Saturday, 20 August 2016

Chiming Hills of Österreich - Day 7

Austrian Cycling

Hinterglemm                                                                   Austria

Friday 3rd July 2015

I was up quite early in the morning just before the workers began hammering and drilling across the road again. I got up and ready and decided to pack my things as this was my last full day in Austria. So I grabbed pretty much everything and stuffed it in my rucksack. I checked the time and seen it was breakfast. Yet again I sat at the same table with Paul and Pat talking about what we did yesterday and quite a big conversation about our dogs to pass the time. Towards the end Kate came over and asked us all what our plans were today. I didn’t really have an idea what I was going to do because I had always gone out on excursions so this was technically my day off so to speak. I thought about hiring a bike and going up to the ridgelines of the hill tops. We then all parted ways as I decided to head out and explore to see what plan I could make up to fill my day in heading out and straight onto the main street. 

Hinterglemm Bike Festival

As was expected the whole street was covered with cycling enthusiasts. It was a cyclist’s paradise I thought and I was a cyclist. I headed up the street admiring the stalls fully set up with items from helmets and sunglasses to handlebar grips and tires. I came across a poster showing hire prices for different bikes then I caught my eye on the one I was after called the ‘enduro-bike’ which was an all terrain bike. I headed to the shop which hired the bikes and spoke to the specialist about what bike I needed which in fact was the one I originally looked at on the poster. It looked like an excellent piece of machinery with dual suspension and heavy duty disc brakes and chunky tires. I paid for the hire and insurance and I was given a helmet soon on my way. It felt amazing to be part of all the cyclists slowly pedalling down through the busy street. I made up a plan at this point to take the Shattberg lift from Saalbach and find a high route to Zell am see. 

Hinterglemm Bike Festival

So I began cycling towards Saalbach and it felt very weird having to cycle on the opposite side of the road but to be honest it was pretty much straight forward. The journey to Saalbach was quite short even on my bike as it was a very slight downhill road with the wind behind me. It made it easier to take note of where I was and it felt amazing cycling on the roads of Austria. I arrived at the gondola station and there were quite a few cyclists waiting to board the lifts as was I with us all slightly nudging forward until a staff member grabbed my bike and placed it inside one of the lifts and the person’s bike behind me too; we both got in and on our way up the mountain. There was a small moment of silence until he spoke first but in German of course. I told him I was English and he responded by speaking English. As soon as I knew he spoke English we began talking about where we came from and where we were going on our routes. It seemed to pass the time on the long journey up to the top. As soon as we arrived, we got our bikes, shook hands and wished each other good luck. I was suddenly won over by the breathtaking views of surrounding mountain ranges. I had seen them the previous day when I went paragliding but I didn’t have time to take in the views. This time it looked more beautiful especially with Grossglockner Mountain in front of me still covered in snow. 

I consulted my map in order to figure out where was best to go and easiest. I thought I figured out a good route so I followed it. The terrain was very rugged and constantly held the brakes just slightly due to the descent and also testing the bike out. It did the job which made me more confident and trusting the bike to go a bit faster. I was suddenly overwhelmed with pure joy racing along the gravelled road with the breathtaking views around me. However, all of that would stop when I came across a very steep incline right in front of me. I could see the hut I was looking for on my map and it was miles away. The path ahead of me was zig zagging again so I began pedalling up the ascent. Within minutes I had to get off my bike because the incline was too much to handle and the fact I was trying to cycle up loose stones didn’t help. So I clambered up the inclines frustrated that I had to walk alongside my bike. There were a few times on the way up that I would try and pedal but to no avail as it just made me angry; I eventually made it to the hut so full of relief and sweat. I parked my bike up and immediately headed into the hut to grab a couple of bottles of water. I felt fantastic when I started guzzling my water which boosted my morale up once again. I then headed to the nearby mountain top where I would witness the most fantastic views of further mountains and hills. I could have stayed there all day but I wanted to get moving. 

Picturesque Austrian Mountains

I scrapped my original plan of going to Zell am see because to get to it I would have had to pedal up more agonising mountain tops and horrible inclines which I knew I wouldn’t enjoy despite the marvellous views. So I consulted my map again and noticed a route zig zagging down to the valley floor a few miles away from Saalbach. This to me looked like it was going to be a real adventure and fun. So I headed back down the steep route I climbed moments ago but treading carefully at every corner until I reached the lower flatter area again. I was then coming up to a fork in the footpaths and knowing which way to head I turned right and from here on it was downhill all the way. I was confident on my bike and gained a bit more speed. The thrill of racing down the pathways with the wind blowing in my face zig zagging down was phenomenal as well as the beauty of the scenery surrounding me. 

