Day 72 Saturday 11 August 1984
Grosskirchheim, Hochalpenstrasse. Austria. Altitude 1054m
72km. total 4145km. mountainous, fine weather 1 pass, Iselberg. 1208 m.
Breakfast on a stone, big grey and flat beside the tent. Early when I get up, the sun is shining luminescent on curls and movements of clouds over the lake and covering high mountains. I take the camera, and go to the lake, where the mist is writhing and wooden boats are motionless with fishermen along the whole length of the cold water. We are undecided whether to go or stay. Going wins, and our first section is an exciting hairpin descent – breathtaking visions of Dolomites, sharp and snowy being unwrapped from early cloud cover.
We join a busy road and it seems that more tourists are travelling out of Austria than in to it. Maybe the German holidays are nearly over. Coffees and warming up at Oberdranberg. We buy lunch at the foot of the pass we must cross before joining the Hochalpenstrasse. It seems very steep to me and I am thinking with trepidation of the Glockner road’s continuous 12% hill. I am mistaken in thinking the road ungraded …… It is 10% and I feel happier. A group of Italian cyclists racing up the hill. They pass and repass with friendly greetings. Views of snowy cloud covered Dolomites.
Lunch is eaten on a red bench in a verdant side road with views of snowy cloud-ragged Dolomites, after which we whizz down from the pass through Winklern, to join the Hochalpenstrasse, whooping at the beginning of our heroic feat. At the first raindrops, we pull into a parking place beside the rushing river Moll. I walk out onto a bridge that seems high enough, but which was destroyed by flood in 1966 and rebuilt. Canoeists are on the river.
The road is now gradually uphill, and beside the river. A lovely quiet village – Dollach, where we wait for the rain to end, in a café, reading copies of Bunte, where there are incredible split-second photographs of a swallow swooping to drink, a frog splashing into the water, a chameleon wrapping a butterfly with a translucent veined tongue. We are waiting for the shop to open to buy supper for two days. We go to the campsite which is the best yet, beautifully kept, surrounded by mountains, (I look at one now, high up on its sides are smooth fields that seem as if they must surely fall off, and tiny faraway log cabins. Or another, more fierce peak of layered rock dotted with miniature pines) The river only a few yards away, green-blue and swift over clean boulders, a bench beside the tent.
As we arrived so also did an English couple in a spanking new B reg. autosleeper. Just retired, they are touring. This is one of their favourite all time sites and they are here for the sixth time. They invite us to a cup of tea, which is drunk at a table, with biscuits and from china cups. Hedley tells us of favourite walks here and a secret campsite in a chateau grounds at Charleroi. The toilet block is a wooden hut with flower filled window boxes, gingham curtains and views of the mountains.