August 11, 2006 GMT
Alpine and Balkan areas

Went through the Tarn Gorge in France on 2/ 8/ 06 with tunnels of rock over the road to Vallance. The heighest point here was 1,00 metres. This is wonderful biking country and it is nice to see more bikes on the road and they acknowledge you as you pass. We have only seen one other family from England since we started on this leg -- i think we will forget how to communicate with other people soon !

25 degrees and petrol 1GBP but you really need to fill up when you can.

I must say that 3 out of the 4 meals that we had in France were some of the worst of the whole trip !-- we actually resorted to having a Mc Donalds.

Onto Sian, Chur and Piesendorf in switzerland through beautiful mountanous scenery, cows with bells around their necks, pretty 'Chocolate box' houses with flowers on the verandas , lush green fields, wonderful twisty roads , superb Engineering feets of tunnels, viaducts and bridges and water in the rivers that is grey/ green and looks very cold.

On the autoroute here the bikes pay 2.50 GBP . Petrol is 87 pence on the border but in the Passes is 93 pence. Cigarettes are 2.84 for 20 and the beer about the same as UK.

It was wet and the temperature dropped to 9 degrees. A diversion took us over a high Pass where ,in places, the road was above the clouds but prior to that the visbility had been 50 yards . Tight turns of 270 degrees, 1in 3 gradient on a camber, in the wet with diesel spillage evident--- lovely !

We were unable to see Mont Blanc as we passed- but I was assured that it was there. The amazing thing is to see the cyclists who cycle up and pass you ( freewheeling) on the way down-- now they are fit.

On to the Furrrka pass at 7,920 feet. This is the start of the River Rhone and you can walk on the Glacier at the top. temperature dropped to 2 degrees. It was here that we followed a trailor that was carrying a boat with it's brakes on fire.

Just before the second Pass which was the Oberon at 6745 feet the spoken language changed to German. Most people here speak at least 2 / 3 languages and really put us to shame.

There is the most wonderful smell of pine trees and 'warm cow '. The yellow Post Horn bus has right of way and will signal it' approach with a horn.

And so on to Liechenstan on 5th August which is a small Principality with Cusoms control but they did not bother to check the Passports.

Then through to Austria where you need to buy a Vignette Pass in order to use the Autoroutes and main roads. This cost 3.57 GBP for a minimum of 10 days.
Very little traffic and 'soft' snow capped mountains. 15 degrees.

Shops here close on a Sunday and no lorries are allowed to travel on that day.

About 100 miles before the Hungarian border the houses change to brick built instead of wood.

Gradually the Alps were left behind and we crossed the border , East of Graz, on 6th August with a cursory check of the passports, changed Euro to Forents (394 to 1 GBP) and were in flat countryside. Had a very pretty hotel on that first night at Vasszentinihaly.

Then on on to Baja through fields of Sunflowers and Corn on the Cob. Very little English is spoken here and German appears to be the second language.

Petrol is 88 pence per litre, hotel rooms range from 19 GBP to a suite of rooms at 30 GBP per night, beer is under 1GBP and a meal ( with drinks ) costs about 13 GBP.
The main roads are like are 'B' roads but slightly wider with tarmac that is wet and slippery.

8th and on to Caranslebe in Rumania through flat countryside that only seems to grow Sunflowers , sweetcorn and cabbage. Horse and cart are the order of the day, roads are very poor in places and everywhere gives the appearance of austerity. It is reminiscent of Eastern turkey or Pakistan but no laughter and few hotels. Chicken , geese and tethered cows graze on the side of the road with the fruit sellers.

The currency here is Lei or Rons and is confusing as they seem to have both on the go at the same time and you have to guess which one they are using. Petrol is 71 pence per litre, hotel room about 16 GBP. Children will wave madly as you drive past and the bike attracts alot of attention.

The houses are very secure with side gates that are locked and alot are 'run down'. On the other hand the Public buildings are grand , big and imposing. Trees grow beside the road giving the houses protection from the road.

You can see the' Babushka' doing her shopping and lots are wearing the headscarf and coat apron.

The food was very poor-( but you would not starve), greasy soup and fatty meat. After a day we had had enough. At this stage of the journey we need our creature comforts and to know that we will find a hotel relatively easily. So we returned to Baja and are here for 2 days R and R and then return to Austria.

You will have to read the next edition to found out our route from there !!-- watch this space.

Total miles : 15,577.

Posted by Dee Masters at August 11, 2006 10:26 AM GMT

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