Jerry’s 7-days Bicycling Trip in the Dolomites 2000 – Day Five

Pontebba — Pramollo — Kötschach — Lienz — Stallersattel — Brunico — Chienes (180 km)
The Pramollo passThe trip to Austria: I got the bicycle looking fine again and I was again feeling ready for yet another day of cycling. I had some fruits, coffee, etc. and then headed up to the Pramollo/Nassfeld pass. They asked me at the place I stayed for the night where I was going now (thinking I needed some directions) – ”are you going to Tarvisio or Tolmezzo today?”, whereupon I answered that I was going up to the Pramollo pass. ”Oh well, should we not have guessed that …”, I thought their silence was saying. As always in the mornings it was splendid weather. On the way up to the Pramollo pass I had to go through a tunnel that suddenly became totally dark and I lost a little control and fumbled after the wall of the tunnel and almost fell on my elbow again – I had apparently got some nervous reactions after having fallen twice the day before. The tunnel was also (as was often the case) very badly paved with large cobblestones. (Maybe it was well that I was going up and not down this road.) It was a medium climb again. The pass height is 1552 meters (Pontebba is at 568 m). I had a sunny photo taken at top by a busy person, who did not wait for me to finish making myself look nice ;-), as you see.

The road down to Tröpolach was very good and wide. Then I had an unusually long stretch of flat land to traverse. I stopped to buy some pastries and sodas Kötschach (700 meters) before I continued over the little pass called Gailberg Sattel at merely 982 meters. Now there were much more traffic (as I as was on the road coming from the Plöckenpass). It was still very nice to cycle down from Gailberg Sattel to Oberdrauburg, since I could drive in a consistently high speed (around 60+ kilometers) and flow with the traffic rather well.
The Lienzer DolomitenThe road from Oberdrauburg to Lienz was extremely boring and totally flat. However, after a while the Lienzer dolomiten opened up their wonderful view to me and thus I had something to look at. I actually could have gotten a still better photo of them if I had waited until I came closer to Lienz to take the photo. From Lienz one can see both these wonderful dolomites which are the only outside of Italy and the nice Schobergruppe (I am not sure if I saw Grossglockner (the highest mountain top in Austria), but it should be just behind those mountains).

In Lienz I had a wienerschnitzel for late lunch (14.30, I think) and exchanged back most part of the unused Austrian schillings that was originally intended to pay for a bed for the night in Lienz. But now I was trying to catch up as much as I could on my original scheme (that I still followed). Thus I soon was on the road again – and, of course, not the easy way straight down to Toblach/Dobbiaco in Italy – no I was taking the road in the direction of the Felbertauerntunnel (that takes people to Kitzbühel). At Huben I turned off the main road and went up to the Stallersattel/Pso di Stalle pass, which is not open at night. It was a long road up to this pass, only normally steep after reaching Mariahilf. Here I have to admit that I simply had to get off the bicycle just before entering the actual pass road as I had accumulated a real pain in the back and in my feet. 5 minutes rest made me feel okay again.
The Stallersattel passAt the top (or almost there) I met another lonely italian road bike bicyclist, who had apparently just arrived there from the italian side (the tougher way up the pass, I think). He took the picture of me here. I think you can see the edge of a glacier in the background on the highest mountains. The mountains here were near the Hohe Tauern range, with their many big glaciers. The Stallersattel pass is at 2052 meters. Now, I soon realized something I was not clear on when reading the sign upon entering the pass road – this road was only open 15 minutes each hour for going down on the italian side. We would have had to wait for something like 35 minutes before we could go down and it gets cold to stay up on the pass heights and my time was also precious. Fortunately, the italian man did not want to wait either and he offered to go down first as he told me it would be dangerous to go down there against the traffic going up the road. Was he right? The chances that I would have gone down there without any accident on my own would have been 50/50 at best. It is not without reason that italians put up red lights on roads like this. The italian man was extremely cautious and at first I thought that maybe he was exaggerating the danger somewhat. He was not! We was actually close to accidents a few times despite that we were extremely careful about everything and was going at very slow speed down. One time I remember meeting a car that I simply could not see before it was like 3-4 meters in front of me on an extremely curving and narrow road with the mountain wall on one side and a big precipice on the other side (I think there were also no barriers on the road either). The road was very well paved and thus not really dangerous to go up. The really tricky thing apart from meeting the cars and finding room for both and not scaring the car driver of the road either, was that I was used to get down serpentine roads with sharp curves now – but those roads had been wider and that is easy to forget when you are on a road like this. It is a totally different thing to drive through a curve on a road that is hardly 2 meters wide from one that is the double width. So, if you ever go down this road, you have been warned! (Also, the curves were not always correctly superelevated/banked.) Well down after the Lago d’Anterselva, the road was wide again and opened for traffic in both directions. The road was almost straight all the way down to Rasun-Anterselva and we could simply wheel down the road in 70 km/h.

Now I continued to Brunico/Bruneck and left the italian bicyclist. It was now obvious that it was soon going to be raining. I went down in a furious speed down to Brunico to try and avoid the rain before getting there and I almost did. However, it took me some time to decide upon a place to stay for dinner and then it had begun to rain a lot. I had a pizza (of course) in a restaurant called ’Die Goldene Löwen’, which was a good one. I also for the first time tried the very popular Forst (?) beer there (the dark beer was superb). Now it had almost become dark again outside and I was a little unhappy I had not managed to come closer the optimistic goal I had set at the morning – to get to Vipiteno/Sterzing that day. However, I already had my rain jacket ready and why just not go on until it gets too dark. So I did, but it goes dark very quickly down in Italy and it got very dark and even though I had my back light turned on trucks hooted at me. (I am used to drive in the dark at home without a front light, but if it is totally dark and one does not know the road it could be dangerous even on a big road.) Thus I decided to stop at the first best place and that happened to be at Chienes/Kiens. Then I had cycled something like 180 kilometers (according to the map, maybe a bit longer factually). (The Hotel Post I stayed by the road side (not the one I tried first with) was not particularly good and was a bit more expensive than it ought to have been. I guess I again was in a bad situation to try to haggle down the price.)

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