It’s hard to believe that it was 9 days ago that we had our last rest day. Its also hard to believe that we have ridden nearly 1300kms. We loved the upper section of the Danube River. There was plenty of forested sections that were surrounded by rocky outcrops in steep gorges. We had lots of great swim stops, met some interesting locals who continue to give some much appreciated local knowledge and did a lot of riding. However, we did nickname the Danube the Dangube as lower down it did get very Dangy. After about 350kms of riding the Danube doing 80kms a day in 40 degree heat and not wanting to swim anymore (although there were lots of crystal clear blue lake gravel pits to swim in) it was time to go to the mountains again.
So after celebrating 1000kms in an ‘almost’ beer castle that we stumbled upon, we decided to ride to Donauworth and get the train to Munich, and then from Munich to the Austrian alps. When we arrived at the train station in Donauworth, (on a Sunday) Andy negotiated the ticket machine but didn’t get a ticket for our bikes. The train we needed to be on was already on the platform waiting and we didn’t have time. So we decided to risk it and get on anyway. After getting told off for riding my bike on the platform, we showed out ticket to the man and he told us ‘No good. You need a bike ticket. You can’t get on”.
We did our best at looking confused and sorry ‘Ich sprekin kein deutch’ and pulled out our wallet to try and buy the bike ticket from him. Luckily, another ticket person came along and seemed to be pleading our case for us. We did look awful. Dripping with sweat, and being all awkward with my bike trying to wheel it. (Because I don’t have front panniers and all the weight including tent is on the back, my bike loves to rear and when it is just past the tipping point it also loves to try and fall over with the front wheel falling out when wheeling it). Anyway, we got on! We bought our bike tickets on the train from the man, no worries and then awkwardly took off all our panniers and tried to place them wherever there was room. Phew!
We arrived in Munich and it was super-hot. It was a train station kind of similar to Spencer Street but this one had skylights all though it so it was like a glass house with no breeze. Andy organised our tickets and after waiting at Munich station for a few hours we were on our way again only this time we didn’t need to unload our panniers on the following trains and the whole thing was super stress free, even the change overs. We left Donauworth at 11am and got into Innsbruck at 6:30pm. We were a bit wowed by the amount of tourists from all over the world in Innsbruck. Super busy. We eventually found the centre of town by following a tourist horse and cart, went to the info centre and got a map, had a beer. Then at about 7:30 when the clouds were looking very furious with thunder and lightning all around, we went to find somewhere to stay. Sure enough our tactic (actually not a tactic at all) of looking bewildered and lost in cities, help was found. A woman on a bike at some traffic lights asked if we needed help. We told her we were looking for somewhere to stay.
She said“No, not possible, all booked, too busy.
“Oh”! We said starting to think maybe we were a bit hasty to come to a big city in the alps, late in the evening and expect to find somewhere to stay. Just like we had all over the place.
“Can you do camping”? the woman asked.
“Yes, yes”! This was our preference anyway but the tourist map hadn’t shown any camp grounds so we assumed we had to stay in a guest house.
“Follow me” she said
Yes! Another escort, we won’t get lost.
We did still get a bit lost when she stopped at an intersection to leave us to go the rest of the way and said
“It’s easy go straight ahead for 15 mins, go past the airport. When the airport finishes turn right”.
We thanked her and off we went. By this stage it was pissing down with rain. Sure enough we got a bit lost and turned right way to early which led us through rural tracks. Eventually we found it. We were drenched, tired and relieved to have a cheap and easy place to stay out of the city a bit. When we went in though the woman said they were all booked and there was no more room.
Our expressions on our faces said it all. I started thinking of what else we could do. We could ask a farmer if we could camp on their land maybe. There was no accessible forest around to sneaky camp in. Eventually she said that maybe we could go around and ask people if we could camp on their plot. I didn’t like our chances but someone saw us looking around and said its not a proper site but if you have a small tent you can go here and showed us where we could camp. PHEW! We set up out tent in record time with the rain. Got our kitchen and food bags and cooked on the first proper stove stove yet, it was however right outside the female toilets. We both go through a love/hate relationship with camping grounds. Now, with their complementary undercover hot plate, we loved them again. The only downer was we were camped underneath a street light. Andy slept with his sun hat over his face and I wore an eye mask (I knew I didn’t throw it out for a reason!)
