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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Lower Rhine (Rhine Part 1)

The Rhine is long. It is roughly divided into three parts, so I’ll blog each section as I ride it and as I am starting from Utrecht which is no where near the end it won’t be complete but I think the bottom 250km that I didn’t ride were probably much like the 400km I have ridden.

First let me get this out of the way. It is boring.

Now let me get onto why. Firstly it is flat. I am going to hate myself for writing this ince I get into the alps I am sure, but it is a ling hard slog riding 80+km a day on flat ground with or without a headwind. Now I am riding a decently heavy bike with silly tyres and although i hold it is the most comfortable tourung rig out there I won’t deny the rolling resistance is noticable. Also flat ground is hard work as you never get a break which is why I am having a half day today 6 days after leaving Utrecht and having covered 420km. The temptation to push on/faster has strained a few muscles I think I need to take care of for the next 7 weeks.

Next, the Rhine is industrialised. Up until Bonn the Rhine ias basically a continuous band of factories and power stations with farming on the opposite bank, then there are the boats and trains. Whilst corn fields, canals and cows are scenic and the indusyrial works make my inner engineer impressed it is a bit wearing. Also the noise is constant so bring your ear plugs, seriously!

Finally campsites on the lower Rhine are few and far between. As soon as you reach Bonn and the middle Rhine they are everywhere but until then theu can be hard to find or are often a long way from the river. This adds distance and means at the end of the day you have to navigate country lanes hoping to find a campsite that accepts tents as a lot don’t. My illusion based on other blogs of millions of options (as long as you accept the odd nudist camp site) has been dashed!

That said I don’t want to deter anyone. As a wise well travelled cyclist explaindd the reason you ride the Rhine from the mouth up is so when you do reach the middle Rhine you really appeeciate it. It is worth it people! I got to the middle Rhine and was gobsmacked and it is getting better as I go.

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Belgium and the Netherlands

A week ago I arrived in continental Europe after my three months in the UK and Iceland to sunny skies and a whole lot of hope about what the next two months had in store for me.

The first weekend proved a massive success and I have been riding on a bit of a high ever since thanks to good company, four nights in a row in beds and a swim at the beach. For any non-aussies reading this post it is easy to under estimate just how important salt water and swimming is to the average Australian, and I am certainly no exception so the swim did me a world of good.

Anyway after that great weekend the weather set in and it has been raining ever since. I have been wearing my full rain gear (helmet cover, jacket, pants, overshoes, GTX shoes) the entire time and I am still getting wet occasionally. Yesterday the weather was so bad that on my way to Thomas’ house I had to stop twice to poor the water out of my shoes.

I am now in Utrecht staying with Thomas the slightly crazy dutchman who I met while cycling in Tasmania, and who stayed with me in Sydney and Brisbane as he rode around the country. In the next few days I will finish the replacement of my brake pads, chain and front chain ring and then I am off to finish this little tour of mine with a 1600km slog through to Vienna along the Rhine and Danube (if I don’t change my plans).

For now though here are some stats on my trip so far.

Distance: 3,113.26 km
Time: 216:47:08 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 30,991 m
Avg Speed: 14.4 km/h