Reminder to self: bring ear plugs when staying in a hostel, or sleep in a tent.
Today’s aim was to continue heading east; directly through the heart of Munich and onto Wasserburg Am Inn where I'd pitch up for the evening.
I took advantage of the buffet breakfast laid on by the hostel – not so much Full English, but Full Continental. After I let the food digest, I cycled out of Augsburg. It took a while to get moving as there was another headwind. Nicht gut. To distract myself, I put headphones in, turned the volume up and listened to music. Although I could still hear the roar of the wind, the music lifted my mood and made cycling that little bit easier.
40 miles in, I reached Munch. A city with strong architecture which is rich in history, I stopped in Max-Joseph-Platz for lunch, wishing I had time to stay in the city for an evening. I ate a salami and cheese baguette directly in the sun and sheltered from the wind, making for a heat trap. It felt like 24C, not 14C.
The cycle out of Munich was one long, straight road for 10 miles. It was dull. I kept plugging away. On this depressing stretch of road, I had decided that I was long overdue a rest day, so I’d take one in Salzburg in two days. The thought of rest kept the legs moving.
After a brief stop at 60 miles for a Snickers ice cream, which made my body temperature plummet, I powered on. Eventually, I reached camp at 6pm. I pitched up next to a lake and watched the sun set whilst cooking dinner over the stove. Moments like this make the struggles very easy to forget.
It had been -2C overnight, another morning waking up to frost on the tent. Despite the cold, I had a great night’s sleep. Knowing I needed rest, I had a lazy morning. At 11am, I cycled into the centre of Wasserburg Am Inn and drank a coffee in the sun by the Danube.
Today’s ride took me through more picturesque villages with single track lanes and rolling hills, each one edging me closer to the Alps. I felt stronger than yesterday – maybe because there was no wind, just warm temperatures and a nice amount of sun. I reached Austria in a good time.
That evening I was writing in the hostel lounge, when I was approached by another tourer. Toby sat with me for the next couple hours and we spoke about our respective trips and Bavarian culture. He was from Munich, so was clued up on the topic. It was a good escape from blog writing and route planning.
Rest day - finally.
I added a touch of culture to the trip by spending way too much money on a museum and visit to the cathedral. Only to be reminded that when you’ve seen one Cathedral, you’ve seen them all.
Originally, the plan was to cycle up to Maunterdort, a 5,000 ft pass. As I left Salzburg on another warm, sunny day, the pass was on my mind. The ride though the lower Alps was nice, with a gentle incline. I moved away from the main roads and cycled through villages, hidden in the shadows of snow-capped mountains. The closer I got to the pass, the more daunting the ride ahead felt.
A few days before, I was told about a different route, which was slightly easier and would take one day less. When I reached Bischofschofen, I was met with a crossroads. I either had to go left for the 5,500ft pass or right for the easier option. I went right. I didn’t have GPS set up for this route, so it was Google Maps thereafter.
Google Maps was a mistake. I ended up on a dual carriageway, which forced a couple dodgy cycles through long tunnels. With the higher elevation, the roads improved. Upon reaching Badgastein, Google Maps took me to two deadends and a golf course. After spending 1.5 hours trying to get out of the town, I resorted to using Komoot. I’ve been told continuously, from other tourers, about how good this Komoot is – I finally succumbed to peer pressure.
I cycled up multiple 15% - 20% gradient climbs, which included a ten storey car park. I continued to cycle through higher altitude villages – each village smaller than the last – before settling in for the night at Millantz.
An unpopular opinion, but I don’t rate the Alps. It’s overpopulated and the amount of traffic, even on the small roads, is overwhelming. It seems unnatural for a place of such beauty to have towns dotted up and down the mountainside. Mountains should be a place to switch off and disconnect, not a roadkill risk.
In Millantz, I befriended a German couple who were intrigued by the trip. The conversation meant I left camp late, again. I’ve come to realise that, although necessary and a part of the ‘journey’, talking can take up alot of time. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to chat once I’ve reached Croatia.
Yesterday’s efforts were rewarded with a five mile downhill, where I hit an average pace of 25mph. It was glorious. The first half of the day was spent following the river Drava south into Villach. After covering 40 or so miles, I reached the small Austrian town situated close to the Slovenia border. I spent an hour sitting in the sun drinking a coffee and deciding my next move. It was already 4.30pm and the weather was turning.
I decided to take the Wurzenpass into Slovenia – it included some hefty climbs, but was only 11 miles to where I wanted to camp.
As soon as I got on the bike, I was reminded of the previous day’s incline. I got to where the road led up to the pass, but I didn’t have it in the legs. At the last minute, I opted for the 18 mile cycle around the mountain. I probably used the same amount of energy, but this option felt a lot less daunting and meant I got to briefly visit Italy.
Upon reaching Italy, I was exhausted, but I continued on. I kept telling myself: “get to the Slovenian border”. I cycled along the Alpine cycling route which links Italy with Slovenia. At 7.30pm I reached the border, but the landscape went from forest to open farmland – this would have made it difficult to wild camp.
The temperature had dropped dramatically. I raced across an open field to a petrol station, inhaled three Snickers bars and a croissant, and threw on my down jacket over the windproof I was already wearing. I checked Google Maps to see Spik, the place I originally wanted to camp, was only 11km away.
I got back on the bike, turned the front and rear lights on, and made haste for Spik. Upon reaching Spik, I went to the campsite’s hotel to enquire. We were halfway through the usual campsite admin when I asked, on the off chance, if there were any empty rooms in the hotel. The woman jumped at the chance of making a sale, and after some negotiations, I got a room, hot shower, dinner and breakfast for over 50% off.
It was the easiest decision I had made on the trip so far. I was in desperate need of rest, a proper night’s sleep, and a hearty meal.