Austrian Mountains

Zig Zagging track

I truly felt free and having fun while doing so; there were times I would do some cowboy ‘yeehaas’ which added to the experience. I could tell I was nearing the bottom area when there were a lot more houses coming towards me. The ground was becoming finer and flatter but still enough downhill descent to keep me flying. The river was right next to me and it looked like I was keeping up with the speed of the rushing water. All of a sudden the soft gravel became tarmac which meant I was coming to the end. What a thrill ride I thought and I wanted to do it again. So I turned left on the main road and cycled back to Saalbach which was a few miles away. I didn’t know if it was my bike or my legs but when I was cycling, it felt like I was putting all my effort in to keep moving. I checked the tires which were perfectly fine and had me stumped of the real reason. Anyway I could finally see the station approaching me which was a relief but as soon as I entered the station it seemed like there were hundreds of bikers waiting to get on. 

I decided to join the line though and yet again my bike was placed in the lift as was someone else’s. I sat straight in after the man who gave me a nod. The trip up the lift was definitely awkward as none of us spoke to each other. This made the trip up feel even longer by the time we got to the top. We got out with our bikes and I headed downhill again. Without the steep incline this time I headed straight for the zig zagging route down. Yet again with more confidence came faster speed but still not too much to cause a problem and it felt even more thrilling than the previous cycle down. I did slow down when I came up to a large herd of cows. I also nearly came off my bike when a calf suddenly jolted up and began running and I didn’t know if it was going to cross my path. 

Dirt track

Austrian Landscape
Austrian Mountains

Anyway I bypassed that and half way down I decided to stop and I lay on the grass admiring the spectacular view that was in front of me. I looked at my bike and smiled at the fact of how dusty it was and how dusty I was too. I stared out to the huge mountains and hilltops with nobody around listening to the faint sounds of birds singing and the distinctive cow bells; it was truly peaceful. I couldn’t stay as long as I wanted because I could feel the sun burning on me so I grabbed my dusty bike and headed down hill again. I came upon a stream not far from where I stopped so I drank from the stream as I had lost my water bottle moments ago; it was so refreshing and kept me going. I continued on my descent and noticed the bike was automatically heading to the right. There was a small dip along the path which had a small stream running down it and the bike ended up in it. I was trying to get back out but I lost control with the speed I was going too and hit a slightly big rock. I flipped over my bike and rolled on the ground once and got to my feet with a lot of scratches and cuts. I could see a person looking on next to his car seeing if I was ok. I was soaking from landing in the stream and muddy too so I picked my bike up seeing if there was any damage which thankfully there wasn’t and I continued on to the next level below. 
My Bike

Austrian Valley
Zig Zagging Track

I stopped again to try and get as much mud off me as I could and let the heat and wind blow dry my top on the way down. I spent about 5 minutes laughing at the fact it happened and I got out of it ok. I could feel quite a bit of pain on my right thumb joint but nothing severe as I carried on my route. I ended up near the end again and suddenly enjoyed myself flying down the road next to the river once more keeping up with a car 100 yards ahead of me. I was soon at the main road again and began making my way back to Saalbach. The ride to the station was absolutely tiring and I decided to just head back to Hinterglemm instead. So I pedalled on knowing Hinterglemm was just around the corner and getting really tired in the process. I eventually made it feeling a lot of relief as well as slight pain in my right thumb and leg and then noticing I had a cut there. I was welcomed by the mass crowd gathering at the centre of the village full of cyclists and tourists. As I got closer I could see what all the commotion was about. The ramps that the workers set up all week were finally being used by the stunt cyclists jumping off performing tricks. It was brilliant to watch but the crowd was becoming worse as I couldn’t really get moved. I then realised I could get an even greater view of the action from my hotel balcony. This meant I had to return the bike to the shop after washing it thoroughly. I used the bike wash station at the gondola lifts and noticed a few small scratches on the bike. I eventually handed the bike back over to the specialist who checked everything to see if it was working correctly which thankfully it did even after the fall. 

I left the shop slowly making my way to a convenience shop to grab some food as I wanted to watch the cyclists’ performance as though I was at the movies. I managed to get back to the hotel after squeezing my way through the ever growing crowd and the first thing I did was check out my cuts and scratches making sure nothing was too bad. I then had a quick shower to get rid of all the muck and I felt great after it. I went straight out onto the balcony as soon as I got changed with a banquet of junk food on the table. The neighbouring people were out on the balcony too and because it was all one balcony, I could walk over to them to have a talk about my bike ride and accident also about the spectacle that was happening in front of us all. I then sat back down and noticed that I was right about coming up to the balcony as it was slightly higher up and I got a great view of the majority of the course. 

