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Cheese Fondue

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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Not only is the season starting late here in Switzerland, it is having a major impact on the tourist trade. Monday and Grindelwald was like a ghost town, many establishments not even bothering to open as the rain continued to fall. The exception was of course the sports and adventure stores, which are about the only ones open on a Sunday too.
I dried off the tent as best I could, then just packed it away wet as another deluge descended. It’s not so much the damp, but the mud which gets everywhere despite my best cleaning efforts.

So it was mid morning before I set off on the long climb to Grosse Scheidegg, my hardest challenge of the trip so far. There wasn’t much to see as the valley was filled with cloud, which strangely enough I was not climbing into, rather it was following me up the valley.

This was looking back down the valley as the cloud chased me up.

It wasn’t long before I reached the barrier and sign saying the road was closed due to avalanches, however I’d met another cyclist who had just cycled over and he said it was passable with care. There wasn’t much of an alternative anyway. It’s a brutal 12km climb, with gradients that had me off and walking even on the lower parts and by the time I was nearing the top I was absolutely shattered and had to push the bike the last 3km to the top. I was mildly upset no-one was there to see my efforts, the whole place had shut down and as I made my lunchtime cup of tea to warm up, heavy rain and sleet began to fall again.

The Grosse Scheidegg Hotel

The Grosse Scheidegg Hotel wasn’t even staffed, the shutters were up.

Despite the weather I needed the cup of tea and a sandwich, but then quickly packed away and slowly set off down to Meiringen. I was being ultra cautious as the road/track was pretty treacherous, but how I would have loved to have descended in good conditions. I was chilled, so stopped to take photographs and warm up my hands a few times as my full winter waterproof gloves were pretty ineffective against the cold.

The river was in full spate.

The river was in full spate.

It was still a wonderful view, despite the weather.

It was still a wonderful view, when you could see it!

Once I was through the steeper sections, I put in a big effort to get off the mountain as quickly as possible and it wasn’t long before I was riding into Meiringen. I pulled into the first campsite I passed (Alpencamping), looked at the site map and decided on a spot to pitch the tent – quickly as it was still raining. I hadn’t even unloaded the bike before my nearest neighbor, a campervan from Holland opened it’s door and a lovely lady asked if I’d like a cup of tea, truly wonderful.

I put up the tent in double quick time and then joined the lady and her husband in the campervan for a lovely cup of tea. We made our introductions, they were a retired couple called Niek and Hanneke from the Hague, hoping to do some walking and cycling if the weather broke. We chatted for a good while and I was invited to join them for tea, it would be a cheese fondue and I was really overwhelmed as a pretty horrible day was turning into something special. I returned an hour later and we sat down to enjoy the meal with a glass of red wine. The fondue was superb, my first this time in Switzerland but better than any I’ve had before. I’m sure the company helped, it was so nice just to share stories and relax with such a lovely couple.

I was bushed, so after Niek had made a cup of coffee (again pretty special) I said my goodbye with a promise to pop in on them in the morning. It was 9:00 p.m. and I just collapsed into the sleeping bag and was asleep in minutes. Of course I woke early, went for a shower and started to pack up. It was still cloudy but there were signs it was going to warm up and maybe turn into a good day, so I busied myself with breakfast and completed loading up the bike. I went to say goodbye to Niek and Hanneke and was invited for a cup of coffee, as they told me they would cycle into Meiringen then get the cable car up the mountain and go for a walk. I’d been right, the sun had come out and it looked like being a nice day.

I said my goodbye and headed off towards Liechtenstein hoping that I could have a reasonably easy day, but knowing that to get out of the valley involved a tough climb, whichever route I took and to be honest I was making it up as I went along, it was well and truly out of my hands. Let me explain…

Oh dear, closed.

Oh dear, pass(es) closed!!

My initial thought had been to head across the difficult Sustenpass, as despite it’s severity it offered the shortest route and would take me onto Eurovelo 2 which was the best (shortest) route to Liechtenstien. Second choice was the Grimsel Pass, as although this meant a trip south, it again hooked up with the Eurovelo 2 route. As you can see, neither option was available to me and I had no choice but to take on the Brunigpass again, this time from the opposite direction and I knew it was considerably steeper from this side. Although I never expected it, I was certainly not going to get an easy day. I’ll let you know how I got on in the next blog post…

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