Chapter II: Through the snow to the sea – Salzburg to Rijeka

Through the snow to the sea - Salzburg to Rijeka

Cycling in short jerseys towards Obertauern

Austrian autumn

Miri Ryan Statistics

Miri

Leaving Salzburg felt a bit more like really leaving. There was no real set destination and no further things had to be done then just cycling and staying wherever we like to. So I was actually relieved when we were heading for the Alps. I also had a bit of fear because of crossing the mountains seems not the easiest task. But the first so called pass, was Pass Lueg which as actually quite small, and so I became more comfortable as I went. The landscape was amazing and so I actually enjoyed cycling.

We wanted to ride to Radstadt and after that to Obertauern. But the road to Radstadt was closed because of a landslide. The whole Street was completely blocked with rocks and dirt, it was pretty impressive, but also reminds me that it could actually be dangerous here. So we had to take another road which was pretty annoying

The next day we wanted to cross the Radstädter Tauern Pass, which already sounded more challenging with its height of 1800m. And we could see the snow from afar, which was also not very comforting. It started easy at first, but when the first real steep passage came I thought I never would make it. My legs were close to cramps after just a few ramps. And there were more to follow. We made lots of brakes so I could catch my breath a little in between. The landscape still was amazing and really impressive but I couldn’t quite enjoy that at that time. I made the last kilometers with music on my phone, Portugal The Man – Feel It Still, on repeat. That helped a lot, and Ryan called me juke box, because I wasn’t listening with headphones 😊 On the top it just felt so great, I was the queen of the world, nothing could stop me. . . what an amazing feeling. The view on the mountains surrounding us was breathtaking, and then I really could enjoy it.

The descend also was amazing. My top speed was with 70,72km/h a bit faster than Ryan and the fastest I ever went on a bike. It was awesome!

The next two days were planned to be for recovery, since we had a lot of height to cycle down again. But we made the mistake and tried out the Mur cycle path, to avoid riding on the street. Well the cycle path seems to just be one steep ramp after another which was not helping me to recover at all. So the next opportunity we took the road again, there was not that much traffic, so it was the better way for us.

After some research on the internet we decided to cross the border to Slovenia over the Seebergsattel which should not be as steep as the way to Obertauern. And that was the case, there were a lot of serpentines but they weren’t steep at all especially if you drive as far on the outside as possible in the turns, which was no problem because there was nearly no traffic at all. Just on top we met an older couple from Hamburg. They were very excited about our project.

Then we just crossed the border to Slovenia.

Ryan

Finally, we were moving on. Miri has had her medicine, I reached in all necessary paperwork, and now the journey could “really” start. The weather was wet and slightly cold when we left, but that was foreseeable. What was rather unexpected was a landslide, blocking our way towards Radstadt. I knew the whole area from my time studying in Salzburg; sometimes I rode the same roads with my road bike. To see one of these roads completely covered and impassable was strange the Alps often appear quite “tamed” in this area, that it’s hard to imagine that this kind of incident still may happen.

Talking about unexpected things: the next day, we would encounter our highest pass for a long time. If one wants to cross the Alps, it’s unfortunately not possible to simply follow one valley to another, sometimes it’s necessary to pass a…well…pass. Anyways, what I expected was a long, sometimes steeper climb. What we got was a climb which already started borderline unfair. 10% to 12% was quite harsh for us, because while our weight was already on the upper end of the scale, our training was not. And so we had our lunch break after another approximately 600m of roadmaking insanity. I though for myself, that it was impossible for us to reach the top if the road would continue this way. On the other hand, we were already on an altitude of 1300m (read: camping here would have resulted in a very cold night), and dinner and breakfast would have been dull, considering what was left in our bags. Luckily, it shouldn’t go on this way. Three further ramps reached double-digit percentages, and everything in between stood at mostly 7%. Additionally, Miri listened the whole time to a new favorite song of hers (“Feel it still” by Portugal. The man), which helped wonders. So anytime I was waiting for her, there was no need to turn my head to know if she already caught up on me, thanks to the fact that she became a rolling jukebox.

Finally, the signs read “Obertauern”, and at one point, we were on top. Its always an awesome feeling: knowing that a nice descend awaits, and seeing the incredulous stares of car drivers and bikers, who (rightfully) say: “You seem to be insane”. Shortly after, some hours of cycling turned into some adrenaline-fueled minutes of “Please, let nothing on my bike fail” while racing through the awesome landscape, feeling the air becoming warmer and warmer and hearing the little cracks in the ear. We spent the night on 1100m, it should be the first night below 0°C on our journey.

