Before the Deluge - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

September 6, 2020

Before the Deluge

Erlaufsee — Hainfeld

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The promised bad weather arrived with a vengeance overnight: despite being very full, the only sound around the campsite was the relentless spatter of water on flysheets. Normally I find this quite calming, but I was a bit concerned about waterproofing, especially on the soft ground I was pitched on. As ever, though, the tent performed wonderfully and I kept nice and dry, and got some reasonable sleep.

I awoke fairly early, but continued to take shelter in the tent while the rain kept up. After half an hour there was a sustained break, so I forced myself to get up and out, and to take down the tent. It is slightly harder to pitch than my old one, but there's a real advantage to being able to separate the soaking outer and footprint and the (relatively) dry inner in different panniers.

Packing away just in time, the rain started to come down again, and I took shelter inside the camp office, which also included a sort of common room. Some nice Austrian chaps let me use their gas burner to make my coffee - I was going to try to light my stove outside, but quickly realised this was much more pleasant.

The remaining tents in the rather washed-out campground
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The ground condition under my tent. Somehow I still stayed dry!
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Warming up coffee (and myself) in the camp common room
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As I sipped my coffee, I refreshed myself with the map for the route. The plan today was to get as far to the edge of the mountains as I could - following the Traisental and Gölsental valleys, both of which had associated (off road) cycleways and would take me north and east, exactly the direction I needed to head if I wanted to reach the Neuseedlersee and the Slovak border (or failing that, Vienna, if anything went wrong).

This meant I could overnight while still in the foothills - there was a cluster of camping symbols on the map around Hainfeld - and then descend into the basin around Vienna the next day. It was going to be a rainy day - but it wasn't particularly windy or cold, and I figured it would be at least tolerable. As I gathered up the last of my things, the other cycle tourist next to me poked his head out the tent, took a look at the weather, said simple "I'm sorry" to me, and then ducked back inside. I can't say I blame him!

I just needed to brush my teeth and pay up, and then I could get going. Unfortunately, it took forever to pay. There seems to be some petty bureaucracy required by Austrian campsites - a form including address, passport number etc. Most of the sites I'd been to had been very relaxed about this; some had required it, which was fine. But here, there were a queue of 10 of us waiting to pay (in the rain) - each person was given a form only as they approached the window, and then stood filling it in.

Fortunately a very dull 20 minute wait was enlivened by some daredevil action on a motorised trike (tuktuk-type thing). It seems this was generally used to lug stuff around the camp; it had gotten pretty thoroughly bogged down in the mud overnight. The approach the camp proprietor took to dislodging it was to get in, rev the tiny motor like crazy, and then go wildly spinning out. I actually shouted "bravo!" (and got a laugh) when he finally got it free.

Finally filling out my own form and paying up (€12), I set off. Naturally within 500m of leaving the rain really started to hammer down, quite unrelentingly. I thought about going back - but somehow can never quite make myself.

By the time I covered the few kilometres back to Mariazell, I was soaking and looking for somewhere to shelter. I took refuge under the cover of a petrol station on the outskirts, and waited until the rain at least slackened. Then I proceeded uphill through the town, much quieter now on a rainy Sunday morning.

The only people about seemed to be pilgrims of some sort (?) heading to the basilica. They grinned and waved at me - I must have been quite a sight. Then it was out of town to the East, following the Salza again. Unfortunately the first few kilometres were on the main road, but with it all being downhill I covered them pretty quickly - and there was no real traffic around anyway, apart from a single police car that seemed to be looking out for my safety.

The little three-wheeled scooter, after being rather violently recovered from the mud (behind an inadvertently photographed fellow camper). Amusingly the make of the scooter was an "ape".
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The basilica looking rather more gloomy today
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A nice array of banners around the main square, in increasing order of locality: the EU, Austria, Styria, and the town crest
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I was pleased to turn off the main road and pick up the Traisental radweg, which followed a very minor back road around the Hubertussee. Vienna signed very prominently now!
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After turning off, the rain petered out, I started to dry and the going became positively pleasant. Visibility wasn't great, but the mist-wreathed hills were wonderfully atmospheric - and I had the road pretty much to myself.

I slowly proceeded along this quiet and rather eerie valley, slowly uphill and following a little stream, the Rottenbach. There was really quite a surprising number of odd little sights on this stretch. Upon reaching the Hubertussee, I decided to take a slightly longer route along the west bank of the lake, because it was so atmospheric.

Beyond the lake I crossed another state border, out of Styria and into Lower Austria. At Ulreichsburg I passed dozens of walkers, who'd obviously not let the weather stop their day out.

