Dave and Mark were thoroughly nice chaps (despite the socks and crocs!) who sounded like they would rather be on their mountain bikes with me than on their shiny BMWs, and I got an invite to head up to Nottingham and the Yorkshire Moors for some mountain biking when I’m back.
I spent a day at Titisee washing clothes, tweaking my pannier attachments to try to stop the rear ones popping off the bottom hook when going over rough ground and so the front panniers can sit higher up on the racks and not get caught up in vegetation on the singletrack, and fixing my gears that I’d managed to break as the front gear cable which had been fraying broke completely. It was a beautiful morning with loads of mist sitting over the lake.
It was pretty cold here for the two nights and whilst my sleeping bag was great, I could feel the cold from the ground through my thermarest and inwardly lusted after Jude’s EXPED downmat – I feel a purchase coming on when I’m back. The tent also seems to get a bit of condensation running down the pole sleeves from the inside of the fly onto the inner, and because it’s pretty sloped at one end, I can’t help but brush against the inner in the night. Whilst it’s a great tent that I’ve had for about 15 years and it’s always done this a little, now I have a down sleeping bag that really needs to stay dry, its a bit more concerning (and an excuse to start looking for a new backpacking tent when I get back…?!). Actually, the uncomfortable couple of nights were probably also down to poor tent placement, on rocky ground and almost with my head a little bit below my feet. Anyway, feeling a little rough, and delaying a decision on whether to head off or not as it was pissing it down when I woke, I ended up leaving after midday thinking I only had a little uphill to manage before it was all downhill to Basel. I clearly hadn’t looked at the map properly because it became apparent that I had yet to get past Feldberg, the highest point in the Black Forest (above 1400 metres) by getting over the Feldberg pass at around 1200 metres. Ho hum, more grinding uphill.
After a little stop for lunch at the tourist centre in view of the summit (with some inquisitive looks from tourists bussed up their by coach who clearly thought I was a bit strange to be up there on a bike), I headed off down hill, and now it really was down hill all the way to Basel! On the other side of Feldberg, the main road loses height so quickly. Roadies won’t think this is fast but 37.5 miles per hour on a heavy, slightly wobbly bike that I can’t lift, on a windy main road is plenty enough for me! So finally I could drift down for mile after mile with not a lot pedalling.
What was strange was that at one point, as I got closer to Basel and the road got a bit busier, I went through a section where every other car that overtook me would beep at me. It started a little courteously but pretty soon was definitely getting aggressive. Even when I stopped for a drink off the road, they would do the same, and even some cars going the other way joined in! I couldn’t really work it out. This was the same road I had come down from Feldberg, where people would give me lots of space and encouragement and road cyclists were heading up in the other direction, and now suddenly I felt like I was being willed off the road in a worse manner than back in the UK. What was going on, this is bike friendly Germany?! The road hadn’t changed classification or anything and was still single carriageway in both directions, and a few miles back I’d passed a police car who didn’t tell me I shouldn’t be there. I could only put it down to the fact that another main road had joined a while back and there were probably a lot more commuters heading down here and less tourists, and I guess they are not that used to seeing cyclists on the main roads as most pootle along the bike paths. The tricky thing was that along this section the bike paths were actually a bit intermittent, which is why I was on the road in the first place. Anyway, I took the hint and peeled off at the next junction and headed into Basel on a side road.
It turns out I really should have planned ahead and booked somewhere to stay in Basel on a Saturday night as the youth hostel and backpackers were full so I ended up in a hotel. In the end I actually stayed here for four nights and given that Switzerland is pretty pricey anyway, this has turned out to be a pretty expensive few days! I got some admin done, bought new maps and a sim card, sent some stuff home that I no longer need, and drank a lot of coffee. There are a lot of English speakers in Basel, probably as it’s a base for a number of large pharma companies. Just as I was about to leave a restaurant to head back to bed one night, the English & American group on the next table invited me for a drink. It turns out that half of them seem to be super athletic, racing road bikes and competing in triathlons and iron-men competitions. Suddenly my 1200 meter hill didn’t feel that impressive… Anyway, they were all very friendly and it was a nice end to the night. The next night the same thing happened as I ended up next to an international group of architecture students based in Norway, none of whom were English but who were speaking in English as that was the common language they all knew. Nice to be able to speak English again for a bit without feeling guilty for my poor German. Basel feels pretty young and cosmopolitan and as you’re sat next to people in bars or restaurants there’s a mix of French, German and English and you never really are sure where people are from or who understands who!
Anyway, here are some pics from Basel…