I awoke at my warmshowers hosts reasonably early and was offered breakfast. Something simple would do, like porridge oats. Lots of calories and a good fuel for the day ahead.
Setting off reasonably early meant I would miss some of the heat. I thanked my hosts and cycled down the steep hill that I had laboured up the previous day. Soon I was on the flat valley floor, heading south with mountains on either side of me.
As I cycled I noticed the cycling signs had changed style. Looking on my phone the map showed I had crossed the border into Liechtenstein a couple of miles back.
The cycling network was part of the road system, Liechtenstein is a micro state sandwiched by Austria and Switzerland. It’s the sixth smallest nation in the world it’s a land area of 62 square miles. To put that into perspective the isle of Mann is 221 square miles.
As I continued pedalling, the phone buzzed twice, ah the message from my phone provider to tell me welcome to whichever country I was in. A short while longer I decided to stop and have something to eat. I took my phone out and read the message. I was expecting a welcome to Liechtenstein, but no, it was a message welcoming me to Switzerland, which was not far off to my right.
Ouch, Switzerland are not in the EU and are not included in my package, the costs looked horrendous to use the phone. I quickly manually selected a Liechtenstein provider and got the reassuring message that this would be included.
Right, I needed a plan. I knew I had a long distance to cover in Switzerland which would start literally in a couple of hours. I needed to prepare for not having a phone while I was there.
Oh look, what do we have here, a McDonald’s. Right, coffee ordered and I sat down.
Double checking routes through Switzerland to France, ensuring they were available offline. Ring Mum and message a couple of other people to let them know I wont be available on the phone and that I will only have access to the internet when I find wifi. I planned on leaving the Liechtenstein network selected to ensure it couldn’t jump to a Swiss one and then bankrupt me by using data. The cost for 1 Mb was £14.99, so one high quality Spotify track would cost about £60 to listen to using roaming data. How these prices can be justified I am unsure.
That done I headed further south to Vaduz, the capital of Liectenstein. There I found the castle, covered in scaffolding. I wasnt having much luck with monuments on this trip, the Menin Gate in Ypre, the Reichstagg in Berlin had fencing a round a lot of it, and now the castle in Vaduz, all covered.
I had a look round the shops below the castle, as it was a Sunday most were shut. They had a couple of nice watch shops, also closed. I made my way North west toward Switzerland.
Crossing a bridge a man stood halfway pointed out a sign in the floor with indicated the border. Had he not pointed it out, I would have completely missed it.
There you have it, I started in Austria, rode into Lichtenstein and into Switzerland. All in one day. Had it not been for the sorting out the maps due to no data in Switzerland. I would have done that in three hours or less.
In front of me was a big climb to Wildhaus in Switzerland. As I headed toward Grab and Gam at the foothills, the Liechtenstein network lost power and my phone stated “No Service”.
The previous days climbing was tough and I had lost a lot of time trying to get everything I needed sorted for my time in Switzerland. Although I had started early, it was now nearly one o’clock, the sun was out and beating down. I headed toward the bus station.
A cyclist getting off the bus saw the fully loaded bike and said could he help me? I asked whether the bus went to Wildhaus. He took me to a different bus and left me with the driver. The drivers and I struggled a little to communicate but we managed. He said I needed to go to centrum in Gams for 13:10 and wrote this onto a piece of paper. I did t have much time. With no way to check the route properly, he pointed the direction and off I headed until I hit a cycle route signs that said “Gams”. I pedalled as fast as I could and arrived in good time.
The bus arrived 10 minutes later with the same driver. Off stepped lots of passengers leaving room for me to get my bike on. The driver and a passenger explained I’d need to stand and hold the bike. Especially on the turns.
It didn’t seem like more than 15 minutes and we were at the top disembarking. The driver came over to explain this was the stop and I asked to pay. Hr wouldn’t let me. I thanked him and reversed the loaded bike off.
