(written by Nancy)
A bit of excitement last night when we had our first big thunderstorm while camping on this trip. It hit about 3am – I woke up to what sounded like jet engines off in the distance, couldn’t quite place what it was. And then I kept seeing flashes and thinking that someone was shining their flashlight on our tent. It took me a few minutes to realize it was thunder and lightning and by that time the rain had started coming down. Thankfully we had put the tarp up over the tent last night and everything stayed nice and dry in the tent.
Last night we toyed with the idea of going all the way over the pass today, as the weather forecast for today looked the best of the next few days. We set the alarm for 5:30 to try to get on the road early so we could decide once we got to Heiligenblut if we wanted to continue. Well, the rain overnight and the dark skies this morning put the kabosh on that idea. We finally got out of bed about 6:15 and it was after 8 by the time we left the campground. Not more than a few kilometers from the campground we saw ahead of us a huge wall of grey clouds and we could hear the thunder up ahead. Hmm, not looking good, despite the nice rainbow on our side of the rain wall. We pulled into a gas station to see if we could wait it out. About 30 minutes later the skies cleared up enough for us to head out without too much fear of hard rain.
We debated about taking the bike path again today – given the hard rain overnight we figured those portions of the bike path that were not paved would be a muddy mess. The first bit of the path that we saw looked paved so we went ahead and tried it. It was okay, though it did ‘wander’ a bit through the valley. There were a few sections that were unpaved but enough time had passed that the water had all soaked in so it wasn’t too messy. At a few points we did hop back on to the road and traffic was not too bad.
We made a stop at a little pathside café for morning tea. Dave tried the apple strudel again and I ordered something that turned out to be kind of a cookie bar with cherry filling and chocolate on top. Not super, but enough calories to keep us going. There are lots of these little cafes that sit beside the bike path. They are not usually all that accessible by car so it’s a bit surprising that they can make it just on bike traffic. Though perhaps that tells you just how much bike traffic there is on these paths.
While on the path we came around a corner and had to climb a little hill. Off in the woods to the right of us was a group of small kids, all wearing their yellow high-vis vests and playing in the woods with their teachers/minders. As soon as one of them saw Dave, he started saying “hup, hup, hup” and then as if on cue, one after another they all started yelling “hup, hup, hup” at the top of their lungs. It was so funny, like one of those weird sci-fi movies where you have little beings running around the woods yelling out things in a strange language. They yelled until we were well out of sight, leaving us with our ears ringing “hup, hup, hup” for some time afterwards.
The ride today continued up the valley, now following the Moll River. We didn’t have too much hard climbing but we knew Heiligenblut was at 1300m so we would have to go up a bit more steeply at some point. We hit that point at the small village of Pockhorn. It was only about 3k to our destination but we had a decent climb to get there. At that point I was thinking about how this little bit of the hill made my legs hurt and how it was only a teeny tiny portion of what we have to do tomorrow. It was a steep bit though – Dave said it registered 9% on his computer. I am trying not to think about tomorrow….
We ended up taking a room at the local youth hostel here. We decided it would make it easier to get on the road earlier without having to go through the rigmarole of packing the tent up. This hostel is okay, but the folks running it are not near as friendly as the ones that we had in Vellach. We did get a deal on the room rate as we are not eating breakfast (usually included here) because we will hopefully be gone before they start serving. There is a campground here as well – we can see it from our window and it looks quite nice. If the weather was a bit more settled it would be a good place to stay.
After cleaning up we walked up into the village area and had some pizza for lunch then wandered a bit, stopping at the store for some dinner supplies and food for breakfast and the ride tomorrow. On our way back to the hostel we saw a loaded cyclist at the side of the road. We stopped to chat – Julian from Germany was on a 4-week tour and headed down to Croatia. He had just come down off the pass, having ridden up the other side, and was quite chuffed to have completed it. We chatted for a bit and then he took off to enjoy some more downhill rewards.
So, hopefully the weather will cooperate tomorrow and give us a rain-free window to get up and over the pass. It’s only 23k or so from here but think it will take at least 5 hours to get to the top, given the grade that will keep our speed low and the numerous breaks we will probably have to take. Dave doesn’t think so but he generally underestimates how hard things will be – at least out loud to me, somehow thinking that if I don’t know he thinks it will be hard too it won’t?? Anyway, as you can imagine it is an ongoing discussion point – perhaps just one of those male/female things. We’ll report back tomorrow on how long it took us to get to the top.
Wish us luck for good weather….