The last leg…

So after 4 months on the road it seems that it is now less than four weeks until I go home. I am really not sure how it has passed so quickly -especially given how long some stretches of the trip have seemed. Still it will soon be time to pack up the bike and confront whatever life throws at me when I get back to Sydney and the dreaded “next”.

For the past few days I have been massively bludging in Basel at my friends house which they have super generously let me stay in, so I have been considering two things:
– the rest of my ride to Vienna; and
– how I will feel getting back

The rest of the ride is probably going to be very weather dependent as I had planned on going straight to St Morit by train but there is a cold front coming through this weekend so being up high doesn’t seem like a good plan. So now I am going to revert to Plan A and head east until it looks like there will be a break in the weather and then head to St Moritz and the River Inn.

As far as what I’ll think about getting home that is a completely unknown quantity. For the past month I have been at a point where I knew I could accept going home, but going to the alps challenged that view substantially! I am itching to get riding again so despite my legs still feeling shite after descending too much mountain I am going to get going tomorrow. What I will do when I get home and the solution to everything isn’t just “ride” or “ride later” I am not really sure. That said there are a lot of day rides and weekend tours to be done so perhaps I will maintain some level of activity this time….

I am also a little concerned about post ride depression, of which a similar condition is pretty well documented for hikers (discussed well here). When I cycled around Tasmania for a month I decided to quit my job in Sydney and move to Brisbane and then Alice Springs which possibly wasn’t the expected outcome of a holiday. This time I have already quit a job, moved out of a house and ended a relationship so I am not sure I am creative enough to make other big changes but it does mean getting back to Sydney (or my parents place) with a clean slate and no plan. Some things not to think about right now!

So anyway after a little rant that hasn’t really gone anywhere expect to give an idea of a state of mind it is now onwards for another three and a bit weeks of riding to get to Vienna! There will be mountains, rivers, fields, sunshine, rain and probably snow – so that is enough to think about for now.

Thanks for checking in!

Swiss Alps (Part 2)

(Note: This is a continuation from day 1, not that you’ll notice any continuity)

Day two woke with rustles and shouts from the hut next door about missing breakfast! After a super chilled night in the hut with a group of exchange students playing “the verevolf game” and drinking beers 7:30am really didn’t seem reasonable for a last call for breakfast, but it did mean we could all be up and have eaten before the sun rose about the Jungfrau. In the end there was even enough time for three coffees to find off the cold!

I am without word as to how cool the sunrise was, but to compensate here are some of the 60 photos I took!

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After sunrise I packed and departed for what would turn out to be an epically long day. I am yet to check my gps but I am pretty certain that over 24km I did about 600vm ascent and 2000vm descent which was ludicrously hard on my legs compared to the ascent.

Anyway from the hut it was down into the clouds for an hour or two before the sun burnt them away. My route took me down to the Sous river and then back up to a track below the Soushorn and Chometboden on the way to Murren.

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From here it was properly down, way more than my legs could handle with a 17kg pack as cycling really doesn’t help with down hill fitness! Eventually after lots of breaks and futile stretching I made it Stechelberg and I was in the famous Jungfrau valley full of paragliders and base jumpers as well as more spectacular views.

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I camped here overnight and discovered that using my tent without the inner in high condensation conditions is a recipe for being dripped on all night, but thank god for water resistant fabrics on sleeping bags! Pulling the sleeping back out in the morning all of the water immediately turned to ice so i guess it had been cold….

The highlight of my very short day 3 would have to be watching four base jumpers do there thing and then walking past them five minutes later to hear them discussing how they needed to do their tax. Turns out any crazy adventure can become vaguely  normal doesn’t it!

Swiss Alps (Day 1)

Ah the mountains. I thought I liked mountains based on my very limited experience from Tasmania, Scotland and Iceland; but after a few days in the Swiss Alps I think I have fallen in love with them.

From my base here in Basel my hosts Toby and Lucienne gave me a travel pack in which I stuffed a whole lot of gear into and so off I set with no real clue. Luckily my hosts had told me to head towards Interlaken, and the visitors centre had a topo map for sale with a few basic comments like “those are the mountains” and “the clouds are up to 1800”. So I was on my way!

My initial route was thoroughly unthought out as I took the “which path is closest to me” option and found myself climbing what I thought was a steep hill at the town. Now at this stage I was still below the cloud level but I could see the dense fog like clouds not far above my head. After a brief stroll the hills started in earnest. My lack of planning meant that I had found myself on a track that would take me from the lake at 570m towards a lake at 2000m. To add to the fun the map was at a scale of 1:60000 which I am not particularly good with so as I climbed and the route got steeper and steeper, and I climbed into the clouds, I began to realise this might not be a leisurely stroll I was getting into.

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Up and up I sweated my way through the clouds which were thick and wet such that I could often only see 50m and at one point through a large grass area was a little concerning when my track disappeared. However finding the track again and ditching my shirt because it was just too hot I kept climbing and slowly the clouds started to break and the promise of blue skies became a real prospect.

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Eventually I broke through into the sunshine and was rewarded with bright clear skies as I found myself above the tree line.

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Realising my route was to take me across a scree slope on the cold northern side of the mountain I decided to push on and cross the route in case the path iced up at all overnight (the forecast was for -2). The views crossing this path were spectacular, and the reward on getting to the other end was my first view of the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Swiss Alps proper.

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Having crossed the shale slopes also meant I had the option of staying in the Lobhornhutte west of Sulwald.

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Sankt Martin, the Alsace and into Basel

Well it has been a pretty spectacular week riding up Basel slowly meandering my way between historic cities, vineyards, old villages, great campsites and three countries.

Not long after my last post I arrived in the small wine village of Sankt Martin in Germany which is nestled into a valley surrounded by forests of pine and chestnuts. Every building in the village is heavily involved in producing or consuming wine, typically both, and I was luck enough to meet a new friend Ingrid at the campsite my Garmin choose for me. A native german, but with a mixed accent mostly consisting of Irish and Canadian twangs we spent a few days hanging out and chatting about adventures. As with so many long term travelers (in this case through guiding) Ingrid seemed to be able to recall visits to every place I have been to on this trip which only served to provide inspiration to see some of the many things I have missed!

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From Sankt Martin it was time to head south, and the French Alsace wine region beckoned with its beautifully marked cycle routes twisting through the freshly harvested vines that became more golden and autumnal as I headed further south. These trails and flat roads were to dominate the rest of the week with great little interludes to such beautiful cities as Strasbourg and Colmar. I have a feeling I have been particularly lucky with the sunny weather and enough cloud to stop me getting too sun burnt over the past week.

Last night I finally arrived in Basel which is a pretty spectacular city full of old buildings, bustling streets all situated on a magnificent cliff lined bend in the Rhine. Switzerland is phenomenally expensive, but Basel is so close to France and Germany that tomorrow morning I’ll ride over the border to do a big grocery shop and then I’ll be catching a train somewhere to go hiking!

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