The next days were rather unspectacular. Sure thing, the landscape was nice, but since I knew the Alps already and the chilly humidity annoyed me, I longed to reach Croatia already. We passed through the scenic Murau, cycled through lonely valleys and finally planned on crossing the border towards Slovenia. Loipeltpass seemed to be similar to the pass towards Obertauern, which made it really easy for us to reject this option. Instead we chose Seebergsattel, which turned out a good choice. A scenic valley, a long, but never really steep climb (at most 8,1%), and really nice views down the serpentine road. Passing into Slovenia felt good, finally cycling into a foreign country!

Statistics

21.09.2017: 73,7 km Average: 15,9 km/h Elevation: 793 m

22.09.2017: 55,1 km Average: 13,6 km/h Elevation: 997 m

23.09.2017: 66,8 km Average: 18 km/h Elevation: 312 m

24.09.2017: 72,4 km Average: 18,4 km/h Elevation: 503 m

25.09.2017: 63,7 km Average: 15,3 km/h Elevation: 763 m

  • Our partly troublesome way out of Salzburg

Fleeing the cold

Miri Ryan  Statistics

Miri

Slovenia greeted us with lots of mist and clouds and fog and fifty thousand shades of grey 😉 In Ljubljana it started to rain really heavy ☹ The tent has been wet for days because it has been foggy in the morning in the mountains. And so we and our equipment were longing for warmer and dryer weather. The mood was a bit down then, but there is nothing you can do about the weather, so we cycled on and hoped we would reach the Mediterranean Sea as fast as possible. One road, we wanted to take to get around the city center, was closed because of reconstruction. We had no other choice so we rode as far as possible and changed to a small dirt track when there was no other way. The dirt track was really slippery because of all the rain. I just slipped away and nearly fell of the bike two times, so it wasn’t too bad

The rest of the time in Slovenia wasn’t very spectacular. Just once, when we rode through a valley which was completely flooded. There was a huge lake were no lake should have been. And the signs which have closed the road were just lying next to it. So we hoped, that the road was above water level all the time. And it was, sometimes the water was already on the road but you could ride on just fine, it was spectacular 😊 And we put up our tent this day at a similar lake but not as huge.

After that we were only cycling towards the border to Croatia, we could already see the good weather behind the hills. And we weren’t disappointed. Directly at the border there was sun and it was getting warm! The last hills before Rijeka were not a big problem then. I was just cycling along and hoped that this time I would see the sea behind the next corner. Well the first glimpse on the sea was very unspectacular, it was when we were already in the outskirts of Rijeka. There we could see it between some houses.

I was looking forward to the shower of the couch surfer Anne, a friend of Ryan, has organized us. But I should really have to urn me that shower. The descent into the city was so steep and the road full of little hills ad holes, that when we made a halt to buy food the discs of the breaks were quite hot 😊 Ronan, the irish couch surfer, already warned us that he lives uphill, and we weren’t disappointed, we had to cycle really steep uphill again. But still a roof above the head, a shower, a washing machine and a day rest awaited, so it was completely worth the effort 😊

Ryan 

Unfortunately, the weather stayed the same: misty, incredibly wet (texted to my family: “Our best joke consists of two words: dry tent”) and cold. So our focus laid accordingly on a fast transit (which was slightly slowed down by our attempts to find some white spirit for our stove: there is obviously none in Slovenia, but to learn this, we had to visit a lot of different stores first.) We still climbed a lot, and kilometer for kilometer, the architecture started to change. Aside from good roads and scenic surroundings, this motivated me most. And finally, the big moment was there: cycling into Croatia! The weather was different, warmer and drier, and after some more climbing we saw the sea for the first time.

I was expecting a letter in Rijeka and we both needed a break. We got to stay at Ronans place, who frequently hosted couchsurfers. Getting there was one last test, if we were worthy of the upcoming relaxation: at first we descended at 60 km/h through the city until our brakes started to feel spongy due to the heat, before we ascended on our last couple of almost-10%-ramps. As you might imagine: the shower at Ronans place was one of the best ever 😉.

Statistics

26.09.2017: 75,6 km Average: 16,1 km/h Elevation: 597 m

27.09.2017: 68,3 km Average: 16,8 km/h Elevation: 655 m

  • Passing through a flooded valley...

That's it, now we are on our way along the coast to Albania

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