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June 2013

Part 6: Switzerland

Slovenian days are over, moving North is almost over too. Time to head West as I am expected at a house in the South West end of Switzerland and since I avoid toll roads on my trips it would be a long riding day crossing 3 countries. On a cloudy but dry day I set a route on Google maps avoiding toll roads and I hit the road. Funny thing is that this led me to the Italian border via 401, an amazing narrow route that I had already done in a previous trip of mine so I face some Deja Vu for a little while. Fantastic one but watch out for gravel bits on corners. Can be slippery AF. Later I follow the Tagliamento river and then head North following its colleague "Torrente Degano". Lovely km by the water and after passing through a bunch of scenic national parks I make a stop to appease my hunger just a few km before the Swiss border on SS40.

Almost everything tastes good when you're hungry as me

My bike watches the snowy peaks of Stelvio during my lunch

Weather is fortunately dry all the way with only a few minor exceptions but the distance I have to cover and the threatening clouds doesn't allow much space for stops and pictures hence my harvest was rather poor on that part.

After 400km and 3 countries I finally make it to Mustair where I am hosted by one of the loveliest families I have ever met. Rahel, a gorgeous award winning florist was generously willing to host me there but as she would be away on that day she told her parents to to do so for me till she'd arrive in the evening. Meeting her parents answered why this girl is so awesome by all means. It already feels like these people would keep their warm everlasting smile even in the worst of conditions but definitely their awesome house helps them on that as well:

Rahel's bedroom view which was my bedroom view during my stay

Rahel's dad Felix, is a great gardener by hobby and more than happy to grow his vegetables in his lovely garden with view to the snowy alpine peaks:

He is also artistically gifted - look what he's done with motorcycle parts:

Perfect ecosystem to host some insect love:

Rahel arrives later and the evening finds me and the rest of the family (she has two brothers) chatting about what to do next day. "Would you like to join us for a hike up to a lake @ 2000m altitude?"...I could say yes to (almost) anything proposed by a girl like Rahel but this one would be a YES from me even coming out of the lips of Mari Le Pen. I just said "Awesome but...I've no hiking boots and...it's gonna be snowy right?". "No worries, you'll be fine" says Rahel as she walks off the table to answer her phone. Her dad (did I mention enough what an awesome guy he is?) turns to his sons and asks them if they can give me a pair of hiking boots. They respond in their own language and from the few words I am able to catch I quickly understand why they use no English. "I'm not giving my boots to a Greek" is better spoken in their local dialect instead and so they did. Felix handles it with perfect diplomacy so it all went smoothly as I am not offended either. I mean, obviously it's a pathetic narrow mindset but a pair of brothers at the peak of their hormones with a stunning sister like her can sometimes react in a not super civilised way. (A couple of months later when I hosted her parents at my place Felix explained to me how different Rahel is compared to their brothers. She's always up for an adventure and travelling to other countries while they are quite the opposite. You get the picture...)

Next morning we all wake up around 5 am to begin what would be one of the highlights of my travelling career. The lake we are about to visit is the nature's masterpiece of Lai Da Rims. Parents stay home while me and their kids plus a friendly couple cramped in a Daihatsu Feroza drive a few km South till we leave the car in the woods to continue walking.

From the very start the place looks promising:

Soon we have climbed high enough so the car looks tiny already:

I am already struggling to climb up with the shoes I am wearing (picture later) but as long as the terrain is dry I'm OK...ish:

The slope is steep and the lack of proper boots makes it scary. If only I knew it would become much worse later:

Steep and snowy on my shoes is no fun. Not only I can't find enough grip but there are times that the ice under the snow breaks only to find myself about a meter in it. I come up with the idea of digging holes with my hand on the snow to use as handles but I soon find my palm bleeding as I am desperately grabbing anything to stay alive regardless how sharp it is. Fortunately I have my motorcycle gloves with me so they make the whole procedure easier and the image of a Swiss helicopter coming to rescue me something more of a stretch of imagination. Still not impossible though - one mistake and you're gone for good up there.

Despite all that I'm still so happy to be up there:

We're already above the clouds though still not all the way up yet:

When we finally make it up to the lake 2000m above sea level my jaw drops instantly on the snow:

It's still before 8am and the sun hasn't dried the air yet hence the blurry image but you get the picture...

Put your hands together for the flowers that manage to survive up there:

This the drain of the lake. The lake's water is made in its vast majority from the snow that melts around and it overflows through this passage down the mountain:

At this point I think I'd better let the pictures do the talking:

At this point I think it's finally time to see my shoes:

Could be more proper eh? Now that's past 8:30 am and the sun has cleared things up would you like some more pictures? I know you do:

At this point I decide to try the water of the lake. I put my feet in but can't stand it for more than a few seconds. My estimate says it's less than 5C. I lie on the ground to dry my feet under the super bright sun watching the magic:

Since my name is not Taylor Swift I'm sure you prefer to see more images of that magic instead of my feet:

This spot has lots of marmots. I could hear this little creatures but couldn't approach any - they're too scared. Here's one of their holes:

I'm sure you still want some more of this magic though:

It's time to fix the lack of balance between our full eyes and empty stomachs so...it's grill time folks:

That grill hosted our dessert too:

After all this fulfilment of senses we start making our way down. Rahel tells me that we'll pick the easy route this time for a change as on our way up we used the goat trail. Yes it is much easier indeed.

Next morning finds me and Felix (all kids are away for various commitments) on an unforgettable goodbye scene. He keeps waving his hands in the air till I lost sight of him from my rear view mirrors as I am driving away. Such a fantastic person...

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