…has over all been an encouragement! But first to last night. On a campsite it has been almost exciting to hear English being spoken, because that means at least a brief, if not length conversation with ease! Not, however when that English is loud swearing at the top of his voice saying, ‘pardon my French’ every time! I immediately took down my flag and did my best not to let on that I was also British! Then another two Brits, who this time appeared to be stoned, pulled in and joined them.
It was in trying to avoid them that I went away from the communal picnic tables and met Stefan and Sumi! They are a couple who have been on a bike tour for the last few years, which meant they knew their stuff. They were very friendly and helpful in advising me on the next stages of my trip, since they are Swiss and have been over St. Gotthard! We talked all things touring, and when Stefan noticed the tan-lines where my gloves go, he was surprised I still wore gloves when it is so hot. I explained that I need the gloves to try to stop my hands going numb, and it turns out he has the same problem. So he showed me his handlebar grips, and highly recommend them. I also discovered that he enjoyed real coffee and had not found a way to take it on the road! He was impressed with my (Rachel’s) cafetière cup.
We were starting, at least, in the same direction, so they invited me to cycle with them! My first cycling buddies. We set off about 9am but as we chatted and then found the Tourist Office in Basel and then did some shopping, it must have been 1030 before we actually set off cycling. Then we passed a bike shop and I asked if they would sell the grips? We went in and found some for more than I could afford to pay. So Stefan decided that he wanted to upgrade and would give me, his! So I now have new hand grips that are wonderful. The other great thing about the shop was the workshop. They have a fully stocked workshop of bike tools that you can use to fit the stuff you buy! It was immense. I wanted to buy things just so I could use the tools!
So, on the road at last and it was a joy to have companions, and such lovely ones too.
Sadly the time came all too soon to separate, and I set off on Swiss route 3 expecting hills! They have obviously worked hard to make the cycle routes as flat as possible, and they are very well signed, which is good because I struggled to find a map.
After about 15kms on my own the beautiful valley started to disappear and the climbing began. Slowly at first, giving wonderful views, and then full on switch-backs! I have no idea what altitude I started at, but I ended at 750kms and boy, could I feel it! Maybe someone could have a look on the swiss cycle route website and post a picture of the gradients as a comment? And let me know how much I climbed in total, basically between Rothenfluh and Gelssfluh. All good training for the 2000m I will climb in the next week- arghhhh.
So, I get to Aarau about 545pm, after some great views and a lovely end along the fast river and up through pretty cobbled streets. I made it to Aarau Info just before it closed to find that the nearest campsite was 20km back the way I came, or 30km the way I am heading! But, they do home camping! People have agreed to let people use their shower and toilet and camp in their garden for a reasonably large fee- how kind! I must admit, my expectations were high. Having experienced Swiss generosity in Stefan, I though the type of person agreeing to this would be very friendly and welcoming. The lady in the office relayed that only Frau is there at the moment but Heir will be back in half an hour so I could go then. I thought that sounded jolly sensible, and so left an hour or so. I got here at 730 and no one was in. I knocked, but no reply. Eventually I phoned the number on the sheet and spoke to some who told me that the man would not be back till 9pm so just pitch the tent on the grass. I am still unsure if it was someone else, or if this guy can only speak English in the third person? Anyway, I was very sweaty and tired and ready for a shower, but had no choice but to wait. I cooked my tea in the garden and ate it and then he came home. Not really interested to chat, although lack of common language doesn’t help that I suppose. He has fulfilled his end of the deal, so I can’t really complain that he didn’t meet my dream expectations.
It is very frustrating not to be able to understand anything. In France I did pretty well, and can make myself understood usually, but here nothing. I don’t even know what signs say, hopefully nothing too important. There is also much less friendliness on the cycle paths. In France you couldn’t go far without a ‘Bonjour’ but here people tend not to even look at you.
Tomorrow should be similar to today. A shortish distance up to Lucerne, I am looking forward to it!