The passenger that had helped with translation also got off. I asked whether bikes are free and explained the driver wouldn’t let me pay. He explained that yes. You normally should pay and they only accept bikes by prior booking with an additional fee! This driver just gave me a lift and broke his companies procedure in the process. What a lovely guy!
I chatted with the passenger who turned out to be a German chef working in the hotels. He was waiting for a lift and we talked for a while as I made coffee. He’d been working in Switzerland over 20 years and liked it. The money was good and he liked the lifestyle.
Heading down from Wildhaus, you’d be forgiven for thinking should be easy. It’s a descent after all. Looking down the other side of the pass the wind was blowing strongly into my face. Even on a downhill I was having to pedal. There was now a lot of cloud cover and was starting to feel cold.
At one point I saw the bus driver that had helped me on his return leg, after having turned round at the end of the journey.
I had two campsites marked on my planned route, through an app called Komoot. On arrival of the first, it was just large sheds with many permanent residents. I spoke to a man there and he confirmed the next one was tents.
Turning around and dropping down to the other campsite. It appeared to be the same. I parked the bike and walked in. A family of about 8 were sat outside drinking a beer, laughing and chatting. I asked with there was a Zeltplatz? (Tent place). He confirmed there wasn’t. The son who was about mid twenties spoke English. I explained I needed to put the tent. He spoke to his dad who looked on his phone (I couldn’t turn mine on for fear of being bankrupted) and said there was one at Atzmanning.
I explained i needed to be sure as it was uphill and I was tired. The father rang the site, although I can’t speak German I got the gist of what he was saying. He had an English guy on a bike (Farr had) needed to camp with a tent (zelt) and then handed me the phone. The lady on the end spoke English and explained they shut at 17:00. I wouldn’t get there in time with almost a 1,000 feet of climbing in 7 miles. She said just to come and pay in the morning. Everything worked without cards or tokens.
I thanked the family who also tried to explain how to get there and went to my bike. I was there a while checking on the phone and I suddenly heard shouts. The son ran over and explained he’d talked to his dad and I could use his phone as a hotspot to plot the route and transfer to my watch. I was extremely grateful and after we all shook hands and they all shouted encouragement as I cycled off.
The climb was tough as I was already tired but eventually arrived after cycling through pasture with steep hills and cows jingling there bells. I was expecting Heidi to come out of a shed in a filed at any moment!
The campsite was on the edge of a hill looking across to another. Kites were wheeling in the air being chased by crows and I found the tent area, setup and headed for the very plush shower lock and toilets. all made of slate.
Tent up, food on, eaten washed up and the Dfurst spots of rain started. I refused to the tent. I had a funny feeling being high up would mean storms. I’d set the tent up expecting it, using additional pegs and lines to ensure water run off fell away from the foot print.
The light show was spectacular! The rain very heavy, stopping for 20 minutes and then starting again. This continues throughout the night.
On waking properly the family in the tent next door had not had a goodnight. There youngest son had been coughing all night. They hadn’t slept. I spoke to the wife in the morning. This was their first camping trip and the combination of coughing son, thunderstorms all through the night and I wouldn’t have helped as I still had a cough made it an awful night. They packed up and went home. However the wife was very kind to create a wifi spot for me to work out the most efficient way for me to get back onto my route.
After paying 14.75CHF (£13.25) for the camping, which I thought very reasonable considering Switzerland was so expensive, I set off downhill to get back on my route. The views again were spectacular.
Soon I was back on my route. However I needed data access. Whilst I was at Wildhaus, I’d used the free wifi on the buses to contact a couple of warmshowers hosts. I needed to see if they had replied. I pulled into a larger bus station to use the buses again. As I did a man walked across the road to ask me about my bike. He was about to embark on his first tour and was after some tips and info on what kit to take. I gave him a slip with my website on it, I have a kit list page, albeit not updated yet for europe. I explained I was trying to get wifi when the buses came in. He worked opposite and brought me a printout of their login. That was great. I was able to check my emails. Unfortunately only one had replied and was not available. I was happy to have been able to check. There would be nothing worse for a host to say yes and I didn’t know and then didn’t turn up. Especially if they’d put themselves out.