This is an amazing little house
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Mist clinging to limestone outcrops along the valley, quite atmospheric
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A rather eerie and lonesome war memorial
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Who's this guy? No idea. Good 'tache though.
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The valley was at timed quite steep-walled. It was a bit wet for it to be properly dramatic, but I did appreciate the peacefulness
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Peter Prokop Graf Morzin - a 19th century military leader
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The sign wasn't lying - there were dozens of frogs around. Unfortunately quite a number were two-dimensional on the road.
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The impressively maintained antique dam along the Hubertussee
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The Hubertussee
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Saint Margareta. This has a nice mournful quality against the misty backdrop, I think
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The track around the west side of the lake went throught this intriguing tunnel
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An local church with an interesting roof
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Didn't move a bit as I went past. Zero ducks given.
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I had some significant climbing up to the village of Gscheid - it wasn't particularly steep but seemed to go on for a long time. I had, in fact, been slowly climbing nearly the whole way since leaving Mooslandl yesterday morning - following the Salza upstream - and had in fact cranked my way up from 500m there all the way back close to 1000m as I pulled myself over into the Traisental. This would actually be a watershed - I wouldn't get this high again for the rest of the tour, and from here (on average) it would be all descent down into the basin of the Danube, Vienna, and the lowland around the borders. It would take me a couple of days, but the Alps were slowly sputtering out - and soon I would leave the mountains behind.

At Gscheid I rejoined the main road - the 21 towards St. Aegyd. This was a broad and fast road, and I was pleased to see a good cycleway ran the whole way. At Kernhof I passed another campsite, open but similarly washed out. I spun on as fast as I could, to make progress but also generate heat - I was descending now much of the time, and getting rather cold.

Coming over the top at 1000m near Gscheid - this would be the last major pass I would climb through in the Alps. It's all downhill from here!
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Fortunately once joining the main road there was a good cycleway. I didn't see another cyclist all day - nobody else was mad enough to be out
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Still lots of mist, and impressive limestone pinnacles
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Another campsite in Kernhof, also looking pretty soggy
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I'd seen advertisements for this all around Mariazell - the Kamel theatre. I can only assume there are some kind of performing camels?
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I pressed on down the Traisen valley, following the river downstream now in a steady descent. The weather was closing in again, and I permanently travelling with my rain jacket and saddle cover on. A good cycleway kept me off the road, and I had it completely to myself as I headed through St Aegyd. 

In the next village, Hohenberg, the rain had slackened, and since it was now early afternoon (and I had plenty of food after stocking up in Mariazell the previous afternoon) I thought I'd take advantage to quickly grab a slightly melancholy lunch, sitting in the empty and dripping main square.

Initially, the valley still had some dramatic rock walls. As I proceeded downstream, it would broaden out to the most open terrain I'd yet seen in Austria
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This photo of tile samples will be of precisely no interest to anyone but me: it's only because we used to live a couple of miles from the Eternit factory in Cambridgeshire. It's *almost* like European economies are extremely tightly interlinked...
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A hydropower station. I like both the art-deco decoration, and the very old mill attached to it. I ate lunch just opposite here.
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Then it was on again following the unambiguous cycle route, through the intermittent rain storms. On plus side was the cycleway was very well maintained, including public toilets and shelters - probably fortunate as now the valley was almost a continuous stream of villages, and increasingly, industry.

After joining the other fork of the Traisen at Freiland, the industrialisation became more and more apparent. I passed a tile factory and an enormous aluminium mill. The residential buildings became a lot less quaint - indeed, with the four-storey prefabs and the grey weather, there was almost an eastern-block vibe that was quite a shift from the Austria I'd been travelling through.

The Traisental (and its cycleway) continued pretty much dead North to St. Polten, and the very developed basin around Vienna. My plan was to branch off to follow the Gölsen - which, heading due East and also having a cycleway, looked perfect for my purposes. By the time I reached the confluence of the valleys I'd clocked up 70km - and was feeling really worn out. Despite the relatively low distance and gentle descent, the area just made me a bit despondent - especially compared to the landscape I'd been riding through for the last week.

As always, I did get some photos of curiosities that caught my eye.

