29.07.2009 - 29.07.2009 34 °C
As we make our way closer to the 2100m mountain of St.Gotthardpass, I notice the days go faster. For now it's all that's truly on my mind, and all I really want is to be there now, like Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness I work with only one objective in mind. I spoke to John tonight and it's been decided he can't make the journey, so I will do it myself and meet him on the other side. It's a pretty big deal; the highest I'll have done by long way, a certifiable mountain, although really it's presumptuous to say anything now...I'm not even sure if it's allowed to cycle its entire height, I certainly haven't seen anything on it online.
But, that's just me, I need to talk about the day. German language isn't one suited to compassion, and the day opened with a sharp "What do you want?" from a confused concierge of very limited English, standing in for the guy from the night before, when I searched around the breakfast room for something more substantial than croissants and ham. I promptly returned to my seat, wetted my gloves (a tip from John; cool hands cool down the rest of your body, and the gloves retain moisture to be wiped on your face during the journey, lovely on days as hot as they've lately been) and began. We had a little confusion leaving Basel but there's no doubt we have discovered the best technique on leaving anywhere sizeable is to pick a compass direction and head that way, then worry about where you should be when you're out of city limits. We found our Swiss route and, for a time, it was excellent, but briefly lost it when just one sign was missing - I had the rough route on my GPS so we made our own way for several miles before rediscovering and staying on it for the entire day. Aside from getting stung by a wasp we had no problem and trailed through interesting countryside and pleasant towns, down backstreets and alleys with complete confidence. Not having to worry about navigation has been a real pleasure, even if the cycling has been more difficult than Alsace, as we can allow our minds to relax and enjoy what some committee has prepared for us.
The route today did include a hill of 810m, the highest we've yet encountered (the record was 620m in Belgium), and it was horrendous. We stopped halfway at a café where with incredible intuition the waitress served us a meal perfect for our journey - a selection of pasta, beans, diced sausages, saurkraut and crudités with a side order of chips and half-litre tumblers of Coke. We knocked these back and had never felt so energised, yet the remainder of the hill had the steepest gradients yet and was far from easy.
At the top we caught our first view of the Alps - the real Alps,and they left me cold. I'd never seen anything so high. At first we thought we could see clouds in the distance but as our eyes adjusted, we saw them to be snow capped peaks. We have to go through that...I have to go over it. We are now in Sursee and intend to make the base of the mountains tomorrow, after a small ferry journey in the middle of the day. We'll see how it goes.