Thursday started off freezing. Wednesday night was our first night in the tent, and while it was a balmy +15 degreees when we pulled into Liechtenstein late on Wednesday afternoon, it was icy when we woke in the campground the next morning. The sort of damp cold that penetrates everything. Even our super warm Khyam sleeping bags were unable to cope with this damp sub zero cold and I had no choice by to head for the showers at 6am, frozen to the core, for a half hour long scalding hot shower just to warm up.
We packed up camp and hit the road eventually about 10:30 all set to face the Arlberg region of Austria. It was still only 1 degree above freezing. We had two passes to deal with today: the Brenner Pass was the main one. At 1370 metres its one of the lowest but most important crossings in the whole Alps. We had been stopped and told by a swiss motorcyclist the previous day that passes over 1400 metres still have snow and ice on the road surfaces. But the Brenner was so important to European commerce that it was bound to be open. We were less certain about the Arlberg Pass. At 1800 metres, we thought it would be closed and we would have to pay the big bucks and use the Arlberg tunnel to cross from the Rhine basin to the Danube basin. But we were in luck. Austrian alpine signs proclaimed the pass open, and I said to Jonathan that if the pass was open, it behooved Sibirsky Extreme to take it on.
And so we did. Long before we got to the pass we passed the village of Stuben, at around 1300 metres on the west side of the pass. Stuben is a ski resort village part of the whole Arlberg complex, and sure enough we were riding passed stunned skiers, staring wide eyed as we rode up the mountain while they skied down it 5 metres away from us. The pass was clear at 1800 metres and at that point we were a full 500 metres above the bustling ski resort of St Anton. We descended the Eastern side of the pass only to find someone had already Sibirsky Extremed the St Anton sign! Damn, we were too late again!
A couple of hour later, atop the Brenner Pass, Jonathan stopped for a chat with Humphrey, an English cyclist who was off to China … it had taken him a whole month to get to the Brenner. Good luck Humphrey.
Then it was Italy, and country number 10. Weather was instantly shite on the Italian side. Moist air pushing up on the alps … we pressed on in light rain to Lake Garda, where we found a bike friendly Hotel for the night. We were in luck for there was a cheezy Tex-Mex place across the road and we feasted on Burritos and long overdue beers. The idea of camping in the rain kinda sucked – so to find a bike friendly hotel where we could park the bikes in an underground garage was a nice end to the day.