Hinterglemm Bike Festival

Another wave of stunt cyclists came down the hill performing more marvellous tricks whilst I was digging into my food. I noticed that there was a camera crew there filming everything including the falls; speaking of which there were quite a lot of mishaps and at one time it looked bad as when the cyclist tried to do a 360 degree turn on an awkward angle he came off his bike. The angle at where I was sitting was blocked by a steep dirt ramp but all I seen were 2 paramedics rushing to the cyclists’ aid. He was fine though as he got back on his feet and headed up the hill again. I spent the whole afternoon watching the cyclists which was quite relaxing and gripping as I didn’t know how the next cyclist would do. It started to quieten down a bit at 5:30pm as everyone was leaving and workers began to adapt the ramps with their drills and hammers again. Then I realised I had to be downstairs for 6pm as there was an appetiser session before the big BBQ outside. 

So I got dressed up really smartly to impress Kate and headed downstairs. I entered into the small bar where everyone was gathering. At the bar we were all given some orange juice but in a champagne glass which was classy. I sat with Paul and Pat telling them about my accident and adrenaline rushed experience and then Kate came over with a tray of appetisers which was basically different pastes on bread. It was still lovely to have along with my fancy orange juice. A while later Kate came back through and told everyone that they were ready for us to go outside for the BBQ. We headed through the dining area and I had seen the table set up with salads and pasta. I was more interested in the burgers and sausages so I headed straight outside with my beer and sat with the neighbouring people from the balcony along with Paul and Pat too. We could see everyone was starting to line up for the BBQ so I followed suit. In no time at all it was my turn to be served and after grabbing a bun, the chef who looked a lot like Harry Styles plonked a burger and a sausage on my plate. I headed back to the table to talk some more. Kate came back over with a bottle of wine and asked if I wanted any as I didn’t know it was free whilst staying in the hotel. I accepted and she poured some red wine into my glass. As she walked away I tried to have a go at it but it smelt like bad vinegar and tasted really strong; so I set it aside and stuck to my usual beer. Throughout the evening there was a small competition set up next to the hotel where kids and teenagers would do a timed lap around a wavy type platform going in a loop. 

What was also next to us was one of the many speakers that were placed around the village and the commentator was pretty much shouting very loud in the microphone over some disco type music. It was pretty much getting on everyone’s nerves and I was so tempted to cut the speaker cable running right behind us. But then later on it went quiet for a moment which meant they were finished thank god. Then the next thing we heard was the rock band warming up which was exciting for me and a few others but the majority of the older guests didn’t like it. After our BBQ we then had profiteroles which were to die for. Kate came over again and gave us all little surveys about our stay at the hotel whether it was about hotel service or holiday rep contribution to the holiday experience. I looked through the survey and ticked excellent in every category showing them my appreciation with everything they provided for me. I also thought it would give me brownie points for a better chance to win the 500 euro prize money. I spent the next 10 minutes filling in the survey with the sound of drums quite near us. One of the older people I sat next too covered her ears because it was too much for her. 

Anyway it was starting to get a bit late and everyone decided to leave but some were intending on going to see the rock concert in the village. So after I dropped off a couple of things in my room, I set off to see all the commotion. As soon as I left I could see a lot of people gathering towards the stage area. I sort of wandered around for a while checking out the surrounding stalls which were still open selling cycling accessories. I headed back to the stage area and immediately realised the crowd was gathering in as the warm up band began to play. All of a sudden the drums were beaten hard and loud with guitars and the lead singer joining in. Some of the music was amazing which definitely got people nodding their heads including mine. I then noticed a familiar group of people from the hotel in front of me so I walked towards them and chatted with them as well as rocking away. Then a hand went onto my shoulder and as I turned around I could see it was Paul. He said that Pat told him to come down and tell the band to keep it quiet jokingly of course. He was enjoying it as much as I and everyone else did and then I noticed that I was quite overly dressed for a rock concert as everyone had their heavy metal or rock t shirts on. 

Hinterglemm Bike Festival Concert

A while later, the warm up band had finished and all the lights went out so the next band could prepare their gear. A moment later the band came out from behind the curtains and there was a big cheer. Then the lights came back on and this all mighty bang of the drums started and the loudness of the guitars were huge. I could also tell by the look of the band that they were heavy rockers which were fantastic. Everybody was nodding their heads even more mostly jumping up and down too. They finished their first song and when they spoke, I could hear that they were Americans which to be honest was no surprise. The next few songs were phenomenal and had got everyone in a party mood. Out of nowhere a large group of people were making their way through the crowd all carrying one person in the air waving a Brazil flag. However the person being carried looked like he had nothing on which was hilarious. I listened to one more song and then I decided to head back to my room as I still had a small bit of packing to do. 

Hinterglemm Bike Festival Concert

I felt sorry for the older people staying around the area listening to the rock music but I knew I had fun and thought it was a great ending to my time in Austria. I got back to the hotel quickly jumping in the lift with one of the waiters and he was actually wishing that the music would be over with too. We parted ways and I finally arrived back in my room and without wasting time, I managed to pack the rest of my things in good time preparing and organising my bags and documents for tomorrow’s very early departure to the airport. I settled in for the night and at that time the band had finished with a slight sound of people walking away back to their hotels and it finally went quiet.
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