Day 3 – Into Switzerland
May 23, 2012
Well Day 3 was as bad as Day 2 for most riders; a bike conked out with a wiring fault; it was repaired but the group had another 12-hour day. We all know these sort of things are going to happen on this trip. I rode with 3 other bikes and we went off as a separate group, but we took a wrong turn and missed a lot of twisty roads, however we rode on freeways instead, and in Switzerland the roads are perfect. We had lunch at the Swiss border – you can pay in Euro, although the Swiss adhere fiercely to their own currency.
The weather this morning in France had been low cloud, mist and rain and 10*C but on entering Switzerland it cleared and we had terrific views of the Swiss countryside, lakes and mountains. Interlaken where we stay tonight is wonderful, there’s a huge high waterfall at one end of town (house prices must be cheaper under that); here’s me by the lake, the main street (note the waterfall), and the view from my hotel window.
Our group of 4 got to the hotel at 5pm, but the support vehicles had been working with the broken-down bike and did not arrive till quite late, and of course they have all our clothing, computers and stuff in them. Here’s a picture of the two supporting 4WD’s when they were parked in Rouen.
Now at 11pm I have the first chance to get to the internet today, but the hotel network is down and reception is unmanned, so both the Day 2 and this Day 3 posting are going to be late; sorry, but this is going to happen quite a lot. Tomorrow we leave at 7:50am, so we can get to Salzburg early enough to go out and see it. Today was 380 km, and tomorrow will be about 584 km but mostly on freeways. We have to get on, there’ll be one free day at Budapest but we need to push hard, as far as Istanbul.
Day 4 – Salzburg
May 24, 2012
Remember I said that things could not get worse than Day 2? Welcome to Day 4. We rode from Lauterbrunnen, via Interlaken, Zurich, Memmingen (a big junction in Germany), Munich (in the 5pm rush hour) into Salzburg. (This was the group of 4 bikes – the main procession were going to go via Innsbruck on more scenic and slower roads, but we preferred the freeways; we arrived 8pm and now at 9pm they haven’t arrived yet; I hope they are OK). We went through Liechtenstein, so the overall trip will be 13 countries not 12. Oh, and Germany – 14 countries.
We lost a bit of time with a couple of minor repairs to two bikes when we started; I went to that waterfall, it’s a 275m drop and the water is wonderful to drink. We set off, the temp was again only 10*C so we rugged up again, and with wet-weather gear as it keeps raining – I wiped the bike down, had breakfast and when I came back out it was soaked again. We rode through Swiss Rain – very intense stuff, not like the French foggy/drizzly version – beautiful valley scenery (wheh we could see it), then into Germany where the land was flat and the weather sunny and the temp rose to 27 degrees!! And us in Arctic gear … anyway we dried our clothing out as we went alonng pretty well.
The German freeways have a 130 km/h speed limit (as do the French ones, but 110 km/h if it’s raining which is a good idea) but some Germans obviously miss the days when there was no limit, so when you see a car coming up behind you, it will arrive much sooner than you think! We cruised at 120-130 km/h, wonderful roads again, then into Austria, and after a bit of a good run on dry roads we saw a black sky ahead and wet-suited ourselves up just in time. Whoosh!! Austrian rain is much heavier than even the Swiss stuff, there were hailstones, 4 sets of torrential rain each about 15 minutes, so dense you could hardly see the road, I didn’t bother with the wet-suit trousers and boy, did I get soaked. The freeway suddenly jammed solid and I got away with turning off it, through some villages and back onto it after the holdup. Arrived in Salzburg very tired and wet, but the main group is not here yet so they’ll be even tireder and wetter I do hope they are all OK.
Despite having seen the magnificent Swiss and Bavarian scenery I don’t have any photos worth showing for this day. This is not a tour of Europe … we have to move along! Today 580km but all on freeways – tomorrow a similar day, on to Budapest.
