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glitch_oz 10-20-2013 02:54 PM

Tornanti_3...ABRACADABRA! (Western Alps Backroads Ramble)

Strange places...weird customs :D

…local tradies and communications…

…BYO food?

Classy digs along the way…

At least some things are familiar….

And no, this wasn't a trip to Canberra

HELLOOOOO…and WELCOME to Tornanti_3, another 3-week adventure of a half-dozen Aussies stumbling around the European Alps in an attempt to try and make sense of a few things, find a bucket load of stumping roads, wonder about the magnificent countryside, pretend to mumble enough of the local lingo to fumble their way through room-bookings, menu-pages and whatever else the days, and fate, might throw up.

3 weeks…and a bit… of roaming the backroads of the Western Alps, stunning vistas, chasing the best of the local tucker and brew…laughing with the locals... and having the time of their lives.

After the original Tornanti in 2007 and the pearler of the 2009 Eastern Alps sequel, the brief this time prescribed a Western Alps loop from Zuerich in the industrial heartlands of northern Switzerland,
using the byways to discover some of the delights of the side valleys and hidden treasures of the Valais (Rhone Valley/ Wallis/ Southern Switzerland), tacking south along the Italian- French border to the most south-eastern pocket of France just north of Nice at the Mediterranean coast….to the stumping gorges and rock faces of the Vercors area southwest of Grenoble, the backblocks of Alpe d'Huez and the Bernese Highlands on the swingback.

Patching together the local single-laners where ever possible and some dirt and gravel where available, to string it all together, using the main tourist routes and Big Classics of the Route Des Grandes Alps etc. as commuting stretches.

And NO...this isn't just a ride-report but rather a travel-report.
Travel first, bikes second.:deal

Just a quick note:
For more comments, pics and general banter incl. additional material and pics from the others that came along, have a peek at the original thread on AusTouring HERE

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:00 PM

Enjoyment had to be maximized in every possible way, like..
…having the Alps to ourselves by NOT sharing them with 10s of millions of EU-holidaymakers during peak season
…picking the best time of year and adding some extra autumn-colours while at it.

…picking Zuerich as entry/ exit point as a variety of airlines flies directly from Australasia to Zuerich, minimizing travel times, required logistics and potential travel stuff-ups.

Zuerich also sits conveniently right on top of the "dividing line", splitting the Alps region into a western and eastern half…as well as being within 90mins of travel from/ to some of the most spectacular riding roads of the Alps. Access to almost everywhere is quick and easy, Autobahns leading to all 4 directions of the compass.
Add the fact that there's one of the best Bike-Hire businesses in Europe nearby, and it's just about impossible to go past the place.

It had all started on a stinking hot Melbourne night, enjoying a couple of coldies on the verandah.
" Hey, Doug's been prodding me in the ribs about another Tornanti-jaunt….whaddaya reckon?"
BIIIGG grin, no words…

Old-School planning,…cobbling together 15 months worth of tips, hints and ideas from books and the Net, whatever the language. Hans in Vienna was the main culprit…that "WestAlpen" Denzel book kept me awake for weeks!!

Then the stack of Michelin and TCI (Touring Club Italiano) Regional and Detail maps, some still slumbering away in the map-drawers from previous trips, others dribbling into the letterbox from Europe and the UK after hitting the "Buy Now" button…the French/Italian Alps south of Lake Geneva cover a lazy 9sqm of lounge room floor. I'm a sucker for good maps.

With a lousy 3 weeks to go and things around home + work starting to get "edgy", it's another quick call to MotoMader to make sure…again!!...that all is well with the booking and there'll be 6 bikes for us on THAT Saturday.

Turns out, they've got something else on THAT Saturday, too…

Their annual Bike-toberfest Promotional with Bavarian Wurst and Beer on offer…and 6 travel-shredded Aussies right in the midst of it. Yeeha….that'll be a welcome like a kick in the pants!! Prost!

Time to pull the finger out and get across to Tullamarine to meet up with Tim, Andrew and Dave who's already got the first leg from Hobart in the bag.

White'n fast…the oldest and quickest of the pack, dirt or tar: Dave-The-Brave. Yours truly on the right.

Doug's gone ahead to meet his wife in Thailand for a couple of days, Goodie's already been in northern Germany for a week on "family-business"…with luck, everyone will be at the Zuerich Airport Starbucks in 30 hours or so…

See you on the other side of a headache full of airline-movies…Abracadabra!!


glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:01 PM

Not a Singapore Sling, but rather the Singapore Cha-Ching…despite an eye-watering A$14 a pop, that's NOT a Kilkenny.

Free-Revving Doug was the first to join up at the Zuerich Starbucks…one down, one to go.

