Home' Otago Southland Farmer : November 30th 2012 Contents 28
ALP TOURING AROUND
"Coming on a 16 day bike trip to Europe, Jonsey? No! Too busy, broke, no money.
Then an email arrives from Dave and Karen Varcoe containing photos of the roads
to be travelled. Better have a look at Bekers Motorcycle Tours website. More photos
of sexy roads and beautiful scenery, taking in Southern Germany, Austria, Northern
Italy and Switzerland. Then an invite from Graham and Donna Beker for Valerie and
I to meet with about 20 of the team that are going on the trip arrives. We're getting
pretty keen by now, but Valerie realise's that the trip clashs with her planned trip
to the Netball Champs in Singapore. That's unfortunate, me thinks. Then Rangi and
Lyn Winiata inform me that they have booked a return air ticket for me and I've got
the weekend to make my mind up. Looks like I'm going.
June arrives and 11 of us depart from Christchurch Airport bound for Munich via
Singapore. We arrive in Munich at 6 am and are met by Beker crew members,
Hamish and Tracey Bryce, who transport us to our hotel. With five days till our
departure, sightseeing is on the agenda. A short stroll to the underground and
we're on our way to the city centre. Shopping and the beer gardens follow. A visit
to the largest BMW motorcycle showroom in the Northern Hemisphere gets several
visits. Lots of goodies here. The main BMW car showroom, offices and BMW
Museum are next on the list. Must have cost them/us millions to build. One local
told us that BMW stands for 'Bring My Wallet'.
On Thursday, after a restless nights sleep worrying about driving on the wrong side
of the road, Rangi and I hired a BMW rental car and drive down to Marktoberdorf
on a scheduled visit to the Fendt tractor assembly plant. Lots of goodies here also.
All of the 31 participants have arrived by now and after Donna and Graham have
officially welcomed everyone, socialising begins. Five people were from the USA
and the rest from various parts of NZ. All great people and a pleasure to be in their
On Friday we all visited three motorbike clothing/accessory shops within metres
of each other as quite a few members had not brought any gear with them.
Quite entertaining watching everyone trying different gear on. I'm glad I took
mine. Motorbikes were picked up on Saturday morning, and after lunch, a short
familiarisation trip to Andechs and return followed. A wee bit nerve wracking, but
we all survived.
Graham, Donna, Hamish and Tracey had compiled an excellent Tour Book for us,
which detailed our daily routes, sightseeing info and hotel destinations. There was a
choice of two routes each day, one harder and one easier. Autobahns were out and
Alp passes in. The majority of people bought GPS's or had them fitted at the bike
hire shop. The Winiata's were a notable exception. I had bought an iPhone4 and
downloaded the Tom Tom Europe map onto it and along with the bluetooth enabled
System6 helmet, it worked brilliantly.
There were 20 bikes in total shared amongst 33 riders. The majority were 1200 GS's,
followed by R1200RT's and various other BMW's. Mine was a 1200RT with about
4000 km on the clock. It was a newer model than my NZ one, so I felt at home
straight away. With all our luggage loaded into Tracey and Hamish's backup van we
set off for Salzburg (380 km) in light Sunday morning traffic via Bad Tolz, Maurach,
Kitzbuhel and a whole lot of other long names. Donna and Graham each took a
group of riders, while the rest of us formed our own groups. There were five bikes in
our group, Steve and Pam Rogers, Dave and Karen Varcoe both Arrowtown couples,
Russell and Andree Cunningham from Invercargill, Terry and Karen Wilkins from
Balfour and myself from Hedgehope.
Impressions of the first day were, that there are lots of towns very close together.
There's not much room for five bikes to stop on the roadside as the paddocks come
right up to the edge and I'm glad my GPS is telling me where to go. The Winiata
GPS system, which consisted of a notebook with key destinations marked down, led
them astray, as they did an extra 130 km for the day, or perhaps, they were enjoying
riding their K1300R. Rangi informed me, it was the latter. Roads, stunning scenery
and countless passes made for a great first day on the road. Our hotel in Salzburg
was right in the centre with a rooftop bar overlooking the city. Everyone was in great
spirits, having mastered the first day's riding. My son told me I would get used to
riding on the opposite side after a day, and he was right. Each evening before our
meal, Donna and Graham would brief us on what lay ahead for the next day. Monday
was a free day in Salzburg and the majority chose to visit Hitler's Eagles Nest, while
the others went for a ride.
Tuesday's ride was to Villach (310 km) via the Grossglockner Pass (Grossglockner is
Austria's highest mountain at 3798m). After about a 140km we arrived at Ferleiten
and paid our 19 Euro to use the private toll road. It's worth every cent. It took about
20 minutes to get through the tolls as there were heaps of bikes out for a play over
the pass. After a blast to the top, we had lunch and shed some layers as it was 29
degrees and the snow was still on the ground. We then took a short side road to the
highest vantage point (Bikers Point 2571m) with a panoramic view of more than 30
3000m high plus peaks. More sexy roads and tunnels as we descended from the pass
and rode towards our Villach hotel. Shower and beer time. The next day we rode into
Slovenia and had a picnic lunch at the top of the Vrsic Pass 1611m. After arriving
back at the hotel, we were taken by taxis to a restaurant overlooking Villach, where
we were entertained, wined and dined.