It was so nice to be in the mountains again just looking at them makes us happy. Surrounded by huge mountain peaks, glaciers in the distance and small country towns. We rode out of Innsbruck and had decided the day before from a bit of googling that we would ride up the Inns River instead of down like we thought we would always do. When we were on the Rhine River and we saw people riding up the river that we were riding down, we thought they were nuts. Now here we are a few weeks later doing exactly the same. The reason is that rivers get better the higher up you go and we want to get up and over into Italy then the dolomites then to Slovenia somehow from there. Also we want to spend the most amount of time in the alps as we can and this looked like the best option where it wasn’t going to be ridiculously steep.
Straight away we noticed the lack of cycle tourists which was nice. In a day we might only see half a dozen. We have been following the river up for about 4 days now and loving it. We aren’t doing as many km’s in a day that we were in the flatlands on the Danube but the place and people are awesome. We are again, stopping all the time to take photos. My new bike computer shows that in a day, we spend as much time actually pedalling as we do off the bikes or stopped. We can leave in the morning at 9am and get into camp at 6pm and have a ride time of 4 hours. Its hard to believe that we faff around so much.
We went past a place the other day called Phaffenhof (can’t spell it) and we thought we had found home. Therere constant jokes about the amount of faffing around we do. The track here has been pretty good and has mainly avoided main busy roads which is good. I did nearly get hit by a truck though yesterday or thought I did anyway. They had a very narrow bike path on the side of a narrow busy road. I swerved a bit accidently as it was steep and I was going slow, just as a truck came past and it felt like was inches away from me. I screamed and swore loudly. I’m sure it was probably a good few meters away from me though as everyone gives bikes heaps of room. It was loud and scary. Luckily that section was over pretty quickly and we turned off back into the forest.
Things have definitely changed since the beginning. Andy used to ride in a shirt with the top button done up and shorts over his padded undies. He was the only sunsmart person in all of Europe then I think. Now, he prefers sun hat and padded undies only like the locals do. That’s it! No shame anymore!
We have not had very many maps since leaving the Danube. We have had to go into tourist info centres and get crappy maps that tell you nothing and rely off those for a few days. Yesterday we were in a big town called Inst and went to a book shop and the best map we could get was one that included Switzerland, Slovenia, Nth Italy and Germany. The book shop woman was trying to tell us that we were going the wrong way to Slovenia and its no good for bikes as it is too steep. OOPS! So far so good though I guess we will find out soon if she is right or not.
The other day we met a nice German family who gave us their free pass to a Gondala. We went there the following day (hoping we could take our bikes up, then ride down). It was a no go. We left our bikes at the bottom and went up. The view was amazing. I however, spent more time looking at these amazingly cute little pally ponies and foals instead of the view. As soon as we got off the gondala I saw these cute ponies in the distance just off one of the hiking tracks. We went over, I thought they would be almost wild as we were in the middle of nowhere. Turns out they were super tame and they enjoyed a good scratch. I enjoyed it more than the ponies I think. I have been missing Marley and Dutchy. The views though were incredible and it was good to do something a bit touristy for a change.
Now it is my turn to have injuries. I now have a saw back from too much camping (sitting on the ground hunched over cooking etc) and a saw knee too. It had to be my turn soon. I had a 4 week good run with no injuries. Andy however, has a new one. His is kind funny and actually has a name. We googled it and of course self-diagnosed from trusty Doctor Google. Andy has a condition known a Handlebar Palsy caused by nerve damage from ongoing pressure on the palm of his hand from so much time riding the bike. It was all demented looking and he couldn’t straighten it or move it properly. We are constantly paying each other out for our dodgy backs and knees etc. Jokes aside though, his palsy is better and my back is on the mend slowly. We will find out if my knee is better tomorrow when we climb 700 vertical meters. Ahhhh!
We are definitely getting fitter though, we have been overtaking electric bike on the Danube. A few weeks ago they were overtaking us and we hated them, calling them cheaters and wuss bags behind their backs as they would cruise up a hill without breaking into a sweat. Now we overtake them on the flat and feel pretty good about it. We are now enjoying the uphills more as we feel we really earn the downhills that follow. Being on a bike for hours is the most peaceful way to travel. You see so much. Things we would miss for sure if we were amongst the thousands of over campervans on highways. There is a lot of time to think, listen to music and it’s just you and your bike. When your bike hurts, you hurt with it. Cringing all the time at the weird noises and clunks that happen along the way. Our bikes are starting to show signs of wear and we may need to replace some things soon.
