August 27th. Approx 4:30am.
Opening my eyes in a patch of trees near Sankt Julian, only to find it was still relatively early judging by the lack of sun light breaching the leaves above. While camping it is normal to hear twigs break, leaves rustle or generally just hear animals go about their lives which I have no problem with. However hearing what to me in my slightly bleary state sounded like, after furious google searching, a cougar. I promptly fumbled for my ear plugs, inserted them and pulled my hat low over my eyes accepting my fate. Either that or I'd wake up in a couple of hours and continue on my merry way.
It may come as a shock to you but I awoke without having come to any harm and feeling confident I probably wasn't going to be killed I packed away, checked the map and saw my target of Baden-Baden was almost perfectly due south. I thought the idea of heading through the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord sounded fantastic and being the child that I am riding through, or indeed close enough to find a sign, Bitche tickled me somewhat.
If you happen to be in that part of the world and like me, think the Reigion Du Nord is worth visiting, take it from me, it isn't. Crossing the river Rhine however was particularly pretty if a little uneventful and once back onto German soil I was at the infamous B500 and ready to head south. It was on these larger, faster flowing roads that Jessica (that's the name of my bike) began to show her weaknesses. With the views becoming more staggering, along with the inclines getting greater I was lucky not to be holding folks up, although a few bikers did tear past me wanting to go faster.
At some point, and I am still not sure how but I lost the B500 and it took me some time to find my way again. However what it did mean is that I had to stop more often to view google maps which of course in turn means a photo opportunity.
What I wasn't prepared for though is simply how many signs for Ski slopes there are and also how many timber yards that pop up all over the black forest region of Germany. It means scenes like the below are just par for the course, I seemed they had almost too much wood!
Photo just off the L173 between Simonswald and Gütenbach
As the day wore on and the temperature showing no signs of cooling down rapidly, I longed more and more for a hotel to freshen up and make myself smell considerably less smelly. Plus the idea of a hot meal washed down with some decent beer was enough to convince me.
Just North of Titisee-Neustadt I managed to find a Gasthof with availability on my second attempt, however it turned out the only 2 people available to speak to had marginally better English than I had German, which turns out makes for a difficult transaction although with my best miming techniques of sleep I secured myself a room and after a quick shower was ready for dinner after a beer in the sun.
Outside the Mühlencafé near Breitnau on the B500 enjoying a Stein of Fürstenberg
The German equivalent of a mixed grill! Chicken, Pork Schnitzel and Wurst with a side salad.
It was much needed due to getting very uncomfortable on the bike, despite the addition of the sheepskin a long distance tourer the CG doth not make. I had managed 281 miles with varying stances as the miles piled on, a mixture of standing up, sitting with feet on the rear pegs and sitting on the gear occupying the rear seat offering the necessary respite without adding in an additional stop.
August 28th 7:20am - I woke early after not being terribly well rested on the rather solid and narrow mattress keen to continue the adventure. I took advantage of the shower and made sure I was super fresh before getting my t-shirts sodden in sweat during the baking heat.
I hit the road before 8:30am and pointed the bike due south and decided to head into Switzerland particularly around Lake Konstanz after hearing my dad talk so fondly of it from his times around Europe driving articulated trucks.
Having entered Switzerland before 10am and heading towards Freienstein-Teufen, I chose to stop for a small break and coffee to get out of the already mid 20°C baking sunshine. The scene I was treated too while stopped in the lay-by slaving over my camping kettle was breathtaking and something I will surely treasure.
Heading towards Lake Konstanz, looking towards Freienstein-Teufen
Sadly the theme was not to be continued the closer I go to Lake Konstanz and the roads became busier, the views more industrial and less interesting and the heat more unbearable as It soared into the low 30's. Avidly cooking me alive in my two piece GORE-TEX gear as I desperately sought shelter from the unrelenting rays.
I found a road that took me to the waters edge and although desperate to get in, I decided not too. Something now that looking back on seems foolish, I would surely have benefited from being soaked through as I am sure the sun would have dried me out in no time.
I did however take the time to realise I had gotten as far South as I originally intended only a lot faster than anticipated. The question now was where to go!
After much deliberation and scrolling around on my phone using maps, I saw what looked like some interesting roads in Lichtenstein. Plus... it wasn't all that far away from Austria which would make a nice place to camp for the night.
