So, it seems summer is back and with it my motivation to get out and explore again. This time the mission was to head for Berchtesgaden and spend a few days cycling and camping, exploring the hills and lakes. For this trip I also wanted to put my endurance to the test a little bit and spend some long hours in the saddle, although not to the point of sacrificing the pleasure of cycling through such an exceptionally beautiful part of the world. After living in Austria for almost two years now, I haven’t even scratched the surface of whats on offer practically right outside my doorstep.
Okay, right outside my doorstep is a bit of an exaggeration in this case although, I have started many bike tours from my front door. This time though, to save some time, I took the train from Linz to Salzburg and started my trip from there.
It was raining lightly as I started cycling in Salzburg but this didn’t bother me too much. The path along the Salzach stayed right by the river the whole time and a bridge every couple of kilometers let to choose which side you rode on. I chose the right side heading south towards Hallein. With no need to concentrate on navigation I was making good time. Once in Hallein though I had to study my map a bit, I even had to ask googlemaps for help, navigating out of the city and getting onto the back roads towards Berchtesgaden (which is in Germany by the way).
My plan was to make it to Berchtesgaden as early as possible so that I could find a campsite, set up my tent, drop off all my gear and then head off on a nice light bike and cycle the Roßfeld Panorama Straße.
From what I could see on my map, it looked as if there was a campsite after a few kilometers on the road that lead eventually to the start of the Roßfeld loop. It turned out though that the scale on my map wasn’t accurate enough to show exactly where the campsite was. Upon later inspection (using googlemaps) I realised the campsite was on a completely different road on the other side of the hill I was cycling up. At this stage I was 4 kilometers up a very steep hill, at one point the gradient was 24%, which was very difficult to cycle up with all my gear. I had long passed the point where the campsite should have been and I considered turning around to back and look for another campsite but the thought of loosing all the elevation I had just gained wasn’t very appealing. I had plenty of daylight hours left so reckoned I could just continue on up with all my gear on the bike (13kg approximately) even if it meant I would be slower and that I was putting myself through extra torture.
I’m sure the extra torture would have been worth it if I had reached the top on a sunny day. Unfortunately everything above about 1000m or so was completely immersed in cloud. I’m sure the views from 1560m over Berchtesgaden and its surroundings are amazing but I was only able to see about 10 meters in front of me and I had to put my lights on. Still, missing out on the views was not so bad. I was just really happy to be on top and to have completed the difficult climb with all my touring gear. I took a quick break at the top, changed my t-shirt (it was wet up there and only 10°C) and put my rain jacket on in preparation for the 10km of steep downhill, switchback riding that lay ahead of me.
The descent was exhilarating but I had to take it easy as the road was wet and most of the corners were very sharp. At the bottom I had very cold, damp hands but I shook off the chill quickly enough when I was back in the valley and cycling on flat road. I continued on a bit further to Königsee where I camped for the night.
Check out the ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1021091135
The next morning I woke up early, packed up and then had a crappy breakfast at the campsite that consisted of two pieces of white bread and some weak filter coffee. I supplemented this with three bananas and an apple and I was good to go.
I back tracked a short distance through Berchtesgaden and then headed on the road east for Bad Reichenhall. Although the morning started off a bit chilly, the sun was up now and I could tell it was going to be a hot day. Between Berchtesgaden and Bad Reichenhall were 20 hilly kilometers but compared to the previous days effort they felt quite easy. Once in Bad Reichenhall I connected up with the Tauernradweg (Tauern bike trail) and headed south towards Zell am See. The Tauernradwag was now the path I planned to stay on for the next few days that would eventually take me back to Salzburg completing a loop.
The ride from Bad Reichenhall to Zell am See was incredible. The landscapes were beautiful, ever changing and interesting but also hilly and challenging. I stopped for some lunch and considered wether I should look for a campsite or continue on a bit further. I already had 96kms on the clock but with almost 5 hours of daylight left (and relitively fresh legs), I decided it was worth it to push on.
