Thursday, 30 June 2011

Wednesday - Basel to Mergozzo, Italy (Via the Alps)

Wednesday, 22nd June

Basel - Luzern - Grimsel Pass - Brig - Mergozzo

Swiss breakfast

8am wake up in Hotel Wettstein, we head down for breakfast.  Choice of indoors or al fresco (outdoors).  Aimee and I go for the croissants, cheese, meat and fruit.  It is so peaceful in the outdoor breakfast area, smells so fresh and sparrows flying around.  We finish up and Aimee settles the bill while I go to the garage to pack the bike.

To Luzern

I attach the camera, the lense looks free of condensation.  We head out of Basel and look for the E35 to Luzern.  On route rain appears and we pull into the service station to get waterproofed up.  There are 5 other bikers doing the same, with a woman and family onlooking while shaking their us or the weather I don't know. 

The camera is packed away, the rain had fogged up the lense again.  Typical eh, had to crack it for the best part - The Alps.

Aimee walks to the fuel pump while I ride over and fill up.  We notice the station is also an adult superstore, I look on with intrigue, Aimee with not so much intrigue.  Still, they have a website.

Back on the E35 in the rain hammering on, the rain settles after 40minutes with the Alps in the distance, we are near a lake which is before Luzern where we pull into a parking rest section.  We take the opportunity to stretch legs and view the lake.  Looks outstanding as I wrestle off the top half waterproofs to release some steam (literally).  I have never released so much sweat in all my life, dripping from my jacket inner!  If there was a market for it here I would sell it.

I notice a rather large map of Switzerland, more detail than my map.  So I decide to find the passes through the alps and note the roads.  This proved to be a very good idea!

We arrive in Luzern cross a fantastic bridge and park the bike on the pavement near the boating area.  We walk briefly and find a little cafe/bar called Hotel zum Rebstock and order some food.  Aimee orders Soup of the day and Orange Juice, I order a Burger with Cola.  This came to CHF 31.00 includes 8% service charge.  A gentleman is sat at the bar drinking a beer and smoking, he looks on into the mirror with some kind of Swiss sophistication.  Maybe he thinks himself a human Breitling, I dont know... Would a Breitling human really drink alcohol in the day time?  The timing would be off, I dont think the Swiss would accept that.


Wo ist Sarnen?

We head off in a direction towards the Alps not really knowing where I am going, so stop for fuel and ask the attendant "Wo ist Sarnen" and point on the map.  She directs me the opposite direction.

Back through the city and head what seems to be the wrong way, but we end up riding alongside the lakes twisty roads and through little villages with the first hints of wooden chalets.  These roads are really tight and sharp, 30mph is possible too fast on some areas here.

Stop at 'Pilatus Bahnhoff' to stretch legs, remove our waterproofs and jacket inner.  Very hot now and I decide to change shirts as the current shirt saturated.  Aimee went off and took a picture  :)

The Alps

All freshened up we head off along route 8, which turns into route 4.  Along the way we stop off at a lake which is stunning with the alps in our grasp, trees sitting there almost perfectly placed.

Now the roads are twisty and are at an incline.  A smile sweeps my face and I am beginning to get a little emotional as I guide the Thunderace sweeping the corners.  We go past a parking area which would look down from a higher viewpoint of the lake we stopped at.  As we go by, I regret missing the stop and promise myself to stop at most viewpoints.

Twisties here and everywhere we reach the top and descend into Rytz, the downward twisties make me nervous and I miscalculate some really sharp corners, but with some harsh engine breaking and nervous front anchor squeeling we manage to get off the mountain to stop at some crossroads.  Sitting looking at the map a couple on a BMW stop and ask if we need help.  Aimee didn't believe that biker cameraderie existed where other bikers will usually stop if you looked confused or needed help.  The friendly couple pointed to a valley Meiringen which will get us, you could see the valley ahead very clearly.

We took off for the valley and passed through a nice straight road which allowed us to take in the mountains views and distant waterfalls.  This area was surprisingly populated with wooden chalets and even had petrol stations.  Would it be cheaper to do airdrops into the villages here rather than take lorries for supplies down the twisties?

In the village we go around the round about twice before heading back up some more inclined twisties.  We stop off to look at a river and waterfall and take in some Alpine air.  

The Grimsel Pass

After a a series of interesting bends it really gets interesting, the air becomes chilled and snow appears on the mountains beyond our reach for the moment.  The lakes are no longer green with trees and appetizing to swim.  They are grey and look dirty, apparently they are high in minerals.  The roads now are not so tempting, they are wet and look slippery!  Rain and snow becomes more apparent the higher we loop up the side of the mountain.  We go through some short tunnels and get stuck behind a coach, we pull off to look at the lake and surrounding mountains.

Back on the road we see the coach pull off down a long road which stops at a Hotel!  A hotel this far up the Alps with no sign of life.  To be honest the hotel looks similar to that from a horror movie.  I briefly imagined what the staff must be like.  My imagination brings up images of pasty looking bored maniacs muttering to themselves and rubbing hands at the sight of humans.  The concierge with a humpback munching on a stale bun and a strange voice.  The room attendant looking upon every guest with murderous scowl.  The chef sharpening his blade before the joints of meat that suspiciously looks similar to that of a human leg... 

