Cycling Switzerland: My first solo journey

Day 6 | Meiringen – Schwyz (100KM)

Today was the best day of the entire trip! The weather was perfect, I did not get lost, and Brunnen was stunning! The Susten Pass was a good challenge but it was beautiful. I left Meiringen at the usual time, around 9:15 and headed for the Susten Pass. I had no idea what to expect but knew the summit was at 2224m. As usual, I kept a steady pace and took the time to look at the scenery…it was such a sunny day and everything was clear. This was my favourite climb of the trip!

I kept climbing at a steady pace and could not believe the scenery. Everything was green and picturesque. What a difference from the two previous days! Near the summit, a gentleman passed me and I realized that during the entire trip I had only wanted to be alone and be left to my thoughts however this time something told me I had to catch up to him. I was about to try and pass him when he turned and said “Bonjour!”. He spoke French! I continued to ride next to him even though he had to slow down so I could keep up! His name was Gerald and he was very kind and took the time to tell me about the area. As we climbed he told me about the ski touring and backcountry skiing in the area. Since I had been skiing and ski touring in Chamonix in the Spring of 2011, I was really interested in the information he was sharing. We talked about the Chamonix area and that his son worked at a hotel there…what a wonderful opportunity! When we arrived near the summit we did a final sprint and it was so much fun! I realized I had hardly spoken to anyone during my trip and I was really enjoying riding with someone. He gave me his email and told me to write. He even said he was organizing a trip to Italy in 2012 and that I should join him and his friends. He promised his friends would be a lot of fun to ride with! (As a side note, I am joining Gerald and his friends for one week in Italy at the end of April 2012 and have also invited my brother…it will be great!). I realize how incredible an opportunity it is to meet people when you are travelling and how open people are when you share a common interest. He had no obligation to speak to me yet took the time to explain the area and share his own passions with me. It was something I will never forget. Merci Gerald et j’ai hate a notre voyage en Italie!

We parted ways and I went to the summit restaurant to put my layers on and prepare for the descent. As I was leaving, I decided to back track at the last minute to return and take pictures. The view of the glacier reminded me of my brief time in Chamonix, climbing Le Col du Passon (3028m) and descending Le Tour…my Chamonix adventure will have to wait for another time! I was taken away by the incredible view of the Stein Glacier and would have stayed there for hours admiring its beauty however I knew I had to go on.

The descent toward Brunnen was spectacular…I cannot describe the feeling. Going down, I thought of nothing else but the road and the view. My route to Brunnen actually went through areas I had already been through a few days earlier and I was happy to recognize landmarks and know my way around. As the paths diverged and ventured toward unknown territory, I never expected what was going to be next. A crystal blue lake suddenly appeared ahead of me and I was overwhelmed with the beauty of what I was seeing. My mind could not understand…for a moment I thought I had been transported to the Caribbean sea! The water was so blue and the mountains surrounding it took my breath away. Even as I write this today, I have tears in my eyes…it was amazing.

The cycling route ran along a elevated edge, away from the cars. The route went through tunnels and rock fall galleries. “The Axenstrasse, one of the most beautiful main roads in Central Switzerland, has been one continuous section from Flüelen to Brunnen since 1865. The brilliant engineering feat consists of passages blasted from the rock, galleries and numerous openings in the tunnel walls giving views of the lake, Flüelen and the Reusstal valley. Since the 1930s, the road has been successively altered to suit traffic needs. Numerous sections have been closed or now serve as hiking trails.” (Axenstrasse). I was happy to be living this moment alone, taking all of it in by myself. This may sounds selfish however, this particular moment in my life was truly euphoric. From glaciers to blue waters in the same day…I love Switzerland!

The Axenstrasse led me to the town of Brunnen then onto Schwyz where my hostel was located. Schwyz is not located directly on Lake Lucerne so it was a few kilometers away from Brunnen. I found my way to the Hirschen hostel and checked-in. I showered, got a quick bite to eat and too a bus back to Brunnen. The first thing I did in Brunnen was walk around and explored the boutiques and admired the view. After an hour or so I eventually settled down in a little bar by the water and enjoyed a Campari, then a beer! Brunnen was very beautiful but I decided I had seen enough and returned to Schwyz to explore. Schwyz had more of a little village feeling whereas Brunnen was more of a “tourist” city. That was my impression anyway.

“The lively town of Schwyz, capital of the canton with the same name, is home to the Forum of Swiss History and important founding documents of the Swiss Confederation. Schwyz and the area surrounding it, is famous for its cherry blossom and numerous cherry specialties. And Schwyz is also where the famous Swiss army penknives come from.” (Schwyz). I walked through the narrow cobble stone streets and admired the old homes.

In the distance I could see mountain tops and at the time did not realize those peaks would be my last climb of the trip.

After a couple hours of exploring the village, I found a terrase in the centre of the village and ordered dinner and another beer. I was really relaxing and said to myself: “This is your last evening alone before heading back to Zurich, take advantage of this”…so I had a glass of wine! I read my book while having dinner and wine and suddenly felt a little buzzed from the alcohol. Since I had been cycling for 6 consecutive days with little alcohol, my system was not used to it and I guess it did not take much to have an effect on me. I should have known that the night would not end well…however after dinner, instead of going back to the hostel to relax and read my book, I headed to the terrasse in the hostel courtyard and decided it was going to be a party night.

As I arrived on the terrasse there were only seats available next to groups of people. I sat at a table, introduced myself and the group immediately ordered me a pint of beer and the drinking games started…yes, the drinking games that we have mastered so well in Canada to keep us warm on those cold winter nights! I introduced the group to a game called Killer Kings where you take a standard deck of 52 cards and associate a drinking rule to every card. For example, if you pick a Jack, you have to take a shot. If you pick a King, you have to drink the remainder of your glass. The game got wild and as the terrasse closed, we moved to the bar inside. At this point we had attracted a large crowd and everyone was having a blast! Many were young military boys and others were travelers like me just looking for a party. We mixed drinks, made the rules more complicated, and we continued to party until the bar closed at 2AM. Clearly I had forgotten I had to ride my bike the next day to Zurich!

I found my way back to my room and as soon as my head touched the pillow everything started to spin and I knew I was in trouble. I ran to the bathroom and vomited. I could not remember the last time I did that, luckily I had drank so much that I hardly remember vomiting that night! I woke up the next morning saying to myself: “Why did you drink so much? Why did you challenge a group of young military boys to a drinking game and expect to win? I am getting too old for this!”. All these thoughts were going through my mind until I saw the time…8:45…I was SO LATE!!! I was going to miss my luggage drop-off…