Back to Square One?

Staying in city hotels makes you weak. That’s now my considered opinion. I’d been feeling a bit under the weather in Basel, just like I was coming down with something but needed a couple of nights of good sleep. But somehow with four nights of a double bed, proper pillows and a duvet I didn’t seem to really nail it. Maybe the air con, doors banging, station announcements coming through the window. I even stayed an extra day but still didn’t quite feel right. So as I headed south out of the city I wasn’t feeling that great. Crossed the river valley to the south of the city, past a field of ‘pick your own’ own sunflowers for 80 cents each. I didn’t feel the urge to take one with me strapped to the handlebars but did wade in and take a few photos.



[At first I thought the women I saw in the field helping herself was being a bit cheeky until I saw the ‘pick your own’ sign]

I starting to head up the other side of the valley and things seemed very hard. I just seemed to have nothing in my legs. The route entered the woods and started climbing up fire roads. I would pedal a little and then have to stop and catch my breathe. Hills that were no steeper or more technical than in the Black Forest were beating me and for the first time I started pushing the bike. A lot. I wasn’t really carrying any more weight, my tyres hadn’t quietly deflated on me, I was just feeling really weak. It felt like I hadn’t done any hills in the Black Forest and these were my first.

This carried on for the rest of a relatively short day but meant that I made slow progress. The Jura route is split into 9 stages, with the first ones only 20 miles each. After the Black Forest I figures I could probably do two stages in a day on some days but as I stopped In Laufen (the end of stage 1) for a snack in mid afternoon I decided I couldn’t face doing the same distance again that day and found a cheap (relatively, for Switzerland!) hotel.

People here seem to speak a mixture of French and German at times, which is confusing enough, but I could swear the waitress in the pasta place I ate tea at was throwing some Italian in there just to make sure I was properly confused, and then managed to look indignant when I clearly didn’t have a clue what was going on!

Laufen seems to have a strange habit of ringing the church bells in the middle of town continuously for 5 minutes at 6:00am every morning. Seriously. I mean, why…..? Maybe it’s some militant village strategy at getting everyone up and working on time (perhaps I missed the “Laufen – No Slackers Allowed” signs as I entered town?). Aside from wondering whether it was some kind of avalanche / forest fire / nuclear attack warning that I should have read about in the emergency sign on the back of my door, it interrupted my precious sleep!


Anyway, I eventually left Laufen feeling pretty rubbish again and pedalled out of the misty valley, having stopped to pick up an extra large tuna baguette and banana for lunch, wondering whether I hadn’t been eating enough in the past few days. Once again as the trail headed upwards, I was walking sections that I’m sure I could of pedalled before, and was instantly covered in sweat.

[Not feeling my best]

I decided that it didn’t really matter if I didn’t make more than one stage a day and so stopped and rested lots. One section of this stage is noted as being a walking section in the guide and it certainly was with this bike. About 100m of steep, wet, muddy rocky track which took me ages. I would have to push the bike a couple of feet forwards, hold the brakes on and then use the bike to kind of pull on to help me up the slippiness. I was having to really lean into the bike to get any force on it to get it over lumps and bumps, and because the rear pannier gets in the way I’d have to lean the bike over to do this – only then to have the front wheel decide it wanted to slip out in the other direction The photo below is a little rubbish – you can see my exertions but can’t see the track at all and I could be pushing along flat pavement for all anybody else knows. In hindsight, it probably would have been quicker and easier to unload the bike and do a few runs up and down shuttling bags and bike to the top.

[This was actually quite steep and slippy, with awkward rocks. The trail comes up right behind me]

[So damp that even the fungus is drenched]

After this the track was pretty up and down now and by the time I dropped down into a valley to the village of Montsevelier (567m, or so the guide says) and ate lunch, I was feeling a bit better. After climbing up out of the valley again, the rest of the route was pretty similar, with some proper rooty singletrack thrown in, which I took very carefully, still not feeling brilliant on the bike. I eventually cruised down a road into Delemont about 5pm and found a campsite. I’m hoping that the first night back in a tent for a few days, and a hot chocolate purloined from the hotel will work wonders and I’ll feel back properly back to normal tomorrow!

[Ahhh water]

Posted in London to Switzerland (2011) and tagged , , .


  1. Sounds like a rough couple of days. Perhaps the body is just rebelling against all the punishment you’re subjecting it to! Not enough time to repair itself? Is there some Swiss superfood tonic you could dose up on? Take care. jmg

  2. I’m sure I’ll be fine…I’d had four days off to help the bodily repairs! Just not enough sleep in those days I guess and perhaps the trail has more off road up and down as it is a mountain bike trail. Will take it easy and not push myself to cover top much distance each day. Biking on a light mountain bike without extra weight will be a joy when I get back!

  3. A tuna baguette and a banana is not enough food for a man cycling many miles up hill every day! That’s my lunch and I’m sitting at a desk all day. Eat more!!

    Hang on in there. It’s a pretty amazing acheivement what you have done so far – you should give yourself a break!

    BTW your ramblings are regularly brightening my otherwise very stressful working days. Keep them coming!


    • Hah, it doesn’t sound like much does it! I’ve done a bit better since then. Double portion of my rice and tomato with onion, mushroom and ham special (i.e. what I seem to be eating a lot of lately!), pitta bread and cheese followed by hot chocolate last night. And then today two cups of fresh coffee, muesli plus two pitta bread and jam for brekkie. And then hrough the day a banana, snickers, little pot of pasta with pesto and peas, and a squashed tomato and mozerella panini. Plus a little bottle of orange juice and about 2.5 litres of water. Now I’ve just scoffed a pitta bread with the rest of the cheese, two portions of tortellini filled with plastic ham, with a sauce made from 3 pumpkin cup-a-soups with some onion and salami chucked in. Oh, and a coke and two bottles of beer. Hot chocolate to follow. Does that make you feel better? :-). Was just thinking about you today actually. Sorry youre stressed – is that the old job, the new job, or both at the same time (I suspect the latter…!)?

  4. Now that’s more like it! No exactly the menu of a king (and resorting to three pumpkin cup-a-soups feels fairly extreme!) but it’s better 🙂

    As you predicted stress is both jobs at the same time. And no end in sight! Trying to grin and bear it but face is starting to crack! :-).

  5. DittoJen, great reading your blog and the photos look really clear and bright. You should do one of the those online books when you return including your ramblings… nearly there… which is good cause my beer intake is dwindling!

  6. Hei Chris, it was really nice+funny to meet you in Basel. Very impressive photos! 🙂 Hope you’re getting better and better again and enjoy your ride! Good luck + all the best for your remaining ride!

    • Hey Maria,

      Great to meet you too. I see you have some cool photos also! I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Basel, and that it is not too cools in Norway when you go back!

      Cheers, Chris

  7. Pingback: el camino, part 2: mud, sweat and gears | (Un)Inspired Ramblings

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