Crossing the Alps
Recently, an advertisement for a good valued, used Volvo V40 D2 came onto my radar. I had many good memories with the V40 D3 in Switzerland and it is a tempting proposition to make my next ride a Volvo.
The time I had with the V40 D3 in Switzerland was truly magical. One of those great road trips moments that I had in my motoring life. I call them my "Top Gear" moments. Hence, I shall pen down those memories in this post.
Alps Crossing – 20 April 2014
My wife and I had left Swarovski’s Kristallwatten at about 2pm. We were at Innsbruck, Austria. It was an exceptionally sunny day in Austria, in fact, I remembered lowering all the windows using a button on the key fob to let the hot air in the Volvo escape before we got in the car. That was probably the only time I used the windows function in Europe.
The 290 km journey calls a 5 hour drive from Austria, through Switzerland, crossing the Alps into Northern Italy, where we will eventually arrived in our B&B Villa Maria in Lake Como. 290km is not long distance but with an Alps crossing. It is a technical drive up and down the mountains dealing with snow, slush and rain. The V40 D3 with its diesel engine has lots of torque and a long range of about 700km. Hence, I was not worried about the lack of grunt as well as the fuel supply.
We pulled out of Innsbruck and started our journey southwards towards Italy. I have always love the quaintness of the Austrian countryside. Worried about not being about to reach Como before dark. We hurried out of Austria without lunch. We thought that we could grab lunch along the way. That turned out to be almost impossible.
We left Austria and enter Switzerland through Martinsbruck. The smooth Swiss highways soon changes to smaller winding roads and a myriad of tunnels cutting through the mountains. To be honest, I am always fearful of tunnels as the speed limit is 80km/h and it always feels that they are infested with speed cameras. I had to use cruise control in the tunnels to prevent myself from exceeding the speed.
Soon the winding roads became hairpins to ascend the height of the Alps. Pssst... Wa Wa Wa Waaa Roooffff...this is the rorty off beat warble of the Volvo's 5 cylinder engine as it powers me up the Alps. The grunty song of the D3 engine still remains in my mind 3 years on. Unfortunately, as I was at the wheel, I was not able to take photos of the breath taking sights of the journey.
As the roads got narrower, rain and snow started falling. I began to slow down and followed the pace of the local cars so that I would remain safe. There was a white Opel Corsa hatchback in front of me and behind me a dark blue Skoda Octavia. That was about all the cars on the road that day. I followed Mr Corsa gingerly as this was my first few drives in snow conditions. The weather got wetter and colder as we drove on. At times we slowed to almost a crawl due to the slippery road. The immense torque generated by the Volvo’s D3 engine caused the car to squirrel at times before the stability system catches the slip.
We reached St Moritz and I saw the pretty ski town and the majestic lake St Moritz looms into sight. The lake was frozen and it was the first time I saw such a sight. I called out to my wife Jo, to take a look, but unfortunately she was sound asleep. I enjoyed the majestic view alone. It was here, I had to say goodbye to Mr Corsa as he had reached his destination.
Traffic picked up a little more here as we crossed into Italy at Maloja. More hairpins loomed ahead but the weather had improved. The snow and rain had stopped and the roads are dry. Soon, we reached Northern Italy and the road signs were haphazard and confusing. The speed limit goes up and down so frequently that the speed limit reading system of the Volvo gave up the ghost. It simply hanged and gave a fixed speed limit.
Driving into the Lake Como region, the sun set and the roads got darker. The challenge is upped when the roads are narrow and two way. We finally arrived in at Villa Maria at Lierna at 8pm. I was exhausted but at the same time, I really relished this journey.