Today we traveled a total of 68km from Bovec in Slovenia to Villach in Austria, including a lightning detour into Italy.
The morning started with an ascent along a shaded valley (part of a nature reserve) with the sun peaking through the alpine trees. We slowly worked our way up the valley. On both sides the huge granite mountains rise vertically from the valley floor, like giant jagged teeth. Strips of snow started appearing.
Our ascent gradually steepened and we passed through the first alpine village advertising rooms for hire – “zimmer frei”.
After that our ascent steepened and we did a bit of bicycle pushing.
We paused at a small village near the top to refill our water bottles from a public water trough. Kris checked with a little old lady in a headscarf that the water was safe to drink. From here there were clear views to the south over the valley. We could see how far we had climbed, we ended climbing over 700m.
The road continued to rise, taking us over a bridge, past an old fort that straddled both sides of the road, and soon after that the Italian border. We were a little worried that they may not let us over this small border post (after our experience on the Slovenian border on 14 May), however they didn’t even stop us to look at our passports. There were a few Italian border police standing around but they just watched us ride through.
After the border, we had a steep downhill run – down towards a large lake.
We rode through a little tunnel with little s-bends making it dark and portholes on side – at least letting some light in through greenery on the outside of the portholes. We also passed lots of motorbikes with trailers and sidecars just after this tunnel – the motorbike with trailer having to slowly navigate a sharp bend, then we rode past the lake.
We passed through some strange derelict towns with old mining infrastructure and ruined houses (Cave del Predil), and no one about.
From there on we had a gradual descent into Tarvisio – a busy little town and the place where we planned to join the Alpine Adriatic cycle route. We stopped at the small supermarket and ate an entire kilogram of yogurt ice cream outside (maybe too much??).
From there we found the Alpine Adriatic cycle route – a very popular and well publicised route. Suddenly we were cycling together with many others, many people out on day trips and some on longer tours like us. The road was wide and well surfaced and easy – at this point Kris’s bike suddenly broke a spoke. When we stopped we found that there were actually three spokes – unusually all on the left side of the rear wheel. Kris deftly undertook the first major roadside repairs of the trip.
Then we continued on the Alpine Adriatic cycle route – we realised we had crossed the border into Austria with just a sign on the cycle route.
We made our way through a combination of tarred and gravel off road cycle paths, and village roads into Villach (a larger town and our destination for the day).
We saw a large cycle shop and Jenny urged Kris to replace his front wheel that has developed a turning resistance before we got much further into the alps. After consulting the bicycle technician we decided to change the wheel to one without a generator. Kris replaced the wheel outside the shop, using the same tire. We also swapped Jenny’s broken front light for Kris’s good one (now without power), so the whole procedure took a long time.
We found the Tourist Information in the middle of the town and got some maps on the cycle routes before going into the attractive pedestrian shopping street for some food. Jenny was feeling exhausted and light headed after a very long day and badly in need of something to eat. Then we made our way to the accommodation which was a youth hostel. A very friendly woman greeted us. This was one of the best youth hostels we have stayed in – everything was very clean and new looking. Except for the wifi, which was which was not really working, we had to sit in the common area near the entrance for sporadic data.