Brisbane2Bristol

On our great adventure

Cliffs, Churches, Coffee and Snow….

The ride around lake Garda out of Siromine was a beautiful one, riding through the ‘sometimes’ tight narrow streets we made our way through the little villages, it’s such a shame yet again we didn’t have more time here, but we knew there would be many places we couldn’t visit, just another place added to list to come back to, although the list is getting very long now…

As we started the climb up the scenic twisting roads, you could feel the temperature dropping and that’s not all, some massive big black clouds loomed over our heads. We pulled over to the side of the road so we could get our waterproofs on, just in case!

After about an hour or so of ascending into the clouds we come to a picturesque town of Spiazza located on Monte Baldo this is where Santuario Madonna della Corona is situated..

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We found a place to park and took our layers of waterproofs off, the sun was shining down on us now…
You can’t see the church from where we were, just a winding path descending below us.
With umbrella in hand, just incase of the threatening showers, we walk down the 200 or so steps trying carefully not to slip on the wet leaves, after about ten minutes we are there, (thankfully we didn’t start from Brentino otherwise it would have been 1540 steps which should take two hours uphill and one hour down).
Once we arrived at the church, it was a BIG wow, what an amazing site…

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“Santuario Madonna della Corona” is situated mid-rock face, 700 metres high, completely excavated in the living rock that falls vertical for 400 metres, simply incredible, stunning views of the valley below, we had a look around before we went into the salmon pink church, as you enter one of the things you notice is the wall on the left side of the church is the cliff face with man made arches joining it, it may be a small church but it has a big impact on you.

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The Knights of the Order of Malta built it between 1480 and 1552, and later a new sanctuary was built in 1625, the sanctuary is named after the statue of ‘Our Lady of the Crown’.
The inside of the church was small and had a comforting feeling about it…
After a cold drink sitting in the sun at a cafe at the bottom we head back ‘up’ to the bike.

Back at the bike we decided it was better to put back on our water proofs, as the sky was still dark, patchy and full of rain in areas that we were heading, even if it didn’t rain the extra layers would keep the cold out.
As we climbed higher we could see less, as the cloud cover was thick and patchy.
The great thing about Europe is that there are many ‘Biker’ friendly cafe’s about, so doing our bit for the local economy we stop for a coffee and cake, the views from the café deck were stunning…

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Lake Garda looked tiny from this height, we were really tempted to stay here for the night, but we needed to push on. We purchased a biker road map of the area that had all the best roads of the Alps, for when we next come back!

We were getting different reactions from fellow bikers, some would look straight through us because we were wearing well worn and dirty bike gear and a now a dirty and battle scared bike, that didn’t match there shiny new machines and matching riding gear, they are what we call ‘fair weather riders’, on the other hand some of the bikers were in awe of where we had come from and what we had achieved and loved to chat…

Back on the ‘iron horse’ we ride off getting even higher into the clouds!
The road started to decent down a fabulous twisty road where we come across a little beautiful town Riva Del Garda, at the other end of Lake Garda..

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The afternoon was closing in so we started to look for a hotel, and came across Hotel Bristol, its gotta be a sign from above…

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After enquiring if they had a room spare, safe parking, and wifi in the rooms (which we desperately needed today), so with all the ‘boxes’ ticked, we signed in (payment required upon leaving) we were shown to our room and carried up all the luggage and side boxes up the stairs… we don’t usually take the side boxes off but we wanted to make the most of what was left of the day and see a bit on the other side of the lake…

I just wanted to check an email before we go out, so i got out the laptop, put in the hotel password and nothing, I tried the phone and nothing, grrrr…
Clive went down to reception and they said the password was correct, but they will reset their Wi-Fi.
Still no Wi-Fi, they said you sometimes can’t get it in the side of the hotel we’re in! so we packed up handed back the keys and left disappointed, the receptionist was dumfounded, but the room was not cheap and we weren’t getting wifi like they promised….

After repacking the bike we set off down the road towards Pietramurata, there wasn’t much here but the back drop of the mountains was stunning, we stopped at Hotel Daino. I checked it out, but again it was expensive (remember we are on a budget) it was 110 Euros…gulp…I went next door to the campground that had cabins for hire, so I checked that out as well, but it was the same price and doesn’t include breakfast, so it was a no -brainer, plus a few drops of rain were now starting to falling as well…

We booked into our room just in time as the sky opened up and it poured and poured with rain.
I went to get the pass word for the Wi-Fi and the receptionist forgot to tell us you have to pay for it, WHAT, you are kidding, how ridiculous two Euros, which isn’t a lot, but damn annoying, it has been free everywhere we have been to so far….

We settle into our cozy room, we enjoy a cup of tea while enjoying our backdrop view of the mountains, just lovely, our balcony also overlooked the swimming pool…we were tempted to go for a swim maybe later! I needed to wash some clothes while Clive checked mail, blogged and Skyped the kids…

With every thing now done, it was time for dinner, after taking a walk down the road and realising that there was nowhere else to eat but at the hotel!
Looks like the hotel is ‘it’ tonight, after a delicious dinner of Ravioli and a few drinks later and we were ready for bed…
After breakfast we packed up and were soon off riding towards Tonale Pass, even though it was ‘fresh’ at least it wasn’t raining.
We rode past orchards upon orchards full of apples, I have never seen so many before, all in neat rows jam-packed together.
The hills soon turned to mountains, it also turned quite chilly, but the landscape was incredible and that made up for the chill.

