September 25-27, 2015
The locals we spoke with were thrilled with the weather, as it had apparently been raining for days before our arrival. I was happy to oblige them with some beautiful fall weather, of course, but it couldn’t last forever. When we got up Sunday morning for the return ride home, it was to low grey clouds and a damp feel to the air. We loaded up the bikes and headed to the ferry. We had tried to buy our tickets the previous day, but they only sell same-day tickets. Oh well. We were early and enjoyed watching the other vehicles roll up to wait in line with us.
Our bikes parked at the hotel
Early at the ferry dock
A few Swiss cars joined us
There were few of us on the ferry and it was a short ride. The morning sky hadn’t cleared up and we were dressed against the damp chill, but it felt good. Still, I hoped that it would burn off as the sun rose in the sky.
Bikes on the ferry
We were the first ones off the ferry and simply followed the GPS north. I had spied another mountain pass on the map that looked delightful and we were heading right for it. the road hugged the side of the lake until we reached Bellano. Then it was a fast zig-zag up to the top, where we merged with a motorway. But traffic was so light and the mix of tunnels and bridges was so engaging that it held our interest.
Mountains in the mist
We reached the north end of the lake and promptly got lost. My GPS, even as new as it was, didn’t recognize the road we were on and it kept indicating that we were driving through the fields. And they were large fields: a wide, flat spot between amazing, tree-covered mountains. Most of the land was under agricultural use, but there were pockets of manufacturing that surprised us both. Who knew that they made anything in this little corner of Italy? Eventually, with a little double-checking, we found the correct route and were once again on our way to the mystery pass from my map.
Campo, Italy – I think
The excitement began as soon as we reached the town of Chiavenna. It was a lively place with people and vehicles bustling about in the warm sunshine. Yes, the sun had come out and the skies were clear; it would be another gorgeous day to ride. Once we crossed through the center of town we saw the first of many signs warning of switchbacks.
Raw rock tunnels were frequent
We were on the road to Splügen Pass. I might have heard about this pass before, but nothing that I could recall to give me an idea of what to expect. What really amazed me about this pass was the unrelenting switchbacks. Right from the town limits of Chiavenna we were met with our first of many switchbacks. And not like those easy, wide ones on Furka or Grimsel passes. No, these ones were tight and narrow. I had a hard time (i.e. I couldn’t) keep my bike on my side of the road on any of the turns. Fortunately there were few other vehicles on the road so there weren’t any near misses with on coming traffic. And Dan had the bonus of me leading, so I could warn him if there was anything unusual or dangerous on the turns.
Just one set of many
And also to my surprise, there were frequent outposts of civilization the entire way to the top of the pass. Usually the road to the top of a mountain rolls through raw wilderness with infrequent buildings along the way, but not Splürgen! I found it interesting, but it helped that there weren’t a lot of vehicles to go along with it.
Watch out for cows!
Almost to the top!
Reservoir near the top of Splügen Pass
Even a real town near the top of the pass (Montespluga, Italy)
Just a couple more switchbacks…
And then suddenly we were in Switzerland. The border, like most borders we cross on our motorcycle trips around here, was barely more than a shed and a couple of gates.
Looking back at the Italian/Switzerland border
Behold! The beauty of Switzerland awaits!
The downhill section was yet another surprise, and made me positive that I had read about this pass before. After all, the set of switchbacks before me were the epitome of “Alpine Switchbacks” that most motorcyclists crave.
We reached the town of Splügen (finally!) and headed north. Dan was leading at this point and fortunately he missed the turn for the motorway and we rode parallel to it on a secondary road. It was a relaxing stretch of road that played hide-and-seek with the motorway, crossing over and under it as they both shared a narrowing gorge.
On the road less traveled
Eventually we ran out of road and had to join the motorway. Dan agreed to traverse across the mountains back to Andermatt – more falafels! This was also a very pleasant way to spend the almost-home miles of a three day weekend.
We climbed back over Oberalpass and hit a bank of clouds that hovered over Andermatt. We descended through the clouds to find a very busy Andermatt. I was surprised to find the restaurant packed at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon, but they found a table for us and we once again ordered our favorite dishes.
It was supposed to be a quick ride home, but the construction on Göschenen Pass held us up much longer than I expected. Still, once we got back to the motorway, it was a fast and easy ride back to Basel.
Plenty of time for pictures at a Göschenen Pass construction site