Ba Switzerland

Switzerland

We crossed the border into Switzerland at Basel.

We followed the Rhine route (Swiss Route 2) as far as Liechtenstein and Sargans. We then followed Route 9 along Waldensee to Zurichsee. We took the ferry from Rapperswil to Zurich to avoid the built up coastline and then the Mittleland route (Swiss Route 5). We diverted from Route 5 at La Sarraz to see part of the Jura (Route 7). The Jura Route 7 finished in Nyon on Lake Geneva so we followed the Rhone Route (Route 1) to finish our trip in Geneva. .

For accommodation, we have mainly used campsites. The prices were in the bracket of 28-36 CHF, so noticeably more expensive than French campsite but there is always good facilities (as you would hope at this price!). Youth Hostels are also noticeably more expensive than in Germany. The Swiss divide their Youth Hostels into "Simple", "Classic" and "Top" - Basel was a "Top" Youth Hostel and we paid 180 CHF for half board. For Classic Youth Hostels, the price is around 150 CHF. Another option for accommodation is "Schlaf am Strof" (Sleep in straw). It consists of, well, sleeping on straw in a barn. The kids loved it (farm animals, tractors) but it was not the most relaxing night sleep for parents, squeezed between children and awaken by flies as soon as the sun rose (price for €24 per person including breakfast).

For our route to Switzerland through Alsace please follow this link to France (Alsace)


7th July Arrival - Basel - 8th July - Visiting

We arrived in Basel from France to find road works had diverted the Rhine cycle route. We decided to make up our own route. We did not factor in the tram tracks and the perfect match for the wheel spacing of the chariot trailer. After the second time trapped in the rails with a tram looming behind Isa insisted on a more suitable route.

We ended up at the Youth Hostel for 2 nights - the Youth in Switzerland must be very well paid because the cost was near double that in the Netherlands and Germany.

We spent our rest day looking around central Basel before succumbing to the heat and going to the Freibad. Five outdoor pools with slides, children's areas and lots of shade.

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Basel park

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Louis meets a Swiss Polizei

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An official feet cooling installation in a Basel river

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Play park slide - Swiss style

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A remote controlled model boat club in the Basel park. The size and detail of these scaled models was incredible. Grown men were arriving with double hand pulled trailers, treating the vessels with absolute delicacy before placing them carefully into the lake to potter about. The models even came with sound effects. The kids loved it (as did Mum and Dad).

10th July - Basel (CH) - Mohlin (CH) - 31km - Starting Swiss Route 2

We had a slow start from the lovely, but expensive, Basel Youth Hostel. We later found out that the Swiss divide their Youth Hostels into "Simple", "Classic" and "Top" - Basel was a "Top" Youth Hostel. We Followed Eurovelo 15 which had turned into Swiss route 2. It is a varied and surprising route. We were surprised to cycle through an old roman city, Augusta Raurica, a few kilometres from Basel.

As it was over 30 oC the plan was to camp in Mohlin next to a "Freibad". The plan was good - but the thunderstorms the previous night meant that the outdoor pool's computer had gone haywire and the pool was closed. We could see the pools and the slides and the water was running in the children's area - an awkward thing to explain to a hot, tired 4 year old and 2 year old. We spent the evening watching the practice for the Swiss Wasserfahren boat race to be held at the weekend.

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Admiring the view across the Rhine from Basel Munster

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Crossing back to Germany in Rheinfelden

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Practice for the Swiss Masters WasserFahren championships

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Roman amphitheatre at Augusta Raurica, an impressive set of Roman remains

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Terry and Louis admiring the Roman artefacts

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They look nice but what are they for? (Sohlebohrturme?)

11th July - Mohlin (CH) - Waldshut (D) - 43km Old towns and back to Germany?

A great and scenic day following the river through old towns with great views along, over and across the Rhine. We crossed back into Germany on the Bad Sackingen covered bridge. Louis was upset because he thought we were going backwards. A geography lesson and discussion of maps and boundaries helped a little - as did the return to the country of Eis cafe's and good healthy sonnenblumen bread.