Thursday's ride took us from Austria into Italy to an alpine ski resort called Arabba
(280km). We left Villach and took the motorway to the Italian border and attempted
to pay our tolls. After Pontebba, we headed North to Lienz and then Huben. When
we arrived at Passo Stalle, we had to wait, as the traffic is one way for 1/2 hour, then
switches back. A siren goes off and the lights flash when its your turn to go. It's very
similar to a LeMans starting grid. It rained this afternoon. We eventually arrived at
the Hotel Evaldo after checking out a few side roads. This hotel had everything a
biker needs, from secure under cover garaging, bike wash, washing machines, drying
rooms, pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam baths, gym, beauty treatments and massage. Beer
too. Of the 33 riders, 29 were wet and the four dry ones were wearing BMW gear.
The next day was a free day. One group went off and completed 21 passes for the
day. Pretty impressive. Others caught up with the washing and shopping. We went
for a short ride and then took the cable car to the 2950m high Sass Pordoi. What
a view from the top. This part of the Dolomite's was formed 300 million years ago.
Now, that's old. Saturday's ride to Trento was only going to be about 140 km because
we were having lunch at the Rifugio Crucolo, which could easily take 2-3 hrs. The
body clock ensured we were waking up early, so I rode down to Predazzo and back,
in time for breakfast. Our group set off on a different route to the others as we
wanted to make up for the lack of riding on the previous day. We met Graham at the
top of the Passo Manghen and we followed him to the restaurant, which was well off
the beaten path. I have since tried finding the restaurant on Google Earth, but have
been unable to pinpoint it. In their cellars they have the worlds longest salami at
45m long and a 465 kg block of cheese. The lunch was excellent. The Passo Manghen
is one lane width, with two way traffic. This would be the tightest most narrow I
have ever ridden on. I don't know how Hamish and Tracey got the van through, but
they did. Temperature in early 30's. Onward towards Trento and a very posh hotel. We
all need refreshment. Sunday was a free day, and there's plenty to do in Trento. Take
in the history, or ride to the top of Monte Bondone, then on to Pieve to the Hotel
Paradiso, which is perched on top of a cliff overlooking Lago di Garda. I decided to
shoot down to Milan and visit Valerie's mother's pen friend. They have been writing
to each other for the last 75 years and have never meet or talked on the telephone.
Another day in the mid 30's, so it was going to be the motorway there and back.
It was about a 500 km return journey, but I couldn't get out of Trento, because my
GPS kept taking me to a blocked off exit. Better ask someone for directions. Once on
the motorway, I was able to motor along at 130 kph. Good progress, but lots of tolls
along the way. Arrived in Milan to discover that Mercedes had left for Spain a few
days before. Her son and his family lived next door, so I had lunch and socialised with
them, before returning to Trento. I did speak to her on the phone, so all was not lost.
Today we leave Trento for St Moritz in Switzerland (330 km) via Passo d Stelvio. We
eventually reach Passo de Garvia (2652m) and have a regroup. Parts of the road are
very similar to the Passo Manghen. No Armco barriers or wire ropes here to slow
your progress, should you fail to concentrate. Passo Dello Selvio (2760m) is next on
the list for something to eat and regroup. What a ripper road. The road down the
other side is just as exciting. I hadn't programmed my GPS properly and missed out
on visiting Glurns. Next time. At this stage I've lost my group somewhere, so I cruise
towards the Swiss border and Passdal Fuorn (2149m), then onto St Moritz. Spot my
first bit of modern equipment, a Fendt tractor and hay baler, so I stopped for a chat.
It was unbelievable the amount of manual labour used for harvesting their winter
Tuesday's ride is to Andermatt, and I decide to leave St Moritz at 5am so that I'll be
able to complete the easy and hard route in a figure eight pattern. I lost count of the
number of passes that I travelled over. Heaps. The superior engineering of the Swiss
roads was very obvious once we'd left Italy, but I still missed the Italian roads as they
were more exciting, along with that element of danger.
Stopped in Airolo for lunch and to buy some hair clippers as I was starting to look
a bit scruffy. (We had a hairdresser in the team) From Airolo to Andermatt you have
a choice of autobahn's, cobblestone
roads, new roads and long tunnels, so
with the exception of the tunnel, I did the
lot. Andermatt is a bit like Arabba with
passes all around you. Pass overload. I
had enjoyed riding by myself, because
of the option of stopping to take photos
whenever you like. Wednesday's ride
is to the Interlaken area with our
accommodation high up the mountainside
at Beatenberg. I leave early once again to
do more passes and find the St Gottardo
Tunnel. I enter the tunnel at Wassen and
emerge 17 km latter just above Airolo.
