After X-pyr I hitched a ride with Stani’s Czech team and met my brother in the Black Forest for a couple of weeks of driving through the worst weather imaginable – welcome to Europe in July (allegedly summer). We started in the middle of the Swiss Alps and continued south and east until reaching Slovenia.
I spent a night at an overpriced hostel in Freiberg and shared a beer with a Russian Californian. Starting from the next day there would be no more of this high rolling la di da as my brother has a tent and isn’t afraid to use it. Yes, the supermarkets and libraries tour of Europe. I took a bus to Karlsruhe to meet and we did some customary 15 minute town tours before finding an off the beaten track road up into the Black Forest. The rain continued yet the next day, back in Freiberg, Ben opted not to go pack rafting.
We rolled on to the south and thought we’d try our luck in Switzerland.
The next day we reached the Alps, and it was sunny for a while at least, so we checked the internet.
The river here is apparently great for tubing, hence pack rafting, but we didn’t see anyone and we were headed in the opposite direction. It certainly was in full flow with all gates open.
After a Swiss roadworks official let us know we’d driven half way around the Thunersee for nothing we took our chances on the motorway without a vignette. We then found a winding one lane mountain road that passed through an impressive tunnel before opening up to vistas of the ridge and peak we’d climb.
Expecting the swirling clouds to settle overnight we delayed the walk. Had we been into the swing of things we may have instead anticipated the dawn thunderstorm.
Still Ben didn’t want to go rafting. Maybe the clunking of submarine river rocks put him off. We went for a walk dodging waterfalls up the valley next (east) of the Eiger instead.
In the afternoon the pouring rains returned and we spared a thought for the motorbike tourers. I should stop complaining though because the next day we had clear skies (for an hour at least) and half a day of great weather.
Starting later than I should have I had a great flight from above Grimselpass and past the Aletsch glacier before crossing to the valley leading to Zermatt (after figuring out my plans) where I got low for quite some time before pushing back out and landing high.
The wind changed and I spent some time with remote control sail planes before gliding into the sunset (if it hasn’t been cloudy, I mean).
Spotting an alpine hut I landed to make an enquiry. They suggested the hut further up the hill. After a quick attempt to fly to Italy I took their recommendation, landing by a great hut, locked but with the key hanging on the door frame. Fantastic.
The next morning I woke in white out. It wasn’t clearing so I walked over a pass and hitched the rest of the way to Italy.
It was a spectacular drive down to Dormodossola, well, 9km short. My next hitch was a little botched too and behind time I finally forked out 18 Euro and 12 Swiss francs to train into Biasca and reunite with Ben and have a celebratory kebab.
The next morning we chanced upon free Wi-Fi, a rarity in these parts. Leaving warm Fohn for the freezing cold cloudy pass I bought some 2012 vintage alpine cheese and we continued on, having lunch over Disentis, driving under cloud and rain to Chur, through it in Lenzerheide, and down to an impressive gorge.
Ben opted not to try the throw and jump pack raft technique and we continued up to Albula pass.
Wondering how long the “we’re so isolated” residents had to put up with waiting for the “must be finished by now, surely” Swiss engineers to build this cliff side road we finally spotted some sunshine on the Saint Moritz side of the pass.
The next day I finally got the pack raft wet, paddling for about a quarter of an hour before my brother waved me in, pointing out a dam. What a surprise.
The weather was passable given what we’d endured recently but it was still terrible. Having said that it was suitable for some more free Wi-Fi in Sta
Maria. We wanted to go over Stelvio pass but the Swiss engineers were still working on it so we diverted to Bolzano.
We left Switzerland for Italy and almost immediately the search for laundromats was over. We had pizza to celebrate. The next morning it rained and we drove up into the Dolomites.
I spent three hours wandering around in jandals and it cleared for some nice photos.
I enjoyed a river cooled wheat beer with dinner as the cloud closed in again.
We drove past another pack rafting river but it was too cold to even contemplate. When the sun came out we went swimming but the water temperature hasn’t changed much since winter.
More motorway avoiding short cuts followed as we followed the strange never ending road side suburbia to Udine.
Udine gave us fleeting free Wi-Fi and gelati.
We were both keen to check the offerings of nearby Slovenia. As we entered tranquil paradise to arrive in quaint yet adventure oriented Kobarid and good free Wi-Fi we agreed that we were indeed now in a land of milk and honey.
The weather however was its usual self, so we mostly stuck to the beautiful Soca valley.
We meticulously explored every nook and cranny of the canyon. Perhaps we looked too closely as neither of us would consider going anywhere near it with a pack raft.
On the mountain pass we dosed while the afternoon rain poured but got a nice evening walk in before descending toward Bled.
We neglected the warm waters of the Bled lake for the cold alpine lake further up. As low cloud fragments transformed into towering cumulus I decided at the last minute to go flying.
It was great to meet some young local tandem pilots and talk about the worst summer in living memory, amongst other things. We drove over the pass and Ben finally got into the pack raft. Turns out there are dams and other interesting obstacles to avoid in Slovenia too.
The final day we had a mountain walk and finally a few short hours of fantastic flying.
Ben arrived at the landing field in perfect time and we continued to Kanal for a swim.
Not quite comparable to the experience later that day in Trieste, Italy, where we finished the trip. From here Ben makes his way back to Frankfurt, I meet friends in Chamonix, and we both hope for better weather!