Day 74 Monday 13 August 1984
Bruck, Hochalpenstrasse. Austria. 57km. Total 4202km.
Grossglockner pass, 2,504m, 8000 feet. 1 broken spoke, 1 bent axle, 1 puncture, 1 useless inner tube.
Awake early feeling excited about the Grossglockner, and see that there are clouds, but that they are high up. Quietly pack up the tent , eat much muesli as fuel for the Great Road. We leave a note for Henley and Marjorie, giving our address. Gentle slopes up the river to Heiligenblut where we sail straight through this expensive tourist town, having already bought lunch, to begin on the Hochalpenstrasse.
A notice greets us, 12% for 16 kilometres. It is steep, at first, the legs aren’t in the right gear, and it is difficult. Again there is that feeling of gradually hauling myself up into the view, the road we have just been on getting smaller and smaller. It feels very hard and I am not sure if I will be able to ride it all but am determined to because we have been told by the English cycle tourist how difficult it is. There are other cyclists on the road, racing, without loads and I feel pleased when they take a while to overtake. Some of them will not talk to me.
I get my legs and brain into a low gear, so that I don’t think of the work, or effort, but just do it, look at flowers beside me; luxurious profusion, zig-zag across the road for relief. I see a café high up ahead, hope that Guy will wait for me there. We start on the hairpins, they are each numbered and the height is given. When we get to 2,000 metres, I know I will do it.
We stop at a wooden drinking fountain, beside a cobbled hairpin, and take the Glockner water for the bottles. Snowfields are around us now. Soon we are in the cloud, and can’t see the big mountains, on whose flanks we are riding. There is a tunnel, crossing below the high point of the passage, and on the other side is Guy photographing me making it to the top; a deep snowfield beside me.
Walk about in it and slip over. We descend through the rain to find a lunch spot. It is a place of rocks, where I climb down to an alpine garden, warm in the sun, to find unusual and probably rare flowers. A lot of the pink Austrian flower is growing there. Clouds shift while we eat to show small areas in the side of the massive white mountains. But we never see their peaks.
On the way down, Guy’s spoke breaks, and we stop frequently to adjust the wheel. We see some cyclists and stop to borrow a wrench which doesn’t work. They are friendly. One girl ask if its not too difficult for a woman to ride the Grossglockner. So we load up the bike and continue to Bruck. A ski town. Find a campsite and see lederhosen everywhere along with felt hats and sticks.
Guy works on the back wheel while I put up the tent. He goes to a garage to undo the freewheel and comes back to say that it wont free and the axle is bent. The freewheel tool has broken with the strain. So to a cycle shop. There are two. The first one can’t get the freewheel off, and the second is friendly. We go down to the workshop and watch the lad working on it. We talk in German and English while listening to Roxy Music and Supertramp. I sit on an anvil and a chair. He fits a new axle. Paying hurts. But we are glad to be back on the road only an hour after all seemed so desperate. Back at the camp Guy changes tyres and I put the front tyre back on. After tea, when we are half asleep, the rain is heaving onto the tent. We hear a sudden hiss, – it is the front tyre mysteriously deflating. Lightning flashes and we go to bed.