Getting water in Switzerland is easy. There are springs everywhere. Unless they state “Klein Trinkwasser” or “eau non potable” they are safe to drink. I regularly stop by them to make a coffee and let the tent dry.
Cycling on and a few climbs and a big scary descent later and I was in Zurich. Another major city. Zurich is a big climb, then a descent to get to and a big climb out. I went past a Starbucks and used that to look for wifi and campsites. I had a nice coffee and bit of carrot cake. 13.60CHF (£12.22). I’m not a fan of Starbucks. I prefer privately owned premises. But it was easy for the wifi and to find a campsite. The product was t worth the money.
Campsite found I headed to Camping Reussbrücke.
On arrival everything looked great. Although it was the most expensive site I’d been to at 21.00CHF (£18.86). The reception area was lovely as were the owners. I was told where to camp, in the tent meadow.
Off I headed. Meadow was a stretch? It was the bottom end of the campsite. In it was several permanent residents. One living under a gazebo. One whole family in a lorry, another whole family in a lorry trailer and not much room to put a tent up. I thought no point in saying anything. I’m here for one night. After showering I stayed at my tent as I wasn’t comfortable to go to the bar or restaurant.
Then the fun started. As I said, not much room for me and my bike. Then a polish family turned up and squeezed in. Another large family turned up with two cars and eight people and were clearly not happy. They had a big tent and only just managed to get it in. Another family turned up and then promptly went back to get a refund and drove off The rest of the camp looked quite good. The toilet facilities and showers good but the tent location, cramming in of too many and then this being combined with permanent residents wasnt great. It was more expensive than the previous nights. There was a 10am cut off for noise which the permanent residents ignored, joking and laughing and drinking until one in the morning. I’m glad I was only there one night.
I was up very early. I kept quiet not to disturb anyone. Had breakfast and left early. I had a long day of 70 plus miles to do to get to Biel / Bienne to meet Norman and his partner Melanie.
Norman I met in my way to Africa, the day before I met Rênas whom I’d caught up with in Bremen. It’d been 9 years and I was really looking forward to seeing him. We had gotten on so well before and had kept in touch occasionally.
The days riding was mixed. Mostly flat but with some thunderstorms thrown in.
I soon dried out. As I entered Biel / Bienne, I went last several watch manufacturers. Breitling, had what looked to be a spitfire on the roof.
Several Rolex units. (I’ve since checked, Rolex have 24.9% of the luxury watch market share). Even went past a movement factory ETA. The ETA movements are used in brands that include Breitling, Omega, TAG Heuer, Panerai, Sinn, Porsche Design, Longines, Oris, Tissot, Hamilton, Rado, and Chopard.
DT Swiss who make some fantastic cycling wheels and spokes.
And a whole host of other Swiss household names.
As a cycled in a lady tourer was behind me. I’d stopped to take a photo of a car with hail damage. One of my friends I the alps had just had his new car pockmarked in the alps.
I caught her up after going by. She was headed to Spain and asked if I’d been. We then swapped info as she knew Switzerland well and I’d cycled the easgg to coast of Spain. We were both using Komoot for navigation and therefore had the same route in up until I needed to fork off to see Norman and Melanie.
I arrived at Norman and Melanie’s flat. Norman was still working and Melanie answered and then greeted me. Helping me take my luggage upstairs and secure the bike. Melanie had also travelled a lot and Norman had cooked a curry before going to work which we ate, chatted about travelling until Norman got home. When he did it was the same as seeing Rênas. Like there had been no time in between.
Other than Norman was looking fitter than ever and I was the reverse. That was the start of my time in Biel / Bienne. I stayed for several days so it’ll cover a post on it’s on!