Looking towards Germany on the opposite side of Lake Konstanz
With the plan set I donned my now soaking helmet and cringing at the feel of sliding my hand down the sleeve of my jacket which now resembled a water slide for my hand to be fed through, I can't pretend it was pleasant, but I am not going to say it wasn't worth it.
Finishing Switzerland and getting closer to Lichtenstein gave way to even more scenery which made riding a 125cc feel even tinier than it already is, huge open spaces with mountainous backdrops began to crop up in front and to the side of me all the while the traffic numbers diminished. It was as close to bliss that I had felt so far during the trip.
South of Rüthi on route 13.
Lichtenstein began to show itself to me and I entered near the capital Vaduz, travelling through the main district at what was now getting on for rush hour felt like I had gone from the gentle wash to a spin cycle in a washing machine. What was previously gentle, easy and enjoyable quickly descended into intense need for paying attention as everything was happening faster and with a higher population.
It was worth it for the mountain pass I had spotted that wiggled its way like a piece of wool that had ceased to have been a cat's plaything. The road which only seems to be known as "Steg" heading to Chleisteg wound up the hill side giving incredible, jaw dropping views back to Lichtenstein on one side of the river Rhine and Switzerland on the other.
Lichtenstein to the left of me, Switzerland to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle of the view.
I was however most upset when upon reaching the near summit of the pass, I found it actually happened to be a road to nowhere. Literally!
It wound its way to the top where by there were hotels and a ski resort which I presume is used a lot more in a different season then when I visited. However it was not all bad as I managed to get talking to an English Biker, Neil, who had ridden their with his friend both on Kawasaki GTR1400's and it was a pleasure to have a full conversation in English rather than segmented between hand gestures and awkward facial expressions, it was the first in 4 days since leaving Dover.
Since my plan hadn't worked to ride over a mountain pass and into Austria I descended back into the semi-organised chaos of Vaduz and beyond into Austria.
Into Austria and onto the L51, also know as the Furka pass. I had previously thought the "Steg" was a good road but my word, this road blew it into the weeds by some margin. Twisting and turning and snaking around the hillside, clinging to it as though if the barrier was not present it might drop away at any moment. As the altitude climbed, the engine worked a little harder and the views got a lot better to counteract it.
I stopped in Laterns for a beer and a quick snack next to some giant lego bricks and started becoming concerned for where I might stay. I hadn't seen a sign for a hotel for some time and the hillsides may have had sporadic tree placements but certainly nowhere I could get the bike easily and bed down for the night comfortably. Furiously googling while watching the sun ebb ever lower in the sky brought nothing to fruition and so I continued to ride, all the while hoping I would find some where I could bed down for the night.
I wasn't lying about the giant lego bricks
As the road wore on, the sun dipped closer to the horizon and I became increasingly more desperate. With the help of google translate I loosely managed to learn how to say, "sleep in a hammock" so that any passing Austrian I could interrogate.
Second time lucky and I found someone that spoke as much English as I spoke German and we struggled through with me nodding and guessing at what some of his instructions meant for a fabled camping area.
At a T-junction I couldn't remember if he had said left or right. I chose left and started sporadically turning off the road to find somewhere to sleep for the night. After the third driveway I decided to keep riding until something solid showed up. A quick check of the time, approximately 20 minutes before sun down.
If you haven't set up any type of camping gear in the dark you won't know the added messing around a lack of light adds. Plus the likelihood you don't get a good set up increases as do stress levels.
A tunnel approached ahead and an access road to skirt around the tunnel was apparent on the left-hand side which ran adjacent to a stream. I parked the bike and walked as far as I dare leave the bike and couldn't see anything immediately great but thought that at the least, sleeping on a gravelly track for one night away from any one I might potentially upset with a stream to lull me to sleep wasn't all bad.
So, imagine my surprise when out of nowhere the tunnel wall to my right began to give way to the most perfect patch of trees any hammock user could ask for. Trees spaced just so, with clear views and enough of a gap in the canopy to let the odd stream of light through.
I managed to settle in to my camp with just 10 minutes to spare and spent the remainder of the light soaking in the atmosphere which for the night, was my own.
The perfect hammocking spot for a weary traveller.
With the mileage showing an incredible 11,931 on the clock it was time to hit the hay and get some well-deserved shut eye after visiting 3 new countries in the same day!