Since the early hours, Pascal has been working on his bike. It's seized because the cylinder was full of oil. As he discovered when he removed the plug and it jetted all over the place. I don't think the hotel was pleased at the pool of dirty oil spreading across it's garage floor! Whatever, he is competent at meckanicking and by midday has finished - the bike works! And so off we go. It's only 50 kms or so to the site. Are we really going to make it?

As I've been ever since this disaster story started, I'm just so convinced we won't get there. If the autobahn is snowed up, what about the minor roads leading to the site? Whatever, we get to Thurmansbang to find, despite promises from the organisers, no signs of any sort. And yes, the roads are well snowed up. Help! Eventually, the postie turns up and leads us to the village of Solla. We've teamed up with a bunch of Italians by now (Pascal has English, French and Spanish. I have English, a little French and less German. The Italians have, well, Italian. It makes for a confusing time trying to agree on a plan of action)

At last, Solla has signs of life. We park up to investigate and follow a track to see what the going is like. We decide we can do it and return to the bikes. Just as a crazy German on a trailie looks me square in the eye as he carefully leaves the track, over the verge and into a four foot snow drift. I will admit he did it with grace and aplomb but it was a helluva job to heave him out. Just as we finished that, an Italian gracefully toppled off his bike and trapped his foot. He yelped in a very persuasive and to me, somewhat musical fashion. Eventually I bimbled up and switched off his engine and heaved his bike off of him. Can I go home now?

Camp site
The camp site, highlighted in yellow
The GPS coordinates are N48 48.136° E13 18.858°

The camp site, we discover, is a very steep hill. With lots of snow. Unfortunately, we have to park a fair way from the entrance but who cares? We're here! It takes us the rest of the day to fall halfway down the hill and trample an area flat, throw down some straw and erect the tents. At last, this is what we came for.

There's all sorts here, from posers in bright leathers to Hell's Angels types in dirty badged up denim, from everywhere: Germany, Italy, Russia, France, UK, Spain, and Belarus (look for Minsk on an atlas, like I had to!) and no doubt all stops in between as well. But one common factor is that everyone is really friendly. I got a bottle of schnapps passed to me so's I could have a slug as I walked around the site. I wanted to make a coffee using my volcano kettle but the water froze in my canteen!

It's clear that lots of people turn up in vans and so on, stop a few miles away and bike the last section. That's cheating big time: the challenge of the journey is every bit as important as the Rally itself. Mind yew, it does mean they can bring fun bikes for playing on the ice and snow. A powerful little 2-stroker with snow chains on is literally a real scream. And the owner wants it to scream all night long. Particularly long and tuneful revving draws loud cheers and applause from across the valley, as does a good firework display.




A quick trip to the Imbiss for some hot and spicy gulaschsuppe and some good German beer and I'm off to bed - it's already -7 °C. Not that it is a quiet night with engines being thrashed, fireworks aplenty and those b*rsteward Italians yodelling at each other over the valley - I never really understood before now that Italian is such a not-quiet language. And to think I enjoyed my trip to Venice last Autumn! Everyone (I cannot stress this enough) is so friendly - the atmosphere is superb. So, I'm nice and toasty in my warm tent and sleeping bag and I'm here!