Saturday, 16 May 2015

Four Days in The Alps - The Story So Far

I haven't been able to post a Blog every day due to unreliable internet connections or tiredness at the end of a day spent  toiling in the fresh air (know that feeling?) - anyway I am now established at Luzerne Youth Hostel with time to spare, feeling relatively alert  a after good day's riding, and with a beer to lubricate my  neurons - I will now offer a summary of my last three days over (and under)the Alps.

A day spent exploring the Lugano area. It was a very hot (30C) so  I decided to keep my ride short (ha,ha) and have time at the end to relax by the side of  Lake Lugano.
 The road that goes around the lake had a constant stream of cyclists (everybody greets the other with a wave!) which is great to see,and be part off, but I decided I needed more solitude, so after paying my respects to the Lugano lake promenade I took off into the surrounding  Mountains and found the well-named Paradiso Trail..

 This took me on a 400 meter climb up to the mountain villages then into the forest above Lake Lugano. Magnificent views and a great descent to the lake at the end.

There was an almighty thunderstorm during the night that shook the Youth Hostel and the rain came down in torrents. This was the day that my real trek across the Alps was to begin and there was no question of delaying it as I had to keep to my schedule. 
So wearing all my rain gear I set off into the deluge. That day I was the only cyclist on the road! Mad dogs, cyclists, and........

After only 15kms riding in these filthy conditions I was soaked to the skin, couldn't navigate or see my GPS, and the bike's gears were malfunctioning so I took shelter in the entrance to a factory warehouse. As the rain eased a little I noticed I was actually situated next to a train station, that was all the fortune I needed and within 30 minutes my bike and I were on the train heading north to my next stop-over, a convent hostel.

The convent hostel at Faido was a suitable place to take refuge and dry out. The nuns were very sympathetic! Luckily all my clothes in the panniers had remained dry as I had placed extra waterproof  bags inside for this eventuality.

The next day broke bright and sunny and I rode 15 km up to Airolo which is at the foot of the St Gothard pass lying at about (1,100m). There was no way I was going to attempt the St Gothard itself (2106m) with a fully laden bike, (not to speak of possibly blowing my heart monitor!) so I elected to take the 10 minute train ride under the mountain instead.

The pay-off was a 20km descent on the other side of the pass on a narrow road that twisted and turned between the snow-capped mountains - one of the best and longest downhills I've experienced, all to the soundtrack of cowbells!

When the road eventually levelled out at Lake Lucerne I realised that I had booked my next stop over in a chalet guesthouse in Isenthal, a picturesque village (was it used for the film Heidi??) and I had a finale of a 400m climb. Fittingly this was up a single-track road that is a favourite of local mountain-bikers, so I had company and encouragement of two women riders all the way up. The cycling culture here is terrific!

The guesthouse chalet in Isenthal was excellent in a very Swiss setting. The return descent to Lake Lucerne was thrilling including 'a tunnel of death' where the screech of my brakes was an amplified sound effect!
The ride around Lake Lucerne demonstrated to me the Swiss genius for road building in extreme topography. My cycle path ran along a cliff, next to the main road , through tunnels and galleries of stone high above the lake. This was a unique cycling experience.
I completed my ride to Lucerne by taking cycle-route #38 which took me up some steep climbs above the lake-side villages (see my exhausted expression below)

And then on forestry MTB trails down into Lucerne,all excellently signed. The contrast on arriving at the glitzy lido of Lucerne couldn't have been greater. Though the Casino did have bikes outside, are there gambling cyclists? I had been gambling on those trails and it had certainly paid out!

Ride Stats:
Thurs 14/5. 27kms, 4 hours, 505m agg climbs

Fri 15/5 15kms, 2.5 hours,89m agg climbs, 

Sat 16/5 60kms, 7 hours, 919m agg climbs, 845m descents.

Sunday 17/5  70kms, 7 hours, 703m  agg climbs, 1002m descents

Posted from Lucerne YH 18/5/15

No comments:

Post a Comment