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Bad Sackingen bridge -a wonderful old wooden structure - forming another Swiss / German border crossing

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Rheinfelden fountain decoration

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One of many Hydro schemes on this section of the Rhine (58 MW being generated) and no route for shipping.

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Cycling out of Bad Sackingen

12th July - Waldshut (D) - Jetsetten (D) - 39km - German Swiss German Swiss German Sandwich

We had been trying to explain Countries and boundaries to Louis - that really went wrong today. The Swiss and German border is quite confusing. The Swiss border comes North of the Rhine and the changes between Germany and Switzerland are difficult to see or explain to a 4 year old - "why" was a very common response to any attempt at explanation.

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Floral decoration

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A nasty 11% hill to avoid a busy road - a good example of the zig zag technique being deployed

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Lautenberg

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Translates as the Swimming Pool cafe

13th July - Jetsetten (D) - 15km - The Rheinfalls (CH)

Our campsite at Jetsetten was so nice (it included a outdoor swimming pool with kids area) we decided to stay for two nights. We spent the day looking around Rheinau and taking a boat to see the Rhine falls. An impressive 23m drop in the river Rhine. The boat trip was a great way to get up and close to the falls without fighting for space with the huge crowds experienced on each bank.

The river Rhine stills flows strongly along this section and thousands of people take advantage of it. The favourite pastime is to take anything that floats, jump into the river and float downstream with it.

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Quiet country roads and no traffic

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Rheinau wooden bridge - an impatient Swiss driver nearly ran Terry of the road

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Rheinau monastary

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Germany and back to the Eis cafe!

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Single track and no trailer for our tour to the Rhine falls

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Swiss second world war bunkers (built to prevent German invasion) being put to good use

14th July - Jetsetten (D) - Steckborn (CH) - 41km - Waterfall, Stein Am Rhein & Swimming

We continued to Stein am Rhein, the painted town, and then the Rhine widened into the start of Untersee lake. This is the start of a huge holiday and leisure area of Lake Konstanz (Bodensee). This made camping more difficult and suddenly there were hundreds of cycle tourists on organised packages and in big groups.

The geography lessons took another hit in Bussingen - this is a German enclave completely inside Switzerland - this was unexplainable to Louis.

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Potty training Max was difficult

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The top of the impressive Rhine falls. This is a tourist hotspot - best viewed close up on a boat.

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Busy Stein am Rhein

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An off road border crossing. There were just field boundaries to distinguish the two countries

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Bussingen - Germany within Switzerland - they have two post services and two phone systems

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Stein am Rhein painted houses

15th July - Steckborn (CH) - Uttwil (CH) - 36km - Bodensee & More Swimming

Each campsite along the lake has its own little beach and or swimming pool and we took full advantage of this. The lake at Bodensee has a retention period of 4.3 years so all the dust and fines have settled out and the water is crystal clear. Louis and Max both tried their new arm bands (Disney Cars version of course) and loved swimming under the piers.

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Cycling alongside Bodensee

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One of the mechanical conveyors to take small boats past the hydro electric schemes

16th July - Uttwil (CH) - Rohrspitz (A) - 41km - Worst Campsite Award to Austria

Another day with the lake to our left but not really that visible as the route wound around little towns and criss-crossed the railway and roads bordering the lake. We ended the day crossing into Austria and headed for the protected natural area of the Rohrspitz on the old Rhine delta feeding Bodensee.

It looked nice on the map - but easily won the award for the worst campsite we have stayed at. Caravans were packed in like sardines and the marked out campsite pitches were so small that even the smallest tent couldn't put up a guyline. There was literally only space for the tent - nowhere to sit, nowhere to cook and nowhere to put any gear. Not to mention the loud techno-pop music from the campsite restaurant at night. Everything was security card controlled, including hot water for showers and washing up which was metered via a electronic card and billed at the end of the stay. It was also the most expensive campsite of the trip - booh to Austrian camping!!!!