OIII!! DOUG!!! There's your wretched train ticket, mate.

You bloody ate the thing, then made us turn over Zuerich Airport for it!
Revenge will be sweet…or rather: bubbly. Tassie is only 4 months away, mate.

Everything ran as smooth as a greased pigs-tail, the Mader van is on standby, the short trip down to the Mader Circus done in a flash. Checkin' da wheels, bro!

Ahhh, REAL food!

One of the new Water-Boxers…not for us, though.

The offerings are staggering…it certainly makes Melbourne's bike shops look (and that includes the new Peter Stevens "Mega-Store"). The "wall of gloves"…

The "nick-nax" counter

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:02 PM

Dave handing over the Visa Card

Oh shit…too late now!! Andrew and Goodie looking on.

Tim signing his life away…but who could say NO to Marina?

Convenient stay for our first 2 nights and the last before departure...and the only accommodation booked for the 3-week stint.
Gasthof Engel in Oberentfelden, center of town, tram stop opposite, 10min walk to MotoMader, 1min walk to the train station…and they're happy to store our suitcases and empty bags once our gear has transferred into the panniers.

The building to the right is a typical stable/ hay-barn of a time, when the place still was a farming community.

Tim trying to sort all the accumulated travel-paperwork… the amount of stubs, tickets, boarding passes, receipts and other junk along the journey around half-the-globe is quite stunning.

Doug's onto more immediate needs (apparently, he eats his tickets and stubs)

Getting comfy in the beer garden…"bonding" the Tornanti way.

Dave's "Twisties". Twisted smokes for a twisted…arhhh, forget it!

Andrew knocking back one of the little samplers that Goodie had brought along from Germany. Some wicked stuff in that lot, HolySchmoly!!

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:03 PM

Time to shake those legs and have a check of what's around. Looks like it's going to be a Pizza-night. This is a regular Saturday night and EVERYTHING is CLOSED!!

Every Hotel, Restaurant (not that there are many, anyway) is locked after 6, including our own Gasthof Engel! The options out there are either a Pizza Shop.,..or the other Pizza Shop down the road.

Gastronomy seems to be a strict 5-and-a-half-days-a-week business around here.
Oh yeah…and while there's a blissful absence of the usual junk-food chains, it's biting us on the arse tonight.

Checking out the town…and there are plenty of foreign-looking things to trip over.

Another old, converted farmhouse/ barn/stables, now being part of "suburbia".

Haven't seen one of those for ages… all supplies and services seem to be underground around here.

Beautiful wrought iron work everywhere, even on a simple, little garden gate.

A spout as a piece of art!!

Loads and loads of flowers everywhere….those overflowing geraniums seem to be part of every building, public or private.

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:03 PM

Advertising board of a local gift and flower shop…90 steps that way -->

Many of the places leave us open-mouthed.

As we were about to find out…there lives a BLOODY BIIIG GOOOONG in that spire...arghhh, make that a whole family of GONGS!!
And from 6 am those friggin GONGS have you standing straight in bed every fu^%ing 15 minutes, hands clamped over ears and ready to flog every piece of skin off the bastard who's GONGING the living shyte outta that little town. Bulldoze that damn church tower to hell, I say… AMEN!!

What the..?? It's a boot-scraper!! When there's that much snow in winter caking the boots that one would fall on his arse skating along the floorboards inside. Not really needed anywhere in Oz, but obviously quite a good idea around here.
Wouldn't that be something for the Oz Health+Safety guys to sink their teeth into….uuuhu yeah!

Above the door: A hearty Welcome
On the door: (dialect) Closed today

Neat looking fire hydrant

Time for a nightcap...and Tim dropping into another of those air-pockets.

Hey!!! No trip without Ducky, our Good-Luck charm, right?

Might as well be part o' the bunch, aye!!

Ducatisti's never quit!! Yeaaah, bollox…

Oh boy…tough times ahead.

It sure ain't the first time for those 2…

Tomorrow: Storming "The Lenzburg", watching the locals at play, traditional crafts and a general wander and wonder before grabbing the bikes and lacing up for the starting blocks.

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:04 PM

The restless night finally turns into deep sleep…jetlag, time difference and 48hrs with barely 60mins of sleep taking their toll….juuuust when the big GONG in that church steeple reckons it's time for a new day in Oberentfelden and proceeds to GOOONNNNG the friggin paint of the walls.

Hoooly Mother!!

Then the first tram screeches to a stop just outside…and that 's IT!!

Having anticipated something like this is the reason for a "rest-day"…and starting the official bike hire on Monday morning.

Saves paying for an extra day that'd finish up with very little progress anyway and that in a state of "semi-conciousness" with a good chance of someone getting hurt.

