Day 51 - A Pass Too Far

Friday 15th August 2014

So much for the forecast. We wake up to pouring rain. The mountains are shrouded in thick mist and cloud. We could be on Mablethorpe beach. Except you only get normal rain in Mablethorpe, not a lashing, drenching avalanche of water like in Edolo this morning.

I don't want to set off in this, but democracy rules today, so we saddle up and set off in the downpour. It's a day for mistakes.

The first one concerns my satnav. I bought the new wide screen jobbie from Tomtom just before this trip and I'm still coming to terms with it. Well that's my excuse.

The problem is that it has let water in and the screen is clouded. To prevent more ingress I have put a plastic bag over the screen so all in all I can't see it very well.

Nameless village
In the pouring rain and eager to set off I load up today's itinerary but hit the 'winding roads' route option rather than 'avoid motorways'.  I figure this out later, much later, and not soon enough to prevent our lumbering up some of the narrowest, twistiest byroads on the planet, way up above the major road I had intended.

After an hour of this we wind back down to the main road, bedraggled and misted up. My arms are aching from the effort of hauling the big bike around the curves in such appalling conditions.
It's all too much for Clivio, sports bike wuss that he is. There is sunny weather in the distance and he heads off in that direction declaring he will take the fastest route and meet us later at our chosen destination.

Mick and I plod on. We plan to see Lake Como and take a ferry across.

We soon run into sunshine and begin to dry out. We stop for coffee in a tiny village on the River Adda. And here I make my second mistake of the day, and potentially the costliest. Struggling to shed my waterproof outer suit and packing it up I completely forget to pick up my iPad from the cafe table.
Nameless cafe

We ride on in glorious warm sunshine down the Adda valley, a plume of steam rising from bikes and us whenever we roll to a halt.

A fast dual carriageway brings us to the lake through a gorge and an impressive series of nine tunnels. Our road winds down half a dozen hairpins into the town of Dervio on the shore of Lake Como and then along the shore to the small car ferry at Varenna.

On the shore I stop to grab a photo of the beautiful lake and realise my iPad is not where it should be. There's a limited number of places to search so I soon realise it isn't with me. Then it's a memory job to figure out where I last used it - the cafe back up the Adda valley.

It's not easy backtracking a 'winding route' chosen randomly by the satnav. There's no point in reversing the instruction because the device will probably choose an entirely different set of winding roads.
On the shore of Lake Como

Between us we manage it, checking for landmarks glimpsed from the other direction in completely unfamiliar territory. Mick remembers this bridge, I remember that sign, until an hour later we are back in the unknown village with the nameless cafe and smiling owner who has secured my iPad in the till drawer.

Another hour and we are back at the Como ferry. I am hugely relieved. Mick has been counting tunnels and later proudly declares we have ridden through 27 tunnels this morning, each one 3 times!
On the Lake como ferry

The ferry crossing is typically relaxed, Italian-style. The last vehicle is barely aboard before the boat is underway, a simple rope across the loading ramp to remind you not to drive off the stern.
A couple of years ago Mick, Charly and I took a similar ferry across Lake Garda. This is exactly the same. The views of the lake and surrounding mountains are stunning, the boat powers across, dipping and rolling in the small swell. We sit on the bikes and wonder at it all. It's a great world.

We dock in Mennagio and are soon on the road to Lake Lugano and the border into Switzerland. We are running late now and the sun is going down rapidly. Unlike previous incursions into Switzerland the border here is unmanned.

Last year I met a group of Danish MZ riders in France who were refused entry into Switzerland because their 2-stroke machines were considered too smelly and polluting for Swiss sensibilities. They should have crossed over here.
Selfie on the ferry

We ride on through the pretty Swiss countryside at a fair clip, though ever mindful of the blanket 80kph speed limit and the draconian Swiss traffic cops.

When we finally arrive at the long run up towards the Nufenen Pass the sun is down behind the mountain and the clouds are gathering. It's too late for such a high pass but we want to arrive in Ulrichen on the other side to meet up with Clive.
Snow on Nufenen

So we go for it. The rain begins at around the 1000 metre mark and by the time we get to 2000m it is snowing hard. It's not quite a white-out but is pretty bad. Mick has steamed up and has to ride with visor up, the flakes smashing into his face.

Next morning Clive rode up to the summit and took a couple of photos. Very pretty with the sun up, but this night in the gathering gloom it is truly awful.

We ride down into Ulrichen and find Clive. He has been there for a couple of hours and has checked into an hotel, but his hotel is full. We try across the road. The've definitely saw us coming. They have one room left, a superior room and it will cost 92 Swiss francs.

"We'll take it" says Mick, who has hit the wall and is definitely not his usual fiscally cautious self.I enquire a little further. It's 92SF each but that includes breakfast also says the smiling shark behind the desk.

We'll take it", repeats Mick. Definitely not himself.

So we repair to our 'superior' room to dry off and warm up. I do hope Mick recovers from his flagrant disregard for the important things in life.  As for Clive, he definitely needs a liberal application of MTFU cream. 


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