07/05/18-14/05/18 (8 days)
Distance: 287.5 kilometres / 178.6 miles
Elevation: 3,624 metres / 11,890 feet
Everyday’s a school day on our cycle tour, and this week especially, we feel like we’ve packed so much into our tired, little brains. So what did we learn?
1. Hiking on a rest day doesn’t equal a rest day
We started the week with a rest day, still at Vera’s in Geneva. Not wanting to waste it, we decided to go for a 26KM hike into the nearby mountains (we actually crossed the border back into France on our hike – we found this hilarious). Little did we know, that because we haven’t really walked anywhere for six weeks, a hike would hurt. Badly. We could barely walk on our feet the next day.
2. Switzerland is predominately German speaking
Who knew? German is the main language, followed by French. For the first few days, we were in the French part, so squeezed the last of Dan’s French out of him. His summer’s camping in France as a kid really paid off, he can speak more than he thought, which has really helped over the last few weeks. Then it was time to test my GCSE in German… zehn bier bitte? Also, Bern is the capital of Switzerland! I thought it was Zürich and Dan thought it was Geneva. Oops.
3. Switzerland isn't as expensive as we expected
It obviously wasn't as cheap as say France or Spain, but we were surprised at the prices of campsites, food and beer. We were so money conscious, we actually had our cheapest week to date, spending only £145! We shopped at Lidl and Denner, both discount supermarkets, where we found loaves of bread and cold beers for around 75p each; cheese slices for £1.50; and even a pack of six spicy sausages for £3 – bargain!
4. Khaki trousers aren’t good for sweaty climbs
Cycling around the famous lakes – Geneva, Neuchâtel and Biel – was incredible, but we were craving some hills. After a bit of Googling, we decided to head into the Jura Mountains, with the big climb being Chasseral, a Category One at 1,606 metres (from 815 metres). With an average gradient of 8% over 8.5 kilometres, it was tough. It was also a hot and humid day and my choice of khaki trousers wasn't the smartest, for obvious reasons...
5. Don’t assume campsite showers are free
After a cheeky Category Two climb, averaging 8%, we had a day off at a campsite, before the Chasseral climb. By the time we realised you needed to pay for showers, reception was closed for the night, so we had no way of getting half a franc in change (30p). Not that we had any Swiss francs to change anyway. As we weren't in Switzerland for long, we just used card. Yes, we probably could have asked our campsite neighbours for help, but it was more fun to improvise...
6. Don’t assume WIFI is free either
Not surprising, the same campsite charged for WIFI. It would have cost £7 for both of us to be connected for one day. That’s a solid chunk of our daily budget. We’d rather spend it on beer, which we did. No WIFI turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as rather than sitting in front of a screen all day editing photos and updating the website, we lazed around in the sun playing games.
7. For the second time, the camp knife is very sharp
Dan quite rightly questions how I cut vegetables, as I've now sliced my left hand twice with our camp knife. First I sliced down my thumb and now I've sliced the top off my little finger. I won't gross you out with photos.
8. Our exoskeleton tent is thunder storm-proof
We really but our tent to the test this week when we wild camped in a forest during a thunder storm. When we come to put it up after dark, we found out that the ground was completely stone. There was no way the pegs were going in. Thankfully, it's exoskeleton, so it's free standing, and with carefully positioned bags, it didn't budge when the weather took a drastic turn.
9. Wild camping in Switzerland is possible
We read so much about wild camping in Switzerland being totally illegal. And not the kind of illegal where you won't really get into trouble, but more the kind where locals will call the police and you will be moved. Wanting to see for ourselves, we just had to give it a go before we left. So, as mention above, we found a lovely, quiet stream and just went for it. We didn't see a soul all evening; it was perfect, apart from the thunder storm.
After all this, we left Switzerland and crossed into Germany. We crossed the border at Basel, which is the location of the Three Countries Bridge (German: Dreiländerbrücke, French: La passerelle des Trois Pays). This is an arch bridge that technically crosses the Rhine between the commune of Huningue (France) and Weil am Rhein (Germany), within the Basel (Switzerland) metropolitan area. It is the world's longest single-span bridge dedicated exclusively to carrying pedestrians and cyclists. It was pretty impressive, and again, the novelty of just hopping across European borders still wasn't old.
We're now just sat in a cafe, frantically uploading, editing and blogging before Dan's brother, Jacob arrives imminently. Tomorrow, we'll head into the Black Forest, a mountainous, dense forest that inspired the Brothers Grimm to write Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. We'll spend the next nine days working our way through it towards Stuttgart. Wish us luck!