My third week bikepacking took me from Au, Austria, to Trieste, Italy and what mostly felt like climbing, climbing and…more climbing
Au, Austria > Trieste, Italy
Total cycled ~ 448km
Total climbed ~ 5,764m
TOTALS since 14 June
Austria has been one of my highlights so far. I’d only visited Sol in Austria to ski, so didn’t know what was in store for me during summer. I stupidly didn’t really look into the terrain much of the countries I would be cycling through, but just thought I could do it with enough will power and a decent bike. Oh how wrong was I!
When I cycled through towns with ski piste maps, ski lifts and signs saying if roads were closed or open, I had this impending sense of dread. Will I be able to cycle all the way? How will I stop at such an incline clipped in? What if I run out of water? I pedalled on and put the fears behind me – all I had to do was try!
Up, up, up, I went, reaching 2,000m height at some points. Just exhilarating and made me realise I was in a special place when I saw lots of others cyclists, sports cars and motorbikes, a popular spot for ‘riding’ whatever style was yours.
I fondly remember passing through villages high up in the mountains with beautiful paintings on them. Passing through lots of ace tunnels (and then being petrified when a car cane through because THE NOISE!) and regularly not hearing anything apart from my heavy panting and the bells of cows ringing – you don’t get that in Bermondsey I tell you!
After a few climbs I cursed myself at packing my socks at the bottom of my bag and regretted cycling without them, I felt so gross and feral, but who cares! I literally felt on top of the world when I cycled past a giant ice berg stuck in the rocks and of course had to stop for a photo shoot and to refill my water, oh that fresh water!
I arrived in Telfs for the night with a warm welcome from Erica and her dog Susie. We had a fairly decent chat in broken German and English and she told me that the mountain peaks had fresh snow on them this morning.
Despite fond memories of the climbing my body was breaking and I was a lot slower than expected, sometimes 3 miles an hour, I think I walk faster than that! So I decided to say farewell to the Tirol Alps and catch a train from Innsbruck to Villach to speed up the journey, I still had a lot of mountain ranges and countries to get through so felt ok about not cycling when I’d covered half of Austria by bike!
After getting off the train at Villach, close to the border of Slovenia, I decided to stay somewhere ‘very’ local with about a 10k ride away. The owner of the hostel text me to warn me about coming by bike to say, ‘be careful as you have to climb a mountain to get to us from Villach. Maybe get the train!’ It was mid afternoon and I’d been sat on a train for hours, so decided to risk it and let it be my final climb in Austria to bid it farewell!
Crossing the border into Slovenia
The next day after a hearty breakfast I set off the enter Slovenia. I knew I had a lot more climbing coming my way with the Triglav National Park on my day’s agenda. Within my first hours riding there it was, Italy straight on, Slovenia to the left. I head for Slovenia and past a sign saying 18% incline for 3.5km. OMFG, this would be the steepest yet.
As I slowly began the climb, I had cars and vans stop to ask me if I wanted a lift. I thanked them and said ‘no thanks’ and they looked on in horror. The first part was ok, slow and steady. The last 1.5km, oh my. I had to stop and walk, and even THAT was very problematic at times. I felt like my calves were going to explode at any given moment. I just laughed at it all, gave myself points to get to before my next ‘air’ break and cracked back on.
By god when I got to the top and saw the bunker museum which is the marker for the wursenpass I was ecstatic, I’d made it, even if some of it had been walking, I didn’t give a stuff!
After heading back down I the knew what was in store for me, 18% decline. Now usually you’d be overjoyed, but the descent is often to me more terrifying than going up. You simply pick up so much speed and feel so vulnerable and small on your bike with just a helmet. You literally feel like you’re plummeting back down to earth and at speeds of over 60km/h it’s nail biting stuff!
I was officially in Slovenia and had entered the beautiful Triglav National Park. Before I knew it I saw warning signs for bears around – could believe it and thought there’d be no chance I’d see one. I rode on, Lake Bled in sight for my stop for the night in a hostel and with the England versus Colombia game to watch!
I met with wonderful Lisa from Germany, back packing on her own before starting her teacher training. We set out to watch the football with a bunch of teenagers (literally) and enjoyed a great game of footy and the English entertaining us with their god awful songs, one being, ‘you’re shit, but your birds are fit,’ I apologised to Lisa, a lot.
I cycled from Lake Bled to Ljubljana and had a lovely walk around the city and a nice late lunch. This is where I found paper bird! A message that’s written asking for whoever finds this to write to the owner and then pass on the message and paper bird to another location for someone else to find. Can’t wait to do this and have been keeping it safe in my bag all this time, where will it end up next? Who knows and I do hope the next person writes to me!
I decided to take a tourist route taking in a few sights as I headed towards Croatia. I visited Iska Gorge, Predjamski castle, the mills in a Carthusian monestary in Bistra, Skocjan caves (the deepest in Europe and with a river running through it!) and saw A WILD BEAR. Yes! Well a cub and thankfully it didn’t care I was taking photos and filming it and thankfully didn’t meet Mum or Dad!
I ended my weeks riding crossing southwest through Slovenia and entering the border into Italy in Trieste. What a week!