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After a while we came to the Tonale Pass, which has an elevation of 1883m, the pass is across the Rhaetian Alps, which is located between Lombardy and Trentino. Its a ski town with lots of closed chair lifts waiting for the snow to come so they can open in a month or so…

The twisting roads and the many switchbacks must have been a dream for Clive to ride, especially as they were sealed roads!!!
This small town like many around here, was all but a ghost town, only busy during the winter when people come to ski, snow board or what ever, most hotels and shops were closed, so with a stop for a quick photo, we were soon on our way, but stopped a short distance out of town at one of the few biker friendly cafes that was open going by their big sign outside, to enjoy a lip licking hot chocolate and have a really nice chat with some French bikers who were doing a tour of the Alps…

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The only thing about cold weather riding is the huge amount of gear you need to wear and when you stop, you have to take all your bike gear off, then put it all back on again, allow ten minutes for this…lol

Back on the twisting roads again, at times it was hard to see in front of us as the cloud cover was so thick, some roads turned from wide to narrow, and the green grassy pastures changed to grey ugly rocks with grass patches, the 48 switch backs going up were amazing and on this side of the pass they are numbered with stones, and are a challenge for motorbikes, especially loaded up as much as our bike was…


Finally we made to the top of the Passo dello Stelvio, one of the highest Alpine Passes in Europe and stands a big 2758 m, it’s amazing to think we have been two kilometres higher than this in the Himalayas in Northern India…!

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There were a lot of bikes around, with most all posing around the Stelvio Pass sign, a very popular road with bikes and sports cars…

Its freezing cold up here lets hope we can find a hotel, there didn’t seem to be many hotel choices up here…. But we found one for 90 Euros and included breakfast, a locked up shed for the bike and Wi-Fi, we dropped our bags into our cozy little room and went off and had a famous Stelvio sausage from the Bratwurst Stall, it tasted as good as it smelt and looked, served by the friendly Klaus…

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Now most of the tourists had left i could pose with the bike next to sign for the all important tourist snap…

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But after the bike had been parked up for a couple of hours in the bitter wind, it was hard to start and there was a drop of oil leaking out of the oil cooler… i think the oil was close to freezing as i had summer grade oil in the bike…must change that as soon as possible…

With that i got the hotel manager to open the garage so i could park it away for the night. With some day light left we were feeling a bit energetic and mostly wanted something to do to warm us up, we spotted a gravel pathway leading up a hill that was in front of our hotel, so while the sun was out we decide to climb up, it was pretty steep, and very blustery…

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Within seconds the clouds reappeared and the rain came down, taking refuge under my umbrella seemed futile, so I headed back down the now slippery gravel with Clive not far behind… we hadn’t been up there long and found when we came back that all but one of the shops had closed, don’t blame them, the weather had changed, it was wet and icy cold.

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Our view from our room…

Dinner time soon came around, but the choice of restaurant’s was were limited to say the least, our hotel only did a three course set meal that really didn’t get us excited so we went across the road to another much smaller hotel..
we walked into a charming little bar, that had the open fire roaring, some cozy chairs and tables dotted a round the room, we had the pick of the whole room, as it was empty.
Sitting next to the fire we were brought a menu, hmmm not much choice, but better than our hotel, we settled on homemade soup, very tasty.
Back over the road to our hotel, we sat in the foyer and got on the free Wi-fi, I looked out of the window, and I was sure it was snowing, Clive thought it was rain until he looked harder and then went outside to confirm it, it was coming down fast and thick and didn’t take long to settle, as beautiful as the snow was it was something we didn’t want to see…

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The next morning we woke to a winter wonderland, the sky was blue and clear.

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After breakfast Clive went to check on what the road surface was like, not good, the snow had frozen and was slippery as anything, as time went on, very S L O W L Y the ice melted, so by mid morning we were ready to leave, Clive got the bike out of the garage, and he had trouble starting it, eventually he got it started and parked the bike up so we could load it, then noticing that there was some sort of leak again, this bike is not fond of this cold with a summer grade oil inside…

Finally we were off down the most amazing road, sharp switchbacks, the twisting roads went on for ages and the scenery was breathtaking you can see why Top Gear once named the Stelvio pass as being the greatest driving road in the world, it didn’t disappoint.
The switchbacks were very tight and we noticed more than one car misjudging how sharp they were and were forced to do a three point turn to get around!

From the snow the previous evening it had covered the top half of the surrounding mountains, as we got closer to the bottom, there was no trace of any snow.

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It was just green fields and abandoned ski towns that we rode through, it was all simply stunning then all of a sudden we arrived in Austria…

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We meet some bikers down the bottom who asked us, had the ice melted on the road at the top yet, with a big grin we replied, yeah go for it, it’s fantastic..

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