The last jouney over the mountains

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of Austria  , Styria,
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December, I thought it would never come - but it has - and with it snow, snow and more snow. Last night we made it back to Sankt Marein one day before the much anticipated arrival of Jelly and Michi. We are staying with Kelly, Lena and their children and have just come in from playing in the deep fresh snow with the two boys. I imagined it was going to be a lot more stressful than it has been coming here. But the full-scale Cameron invasion has not happened yet so the worst may still be to come. I also imagined our trip back from Dösingen would be uneventful and straight forward - but no, Nina had other ideas as did the weather. 

 We had a few friendly days in Dösingen after we returned from London. We tried hitchhiking from the airport but it is such a small airport that when everyone from our flight had left and we still hadn’t gotten a lift we decide to call Danny for a lift as it was another four hours until another plane departed or arrived so no one was going to be around until then. One night we went to a Christmas market where we ate massive gingerbread hearts, sugared almonds, waffles and drank mulled wine. Again as I was the only one who didn’t get drunk that night I got another chance to drive Daniel’s lovely new BMW home again, this time in snow.

 On Monday morning we planned to leave and awoke to a thick layer of snow covering everything. We had to brush Nina off before we could begin loading her up. Some of the roads we took were cleared and salted but there were also many we took which were not and while I clung to the edge of the sidecar terrified, Felix had great fun slipping and sliding everywhere. We made it into Austria and through Innsbruck before we stopped for lunch. We had been planning to sleep in Innsbruck but as we had made it there with so many hours of daylight left we decided to keep going until dark and then sleep in the forest.

 It was becoming dark as we pulled off the road to camp for the night. It had been snowing on and off all day and I didn’t want to carry on riding along narrow, steep and winding mountain roads that were covered with snow and ice in the dark. We drove into the beginning of a walking trail and set up the tent in deep snow in complete view of the road. I was pretty uncomfortable about our position being so conspicuous but in the mountains there isn’t a whole lot of flat places to park a motorbike and pitch a tent and if someone questioned us we could alway try to talk our way out of trouble by saying it became too dangerous to carry on.

 It was only about five and didn’t seem too cold when we had finished setting up and were tucked into bed. And about ten minutes after that we were asleep. Sometime around midnight we both woke feeling very much awake and cold. Felix’s mat had completely deflated and he was sleeping with almost no insulation between him and the snow and our breath that had condensed on the inside walls of the tent was frozen. The walls were completely covered in ice and were very stiff. I went outside to go to the toilet and looked at the thermometer which read minus fourteen and we hadn’t even reached the coldest part of the night yet. It was a stunning night. The sky was perfectly clear and the snow - which was covering everything, even totally encrusting the trees and had blown onto the faces of signs - was so bright under the crescent moon. Felix came out too to have a look at the beautiful sight and we ran around a little trying to warm up before getting back into bed. 

 Because Felix’s air mattress was broken we both huddled onto mine, which is only three quarter length and narrower then a regular single bed. Snuggling together we were able to keep warm in our icy tent and somehow managed to both fit on the mat in a fashion that allowed us to both sleep in a far from comfortable but warm enough way.

 We woke again at the crack of dawn to the sound of a car stopped right outside our tent. We then heard the gate being opened, the car drive through, the gate close and the car drive off again so I guess it was just someone who had something to do with the forest and didn’t really care we were sleeping there. Not long after that a snow plough came through clearing the road and moments after that the traffic started so we promptly get up and packed up.

 I cooked up what was intended for dinner the night before but we hadn’t felt hungry for and it was so nice to have a hot breakfast in the freezing dawn.

 It took two hours to start Nina. The battery wasn’t working due to the seriously sub-zero temperatures and then after trying to start with no ignition for so long we had flooded the engine. Finally Felix waved down a van to ask for a jump start and funnily enough the man driving had a portable jump-starting unit for staring trucks, as well as a full tool kit, plenty of mechanical know-how and perfect english. Judging from the van he was driving it seemed he worked for an outdoor adventure company. Mountain biking, skiing, flying fox, giant swings, rock climbing - that sort of thing - just my kind of person. He waited patiently while Felix un-flooded the engine and then after about ten minutes of trying finally got Nina running.

 The rest of the day went perfectly until about one o’clock. The sun was out and the mountains were awesome, glittering and snow covered. It really was a perfect winter wonderland. So beautiful, another world completely. But our day that was working out so perfectly was suddenly shattered when we pulled into a bus stop to turn around after making a wrong turn. As we went to drive off again there was a loud grating sound and we went nowhere. Felix tried again after going in and out of gear but we got just the grating sound again and no forward motion. Felix tried a few more times and only got the same thing. 

