Day 8: Stone giants in the Dolomites

Sunshine as I left camp

That day was the last day I could ride freely. After that I would need to head home. At the campsite I get up relatively late because of the party the night before. I manage to be quite efficient and I do not leave too late. Plenty to do today! As I leave the campsite I get out of the ‘dead’ valley using the imaginatively named “Strada delle Dolomiti”. It did not disappoint.

A few stone giants on the way up
Motorcycle heaven. If it wasn’t wet… Still I was not complaining.
The giant’s courtroom
The rain makes the vegetation sparkle.

The only fly in the ointment was the rain. As soon as I get to the top of the pass it starts drizzling. I decide to get out of the rain by ordering a coffee. When I leave I get back into the land of stone. I head down on a soaking wet mountain pass. It takes me to Covara In Badia and the local, faster road crossing it. This is a wild part of the alps. High. Not all mountains are sleeping, gentle giants tolerating villages and roads here. Some of them are standing, having thrown off the green coat as they rose. They almost seemed to roar as they bled sediment from vertical, craggy wounds. Their presence is ominous as they tower above the tree line in the clouds. Their brooding presence makes me and my little bike seem insignificant. But no matter how mighty they are they cannot stop me from buzzing around them like a pesky insect. Unlike the rain, which does have some power over me. The sky will look angry all day and I will have a few rain showers.

Be still angry sky

Bravely, I decide to visit the giant’s front yard. I do not remember where exactly but it was a land where stones seem to grow in the fields. They hit me with a rain shower and I was forced to retreat into a restaurant. I decided to wolf down a schnitzel while I wait. Damn that tasted good. First restaurant this trip! When I leave, the shower was reduced to a drizzle.

Only rocks grow here
A stark contrast with the lush green valleys below.
Audi TT RS photobombs my landscape.

I leave the stone land. The giants will follow me in the sky for a long time as I get down. I accidentally find the land where Heidi lives. Suddenly I am in a fairy tale. Not even the dark clouds can dull the fluorescent, vibrant green from the pastures. The landscape is just teletubby perfect and I need all of my will power not to frolic gaily in the fields. It feels as if this land has not changed in a 100 years. And I hope it never does. I want to meet a woman here with big breasts and rosy cheeks. Her name needs to be something like “Brunhilde” or “Ulrike”. I want to farm those cows with the bells and have one of those houses. I want to have fat toddlers here with my Tiroler wife and eventually and up as one of those content elderly men with walking sticks. Such is the magic of this place.

They are still looking

I aimlessly ride around local roads. Not really mountain passes. But interesting nonetheless. The riding happens on auto pilot. I realize I am thinking of nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even motorcycling. The bike seems to ride itself, its only mission seemingly to satisfy the primitive parts of my brain with new places every minute. The rest of the brain is left floating. But, amazingly, it does not digest itself. As it often does with me. My bubble bursts as another rain shower hits. I take refuge in some ancient forest. Asking the trees for protection.

Hailstones provide clues to where trees shield most effectively from precipitation

The trees had had a bad day, however. Astonishingly the forest was full of hailstones. Seems like the giants unleashed their attack too early. The hailstones on the ground provide a clue where the trees shield best from precipitation. I stay dry and I ponder about what exactly one can do in an ancient forest. “Exist”, a voice whispers. I agree and I do exactly that for a while. But above the trees the giants call to me. I need to get going again.

Alas. It seems I had made a wrong turn. I was riding a road leading to a point where I had been before. Scheisse. The giants above the trees watch. They remain motionless but I imagine them smirking devilishly. To make matters worse, it started raining about midway the erroneous road when I was in the forest. Afterwards the rain never really subsided. It kept drizzling.

Annoyed by my mistake I decide to head to the autobahn and blast over the Brenner pass into Austria. That will save me some time tomorrow. Since it was raining all the time motorcycle fun time was over anyway. And after all the slow roads I enjoyed flexing my Yamaha’s muscles on the autobahn.

After a toll road I approached the Brenner pass. A traffic rich, toll levied, vein of tourist gold with very many fuel stops. I make a stop as well and I get the mandatory Austrian vignette. Progress is swift and even the rain stops. I amuse myself entertaining children riding in cars. It is always fun to see little eyes peering at me just over the car door. They react enthusiastically as I wave and they wave back. Gestures like this soften the travelers heart. As I blast past Innsbruck I am already getting wet to the skin. The plan is to make my way to a valley, some 30 kilometers west of Innsbruck where there should be a choice of campsites. The plan was still going smoothly when I turned off the “Schnellbahn” onto local roads. But then disaster struck.

Gewitter! A thunderstorm hit and the road was instantly transformed into a swimming pool 5cm deep. The bike making a bow wave like a ship. I head up a pass, since I was riding in a valley, hoping I would find a place to get out of the rain. The bike had no grip and the rain was so heavy I rode almost blind. It was really really dangerous and I was getting colder and colder as well. By the time I found an abandoned garage by the side of the road I was wet to the bone. I sit out the worst of the thunderstorm there but it was still raining when I continued.

A little bit further down the road the rain intensified again. But I had no choice to keep going as I did not have that much time left. I was getting dangerously cold again. As I reached the valley of campsites I even had trouble reading roadsigns because of the rain, making my search even more difficult. Eventually and mercifully I find a campsite. The lady at the reception takes pity and offered me a bed in the basement. I would not have it. I did not for the life of me want to bother these nice people and foul their house with my rotting carcass and wet, stinking, biking gear.

I set up camp in the rain. Oh such fun that is. I get in the tent eventually. With all the stuff exploded in it. Most of it is wet. There is no alternative: I have to cook in the tent. To make matters worse I have no more fresh clothes. I decide to use my stove as a heater to heat up the tent. Then I can take off the wet clothes. That works really well and I make the tent nice and toasty. Please do not do this, by the way. It is dangerous. You can burn down the tent in an instant if you try that. I dared not move my legs as I heated up the tent. Whatsapp provided some distraction.

I was not feeling bad, actually. It felt good dealing with matters in an effective way. I even cooked after that, having opened the tent’s ventilation openings to let the steam out. I my mind my tent was one of those cool little leprechaun huts with smoke rising from the chimney. Rice with tuna was had and I hit the sack for the evening, quietly listening to the rain. Despite my discomfort earlier, I felt happy. Sure my gear was wet. But I was dry in a dry sleeping bag on a dry sleeping mat. I felt cosy in the tent and had a good night.