Sunday 29th July
Basel to Zurich: 6 hours 24 minutes, 118km
“The rain continued throughout the night and yet again I had to pack up a wet tent. I said goodbye to the English trio and was the first person to checkout of the campsite. People seem to be intrigued by my accent, on two separate occasions I was approached by some other campers and asked where I was from. On hearing that I was South African, the one man proclaimed that he once had a girlfriend who grew up in South Africa, he then proceeded to say “small world isn’t it”. I could not help but think that this particular situation did not warrant the use of the such a phrase.
I did not back track to Basel but instead continued east along the Rhine. Being a Sunday, not many places were open. I pulled into a McDonalds to charge my phone and have some brunch. With my phone and my body sugar levels all charged, I set off again.
The weather was perfect for cycling; overcast but with no rain. The Rhine was a dull turquoise colour. The mountains surrounding the river valley were covered in evergreen trees and the clouds hanging low gave the illusion that the mountains were smoking.
I cycled on the Swiss side of the Rhine as I figured I would soon enough be spending a lot more time in Germany. I came across a fair bit of commotion happening on the road below. There seemed to be a whole lot of outdoor tables covered by umbrellas, from which live music and much chit chat emanated. I decided to investigate. Finding a road down from the high road, I discovered to my delight that it was the second day of a mini beer festival. Getting in the spirit of things I ordered a pretzel and a lager and sat myself down on a bench in front of the stage. The band members were all wearing traditional leather pants and had magnificent moustaches.
I was making good headway and at a town called Zuzach I decided to pull out the map of Switzerland with all the camping spots marked on it, which I had obtained from the tourist office in Basel. My map indicated that the last campsite for a good while was in this very town. There were still a number of hours left in the day and so I decided to carry on, knowing full well that wild camping would be a likely end to the day.
Just as I was rolling up my map, an old man on his beaten up bicycle stopped nearby, dismounted and began to approach me. He told me his name was Keller and that he was writing for the local town newspaper about cycle tourists along the route I was on. He asked if he could write about my trip in his article. I of course agreed and after a quick photo of me posing with Jenny, we started chatting. I told him about my trip and he told me about his town, Switzerland and his holidays in South Africa.
About 4km from Eglisau, I came to an unexpected fork in the road, that lead me consider a new option. The road to my left followed the Rhine leading to the town of Schaffhaussen just 32km away, and the route I was intending to follow. The road to my right, was labelled as bicycle route 29 and lead to Zürich also 32km away. I had never really considered venturing too far from the German/Swiss border and heading deeper into Switzerland. However, this seemed like it would make for a nice detour and I would at least feel like I had seen a bit more of Switzerland. I decided to flip a coin, it landed tails which meant I would head north to Schaffhausen. I decided to ignore the coin toss and I went right to Zurich. I was way ahead of schedule, it seemed like an adventure and it meant I would get to visit one of the big Swiss cities.
I was so glad I took the detour. Route 29 is really well signposted and runs along some forest paths alongside a slow flowing stream. Since, Zurich was not part of my plan I had no preloaded Google maps to follow. So without maps or wifi, I had to rely solely on the route 29 signs. I managed to get to northern Zurich to find its wide streets completely empty. Entering the main city things got a little busier but still relatively quiet. I had been to Zurich before on a family holiday when I was younger but my only real memory of it, was my parents buying sun dried tomatoes at the train station.
Zurich is a beautiful city. Like Basel it has tram tracks everywhere. I could now see what people are talking about when they say Switzerland is a very clean place. Zürich felt very clean. I had lost track of any signs and was following my nose towards the lake and ultimately the campsite. I came across the Google offices and a thought struck me. I pulled out my phone and turned on the Wifi. It had worked, I was connected to Google Guest network. I proceeded to preload maps for Zurich that would lead me to the campsite. At this moment, I also discovered that the Sharks had beaten the Stormers in the semi-finals and had made it to yet another Super Rugby Final 😉
I arrived at the campsite, and now see why people say Switzerland is an expensive country. Thirty one euros for one night! The location was amazing though! On the shores of the beautiful lake, I put up my damp tent and watched the sun set with beer in hand.”