How I stuck to the big plan in Switzerland
I made it! Another border that meant crossing a river to get into Switzerland. My #Komoot had kindly looked up a rather off-the-beaten track way to cross the Rhone river, down into the valley along a narrow forest trail, over fallen trees and a small bridge (I recently weighed my pannier bags and realized that my Rove must weigh a good 35kg with all the bags. Lugging that over a small fallen tree is therefore quite the mini-challenge). It is not as if I am actively avoiding the 'real' borders. I just never seem to find them.
Switzerland is so organized and nice! Cars give way to cyclists, paths are well-marked and freshly painted, everything just seems in order and tidy and neat. I arrived in the French part, so still lots of Boulangeries in little villages. Also, the wine harvest was in full swing, the smell of ripe grapes accompanied me while I rolled past harvest trucks, piles of grape skins next to people's houses or sons stomping the last load with their boots before going home for dinner. I ended my day at the Vallee du Allondon near Geneva. It was quiet and I was surrounded by trees, so I did not mind the bit of rain or lack of a beer to celebrate my day.
I was greeted by snowcapped mountains in the morning, and enjoyed a ride along the lake with jaw dropping views of the towering Alps in the distance. The sun was out and I was happy. During my lunch stop, I watched an elderly lady swimming laps, braving likely quite chilly temperatures - a nice way to keep the immune system in top shape. My goal for the day was the bottom of Lake Neuchatel, so I still had some distance and elevation to cover.
I wrote before that one of the great things about cycling is being able to smell things around you. If my olfactory senses were greeted by grapes, they were definitely taken over by cows from Day 2 onwards. Cows wearing those cute bells around their necks were roaming around freely on their pastures sharing their grass with horses or goats. You smell them, see them and hear them everywhere. They stare at you, they moo at you and sometimes they are standing in your way. It was wonderful.
When I reached the top of Lake Neuchatel, it was time to start climbing. Between myself and the other side of Switzerland was the Canton and Mountains of the Jura to be crossed. First on my list, the local ski resort of Neuchatel - Tete du Ran. With 1400m rather on the smaller end in Swiss mountain scale, it was the highest on my trip yet, and definitely challenged the Galician mountains in terms of steepness. There were kilometers (I think at least 5) of inclinations between 10-20%. I pushed my bike a bit, and also swore a lot (I think I even crushed a fly in a rage when it would not give up buzzing around me).
After a long while of sweat and a lot of that superpower-resilience, I reached the top. You may understand my absolute delight when I was greeted by a friendly local in his eco-food-truck serving ice-cold local bio-hibiscus-tea (I devoured it quicker than you read this hyphenated sentence). I nearly lost my shit when I looked back at the mountain panorama in the backdrop.
There wasn't much time to waste though, as I still had to cycle a good 30km and with the sun dropping, sunlight was a commodity. It was a beautiful ride, accompanied by cow bells (of course), a couple of kilometers riding along with a friendly gentleman from around the area, a stop at a farm to buy some fresh goats cheese, and a vanilla-sky-sunset over the forests. I arrived at one of my favorite campsites of the journey, grabbed a bunch of firewood and found a spot under two huge pine trees. Got the fire going and was glued to it until the last log was gone to ashes. I fell asleep to cowbells ringing nearby (Do they keep eating all night? Or do they keep waking each other up by ringing their little bells?).
My short ride through Switzerland ended with visiting my dear friends William and Anni in Basel. They were reading my mind, as they made me take a bubble bath upon arrival (AND have my end-of-ride beer in the bath), gave me birthday presents and cooked a Thai Curry. It was a short visit but another great rest and I know I will see them again soon.
Our timetables crossed a little, and we nearly missed each other. I therefore nearly considered to change my plans and not cycle into Switzerland at all. In France, I tried to focus on not over-planning the small or short-term stuff. If I had not set myself a destination (my hometown Cologne), I would likely never arrive ever (as there was no destination set in the first place). It is a wonderful thing roam freely, without a goal in sight. For my trip, having the final destination and rough timeline on my mind has pushed me along and kept me going. It also has made me appreciate each day, as I know there is an end to this journey.
Switzerland was on my itinerary, and I had this romantic vision of cycling along the lakes with seeing the Alps in the background. I am very happy I pursued my plan that rewarded me with some wonderful days that made me feel stronger and fitter and empowered; to cross another country, to climb a mountain and to see my friends. For me, this can be translated to every corner of our life's. Whenever we have a big vision, dream or goal in our minds, and focus our energy towards it, we can make it happen somehow.
My ride through Switzerland was a glimpse of more to come, and I loved it very much. Now, to the last leg, through the old Fatherland, Germany.
In Switzerland, I cycled:
1 rest day
59km average daily km
12.3km average speed (getting faster!)
73914kcal burned on rides (ie. many Croissants and Cheese to compensate)
50km in car
50km on train
54 days travelled
44 cycle days
10 rest days
What I loved about Switzerland:
Seeing the Alps - the mountains always call me and being there is so special
Hearing cow bells everywhere
Drinking the first sip of hibiscus tea at the top of Tete du Ran, looking at the snowcapped mountains in the back
Stepping into the hot bath in Basel, accompanied by a dark Leffe beer
Staying at Camping de Saignelegiers with my own fireplace, smelling the pine trees in bed and hearing the cowbells around me
The drivers were so friendly towards cyclists
Hearing the Swiss German is an absolute delight
After a few days (or weeks?) of craving, I gave in and invested (the right term when talking Swiss Franc) in a pot of delicious Jura honey that I have been devouring with my breakfast or lunches