Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Basel

Yet again a sunny day for my 95km ride north-west to Basel. There is one minor pass of 750m to climb, but it is a relatively easy day. I am going to Basel to meet my friend Patryk, so we can catch up with a large bike touring group called Green Riders. This group started the Eurovelo 6 (on the coast of France) at the start of June and plan to ride the full route of 4500km to the Black Sea in two months. They will visit interesting environmental and social projects on the way and attempt to stealth camp with up to 20 people for the majority of the nights. However, they have a 300km head start on Patryk and I, so the initial few days on the Rhine will be longer than usual.
Having recieved many offers of accomodation on CouchSurfing in Basel, I eventually stay with Anil in the city centre

Luzern Lucerne so good they named it twice





Some of the most stunning scenery I have ever experienced is on today's ride to Luzern. Skirting the edge of two large lakes makes for an magnificent introduction to the pretty town of 100,000 inhabitants. The old part of town is simply full of day tourists and everything is extremely expensive. In the evening I head to the nearby town of Rothenburg, where my friend Sabrina lives in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) - where you share a living space with one or several others. It is a large, old, wooden farm house and Sabrina shares the house with five others. They prepare meals together, play music and generally hang out together whether possible. There is nobody there when I first reach the house and Sabrina has told me the house is always open. I had observed that security of personal possessions in Switzerland is rather lax; expensive bicycles locked with feeble or no locks, no security walls around houses, etc. This is something I could definitely get used to. It makes you feel that you can relax more and nobody will take advantage.
I stay the nights in this farmhouse surrounded by her wonderful housemates. I spend the first day helping out in a food co-op that Sabrina helps organise and the second cycling about town, exploring the more alternative spots of the city. Each evening gather together to prepare delicious dinners, with some of the ingredients fresh from the garden.
Unfortunately this slice of Elysium will be destroyed in November, when the house is destined to be demolished to make way for a new housing development. The desperate search for a rare bat to make the house it's home continues.

Altdorf







We're on the road for 9am and somehow we take different roads to the 2100m pass. Adrien takes the cycle path with plenty of switchbacks and a higher gradient and I take the main road with multiple tunnels and little traffic. There is a tunnel for the cars to avoid the pass. This means it is really only tourists who take the pass, usually by motorbike, RV or car. It is a long climb but it only takes 100 minutes and my legs feel overworked at the top. We're actually very lucky as this pass was only opened five days previously, evidenced by the snow walls pushed to the side of the road and the still frozen lakes. We wrap up in our warmest clothes for the decent. My top speed is just over 60km/hr and the rest of the day is effortless riding into the German part of Switzerland.
Sonya and Pirmin are my Warm Shower hosts for the evening. They have ridden for nine months as far as Azerbaijan and then the east coast of Australia. Hats off to you both.

Airolo (photos soon)

A rainy start to the day has us taking breakfast under a bridge and deciding how far to travel today. As it is raining and overcast, we decide to just cycle to Airolo at 1100m and take on the pass tomorrow. This means an embarrassing 23km day and plenty of time to chill out in the afternoon.

Faida (photos soon)

I start on the road west to the Guardino Pass (2100m). I have not looked for hosts in this Ticino area so that I can get in full biking days and can stop any time I want. Stealth camping is more flexible than CouchSurfing/ Warm Showers. I take a long lunch break in the pretty city of Bellinzona and continue on to Faida at 700m. As there are many cyclists who ride this pass and its Switzerland, there are dedicated, isolated cycle ways for most of the pass. I camp near a waterfall which successfully acts as white noise for the nearby highway. It is here, at my impromptu campground, that I meet a fellow cyclist tackling the pass. Adrien comes from Eastern France and it's riding from Portugal to Norway. We decide to ride together for a few days.

Lugano (photos soon)

Today's international ride to Lugano (Switzerland) will involve some hills. Not easy to cross all the highways that ring Milan. I have done this same ride last year in the opposite direction. I device to try another road that avoids all the traffic of Como, of Lake Como fame. This is a good decision and it's a quick, but a little boring ride, to Lugano.
Lugano is famous for being one of the wealthiest cities of Switzerland, due to its special banking practices. This is bounlrne out by the abundant luxury shops and sports cars. CouchSurfing tonight with Marco means that I get to see some of the city with a local and have not need to find a place to pitch the ol' tent. I really don't see why so many tourists visit here. Sure the lake is nice and there are nice views from the tall nearby mountains, but the general atmosphere is destroyed by high rise apartments and excessive traffic. To be fair, they have drastically increased the bicycle infrastructure in the last eight months. Still, there are far nicer cities in Switzerland.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Milan (pictures coming soon)

Extending my ride to just over 100km today, in order to take the fantastic bike paths that run along the canals from the east of Milan. Its the weekend and there are plenty of bike riders of all ages and styles. I reach Milan in the late afternoon and meet Carlo, a friend from Berlin. We head out for the night to the afters of a design workshop, where we catch up and meet some of Carlo's numerous friends.
The next day we spend working the fields.  We reduce the shade of on the trees of forest we planted three months ago. Its thirsty and hungry work. Thankfully there is a simple but tasty lunch organised for us in the late afternoon. We spend the evening, once again, at the design workshop, but as we go there earlier, we get to hear live music and there's more atmosphere than the previous night.