Sun 21st July.
Into Liechtenstein and back to Switzerland.
I left my spot on the path and was happy that I’d mustered up the audacity to camp within the town and not be perturbed by locals. Although I didn’t want to make a habit of it.
I withdrew some money (Liechtenstein uses the Swiss Franc) knowing I’d be in Switzerland for the next few days and went to do some planning with a coffee.
Vaduz is a small town which is fully exposed from the Rhein. Behind Vaduz is a giant set of mountains of dark green and stone that dwarfs the town in God-like way. As I cycled towards the town, the sun was rising on the other side of the mountain shadowing the whole town. Long beams of light escaped through the gaps, mixing with the morning dew to create striking rays of light beaming through, penetrating the dusk and blending with the day.
It was an incredible sight and reminded me of how insignificant we are to nature.
Further into the town, I saw a few truckers with big bellies, goatees and denim dungarees getting some food and their morning coffee. I imagined they had driven all night and were getting their morning fix from a well trusted haunt to get them through the rest of the day, or perhaps they were just starting.
I had coffee and added a doughnut to the order. On the way out I topped up my bottles with ice from the man at the counter when an American lady came in, she noticed the cycling attire and got talking.
Her name was Judy Jenson, she was 64 from Portland. She had a German husband, who couldn’t fly due to a weak lung, so every few years she would come to Germany to stay with his father for a week, looking after him and taking him out to do the things he likes. This time, she decided to go on a solo road trip for a few weeks around Europe. She was on her was to Switzerland and ended up here for breakfast.
We exchanged stories, she was interested in what I was doing, I told her about the cycling and she said she got into cycling in her later years and regretted not getting into it when she was younger. I felt very fortunate and thought when I was older, I would look back on this without any regrets.
She wished she had done something like this and I hoped to be doing what she was doing when I was her age. We said our farewells and parted ways.
I thought about the fact that in a strange way I was representing Britain. Travelling through people’s environments on a bike from England, people were often very nice and surprised that I had come this far.
I considered the long line of British travellers and explorers from history, from the days of the British Empire ruling the seas, to the first team in the world to climb Everest and many Brits that were setting new records and achieving things today.
Perhaps I shared that sense of discovery and maybe it would go on to become a lifetime of travelling or perhaps I would return to a normal job and settle down, receiving a pension in the future based National Insurance contributions.
Ahead, I was crossed a bridge, Switzerland in front of me and Liechtenstein behind me. I was glad to be back in Switzerland, it felt like an old companion I was fond of, but became irritating at times.
I continued down the river, but had to leave, taking the roads and the few cycle lanes I found on route.
The sun was strong, roads long and exposed and the gruelling Swiss hills returned. I spent hours sauntering through the naked landscape. At times it felt so plain and lifeless I couldn’t bare to be here after the river.
There was the occasional water fountain that I used to fill up on Alpine water, before immersing my head to cool down and rehydrate.
I got to Chur (where Alberto Giacometti died) and was in need of some basic supplies. Given that it was Sunday everything was shut. I cursed the town repeatedly and questioned how a society could function without their shops on a Sunday. There was barely anyone on the streets aside from the occasional dog walker.
I found a petrol station on the outskirts of the town, picked up some essentials and relaxed in the shade. I rejoined the river shortly after and kept moving south.
There were two passes to choose between for the road ahead. One was in Switzerland, called San Bernardino at just over 2000m and the other seemed to be a less cycle friendly route with gaps in the road on the map, with highs of at least 2100, possibly more. I opted to stay in Switzerland and see the small Italian corner of Switzerland before entering Italy.
The altitude began to rise to meet highs where the climb for the pass would begin. Unlike other passes, it was a long slow climb that would last two days and was home to a myriad of different landscapes and terrains.
It wasn’t a constant climb, it would rise, then become flat for a considerable time, then rise again, preparing you for the longer climbs ahead, as if nature had carefully planned it.
I started to think of where to camp for the night, given that camping in Switzerland was always difficult and I was in the mountains. I knew my options were going to be limited and I would have to take what I could find. I went through a small town, while I heard storm brewing in the distance. I noticed a Lidl that was shut. I contemplated camping round the back and leaving early in the morning, before anyone would arrive.
I didn’t like the option and kept going. I was yet to have a night where I had to wrap up by the side of the road and try to get a few hours before leaving on sunrise. I started to think this could be one of those nights.
As the road went higher, it became more like a highway and less accommodating for cyclists, which wasn’t good. There were long, uphill tunnels through the mountains, where I would ride as fast as I could to get through without causing problems.
After some searching, I found a path that left the road and was well suited to cyclists and walkers. I followed the small path that broke in two, left and right and thought I’d found a nice alternative to the road, but it came to an abrupt end. I backtracked up to where I came in and took the other option to the left which lead to a spacious wooded area. It was the perfect place to camp.
The area was densely populated by tall trees and the remainder of the evening sun trickled through the leaves. It reminded me of Canada, not that I’d ever been.
I cooked listened to Radio shows in podcast format and got down, thankful I wasn’t braving a night by the road.