Friday, August 26, 2011

What's the worst thing that could happen- Part III

After another day behind the wheel of the bus, I was keen to get back on the bike for the final leg of the Hong Kong cycling club's visit. After a night in Saint Moritz, we were to make our way to Bregenz over the border in Auatria. The full ride was, what I thought to be 160km and included two mountain passes, however, we would only do the first 80km. 

We made our way over the first climb and had a coffee at the top before continuing on. At the top, one of the visiting cyclists took the luggage van (and all the luggage) to a nearby city to visit a friend. That left two vehicles to escort the remainder of the group to lunch at the top of the second climb. 



After a rather filling lunch, nobody was keen to ride any further, so we began to pack bikes into the trailer and prepared to drive the rest of the way. Then we realized something... Without the luggage van, we were two seats short to transport everyone in just two vehicles. So Simon and I had to ride the complete distance to Bregenz. We thought it was only another 80km and of course, what's the worst that could happen?

We set off at 4pm and was happy to find that the entire rest of the ride was slightly downhill through a valley. To make things even better, Switzerland was experiencing sone of the strongest winds it had ever had and an epic tail wind made it easy to sit at speeds above 50kph. 

We covered the first 50km at a rapid pace and we were hoping to arrive early before Simon's seat post began to slip down. We pulled over opposite a fuel station to render the problem and I said to Simon I was going to get done water across the road. I came out of the fuel station to find that Simon had vanished. I waited around for 5mins, confused and bewildered but apparently, Simon didn't hear the final part of my sentence and assumed I had continued on. I put two and two together and set off at full speed to catch him. The problem was, Simon was doing the same thing, thinking I was in front of him!

I rode as hard as I could for 10km, keeping an eye out for Simon as I approached the Austrian border. With the luggage van absent, I was unable to get my passport but it is highly unlikely to get stopped at a border, especially on a bicycle. 

As I rolled through the border, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simon in the customs booth. I rolled over to him to ask where he had been as the customs officer asked for my passport. He spoke almost no English and sent me back over to the other side of the border. Oh dear. 



It seems Simon had suffered the same fate as he was stopped by customs. He had given them details of our hotel, however, they could not confirm our reservation as it was not in our names. We gave him the contact number of the manager, Markus, and he disappeared. He returned and simply said, 'Cannot call'. I asked him what he meant but he didn't understand. Desperate to resolve the situation, I asked a lady passing through the border if she spoke English and could find out what was going on. It turned out that he couldn't get through to Markus and we could not enter Austria. 

I said to Simon to forget it and we can go back and find another crossing in a nearby town. As I looked at a map on my phone, the customs officer saw my cycling license and took it from me for identification. So now we couldn't leave. Simon pleaded to him to try Markus again and fortunately, he got through. 

In German, he said that there was an Asian man trying to cross the border with no documentation. Markus said he would fax the passport through. We waited and a fax came through. The customs officer held it up to the window and it was NOT Simon. When Markus received the phone call, he assumed it was the driver of the luggage van and faxed through his passport!

After another phone call, Markus realized that it was Simon and I stuck at the border but with the luggage van still not there, he only had electronic copies of our passports. Unable to email them in, Markus had to print the pictures then fax them to the customs officer. 

After around 45mins of waiting, the officer simply turned to us and said 'okay' as he waved us through. It took up a big chunk if our time but we were finally on our way for the final 15km. 

15km later, we realized that it was going to be a little further than expected and with the sun setting, I was keen to arrive in daylight. With the wind at our backs we pushed on and at 7.45pm after 192km of riding, we arrived at the hotel in Bregenz. 

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