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Isa chatting to two cyclotourists from Marseille on recumbent bikes

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Austrian border

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Into Austria and the Rhine Delta (drained)

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One of the rare stretches alongside lake Bodensee

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Max on the beach

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Louis on the beach

17th July - Rohrspitz (A) - Liechtenstein (FL) - 56km - Into the Alps

After the crowds and lacklustre cycling along Bodensee we headed South back into Switzerland and towards the Alps.

The route was immediately more rewarding as the crowds disappeared and people became more friendly and began saying hello again ("Gruezi" in Swiss German). The mountains became closer and more impressive with snow on the peaks. We ended up at a hostel in Liechtenstein after our furthest day cycling

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Worst Camping - Our bikes are taking up another camping pitch

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Quiet little roads back in Switzerland

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On the dyke that forms part of canalised upper Rhine

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The Alps approaching rapidly. Lovely quiet gravel roads

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The Alps

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Swiss Route 2 from Bodensee to Buchs was perfect cyclotouring

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A car park art installation

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Arrival in Liechtenstein

18th July - Liechtenstein (FL) - Walenstadt (CH) - 40km - Walensee Mountains and Lake

The route out from Liechtenstein followed the Rhine upstream passing by some lovely castles and vineyards before passing back over a bridge to Switzerland. This provided a moment of reflection for us - we were finally turning away from the river Rhine after seven weeks. From this point onwards the Rhine route climbs up through the alps towards the Oberalp pass - too much for us and our overloaded bikes. Instead we turned back westwards towards the only gap in the mountains and towards Walensee.

The route towards Walensee climbed slightly before descending gradually towards the breathtaking Churfersten mountains and cliffs above Walensee lake. As we approached the campsite on the edge of the lake the wind started blowing and distant thunder could be heard. There was then a huge flash on the lake and the loudest clap of thunder ever heard by Louis or Max - who both ended up crying and in floods of tears. Isa then wrapped her pannier strap around the front wheel hub - braking the strap and seizing the front wheel bearings. Isa had to be helped by a stranger to carry the bike and crying children to refuge in a shelter nearby. Terry was meanwhile unaware of the drama unfolding as he was busy trying to stop the tent being blown away in the gale and lashing rain.

Max laid down for a hour doing nothing whilst he recovered from the shock - Louis recovered in 2 minutes with the aid of some sweets. We shared the shelter with some Eritreans who were working locally and really couldn't work out the weather patterns "surely this is winter". They explained that 34 degrees C is "cool" and rain means it's winter

The lady who helped Isa carry her biked invited us to join her friends in their mess tent. They were a group of paragliders on a safety training week. This is always carried out above water in case anything goes wrong - a good job as earlier that day one of the group, a German fireman, had partially collapsed his canopy and his safety parachute failed to open. He crashed into the lake and had to be rescued.

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Liechtenstein Rathaus

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The canalised Rhine and embankments near Sargans. The Rhine is like this from Bodensee to Chur

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Liechenstein castle

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Isa reflects on the journey so far - and leaving the Rhine river after seven weeks

19th July - Walenstadt - Weesen - 16km - Mosquito Attack

We followed the old road along the Southern side of Walensee - uninterrupted great views and a cheeky 15% climb and then through a couple of cycling only tunnels before arriving at a campsite on the far end of Walensee. This turned out to be a serious hotspot for mosquitos. Terry cooked outside the tent with all bare flesh covered whilst Isa, Louis and Max sheltered in one of the bedrooms - for once we all agreed with Louis' regular complaint "I don't like camping".

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The Churfirsten Mountain range

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25% downhill - we would had to walk up a hill this steep

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The beach at Weesen - venture into the trees and get eaten alive by mosquitos

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The lakeside campsite in Walenstadt

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One of the cycling tunnels alongside Walensee

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Louis and Max playing with the driftwood

20th July - Weesen - Rapperswil - 38km - Away from the Alps

This marked the end of the mountains and the drop down to Zurichsee lake was gentle and uneventful - but very hot. The camping in Rapperswil turned out to be 5 km back in the direction from which we cycled - so we retraced our steps and spent a cooling evening in another Freibad.

