Ascension Thursday is the official opening date for the alpine passes and this year, being the last weekend in May, it was time to start the season again. The Harley’s were out in force and the snow piled 3 meters high on either side of the road. The ascent was long, and almost never ending. Do people really enjoy pushing for hours on end in their lowest gears, gasping for air and water and anything else they can lay their hands on? Being my first Alpine pass, I (Darina) had my doubts about the whole business! Who put these mountains here anyway? Aren’t the Swiss famous for their engineering? Where are those tunnels then, when we most need them?
(Switzerland, May 2003)
The train deposited us and our bikes in the wilderness at Oberalp Pass. Wrapping up to face the elements, we free-wheeled down to Andermatt at 1400 meters. From there it was a beautiful level route along the Furkareuss River with a magestic backdrop of snow-capped peaks and waterfalls.
However, some time later the fun came to an end and the ascent had to be faced. A mere 1030m altitude to be tackled. At a snail’s pace through a bleakness I could never have imagined, we panted and pushed hoping for a restaurant on top to replenish burnt calories.
There’s no time like this for questioning the meaning of life… and Kurt’s sanity- he being responsible for dragging me on this mission. As the summit and the magnificent view of our efforts drew near, all was forgiven. What a feeling!
Accommodation was downhill beyond the Rhone glacier in Gletsch, where a hot chocolate was more than welcome and a warm shower an absolute luxury to bring feeling back into frozen fingers and hands. Next morning bright and early, it was pass number 2. This time Grimsel at 2165m.
Rusted old motorbikes and snow-mobiles on top were a shrill reminder of the harsh and cruel conditions of this mountainous landscape. Nevertheless, a cool schweppes tonic overlooking the frozen Grimsel Lake dazzling in the blinding sunshine, was certainly a golden moment.
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Three seasons in one day! No sooner had we left the snow piles and frozen conditions of Grimsel, survived the harrowing experience of kilometer long unlit tunnels echoing the reving of motorbike engines, than we emerged as if in another land, another season.Birds were singing and flowers blooming while Heidis and Peters welcomed spring’s arrival.
The Aare Gorge was a spectacular break from the saddle.From there it was a grand ride along the Aare River, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun into Bern. By then temperatures were reaching 30 degrees and we had stripped from thermal head bands and fleeces and were rooting for SPF 30.