in first gear. We regrouped at the top of the pass. While I waited for Egor and Gerrit I chatted to some Swiss folk who had a BMW M1, one of the crazy cars that has doors that go into the sills. They had visited Scotland a few years before and loved their visit. It really shows how nice some of the places we have on our doorstep when folk from a country as stunning as Switzerland love it so much.

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The road along to St Moritz would be a bit boring after the Maloja if it wasn’t for the scenery. The heavily enforced speed limit was always in the back of my mind too, squashing any temptation to blast past a slower car or camper van. Even the sight of a speed trap coming into St Moritz caused a huge arse twitch and panicked checking of the speedo.
My speed was fine and we rode past the fuzz and into St Moritz where Rick was waiting to meet us at the petrol station. We all carried on up the Bernina Pass and crossed the border back into Italy and the tax haven that is Livigno. I quickly got us to the campsite where we discovered the place to be full of camper vans. Shite! There was another campsite a few kilometres outside Livigno which looked OK but far from ideal for a Saturday night on the town. We were trying to come up with a solution when a guy told us he was about to leave. We all managed to cram our tents on to the pitch. It would only be for the one night as most people would be heading home the following day. We had a few beers on the campsite before having a wander into Livigno for some food and a few more.

 
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Stefano, a friend who runs Hotel Concordia in Livigno, Me with Rick's fingers in my ears, Gerrit and Egor


The following day we split into two pairs. The year before I had ridden the Gavia Pass and really enjoyed it. I recommended Egor and Gerrit done that as well as Stelvio where as Rick and I were heading up to Stelvio for some lunch before heading down the Umbrail and into Switzerland. Stelvio is one of these over hyped roads. It's got great scenery and history, but the road to the bottom of the pass is better than the pass itself, especially if you start off in Livigno. Rick and I had a good ride over and up the pass. Stopping as you do for photos and to take it all in. We got lunch at the Tibetan Hotel HB and I had stayed at previously, enjoying our food while watching some giant bird swooping about (anyone know what it is?) We were taking some photos when Rick spotted some poor guy who had binned his Goldwing on one of the hairpins; easily done on the tighter east side of Stelvio. Egor and Gerrit arrived for a flying visit before carrying on, I bought some souvenirs and was recognised by the lady who ran the shop from my previous visits!

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Rick on Stelvio

Stelvio pass

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Rick and me

Stuck goldwing on Stelvio
Unknown bird at Stelvio
Any ideas what kind of bird this is?

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Lady on Stelvio recognised me from previous visits!


My phone was also going mental. My mate Chris Jones had seen my photos and was in the area. I help Chris run his UK Adventure Riders Facebook page. he was over with Ben, his American friend. It was quite funny speaking to with my own accent and Chris's broad Lancashire accent. I think Rick was the only one of the four of us who could understand what was being said. We arranged to meet for a coffee halfway down the Umbrail. It was good to get the craic for a bit before saying our goodbyes and heading back to Livigno via the Ofenpass and the Livigno tunnel. Once again the road manners made the transition from Switzerland back to Italy an obvious one. There were groups of cycling teams training who were going mental at anyone around them, bikes fleeing along ignoring the speed limits and lots of other funny stuff. We stocked up on beers in the shop and returned to the campsite where we were surprised to see Egor and Gerrit. Unfortunately the Gavia was closed for an event so they had just came back to the campsite to chill out. Egor and Gerrit were chuffed to have ridden Stelvio, they even bought me a t shirt to say thanks for getting them there. Stelvio marked the furthest away from home we'd get so we were now on the homewards leg.

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Me, Chris, Rick and Ben.

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That evening we headed out in Livigno once more for a night at Bait dal Ghet, a great wee place Rick had recommended. It's a proper family run Italian restaurant and really popular. We had to wait outside for a while before a table became available. Waiting was a pleasure as they gave us free drinks! It was a great night but if you every get offered chilli schnapps just say no!

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There's a reason the guy in the background is laughing.
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We rode back over the Bernina away from Livingno before taking the Julierpass over the Alps. We stopped at the top for a bite to eat and Rick showed all the Swiss defences hidden in the hills. The other thing that was there was a huge red tower. It turns out its a theatre. There must be some hardy thespians in Switzerland. We also rode through the hilariously named Cunter.

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Can you see the hidden gun emplacements?
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Even roadworks in Switzerland look amazing.

A few hours of motorway later and we were in Germany and onto roads that were familiar to me. At Rick and Andrea's we had the usual great time. Unfortunately Stefan's Pizzeria, our usual place to go, had closed so we went out to a fancier place. The food was really nice. It was Chanterelle mushroom season in the Black Forest and I had a really tasty pasta dish, but I missed the craic you got at Stefan's place. Still, we made our own craic and had a good laugh and a great night.

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Rick's boots were a bit worn out.

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Egor, Gerrit and I said our goodbyes to Rick and Andrea and took a short run through the Black Forest to Wolfgang's place, stopping as usual at Todtnau for a shot of the luge thingy. Wolfgang greeted us with his usual big smile and it wasn't long to we'd convinced him to get his old Willys Jeep out. We took it for a spin into the local town and stocked up on beer and food which was barbecued that evening. Some whisky and card games followed but we couldn't kick the arse out of it too much as we had a long run the following day to our final stop, Vianden.

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It was a straightforward motorway blast to Vianden in Luxembourg. For our last night we had booked a hotel. Gerrit went for an early night while Egor and I had a few beers and shared the last of my whisky with the whole pub. Another motorway blast the following day and we were back at Ijmuiden. It had been a great trip.

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The three of us in Vianden.

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Egor gutted to be going home.
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Sunset on the ferry

Here's all the short videos i took on my phone while away. Riveting viewing of course.




If you've not done a tour of the Alps get it done. You're missing a great biking destination.


Mike

On the Sustenpass

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