Riding on from Imst, the names on the signposts look like a winter holidays brochure: Zillertal, Mayrhofen. Suddenly the route changes from seemingly endless villages, each with its own speed camera, to a more challenging route up from the valley floor.
Massive civil engineering brings the route up in altitude to twisted pine trees and views of snowy mountains and glaciers. At last - on this trip - the pretty Austria that I came to ride. A halt at a view of the Durlassboden reservoir and a short chat with two guys on a road trip out from the Netherlands.
There are tolls to pay on these high mountain roads but after the white mountain views at the Gerlos Pass (1500 m.) and plateau, the Gerlos Alpenstraße road reveals the white of the spectacular Krimml waterfalls. Glacier melt water tumbles in abundance down nearly 400 m. in a a series of leaps, spray jetting off and accentuated by the sunlight: like so many waterfalls and to the continuing frustration of photographers everywhere, the Krimml Falls face north, away from the sun. I met with the rider of diesel motorbike, a Royal Enfield Bullet. A real engineering curiosity!
On down the valley of the river Sazach to Zell am See. And suddenly the car plates go from being Austria and Germany to being Hungary, Slovenia and a few more Polish than elsewhere.
A turning, the car traffic thins and now the motorbikes are 50% of the traffic and riding hard with it. At last, after many years of anticipation, not to mention a lost summer in hospital in a wheelchair, I'm on the approach to the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße. Only the one photo stop, at Fuscher Törl (2431 m.), I just ride the road, enjoying this route that is the high alpine route above all others. And I wasn’t disappointed with long sweeping stretches, stacks of hairpins and an overall gradient that is challengingly steep. Arriving at the pretty village of Heligenblut (1288 m.) and I found the friendly hotel I had booked. The sunset was magnificent, that’s not the Hillary Step up there but the tetrahedral Großglockner peak (3798 m.) still looks spectacular in the fiery sunset.
Breakfast high up on the Hahntennjoch, the hills alive to the sound of 210 gay bikers enjoying breakfast in leathers at altitude. The hotel really put themselves out to make this, to me, the most memorable and distinctive event in this GLME Summercamp so far.
Then on to ride up the Ötztal valley to ride the Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstrasse. 4°C at the 2500 m. Not much wildlife, it's a big rocky velley with no sign of marmottes. I met a couple of guys riding mopeds who are really in to the gear, mohawks on their crash helmets etc, and we made some photos of each other. On to share a good coffee down on the Italian side. Unfortunately I lost my prescription ear-plugs so it’s back to one day ear-plugs until I can get replacement back in London. Despite that, it really doesn’t get much better than this. The best of times is now... so make this moment last...
Over to Germany via the Fernpass (1216 m.), which was a traffic jam. Neuschwanstein was of course a tourist trap but worth a quick revisit. A break for Kaffe und Küchen in the Lechtal, the valley of the river Lech; the guy running it told me I should get a Harley... Then back to Imst in Austria via the Hahntennjoch pass road, which comes down just behind the hotel where we are staying. There’s a 60 km/hr speed limit for much of the south side, which was being enforced. Some more sunshine would have been welcome (it was just 9°C at the Hahntennjoch summit, 1894 m.) but an interesting independent ride despite this morning’s wet start.
Brighton is London's Party Town so when the time come for Pride, Brighton council backs the event and calls it Brighton Community Pride. More than a quarter of a million people take part overall: in the parade, the music festival in the park or in the dance events on the beach and in Kemp Town. Community Pride means inclusive, everyone joins in, many of the events are family-friendly. Lots of bonhomie and slurred speaking plus a few hangovers on the train back on Sunday
Thirty-eight photographers exhibiting in Hackney Wick, some their first public exhibition, some well-known names showing their private work, some their commercial work. Many intriguing, thoughtful images from voices that aren’t seen/heard widely enough. If the art world is to discover another Mapplethorpe to celebrate then maybe it will be one of these photographers or another from the 4000-strong Gay Photographers Network.
First the téléphérique ride up to the glacial wastelands at 3211 m. The ride is pretty special, carried across the forested glacial valley with the river Romanche 500 m. below the cabine. There’s a change at 2416 m. to another lift which carries higher still, now over rocky wasteland wrecked by the glacier and too high for trees. The end of the second ride is the start of the hike. You need crampons, ropes and poles to continue very much higher - and skills which I don’t have - but it’s possible to get a bit further on cleared paths.
The views from 3300 m. are panoramic to the north. A multitude of peaks, sadly too many are dry, no snow. Clouds fluffing in some of the valleys, Mt Blanc and the Belladonne far away, also Mt Thabor (which I hiked to the top of in 2014) and the spiky Aiguilles d'Arves much closer.
Hólmavík, gateway to the Westfjords, the first place on this trip that I might actually want to come back to. It’s calm and overlooking its own fjord, Steingrímsfjarður. Snow on the mountains far away on another peninsular. Still enough of the comforts and utilities of modern life but with mostly gravel roads in town and muddy 4x4 vehicles driving on them. No traffic lights: you can watch a car approach around the bay then follow it visually and aurally all the way to its destination in the town.
It’s a serious drive to get here, several 350 m. passes - think car commercials country - and the scenery is magnificent but the bleak beauty of the Westfjords proper only starts from Hólmavík onwards. There’s the long valley of Steingrímsfjarðarheiði leading to a 400 m. pass, just a turf-roofed bothy and a couple of aerial masts at the summit. The river down the far side falls over a sequence of rock steps, gaining flow each time, each waterfall more impressive than the last.
St. Bega’s church resounding once again to Baroque music; David Gibbs bringing the delights of Buxtehude, Telemann and JS Bach’s music to this ancient lakeside venue dating from around 950 AD. An appreciative audience, filling the pews and outnumbering the sheep in the field outside where the cars parked, heard a rich programme of excitingly chromatic pieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the programme arranged in a symmetric format from Buxtehude to Bach and back again. Magdalena Loth-Hill (violin) and David Gibbs (harpsichord) finished the first part of the programme with an excellent performance of J.S. Bach’s Sonata BWV 1014, their ensemble and interplay fluidly throwing the counterpoint challenges between the players as the piece developed.
Saint-Julien clarets are reckoned to be amongst the finest available because of the well-drained soil and their many generations of experience since the growers were listed back in 1855. My Father first bought bottles of Château Léoville-Barton in honour of our neighbours in Cambridge, the Bartons. This bottle of 1989 vintage was one of the last bottles of Léoville-Barton he laid down for drinking much later. The same year, 1989, he also inscribed and presented to me a copy of Féret’s classic guide Bordeaux and its wines.