I assumed a "sighthound" was like a guide dog for the blind! This was quite confusing...
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Mike AylingSighthounds are dogs that hunt their prey by sight, e.g. Greyhounds compared to scent hounds like fox hounds. We have an adopted retired Greyhound.
Cuzzie Mike
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1 month ago
Jon AylingTo Mike AylingAh yes that makes a lot more sense! I did wonder why guide dogs would need to be quite so fast-moving...
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1 month ago
Typical view down the soggy Traisental. It actually looks quite attractive here.
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In Lilienfeld, the castle (Schloss Berghof)...
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...and the monastery (Stift Lilienfeld)
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Quite the specimen
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Gigantic aluminium mill in Traisen itself
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A positively Eastern block landscape in Traisen Markt
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If it wasn't for the excellent cycle infrastructure - a proper signed junction as the two cycleways met - navigating the soggy parkland around the two rivers I could have been in England on a wet day. I was fairly happy to leave Traisen Markt behind, and started to cut to the East.

Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas, and I got soaked repeatedly as I struggled down the valley. After 10km I was feeling pretty hacked off - but I was approaching Hainfeld and figured it wouldn't be long until I was established in a campsite and warming up in a restaurant...

Picking up the Gölsental radweg
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This doesn't look great
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Rainfeld was quite an attractive place, in fact
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In the appropriately named Rainfeld, I took refuge for a while in a very large bus shelter while consulting my GPS. It indicated a few campsites - one, a significant distance south and up a hill from Rainfeld, and then a cluster in Hainfeld itself. After an abortive sally up the hill, I decided I was both too tired and not too enthusiastic about being so far from town, and continued along the cycleway and river to Hainfeld.

In a few minutes I approached the back of the town via the pretty attactive cycleway alongside the river. Following the faithful GPS, I crossed a little bridge that indicated it should take me directly to the first campsite - Auwerk. And indeed there was camping - for dozens of permanent mobile homes. I cruised around a little, getting a couple of curious looks, not seeing any tents - until I found the reception.

This was part of a frankly enormously grand and somewhat out of place villa - evidently some kind of manor house. Seeing a tea-cup (with tea!) left outside on a table, I figured someone must be around. But several minutes of ringing the bell, knocking on the enormous door, and calling out, yielded nobody. Oh well, the next campsite was only a few hundred metres down the road.

A quick recce (along a really quite unpleasant main road) and I soon found out that it was no sort of campsite at all, but really a glorified alotment with permanent huts - and locked and unmanned.

I was exhausted, wet, and in no mood to continue now - so I figured I would just set the tent up in a likely place in Auwerk and then pay up when the proprietors appeared. There was indeed a margin of grass nearest the road with a "camping" sign and a picture of a tent, which was good enough for me. Then I went to explore and found the sanitary was open - this was a good sign that they were officially open. I then found the large (if muddy) field around the back of the campsite, further from the road, which I thought might be more pleasant.

I put the tent up and then went for a much-needed shower. Fortunately the showers took coins instead of tokens for heat, but unfortunately I didn't have any €1 coins - I actually saw a fellow camper, and asked him for change - he was understanding but didn't have any either!

The camping reception was in this amazing old manor house. There was nobody about, just an unattended cup of tea. It was a bit creepy.
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My poor little wet tent pitched up right at the back of the campsite. I wasn't sure if this was an official place, but it seemed more pleasant
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Even a cold shower was reviving though - and I also found an official price list including tent prices, and a drying room that was open. On the downside, the rain was really coming down again, and my poor tent was getting soaked yet again. Swearing a bit I pulled on my "town" clothes anyway, and figured finding somewhere to sit with warm food was the priority, and I'd figure the rest out later.

I was a bit worried there wouldn't be anything open on this wet Sunday evening. I set my site on a pizza place on the main road, and got soaked even on the short walk around on the back road. Pretty bedraggled, I was delighted to see it lit up, Hopper-esque, in the distance - and you know what, it was really nice. Warm and nicely decorated, and I was greeted with great friendliness despite my rather scruffy state.

I spent a good couple of hours warming up, eating good (but not excellent, as I've learnt to expect) Pizza, and occasionally nervously glancing at the rain. The terrifically friendly girl serving made me feel at home - and then brought me a bill which was about half of what I expected. I left a big tip and, with a sigh, dived back out into the rain.

Would it ever stop? I got soaked all over again on the walk back - during which I decided fairly firmly not to even try to sleep in the tent. Taking my sleeping bag and matt to the drying room, I set myself up there without anyone batting an eyelid. It was a bit of a weird place to spend the night, since I wasn't even officially a camper - but no regrets, I slept well and stayed dry.

Wouldn't be a sign if there hadn't been a problem! On the walk into Hainfeld
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I set myself up on the drying room floor, quite unofficially. As you can see, other campers have been storing things in here - I was just storing myself!
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Today's ride: 87 km (54 miles)
Total: 727 km (451 miles)

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