It was 36 degrees inside the tunnel. The
Swiss are building a 57 km long tunnel at
present, which is one reason why taxes
are so high in Switzerland. The next pass
on the list is the Nufenenpass (2478m)
followed by the Grimselpass (2165m),
aptly named because of fog and light rain.
I bypass our Beatenberg hotel and head
for the BMW bike shop in Thun.
More goodies to look at. Had a mental
dream about buying one of their second
hand bikes and leaving it there for future
trips. Dreams are free, but the bike wasn t. Back to the hotel and reality. Caught up
with Steve and Pam Rogers story about an encounter with a cow on the Furkapass.
The cow was passing Steve's brand new stationary GS1200 with her guts swinging
from side to side. Perfect timing for the cow, who obviously had a hate for red bikes.
End result was two people off, hurt pride and 300 Euro damage to head area.
Thursday was a free day and 'new tyre day' for Denis and Marilyn Columb from
Queenstown and myself. This is the only set of tyres I have worn out from edge to
edge in all my years of motorbiking. The tyres still looked fine, but Graham said the
police are very strict on tyre safety. New tyre's must be specified by the manufacturer
and fitted by an approved bike shop. Graham loaded up his bike with four new
tyres and we headed back to the Thun BMW shop. I left Thun and headed for Luzern
combining local roads, autobahns and tunnels, before returning to our hotel.
On Friday we left Beatenberg and headed for Feldkirch in Austria via the main
passes of Sustenpass (2259m) and Klausenpass (1948m). I became separated from
my group and chased them over the Sustenpass. What a blast. I didn't catch them as
they're still behind me. Visit William Tell's statue in Altdorf and have lunch. I continue
on to Feldkirch and combine a bit of both routes.
Saturday's ride is to Imst. I sneak away early (the things you can do when your
wife's not there) as I want to do both routes on offer in a double figure eight. This
involved a bit of doubling back, but the roads are great, so it doesn't matter. There
are thousands of bikes on the road today, including the Polizei. I'm stopped on
two occasions at the bottom of passes and tyres checked. Just as well we put new
tyres on, isn't it Graham. If I received $1 for every GS1200 I saw, I think I could
safely retire. This was the longest day on the bike with 550 km under the belt. Very
satisfying. Beer time. This is the last day on the bikes as we depart from Imst and
head to Munich. Graham and Donna remind us all not to let our guard down on the
last day. Check. We peel off at Schwangau and visit Neuschwanstein Castle, which
is the most visited castle in Germany. This takes care of 3-4 hours. Castles are now
ticked off the list. It was a spirited ride back to Munich, especially when we hit the
Autobahn. The fast lane was cruising at 220kph. Exciting stuff, but all good things
come to an end. After the bikes were fueled up, they were returned to the hire shop
and checked for damage. There were a few minor scrapes on the odd bike, but
nothing serious. The owner of the hire shop was also the owner and chef of a Greek
restaurant nearby and we were treated to a marvellous final dinner. The food just
kept coming. I still don't know who paid for the night, but it was a cracker.
You may be thinking that some of the distances could have been completed before
morning smoko. Rangi and I thought the same thing when we first read the Tour
Book, but they were all full days. My average speed for the 4500 km travelled was
57kph. In NZ this would be in the 90's. The ones with pillions averaged around
50kph. There were no big bar sessions as you didn't want to miss anything or be
Monday was 'time to go home day'. Graham dropped the Winiata's, Bryce's and
myself off at the Munich airport where we discovered our flight to Singapore was
After some discussion we were diverted through Hong Kong to Singapore, arriving
about two hours later than planned. The real bonus was they paid us 600 Euro per
person for the inconvenience. What a b.... It must be taken as read, that all the roads
were great and the scenery stunning. Organisation, accommodation and meals were
excellent. Donna and Graham and their team of Hamish and Tracey organised for me,
a faultless and most enjoyable trip. Every day was a good day.
trips Dreams are free but the bike wasn't Back to
Passo Gavia 2621m, Northern Italy
"After you ride the best motorcycle roads in the
world, you'll understand why many motorcyclists come
back again and again." John Herman, King of the Alps.
Words by George
2013 EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
Great Kiwi Alps Tour 2013
Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland.
Arrive 27th June 2013 - Departs 13th July 2012
16 nights, 15 riding days.
French - Swiss Alps Tours 2013
Arrive 19th July 2013 - Depart 29th July 2013
10 nights, 9 days riding.
Bekers Mct 110 - 30
Harley Anniversary Tour 2013
Arrive 7th June 2013 - Depart 24th June 2013
Includes: Munich, Trento, Bologna, Siena, Rome, Bogna Di
Romagno, Venice, Villach, Salzburg, and back to Munich.
17 nights and 15 days riding on Harley Davidson Motorcycles.
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