Basel airport. Wizzair airplane lands after a one and a half hour flight. I leave the plane and after a while I pick up my luggage – an old backpack with my cycling bags inside and a big box with my bicycle and a lot of protective sponge.
For the first time in my life I have to put a bike together and, since my technical skills are slightly below average, I am a little bit stressed. Luckily I listened carefully to the instructions of my go-to mechanic and thanks to that – under the curious gaze of passers-by – I deal with this task in a little more than an hour. I put the cycle bags on and, hoping that I tightened all the screws correctly and that my wheel will not fall off on the road and I will not kill myself, I hit the road to the city center.
Basel is the first stop on my journey to Nobodyknowswhere. I have a few months just to enjoy the ride, get to know new places, new people and break out of my safe daily routines. I don’t want to plan a lot in advance – I want to be surprised by where my wheels take me. I want to make some longer stops volunteering with WorkAway hosts and in Switzerland I plan to spend a couple of weeks in the tiny alpine village of Obergesteln and visit Maya and Martin, who were my employers 8 years ago, when I worked in Switzerland as au-pair.
I am really lucky to be hosted in Basel by Ania – the best host ever. She takes me for an evening swimming in the river Rhone (the locals put all their stuff into a waterproof bag and swim with it down the river). It’s a very practical solution – you don’t have to worry about the things you leave on the shore or to swim back upstream). Ania also shows me the best places to party (so that I can enjoy big city life before I go to the peaceful swiss countryside) and the prettiest streets of the old town. I start to regret that I haven’t decided to stay in Basel longer and I hesitate to get back on the road.
First after 1 p.m. the next day I start my 200 km long Tour de Suisse that I plan to cover in two days. Dreadful heat does not make it any easier. I could stop and fill my bottles with water at every fountain (which means at least twice in every village on the road) and I would still feel thirsty. Moreover, at one junction I just ride as if I know the road instead of checking the map and after some kilometers I realize that I am on the wrong side of a mountain. I don’t take turning back as an option – I already went too far. So, when I finally get the chance, I start to roll slowly up a rather small, but pretty steep hill. After 200 meters I have to admit that even if I use all my energy for that uphill, I will not make it. Pushing the loaded Arrow is a dubious pleasure. Well, nobody forced me to come here! I could have gone to Bory Tucholskie or Netherlands instead, it would have been much flatter there!
The evening is inevitably coming, I am running out of energy and I start to accept the thought that the 130 km I planned for today are far out of reach. Well, I will have to wake up early tomorrow and catch up. I find a really cozy camping by a lake and I decide to end this torture after just 82,5 km.
After a night spent on the hard floor of my tent („I’m not taking a mat with me, I don’t have space for that”), slightly sore, with no enthusiasm I pack my stuff to continue my fight against the road. I am aware that today’s stage will be incomparably more difficult – the mountains are just beginning! Luckily there are at least some clouds in the sky, so cycling in the open doesn’t make me feel like butter set on a hot pan. The landscapes are quite pleasant too – a big part of my track winds along lakes, through cycling paths or roads with rather small traffic. Until Sarnen (where I originally was supposed to get the day before) everything goes perfect.
In Sarnen I meet the first obstacles. First I fall down because I didn’t unclip from spd-pedals and I have to make a break to clean my knee from sand and gravel and put a plaster on it. After a few kilometers a storm begins – heavy rain, thunders, it’s dark, terrifying and bad. I conclude that there is no point in climbing a mountain pass in a weather like that, so I cycle to a train station to check, where can I get by train. The swiss railway brings me to Meiringen – a place where Sherlock Holmes fought a battle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Unfortunately I’m running out of time, so I cannot even make a short trip to the waterfall or visit Sherlock’s museum. I start an arduous climb to Grimselpass – from 600 m.a.s.l. I have to climb to 2164 m.a.s.l. and, honestly, I really doubt that the mission will be a success. Unfortunately the latest bus took off about 2 hours before, so I have no other choice than just to slowly pedal in the rain. If I don’t manage to get to my destination before evening, I will just put up my tent somewhere and cycle the rest in the morning.
And then, suddenly, rescue arrives! While I slowly climb meter after meter, refreshed by the pouring rain, an old van with a trailer overtakes me. – It would be cool, if he stopped and offered me a ride – comes to my mind. I could just load White Arrow on the trailer and done! After a few hundred meters I see the van standing on the side of the road and an older man shouting if I need a ride.
– Heaven sent you! – I say to the driver who introduces himself as Jurgen.
– Carlos, come and help me load the bike – calls Jurgen and a barefoot, southern-looking boy jumps from the car. The two gentlemen carefully put White Arrow on the trailer. And so we go!
The car is definitely not a new one. Apart from that, Jurgen, while driving, tells some stories from his past (among others about the times when he smuggled Solidarity magazines to Poland), gesticulating vividly, so I can really feel the thrill of the ride. Luckily we take all the turns without crashing anywhere and our car gets down from the pass in one piece. This way I reach my goal before twilight, telling myself that I will defeat Grimselpass another time, but rather without all the bags. I take a deep breath enjoying the fresh mountain air and I take a look around me. The broad valley with the azure river Rhone in the middle is surrounded by steep slopes. I am sure that I will have enough challenges for the next few weeks here!