Tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. Not just your quick one that you can see the way out of. Oh no. Super duper loooooong ones. The type that you think you are about to die of carbon monoxide poisoning before you ever see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel! They were in fact, literally, miles long – the longest was SIX miles. Seriously guys, six miles of being stuck in a bloody tunnel…I have nothing more to say on that!
We took a route which took us up and over the Gotthard Pass. The sad thing was that, today of all days when finally we were getting to actually ride a pass that was open, the weather was totally against us. As we began the ascent, the clouds that had been threatening all morning, began to drop. As did the temperature! We pulled off and added in our KLIM under jackets to keep us toasty and hopped back on again to swoop and twist as well as we could given the conditions.
Side note; talk about fancy toilets! They charged one Franc per person and had a system much like the underground with a turnstile that you pass through after inserting your ticket. The facilities didn’t look that fancy…until you pulled the chain. Well, the toilet seat starts rotating round and a little scrubbing attachment starts to clean the whole thing! La-di-dah!
There are clearly defined regions for all four official languages. German in northern, central and eastern Switzerland, French in western Switzerland, Italian in southern Switzerland and Rumantsch in southeastern Switzerland. As I said, all very confusing!
As we rode along towards San Bernadino, the first of the passes, the clouds hung low in the valley and on each side were many huge waterfalls just cascading down the side of the hills – Iain had trouble keeping a straight line as I bounced around trying to take pics of them all!!
The higher we got, the lower the temperature got and we had to stop to layer up again. It was a good opportunity to take some pics and video of Iain at the beginning of the twist and turns that make up the San Bernadino Pass. At the 2,066m summit we took a break to stop for a coffee at the Hospiz St Bernhardin and bumped into a couple of Brits. You just can’t get away from them!
After this we wound our way down on to the next one. Skirting around the Italian border we travelled north towards Splügen Pass. At the 2115m summit, you arrive at the border between Switzerland and Italy. Sadly, another unmanned, abandoned, and shuttered up post. We did tip toe into Italy at this point but had to turn round as the we knew the road was closed further on.
Back on the right road again, we continued on to Switzerlands oldest town, Chur, where we picked up the route for the Julier pass. This was my favourite pass of the day as it wasn’t so much the tight switch backs as more long, sweeping bends from the deep alpine valleys outside Chur, over a summit of 2,284m and back down to St Moritz.
Finishing the day with one final, 3km long, (scary), single lane and very cold tunnel, (it got down to 46 degrees in there!), we popped out into bright sunlight and another innocuous border where we slipped into Italy without fanfare! We arrived at the tunnel at the best time. I read afterwards that the traffic is controlled one way, for half hour periods at a time! Good Lord…can you imagine Iains choice words if we’d arrived just as it changed and we’d been sat at a red light for 30 minutes. Especially not knowing about the traffic control at that point. We may have been tempted to say “sod it” and ride on through! That could have been messy and we already had one ‘head on’ fiasco today, but I’m not telling you about that, my mum reads this…shhhh!
After following the beautifully rolling road around the stunning Lago di Livigno, we reached another wonderful AirBnB choice we were happy to find that our hostess spoke a good degree of English. We are quickly realizing that a bit of language prep in advance would have helped us a lot. However, I’m picking up some handy phrases as we go!
My only negative observation so far is the pillows! The last three places we have stayed have had the most dreadful pillows! Like, so flat that they just as well not be there at all and the ones here are HARD…like a plank of wood hard. I needed to take the cushion from the couch to sleep on! Also, it seems that couples have separate duvets over here. Again the last three places we’ve stayed have been all set up lovely with two, neatly folded duvets on the bed! I actually think this is a good idea to avoid cover hogging!
We sat at a really cute restaurant/café set right on the lake, the Miralago, for a cup of coffee. What a stunning setting. Very “olde worlde” with many original features kept within the building. It would be fun to stay a couple of nights there.
While he was in getting the coffee, an old Italian fellow was admiring the bike. We had a great conversation. I spoke to him in English and he spoke to me in Italian. It seemed to work. We both smiled…no freaking idea what he said but we were both happy so that’s all that matters
Follow our posts as we prepare for our 13 week tour of Europe that starts in May 2018!