8. Austrian Indian Tour 2019
Slovenia - Julian Alps, 18.-23. June 2019
At the moment we arrived at Castle Lerchenhof, we knew that we had found the perfect Hotel for the 8.Austrian Indian Tour. After entering the property through a gate flanked by old chestnut trees, the first thing we saw, was the beautiful facade of the main building built around 1850. A spacious parking lot and a large carport would offer enough space for all the motorcycles, while a second large lot behind the castle would allow us to park all the trailers. From the very first minute after meeting Family Steinwender, the owners of the castle, we received the exceptional service of this family operated Hotel. After having dinner we went to bed early, excited about the next day, when all the riders would arrive at the castle.
After a rich breakfast and preparing last details for the next days to come, we were ready for the tour. From early afternoon on, all the riders arrived at the castle. Many of them being old friends for years, we were also happy to meet new riders joining the group for the first time. The afternoon went through quickly, as we enjoyed being back together. After several cold drinks at the garden of the hotel, we had dinner and I used the moment to welcome everyone to the tour and gave a short briefing about the route for the next four days.
After breakfast next morning, the motorcycles on the parking lot came to live. The route of the first day was intentionally planned easy and with perfect weather we started our ride. The first kilometres of the route led us on a major route and the group gained speed. After entering a smaller road up the hills of Carinthia we had to slow down, to adapt to the ruff road conditions. The tarmac was in really bad shape. Easy to tell apart layer over layer of pavement, we were able to see the repair work of at least 30 years. A road condition we would see over and over for the next days. After about one hour in the saddle, we reached our first stop, the eastern shore of Lake Weissensee. Narrow, but extremely long in shape, this lake is famous for being the perfect site for long distance ice skating in winter. We enjoyed the break with a wonderful view over the lake and Bernd, one of the new riders of the group, used the time for a swim in the crystal clear water.
We went on and quickly found into the rhythm of curves on the way ahead, passing woods and meadows. After returning to the valley, we had another small climb up the hills and entered an area with cornfields and old farm houses. A little later and perfectly timed, we arrived for our lunch break at Hotel Seerose, at Lake Ossiach. After a nice meal at the terrace of the hotel we went on. With two thirds of the route behind us, we followed the road along the lake and further on passing the city of Villach. Nearly all the motorcycles did well and after 185 kilometres the group ended the day arriving back at Hotel Lerchenhof.
After the start next morning, we approached the Nassfeld pass, the first major mountain road so far. It was early and it was pure pleasure to ride the sharp turns up the road, the fresh, could air in our faces. After a little repair on my Scout, we descended down to the valley entering Italy and stopped at a gas station. For a short while it was not clear, if the next portion of the route was open for traffic. We learned that heavy rain had damaged parts of the road. With the help of the owner of the gas station we found out, that the road was open for light traffic. As we entered the valley leading up to the Lanzen Pass, the road went narrower with each kilometre, its condition worsened. The road went steeper and steeper and we finally approached the part of the road, where the damage had taken its toll. A short stretch of the road was divided by 8 hairpin curves, the straights between them only about 80 meters long. Larger parts of the tarmac had broken off the road and had slipped down the hillside, leaving long cracks in the pavement, rocks and stones covered the way. In first gear for the whole portion of this section, I managed to pull throu the curves and avoided to stop my motorcycle on the steep road. A few hundred meters further, the difficult part was behind me and as I approached some motorcycles coming from the other direction, I knew that the road was open. Minutes later I stopped my Scout at the highest point of the Lanzen Pass and shortly after the first motorcycles of our group arrived at the parking lot. At the end everyone made it through this hard section of the route. It was time for a break.
After returning to the valley, we picked up speed on a major road passing Ampezzo, where we stopped at a gas station. A short while after, we rode the first turns of Passo Pura, heading up to lake Sauris. Passing an endless number of curves, some narrow tunnels and beautiful meadows, we arrived at Hotel Albergo Morgenleit for our lunch break. After the demanding roads we had ridden so far, we were glad to find some rest and enjoyed the wonderful view over the village and down to Lake Sauris. Prosciutto, italian sausage, cheese and bread were delicious. Heavy clouds on the horizon made me change our route for that day. With Mt. Zoncolan we would have crossed the steepest road of the Alps open for traffic this afternoon. A real test for riders and motorcycles at dry conditions, but truly dangerous with rain. After lunch we went on, leaving the Sauris valley on an old winding road, passing numerous tunnels of the spectacular Lumiei canyon.
