16-17 July 2010
It was a sombre drive to Hopfgarten after Mauthausen, fortunately the Austrian scenery provided a superb distraction; we were heading for a famous skiing and outdoors orientated area. In Hopfgarten we stayed at another Contiki owned enterprise. I tend to get the impression that Contiki make their money from optional excursions and charging large amounts for services at venues they control. Anyway Hopfgarten was a beautiful place, surrounded my stunning mountain ranges and home to numerous outdoor activities as I’ve already mentioned.
That evening was a party night, the theme was ‘White Wash’ – I personally didn’t participate as I was trying to get over a cold/flu which I was adamant should not affect my activities the following day.
The following morning at 10am we collected our mountain bikes (optional excursion) for the guided mountain bike ride. I was a little disappointed by the bike quality, for $29 Euro I at least expected disk brakes and probably full suspension; Contiki run this excursion and no doubt make a tidy profit from it. Our tour guide explained to us that we were going to cover 29km and see sights that our coach would not be able to take us to. Realistically I believe our driver (Andrej the Giant) could easily have got everywhere we went – we were mostly on sealed road and occasionally on a gravel road. It certainly was not off-road adventure biking, we didn’t go up any steep gradients or find any jumps. Don’t these Austrians know how to mountain bike, or is it just Contiki being useless?
After the group ride we had a simple lunch before everyone departed to do their own thing. Others on my tour were booked in to go paragliding; I’d decided to miss paragliding as it was a lot of money and I have ambitions of skydiving one day so I decided the money was better saved. I took the time to use my bike for a proper ride.
There was a gondola which takes passengers from Hopfgarten (approx 600m above sea level) to the top of the Hohe Salve Mountain at 1629m, I decided to see if I could bike to the top. I had to return the bike at 5pm and I’d set off at roughly 2.30pm so I was constrained by time and I didn’t know how to get to the top other than looking for roads that went up. I managed to find a steep sealed road that then turned into a dirt track (promising) with walking signs, it kept going up so I kept following it. In the end I made it to five gondola support poles short of the top; the road had ended, I’d been stopped by torrential rain multiple times and it was now 4.45pm so I was going to need to make a fast descent on slippery roads. I got down fine however I was caught in another torrential downpour and soaked right through. I was particularly pleased I managed to get down safely considering the front and back brake levers are on the opposite sides to what I’m used to (European way of doing things).
Unfortunately due to the bad weather the paragliding that day had been cancelled so I was lucky to have made the decision to do something else.