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Old 10-20-2013, 02:54 PM   #1
glitch_oz OP
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Tornanti_3...ABRACADABRA! (Western Alps Backroads Ramble)

TRAVEL!!

Strange places...weird customs











…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.



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
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A Dozen Years Of Adventures

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Old 10-20-2013, 03:00 PM   #2
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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!!



tbc
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Old 10-20-2013, 03:01 PM   #3
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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 3.world (and that includes the new Peter Stevens "Mega-Store"). The "wall of gloves"…





The "nick-nax" counter


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Old 10-20-2013, 03:02 PM   #4
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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!!

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Old 10-20-2013, 03:03 PM   #5
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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.



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Old 10-20-2013, 03:03 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 10-20-2013, 03:31 PM   #7
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:04 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by glitch_oz View Post
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!
OK....got the goss.
It's an "insect hotel!!
Apparently to keep insects in the neighbourhood to keep the birds around.
Yo, makes sense...
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:05 AM   #9
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Subscribed!!!

Great to have you along
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:06 AM   #10
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Another GOOONNGY wakeup, but this time nobody minds. There'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 temporarily...it'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.This 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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Old 10-21-2013, 12:54 AM   #11
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Looking into the drooping grey skies, we skip a couple of optional side-trips like the Rosenlaui and Schwarzental valleys which are "no use without the views", BUMMER!!

Particularly the Rosenlaui I'd been looking forward to.

Flippin a coin in Innertkirchen, it's the Susten Pass over the Grimsel. Both will be wet and crappy, the Susten will make us go the long way, needing to add the Furka Pass to get to our intended stay somewhere in the Upper Valais/ Wallis/ Upper Rhone Valley….whatever you want to call it.

In hindsight, we should've taken the shorter route and gotten things over and done with…but…the longer route had its perks, too.





Goodie tip-toe-ing it up the Susten…






Should've stayed here…






...or at least in the tunnel for a while. Christ!!...is it bucketing down, or what?




















The short stretch towards Andermatt turns off the taps a little... drizzle only.














Then it's up the Furka…and things are turning cold…REAL COLD….it's snowing huge, wet flakes.
4 of them are enough to shut out the dreary grey day….and clog up the visor solidly. How much more height to climb? Any further up and we'll pull the pin, this is getting seriously nasty and dangerous.

The first slush is building and there's been something blinking on the dash for the last 10 min.
I know it's cold! The snot's freezing under the chin-bar and I'm shakin' like a leaf.

Hey, Schweetie…howyadoin'?




Out of the snow-zone again…





Not much happening here today.







Things warm up a bit the further we drop towards Gletsch.






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Old 10-21-2013, 01:03 AM   #12
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Trundling down the road, following the tracks of the cog+rail Matterhorn-Gotthard railways through Obergoms, Ulrichen and some smaller places down-valley, the heavy rain starts in Reckingen again….
Stuff it, it's enough now, time to find a place to stay, a place with a drying room, a ski-cellar, whatever….just some place that's dry and warm and offers a chance to dry our stuff until tomorrow morning, setting us up for a fresh start.

The call goes out to the Park Hotel in Fiesch…and LUCK is with us!!

The only guests in the place….a BIG 10kg dryer AND a drying room….and some bike-friendly hosts…see you at 4!!
Bet your arse, you will!!








Can't slosh through the door quick enough






Goodie can't help it…







All sorted, hot shower, dry gear, no more shivers…and our host turns out the chef, barman, owner, aussie-phile and entertainer-general all in one.






The real boss behind it all






Lots of laughs… which is, what it's all about, right?







They certainly cherish their Aussie-memories!






Tomorrow's options? LOADS of them!!





Who mentioned venison steaks?
Bring it on, boss…bring it on!!





OH YEAH, SURE DO!!!

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Old 11-11-2013, 12:43 PM   #13
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Since when do mountains throw shadows into the early morning sky?







Our fantastic host, Jacqueline, going the full-bubbly, as usual.






Having saved the empties from the night before for "accounting purposes", it's time to settle the bill and our banker is tiptoeing and blowing his cheeks in anticipation of some juicy figures.
"Non, those few drops are on the house…and did I mention that…and have you seen, and where are you off to now, and…"
And off she goes again at 200miles-an-hour.



Lots of hugs and good wishes, it's hard to leave a place like that, and we're off, down those steep, vine-covered slopes for the last time, bouncing across the valley floor to try and find the tiny single-laner of the Col du Lein from Saxon.






Miss the single sign in the village and you'll go around in circles. Look for the back of the church and there's the sign tacked to a house-corner.

It's pretty damn nippy, too…but there's another cracker in the making.






It's tight, it's narrow, it's steep and there are turn-offs into narrow dirt lanes everywhere. It's a maze of lanes and driveways, roads and service tracks for the vineyards that's simply puzzling.
Found it!





The scattered local mountain pine is starting to colour, the only deciduous needle-tree which is shedding its delicate green coat in winter.
Plenty of choices here…we'll pic the Col de Tronc, another tiny gravel road across the broad shoulder of the mountain, dropping into the Val de Dranse and Sembrancher.








Oh maaaan….life's good!!











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Old 11-24-2013, 05:52 AM   #14
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Of course, they've been building roads for a few more millenia than we have, too.

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Old 11-24-2013, 08:21 AM   #15
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Of course, they've been building roads for a few more millenia than we have, too.

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Also , they have to build roads in impossible places for military needs since the romans…

I still haven't rode them all .

(and began in 1978…)
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