Grossglockner Pass, Austria

Trip Start Oct 30, 2007
Trip End Nov 20, 2009

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Flag of Austria  ,
Monday, October 6, 2008

(Note :  All entries from now until Perth in November are way shorter than they should be, as all out text got stolen, together with our laptop, all our valuables, and almost our whole campervan, when it was broken into and trashed in Rome at the end of October.  Have a look at that entry if you want to have a look at the damage the bastards did.  The next month or so´s text is written 6 months later, so we may have forgotten some bits!)

We picked up M&M from their hostel in Cesky Krumlov in the morning and set off into Austria, stopping off in Saltzburg for a couple of hours and decided as it was getting too late to make it through the pass, so  we decided to stop just short of the beginning of the pass to get the great views in the morning.  We drove around the lakes near Zell Am See where there were some places with cabins and campsites so M&M had somewhere to sleep, the van only being a 2 berth.  We couldn´t find anywhere that wasn´t either shut or $100 a night, so we asked the question if they fancied a foursome in the van????  Thats for sleeping only folks, before you get any twisted ideas about us, besides they didnt have any car keys to throw into the bowl, ha ha ha!!!!.  Wasn´t a lot of room with all the packs and only one bed but they were game.  We squished three of us in the bed and Mark drew the short straw and was in his sleeping bag on the floor under the bed, but what a laugh.  We cooked a curry and cracked a couple of bottles of red.  Definitely broke our record for maximum number of people in the van, sorry Tammy!!!

Next morning, we headed off to the pass.  The pass was built in the 1950s as not only a picturesque pass which tourists could pay to cross, but to use labour to boost the economy.  It is one of the most twisty, turny, most stunning roads in the world.  Blanketed in snow, it has regular water stops, originally for the older cars of the time to refill their radiators, as they would overheat with the steepness of the ascent.  Not our trusted van, she took all four of us, packs, and fully laden, all in her stride, even up the last part of the road which is more designed for bikes and standard cars, not vans or buses.  On the way up, we stopped in the snow to make an Aussie Snowman, complete with thongs, bush hat and Aussie flag. Karen being the queen of invention, made a mouth of tomato paste giving him the Dolmio grin, which when he melted a bit made him look a bit more like Count Dracula - we hadn´t had so much fun in ages

The view from the top, looking back at the thin outline of the switchback road against the blindingly white snow, was absolutely stunning.  We cooked up BLT sandwiches and coffee and had ourselves a little snow picnic, looking over our equally steep journey down, through tight turns and snowy tunnels.

Now, this is where things got a little more challenging.  While the road was kept clear of snow and ice, it was still a steep descent..........very steep.  OK for a 1 tonne family car, but a 3 tonne campervan plus all four of us and luggage..............mmm, very heavy.  While we could slow down using the gears to an extent, the brakes were taking a hammering, despite trying to nurse them.  3/4 of the way down we could smell that distinctive smell of burning brake pads.  We stopped at the side of the road to see smoke pouring from the front wheels, and the master cylinder leaking boiling fluid from the top............err, not good!  We let it cool down for 20 minutes, then started her up again.............complete brake failure.  Thank God for a good handbrake.  We left her for another half hour, and Brad coasted down in 1st gear, 15km/h, stream of cars behind us, just using the handbrake to slow us down.  Brad was totally confident in the van the whole trip, but was visibly bricking himself a bit for the next 30km until we hit level ground.  We dropped M&M at the train station and hobbled to the nearest car park for the night, in the hope our beloved may be a bit healthier in the morning, and if not, at least there were garages there who could help us fix the problem.  But hey, gotta love the van, and in true chick style, by just giving her a little time to recover and cool down, she was up for it and raring to go the next morning. Well, she was 80-90% better, so we decided to keep going, slowly, and see if she´d be OK.  She ended up making the rest of the trip with no dramas.

The pass itself was so stunning, the van problem almost paled into insignificance, and probably rates as the best road journey we´ve ever done on our travels - a big call in itself.
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