There was one other cyclist on the ferry, with a setup even lighter than mine. Frank was taking a two week trip to the south of France and back, aiming to cover 150 miles (240km) a day. That would be a long first day for me but I figured I’d give it a go. When the ferry arrived the next morning, we cycled off together.
My very first cycle tour started from the same ferry, but I missed the sign for the bike path and accidentally ended up on the motorway, to much honking of horns. Thankfully we avoided that this time
It took us a couple of hours to reach the town of Livarot. On my first tour that was a whole day, and I was exhausted by the end of it!
There were some gentle rolling hills for the next hour or two as we made our way to L’aigle. This was where I’d planned to end my second day on that earlier tour, only to find there was no campsite. I ended up wild camping, worried and listening carefully for any noise.
For the rest of the day we mostly cycled through flat farmland, which wasn’t very exciting but did mean we were making good time.
We found a campsite at pretty much exactly 240km and made that our target. We made it shortly before sunset.
We rode together for a few kilometres the next morning, then each went our separate directions – Frank south, me East. For the rest of the day I made my way along quiet, flat roads.
At one point I stopped for a break at the side of the road. A man came over to offer me some water. I managed to have a short conversation and set off feeling pleased with myself. After a couple of minutes I realised I was cycling on the wrong side of the road.
It wasn’t until the next day that I reached some hills, and the road rose up to about 600m before dropping down into the city of Dijon.
Riding through Dijon was alright but out the other side the road became very busy, and with no shoulder or bike lane. Pretty soon I decided to take a longer, slightly hillier route, just for the quieter roads.
This did mean I had to try and ride fast to get to the forest I was aiming for before it got dark. I managed it, though, and set up camp. There were loads of slugs nearby – and they were orange.
The next day I started to climb up toward the Alps. Initially the gradient was very gentle, though there was a strong headwind. As the gradient increased, the wind lessened. It never did get particularly steep, and there wasn’t much traffic, so it was a pleasant climb.
It topped out at the Swiss border. There was a border control building, but it was empty. There was a bit of a plateau at the top, and then a little bit more climbing.
Once the descent started, it went on for a long time. I dropped down about 700 metres, on a steep twisting road – my brakes did a lot of work there!
There was a city at the bottom where I stopped at a bike shop. There were a couple of things I wanted to get done, most importantly replacing the headset bearings. These ones were fitted in Azerbaijan, and considering they cost £1.50 (including labour) they’ve done well to last this long. By now there is a ridiculous amount of movement in the fork so they need to be replaced.
The bike shop was closing soon though, so they couldn’t do it. Shops in France and Switzerland (and Europe generally) have significantly shorter opening times than in the UK.
I made my way out of the town and cycled a few moderate hills before finding a forest to camp in. There was an enormous ant hill made of pine needles that was about a metre wide and half a metre tall. I kept my distance!
Thankfully the ants did not invade my tent, so I set off the next morning after an undisturbed night. There were a few hills early on before I began to climb up my first big Alpine pass, Jaun Pass.
There was a bike path for a short, steep initial climb. After that I joined the road, for a gradual section of the climb. At some point I crossed over into the German part of Switzerland – either that or they speak English and really hate the postman.
The climb up to the pass was steep, but worth it for the views. The descent afterward was pretty great as well, all the way down to the town of Spiez.
I rode alongside a lake towards Interlaken, then headed back up to the mountains.
I considered staying at a campsite, but the nearby one was full. I rode along a bike path for a while then set up camp in a small bit of woodland.
August 21: 240 km
August 22: 193 km
August 23: 163 km
August 24: 140 km
August 25: 124 km