We are staying in an awesome quiet old part of a town called Pfunds. Awesome views and awesome place to have a beer which is where we are off to now. I need to wake Andy up, he is currently snoring while I’m writing this. It has been great having a rest day.
Andy’s bike maintenance along the way
- Even though we bought brand new bikes before we left we have still had some issues. Only a few days before we left home Amy’s rear wheel hub was sticking on and not freewheeling, causing the derailleur to get wrenched forward, nearly braking it off every time it happens with an awful noise. This happened again when we left Innsbruck, thinking we would need a new wheel. Which would be hard find in Austria due to our larger unusual wheel size. We rolled into town at a bike shop. He said he had no wheel and re-greasing it wouldn’t work. But he did and its will hopefully go another 1000+kms.
- Cleaning chains nearly every second day means I have sacrificed 1 singlet, one pair boxer shorts, 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of socks. I am now running low on clothes Amy thinks.
- Amy’s pannier bag mount fell apart on a rainy day and we had to steal a screw from elsewhere on the bag after having to tie it all together with rope and bungie straps to get to the next town.
- My front pannier bag always comes off its bottom mount. One time it came off almost completely and went into the front wheel and nearly caused a huge stack. Later on I realised that a spacer had come off and I went back to where it had happened, a car had run it over but somehow I managed to bend it back into shape and its still going. I was a bit bummed about it when it happened though, thinking it would be hard to find replacement parts. Not needed though!
- I think I’ve found a solution to this front rack problem after spending weeks looking for a hardware store, I now have some hose clamps and electrical tape that should do the job (tomorrow)
- We had tried 4 different ways to mount the rear panniers and now they stay on, even during the off road mountain biking sections.
- The new cogs we bought in Freiburg work for getting up hills but the gear changing is very rough, often nearly jamming the chain between cogs and often resulting in manually pulling the chain out by hand. But the smaller cogs are awesome whenever we need to climb so we don’t mind the roughness. We have worked out how to make it as smooth as possible, putting just the right amount of pressure needed on the pedals and levers when changing down.
- Always adjusting bike seat angles and positions trying to make them more comfortable.
- I have rewrapped my handle bar tape 4 times and think I have finally worked it out. Amy’s bike is due for the bike tape to be wrapped again.
- Constantly on the lookout for loose nuts and bolts anywhere on the bikes
- I have put a new bike computer on Amy’s bike that actually works. My crap Aldi one still works most of the time and its got a thermometer that accurately works and reads over 40 for many days riding in the sun.
- Always on the lookout for a new way to dry your clothes on the bike, grundies out in the middle of town is a good look!
- I have modified my handle bars to include: a home made gopro mount, A (pant) coat hanger with pegs to hold the map and sunnies, small pouch which is the tool box including all the bike tools rags and chain oil. Lucky we bought so many cable ties!
- The brakes need constant adjusting as we are wearing through them pretty quick and don’t want them to drag. The disks seem to warp in and out of shape due to the extreme heat of the mountain descents. The steel is showing some good signs of heat developed.
- Amys wounds from the spikes on the mountain bike pedals are starting to heal. She cursed them for the first couple of weeks. I took some spikes out and she was slipping off the pedals and now wants them all back. This is another job on the list to do tomorrow, one which we keep forgetting to do.
- We spent about 3 days roaming around towns looking for bike shops that would have a suitable stand for our bikes. At first I didn’t think it was possible for our frames until I saw some amazing engineering designs from the Swiss and Germans that I thought could work. I have been continually admiring some of the amazing craftsmanship as we ride along from: farming equipment which is very different to Aus, woodworking which is all precision made from the straightest logs you can imagine, to blacksmithing that gives me lots of ideas. After a few very hot days with Amy hopeful for a stand which most other bike tourers have, we finally found a really good bike shop that said we have really nice frames and it was not a good idea to try and put a stand on them. From Amy…. I continually struggle to park my bike but at least now I know its not possible to have them on our bikes. I will continue to be envious of other people with bike stands but at least I have Andy to park my bike when I can’t work out how to get the pedal in the exact right position to balance on the curb.