With nobody at hostel reception to open up the bike store for me, we couldn’t check out. So I took matters, and the key, into my own hands, trespassing behind the unstaffed counter and rummaging in a drawer to find it.
It was a damp, cloudy morning, as if the weather had suddenly remembered overnight to move the seasons dial round a notch. It had switched paint palettes too, from bright acrylic blues, greens and reds to watercolour greys, yellows and browns. The hillside path we took out from Salzburg felt mistily English, except for the unsettling lack of potholes, and of poets rhapsodising about autumn.
For a couple of hours we skirted some of the Salzburg Lakes. I hadn’t even been aware they had a lake district. Quite appropriate, for all this mist and mellow fruitfulness. I don’t remember Keats ever mentioning cloud inversions, though.
Along the shore of Mondsee we enjoyed a splendid tunnel: it boasted a cycles-only bore, which sported little breakout spaces overlooking the water, some connected by lakeside paths. What great fun for children, I thought, or cycle bloggers who acted like them.
We picnicked at Unterach overlooking another lake, and warmed up with a coffee and gateau at a local cafe. The bike paths and lanes from here – following local route R4 – wandered up and down and round the hills a bit, often with headwinds, but it was tranquil and delightful stuff, twisting past farmhouses and Alms.
Steadily, things eased. We left R4 for R101, to which I couldn’t help appending ‘…disaster’. It proved the opposite: a pleasant, just-perceptibly downhill, sequence of car-free rural lanes, now free of wind.
Suddenly there was only twelve miles to go. We were concerned about arriving too early to check in to our guesthouse, but luckily Nigel got a puncture, which delayed us till we could legitimately turn up and establish the nearest beer opportunity.
While Nigel battled with a faulty pump and faultier replacement innertube, like a man trying to do press-ups on a pitching yacht, I helped by chatting to a local bloke delivering an estate-car-load of eggs and wine to the guesthouse whose hedge was not quite supporting Nigel’s leaning bike.
Our accommodation dart when planning today, a couple of days ago, had been arbitrarily thrown at the town of Schwanenstadt, which I kept misthinking of as ‘Schwanengesang’.
It proved a very satisfactory place to stay, thanks to a very friendly and good-humoured guesthouse right in the centre of town and a selection of reasonably-priced Turkish-run places to eat.
Miles today: 55
Miles since Bangs: 342