Vaduz to Hospental - the highs and lows.

Today started in the best Veloroute 2 tradition: bumpy gravel paths and pouring rain. All I had to show for two hours graft was 35KM. Of course, with the mountain passes due to start, an average speed of 17.5KM/H was going to seem pretty darn quick by the end of the day!

The day had started later than was ideal, partly because the clothes stowed in the drying room were still soaking the next morning and partly (well mostly really) the second kebab of the day yesterday felt it had a duty to detain me.

I was anticipating an average speed for the day of around 15KM/H, so the 140K planned was going to take something close to ten hours in the saddle. I didn't really want to descend into Andermatt in the dark, but it was already looking a distinct possibility.

The early ‘flat’ part of the day, was not as flat as the previous days, there was a definite sense of actually going uphill all morning and the route actually dropped 50Mtrs into Chur.

However, something unexpected happened in Chur; the sun began to shine! This was such a pleasant experience that I stopped at a café to sit in the sun and dry off. This was probably a mistake as, although the large pasta dish was probably good for my energy reserves, the speed of service wasted an hour that I could have done with at the end of the day.

Getting high!

Not far out of Chur is Reichenau (the confluence point for the Vorderrhein and Hinterrhein to become the Rhein proper) where the climbing begins; I was expecting things to get steeper, but not as quickly as they did! I had not foreseen the taster, a 600Mtr ascent to Flims, the first half of which is pretty steep by Alpine standards. After Flims there is a rapid, but demoralising, descent that returns you to the starting altitude, so that the climbing can begin again.

From here it is fairly clear you are into the upper reaches of the Rhein which, whilst hardly a stream, has shed the majesty of the mighty waterway I had followed from Mannheim to be replaced by something rather more petulant. The valley carved by this impetuous youth seems to become increasingly spectacular the more you climb into it; demanding numerous photo stops along the way.

The climbing is constant but fairly gentle all the way up to Desentis, Oberalp's official starting point. Apart from a fork in the road, I could not figure out why Desentis should be singled out as the starting point, you stay on the 19 and the climbing does not get any tougher, I began to hope it would stay this easy all the way to the top.

It didn't of course and, after a short level section at Sedrun, the switchbacks start and the real climbing begins. I found them tough at first but soon settled into a rhythm, but my main worry was the failing light; it was getting dark and quickly.


Part of the joy of getting to the summit was lost by it being totally dark by the time I got there. Not only that but my camera battery died after one photo which, because the light was so poor, failed to reveal the name of the col I had just climbed. I looked back on all the the time that wasted and unnecessary photographs with bemusement.

However the joy was not sufficiently diminished to knock the shine off a real first for me: a proper Alpine Col!

The descent into Andermatt was cold and unnerving. With the constant braking my hands were freezing and, even with good lights, I didn't feel confident I could see enough of the road. I could hear cow bells clanging by the side of the road, all the way down, but I never saw a single cow. I was convinced that 'any moment now' one would be waiting for me in the middle of the road.

By the time I got to the youth hostel in Hospental it seemed to be closed, at least all the lights were off and the doors were locked. After wandering round for a bit I decided to check into the hotel across the room; beer, a ready made bed and drying facilities seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately this turned out to be a bad decision, the bar was closed and, whilst the luxury of on-suite facilities did allow me to wash and dry some of my damp gear, the smooth and shiny bathroom floor was not well suited to such activities. Somehow I contrived to slip in the puddle left by the drying clothes and kneecap myself on the side of the loo! This 'Mr Bean' style injury would have been funny except that within a couple of minutes I began to realise that I might not be able to cycle the next day.

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Day:3 of 4
Date:19 September 2006
Distance:138 KM
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