Day 5 – Hungary
May 25, 2012
A fairly (and thankfully) uneventful day for our group of 4 bikes, we left Salzburg at 9 and drove on excellent freeways all day via Vienna to reach Budapest at 4pm . . . 540 km, but it was easy. (Another group went up in the mountains, a far better ride but longer and much harder work). The Hungarian freeway is new and even better than the F/D/A/CH/FL ones (FL = Liechtenstein). The scenery, ever magnificent, flattened out as we crossed Austria but the hills near Budapest are cute, with scattered single houses.
It rained on and off, the Hungarian rain is different from the Austrian stuff, now isn’t that interesting. The Swiss roads have many tunnels, and in rain the wet road goes 500 metres or so into the tunnel, spread by cars and also they would bring some air in. When the rain stops, the outside road surface dries out very quickly but in the tunnel it stays wet! Some tunnels are 5 km long, you think they will never end.
The temperature has gone up to 20-25*C so your riding clothes dry out after a storm, if you keep going. But after the rain has stopped, the road is still wet for 15 minutes and all the vehicles spray up dirty water. When you’re on a motorbike this can be quite a problem as your visor gets dirty and although you can wipe it with the gloves, you can’t really clean it. The vehicles are interesting, a never-ending procession of lorries from Austria and Hungary (of course), but also Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, and a few from Moldova. They can’t go in the outside lane so they are interesting to observe as you cruise safely past them at 130 km/h. With a such a smooth ride the bike uses less petrol, 25-26 km/L instead of 21-22. (25 km/l = 59 MPG)
All these countries have a good idea, they make the visitors buy a road tax sticker that is valid for 10 days. It only costs $5-$10 but you are appropriately paying for the use of their roads, which are indeed very good (the Swiss sticker is $50, but their roads have many tunnels and bridges and I reckon $50 is reasonable).
Sorry no photos again today, however tomorrow is a REST DAY in Budapest and I should snap something worthwhile. I can use the day to dry out my riding gloves, socks and boots, and I’ll get the hotel to clean the used clothes (they will probably charge extra). Five of the group of 19 people have fallen sick or need to work on their bikes & have stayed behind in Salzburg for today.
Day 6 – Free in Budapest
May 26, 2012
Having done 2500 km in 5 days, all of them rainy and two of them 12 hours of riding, we get a day free in Budapest. Lovely sunny weather today but of course Budapest is so wonderful that you need every spare moment to see even half of it in a day, luckily for myself I was here with Barbro in 2007 so I could choose my favourite place, which was the Heroes Square with statue of ARPAD and other semi-legendary founders of Hungary, and – somebody ought to do this, and the Hungarians have – a statue raised to the famous author “Anonymous”.
A few of us climbed up the cathedral tower, 302 steps, and got this view of Fishermens Bastion (over the river in Buda) and the main drag of Pest.
In the Museum of Terror (which is pitched mostly for younger Hungarians) there’s a huge room with woven carpet depicting a map of Russia with the main Gulag prison camps marked. Where we came in to the room, the carpet showed the Black Sea and where we’ll be riding in Turkey and around Sochi/Rostov. Then we noted the size of the room!! And sure enough, down the other end of the room, far away, there’s Magadan. So, tomorrow, onwards into Romania and there’s only 99 days left, we’ll be riding at a more relaxed pace now, but on more basic roads. The weather should be good from now on, but when that Siberian precipitation starts to fall on my head I will wistfully look back to these 5 wet days we just had in Europe.
Oh, and today is my Birthday! – as a result of which I have received this very useful gift from some other riders.ut my riding gloves, socks and boots, and I’ll get the hotel to clean the used clothes (they will probably charge extra). Five of the group of 19 people have fallen sick or need to work on their bikes & have stayed behind in Salzburg for today.
Budapest from cathedral
SPOT tracker location link
May 26, 2012
One of the other bikes has a SPOT tracker which reports its location in real time, and THIS LINK stores the whole history of where we’ve been so far. Note this is where Don’s Bike has been, not necessarily where MY bike has been! Don’s Californian rego plate “LHR 2 GDX” is based on the airport codes for London and Magadan. I am running two trackers, but I have to recover the data later on the computer, they both fail at times and the result is nothing like as neat as Don’s, so, please click on THIS LINK and enjoy Don’s data. Thanks Don!