The first part of Plan B has been enacted… Quite an achievement when you bear in mind that there wasn’t ever a detailed Plan A and when Plan B is about as vague as a Brexitier when you try pin them down on the benefits of the UK leaving the EU. I am currently en route to Konstanz in Germany. More of that in a moment.
This morning I’m meeting Ken Wynn in Liechtenstein. He’s British but lives in Amsterdam. He’s currently on a charity ride across Europe. I’ll let him explain in his own words…
Life is getting complicated, for good reasons. I’m now in the Swiss town of Buchs and trying to plan tomorrow which will hopefully see me meet two people at either ends of the day; Ken, who is cycling 12 countries in 12 days (see his Twitter feed @highfielder80 for updates and the details of his trip) and my friend Claus (remember him from ‘Crossing Europe…’?) who I haven’t seen for many years, in Breganz, Austria in the late afternoon. I need a social secretary! I’m also hatching an interesting plan for Friday but more of that in due course…
And so this pan-European odyssey enters its final phase: the Rhine Cycle Route or EuroVelo 15. But before I could crack on with that this morning, I had some sorting out of loose ends from the penultimate phase: the Rhône Cycle Route or EuroVelo 17. I completed that route yesterday upon arrival in Andermatt but this morning finished putting together the podcast about cycling the Rhône. This included inserting a chat that I had with my neighbours on the campsite at Andermatt; a couple – Rich and Becca – from West Yorkshire of all places (my neck of the woods) who had cycled some of the route as well. The podcast was published this morning from café at the train station in Andermatt but you don’t have to go that far to find it: all the links are at CyclingEurope.org/Podcast.
The Cycling Europe Podcast continues to follow Andrew Sykes as he cycles on his ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. In this episode of the podcast he sets off from the Mediterranean resort of Sète and follows the EuroVelo 17 – the Rhône Cycle Route (known as the Via Rhôna in France) – to Andermatt, high in the Swiss Alps. Over 12 days he travels more than 1,000km from sea to source exploring the places and meeting the people as he cycles. The weather doesn’t always make life easy and there will be some challenging cycling along the way. It’s an epic podcast for an epic journey along one of Europe’s most iconic rivers but will he have the energy to climb to the Furka Pass on the final day of his cycle? The music is by Rob Ainsley.
I did it! I arrived in my spiritual cycling home, Andermatt, a little earlier this afternoon after a lengthy, strenuous, exhilarating and ultimately beautifully satisfying climb to the Furka Pass. I’m now celebrating with the best CHF5 bottle of wine that the local Coop could sell me accompanied with some good old bread and cheese. This is what cycle-camping is all about!
I’m running out of energy today. Not me personally but my electrical gear. In sorting out my gear last week at the €35 campsite when the heavens opened and the tent ended up hosting the 2022 Lac Léman swimming championships at the end where my feet are currently positioned, my battery pack stopped working and I inadvertently left the two cables I need to attach my phone to the front wheel dynamo hub somewhere. Although I replaced the battery pack in Aigle, I won’t be able to replace the cables. Added to this, my WarmShowers host Jean-Daniel has some very curious Swiss sockets in his house and I wasn’t able to charge anything overnight. I have 30% of charge left on this phone and my battery pack is currently being charged in the reception. That should see me through tomorrow to Andermatt. I have made today’s video but a combination of this lack of power and the Swiss love of 3G as opposed to 4G you are going to have to wait to see it until at least Monday.
On one level – the cycling level – it has been a pretty standard day. Dare I say boring? A flat ride, 90% off road on a good quality path beside the Rhône following the route of the EuroVelo 17 or, as it is known locally, national route 1. Sticking to just the cycling for a moment, I say ‘flat ride’… I knew I was heading uphill but couldn’t help feel that I was heading downhill. After the turn to cycle east following my brief pause in Martigny, the wind was behind me so this may have added to the sensation of cycling down a very gentle gradient but I think of more significance is the valley itself. I’ve experienced this before (although not that dubious ‘Electric Bray’ place on the west coast of Scotland where I was singularly unimpressed…) in northern Spain in 2019. There too I was cycling through a valley, knew I was cycling uphill beside a river heading in the opposite direction, but had a distinct feeling of going downhill all day. It’s the brain seeing something – the narrow valley with steep slopes on either side – and convincing the body that it is indeed what the brain sees, despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.