Thirty-two members and guests from the BMW Club Oxford Section travelled to Austria for a truly memorable week. We stayed at Gasthof Hochalmspitze in Malta which is run by Jon and Ros Gowers, a British couple, who are themselves bikers. If you visited the motorcycle show at the NEC you may have come across them. Many thanks to David and Rosemary who did meet them two years ago and suggested this destination! (more details including photo album of our trip on http://www.hochalmspitze.com)
The accommodation and food were great and Jon and Ros were supplemented by various volunteers from Blighty such as Rosilee, Jane, Leigh and Earl as well as a number of local ladies. We travelled out in small groups using various different routes and all managed to arrive safely. The weather on both outward and return legs was a bit of a lottery. It rained in Belgium and Germany both ways and at the start of our departure from Austria, but the week in between made it all worthwhile.
The sun shone from almost cloudless skies. (Our hostess had promised Mediterranean weather as we were south of the Alps but I’m not sure we had believed her!). There was a general expectation of thunderstorms late in the week and boy we were we not disappointed! The storms came on Thursday and Friday nights so as not to interfere with daytime activities which was extremely considerate. Thursday evening produced not only thunder and lightening and appropriate quantities of the wet stuff, but also an impromptu cabaret with acts including a quartet of ladies “Singing in the rain” complete with brollies; Geoff doing a weather girls “its raining men” and a guest appearance by the Stig. All great fun. To follow this we tried a walk in the dark (someone had switched off the street lighting) until the rain returned. On the dash back to the hotel uphill, wet and in complete darkness, we passed a speed display unit, and the fastest recorded person notched up 17kph.
We were all provided with Karnten Cards which allowed us free access to most of the local attractions including the Grossglockner Pass and the Nockalmstrasse. Most of us went up the Grossglockner on the Tuesday for an impromptu photoshoot at the bikers point. The Nockalmstrasse was built for no other purpose than for the enjoyment of driving or riding. Visibility along the road and especially at the hairpins encouraged safe but brisk riding. Other activities free with the card included the Porche Museum in Gmund, A steamer trip on Millstatsee and a ride up the funicular Reisseck railway. Another very good local trip was up the valley to the Maltahochalmstrasse and the dam. This toll road winds up the valley using both hairpins and tunnels. The tunnels are unlit, much cooler than outside and usually have running water under wheel. In the middle of one of the tunnels there is a hairpin bend! Fortunately this section is covered by a single alternate traffic flow system controlled by traffic lights. The dam is spectacular and has a glass floored viewing platform part way along. Dramatic views are all one can say! Once a year a special bike blessing service is held, with hundreds of bikes lining the top of the dam.
Jon is a keen biker and has over 40 local routes available to download into most varieties of satnav. He also leads rideouts so we booked his services for a three country ride to/from Austria via Slovenia and Italy. We had a great ride but experienced a wide variety of road surfaces including a section of road where all the metalled surface had just been scraped off and one section where fresh tar had been sprayed but no stones added on top. Ok for GS riders – not so good for the fleet of K1600s though. There was a good variety of passes and tremendous views available. There was much relief from high temperatures when we reached an Italian lake and stopped for a paddle/swim. Generally the roads around Malta were traffic free and well surfaced. The Grossglockner and Nockalmestrasse were well maintained but with some road works in part. One must remember there is a short snow free season for the road menders so to prepare for high season they had to mend them when we were there!
On the Friday evening Ros had arranged a concert by the local band. There was a rain break for a while but the evening was a great success. The repertoire was mostly marching brass band music, but there were also versions of songs by Whitney Houston and Lady Ga Ga. The band was very talented and apparently loved Guinness! A slow riding race (for pedal not motor cycles) was run. This provided much amusement and demonstrated amazing talents for poise and balance from the Van Zyl trio.
Although everyone on the trip knew someone else, most people did not know each other. We had number of new members and guests, but everyone mixed very well and it made for a great holiday. Mostly the evening entertainment was informal nattering over a few beers. We also had a real mix of bikes apart from the usual range of BMWs including a Harley, two Ducatis, a Kawasaki and a Suzuki Bergman. It will be very difficult in future years to beat this trip for all round enjoyment. Various ideas for next year include northern Spain, Champagne region of France, Northern Germany and Outer Mongolia (All right I made up the last one!)
Geoff’s bedroom window view