Let's grab the local train and choof across to Lenzburg, a place that Marina from MotoMader suggested to spent some time at and have a look around, of course not missing the castle. She mentioned something about a once-a-year Historical Society Re-Enactment party up there, but what sort of chance would we have to catch that?

Low, grey skies…but dry. And somewhat muggy, just too warm and clammy for an early morning hour.
Bugger it, we're on.

Hey!! Some shires around here still seem to require pushie registration…I like that idea!

15 mins later

Walking into town from the station shows how industrial the area is and Lenzburg also being far bigger than expected. It all starts with the huge Hero factory that makes those little portions of jam used by the entire European hospitality industry, airlines etc.

Some impressions walking the Old Town….

A designated (self-labeled) smokers restaurant!! Cop that!

What's a Swiss town without a watchmaker? A wasteland!
Lenzburg CBD features at least 3…

The little Café we mobbed for breakfast…with the owner being forever apologetic for not being "ready" on a Sunday-morning for an onslaught of 6 Aussies.

He did bloody well!!

Watching it all…

"Oi!! Didn't you see the flying pig over there?"

Heh?? Yeti's in town??

Check the details in that shot…the Chef- cutout presenting the current menu of the small restaurant/ bar/ hotel…the thick, crooked wall at the right, which is not just the back wall of that house, but also the remains of the old City-Wall….the local knight-in-shining-armour over the hexagonal water-trough….all the tables and chairs, still set out from the day before. No vandalism, no graffiti…and apparently very little or no theft, as everything seems to stay out through the nights and across the weekends. NICE!!
….and unthinkable in Oz!

Look at those decorated eaves…and flowers, flowers, flowers everywhere.

A doll shop

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:05 PM

The top end of the old town…and there's the castle.

Hmmm…I think…I think I can see a pattern here!!
No shit, cobber?

Another arty-crafty rain spout

I've just got it in for that knight!

Let's see if I can get this right…
A magistrate's directive from the 13.April 1893 warning of a fine of 12 Francs (~A$12) for each occurrence of trespassing the described property. This includes trespassing by dogs, chooks and other pets for which the owner is responsible.

WOW!! That's one way to get the neighbour's chooks into the pot, I guess.
12 francs in 1890….I'd hand over the chook to the judge and hope for leniency.

There's a castle waiting up the hill….Chaaarrrge!!

Typically Swiss…a stroller-garage! It's slowly dawning that this isn't your ordinary Sunday at the Lenzburg Castle, but THE Sunday… the once-a-year- Sunday.

The Historical Re-Enactment Sunday, the one with ALL the trimmings!!

Candlemaker, the old way. Bees wax only.

Welcoming committee, local druid and all.

A traditional, old-style bow-maker…from whittling the green branch into shape, to the slow process of shaping it in a press, watering the wood as the clamps get tightened over the days. And this isn't a tourist thingy, it's a full-on serious business with bows sold around the globe!! This is awesome!!

Holy Mackerel…the place is pumping!

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:06 PM

Basket weaver....and not just the kids are fascinated!

Oh man…how do you explain this to an Aussie where anything barely 100 years old is considered "historic" ?
(Don't even mention GenY, where anything from last week is "history" and anything at all that happens or moves…is "epic".)

1677…that's just plain "old" over here, real history starts a few hundred years further back.

The kids are mesmerized

A falconer talking about the training-regime

What is it about dungeons….

....and dragons?

Another long tradition…perhaps we should bring that back?

Driving the bellows


Yep, not a bad spot up here

There really is something for everyone.

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:06 PM

No castle-bash without a dance…just check those faces, those guys are having FUN!

Not a trespassing warning…but something that's got a Middle-Eastern ring to it:
Get caught thieving and the executioner will hack your hand off!!

Trying to take it all in…Tim and Doug just watch it all in wonder.

OOOOHHH Yeah, them Holy Brothers always knew how to make a great brew.

Period cop…or tax collector, maybe?? Anyone broke the fun-limit?

Before the steam-age…the String-Engine.

glitch_oz 10-20-2013 03:07 PM

Lenzburg Old Town

One last look into the Castle square

…before it's back into town with lots to talk about.

No idea what this means, but it looks cute and again it's a surprise that it hasn't been vandalised, painted or otherwise destroyed. Nice!

"I'll be an ST1300 and camper trailer when I grow up!!"

Whatever that used to be…or still is. It's still showing lots of character, wealth, stature, contentment and self consciousness.

Doug!! Forget it, mate…we all know, you've eaten your ticket!!

Straight down to Moto Mader where the bikes are just parked under a canvas-annex.
Imagine an Aussie bike-shop leaving their stock regularly parked day, night and weekends just outside their locked shop, no fence, no barbed wire, not even cable-locks….just unthinkable!