We continued on nice roads down at the valley and approached the Ploecken Pass, our last climb of the day. With a combination of 11 hairpin curves, some of them making their turn in tunnels, this road is something truly special. We managed to get up to the pass on dry road, but after that the rain set in. At the entrance of the pass on the other side of the mountain, I stopped at a gas station, not only to fill up, but also because it was raining heavily. One after the other, all the riders except two, arrived. As they approached us, we learned that they had slipped on the wet road, bringing their motorcycles to a fall. We where very relieved to hear, that except of some minor damage on one of the Indians, nothing serious happened and that no one was hurt.
After finishing the route, completing the 244 kilometres of that day, we were all happy to be back at the hotel.
The tour for the third day was planned with the highest distance of all four ride outs. Covering nearly 300 kilometres, we would circle around the Triglav National Park in Slovenia, not having a chance to take a shortcut somewhere along the route. In the morning we had to make about 45 kilometres on straight open road to cross through Italy. At high revs and with the cold morning air in our faces, we started into the new day. After the border and some distance through the valley, we rode up to the Predil Pass and crossed the border to Slovenia. The pass is relatively easy and we enjoyed the curves. While descending down, members of the group recognized that something had to be wrong with the rear wheel of the black Chief with sidecar. The wheel was out of centre and showed some wobble. A few hundred meters later we were lucky to find the perfect spot to stop the group and check the wheel. The damage was very obvious. A number of spokes had gotten loose and others were already broken. A quick repair, even with new spokes, impossible. As we had just covered a quarter of that days mileage, we didn‘t want to block the service trailer for other motorcycles. The sidecar was separated from the Chief and went into the second car that escorted us for the day. The Chief was put on the trailer and after about an hour, we were ready to go on.
From there on, everything went perfectly fine. The road was easy, the landscape wonderful. Curve after curve we enjoyed every kilometre, speed went up and the road seemed to have no end. Every time I checked if the group was behind me, I just saw happy faces. As we passed through one of the many villages on our way, we stopped at a Cafe for some ice-cream and a short break. As I checked our position on the map, it was quite a nice surprise for me, that we had already passed 2/3 of the distance. Just 30 minutes later we arrived a Lake Jezero, the point were we had our lunch break planned. The lake was wonderful. Fresh, crystal clear water, surrounded by lush, green trees and a beautiful landscape. We couldn‘t resist and and some jumped into the water for a swim.
The rest of the route was easy, but partly we were in dense traffic while going back, direction Austria. Short before entering the Wurzen Pass, dark clouds were right in front of us. Not only that it started to rain, we crossed through a wall of water. Minutes later the storm was behind us and we had an easy climb up to the Austrian border at the Wurzen Pass. From there on, it was just the same way back to Castle Lerchenhof, which we already had passed in the morning.
Over night the weather had changed completely. Grey clouds in the morning and an even worse forecast for the afternoon, let us change our plans for the second time. We had planned another circle in Slovenia, but in this region heavy rain was expected. As we would ride demanding mountain roads all day, we decided to let our plans go. About two hours later than on all previous days, we started our rideout into the direction of the Nockalm Road. We just wanted to spend the day on our motorcycles and that road is always a nice destination. As we were on the road, we were quickly in light rain, that became stronger and stronger. We managed to reach short to the entrance of the Nockalm Road, as we found ourselves in a severe thunderstorm. Luckily we found a gas station and after a while of waiting, we decided to go right back to the hotel on the quickest way. After arriving at the hotel, some of us joined in the Sauna.
For the rest of the day, we had time to enjoy the perfect service of the Hotel Lerchenhof. The owner of the castle led a group through the traditional ham production of the house, the children were taken on a ghost tour through the cellar of the castle. The last dinner that evening, was delicious as those the days before. After honoring the riders who were with us for the third or sixth time, the evening went on for some time more.
We are looking forward to the 9th Austrian Indian Tour in 2021, when we meet again to ride the most beautiful roads in Upper Austria.