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There is Snow on them Hills

Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, Austria in July.

Woke up after a good night’s sleep at Edelweißhütte Berggasthof at Grossglockner Edelweißspitze.  Last night we arrived in thick fog and drizzle, when the evening was turning cooler.

At the parking area just below the last ascent to the Edelweißhütte, one could not see the other side of the area and I had to carefully circle the empty car park to find the small cobblestone road leading further up towards the Edelweißhütte gasthof, which I knew was on the top. Just was not sure if this was the right car park in the fog. I remembered the route from memory and just was not sure.

After some circling, I managed to find the cobblestone track. We could only see a few meters, but we took the path. Once you take this narrow track, you commit to it. It is virtually not possible to turn back on the narrow, steep and slippery cobblestone road. Not on our heavy Harleys, nor really on any touring bike.

Upon arrival, I guess we took the host family by surprise as they were not expecting anyone to come through the weather and there were no other guests. Regardless, we got a very warm welcome, beer, good food and garage for our bikes and a room for us to stay.

In the morning looking at the window expecting to see the mountain view, I noticed the window being covered with fog after the night’s heavy sleep. Still tired, I opened the window and to my surprise the view did not change – still foggy. Looking more carefully, it was SNOWING! In JULY!

The drizzle had turned into snow during night and we had about a foot of snow on the ground with more coming. The stay at the Edelweißhütte turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our trip. Lazy morning, snowfights and general amazement about the unexpected turn of the events.

The snow is not uncommon even during July and I have now been stuck at Edelweißspitze twice due to snow in July.

Even though the snow was as thick as 20 – 50 cm, the summer snow only covers the mountain top and as one descents just a few hundred meters, the snow quickly melts away. The key difference to winter is that the ground under the snow is not frozen and once the snow is cleared, the ground is only wet, not icy. Well, the cobblestones still were slippery and the ride down from Edelweißhütte was exiting. The snow was cleared by using a broom sweeping a narrow path down the track for us to ride.

And once at Edelweißhütte, it was 25c warm with the place busy with biker groups and vintage cars, etc. I must say I prefer the snow and the forced lazy mornings in the beauty of the snowy mountains in July.

Stelvio in Italy is no Stranger for Midsummer Snow either

Stelvio, Italy June 30th 2017

Oh Deer! The Very North of Finland and Norway

Reindeer on the road

The route

What a treat! Touring the Nordic area above the arctic circle is a treat indeed, a world of its own.

Route Oulu – Kuopio

Covid-19 this year dictated the direction (i.e. north). Besides, I really enjoy the vast open areas, free roaming reindeer and friendly people in the Finnish Lapland and the equally friendly Norwegians, and their mountainous coastline with bare fell areas.

White fish at Kukkolankoski

Must also mention the great food, which you have available everywhere. Reindeer stew prepared the traditional way plus reindeer in many forms, salmon and the latest addition, king crab. Nowhere has king crab tasted better than in Honninsvåg at Nordkapp.

River Logger statue at Kukkolankoski

On your way north, a must is the white wish captured from the Kukkolankoski rapids of Tornio river, the largest free flowing river in Europe. This is just north of Tornio. There are several places for this white fish flamed on open fire but if you get off the main road and do not stop at the first tourist trap but continue a few hundred meters, you come to the traditional trap(?) with a statue of a river logger just outside.

How to get there

When heading north, Oulu is a good starting place. A lively university town a long day’s ride from Helsinki. But first you need to get there! My recommended route from Helsinki would be Helsinki – Tampere – Virrat – Kuortane – Vimpeli – Kaustinen – Ylivieska – Oulu. This avoids many of the bigger arteries, crossing the scenic country side and has no fixed speed traps either.

If you have more time to explore, particularly if you come through Turku, the coastal route is also a nice alternative but more heavy with traffic.

When going up on the western route, it is worth exploring the lake district of the eastern Finland as well on your way down. You can choose  between the tranquility of the lake area or party at a harbour market of any town. Lappeenranta, Kuopio, Savonlinna to name a few… Plenty of culture, lake cruises, etc  available as well.

Very North in under Nine Minutes

The video below takes you along our route. You will see what the roads are like and the scenery along the way. It answers many question regarding riding in the very north.

Nordkapp aka North Cape

Continue reading Oh Deer! The Very North of Finland and Norway

Through Finland to Lapland and North Cape, Norway

A few years ago we left home for a short overnight ride (hence the open face helmet and sunglasses in the picture) with my wife and a few friends. Only to end up leaving our friends behind and touring Lapland and visiting Nordkapp in Norway by the Barents see, altogether some 4500km. The picture has a glue of where it was taken😀.

Now that covid-19 has seriously fu**ed up everyone’s riding plans for the summer, it is time to visit Lapland and the north again.

Well, Lapland is no second prize, it is a great destination on its own and well worth visiting even several times.

Continue reading Through Finland to Lapland and North Cape, Norway

Ho Chi Minh Jungle Trails

Riding in the Ho Chi Minh Trail Jungle

Jungle trails on Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos vary between barely a single track in the bamboo forest to a newly built logging or mining road for trucks. This time of the year however, after the rainy season, most of the jungle roads have been washed away and only some main national roads can be driven by cars. So we spent days without seeing a single car on the road!

Mostly the trail was dry and hard – this was literally vital as any unexploded bombs would not be disturbed when riding over them. The wet places were like riding on soap! Very, very slippery!

The main excitement was obviously finding the old Ho Chi Minh Trail tracks, the cobblestone trail in the jungle, mostly reclaimed by the growth but still visible. Sometimes surrounded by bomb craters, sometimes next to cliffs and sometimes in the cover of the jungle. Sometimes even still used as a cobblestone road. Obviously parts were rebuilt into national road system as well.

Continue reading Ho Chi Minh Jungle Trails

Water Features on Ho Chi Minh Trail

Road carved away

Video compilation from Ho Chi Minh Trail Water crossings

Bound to get your boots full

Our ride in November took place after the rainy season and roads and paths had deep meandering grooves carved by the water to make the ride more interesting.

Road washed away

In some occasions the road was completely washed away and just big canyons were left, making crossing even more interesting.

There used to be a bridge

The power of water is incredible and even large concrete bridges were washed away and only pillars were left standing askew. The only bridges that were left almost unscathed were the concrete slabs on the bottom of the river, so called bottom bridges. They are designed to allow the water to flow over them, making the bottom more even and safer to ride. Still some of those were moved by the force of the water.

Great bamboo bridge

In the beginning of the dry season, many villages build temporary bridges across streams. The most spectacular are the bamboo bridges, some of which can be more than a hundred meters long.  Villages make income by charging a fee from anyone using the bridge.

Continue reading Water Features on Ho Chi Minh Trail

… that elusive day we keep putting good things off to…