I ended up cycling another 45kms to reach St. Johann im Pongau. Again it was quite hilly in places but the cycling and the surrounding were amazing. With 141.5kms done, this turned out to be my longest bike ride so far and as I rolled into the campsite, I was surprised at how fit I was still feeling. Given a few more hours of sunlight,I probably would have continued on even further but as the sun was starting to go down I knew it was best to call it quits on this absolute dream of a cycle touring day.
Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1022681268
After such a long time on the bike I was in desperate need of a shower. I got camp setup, had a rinse and headed into town to find food. As I normally do when I eat my meals during trips, I had my map beside me and I studied the route I would take the next day. There was a number of obvious destination to choose from and after having such a great day on the bike, I was feeling ambitious. Just incase I decided to go with my ‘big plans’ for the next day, I decided it was a good idea to get an early night. I was probably going to need all the day light hours I could get.
The next morning I was out of my tent at 4am and on the road less than an hour later. From St Johann my plan was to first cycle to Salzburg, then to Passau and if time and fitness allowed it, home to Linz. All in all, if it all went to plan, I was looking at a 300km cycle. The previous evening, as I ate my pizza, I worked out specific times that I would need to reach each big city in order to complete the cycle before nightime. My goals were to make it to Salzbug before 11am, Passau before 4pm and Linz before dark (around 9pm). If I didn’t meet one of these cut off times my plan b was to get the train home from Passau.
Starting before sunrise meant I cycled the 70kms to Salzburg in really good time, an hour ahead of schedule. From St Johann, I basically just had to follow the river and head north. Every now and then the bike path tried to take me on the scenic route but in general, navigating was pretty easy. The stretch between Salzburg and Passau was a totally different story. I decided to try and navigate through a number of bike paths that would take me on the straightest course possible to Passau. This was going to be a 115km stretch, for which I had just over 5 hours to complete. It was definitely doable, I was just hoping the navigation wasn’t going to be much of a problem.
Unfortunately the navigation was a nightmare. The first 20km out of Salzburg were fine but once I left the Salzach river and headed north-east towards Oberturm am See it got complicated. I basically had to stop at every junction to make sure I was going the right way. Some of the signs were not very clear or gave you two options or (I’m almost certain) were missing from turn offs. I took a number of wrong roads and missed a number of turn offs and I spent more time reading my map than on the bike, it felt like. After much frustration I decided to change my course and head for the Inn river. Once there I would be able to easily ride to Passau by just keeping the river at my side. It would mean adding a few extra kilometers to the route but I didn’t care, I was tired of being confused.
After 145kms of cycling I reached the Inn. I was finally able to put my map (and googlemaps) away knowing that if I just followed this single bike path beside the river I would reach Passau. I quickly ate a large handful of about 10 dates, a couple of muesli bars and a banana and then hopped on the bike to get stuck into to some hard cycling. Passau was still 60kms away and I had just under 3 hours to get there.
I was making good time on my way to Passau cycling along the Inn but it was going to be tight to make it there before my cut off time of 4pm. The path was mostly flat but I got onto a gravel section that lasted for 30km. This reduced the rolling resistance and I was having to pedal quite hard. The bumpy surface (and many hours of riding) got me a bit saddle sore but I was feeling good otherwise and was making progress. About 30km before Passau the heavens opened up. Eventually I had to seek refuge under a bridge to get my rain gear on and I had about 15 minutes to wait, so I had a snack.The rain only eased off slightly as I left the shelter of the bridge and eventually got worse. I got completely soaked over the remaining kilometers to Passau and ultimately cycled through the down pour. I arrived in Passau after having cycled 206.5kms but unfortunately half an hour after my cut off time. If the weather had been good I might have decided to continue on but in this down pour, it was clear that I wasn’t going any further and I decided to call it a day. I cycled to the train station and got a ticket for the next train to Linz. While waiting I found a quiet corner and completely changed out of my wet clothes into dry ones. I went to the shop to buy a beer and some food. On the way home I had a feast as I ate what I bought along with the remaining food I had in my bags.
Although I had to cut the end of my trip short, I was still really happy to have got over the 200km mark. During this short bike trip I learned a lot about my capabilities and knew that if I really wanted I could achieve a lot more. Already on the train ride home I was dreaming up the perfect route for a 300km bike ride. Lets see how I get on with that one.