By 22 April 2011, a solution to Ed’s bike woes was in sight. The solution in question being pretty drastic – to cut losses on the WR, and acquire a different bike. After flirting with a couple of BMW X-Challenges (one which had averaged a new owner every six months since 2008, and another which seemed to have been owned by the South Wales Police underwater vandalism department) Ed turned to Suzuki DRZs. A test ride on Dan’s bike clinched the decision and he started looking in earnest for a reasonable DRZ. Crucially, our friend Neil Gonzalez was very generously willing to lend some hardware to bring a standard DRZ up to adventure spec – a tank, seat and wheels to match Dan’s and a sturdy bashplate to protect the underside of his new steed. This would save crucial time in getting the bike prepared and permit Ed to get back on the road much sooner than would otherwise be possible.
With Ed having at least a plan in place, Dan could nolonger resist the call of the road. As Dan’s passport was still lacking the Iranian visa that Ed had been able to gain in London, Dan had an additional task to take care of in Istanbul. It made sense then to head off alone and meet back up with Ed in Turkey. On Good Friday, 22 April, Dan left his folks’ house to visit some good friends near Brighton, and making the most of the continuing sunshine, at 7am the next morning he set out from there towards Dover. What could be more English than setting off once more on a madcap adventure on St George’s Day…
After a millpond-smooth crossing to Calais, Dan made a point of stopping off whilst still in France to pick up some essential provisions – a chunk of goat’s cheese that could have been 5 years old, a couple of tomatoes and a baguette. Thus armed, the GPS was instructed to lead him back towards the Nurburgring where there was known to be ample camping.
The day’s miles were despatched efficiently, pausing only to snack on some of the provisions at a roadside picnic area. With the exception of a brief but torrential thunderstorm in the afternoon to prove out the Gore Tex riding gear, the ride was uneventful. Having filled up in Dover, and with a mere 300 miles to cover between Calais and Altenahr, it wasn’t even necessary to stop and fill the bike with fuel. At Europa Camping between Altenahr and Adenau, Dan found a very friendly and welcoming bunch of natives who spoke good English when sober and had some interesting ideas on overlanding and international politics after a few beers. For the record, a front wheel drive 1980s Dodge Coupe is the ultimate overlander and Germany really missed a trick when they failed to make a bid to become part of the British Commonwealth in 1945. (I think this last point was mostly to avoid the need for a president).
On 24 April Dan was up bright and early to get packed up and meet with one of his new friends for a welcome morning coffee before hitting the road. After a decent coffee complete with two free easter eggs, there was one more task to complete before heading towards Austria.
When in Adenau the previous week, Dan and Ed had taken advantage of an attractive off-season deal on a holiday apartment offered by Herr Schmitz, owner of the bike dealer and workshop. After the unsuccessful day of trouble shooting that followed, our dynamic duo had somehow forgotten to give back the keys to the flat before high-tailing it to Calais.
With the keys still in the pocket of his riding gear, Dan set off back to Adenau to greet a very surprised Herr Schmitz and return the keys, before heading across Germany to Austria. The ride out of Adenau was gorgeous, and easily made up for the tedium of the autobahn that followed. Dan had his sights set on the mountains of Austria – harbouring a desire to visit the Grossglockner pass if possible, the picturesque scene of a childhood holiday and more recently the altitude testing of various development vehicles.
By 6pm, Dan’s eager little bike had covered 420 miles towards his target, and spotting a sign for a campsite at the side of the road, Dan pulled in to haggle over the price. Finally settling on a pricey 13 Euros made up for by the smartest facilities any campsite has ever known, Dan picked his spot and set up camp with a pleasing view past an assortment of mobile fibreglass monstrosities to the snow capped peaks beyond – getting the tent up just in time to shelter from a biblical downpour.
As Monday dawned clear and bright, it was time to head towards those hills and make the most of the clear weather. The roads towards the mountains were picture-postcard Austria – snaking between villages in wide lush green valleys, with flower meadows either side. Very beautiful, but frustratingly devoid of places to pull over and take a photo. The Grossglockner pass was well worth the return visit – the dramatic scenery combined with an entertaining ride, well worth the 13 Euro toll. And with a multitude of places to pull over and take a picture, Dan did just that and snapped away to his little heart’s content.
After the Glockner pass, it was more of the same picture-postcard Austrian scenery towards the motorway, and then getting some miles in towards the border. When the weather broke with another violent downpour, it was time to find a campsite. Garmin did the honours, leading the way off the motorway up into the hills to Piberstein Camping – part of a huge sports complex by a lake, all of which bar the camping appeared to be open. From chatting to a German couple who were just settling in with their Wohnwagen Dan established that yes, it didn’t seem to be open, but the shower blocks and laundry room were, and the drinking water and electricity were all on and working. No problem then – set up, do some laundry and pay in the morning if someone asks. When morning came there was still no sign that camping season had arrived in Piberstein, so Dan had a cold shower, cleaned his teeth at the sink and packed up and left after one of the best appointed rough-camps in overlanding history.