The route: 77km
- We stayed on the main Road 115, as it seemed less hilly. (Ennsradweg / R7 bike route continues along the opposite side of the river bank from and eventually joins Road 115 at Kleinfreifling
- At Grossfreiling, turn off the Ennsradweg / R7 bike route and follow the Salzatal along the northern bank, east towards Palfau and then to Wildalpen. (Also marked as L12 Salzatal-Erlebintour route.)
- In Erzdhalen, you’ll be on Road 25 and then Road 24. a.k.a. Salztalradweg / R16 bike route.
- Just keep following the signs to Wildapen.
Tearing me away from designated cycling routes is not easy to do. The routing in Austria has been as good if not better than in Czech. Once you know which route you want to be on, it is easy to just follow the markers to your destination. I can’t recall one time of losing our way and a turn not being marked. The routes are generally very low traffic, which gives you the pleasure of hearing your own two wheels rolling. I feel as though we have the world to ourselves. A feeling of liberation and freedom.
But, showing me the sharp, tightly spaced contours on the map that we are about to traverse can make me change my mind quickly. As we reviewed the upcoming ride over breakfast we noticed that about 25k into our day the Ennsradweg/R7 took a sudden turn west and over a series of steep tight peaks just at the river’s edge just before returning back to Road 115 on this side of the river. Road 115, seemed to meander along just like the previous day’s section, but wasn’t nessicarily marked as the suggested bike route. Since eventually we needed to return to this side of the river and turn east on the Salzatal later in the day, T suggested Road 115 wouldn’t be bad on a Sunday morning, anyhow. Actually that’s exactly when people take their Sunday drives. Or, in this case, their Sunday motorcycle rides. Groups and groups of motorcycles zoomed past us for the first hour or so. Road 115 actually turned out to be a fine route. The traffic wasn’t too heavy, and the rolling terrain was much less steep than what we could see from the road on the other side disappearing into the hillside. The route took us through the breathtaking landscape just along the edges of Kalkalpen National Park and Gesause National Park. Words can’t do the beauty justice—maybe the pictures can approach it.
Taking our time since we had planned a rest day tomorrow, we spied a lovely field for a mid-day picnic just north of Altenmarkt bei St. Gallen. We sat in the wildflower filled meadow staring out at the Alps reaching for the sky and snacked on cheese, chocolate, coffee and last nips of our Monk wine from Czech Republic. This is why we love travelling on our bicycles. See a field. Stop and have a picnic. Enjoy the view. Simple and pure.
Later about 15km down the road we stopped in at Krippau, hoping to buy some water and check out this quaint little alpine village. After a (very) short ride through town (it’s really small, like 30 people) we came onto a public water source straight from the mountain. Yes, most people just water their livestock here, but at this point we sort of resemble pack animals, so what the heck, right? Sweet, sweet mountain spring water. We gulped mouthfulls until our eyeballs were floating then filling our bottles quickly we hit the road.
Separating from the R7 at Grossreifling, we turned east along the Salzatal. The day to that point had been fairly easy and smooth. That was about to change. We were now following the Salzatal upstream to Palfau and then to Wildalpen. The road to Wildalpen was aptly named. Lots of climbing and lots of wild. Nothing long and monumental, but tenaciously hilly nonetheless. We moved away from riverside valleys with mountains in the background to being in the midst of the forest with towering walls on either side of us. Some of the steepest valleys I have seen, sheer cleaves peppered with limestone down to the river.
With about 16km to go, at Road 24, the R16 bike route turns abruptly South with the confluence of the Salzatal and Mendlingbach and becoming a little flatter meandering along the riverside to Wildalpen. T had been here 12 years earlier on a kayaking trip and kept telling it was one of the nicest places he’d ever visited. At this point I really didn’t care. I just wanted to finish the day. Riding through these incredible Alpen river canyons, my body was crying for a day’s rest after 7 days of non-stop cycling.
Finally Wildalpen. T was right. A charming riverside village with towering peaks in every direction. I felt like singing. Camping was located almost in the center of town and is obviously quite popular as the campground was at near capacity with kayakers, rafters, mountain bikers, hikers and us. After carving out our spot among the other residents we stretched out on the grass along the river for a little relaxation. I couldn’t think of a better place to rejuvenate my tired and rubbery legs.
Enjoy the slideshow