Tim's G650

Another Pizza and Kebab night…those boys are mighty quick and don't muck around when it comes to portion sizes.

We even come away with a couple of bottles of local red.

The bikes are packed quickly; everything's already prepped to go into the panniers.

Tim and Goodie on the G650GS's (mine was swapped by Mader for an F800GS at the very last minute/ late Saturday afternoon), Doug and Andrew on the F700GS's and Dave on another F800GS.

All the bikes come with topboxes and panniers (BMW OEM …fine for the job but I'd never, ever buy the stuff) OEM tankbags, heated grips, ABS and the other fruit salad of gizmo fluff.

NO GPS, the whole thing's Old School papermaps, wet finger in the wind and dead reckoning. After that it's down to whatever happens.

Tim…Lenzburg, the Castle, all the hubbub, train-rides, bikes, finally bgetting ready to's finally got him beat.
Christ, what a day!!
Guess, that red makes things a bit blurry

Tomorrow: On the road, REAL twisties, getting lost after the first 30k's, "Oh shit, it's snowing!!", riding the Furka blind, soaked to the jox, salvation in Fiesch….

Tbc: writing it up as fast as I can

g®eg 10-20-2013 03:31 PM

Subscribed!!! :lurk

glitch_oz 10-21-2013 12:04 AM


Originally Posted by glitch_oz (Post 22596553)
No idea what this means, but it looks cute and again it's a surprise that it hasn't been vandalised, painted or otherwise destroyed. Nice! the goss.
It's an "insect hotel!!
Apparently to keep insects in the neighbourhood to keep the birds around.
Yo, makes sense...

glitch_oz 10-21-2013 12:05 AM


Originally Posted by g®eg (Post 22596713)
Subscribed!!! :lurk

Great to have you along :freaky

glitch_oz 10-21-2013 12:06 AM

Another GOOONNGY wakeup, but this time nobody minds.'s a busy shuffle and bustle for the lift, the little cage is bursting at the seams with panniers and gear.

Being a Monday, breakfast is part of the deal again and at the sight of the offerings turns into an extended hot-battle-at-the-cold-buffet-affair, whroohoo!

Finally it's time to prod the clouds out of the way, dodge a few solitary raindrops and tack south. Having worked out a local bypass route via Staffelbach and Reitnau, we're into the single-laners and off the main roads within 10 minutes…beautifull, little roads with the occasional tractor the only traffic. Just south of Uffikon, a narrow road cuts underneath the A2 Autobahn, then creeps across some low, rolling, "FAT-green" hills south to Wauwil.

Known locally as the Chaetzigerhoechi (dialect for Cat's Hill…or something like that), I'd read about it and seen a few pics, but it had been from a ride in the other direction.
Still…despite the maze of tiny, sealed roads all across those hills like a cobweb, a route of a lousy 6km in total shouldn't be too hard to find, eh?

The friendly guy on the treadly nearly keels over when he hears where we're hailing from, then offers friendly advice and a shortcut " that'll be fine with the bikes".
Oh Jeez…that phrase has nearly always gotten us into the shit in the past!!

Soooo, it's a mix of following the advice and with some gut-feeling-turning-into-shaky-bravado that gets us up the hill via some "stabilized grass track" type of thing.

Yo, coming out of that bush down there…and as always, reality is a fair bit steeper that digicam-optics are able to show!

The rest comes together just fine and it's a sweet, little hop across the deep-green hills and paddocks to Wauwil, picking up some easy main roads from here. With good weather, we're supposed to the the Alpine Main Ridge from here, hmmmm...

Wollhusen, Entlebuch, Schuepfheim…then south again on the Rothorn Panorama-Road towards Soerenberg.
Clouds are getting lower and lower, this isn't just a get-together of a handful of blackbellies up there…this is SOLID shyte!
Panorama-Road…my arse!
Still, it's a nice, easy ride up the valley to Soerenberg, a well-known family ski-resort.

Things get narrower and wetter as well as COLD on the easy climb up the fairly shallow Glaubenbielen-Pass….it's just AMAZING where those local Post-Bus drivers take those big monsters,… certainly taking public transport to a whole new level.

Even if the rain has stopped's time for a cuppa.

What might those 2 school girls think, hearing the strange tongue and banter…

The Bruenig Pass is shallow and short…and being a main route, busy with busses and trucks…off to Hasliberg then for the narrow Hohlfluh road into Meiringen, finishing right at the local Dairy for some of those incredible Quarks and Yoghurts. is heaven for the taste buds, folks!! Just devine!

And the hazelnut is on special…this is better than a birthday!

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