The end of this week (since my last post) was always going to be tough. “It’s not too late to stay until Australia”, I would often joke to Russell, my travelling companion. He was insistent though... apparently, he had to get back to something called a ‘job’. Having been there from the start, I felt like Russell had become as intricately tied up in the trip as myself. The thought of him leaving just felt wrong!
It also raised another issue, in that I would soon have to be cycling on my own. This had become an even scarier prospect than it was before I started the whole trip! I think I’d become used to having a second person to depend on. Decision-making was easier when you’d had a discussion with someone else, my map-reading and navigation felt more confident when there was someone double-checking it, and no-one knows how to make a heavily-loaded cheese and saucisson baguette like Russell!
Before he left, we had one final challenge, crossing into Switzerland. We knew there were mountains around there somewhere, but with a map lacking contours, ignorance was bliss (while it lasted). One morning, around 6, we woke up, and started climbing a little hill. By around dinner, when we were still going uphill, we decided that this was in fact, a mountain. We had a few of our best days around here; we learnt to actually enjoy the physical challenge of climbing, especially sense of achievement at the top, and even more so the speedy descents lasting several miles. We were also ahead of schedule and had a few more chilled days, resting in nicer places and with better food – even for me it began to feel dangerously like the end of a holiday!
The past few days I’ve struggled with bouts of loneliness. It’s strange to feel so alone when you’re surrounded by so many people, although it is very real when you know none of them and a language barrier prevents you conversing with them. One thing I’ve noticed is that as I’ve given up control of my situation, letting it out to fate, and pushing myself closer to the edge, it is harder to keep control of my emotions, and they can swing depending on what is going on around me!
I cannot tell you how much support I've had from cars beeping (in a good way I think) or cheering for us on some of the ascents. It is great to see how people light up when they see us, and their automatic support.
Claude and his lovely wife
While admiring the view of the Alps, they came out of nowhere and began explaining which mountains we could see. We got talking and they were so impressed they invited us back into their swanky hotel for a coffee, and a croissant. We felt pretty out of place in our skin-tight bulge-visible lycra, but man, that was the best croissant I’ve ever had. Claude and his lovely wife, (called such because we couldn’t catch her name through a heavy Swiss accent) are one of the most awesome we’ve met so far, absolutely hilarious, and full of energy!
And here is the completely out of place photo!
The free coke
Picture the scene; the temperature’s 32°C, we’ve been sweating it on our bikes in the mountains, we’re running low on water. I spot a frail lady, reading outside at the top of her stairs, in the shade of her house. When I ask for water she slowly lifts herself from her chair, “Oui, Oui” she says before rushing into her house. I tentatively go upstairs, not meaning to intrude but she gestures me through into her kitchen. After passing me back my ice-cold bottle, she signals to wait and passes me a 2l bottle of coke with a smile, before slowly retreating back to her book. What a star!
Cedric and Ellie
I’ve now been joined by Marla who will be cycling with me for a while. Her sister, and brother-in-law were kind enough to host me for two nights – I had my first rest day! – and show me around their area. They took me for a BBQ, we went and watched the Champions League Final with a few beers, and when I left, they presented me with a whole kilo of Swiss Chocolate! Don’t worry about the extra weight though… it’ll be gone within a few days!