If I let my imagination run wild at this crucial point of focus I would have been able to say only 7 words - "I can see my house from here" or reduced to 2 words in panic - "Oh f***"

Anyway, I am not writing a Poirot episode - that I shouldve decided when we were in Zeebrugge.  

We meandered up the twisties and could see what appears to be a dam, this is Grimselsee.  Is is very near the summit as far as the roads go.  We rode alongside the lake and carried on up a further seires of twisties until the summit is reached, Totensee.  By now the weather was really miserable.  There were a few cars and bikes parked up, however I decided to press on down the other side.  Really wanted to get out of this cloud and rain as soon as possible.

We gently rode down the first corner, the roads here were wet and the corners very steep.  Stopping to take a picture of the twisties from above so we could appreciate them later on, Aimee was very nervous of the edge.  Eventually we got to the bottom of the main corners and headed along the the river.  The further on we went through further corners and along the river the dryer and sunnier it became. Civilisation appeared by way of wooden chalets, some were falling apart but these were for sale.  Wondering how much these places cost I checked, apparently between CHF500,000 - 3,000,000 is quite normal! Out of my price range unfortunately.

The Cow Watering Swiss Woman

So we rode through the valley via village and further village.  I failed to see the stereotypical Swiss women with upturned blonde hair roaming around the valleys milking cows as their husbands/father looked on between each swing of the axe.  I noticed one lady wandering about with a watering can, she paused in step and pointed (ah, that way) to the direction she needed to go, I assumed she went to go water a plant rather than fulfil my weird Swiss imagination of cow milking...Maybe she was going to water the cows??!!

Entering Brig

Finally we arrive at Brig.  This town was not a planned stop but one that was needed for a good leg-stretching.  We park up next to what looked like a cafe and indeed it was a cafe but part of a swimming pool.  We sit down and immediately the German speaking woman announced "bitte schon", we were expected to have our order that moment.  We ordered a coke each and expected her to come back for the other part of the order.  She came back with the coke and carried on chatting to the local biker sat outside.

We head off to find a petrol station, not really knowing where we were going once we found the petrol.  We get lost, my fault for not listening to Aimee on this occasion.  Finally we get a fill up and find a local with his son, we ask him which way to Italy?  For fun I originally wanted to ask someone in panic which way is was to the border, Aimee persuaded me not to as it probably wasn't a great idea.  The gentleman with his son directed us and pointed to the highway in the distance climbing over the mountain.  Another pass!  Fortunately, this pass was not like previous.  It was 16:00 and we were a little tired so wanted to reach Italy to find a hotel.

To the Border! QUICK!!

We get on the highway climbing up the mountain, passing through tunnels the views were very good.  The tunnels are wet and they have plenty of corners!  At one point we skidded to a halt, the driver in front turned off their car (A Swiss habit when in a traffic jam), I stopped just in time!

Further along the mountain I noticed the bike was very sluggish, losing power dramatically.  This is the oxygen/fuel mix.  The higher you go the less oxygen, thus the fuel mix was richer.  Summit reached, the downhill begins. As we progressed further into the valleys the air became very moist and sticky.  We pass a few hotels on the way down while noting the driving becomes dangerous as we get closer to Italy.  

We pass the border in Gonzo and we are in Italy!! 

The Dead Town

We head toward Verbania, instead we take a right into a town.  We get to the centre and it is empty and looked ruined.  Restaurants with shutters drawn, I looked around situational awareness for any hidden gimps or zombies.  We see two local old ladies, Aimee asked them if there were any hotels around here.  They told us there is nothing here, and we should try the next town.  So, we do.  We head off in speed leaving the Village of Wax in the mirrors.

After a good 20minutes riding we negotiate a left followed by a right towards Verbania.  We go through some suspect villages with Ristorantes on the wayside.  We end up riding through a little gem of a village all lit up and seemed alive with a few people.  Our senses were pickled we rode straight through.  

The Hotel

2 miles down the road we come to our senses and head back to look for a hotel, we find one called La Quartina with a room price of EUR90 per night. Turns out we are in Mergozzo! We get the gear and head to the room.  Well, when I say we...Aimee carries the helmets and I carry all the bags.  Men when they have to carry bags into a house always have to carry ALL of the bags at one go, I am no exception to this bizarre habit.

In the room, which was very nice we note the mini balcony and the beautiful view of a campsite  ;)  but to the left a stunning lake with geese.

Again, we do the naked starfish.  It really is not as bad as it sounds, trust me....Aimee, tell them!  Once we compose ourselves we head to the Ristorante for some well deserved food.  I have a feeling the menu is pricey, but smells good.

Aimee and I order the steak with a bottle of table water and enjoy the lake views as dusk, it was perfect!


We finish up and go for a lakeside walk, on the way Aimee finds a bird hopping about.  Aimee as usual is concerned and would probably want to attach it to the tank bag to add another pet to our collection.  I persuade her to leave it, it is probably supposed to do that - it was a hopping bird.  We find a nice spot near steps to watch the lake. Aimee was not convinced that the splashes of water were fish jumping out of the water to catch little flies on the water surface.  

We head back to the room for sleep.  Tomorrow is Genova!


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