At least, there seem to be roadworks everywhere and particularly all over the mountain passes. It's jarring to be in the middle of nowhere amongst stunning scenery and suddenly come upon a set of temporary traffic lights. Sometimes it's useful, as you can filter to the head of the queue and get past lorries there's no chance of overtaking on the twisty bits; sometimes it's just dull and hot and annoying. I observe incidentally that the Swiss hazard warning sign for roadworks resembles a workman urinating onto a pile of rubble.
Around lunchtime we cross into Italy and drivers immediately start doing crazy things. We break for the border and the Timmelsjoch, between Italy and Austria.
Here's what the official website has to say about this pass:
'Now and then the trip across the Timmelsjoch is an experience for a real driver and motorcyclist...who want to feel the mountains breezes, experience a new dimension of driving pleasure. Almost like a flying bird you float on wide bends the steep slopes up and down.'At first the pass doesn't live up to the hype: it's busy, hot and full of roadworks. Then something great happens. I've worked my way to the front of a long queue of traffic following a slow lorry. I'm hovering hopefully in the overtaking position when the road opens up and with it an opportunity. I hurl myself past, all thirty-eight little horses grinding away. (It's actually an illegal overtake on an unbroken white line, but come on, I could see for miles. Obviously Italian driving is catching.)
John and Roger are taking it easy and Roy has stopped to take photos. Thanks to the lorry bottleneck, all other traffic is either far ahead or still stuck behind. It's just me and Howard sashaying up the pass, admiring the scenery and looking out for marmots. (I never do see one, but all the plush and carved replicas we see make them look terrifying so perhaps it's just as well.)
Eventually we join the back of a traffic jam which has evidently been going on for some time, as bikers and car drivers are wandering around chatting. A few minutes later vehicles start to move and we see that the cause of the delay was a couple of workmen descending the rock wall on ropes. One of them almost abseils onto my handlebars as I go by - a hazard not covered in the Highway Code.
At the top of the pass, a little wooden hut on wheels dispenses coffee and Tyrolean specialities. I'm getting good at placing the group's drinks order (four white coffees, one tea with lemon, one glass of milk) in the language of the moment. We sip our beverages and look back with pride at the zigzags we've climbed and the motorbikes crawling like ants along them.
There's an unexpected toll on the Austrian side, but it's been a good eleven Euros' worth. Besides, you get a little sticker to put on your topbox and prove you've been.
We're spending the night in Germany, the fourth country of the day, in a village on the outskirts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. If the name weren't comic enough in itself, as we roll into town I point gleefully at a sign for local tourist attraction the Wankbahn.
Soon we're sitting in the hotel garden in the gathering dusk, and I am faced with the mammoth task of translating the entire menu. I more or less succeed and decide to reward myself with a mixed grill, which turns out to come with four different potato products as well as frankfurters split in four lengthways to resemble fleshy pink flowers. Bliss. As we dine, tractors and horses rattle past and a saggy old hound bitch waits politely for scraps.
John asks if there's any cognac and gets a bald "No" from the patron. I enquire after schnaps and get a much more positive response and a small glass of plum-flavoured ethanol. When in Garmisch-Partenkirchen...
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