CURRENT LOCATION: Camping de la Piscine, Aigle
The difference between the situation I am tonight at Aigle, Switzerland compared to the situation I was in at Excenevex near Lac Léman just 24 hours ago is a stark one to say the least. But before I get into that, I have some catching up to do…
Yesterday the climbing started and in that respect it was a very positive day. From Seyssel at around 250m the route moved inland and within the first 20km of the ride had climbed to over 550m. After weeks of reasonably flat riding it was good to get my teeth stuck into something more substantial. I really don’t mind the big climbs; yes, there are hard work but you can psyche yourself up for them in the hours and days before they take place (I’ve been thinking about the climbing to come in the next few days to Andermatt for months). In contrast, the little annoying ones that appear all of a sudden might last only 50m but as you are not expecting them can be a real pain in the arse.
There were quite a few cyclists who had been at the campsite in Seyssel heading in the same direction yesterday morning including Stéphane, a French chap who I had chatted to on the previous evening about his curious bicycle. Well, tricycle. Listen to the podcast for more details. (It will be published when I arrive in Andermatt.) I also chatted to a French-Canadian woman from Vancouver and a mother who had been cycling with her two children from Lyon. We all kept bumping into each other repeatedly and there was almost a family atmosphere to the big ascent and modest descent over the course of the morning.
By early afternoon we had all gone our separate ways. In my case through a wood and across the border – in the middle of the wood – into Switzerland. Two hours later I was in the centre of Geneva after a rather twisty-turny journey from the suburbs. I had no wish to hang around with the rich folk and the diplomats so I just continued cycling around the lake with accommodation options beginning to play on my mind.
Once over the border and back in France I located a campsite a little inland and followed Google directions. I was there within about 30 minutes staring at the sign shouting ‘complet’. Full. Mmm… There were a few patches of grass that would have accommodated the tent but there was no one around to ask. A quick check on my phone told me that there was a cluster of three campsites – including a two-star place – about another 6km away nearer the lake.
Despite having the unpleasant experience of a large fly landing directly in my open mouth – I managed to spit it out but it reminded me that I would never hack it on I’m a Celebrity… – but I think some of the creature remained lodged at the back of my throat which remained a little sore until this morning. Yuck!
I arrived at the two-star ‘campsite’. They didn’t accept people in tents. So not a campsite then. The woman at the reception was friendly enough however despite her employer being in desperate need of a decent dictionary. She suggested I try the four-star mega-camp across the road “before it starts raining”. It had already done so, lightly…
I had to be resuscitated by the resident first-aider at Camping de la Pinède after collapsing on the floor as a result of being told a pitch for the night would be €35 (yes, thirty-five); it was a case of any port in a storm and this storm had now arrived with a vengeance, bucketing it down with thunder and lightening thrown in for good measure. I thought the best thing to do would be erect the tent despite the conditions but with the inner requiring to be put up before the outer it was inevitable that my strategy had holes. The tent, however, didn’t and within a few minutes a watertight swimming pool had formed at one end of the inner.
The bike, panniers etc… were in the relative dryness of the wash block a few metres away. Would I end up spending the night in there? I decided to attempt a bailout with my towel and the entire stock of paper towels from the wash block (hopefully €35 worth). Eventually, it worked and I moved my kit inside the tent. It was about 80% dry. Not ideal but this is camping…
I managed some, uncomfortable sleep and escaped the tent and the campsite as soon as light appeared in the morning. Not my idea of fun…
Within a couple of hours the wet Lycra I had pulled on earlier had dried. At least it had had a clean, or sorts. I was somewhat concerned that my iPhone was not charging. Fortunately I was able to narrow this down to the battery pack I’m carrying rather than the phone itself. Still a pain however, especially when I’m heading into the mountains. Perhaps an overnight drying out my get it working again.
The cycling today was a little more run-of-mill that yesterday. No great climbs or descents, just a gentle plod along the shore of the lake although frequently the view was obliterated by a house whose owner had paid good money not to have his or her view obliterated by a passing cyclist.
Determined not to repeat the fiasco of the previous evening I made efforts to find a WarmShowers person along the Rhône in Switzerland. One reply from two requests and he was not going to be at home. Another campsite? Bingo! I rang the place in Aigle – just 20km along the river from the lake – and booked myself in.
It’s a great find. Ideal for cyclists with a small marquee where I’m currently sitting to keep us safe from the rain. It was predicted to be here at 4pm, then 5pm. By 6pm the BBC Weather app was giving a 99% chance of rain in Aigle. It’s now 9pm and not one drop has fallen…
I have used my relatively early arrival to sort everything out including washing my clothes. The only downside of Switzerland so far are the prices. Although the campsite was an expensive – but not shocking – €20 for the night, a visit to the local supermarket had me quivering at the knees. I managed to identify some cheap items but my diet may be limited in the week to come. It’s all very reminiscent of Norway in 2015 when I lived off the same four or five items of food for about three weeks.
As things stand the forecast for tomorrow is rain. If that’s still the case in the morning I will probably spend a second night here in Aigle and use the day to do some proper planning. The good weather is forecast to return on Saturday. 99% guaranteed…
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