I like to have my excuses ready well in advance of them being needed. To this end, I keep on telling you about how little we plan ahead. If you do not have a plan then the plan can not go wrong, Q.E.D! We are just well enough informed, not to climb over 2,000m passes, when there is a way around. What we had no idea about, is just how nice the way around turned out to be. If you have a ‘ cycling holiday bucket list ‘, fetch a pen and paper and take a few notes.
I have just tried to do a retrospective search of the way we came, using the power of the WWW. Unless you have at least conversational Slovenian, you will find little or nothing. Bit of a shame that, so I thought I would do a blog about Route D2 to try to encourage you and your velocipede out here.
I had been looking at the bike propped up against the caravan. The frying pan bolted to the top tube had caught my eye. This bike was not going to be owned by anyone with a structural engineering background, but what you could not guess was its use. The guy was a recently retired professional hunter. The pan was the back paw footplate for his hunting dog. Now also, recently retired.
The last few days had given us some notion of the urgency with which we need to head south. The morning was the best for a few days and the snow line had receded above the campground. The sun, even by 9.00 o’clock, had enough of a warmth to it to make cycling fun enough. The addition of that most rare of natures gifts, a tailwind and it was big smiles and off with the cold weather gear.
A series of bike paths keep you from under the wheels of fast moving container lorries and joy of joys, it is even downhill to the village of Spittal. Along rivers and rail track paths, we pick up the River Drau, and still the descent continues.
Villach a town unremarkable, but for having the second most expensive campground of our whole journey. If it had been me booking us in, I would have started an argument. You are made to pay for your bikes! This is on top of hefty charges for things that should be free. Then to cap it, there is no WWW. Esther is far nicer and possibly has more friends.
It is too late in the day to start to complain. We lost quite a bit of time in getting a new ‘ second hand ‘, rear mech fitted to Esther’s bike. 40,000 something K’s and the thing had become temperamental. Days in the mountains are character building enough without gear shifting being left to good fortune. The thing had to go.
We are intending to do a ‘ dog leg ‘ of a route. Kinking first right ad then left, into Italy briefly and then tacking back to Slovenia. All this fuss avoids going over a brutal pass and descending in what may very well be snow. Country 35 followed by 36 will all come in just one days cycle, which is far more than I could have managed to name before we set out on our journey. I am getting quite good at national flags as well.
The ride is easy enough despite leaving Villach twice. You can go a long way in the wrong direction by following the wrong river. Reassured, we head out again. We are picking up bike routes on our way to the Italian border. As we approach Italy, the road starts to climb. This coincides with the full heat of what turns out t be a hot early autumn day.
We are now by the side of the road and doing Alpine style climbing. There are pine forests by our side and enough heat for a strong scent to fill the air. This pine glow has been a theme of our travels, but this is the first time for months we have had it. Heat, pine and climbing have been with us on three continents now.
The town of Tarvisio, our first in Italy and it is warm enough for Italian men to be wearing tight fitting T shirts. Cyclists are of the drop handled variety and brightly clothed in lycra. Pink and Bianchi green along with flashes of dayglo. We have enough time to eat and get floored by another language. Pizza and strong coffee, anything else would be quite rude.
Esther dashes into a tourist information place. She is far too chatty for this job, but she is our team navigator. This time she strikes bike touring gold. ” There is a converted rail track that goes all the way into Slovenia “, it is good news and is the path that you need to make a note of.
The D2 is wonderful, we pick it up in Tarvisio, and straight away it is better surfaced than the Italian roads. We have climbed back up to 800m and now have an armchair ride through forest and Alpine meadow. To our right a ridge of saw toothed peaks give you more than enough to gawp at. This is stunning. A couple of bike tourists from the USA and then two more from Canada show that this must be on some local tour guide radar.
A couple of markers sign the end of Italy for the moment, and presumably the start of Slovenia. This is a country that has been on our ‘ to do ‘ list for a while. Every cyclist that we have met that has come here has given it amazing reviews. We have come quite a bit out of our way to pick it up, but already it is worth the detour. It is described as New Zealand, but on your doorstep. Presumably from the point of view of someone living in Europe that is.
The D2 passes through Kranjska Gora, which would be a perfect spot to base your holiday with your bike. We are there just long enough to have a coke. We are in a bit of a hurry. We have arranged to stay with one of these wonderful ‘ warm showers ‘ bicycle hosts. Google map has been more than a little bit optimistic with the distances between points A and B. Going along rivers and bike paths has not helped much either, and now we have the prospect of a very long day.
The D2 is still being upgraded and to make things easier, we push up to the road at the point where it turns to gravel. This is where it gets a bit desperate. It should be 100Km, but we are beyond that already It has been a great day, but the light is fading. Then we come to a highway, which we know we can not ride on. But by the side is the old road to Kranj. We start out on this but soon there is a sign pointing out that here too, bikes are banned.
There looks like no alternative that makes any sense. We decide to ride on. There comes a point when it is not clear if we can continue along this old road. We know that if we end up on the new road there is not enough grey area to argue our case. We try to pull a route out of the gps. It is all looking desperate.
We find a tourist information place. The nice lady draws a line on the free map that includes the signed band road, this will be a useful alibi. The problem is, her biro line is a very long one. We start out again, back up to the banned road ( we find out later this is a nonsense and the signs should have come down! ).
Picture postcard perfect mountains and a sunset of pure cold come and go. We are now riding beyond twilight and overshoot our hosts village. The legs and much of our sense of humour have now deserted us. We pull over to ask a couple of happy locals. Before we have introduced ourselves, we have a large cup of wine in our hands and a telephone call has been made to the police. Our warm showers host is on his way.
We get to spend two days in the company of Breda and Bozo, two of the worlds happy people – but then most bike people are.