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Cycling away from the Alps towards Zurichsee. Once again this fast flowing canal was full of inflatables and people floating downstream

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Walensee

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The mountain lakes all have storm warning systems. The flashing yellows lights let everyone know to get out of the water or land your boat.

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Louis, Max and Terry enjoying the Swiss hen party

21st July - Rapperswil - Visiting & Swimming

The kids enjoyed the Freibad so much we stayed for another day and included a trip to the local children's zoo. This had been easily spotted by Max and Louis the previous day because there were four giraffes leaning over the cycle route trying to grab peoples hats.

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Chariot and child trailers everywhere. This was the bicycle park for the Freibad - cycling is very popular in Switzerland

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Louis' favourite animal at the Knies children's zoo

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Sunset family meal in Rapperswil. Sunset also means the start of the mosquito attacks

22nd July - Rapperswil - Baden - 36km (+ 31km Ferry)- Zurich and Mittleland Route

We didn't want to cycle along the built up shore of Zurichsee so we took the ferry to Zurich from Rapperswil. Our decision was immediately vindicated as we looked at the continuous strip of development along the entire lenght of the lake. The construction industry must be doing well as there were over 50 tower cranes along the North shore of the lake (tower cranes are used extensively in Switzerland even to build domestic homes).

The route out of Zurich was poorly signposted and very hot - a bad mixture that can lead to frayed tempers. We eventually found our way North to join the Mittleland Route (Swiss Route 5) near Regensdorf and everything was much quieter and tranquil as we passed through sleepy farming hamlets on gravel roads. We stopped to stay with our Polish friends in Baden.

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Zurich - Isa fighting the trams lines and the ever present rumbling behind of 10 tonnes of metal

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Onto the Mittelland Route 5 - back to quiet roads and sleepy villages

23rd July - Baden - Staying With Friends

We were warmly welcomed by our Polish friends Iwonka, Sławek, 2 year old Leo and his Polish Grandparents. We were given a guided tour around the lovely old town of Baden and were provided with lots of tips and hints about where to go and what to do.

We were also provided with some little nuggets of information about living in Switzerland:

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Isa trying her hand at being a Coiffeur

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Nuclear bunker - with secure 300mm window closing and air purification system. Also useful as a wine cellar.

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After the haircuts - Louis' cuttings left, Terry's cuttings right

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Leo, Max and Louis in a scooter race around Baden

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Iwonka, Leo and grandparents

24th July - Baden - Aarau - 41km - Mountain Top Finish

We had a very late start from our friends in Baden and we were sent away with a packed lunch - absolute luxury for us. The route followed the wide Aare river upstream to Aarau. The Aare river is utilised for Hydro power along this stretch so there were no inflatables of people floating downstream, which seemed unusual for a Swiss river. There were plenty of warning signs about no swimming and the risk of being swept away.

We had chosen to stay in a "Schlaf im Stroh" (sleep in straw) farm. This is reasonably common in Switzerland and involves climbing into the farmers barn and sleeping on the straw.The idea was great but it was a 200m climb up to the farm on a 17% gradient (it was a good day for stats - most climbing 362m and highest point of the trip 540m). Isa had to push the bike and the last 2 km took us half an hour! The farm was basic but had all the facilities we needed (including "Farmer" Beer). The play area included eight children's tractors so Louis and max enjoyed themselves.

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Aarau main street

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The awkward climb up to the farm, Aarau in the distance

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Sleeping in the straw

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Aarau - all the overhanging eaves are decoratively painted

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Tractor racing

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The castle and church in Aarburg

25th July - Aarau - Zofingen - 25km - Aare River

The descent from our highest point made the starting 10 km fly by and we arrived quickly in Olten to buy some fruit and vegetable from the town market. We followed the Aare river to Aarburg before heading South to Zofingen. In Zofingen we met up with our old cyclotouring friends Ursula and Hans-Peter and their children Lily-Flora and Emma-Rosa.