 It only took Felix about thirty seconds to realise what the problem was. The motor transfers power to the final drive by teeth on the drive shaft and teeth in the engine locking together so that as the gearbox output spins, the drive shaft also spins and in turn the final drive is put into action to move the bike forward. The teeth on the drive shaft had worn down and were no longer locking together with the corresponding teeth to transfer power. As soon as felix told me what was wrong I burst into tears of frustration, despair and hopelessness. How the heck do you fix grated down teeth on a final drive on the side of the road? Felix assured me it was no big problem to fix, all we needed to find was  someone with a drill press and we could drill a hole through the drive shaft and the toothed coupling and bolt them together, as good as new or possibly better.

 This did seem easy enough but I couldn’t imagine us finding a drill press anytime soon. We tried to ask a few men going to work in the factory we were stuck next to but they were all very rude and dismissive. A lady at the bus stop was kind enough to explain that there was a mechanic about one kilometre down the road who might be able to help us. It was a start, but it was hard to feel any optimism so early in the piece. 

 After trudging through the deep snow by the side of the road, Felix carrying the entire final drive and drive shaft assembly with trembling cold fingers and awfully nervous that the exposed brake shoes would get greasy or dirty, it  turned out that the mechanic could not help but directed us another seven hundred metres further down the road to a private workshop where he assured us the man there could. 

 After a walk and a little more asking around we found this man and he indeed had a drill press (along with many other useful machines). in five minutes the hole was drilled and we were on our way with a handful of bolts and not a penny lighter. On the road we stuck out our thumbs and the first car past gave us a lift back to Nina. 

 To my total amazement everything went back together perfectly. It had only been at most maybe three hours from the time we stopped to the time we were back on the road again. It was surreal to see something turn around like that, I really couldn’t believe our luck. Maybe Nina is not working against us but doing her best and when she can’t hold up any longer, she is doing what she can to stop where she knows we will be able to find the right help. Felix was really proud of himself and rightly so, I was proud of him too for the way he got about fixing the bike and had it done just like that. 

 The rest of the way I was so nervous that at any moment, most likely when we were going up a steep mountain, the bolt transferring all the power to get us up the hill might sheer off and we would be stuck in the cold and dark trying to fit another with fingers too frozen to do such fine tasks. But we made it and I have never been happier to climb into a bed and fall asleep. 

 Today we slept in and then spent the afternoon playing in the snow with the children and then playing Leggo, Memory and every other game they have come up with. Most of the time I have no idea what they are asking or telling me but with Felix translating a little and lots and lots of guessing and gestures we are managing to get along very well. 

 Tomorrow is the day everyone here has been waiting for for a long time - the arrival of Jelly and Michi. And then the day after, Felix’s brother Virgil and his family arrive too. Everyone here has their anti up about who is going to stay where, and what everyone is doing. It is a total nightmare and I really wish I wan’t a part of it. Jelly and Michi have come to see their family they haven’t seen for years and there is this massive invasion of people I am extremely embarrassed about being a part of that have invited themselves here and are expecting to be put up by people who are already in a fluster about Jelly and Michi coming. It will be lovely to see Virgil and co and Jelly and Michi but I would have one hundred percent preferred to wait until I am back in Australia to see them so I wouldn’t have to be involved in this embarrassing shit fight. I think Jelly and Michi should have been left in peace to catch up with their friends and family. But that’s just my opinion, Felix thinks it’s all fine and dandy. So we have a few entertaining days coming up.
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kelly on

but we really hope that we see us one more time before you leave. was nice to have you at home these days.

Daza on

Hear where your comeing from Floss, but it's so wonderful to have a full house; noise, broken glass's, spilt beer; people sleeping on the couch, on the floor and all love it ;-)

Maria, Edwin, Lee on

Mum has just read out to us a slab of blogs - from when you last left Austria for Dosingen (sorry, no umlauts on this keyboard!) and then went to London, up to this one. We are trying a new tactic, given that we have less than a week to catch up on all the blogs before we see you in the flesh! Our new approach is to take a slab of blogs at a time, beginning from the most recent and heading back in clumps.

And golly it's nice to be hearing your words again, Floss! You are both such true blue real thing adventurers. Insights on and stories from London are charming, thoughtful, honest. And the last Nina adventure - what a perfect story ending! We laughed at the idea of it being easy to fix - with the minor detail of needing a drill press of all obscure things! - AND then to find out that lo and behold you happened upon just the right person who could help you! Just lovely. The thing of storybooks - which is what your blog has really become.

Well, now to read another slab. We are really excited and looking forward to seeing you next week, this is the perfect thing to do to pass the time until then!

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