Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Into the Mountains again

As last year’s Alpine tour was hampered a bit by an oil leak from the water pump, I decided to give the DHC a second chance to prove herself in the mountains of Austria and Süd-Tirol. First day in the area we spent going up the Kaunertaler Gletscher Straße in Austria, literally a road to nowhere, but a very nice driving road. And with traffic conditions being very light it was very good fun going up (and down), with lots of sideways action (actually caused by salt on the road to prevent icing at the higher altitudes).



Also the roads to and from the valley were good fun, with very fine views as an added bonus.




Next day we carried on to our final destination, which meant crossing the Timmelsjoch into Süd Tirol. On the top of this pass it again was very foggy so no reason to stop. But it was good fun chasing bikers down the southern slopes. Safe for a Belgian asshole with a racing bicycle on the back of his wide arsed Renault that is. He really thought he was alone in the world. Needless to say he was dealt with quite satisfyingly!



On arrival at our hotel we first settled down for lunch and a good pint of locally brewed beer ...


And we enjoyed some nice Italian machinery at the local fuel station in front of the hotel. Much nicer than the modern Italian exotica (Ferrari/Lamborghini) that crowded there a few days later...



From past experience we knew that it was better to leave the car locked up during the weekends, as the roads tend to be swarming with bikers and mouse grey Euro boxes. So we put on the walking boots and headed for the mountains instead.







But early on the Sunday morning we went for a quick blast up the southern slope of the Timmelsjoch just for fun and to enjoy the views.



The rest of our time in the area was spent either driving around over as much passes as possible or some walking up the Passeier Valley’s slopes. With the weekend over we started with driving over several very nice mountain passes, like the Grödner Joch ...



the Passo Pordoi...







and the Penserjoch to name a few ...



But as the area has much more to offer than just drive along, the car got some well deserved rest from time to time. And it gave us the opportunity to explore the area in more detail;

The parish church of the little village of Sankt Martin in Passeier...



A typical pasture high up the Passeier valley’s slope ...



Typical local lunch at the Pfandler Alm Hütte



Views of the Passeier Valley ...







Very rural guesthouse in Christl ...



As we were in the area, we of course had to pay a visit to the Stilfser Joch (maybe better known as the Stelvio). As this pass usually is quite crowded we decided to use the back door to get up to the top, the Umbrail Pass. As part of this pass is still unsurfaced it is much quieter than the Stilfser itself. Reason enough to go up there twice so I could enjoy the Stilfser Joch in both directions. Views from the southern slopes of the Silfser Joch ...



Another highlight is the rather interesting mountain “pass” and border crossing between Italy and Switzerland, the 3 kilometre long one way tunnel of the Pass Dal Gall ...



The Ofen Pass in Switzerland ...





And back to the Stilfser Joch, which was as crowded as ever ...









The last two days were again spent exploring the area on foot ...







While driving the various passes I of course had to annoy some bikers and drivers of some expensive machinery, by chasing and/or overtaking them. But even I met my match in the shape of a local guy, driving a Subaru Impreza over the Ofen Pass ...



And the car managed to attract quite a lot of attention wherever I parked her ...



But the highlight was a biker who literarily fell for her. Being gallant (as ever) I stopped at a pedestrian crossing in a village at the foot of the Stilfser Joch, to allow someone to cross the road. Sadly the biker behind me noticed it a bit late, resulting in a biker slowly disappearing sideways from my rear view mirror. Luckily the only damage was to his bike (some scratches) and his ego (...).

But all to soon it was time to head for home. Our original plan was to take some scenic routes through Switzerland and Germany. But the weather forecast wasn’t to promising for open top motoring, so we took the direct route home. This meant we again had to cross the Timmelsjoch, this time in the snow ...


For those of you interested in the Süd Tirol area, have a look at this site http://suedtirol3d.it

As for the car, she behaved quite well over the 2812 km I drove over the past two weeks, including 19 mountain passes, with a total ascent of 37580 meters. Only issues were a very slight coolant leak from the thermostat housing gasket (temporarily sorted by tightening the bolts a bit) and a very irritant leak from the fuel filler cap. And due to the steel wheels’ new powder coating, the wheel nuts needed to be retightened slightly a few times, especially the front ones.
Also found out that the shock absorbers need to be set a little firmer. And a check of the front pads might also prove rather worthwhile as they got quite a beating, especially in the downhill sections. But the biggest worry for the 10CR in September is the gear box. This has developed a bit of a rattle when hot, so I’ll probably change that next month as a precaution.

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