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Tense moments - waiting for the cuckoo clock to sing

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Hammocks are supposed to be relaxing

26th & 27th July - Zofingen - Staying With Friends

A relaxing couple of days as the children played together and Ursula and Hans-Peter made us all truly welcome. The Saturday reached 35 degrees C and cooling off in the swimming pool was far more preferable than cycling an over loaded bike uphill.

The relaxing bit was curtailed slightly by a visit to the eye doctor for Louis - he was diagnosed with mild conjunctivitis.

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Swiss planning demands that all new buildings and alterations are clearly modelled before approval is given - in this case a new dormer window

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The children all enjoyed playing together - honestly.

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Our fantastically welcoming hosts - the Müller family

28th July - Zofingen - Solothurn - 44km - Storms Predicted

Once again we left very late from staying friends and we had 40km to ride to Solothurn - and there were storms predicted for late afternoon.

The route along to Solothurn once again followed the Aare river - it was Sunday and every parking space next to the river was full. There were the familiar inflatables and large groups of picnickers on every patch of grass next to the river. The picnicking was soon to end with a sudden massive downpour of rain and hailstones. We donned our wet wether gear (gloves were requested by the children) and carried on to our Solothurn accommodation - luckily a Youth Hostel due to the predicted rains and storms.

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Crossing the Aare

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Introduced across Switzerland over the past few years the new road junction markings - if you cross a line you must give way - simple.

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The Jura were always present to the North

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Rural buildings in Bern canton

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A common site in Switzerland - one of the many military barracks. Conscription is still in operation for all able bodied citizens.

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Louis with one of the hailstones in his hand - a good job we were all wearing cycling helmets

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Louis wanted to include this photo "to show his friends that things like this exist". A seven person scooter.

29th July - Solothurn - Biel - 33km - That's a lot of rain!

It rained and rained and rained - 38mm in total! We waited until 2pm for the rain to stop - but it didn't - so we donned our wet weather gear and set off.

This was a rather drab and damp cycle towards Biel/Bienne (the border of French/German speaking Switzerland). We also had entered into the start of the Swiss watch making region passing the grand modern factories of Rolex, Breitling, Rado as well as countless smaller less well known but equally expensive brands

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Not all routes in Switzerland are 100% picturesque

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Rain and the Jura hills to the North

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Traditional barn dwarfed by the Rolex factory

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Campsite near Biel - an impressive variation on the traditional children's slide

30th July - Biel - Chevroux - 47km - Lumpy & Bumpy next to Bielersee

This day looked pretty simple on the map - follow route 5 along Bielersee to Lac de Neuchatel and then put up the tent. In reality the river Aare had such a high flow from the previous days rain it had damaged part of the cycle route - so a diversion was in place. The diversion headed steeply uphill, then down over the river Aare before climbing back up hill - we decided to try and maintain our height by heading off road. The route climbed again before plunging down to a dead end village with a tiny trace of track heading back up near vertically. We admitted defeat and headed back down to join the route on the edge of Bielersee.

The rest of the day included a number of 50m climbs to keep the legs challenged before ending up at the overcrowded Chevroux campsite. Our unplanned climbing meant that this was the most climbing of any day on our trip - 460m.

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Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles du Midi providing a background to the Swiss wheat harvest

31st July - Chevroux - Yvonand - 21km - Lac de Neuchatel

We were glad to leave the campsite in Chevroux and moved along to Yvonand. The campsite had a quiet spot at the back for cycle tourists and included a lovely little beach. The following day was the Swiss National holiday so we decided to stay for 2 nights and see how the Swiss celebrate.

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Towards Estayer le Lac

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Max was left alone spinning the bike wheel for 2 minutes

1st August - Yvonand - Fireworks all day (& night)

Swiss celebrations of the 1st August consist of one major element - fireworks. The fireworks started from midday and continued until 2 in the morning. A huge quantity of fireworks are used - countless groups of people fire rockets out across the lake - trying to bounce them off the water.

