Our route into Switzerland had been a cause of deliberation for quite some time. Heading there bucked our temperature preservation technique of staying near the Mediterranean. But we didn’t fear the cold; we feared the snow. This was November which meant the higher we went, the more likely we’d find ourselves riding on slippery white stuff. We also had no intention of travelling at 130km/h on Swiss motorways at winter temperatures, so did not want to waste money on a vignette for those roads.
Punching these various parameters into our cycling software told us that one border crossing was substantially lower than the others and didn’t put us on a motorway. But we didn’t know that the other main routes were always kept open and cleared of snow, and this more minor and lower route was not. Further research might have told us these basic things, but we got distracted by a little note in the route cue sheet. It said “this route includes a rail transfer.” Say, what?!
The highest point later on this low route was effectively just as high as all the other routes and for a moment our plans were dashed against the rocks. But it wasn’t us that had to drive at these altitudes. It was a big train, full of cars and motorcycles. That sounded ideal; we relax inside when it is cold and snowy outside!
So that’s how we found ourselves in the Lötschberg tunnel. The journey to this train treat was quite arduous however; it had snowed so much the day before that the Swiss had closed the border route and the pass. Working through the night, the Swiss had cleared the road for us. As we shivered past freshly-ploughed metre-deep snow verges unaware of these recent events, we just thought that all the fog and snow was normal.
Within seconds of arriving on the train for Lötschberg, it set off. I’d barely had a chance to clove hitch Stein to the side rail. Moments later, just as I was beginning to warm up, we halted and they made us get off again. That was it, journey over in about 12 minutes. Suddenly we were amongst quaint chalets nestled at the foot of white-capped peaks. Cows aimlessly wandered across the green landscape, clanging their huge bells. And lunch cost more than a small aeroplane.
We rolled into Fribourg midway through that same afternoon and quickly decamped and parked up. Our hosts dragged us inside for refreshments before embarking us on a rigorous routine of shopping and socialising. During this two week hiatus we enjoyed the best sleep we’d had in two years of homelessness. Despite our best efforts and multiple bicycle rides, we still managed to get fattened up like Christmas geese before being sent on our way!