Up and Down the Mountains (with a side trip to Italy)
Bovec Travel Blog› entry 15 of 23 › view all entries
Approximately 70.0 km (43.5 miles)
Today's ride started directly from our hotel again in Kranjska Gora. We left around 9:30-10:00 AM as had become our standard. Shortly into the ride we turned off the main road for a quick side trip up to the Planica Ski Jumping Center. The center had held the Ski Jumping World Championships the previous winter and is in line to hold it again in future years.
We headed back down to the main valley and resumed our journey. We quickly found ourselves at the Italian border and crossed over with no formality. We skirted the town of Tarvisio, and after what had been some relatively flat riding we began the slow climb towards Predel Pass, heading back towards Slovenia. We biked up along a stream on a gradual gradient (the first waterway we saw with water a most amazing turquoise color). In under 10km we reached the north end of Lago de Predel where Klara had our lunch awaiting us.
During lunch we discussed the rest of the days ride. We had another 3 km to go to the border (and 200m elevation gain) before we reached the top of Predel Pass (1156m - 3790ft) and crossed the border back into Slovenia again. Then 2km downhill before the decision of whether to take the option up the Mangrt Road needed to be reached. Since it was simply going to be an up and back (the road dead-ended at the top) anyone could choose to turn back at any point they wanted so even though some weren't too sure how long they would go, everyone decided to make a go. Another tasty lunch fueled us for the climb. For a brief moment it actually started spritzing some rain on us which had me worried of whether the weather was going to turn on us.
It was a short but fairly strenuous climb the rest of the way to the summit. It wasn't fun to get on the bike right after eating and start out climbing up a decent grade. But it was only a couple of switchbacks up the road to the pass and the border station at the top. As we passed through back into Slovenia there were two signs of our impending journey on the Slovenian side of the border. A road sign showed a map of the road climbing Mt Mangrt. The second was looking down the pass and into the mountains and seeing the road carved into the side of the mountain high above us. And of course before we even got to the Mangrt Road we had about 2km of downhill riding ahead of us.
At the turnoff we had probably dropped back to an elevation of around 1050m (3445ft). For the next 12km or so we would be doing nothing but climbing. The turnoff for the Mangrt Road is located in area that was devastated by a series of landslides back in 2000. Six years later a gravel scar crosses the landscape that can be seen in several of the pictures that I took. Some of the villages downstream that we would ride through on our way to Bovec later in the day were also damaged in these slides. The road as well had been damaged in the first 1-2 km. We were riding on some gravel and at one point the road had been reconstructed and where the road once had a switchback it was no longer there.
Jeff and Steve were again long gone. I waited for Renata and Carrie after exiting the landslide zone. Chris and C.C. decided that they had had enough and turned around towards Bovec. Continued on with the ladies but slowly put some distance on them again as we cycled up the road. I simply found a gear to spin and climb and enjoy the mountain scenery around me on the low slopes. At 4 km passed through the first tunnel and saw the first bit of snow along the road. At this point the going got a bit steeper. Not 15% steep mind you, but probaby a good 8% grade or so. Pace slowed, and I occassionally looked for places to stop and take pictures (or alternatively to get a break for my legs).
At some point while taking another picture Renata came cycling up behind me (probably about 6-6.5km mark). Carrie was struggling and wasn't sure how much further she was going to go (Renata commented that she would probably ride up slowly until Jeff headed back down the mountain). So I had a riding partner at this point.
The views at this point were fantastic, but it was frustrating not to be able to go any further. Jeff suggested carting our bikes through the tunnel and continuing on the other side but we could see a portion of the road on the opposite end of the tunnel that was still snow covered. As well, there was really no guarantee that the snow bank wouldn't collapse and block the tunnel entrance as the temperature was in the 50s.
All in all we climbed around 800m (2625ft) in just under 8.5 km (5.25 miles). Renata and I reached the tunnel in 1 hour 13 minutes including rest stops and photo ops. After about 10-15 minutes or so at our stopping point the four of us headed down. Within a 1/4 mile or so we passed Carrie still motoring her way up the hill. She had indeed continued at her own pace and as close as we were to the turn around point it would be a shame not to say that she didn't make it as far as the rest of us.
Started back down the mountain again. Took the descent cautiously; nobody wanted to go flying off the edge of a switchback. Still made it back down to the main road in under 16 minutes. From the main road it was another 15km to Bovec. And we would continue descending the whole way down to 460m (1510ft). A welcome respite from the punishing climb for a non-climber, like myself. The mountains towered over us on each side as we sped down through the valley and when we stopped in Kluze (another old fort) it was hard to imagine that brutal fighting took place in this area during both World Wars (we would see more about this tomorrow).
Finally at the hotel and with a break before dinner, I (and some others) took a break to relax in the swimming pool at the hotel. Dinner at the hotel (Hotel Kanin) consisted of a buffet style meal and I took the opportunity to refuel after the days efforts. After dinner we wandered through Bovec for a bit as night settled in. Definitely an adventure town as whitewater rafting, para-sailing, hiking, cycling activities abounded. Back at the hotel we found ourselves on the bar's patio (terasa) to partake of some additonal libations with a majority of the group. The sounds of conversation in other languages filtered from other groups on the patio. It was a quiet and comfortable evening and the weather was perfect for just sitting and relaxing in our last night in the mountains.
- Riding up to Predel Pass before lunch and watching 14 (I think that was the count) Ferraris come zipping down the road towards us. I'm no car model junky but these were high end versions. Figure an easy $1 million or more of automobiles passed us on the road.
- Topographic Map of Day's Ride
- Avoiding the motorcycles on the descent to Bovec, who thought they owned both lanes of the road.
- But all in all I must say that cars and motorcycles in general were much more aware of and less antagonistic towards cyclists on the road than they are in the US.