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The welcome to Estayer le lac - frogs of different colours on every street

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Bridge, river and dam building on the beach of Lac de Neuchatel

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Fireworks on the beach at Yvonand to celebrate the 1st August

2nd August - Yvonand - Orbe - 26km - Nice Quiet Camping

Another gentle day's cycling (a good job considering the 33 degrees C temperature) through the lovely town of Yverdon to Orbe. We finished the day looking around the fine Roman Mosaics in Orbe. The camping in Orbe was spacious luxury compared to many of our recent sites - and it had an open air swimming pool next door - everybody was happy!

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Detail of an Orbe Roman mosaic

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Yverdon town centre

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Swiss harvest - with integral UV protection system

3rd August - Orbe - Lac de Joux - 58km (29km by train) - Up into the Jura

We decided to leave Route 5 to head up in to the Jura to see Lac de Joux and follow the Jura route to Lac Leman at Nyon (and thus reduce the distance cycled alongside Lac Leman to Geneva).

From Orbe to Lac de Joux was a 700m climb - too much for us on the loaded bikes - so we decided to take the train from La Sarraz to Le Pont. The Swiss transport system proved its efficiency with the ability to buy tickets for passengers and bikes on an unmanned station. We then loaded the bikes, luggage and trailer on to the train with no problem, we had to change trains at Le Day within six minutes - this was a remarkably smooth affair (with the help of other passengers). In 30 minutes we had climbed the 700m and were alongside Lac de Joux.

We followed the lake to stay at another overflowing, substandard campsite following a fraught trip to the limited supermarkets range around the lake - we had run out of nappies for Max and the following day was Sunday so there would be no shops open.

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Refuelling the Primus camp stove

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Lac de Joux - just after the morning thunderstorm

4th August - Lac de Joux - Jura Wild Camping - 26km - First Col & Wild Camping Excitement

The Jura route left the lovely lac de Joux and then climbed unremittingly up the Col de Marchairuz (300m in 4km). We knew it would be difficult so we set off slowly, breaking the climb into manageable chunks and stopping for lunch two thirds of the way up. In the end it took two hours from start to finish to cover 4 km!

The climb to the top rewarded us with one of the finest 35 km of riding we have ever had. The route rolled gently up and down along the beautiful Combe des Ambernex - a high alpine karst landscape dotted with Gruyere producing farmsteads. Following the Combe des Ambernex the route descended for 25km to Nyon on Lac Leman. We decided to save 20km of the descent for the following day and took advantage of one of the authorised wild camping spots. Our campsite was in an alpine pasture, with a view over lac leman with the snowy peak of Mont Blanc looking over everything. Easily our favourite campsite of the trip.

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Terry's shoes had seen better days

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13% on the Col de Marchairuz

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The start of the Col de Marchairuz

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Max and Louis in the Combe des Ambernex

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The reward for the climb - the beautiful Combe des Ambernex

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Our favourite campsite of the trip

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The push up to the wild camping site (Louis was pushing behind)

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Mountain food - for once say "Cheese" was most appropriate

5th August - Wild Camping - Geneva - 45km - 20km Downhill and the End in Geneva

The 20km downhill was delightful with ever changing views and the high alps to the South clearly visible.

From Nyon the route followed, but never went near the shore of Lac Leman. As Geneva approached everything became more built up and the last 6km were along the side of a dual carriageway.

Isa and Terry were a bit sad to arrive in Geneva as it marked the end of the trip, Louis was very happy that his "Grand Voyage" was now over, and Max wanted to go to the fairground. The first two weeks of August see the quayside of Geneva turned into an enormous fairground attraction (3 km long). Louis and Max had never been to anything like this so the excitement levels were difficult to contain - fishing for ducks and a ride in a model fire engine calmed everyone down.

In Geneva we stayed in the disappointing Youth Hostel before hiring a minibus to drive to the French Southern Alps. All the equipment and bikes fitted neatly into the hired Opel Vivaro minibus.

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Louis and Max at the Geneva Fairground

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Everything fitted in the Opel Vivaro minibus

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End of the trip - outside the Geneva Youth Hostel

COMING SOON: STATISTICS AND EQUIPMENT PAGES UPDATE