Woke to a nice sunny day, a perfect day for walking in the Swiss Alps. As we have done before on these trips the first walk we elected to do was the climb from Kandersteg up to the Doldenhornhutte. Having done a walk before it is a good way of finding out exactly where you stand in terms of fitness for the holiday ahead as well as taking away the problems of navigation.
There are a number of quite tricky segments on this climb particularly in the first half when the trail crosses a few small mountain streams but the climb went well and there were plenty of opportunities to take photographs and record video clips. I may not have mentioned that one of the main reasons for choosing to come here, having been here before, was the advent of readily available high-definition video recording. Searching the Internet before we came I wasn't able to find any nice clips of the areas we have visited in the past and I find more and more that video, even though time-consuming to capture and edit, produces a much better record of many experiences than still photographs alone. Hence the decision to return to some of our old haunts and make some decent records of the places we have enjoyed to enjoying the future.
The arrival at the Doldenhornhutte was brilliant and achieved in bright sunshine. The "standard time" for the climb to the hut according to the signposts is 2 hours and I was surprised that we reached the foot only about 15 min after this time even having stopped many times to take photographs and just generally enjoy the scenery.
Whilst I was messing about taking photos Lorena went into the hut and ordered bread and soup and by the time we sat down she had struck up a conversation with a very nice Swiss physiotherapist who was also enjoying her lunch stop. The trio passed a very pleasant 45 min chatting away before heading back down towards Kandersteg. We opted to take a different route down which avoided the trickier areas of the ascent but would probably not follow this return route again. Although the route was certainly easier underfoot it was a much longer route bringing us out in the upper part of Kandersteg and left us with quite a long walk back through the town.
Once back at camp the usual routines kicked in, on the menu tonight was minced beef and onions, potatoes, carrots and peas. This all sounds very grand for a camping trip but as you can imagine the tin opener played a big part in the proceedings! This culinary extravaganza was followed by a delicious tin of creamed rice pudding, from the same source. As is generally the case on trips like this an early night is the order of the day, and a good day it was indeed.
One slight technical problem that has revealed itself has been my slowly deflating air bed. The latter part of the night is spent experiencing a sensation not unlike a rough channel crossing but so far I have managed without taking additional travel sickness pills. At some point there will be a detailed investigation of the airbed and if possible a bicycle puncture repair patch will be applied, we shall see, I may just keep on rocking.
Soon all the road after a good breakfast, topped up the fuel tank with some of the Euros we had left on the Post Office card after the last trip to Majorca, always nice to be able to do that, it's as if you aren't spending real money! At this point we had covered probably about 420 miles and we have been pleasantly surprised by the fuel consumption of the X-Trail as even fully loaded we were still getting about 49 miles to the gallon which I reckon it's pretty good.
The journey from the hotel to our campsite in Kandersteg was excellent, the weather was lovely and because in the past we have passed this way in darkness it was brilliant to be able to see the snowcapped Alps as we approached our destination. As an added bonus on this section of the journey we suddenly found that we were approximately 50 miles closer to our destination than we had originally thought. The reason for this was that I had had the SatNav set to avoid toll roads, as all the Swiss motorways are toll roads the original distance indicated had been calculated based on using minor roads only. As soon as I switched the “avoid toll roads" option off the remaining distance to travel miraculously shrank by 50 miles.
Finally arrived in Kandersteg in the early afternoon on a beautiful warm and sunny day, Switzerland really is fantastic when the weather is like this and the mountains look at their absolute best. We soon got checked in, it was nice to see that the campsite is still being run by the same pleasant couple who still recognised us even though it has been a number of years since we were last year, they make us very welcome.
Managed to find a really nice pitch a little way above the reception area, the campsite is arranged in terraces and we reckon it would be nice to be a little higher up in the hope that this would mean that our camping area would have the sunshine for a little longer. We camped close to a few low trees which should provide a little shade should the weather remain hot.
Spent a little time putting up the tent and generally getting everything sorted out. Doing all this is quite a performance but definitely well worth it as we have a really excellent position and having free use of the vehicle, it being completely separate from our living accommodation, we will almost certainly not move from this spot for the duration of the holiday. It will be great to be able to just drive off to other towns or villages for a day now and then without having to disturb our living accommodation at all as one would have to do with a camper van. The arena and I have both pondered at length the pros and cons of caravans, camper vans and now camping and it will be really interesting to see how this trip works out as it should allow us to make better decisions about what we would like to do in the future.
The sun went down on our campsite at about 7 o'clock and the temperature has dropped quite rapidly but we were perfectly well prepared for this, the procedure will be reversed in the morning as soon as the sun comes up. It is always a bit of a surprise to see what a difference elevation makes in terms of how chilly it gets at night or in the mountains, hopefully we are adequately prepared, we'll know more about that in the morning!
So here, hopefully, begins a new experience and an excellent trip.
Slept well after a dose of Stugeron and then back to the 7 Seas restaurant for an enormous breakfast.
Arrived in Imjuiden on time and disembarked having had quite a laugh watching a couple trying to locate their car, I really can't imagine why when people get onto these boats they don't make a mental note of the door number that they are parked closest to, it's far easier to do it this way than to have to check every single car deck!
Disembarked at about 10:30 which was a little bit later than we had anticipated but no matter we were soon on the road. We had been looking forward to using the built in satellite navigation system in the X-Trail and it was a bit alarming when we got off the boat that it didn't seem to want to work out where we were. Eventually, having stopped for a short while, it managed to lock onto a position and all went well from there.
Lorena has never really enjoyed navigating on these trips and it has in the past led to some significant challenges and the availability of satellite navigation was intended to make this aspect of the trip a whole lot more enjoyable and so it proved to be from then on, navigating our route went without a hitch from here on.
We had decided before we set off on this trip that unlike in previous years we would break the journey part way rather than drive all the way to Kandersteg in one journey. We have decided to cover about 400 miles and then try to find somewhere to stay so that is the plan we followed. The 1st hotel we tried which was off the autobahn we were following have no vacancies and we were forced to continue, a bit like a modern-day version of Mary and Joseph. We found a room at our next stop which was absolutely fine, I don't quite know what sort of price I was expecting to pay but the room for the 2 of us with breakfast came in at €100 which didn't seem too bad given where it was and it was certainly a big step up in quality from a Travelodge back in the UK.
Soon got nicely settled after a bite to eat and woke up fully refreshed and ready to complete our journey.
Left Alnwick for the one hour drive to the ferry terminal at North Shields at about 13:00hrs and arrived in good time for boarding. Boarded the ferry quickly and found the cabin which had a pleasant sea view. Enjoyed watching all the other vehicles being loaded up, it still amazes me that these ferries take such enormous lorries without actually capsising!
Both enjoyed an excellent meal in the 7 Seas restaurant which is an all you can eat buffet which is probably not such a good thing when one is trying to shed a few pounds. Early night after dinner in readiness for tomorrow’s long drive.
Random musings of a UK based cycling coach. In July 2010 rode the entire Tour de France route starting and finishing 3 days before the pros came through, particularly interested in power based training. Other interests include technology, video recording and editing, photography, sailing, the outdoor life and pretty much anything else!